The name Neutrik is usually equated with high-quality audio connectors. Lesser known is the fact that Neutrik has been designing and manufacturing test gear for the audio industry since the mid-’70s. Its first test product was the AudioTracer frequency-response graphing device, introduced in 1977. Neutrik has since introduced several other audio test instruments, including its most recent device, the ML1 Minilyzer.
Product PointsApplications: Test gear
Key Features: Handheld audio measurement; tests include RMS levels; distortion analyzer; PPM and VU meter; sweep recording; speaker polarity; test scope; third-octave spectrum and signal balance error
Contact:Neutrik at 732-901-9488; www.neutrikusa.com
+ Takes place of several pieces of gear
+ Intuitive operation
– Not A/C powerable
The Score: A powerful and comprehensive – yet easy to use – audio test device with an affordable price.
The Minilyzer combines a number of useful and sophisticated audio test tools into a compact case roughly the size of a Ninetndo Game Boy. With its simple layout and large backlit display, the ML1 could easily be mistaken for a toy, but don’t be fooled – this little package has big capabilities.
The Minilyzer ($399) adeptly incorporates the most common and useful tests needed in the pro audio field. In fact, it would take an oscilloscope, real-time analyzer, decibel/SPL meter and a voltmeter to reproduce all the audio tests this unit provides.
Each test function has its own dedicated page, easily accessible from a pull-down menu bar. Here is a run down of the ML1’s main test modes:
* Level-RMS measures the signal energy (also referred to as the absolute input level) entering the ML1 through one of its inputs. Measurements are expressed (in large numerals) in dBu, dBV or voltage. A bar graph across the bottom of the screen shows an analog representation of the absolute level, with user-adjustable scaling and zoom levels.
* Level-Relative measures the input RMS level as it relates to a user-defined reference level. First, the user inputs and captures the reference level. All incoming signals are then compared to the reference level, and the difference is expressed as a ratio in decibels. This is useful for measuring the signal to noise ratio of the device under test.
* THD+N measures the total harmonic distortion plus noise in the 10 Hz to 20 kHz range. The results can be expressed in either decibels or percentage. Of course, this is a fairly narrow bandwidth for precision THD+N measurement, but the results the ML1 provide are fine for general use.
* VU+PPM displays a PPM (peak program meter) reading of an audio program. A running VU meter analog-style bar graph is also displayed on this page. Various measuring standards are supported and reference levels are user-selectable. The obvious use of this function is to monitor for digital overs in an audio program.
* The Polarity function screen will detect the output signal polarity of an audio device. The signal to the ML1 can be input via the audio jacks or the built in microphone.
* Signal Balance Error displays as a percentage any difference between the positive and negative sides of a balanced signal (XLR input only). Again, in addition to the numerical read out, a bar graph is also displayed.
* Sweep records and graphs the Level-RMS of an incoming frequency sweep. Two modes are supported: Level-RMS vs. frequency, and Level-RMS and THD+N and frequency vs. time.
* Time Sweep records a user-defined number of measurements in selectable intervals, simultaneously measuring the mean and minimum/maximum values of Level-RMS, THD+N and frequency.
* Third Octave shows the incoming signal’s frequency spectrum divided into 31 bands, complying with the standard IEC/ANSI specified ranges. A bar graph also displays the full band (20 Hz to 20 kHz) RMS level.
The Minilyzer is a device so intuitive, I was able to get through most of its measurement functions without cracking the manual – not to imply that I am an electronics wiz, or that the Minilyzer is lacking sophistication and depth. It is a compliment to the software design and user interface.
Besides the power switch, which also toggles the backlight on and off, the ML1 has only six buttons: cursor up, down, left, right, an enter key and an escape key. Anyone who has ever used a computer (or a Game Boy) is instantly familiar with this button scheme. The graphic display is also friendly, featuring a Mac-like drop-down menu bar at the top and the test details below.
Signal input connections are made via the balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA jack on the top of the unit. A 1/8-inch signal output is provided for monitoring the incoming audio signal with headphones.
The unit boots up to the most recently used function screen and settings, which I found convenient for continuing testing after a break or repair. User-configurable timed auto shutdown settings are provided for both the main power and the backlight, saving precious battery life.
I found one of the most useful features to be the Multiple Setup function. By enabling this feature, the user can select, upon boot up, one of four stored setups. This recalls the customizable settings of all measurement functions in the Minilyzer, allowing the user to quickly configure the unit for distinctly different uses.
Three alkaline AA batteries power the Minilyzer, providing a stated operational life of approximately 16 hours. This life is definitely shortened by the use of the backlight for the graphic display, so use it sparingly. It is here I found my only complaint about this “little test gear that could” – no A/C adapter input is provided. Since most of my measurement needs are in the studio, a wallwart would be just fine (wow, who would have thought I’d ever pine for a wallwart?).
On my wish list: I would like to be able to export the measurement results or graphs into a computer. I know that is a tall order for such an affordable and small unit, but hey – it doesn’t hurt to ask!
I found the Minilyzer to be a powerful, yet easy to use, measurement device. It successfully identified several problems in different areas of my project studio, which I promptly corrected. Most of these problems were of the type that, without a device like the ML1, would be extremely hard to track down, especially the slight balance errors at some of my patchbay points. For that, I am most grateful.