Furman HDS-6/HR-6 Headphone Distribution System

Have you had recording sessions marred by musicians demanding starkly different headphone mixes? Do they change their feelings about the mix from one minute to the next? Does your console have restrictions on the number of mixes available in the headphones? Furman has a solution with its HDS-6 distribution system and companion HR-6 personal remote mixing station.
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Have you had recording sessions marred by musicians demanding starkly different headphone mixes? Do they change their feelings about the mix from one minute to the next? Does your console have restrictions on the number of mixes available in the headphones? Furman has a solution with its HDS-6 distribution system and companion HR-6 personal remote mixing station.
Product PointsApplications: Studio headphone distribution

Key Features: 4 mono; 1 stereo feed per extension box

Price: HDS-6: $220; HR-6 mixers: $129 each

Contact: Furman at 707-763-1010

Plus

+ Clean sound

+ Easy installation

Minus

- Ethernet cable

The Score: A great sounding, flexible headphone system for the home or project studio.
Features

The Furman system consists of two components, the HDS-6 ($220) and the HR-6 ($129). The HDS-6 is command central for the system. The rackmounted, one-space unit receives a group of signals from the console and redirects them to the HR-6 remote mixing stations.

The HDS-6 chassis protrudes 7.25" deep in the rack and weighs 6.8 lb. Both its front and rear panels are sparsely outfitted. The back panel is home to the power switch, ground lift switch, cable ports to the HR-6, and the six 1/4" balanced female input jacks.

Connections to the HR-6 are via a pair of 25' Ethernet cables (supplied with the unit). The six input jacks accommodate a stereo pair and four mono sources. Residing on the mixer's front panel are five trim pots (one for the stereo pair and four for the mono inputs) and their associated overload indicators.

There are LEDs for power on and a light to indicate whether the Ethernet cables going to the HR-6 have been reversed. The Ethernet ports on the back are clearly labeled (one for the blue and one for the gray cable).

The HR-6 mixer measures 2.5" x 6.75" x 3.5" and comes with a universal bracket that permits mounting on most mic stands. The top of the HR-6 has five potentiometers, a push-button switch, and another LED to indicate if the Ethernet cables are reversed.

Four of these pots attenuate the mono signals from the HDS-6 and the fifth one controls the incoming stereo signal. The push-button switch engages the four mono signals into the headphone mix. With the switch depressed, the performer hears both the stereo mix and appropriate levels of the mono signals (based on the level controls for each). With the switch released, the performer hears only the stereo mix.

The front of the HR-6 has two 1/4" headphone output jacks and the rear of the chassis is home to four Ethernet ports (two incoming and two outgoing).

The HDS-6/HR-6 system has a THD rating of 0.008% into full rated power (1 kHz) and a dynamic range of greater than 96 dB. The system has a power output of 400 mW at 32 ohms and a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+0, -1 dB, 400 mW output). As many as eight HR-6 units can be driven by one HDS-6, providing 16 available headphones with eight separate mixes.

In use

I used the HDS-6/HR-6 system in my studio over the course of a month. It was an improvement over my current headphone distribution amp, proving itself quiet, reliable and flexible in all situations. I had trouble deciding which tracks to send to the HDS-6. In the end, I had the control room mix going to the stereo pair and critical tracks to the other four mono inputs.

On a recent overdub session, it took a bit of instruction to show them how to work the HR-6 controls but they soon had it down. It freed me from having to worry about separate mixes and sacrificing my control room mix for added headphone flexibility. The only glitch with this setup was when I wanted them to hear something soloed. I had to remind them to disengage the four mono tracks so they could hear just the control room mix.

Hooking the system up to my console was a breeze. I was up and running in ten minutes without consulting the manual. I chose to send the HDS-6 individual channel outs instead of subgroup outs as I use the subgroup outs to route signal to my MDMs. Keep in mind that if your desk does not have individual channel direct outs, things could get a bit dicey. You might have to sacrifice channel inserts or juggle subgroup outs, which I would consider an impediment to quality recordings.

Overall, the design and construction of the HDS-6/HR-6 system was excellent. There was ample headroom and clean, audible signal as long as proper gain structure was obtained. I was rather turned off by the Ethernet cables though. They had thin, rigid jackets that left them permanently coiled and asking to be tripped over. I could see them getting pinched or severed quite easily. It would be a drastic improvement if Furman could combine the two cables in one larger, sturdier jacket.

Summary

The Furman HDS-6/HR-6 distribution system really takes some of the headache out of providing your clients with customized headphone mixes. With the capability to expand, it is a great choice for those starting out or on a limited budget. The sound quality of this system is high enough to please most discriminating musicians. I would take care around the Ethernet cables, however, and secure them out of the way when possible. This system is a great choice for the home or project studio as it offers superb value and great functionality.