When Danish manufacturer DK-Audio introduced its first 5.1 surround audio meter in 1998 it was, in effect, a solution looking for a problem. The world of discrete multichannel surround mixing was still a blip on the edge of the radar screen for most mainstream production facilities.
Fast forward eight years and DK’s pioneering “JellyFish” multichannel visual display is the de facto standard in surround mixing. With the purchase of the Studio Products Division of ProTelevison Technologies in 2001, the company began video-oriented product development and DK-Audio became DK-Technologies. In addition to its dedicated video sync generators, waveform displays and color analyzers, the video development side of DK has yielded enhancements in its line of LCD audio displays including SDI-HD and SDI-SD input cards for DK’s standalone MSD and rackmount PT-series modular meter systems, including the PT0660M reviewed here.
Studio, broadcast, post
Rackmount stereo and surround master display; modular I/O configuration; variety of I/O modules including analog, AES digital and SDI-SD/HD; JellyFish surround meter; stereo vectorscope, phase correlation meter; 32-channel capable PPM meter; DK-Matrix routing and configuration software
starts at $2,995
DK Technologies | 800-421-0888 | www.DK-Technologies.net
The DK-Technologies PT0660M is a rackmountable stereo and multichannel audio display and measurement device. Like DK’s popular standalone MSD600-series meters, the PT0660M features a large, super-bright 640 x 480 LCD panel and a series of eight context-driven soft keys just below the screen. The PT0660M adds a panel of 10 preset buttons and a rotary data entry/output volume knob with two associated option buttons to the front panel. The unit measures approximately 8.5 inches wide, 5.25 inches tall and a little over 3 inches deep.
The “M” in PT0660M stands for modular; to this end, DK offers a wide range of I/O modules so the user can configure the meter to specific needs. The PT0660M can be outfitted with up to four input and four output modules, for a total of 32 input and 16 output channels; a separate module slot is dedicated to utility module that provides a dedicated VGA output for connection to an external monitor plus a serial computer interface, a digital sync input and a DC power input (all on a single 9-pin connector; breakout cable required).
Input options include the Input/1 module (two transformer-balanced analog inputs and one AES3 input), the Input-8A/O (eight analog inputs), the Input-4D/O module (quad AES3 inputs), and the SDI/4 and HDSDI/4 four-channel de-embedding input modules (with reclocked SDI pass-through). The standard output module is the Output/1, which has two analog outputs and one AES3 output. For a complete listing of all I/O options, specifications and restrictions, consult the DK-Technologies website. With the exception of the BNC-equipped SDI modules, specialized 15-pin or 25-pin D-Sub breakout cables are required. Internal sample rate for the analog inputs is 48 kHz. All digital inputs are equipped with sample rate converters for conforming to the internal 48 kHz clock. The sample rate converters can be bypassed when the meter is slaved to an external clock (30 Hz to 100 kHz).
The PT0660M meter supplied for review came equipped with four Input/1 modules and a single Output/1 module, for a total of eight analog and eight digital input channels plus two analog and two digital outputs.
The PT0660M provides the full range of metering tools that have made DK’s MSD meters the industry standard. In short, these include the tripane “Full-Feature Mode” screen (simultaneous JellyFish/vector oscilloscope, multichannel PPM and phase-correlation meter), a dedicated Peak Program Meter capable of displaying up to 32 channels simultaneously (with seven selectable standards scales), a 1,024-point FFT analyzer, a 1/3-octave spectrum analyzer, a Graphic Loudness Meter and a detailed AES3 bit stream status display.
In order to concentrate on new features found in the latest MSD software update (V5) and on the PT0660M hardware unit, for rudimentary operation please refer to my earlier review of the MSD-600C-5.1 meter, which can be found in the online archives at www.proaudioreview.com.
On the hardware side, the most significant enhancement found on the PT0660M over other 600 Series models is the addition of 10 instant recall preset buttons and a volume/data entry wheel. While the ability to adjust output gain for a designated audio group (up to eight channels) has been present in earlier versions via the menu system, the addition of the volume “soft knob” provides instant access. This enables the PT0660M to be used as an in-line stereo or surround monitor controller for direct connection to powered monitors or, as I did for this review, a multichannel power amplifier.
One of the things I value most about DK meters is the company’s dedication to support and feature enhancement via its operating system software update program. DK has proved exemplary in this regard with past updates and the new version 5 software is no exception. For those interested in potentially purchasing the PT0660M (or other 600-series meters), I strongly suggest downloading the V5 PDF manual from the company’s website for complete feature and operational details.
At the core of the meter system is its comprehensive 88 x 96 point (32 x 16 of which are physical inputs and outputs, and the remainder are internal routing points) audio routing matrix. Understanding and using the routing matrix display may appear complex at first but becomes intuitive after a few uses. One of the initial barriers to using the matrix is that, unlike typical audio interface and workstation routing matrices, the meter’s matrix is destination-orientated, following the standard found in hardware-based video/audio routers.
Simple point-to-point routing duties can be accomplished in the Compact Matrix screen, and an Extended Matrix screen provides access to a number of other features including channel grouping, channel gain, channel options (e.g., sample rate converter bypass, SDI group settings etc.), and master group gain.
Navigating around the matrix screens using only the soft buttons can be a bit laborious; the addition of the multifunction data/volume knob and option buttons on the PT0660M greatly simplifies navigation and selection (push knob) around the meter in general, and especially in the matrix screens.
Tackling the matrix core and other customizable features of DK meters became even easier with the release of the DK-Matrix Windows application earlier this year. The program presents a more familiar and easy-to-use graphic routing grid, and allows I/O label editing (four characters per channel). Other functions in this useful and most welcome utility include customizing of PPM meter scales and colors, up/downloading and editing of presets, and meter OS updating.
While it is possible to mix in surround using only the tools provided in a digital workstation, any professional who is seriously involved in multichannel mixing and/or mastering should strongly consider a DK-Technologies meter such as the PT0660M. From its full range of metering and data veracity tools to its integrated surround-capable monitor controller and comprehensive routing matrix, the PT0660M proves to be the best DK audio meter yet and a near-essential for multichannel production, mastering and broadcast facilities.