In the 1990s Rocktron created Circle Surround, a new spin on the surround world that could produce front-channel stereo, rear channel psuedo stereo (with an apparent separation of 30 dB) and a phantom center channel – all from a regular stereo input. SRS Labs of Santa Ana, Calif. later purchased the Circle Surround technology. Gemini incorporates the Circle technology into its new SP-1 surround analog processor.
Product PointsApplications: DJ; live sound
Key Features: SRS Circle Surround chipset; XLR balanced connectors; bass enhancer
Contact:Gemini Sound Products Corp. at 732-969-9000; Web Site: www.geminidj.com .
+ Simple operation
+ Pro connections
+ Effective surround enhancement
The Score: An easy to use live sound surround processor that effectively adds life to your system.
At first look, the Gemini SP-1 Circle Surround Sound processor ($399.95) appears to be just another gimmicky effects processor. In fact, the SP-1 turns out to be a professional and effective enhancement to live sound systems.
The case is one standard rackspace high in silver with large brushed-aluminum control knobs in to the left that control the main volume and effects. Five smaller, more precise thumb knobs, are located to the right, which individually control each of the five outputs.
A bass enhancer switch and test switch can also be seen on the front. On the back of the unit, are XLR inputs for right and left and five XLR outputs, right front, left front, right rear, left rear and subwoofer.
When designing its first surround unit, the engineers at Gemini Sound Products were so impressed with the SRS Labs’ Circle Surround technology, they licensed the chipset. These components let the SP-1 not only decode regular surround sound, but work with the standard analog stereo output signal produced by most traditional DJ systems and club PA systems to produce awesome effects in the music.
Setting up the SP-1 for a demo was a breeze – balanced main out of the mixer to the unit and balanced outputs to the power amplifiers.
After the SP-1 was hooked up, I calibrated it with the on-board white noise generator, tweaking each channel until I was satisfied. The SP-1 gave me four effect choices. The two-channel stereo and two-channel four-speaker stereo settings are pretty much self-explanatory.
The third choice was two-channel four-speaker stereo diagonal. The owner’s manual states that this setting is useful for large rooms and club environments. I could see how this would accent a venue like a large gymnasium or clubs; but still, it is just stereo with a different twist.
With a flip of the knob, I was in Circle Surround heaven and standing in the middle of the Glenn Miller orchestra (test source: Glenn Miller, In the Digital Mood). I could literally close my eyes and see ol’ Glenn directing the band – I was blown away! I experienced this type of sound in movie theaters, but never at a dance or musical event.
Unlike the surround sound I had listened to before, the SP-1 gave me full separation of the rear channels, which added more depth to the music. The processing made the music as crisp, if not crisper, than running it in regular stereo while the sub pumped out hard-hitting bass.
Next up was a 128-kbps MP3 file. Since the encoding of this file was not the best, I used it as a reference to see if the SP-1 could make up for the deficiencies found in some MP3s. With a little help from the subwoofer enhancer, the MP3 file rocked in all modes and was greatly enhanced by the Circle Surround setting.
In a “live” test at a wedding later in the day, the crowd concurred with my original findings, the music sounded terrific. Suddenly they were all dancing in the center of the mix. Synths are whirling around their heads, yet the vocals are coming only from the front speakers. The sound was truly spectacular. The other interesting thing is that the sound pressure (SPL) on the dance floor seemed really loud, yet when you walked to the sides of the room you could converse at normal levels. It was weird; people are always telling me I play good music, but with the SP-1, it wasn’t what I was playing as much as how I was making it sound so good.
Over the 24 years I have been a DJ, I have tried a number of processors that enhance recorded music. The SP-1 surprised me in many ways. The unit itself is solid and where most all DJ equipment has unbalanced hookups. I was impressed that Gemini went the extra mile with balanced connections.
The effect it produced was way beyond what I had expected and I might say it was quite the experience to go through my music library and discover a whole new sound coming from my CDs. I found the initial effect it had on me was carried over to the dance floor full of guests. If you have room in your rack and the support equipment to hook it up, the SP-1 will greatly enhance your system.