Cologne, Germany-based RTW (RTW GmbH & Co KG) has been quietly serving the pro audio market for nearly half a century. The RTW Peak Program Meters and RTW Surround Sound Analyzer, the company’s flagship products, can be found in radio and TV studios around the world. RTW’s product line includes multichannel integrated surround sound visualization systems with TFT displays based on the pioneering Surround Sound Analyzer.
When it comes to mixing for broadcast, metering is one of the most important elements of the process. RTW’s latest release — TouchMonitor TM9 and TM7 (identical systems featuring 9- and 7-inch touch screens, respectively) — make this task easier and more accurate than ever. The TouchMonitor includes an easy-to-operate GUI (graphical user interface) and raises the bar for professional audio metering by improving the precision, performance, efficiency and flexibility of audio metering.
The standard TM9 TouchMonitor includes a 9-inch 16:9 TFT touch screen (1024 x 600 pixel) mounted into a tabletop frame with a movable table stand, making it easy to place on a meter bridge, producer’s desk or even directly on the console. Alternatively, the unit can be purchased as an OEM version (without the casing) so it can be mounted directly into a rack panel or console. Audio inputs include analog, AES3, AES3id and 3G SDI, and the unit can simultaneously input and display up to 32 audio channels. The TM7 TouchMonitor is available as a 19-inch, 3U rackmountable version and as a video rackmountable version.
Our review unit included eight channels of analog input and eight channels of digital (AES3) input. The TouchMonitor’s connection include Ethernet, VGA, USB 2.0 (x 2), GPIO, and 24 VDC. The machine incorporates a modular software approach for flexible configuration and easy upgrades and the ability to purchase only the tools that your configuration requires. When additional audio tools are needed, new instruments and functions can be added to the device as software modules by purchasing and activating a corresponding license.
The basic TouchMonitor system includes two-channel Stereo-PPM software including Peak, True Peak, and Phase Metering. It supports both analog scales (DIN5, Nordic, British IIa, British IIb) and digital scales (0 to -60 dB, +3 to -60 dB TruePeak, DIN5, Nordic, British IIa and IIb) and includes peak hold, peak memory and over indicators. Licenses can be purchased for multichannel processing, loudness (ATSC A/85, EBU R128, ITU-BS.1771) and SPL, RTA (Real Time Analyzer), SSA (Surround Sound Analyzer), Radar Display, and Premium PPM plus Vectorscope. When operating in multichannel mode, the signal routing is expanded from stereo to include mono, 3.1 surround, 5.0 surround, 5.1 surround and/or multichannel (2 to 8 channels in one block, up to 4 blocks with 3G SDI option).
The RTA provides either 31 or 61 frequency bands of level response in channel pairs or groups. The Surround Sound Analyzer provides a dynamic display that allows the user to visualize the interaction of all surround or stereo sound parameters and the Radar Display provides a high-resolution circular Loudness display via the TC Electronics protocol.
The TouchMonitor’s GUI is controlled entirely by touching your finger on the touchscreen. There is no need for an external keyboard or mouse (although one can be used if preferred). The GUI allows instruments to be selected, scaled, positioned and combined for optimal use of screen space. Identical instruments can be created, assigned to different inputs and simultaneously displayed. The onscreen help feature makes it easy to make setup changes.
The RTW TouchMonitor was a breeze to get up and running. Input is provided via two D-Sub connectors. The first provides eight channels of analog input with the second providing eight channels of AES-EBU digital input. Other easy-to-install configurations are also available.
Initially, I had the TM9 setup up to monitor the output of my Pro Tools stereo bus via the digital output of my Lynx Aurora, but I experimented with monitoring via my two-track output as well as various points in my stereo bus signal path using both the analog and digital output of the Aurora. The RTW worked perfectly in each instance.
In addition to using the touch screen for system setup and scrolling through presets, I attached an external USB trackball and 14-inch VGA monitor. The trackball worked perfectly for making system adjustments (I actually found it easier than using the onboard touch screen) and while the VGA monitor lost some resolution when increasing the screen’s size from 9- to 15-inches, it was still completely usable.
Configuring the software was a breeze, and typical configurations can be stored making it easy to switch between surround and stereo monitoring, digital and analog inputs monitoring, etc. The tools I incorporate while mixing in stereo in the box are different than those I utilize when mixing on a console and both of these are entirely different than what I need to use when mixing in surround. It’s great being able to instantly recall the exact tool set that I need for a specific application.
Since the pre-DAW era, metering has played an important role in my mixing. And while it is far more critical for broadcast- oriented work, it is still important for music mixing. I’m accustomed to mixing with sophisticated metering tools (ears first, of course). I was impressed with the accuracy of the RTW over other meters I’ve used. The flexibility in setting up the screen to perfectly compliment my workflow is wonderful, especially the ability to make the tools I refer to more often larger and those that aren’t as important smaller. Using a USB flash drive, unlimited presets can be saved as well, making it possible to quickly change setups to reference tools that are only needed on occasion or to have separate presets for stereo mixing-digital summing, stereo mixing-analog summing, 5.1 surround mixing, simultaneous 5.1 surround mixing/stereo downmix, etc. I found it helpful to visually compare the difference of my mix pre- and post-stereo bus processing.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to mix anything in surround during the review period but I did spend some time referencing the RTW while playing back some of my surround mixes from older projects. I can’t imagine doing another surround mix without it.
While it’s likely priced beyond the reach of most project or small commercial studios, the RTW TouchMonitor is an amazing tool that allows the mixer to visually confirm precise details about their mix confirming that it meets specific delivery specs.
Price: $3,700-plus (depending on configuration) Contact: RTW | rtw.de
russlong.wsRuss Long is a Nashville-based producer, engineer and mixer as well as a senior contributor to PAR.