With the AIR Series speaker system, the synergy of TC Electronic and Dynaudio Acoustics has produced a whole new concept in speaker monitoring: features never before available in any kind of monitoring system and implemented with impeccable precision.
Product PointsApplications: Recording, mastering, editing, post production
Key Features: AIR 6 (6.5 inch woofer 1.1-inch tweeter) and AIR 15 (9-inch woofer), twin 200 watt internal amps, onboard DSP and user adjustments for room configuration, digital crossover, master/slave pairs. 24-bit, 96 kHz converters; AIR Base 1 (1 x 10-inch driver) AIR Base 2 (2 x 10-inch drivers), 200 watt internal amps, master/slave pairs, 24-bit 96 kHz converters; AIR Master controller and AIR Soft software for computer control
Price: $8,295 (as tested) for a 5.1 system with AIR Base 1 subwoofer, including remote and software.
Contact: Dynaudio Acoustics/TC Electronic at 805-373-1828, Web Site, www.tcelectronic.com.
+ mastering quality monitors.
+ high quality D/A converters
+ room acoustic adjustments in DSP
+ bass management/LFE options
+ controllable by workstation
– $8,000+ grand plus price tag for full system (but equal quality separates could cost you more).
The Score: A top-end digital speaker system that offers full control of its setup right out of the workstation.
This is a comprehensive, and I mean comprehensive, monitoring system, with many configurations available. Each speaker includes onboard DSP, courtesy of TC Electronic, and two 200W amps. The speakers include the AIR 6, a two-way speaker with 6.5-inch woofer and 1.1-inch tweeter; and the AIR 15, a two-way speaker with 10-inch woofer and 1.1inch tweeter.
The speakers are sold in pairs or custom configurations to faciltate surround setups. The left channel speaker is the “master” speaker, which takes the digital input implements the DSP, applies the left channel data to the speaker, and outputs the right channel digital stream to the right channel “slave” speaker (which also has its own independent DSP).
Two subwoofers are available: AIR Base 1, a 10-inch subwoofer, AIR Base 2, a dual 10-inch subwoofer, also with 200W internal amps. All the subs act as slaves in the network.
The system controller includes an AIR Remote with digital “volume,” “solo” and “mute” for up to six channels, and the AIR Soft software package, which includes a 9-pin serial (optional USB) cable for Mac or PC communications to the entire monitoring network. Onboard DSP includes the global volume, bass management, calibration and preset level storage and recall.
Digital input is via AES/EBU pairs to the master units. Separate word clock inputs are available via BNC connectors.
The DSP contains all functions of crossover, bass management, and EQ presets They are executed in the digital domain, always at 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz. If you are using these sample rates, the Dynaudios clock right to them. If you are using 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz, the TC electronics upsamples to 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz: a feature that is said to allow lower latency and more precise execution of the signal.
Since the AIR Series system is designed primarily for digital input, analog connection to the speaker is available only as an A/D option at $185 if ordered up front or at $550 per pair as a later upgrade.
The AIR series use “master” and “slave” pairs. Because they are designed strictly for AES/EBU (sorry no S/PDIF) digital signals, the master unit receives the odd/even AES/EBU pair, then splits the signals internally, routing the left channel to the master and the right channel to the slave monitor, using standard CAT 5 Ethernet cable with standard RJ45 connectors.
To complete the ensemble a calibration CD with every sweep tone one could possibly need for accurate interface and bass management within your acoustic space.
For my evaluation, I used five AIR 6 monitors and an AIR Base 1 subwoofer in 5.1 – with three AIR 6s up front and two in the back. The sub was also located in the front of the listening area. The AIR 6 is rated from 40 Hz to 20 kHz. Since the lowest bass is routed to the AIR Base subwoofers, which extends to 25 Hz, the AIR 6 handled the other portions of spectrum (though it can handle bass if a sub is not present or bass management is turned off).
With the crossover in the digital domain, the low pass and high pass signals are routed to separate D/A converters in the AIR 6. One handles D/A for the woofer, and the other handles D/A for the tweeter. Besides the high quality converters, there are additional advantages in that each D/A is seeing a much simpler signal to pass on to the specific analog amplifier electronics.
Being in the digital domain, The AIR 6’s digital crossover is said to be more precise without the phase anomalies of passive crossovers. The crossover is set at a lower-than average 1,750 Hz.
Over the years, when mixing with passive speakers that have 2 kHz or higher crossovers, I have found many tracks needing EQ in the 2,200 to 2,800 Hz range had to be handled gently because of the crossover. Too much EQ and phase problems become audibly apparent. Since the AIR Series digital crossover is below this frequency range, I found I could be more generous with the EQ.
I was really impressed by the the AIR Soft software. It allows one to “talk” to any monitor for all setup functions, including placement compensation. The choices include “against the wall” and my favorite, “on the console,” which employs a reverse comb filter to “undo” the acoustic effects of top-of-the-console monitor location.
You can also select the bass management crossover point from 50 Hz to 120 Hz. I set the bass crossover at 80 Hz.
All these functions are adjustable on the front panel of any “master” unit, but can be done more comprehensively through a Mac or PC. The AIR Soft software provides high resolution graphics to show exactly what is being set.
Dynaudio supplies extensive details and instructions on room acoustics – including bass management in the AIR Series user’s manual. Dynaudio includes a calibration CD with every sweep tone necessary to do a complete calibration and position the monitors/subwoofers in the best possible locations within your particular room acoustics.
I did extensive listening and playback of familiar 5.1 mixes, as well as changing the configuration to 2.1 (stereo with sub) mixes. I had one little hiccup during the beginning of the listening sessions, and it was my fault. A local client wanted to mix a 5.1 concert video, but the system seem to be locked without passing audio. After checking the manual, I found that a switch that changes the master unit to slave status was pushed in.
For most of our listening and mixing, we fed the 5.1 setup directly from one of our Digidesign Pro Tools 888 interfaces, using the 888’s AES/EBU outputs. With Protools 5.1 software, I/O configurations could be changed on the fly quite easily.
Using the Dynaudio AIR system for 5.1 mixing and critical listening, I was convinced that my facility sounded as good as any I have heard with closefield monitors. The spatial rendering of the Dynaudios was flawless. We placed stereo miked instruments from center to left, then center to right, then right front to right surround, and so on. Any adjacent pair chosen rendered a delicious spatial image.
One of my students had just completed a school recording project with a local concert pianist using five-channel miking and a traditional “over the strings” stereo pair with Neumann U89s – all linked to a TASCAM DA-88 DTRS digital cassette recorder. I played the master on a TASCAM DA-78 DTRS digital cassette recorder, patched digitally from its TDIF output fed to the Yamaha O2R mixer, then to the Dynaudio 5.3 setup from the O2R’s AES/EBU outputs.
The Dynaudios revealed an almost holographic grand piano in front. I then switched to the “over the strings” stereo pair routed just to left front/right front. Again, the image was transparent, as if the Dynaudios were not there, just the piano. I could not believe I was listening to 16-bit/44.1 kHz resolution!
One final point. With analog powered monitors, I hesitate to feed them from the analog outputs of the Pro Tools 888 interface to avoid accidental full level output. The AIR Series remote, however, allows AES/EBU output at full digital levels from Pro Tools.
It has three user-adjustable preset levels at the punch of a button, in addition to a rotary level control with half dB increments. Since level adjustment is done digitally at high bit resolution, once the AIR Series monitors are level calibrated, the tracking error between all six channels is zero at any volume setting.
Anyone mixing in the digital realm should seriously consider the Dynaudio AIR speaker system. With its all digital signal path, DSP control and excellent sonics, Dynaudio’s intent was to provide mastering- quality monitoring that can be controlled by a computer workstation. In my opinion, they have done it.
TASCAM DA-78, DA-88 DTRS cassette tape recorders; Yamaha O2R mixer; Digidesign Pro Tools; Digidesign 888 interface; Neumann U 89 microphone.