5.1 SYSTEMWith the PS6 Active Direct Field Monitor, Event Electronics has introduced professional-quality powered monitoring to the project studio market. For the very affordable price of $699 per pair, the project studio owner on a limited budget can now obtain a monitoring system that compares well with speakers costing three times the price. And with a complete PS6 5.1 configuration costing about $2,500, Event has significantly lowered the financial barriers to entering the quickly expanding market for surround sound mixing.
The Event PS6 is the mid-size member of the company's Project Studio line of speakers, which includes the PS5 that comes equipped with a 511/44-inch woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter; and the PS8, with 8-inch woofer and the same 1-inch silk dome tweeter. All three PS models are driven by the same amplifiers: a 70-watt model for the low end and a 30-watt amp for the high end. For this review, I supplemented a set of five matching Event Electronics PS6s with a single Event 20/20/15 active subwoofer, a model that is thoughtfully designed to be used with all three PS systems.
The PS6 is constructed of a tough 51/48-inch-thick, vinyl-laminated and lock-mitered MDF, weighs 23 pounds and measures 8.25x12.5x10-inches. The front panel contains two ports for increased bass, and frequency response is 45 Hz to 20k Hz (ñ3 dB, ref. 500 Hz). A front panel LED indicates power on and clip conditions. As with most self-powered systems, the PS6 is a bi-amplified design, and the electronics package includes a fourth-order asymmetrical active crossover at 2.6 kHz. The 70-watt LF amplifier drives a 611/42-inch magnetically shielded, mineral-filled polypropylene cone featuring a high-temperature voice coil and a damped rubber surround, while the high-frequency driver, a 1-inch magnetically shielded natural silk dome tweeter with Ferrofluid voice coil coolant, is powered by a separate 30-watt amplifier. An input level control has a range of 20 dB and offers a notched stop position at the -5dB position. Input connectors are both XLR and 11/44-inch for balanced and unbalanced sources.
The Event 20/20/15 subwoofer is constructed of the same 51/48-inch vinyl-laminated and lock-mitered MDF, is vented and weighs 100 pounds. The internally braced cabinet's dimensions are a whopping 17.5x21.5x29-inches, including the 3-inch-tall detachable feet. An internal 250-watt linear power amp drives the single long-throw 15-inch coated paper cone, which has a foam surround and features a high-temperature voice coil. Frequency response is 28 to 120 Hz (+0 dB, -3 dB), and the unit can produce a maximum SPL of 117 dB peak at 1 meter.
The 20/20/15 cabinet's inputs include one LFE pass-through and five main monitor channels. All inputs are 40k ohm balanced via gold combination XLR/11/44-inch connectors. All of the inputs also contain pass-through outputs via male XLR connectors.
The 20/20/15 has an LFE input sensitivity control as well as polarity inversion, phase delay switches, monitor group input sensitivity, monitor input disable, monitor/sub crossover tuning and a mains power switch and power/clip indicator. The cabinet also offers RFI shielding, output current limiting, over temperature and turn-on/-off transient protection, subsonic filtering and a resettable main AC circuit breaker. A 3rd-order LFE crossover is variable from 30 to 80 Hz.
SETTING UPWhen I first unpacked the PS6 speakers, I was surprised to find that the dual-input connectors were located in a somewhat asymmetrical position with respect to the rest of the controls on the rear of the cabinet. Also, when I plugged a balanced XLR connector into the PS6, I found the XLR connector was pushing against the stand's back brace, preventing the speaker from being properly centered on the stand. However, with some creative repositioning of both the stand and the speaker, I was able to achieve a satisfactory speaker placement. But a small design change is called for in future versions.
Unpacking the subwoofer was an involved process. To unpack the sub, it is best to lay the speaker face down, with the woofer protected by a 1-inch-thick piece of cardboard. Then the sub has to be tipped up and the cardboard removed in order to extract the four plastic 3-inch feet from the bass ports on the bottom of the speaker. The feet must be screwed in to the four pre-drilled holes by hand. Though necessary in order to streamline packing and shipping, I found this process a little bit cumbersome and became very concerned about possible damage to the long-throw bass cone. I can just imagine a careless or unthinking assistant attempting to lift the sub off the ground and inadvertently punching fingers through the paper cone underneath the cabinet. A simple steel or plastic grille of some sort would have relieved my mind on this issue.
Integrating the subwoofer into a 5.1 system was fairly straightforward and the manufacturer's directions were valuable for determining proper phase alignment and polarity inversion. I eventually settled on a crossover frequency of 40 Hz with inverted polarity, and 60 degrees of phase delay, as suggested by the manufacturer's tables.
CRITICAL LISTENINGI started by evaluating the stereo soundfield. Listening material included everything from Phish's new release, Farm-house, to Donald Fagen's The Nightfly, to the London Philharmonic performing Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," to Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits and the Grateful Dead's Without A Net.
The first thing I noticed was a lack of booming low end. At this point, I had not activated the subwoofer and was just comparing the PS6s with my Genelec 1032 studio monitors. I eventually decided that there wasn't really anything missing from the spectrum, but rather, there was a more rounded upper low/low mid and a little less boom than my normal monitors. The drums seemed to have a little more pop and a little less thud, as if less air was being moved. The bass guitar seemed a little tighter in the low/mid-frequency range without losing any real definition, except in the very low end.
After a few rounds of listening, I began to think that I might actually prefer the sound of the PS6s over the boomier, "colored" sound that I have grown accustomed to. And I was thrilled with the performance of the high-frequency driver. Sounds seemed to glisten, shimmering and dancing on invisible waves as they approached my ears. There was a very consistently bright - yet not sharp - feeling on all of the instruments, from the furious violins in "The Four Seasons" to the screaming, edgy guitar of Trey Anastasio to the bright and syncopated hi-hats and beats of numerous techno and house tracks. Apparently, Event's silk dome tweeter has no resonant frequencies that need to be notched out, providing a much truer sonic experience. Overall, I felt that the PS6 provided very clear definition and excellent spatialization in the stereo field. Mixes and songs seemed to sound wider and deeper than on my usual monitors.
At this point, I decided to add the subwoofer. But as soon as I had activated it, I found myself thinking something was wrong. The low end seemed muddled, and the sub cabinet seemed to be resonating - it sounded floppy and loose. There just seemed to be too much clutter surrounding the low frequencies, and the tight punchiness that I was hoping for never materialized. I decided right then and there that I preferred the PS6 system without the sub!
The initial setup of the system was extremely straightforward yet slightly cumbersome, requiring a total of 11 XLR cables. I began calibrating my listening environment by pumping pink noise through all of the discrete channels in the system, carefully setting the SPL level to 85 dB for each individual channel, including the sub. I used the old trusty Radio Shack dB meter set to 90 dB with an A-weighting, and all seemed to be progressing wonderfully until I began to calibrate the sub. The closer I pushed it to a straight 85 dB, the more rigid and hard the sound became.
After struggling with the results of my initial evaluation of the subwoofer, I decided to speak with Event. It was not until after talking with a factory representative that I was informed that the overall calibration level for the subwoofer was more desirable at somewhere between 80 to 82 dB. This created a noticeable audible shift in the apparent low-frequency response, but it was a much more appropriate relative level when compared with full spectrum analysis of the entire system. I was simply overdriving the speaker, and hearing the results. The setup guide would do well to add a brief description of proper overall system SPL calibration as it relates to the ideal configuration of Event's mixed systems, as well as providing the less-experienced engineer with a helping hand in calibrating surround systems. Some project studio engineers who may have never worked on a full-blown surround sound mix may not even be aware of such issues as standard control room monitoring levels for surround sound mixing.
AND THEN CAME SURROUNDI evaluated the system on a full-blown 5.1 mix. I had been working on a very involved mix for about two weeks, and this particular program was much more SFX- and dialog-heavy than music intensive. With the mix up on the system, the first thing I noticed was the clarity with which the dialog came punching through the center channel. The voice was nice and round, and the image on either side seemed to be very distinct with all the subtle nuances of panning and depth very nicely represented. As the mix grew in intensity and sounds flew all over the room, I felt that the effects seemed to sound very crisp and cutting, but I still was not convinced by the low-end performance. Explosions and rumbles seemed to have a sort of muddiness to them, lacking any feeling of direct punch and power. When I bypassed the 20/20/15 and added my house subwoofer, the mix regained its original low-end characteristics of punchiness and definition. After I recalibrated the Event sub, however, the mix came right back to life. The proportionality of low-frequency rumble to overall mix levels was right in the pocket, with a little less tightness than the folded 2x8-inch "house sub" I had been using, but with a much richer and more rounded bottom than I was used to.
The Event PS6s provide true and clean monitoring for stereo and surround applications and seem to have plenty of headroom - I found it hard to get them to clip. Their relatively small size and light weight makes them ideal for use in any studio and I found myself a little disappointed when I had to switch back to my regular monitors. However, I was less than disappointed when I switched back to my regular subwoofer.