In the cramped control rooms of many personal studios, setting up speakers for accurate monitoring can be a challenge. Monitors placed on shelves, near (or up against) walls, or in corners fall victim to undesirable, varying boosts in bass response. Carpeted rooms or those heavily damped with acoustic foam or fiberglass wall panels usually suffer from muffled high frequencies that obscure detail in the monitors' response.
The Tannoy Precision 6D Active Studio Monitor — one of four models in the company's Precision line of reference monitors — provides a wide range of onboard equalization to help compensate for such acoustic problems. A host of other features, including analog and digital inputs, a highpass filter (for use with an added subwoofer), and an independent sensitivity control for each monitor, add to the product's eminent flexibility.
At the heart of the 6D's design is Tannoy's Dual Concentric technology, in which a high-frequency driver is mounted in the center of a low-frequency driver so that both are on the same axis. This configuration results in the time alignment of both drivers' acoustic outputs, typically tightening up phase response and improving clarity and transient response. The 6D features a 1-inch titanium-dome tweeter mounted on a 6-inch paper-cone driver.
Mounted above the 6D's Dual Concentric drivers is an additional 1-inch titanium-dome tweeter (dubbed the SuperTweeter) that the company says extends the monitor's frequency response out to 51 kHz (see Fig. 1). A standby switch lets you mute the output of the monitor. Standby mode is useful, for example, to avoid audible pops when changing input connections while powered up. In each monitor, a built-in 75W amplifier powers the 6-inch driver, and a 35W amp powers the two tweeters.
I've Been Everywhere
The 6D's 28.6-pound cabinet weight and relatively compact size allow it to be placed in all but the most confined spaces, and magnetic shielding means it can be set up near a CRT monitor without distorting picture quality. Twenty DIP switches on the 6D's rear panel control various filters that help compensate for imperfect positioning and problematic room acoustics (see Fig. 2).
The first four DIP switches (viewed from left to right) can be set to provide a 3 dB boost, flat response, or a 1.5, 3, or 4.5 dB cut in the 45 to 65 Hz band. These are used to tailor the monitor's bottom-end reproduction. The next six DIP switches provide 2, 4, 6, or 8 dB of cut at 200, 400, or 800 Hz to compensate for unwanted upper-bass boost due to various speaker positions, including on shelves, against walls, or in corners.
FIG. 1: Mounted directly above the Precision 6D''s Dual Concentric drivers is the SuperTweeter, which the company says extends frequency response out to 51 kHz.
DIP switches 11 through 14 provide a 1 or 2 dB boost or cut (or retain flat response) in the 1 to 3 kHz band. Engineers editing voice-overs may want to boost response in this band to increase intelligibility, whereas I found that cutting the response here made the monitors sound less “hard” and fatiguing for music-production duties.
The last six DIP switches can be set for 1, 2, or 3 dB of shelving-type boost or cut (or flat response) between 5 and 50 kHz. Personal preference and the degree of absorption in your control room will dictate how these switches should be set.
In addition to the DIP switches, the 6D also provides an 80 Hz highpass filter. In most instances, you'll want to activate it when you are using a subwoofer with a pair or more of 6Ds, in order to avoid too much overlap of bass frequency response from sub and satellites.
The 6D provides both analog and digital input connectors (and a switch to choose which is active), the former on a balanced ¼-inch/XLR TRS combo jack and the latter on a coaxial jack that accepts S/PDIF format audio. A S/PDIF pass-through jack is also provided. To set up a stereo pair of 6Ds for accepting S/PDIF input, route a S/PDIF cable from your audio interface or mixer to the S/PDIF input on one of the monitors. Then patch a second S/PDIF cable from that monitor's pass-through jack to the S/PDIF input on the second monitor. Either monitor can be first in the S/PDIF daisy chain, and a switch on the rear panel sets the speaker for either left- or right-channel reproduction or mono playback.
A detented, rotary sensitivity control serves both analog and digital (post-D/A) inputs (as do the DIP switches). That's a great design because it allows you to control monitor levels independently for each monitor without compromising digital resolution, and the 6Ds' powerful equalization filters are not limited to use with just analog inputs. Other rear-panel features include a bass port, a large heat sink, an IEC power receptacle (for use with the supplied, detachable AC cord), and a power switch.
Tannoy's Activ-Assist software (Mac/Win) can be used to measure the frequency response of the 6D with your particular setup and arrive at suggested settings for the monitors' DIP switches. The software can be downloaded for free from Tannoy's Web site. A software CD, a companion measurement microphone, and I/O cables are available for an additional $115.
Activ-Assist is small enough that it need not be installed on your hard drive. After working through some initial confusion due to key omissions in the software's manual and a missing battery for the Tannoy-supplied mic, I successfully ran the 12.2 MB application from the CD drive of my dual-processor 867 MHz Power Mac G4.
I set up a pair of 6Ds on Acoustic Sciences Corporation (ASC) Monitor Traps, which are part of an ASC Attack Wall placed at the front of my control room. Monitor Traps are 16-inch-diameter tube traps fashioned for use as speaker stands. The Attack Wall consists of a contiguous arrangement of tube traps designed to improve a control room's impulse response.
It took a bit of tweaking to get the 6Ds to sound good in my control room. Listening to my own country mixes and a variety of pop releases by way of the 6Ds' analog inputs, and with all filters set initially for flat anechoic response, I was disappointed by what I heard. The 6Ds sounded midrange-heavy and peaky (that is, not smooth), lacked high-frequency detail, and exhibited ghosty stereo imaging and subpar transient response. Bass instruments sounded fairly tight, if understandably lean for a close-field monitor.
FIG. 2: Twenty DIP switches on the 6D''s rear panel activate filters that compensate for compromised speaker placement, such as on a shelf, against a wall, or in a corner.
Activ-Assist suggested that I set the 6Ds' DIP switches to boost both the 45 to 65 Hz and 5 to 50 kHz bands 3 dB. That was encouraging because I'd already arrived at those settings just by listening. Additionally, I cut the 1 to 3 kHz band 1 dB in order to mitigate what I still heard as a hard, midrangy sound. This combination of filter settings improved the monitors' spectral balance, but their sound remained a bit edgy and imaging was still not great. Nevertheless, the monitors provided a useful “window” into the midrange band of the mix in much the same way that the popular (and now discontinued) Yamaha NS-10Ms do. And with these filter settings, the low notes played on a Chapman Stick on Paula Cole's “Tiger” were clearly audible, though not very prominent.
Switching to the 6Ds' S/PDIF inputs and listening to the same program material, I noticed a fairly dramatic increase in depth, clarity, and transient response and much improved — make that very good — stereo imaging. I got the best results by adding my Tannoy PS-88 subwoofer (a discontinued model) to the setup, while also nulling the 6Ds' 45 to 65 Hz filters and switching on their highpass filters (and retaining the other DIP-switch settings for mids and highs noted earlier). This gave a full-bandwidth response with very good clarity, detail, and imaging and tight, well-defined bass. But as the 6Ds' reproduction of the lower high frequencies still sounded edgy to me, I found it necessary to listen at low volume to avoid ear fatigue. To put this in proper perspective, I can also make that latter statement about my trusty NS-10Ms, which I refer to often while mixing and mastering.
The Precision 6Ds are good performers when using digital inputs and at low listening levels. The monitors are expensive, however, considering the competitive performance of other monitors in the same — or lower — price range. That said, if your control room setup dictates that you place your monitors in extremely compromised positions, you may find that the 6D's formidable arsenal of corrective filters gives you better results than can be obtained from less generously outfitted monitors.
EM contributing editor Michael Cooper is a tracking, mixing, and mastering engineer and producer. He can be reached through his MySpace site atwww.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording.
active close-field monitor
software CD, measurement mic, and cables $115
FEATURES5EASE OF USE3AUDIO QUALITY3VALUE3
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Provides a good reference for midrange band. Generous allotment of equalization filters improves response in any setup. Independent sensitivity control for each monitor. Analog and digital inputs. Combo jack makes analog connection a breeze.
CONS: Edgy sound is fatiguing at all but low listening levels. Analog input lacking in depth, clarity, and transient response compared with digital input. Pricey.