Field Test: Digidesign RM2 Two-Way Powered MonitorsCONSOLE-TOP SPEAKERS OFFER PMC DESIGN, DIGITAL I/O 9/01/2007 8:00 AM Eastern
Digidesign is a noted market leader in DAW technology and has established itself in the live sound market, but the workstation powerhouse is new to the studio monitor market. Digidesign enlisted the expertise of PMC, a UK-based manufacturer of speakers since 1991, to develop the RM family of powered monitors, featuring analog and digital inputs (24-bit, 96kHz) and onboard DSP that controls the crossover, bass port emulation and trim. We reviewed the flagship RM2.
The RM2s use a 6.7-inch, “doped-cone” LF driver for lows and a 1-inch, soft-dome HF driver with ferrofluid cooling for top end. Published frequency response is 40 to 25k Hz. Bi-amped using Class-D amplification, these boxes produce a maximum of 113dB SPL @ 1 m. There's 100W for the lows and 50W for the highs.
The crossover point is 3 kHz, with duties being performed by a 48-bit, fixed-point processing engine. This engine is designed to maintain imaging characteristics when using the onboard, user-selectable HF and LF adjustments. The HF gives you a tilt starting at 1 kHz, -4 to +3 dB in 0.5dB steps. The LF corners at 750 Hz, with the same cut and boost. These can help the speakers compensate for various room positions and varied listening distances from these positions. Also on the back are a gain trim of 0 to -15 dB in 1dB steps; analog and digital inputs, both on XLR-F; two RJ45 connectors for AES/EBU in and thru; a left/right selector for the digital signal; and a small toggle switch to engage the Bass-Port Emulation circuit.
A key feature is the Advanced Transmission Line
Digital input can be connected to the AES-3 jack and the RJ45 connector simultaneously (along with the analog ins), with AES-3 taking priority if it sees a signal. To switch between AES-3 and RJ45, the monitors must be powered down for a period of 10 seconds. When using the AES-3 input, the RJ45 thru connector will send the digital signal to the next speaker via the included Cat-5 cable. Simply select which channel of the AES signal you wish to reproduce via the Channel Assign toggle switch on the back.
These RJ45 connectors are simply that: digital connections. There is no networking, auto-calibration or remote control implemented in these speakers. It is noted in the documentation that the RM2's clock to the incoming digital source and the analog input are converted via 24-bit, 96kHz ADCs, locked to a “discrete, low-noise clock oscillator.” No provisions for external clocking are provided.
Digidesign recommends a 14-hour break-in period, and I can attest to this. At first, the bass was too forward, masking midrange instruments such as a guitar. After a couple weeks running, the surrounds started to loosen up and get faster, taming the low end and letting vocals come through. Once that period was over, I started to like these speakers more. Compared to my reference system, JBL LSR6328Ps, the RM2s exhibited a distinct increase in volume or level in the 2.5- and 5kHz frequency bands that was verified by a 31-band RTA. This volume increase was evident when I monitored the digital and analog input. It was most evident on vocals, snare and the upper-harmonics of electric guitar. It wasn't sibilant or exceptionally bright — there was just a difference at the top end that I found to be revealing and usable. Sixteen-bit mastered references, such as Steely Dan's Two Against Nature and Prince's 3121, exhibited the same results. The RM2s were also bass heavy compared to the JBLs, which are rear-ported, but this difference was easy to adapt to.
The Bass-Port Emulation seemed to extend the lower octave in some rooms, but not in others. This feature was way too hot in my room to be usable, but you have the option and that's a good thing. I A/B'd the DACs with Digidesign 002 and Masterlink converters, and, as with all converters, there were subtle differences. They were a little brighter than the Digidesign 002 and Masterlink converters, particularly in that 2.5- and 5kHz range, with a slight reduction in snare volume but virtually identical in imaging characteristics. Vocals stayed squarely in the center, piano imaging was precise, drums stayed in perspective, and the reverbs and delays had virtually identical placement in the soundstage. This increase in treble energy did have a tendency to bring out the strumming of acoustic guitars and the upper harmonics of strings and vocals. The bottom end was punchy, with no loss of definition.
These speakers will not be all things to all people, and for $3,498 a pair, they lack technology that their competition offers (remote control, auto room calibration, networking, etc.). But what they lack in ease-of-use parameters they make up in accurate, transferable sound reproduction. After a lengthy break-in period, these speakers opened up and became virtually transparent, with vocals having a solid, 3-D center soundstage. These speakers deliver imaging and transferability, but I would like to see Digidesign and PMC take the next step in studio monitor technology.
Digidesign, 650/731-6300, www.digidesign.com.
Bobby Frasier is a digital audio product specialist, pro audio consultant and educator.
Digidesign RM2 Review Interview