Peavey PV 10 + Phonic PAA

Up for review here are the Peavey PV 10 ten-channel mixer and the Phonic PAA3 Personal Audio Analyzer.
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Powered by Peavey, made with pride in America. That’s a claim few large-scale consumer audio manufacturers can make these days.

But Peavey has always kind of been a brand that people have used mostly out of necessity, not by aesthetic choice, (unless you’re Black Flag, or the Pixies, or Sonic Youth, to name a few unabashed Peavey users). Peavey builds bulletproof amps and some really high quality studio tube preamps, but there’s something consistently cheesy about the graphic design of all things Peavey, all the way down to it’s funny pseudo-metal style logo. This mixer is no exception to this aesthetic. The knobs are garishly colored, royal blue EQ knobs, blood-red monitor knobs, and bright tangerine EFX knobs really jump off the top of the mixer. To the touch, the knobs feel a little on the chauncy side. Not as solid as say a Mackie, but I’ll tell you what, I’d take this mixer any day over a Behringer. At least the Peavey isn’t stained with the sweat of underpaid labor.

Anyways, this 10-channel mixer seems best suited for home use. Its compactness makes it portable, perhaps useful in a mobile studio setup. There are six mic pres and two stereo line inputs all summing to stereo left and right. There are inserts on all six mono inputs. Each channel, from top to bottom: Gain (60dB for mic inputs), 80Hz low cut, high EQ, mid EQ, low EQ, monitor send, EFX send, pan, mute and clip/mute LED, signal LED, and a fader.

My main concern when first plugging this little guy in was how to set the gain. There is no PFL. Well, alright, this is a very stripped down mixer. I guess the clip LED will alert me to a signal that’s pushing the red.

My second concern was what the EQ points are. Let’s look next to the knobs. Nothing there. Just +/-15dB. +/-15dB of what? Alright, again, this is a consumer grade home studio unit. I’ll just trust my ears to hear that the EQ is boosting or attenuating in that general frequency range. Remember, Peavey, not Neve.

So now it’s time to fire up this mixer. I plug in my Roland Juno 60 to give this little guy a full frequency sound source to deal with. The line amp can handle all the low end of my synth. This mixer boasts a frequency response of 14Hz to 25kHz +0dB/-1dB. I could actually hear the lowest sine wave on my Juno, which has always been a test for any piece of gear of mine. This is a good sine. (Urgh. Sorry.)

Next the mic pre amp. With 60dB of gain, this amp has enough headroom to handle most anything. Using an Audio-Technica 4041 small-diaphragm condenser on my acoustic guitar, the amp sounded basically transparent. The frequency response is pretty flat. On voice there’s enough highs and lows without being too bright or muddy. This is good because the EQs are not particularly powerful.

Now the fun part.

Let’s try out this wacky multi-effects thing. A single rotary knob selects the desired digital effect. Sixteen possible effects include eight different reverbs, six delays, and two “vocal enhancement” settings. I liked the analog delay and the cathedral reverb settings most of all. Overall, the reverbs sound preposterously digital. These could be used to a certain effect. The “vocal enhancement” setting is the most dubious, however. Each setting has a small room reverb, which reminded me of how it might sound in a jail cell somewhere — cold and wet.

So now let’s try the EQs. Back to the Juno. I set the keyboard to generate noise and adjusted the EQs, trying to notice the EQ points. My ears, however are overwhelmed by the ferocity of the noise and I’m at a loss for what these points are. They seem to do what they say they should do. The high and low EQs are shelving and the mid is a peak dip. I wish I knew the points . . . oh wait. I’ll just use my PAA3 Personal Audio Assistant.

The Phonic PAA3 is a handheld multi-purpose audio analyzer and tone generator — a veritable audio Swiss army knife. I plugged it in with reckless abandon, not even glancing at the manual. The default screen is the RTA and SPL measurement. Within seconds of turning on this little sucker, I’ve identified the EQ points on the PV 10. The low-frequency shelf starts at 250Hz. The mid EQ is centered at 800Hz and the high EQ shelf starts at 4kHz. Wow, that was easy. This PAA3 is very intuitive and this is a good thing, because I normally balk at a lot of multi-function digital-scroll-through-lots-of-parameters-until-you’ve-lost-the-cursor-and-can’t-find-your-way-out-of-digital-space-units.

Now to test this analyzer in the field.

I used the PAA3 to tune the PA system at a club where I work here on Mission St. in San Francisco. Using the XLR output jack on the bottom of the analyzer, I routed the tone generator into a mic pre on the board. I blasted the room with pink noise, 108dB, as the meter read. Again, I was a little phased by the sound of the noise. This time I put in my earplugs and tried to keep it together long enough to test the frequency response of the system. Wow, no wonder this system sounds so weird. There are all kinds of EQ dips and peaks.

After 10 minutes of adjusting the house graph, I’ve got really great sounding pink noise. Alright, let’s try something a little more musical. I throw on Zep IV and it sounds great. Now all we have to do is get Zeppelin to play our club.

So now that I’ve adjusted the house EQs, I move on to ringing out the monitors. Again, the PAA3 is really easy to use and intuitive. In no time, I’ve got the monitors wrung out and sounding better than ever. No joke. So now I sit waiting around for the bands to arrive for soundcheck.

No one yet. Still no one. Still waiting.

Alright, what else does this little analyzer guy do? Not only can it check A, C, and flat-weighted SPL, realtime frequency analysis (and frequency specific SPL measurement), it also can test reverb time. I knew that the reverb time in this club has always been a problem, but I’ve never known how long the decay was. Using the pink noise again, I set the PAA3 to measure the reverb time, once the pink noise is muted, a measurement of 6.6 second reverb time is taken. Acoustical treatment is an obvious necessity at this club. I’ve told the owners that from the get go. But that’s another story.

The PAA3 also comes with an audio CD of test signals for spec’ing out your system. As well, you can use the PAA3 in conjunction with your PC using the program provided on the included CD. This allows you to save and print data stored on the PAA3. Also, it can be useful when taking measurements that require the absence of any individuals.

All in all, this is a really handy little unit that would serve any audio engineer well, either live or in the studio. The one disadvantage is its size. It’s slightly reminiscent of an early cell phone — a little bit clunky — and certainly too large to fit in your pocket. Unless you’ve got very big pockets. Which is probably another story entirely.