Rane Corporation of Mukilteo, Washington has been in the business of professional audio for over 20 years, and is well known for manufacturing engineered solutions for integrated systems. Its forte is products for the audio contractor/installer, from analog mixers and processors to digital equalizers and system controllers. Over the years, I have installed quite a few systems that included CP64 processors, RPE 228 equalizers, and MP24 mixers, and have always appreciated the peace of mind afforded me, knowing that they will largely take whatever the end user will dish out. So I was intrigued when I received the RA 30, more an analytical tool than an audio processor to be installed.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound and installation
Key Features: Real Time Analysis; SPL, and VU functions; 1/3-octave display; calibrated microphone; pink noise generator
Contact: Rane at 425-355-6000, Web Site.
+ Great filters
+ Multiple functions
+ Rugged build
+ Economically priced
– Small scale graphics on visual interface
– T-Power for microphone
The Score: Useful audio analysis tool with good features at a great price.
Real time analyzers take in a source signal and provide diagnostic information to the user who must interpret this info to solve problems in a system. A primary use is for setting system equalization, which this particular unit is aimed toward. Systems like SMAART and TEF will provide higher resolution, but the RA 30 ($549) can give you the “feedback” needed to help you eliminate oscillation and provide system equalization in most common circumstances. And the RA 30 is self-contained, needing no outboard processor (read: computer) to run it, unlike the others mentioned.
The RA 30 is a single rackspace unit with a 1/3-octave LED display (25 Hz to 20 kHz) across the faceplate, each of the 30 bands utilizing IEC 61260 Class II 4th order filters. The device features selectable dB scale, weighting, and SPL/RTA metering functions. It has a built in pink noise generator, rotary gain calibrator, and a switch that can choose between calibrated mic, line input, and auxiliary mic sources. Overall signal presence and overload LEDs are next to the gain calibrator, and an XLR mic input for the powered-up Rane calibrated mic completes the forward layout. On the rear of the unit one will find the pink noise unbalanced 1/4-inch phone output jack with level attenuator, 1/4-inch TRS left and right balanced/unbalanced line in jacks, and a balanced XLR auxiliary mic input with overload LED and gain attenuator. The RA 30 comes supplied with a calibrated T-Power back-electret condenser mic, mic bag, clip, and 25-foot XLR cable.
My initial use of the RA 30 was in a live setting to flatten out the front of house speakers in a club. I set up the calibrated mike approximately one meter in front of the right stack, roughly between the diaphragm of the mid-high pack horn and the voice coil of the bass bin woofer. I connected the pink noise output to one of the club’s console line inputs with preamp eq disengaged, dialed in the pink noise with an eye on the console meters, and began to monitor the system with the 6 dB scale on the RTA. I then adjusted the corresponding bands on the house 1/3-octave EQ; leveling out any hot spots I encountered, and moved the scale to a finer resolution (3 dB) as I worked the system toward more acceptable levels. I noticed the Ashley EQ centers were closely aligned with the Rane unit’s corresponding frequency readouts. Satisfied with the results, I tuned the left stack in the same manner.
The next test came during sound check when live mic channels were opened, and the band’s stage levels challenged the system’s headroom, pushing the gain to the edge of feedback. After switching from the calibrated mic to the RTA line inputs from the console, I was able to tweak the EQ further, with the help of the RA 30, achieving more headroom.
The RA 30 also incorporates a broadband SPL meter with selectable A or C-weighting utilizing the same visual display (LEDs), which can autorange from 80 dB to 120 dB; you must check the range on the corresponding LEDs and calculate the SPL with the scale given in the graphic above the same LEDs used for the RTA. The same display is shared for the stereo VU RMS averaging meter function, and obviously, you can use only one feature at a time. This crams three different numerical scales on the single rackspace faceplate, so bring your glasses if you have eyesight like mine.
I was impressed with the fit and finish of the unit; the thick steel faceplate has the graphics applied with a protective laminate that should withstand user abuse longer than the standard silkscreen. Inputs are chassis grounded to forego any possible pin 1 problems. Take caution with the calibrated mic input, however, because T-power has been known to damage certain types of mics, but Rane specifically warns against this on the front panel. I am surprised they did not use a different type of pinout for this dedicated mic. In general, however, I liked the RA 30; it is a useful tool and has the right features for basic tuning and monitoring the performance of a system. At the economical price, it can become part of a permanent install or be put in the processing rack of a portable system.
Mackie 24×4 VLZ Pro mixer; Ashley GQX3102 equalizer; QSC RMX 1450, 2450 amplifiers; dbx 223 crossover; EV Eliminator I and Eliminator I-Sub speakers; Shure microphones.