No consumer format in the history of audio has succeeded so quickly as DVD, which offers attractive functions and features such as 5.1 surround sound, interactive menus, and bonus tracks in a format that's ideal for both home and portable applications. Consumers are upgrading to multichannel home sound in record numbers.
Today, record labels and movie studios — both majors and independents — know that there's a large, appreciative audience looking for new product, which is good news for audio pros. With the production of new releases and mastering/remixing yesterday's hits (music or cinema), the surround floodgates are wide open and getting wider.
One of the key ingredients in upgrading your studio for surround production is a quality monitoring system, and we queried more than 30 loudspeaker manufacturers about their top-of-the-line surround systems. Each company listed here offers its best system for recording, editing and mixing in surround, whether that's a custom-designed system and/or a packaged surround setup. Most of the companies also offer downsized systems for smaller rooms and project facilities — and manufacturers' contacts are provided so that you can explore further on your own — but for the purposes of this article, we wanted to examine their ultimate systems.
A.D.A.M. (Advanced Dynamic Audio Monitors), distributed by McCave International, offers the ASM-3 Surround Monitoring System ($10,995). Consisting of five S3-A active near-/mid-field speakers and the company's Sub-1 active subwoofer, the ASM-3 Surround System is developed in Germany under the direction of Klaus Heinz. Based on Heinz's work with Dr. Oskar Heil, inventor of the modern ribbon transducer (Heil Air-Motion Transducer), the three-way S3-A includes A.D.A.M.'s proprietary ribbon technology to produce transients to 35 kHz. Each S3-A monitor includes three 100-watt amps, and can be oriented horizontally or vertically. The Sub-1 subwoofer has dual 10-inch drivers driven by a 200W amp. Max system SPL exceeds 122 dB (at 1 meter), down to 25 Hz.
ATC Loudspeaker Technology (distributed in the U.S. by Flat Earth Audio) offers a surround package that includes the British-built SCM15AP4 Pro and SCM50A Pro reference monitors, and SCM 0.1/15A subwoofers. Designed with medium-sized rooms in mind, the $79,900 package comprises three SCM15AP4 Pro active monitors ($16,700 each) for the front speakers, two SCM50A Pro ($7,050 each) three-way active speakers for the rear channels, and two of the company's SCM 0.1/15A subwoofers ($7,850 each). The SCM15AP4 Pro front speakers include a dedicated amp and feature repositionable tweeters for horizontal mounting, a 375mm bass driver and a 150-liter enclosure. The SCM50A Pro rear-channel speakers include six matched MOSFET amp blocks to provide 112dB max SPL. The twin SCM 0.1/15A subs, each with built-in 1,000-watt amps, can be used as the LFE source in a multichannel system or to extend extreme LF in 2-channel systems with smaller monitors.
Bag End Loudspeakers' studio surround monitoring system comprises five of the company's MM-8H Time-Align monitors ($1,320 each) and one Infrasub-18 ELF subwoofer ($1,670), for a total package price of $8,270. Targeted at post, mastering, and film/video production facilities, the MM-8H is a two-way, coaxial, passive monitor with an 8-inch LF cone and 1.75-inch aluminum HF compression driver. Weight is 29 pounds, and the cabinet is 16.5×12.5×8.5 inches (H×W×D). Bag End's Infrasub-18 is an extended low-frequency powered sub for the project studio and home theater. The unit has an 18-inch ELF cone transducer and an onboard 400-watt power amp, with a built-in ELF dual integrator to provide a flat acoustical response all the way down to 8 Hz. The sub is available in black vinyl; walnut, oak, maple and rosewood enclosures are also available.
Blue Sky International's THX pm3-approved Blue Sky System One ($3,295) is designed for reference near-field monitoring, and includes a remote 5.1-channel volume control with full bass management. System One includes five SAT 6.5 bi-amplified satellite speakers, one SUB 12 200-watt subwoofer and one BMC 5.1 Channel Bass Management/Remote Controller. The SAT 6.5 satellite speakers ($425/each) feature a cast-aluminum frame, a 6.5-inch hemispherical driver, and a 1-inch diaphragm tweeter with integral waveguide for improved off-axis response. Powered by dual 100W amps with an optimized electronic crossover, the SAT 6.5 Satellites deliver a frequency response of 80 to 20k Hz (±3 dB), measure 12×8×10 inches (H×W×D) and include OmniMount Series 100 mounting inserts. Specifically designed to complement the SAT 6.5 speakers, the SUB 12 ($545) includes a 12-inch forward-firing woofer and a dedicated 200W amp; frequency response is 20 to 200 Hz. Rounding out the System One package is the Blue Sky BMC ($625), a rackmount main processor, which also functions as the input unit. (I/O connections are balanced XLR.) Connected via RJ-11 telephone cabling, the microprocessor-controlled remote provides control over channel/system level, monitor/system mutes, system reference level and more.
Dynaudio Acoustics (distributed by TC Electronic) offers the BM 5.1A surround bundle for $11,198, a considerable savings over the unit prices. The system includes five BM15A speakers ($3,599 each) and a BX30 subwoofer ($2,200). The BM15A is a large, two-way, active monitor with a 10-inch woofer, a special version of the Dynaudio ESOTEC soft-dome tweeter, and an electronic phase-aligned crossover with built-in dual MOSFET amps. The front-ported BM15A's cabinet has radiused edges on the front baffle to reduce boundary effects. Dynaudio's ported BX30 subwoofer is designed to work in tandem with the company's BM15A and BM6A monitors. Features include selectable internal filtering, continuously adjustable phase, a 130-watt amp, and a 305mm woofer with a 102mm voice coil.
The flagship surround system from Event Electronics includes five 20/20bas bi-amplified Direct Field Monitors and the 20/20/15 System Subwoofer at a system cost of $3,695. The mag-shielded 20/20bas mains ($499 each) are two-way active monitors with two onboard amps (130-watt woofer; 70-watt tweeter), an 8-inch polypropylene woofer, and a 25mm Ferrofluid-cooled, silk-dome tweeter. The crossover (2.6kHz) is an active fourth-order asymmetrical type, and the 20/20bas has a frequency response of 38 to 20k Hz (±2 dB). Additional features include variable input gain and high-/low-frequency trims, and the cabinet measures 10.25×14.75×11.75 inches (W×H×D). The 20/20/15 subwoofer ($1,199) features a 15-inch, long-throw woofer. The unit includes a 250W linear amp, frequency response is 28 to 120 Hz, and maximum SPL at 1 meter is 120 dB. The integrated full-bass management control system has six discrete, active balanced inputs with pass-through outputs, and controls include LFE channel input sensitivity, monitor input sensitivity, mute, monitor/subwoofer phase control and a Bypass switch.
Genelec offers a wide range of monitors and subwoofers for customized high-end surround monitoring solutions. For example, the Genelec system that was recently installed at Right Track Studios (featured on the cover of the October 2001 issue of Mix) includes five Genelec 1035B Main Control Room Monitor Systems and four Genelec 1094A subwoofers. Such a system costs in the neighborhood of $123,000, shipping included. Each 1035B has two 15-inch woofers with a pair of 1,100-watt amps, two Genelec 5-inch mids, each with its own 250W amp, and a single 2-inch HF compression driver driven by its own 350W amp. Designed for flush mounting, each 1035B offers a frequency response of 29 to 22k Hz (-3 dB) and a peak SPL capability of 136dB SPL per pair (at 2 meters). Two 5-inch, high-sensitivity, direct-radiating cone drivers are loaded with Genelec's Directivity Control Waveguide, which is user-adjustable and reportedly improves stereo imaging, increases driver efficiency, and reduces distortion and cabinet edge diffraction. At Right Track, four Genelec 1094A subwoofers, each with a single 15-inch driver and 400W amp, provide LF energy down to and below 25 Hz. The 1094A sub features a front-loaded driver for improved passband efficiency and stopband rejection.
Griffin Audio Design's top surround system includes five loudspeakers, three bass management controllers and a pair of subs, all for a total cost of $74,750 (amplification not included). This system includes five Griffin Mastering Loudspeakers ($12,450 each, and available in both freestanding or in-wall models), two Griffin .1 subs ($6,250 each) and the Griffin ACU (Active Controller Unit). The Griffin Mastering Loudspeaker is a three-way, active/passive design capable of providing over 120dB dynamic range and a flat response from 22 Hz to over 20k Hz. The two Griffin .1 subs incorporate the same RCF L18P300 18-inch woofer as in the Mastering Loudspeaker and are used in tandem. Each Griffin ACU contains the crossover from the bass system to the passive mid/tweeter system, as well as tilt and level control for all bands. All Griffin products are available exclusively through Francis Manzella Design Limited.
New for 2001, Hafler offers a surround system made up of five TRM8.1 powered monitors ($749 each) and a TRM12s powered sub ($699). Featuring a more streamlined, vinyl-clad enclosure than its predecessors (the TRM8 and TRM6), the new TRM8.1 is a bi-amped, two-way system offering a free-field frequency response of 45 to 21k Hz. An integrated 75-watt amp for the HF driver and a 150W LF amp power the system's frequency response of 20 to 20k Hz (0.1% THD). Signal-to-noise ratio is greater than 100 dB. The TRM8.1, which incorporates Hafler's Diamond Series Trans•nova amp technology, is mag-shielded and can be mounted in two different positions via Omnimount hardware. Hafler's TRM12s subwoofer includes a 12-inch woofer with 2.5-inch voice coil. The downfiring speaker, which is mounted in a 2.0-cubic-foot vented cabinet, is driven by the company's advanced VFET Transana 200W power amp and can output in excess of 115dB SPL.
The Surround Pack ($4,895) from HHB Communications includes five Circle 5A active monitors and a Circle 1 subwoofer. A new cone design in the Circle 5A promises to eliminate many of the problems associated with conventional speaker cones, and features variable surface thickness to minimize resonance. Its 140-watt amp drives the 8-inch bass/mid driver, and a 70-watt amp powers the tweeter. Available in both passive and active versions, the mag-shielded Circle 5A is available as a pair or with an additional center speaker (HHB Circle 5AC) for surround work. The powered Circle 1 sub combines a 12-inch woofer with a 100W amp module and includes 5-channel active filtering. A Mode switch for various surround sound decoders and a LF boost control for low-level monitoring are included. Connection to the Circle 1 is handled via six balanced XLR inputs.
The ARM265 Surround System ($29,999) from Hot House Professional is a freestanding setup intended for medium- to large-sized control rooms. The system's flat, wide bandwidth response is provided by five bi-amplified ARM265 Active Reference Monitors (250-watt high and low-frequency amps; -3 dB @ 30 Hz and 21.5k Hz), an ASB215 Active Sub Bass system (-½ dB @ 15 Hz), and a Model Two Thousand High-Resolution Control Room Amp (1,200 watts per channel). All necessary Teflon wiring and full isolation mount system parts are included. The ARM265 reference monitors have input level, ultra-high frequency and room compensation frequency-adjustment switches, while the SBX Controller affords flexible subwoofer alignment capabilities. The ASB215 sub system is driven by the SBX Subwoofer Crossover Controller and adjusts to compensate for varying room size and speaker placement. A slightly lower SPL version of the ARM265 Surround System for smaller listening environments, available for $22,999, substitutes a pair of PRM165s driven by a Model Four Hundred amp for the rear ARM265s and an ASB115 subwoofer.
JBL offers a complete 5.1 surround monitoring system ($7,174) based on the TEC Award-winning, bi-amplified LSR28P monitor ($1,179 each) and the LSR12P subwoofer ($1,279). Incorporating JBL's proprietary Linear Spatial Reference (LSR) technology, the LSR28P includes an 8-inch, low-frequency transducer and a 1-inch tweeter. An active crossover system feeds into 250-watt and 120W amps for low and high frequencies, respectively. A notable feature of the system is JBL's Differential Drive technology, which utilizes two voice coils in each driver and a third coil to act as a dynamic brake at maximum excursion, reducing audible distortion and doubling power handling. Frequency response range is 50 to 20k Hz (+1, -1.5 dB), and the LSR28P can reproduce peaks greater than 111dB SPL at 1 meter. The LSR12P powered sub offers a 28 to 80Hz frequency response range (-6 dB). The internal amp provides 250 watts continuous. Additional features include multivoltage capability and a choice of input levels for -10dBv and +4dBu operation.
Now distributed by Stanton Magnetics, KRK Monitors offers a range of speaker/subwoofer combinations. One such system includes five V88 monitors ($799 each) and one S12 subwoofer ($999). The bi-amped, video-shielded V88 houses a 160-watt amp for the low end and a separate 60W amp for the tweeter; each speaker uses a 1¼-inch polymer tweeter dome, an 8-inch woven Kevlar bass driver, and offers gain and HF/LF controls. The S12 sub sports both vertical and horizontal internal braces, a 12-inch woven Kevlar woofer and 160W amplification. KRK has also just released a surround package, the company's 5.1 Orbit Surround Pack ($1,749).
KS Pro Sound Systems of Germany (distributed by CAP Audio) offers a top-of-the-line surround system including five ADM 2 reference monitors, two ADM W subwoofers and a remote-control unit. The ADM 2 ($4,950 each) is a two-way, active, studio reference monitor that includes both analog and AES3/EBU digital inputs — the system incorporates a 24-bit digital controller with FIRTEC internal 32-bit floating-point processing. Components include an 8-inch woofer, a 1-inch tweeter and a 200-watt amp; frequency response is 38 to 20k Hz. The ADM W subwoofer ($3,250 each) features the same analog and digital input connections, and contains two 10-inch speakers and a 400W amp; frequency response is 25 to 100 Hz. Overall system control is via a KS remote-control unit ($295). Both monitors and subs feature quality wood cabinets in gray black finish.
M&K Professional's top-of-the-line multichannel monitoring solution consists of five of the company's MPS-2510P monitors ($1,999 each), an MPS-5410 subwoofer ($2,999) and an LFE-4 Bass Management System ($800). M&K's system is designed for music, mastering, broadcast and film sound post-production in medium-sized control rooms (3,500 cubic feet or a monitoring distance of 6 to 8 feet). Based on M&K's acclaimed MPS-2510 speaker, the new bi-amplified MPS-2510P is THX pm3-compliant and features dual 150-watt amps with user-adjustable gain control. The MPS-5410 powered sub has dual 12-inch drivers, each with a long-throw, high-power voice coil, and incorporates M&K's new 400W Active Balanced Push-Pull Dual-Drive Amp. The company's LFE-4 Bass Management System accepts inputs for all five surround and LFE channels, and provides an 80Hz highpass filter for the five main channels.
Now THX pm3-certified, the HR824 from Mackie Designs is a bi-amplified monitor with an 8.75-inch polypropylene cone woofer and a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter with a Ferrofluid-cooled voice coil. The monitor's LF amp is rated at 150 watts to a 4-ohm load; the HF amp is rated at 100 watts into 6 ohms. The HR824 uses a modified Linkwitz-Riley crossover configured at 24 dB/octave at 1,800 Hz. Its free-field frequency response is rated at 39 to 22k Hz (±1.5 dB). The HR824's rear panel provides both ¼-inch and XLR input jacks, plus switches for acoustic space, LF roll-off and HF adjustment. MSRP: $799 each. Unveiled at AES Amsterdam and slated to begin shipping next month is the HRS120, a companion subwoofer that combines a 12-inch LF driver, 12-inch passive radiator and onboard 600W amp.
Connect five Meyer Sound X-10 Linear Studio Monitors, a pair of X-800 Studio Subwoofers and one X-01 Crossover, and you get a top-of-the-line surround monitoring solution from Meyer Sound. The X-10 ($21,000/each) is a self-powered, bi-amplified, two-way studio monitor with a 15-inch woofer and dedicated 1,200-watt MOSFET amp. Proprietary Power-Sensing Active Control (PSAC) technology with a pressure-sensing device positioned in front of the woofer ensures consistent linear response. The X-10's HF section includes a 4-inch diaphragm driver with low-distortion waveguide and complementary power MOSFET 620W amp. Designed to work specifically with the X-10s, Meyer's X-800 sub ($5,250) extends the dynamic headroom of the monitors by up to 5 dB while maintaining system linearity. The X-01 Crossover ($3,450) allows connecting single or dual X-800 subs to an X-10 system for surround operation, and includes phase correction and level balancing. Included with all prices is Meyer Sound's SIM II alignment service for each installation. (Travel and expenses not included.)
The M3D and M3F systems ($75,000 each, tuning included) from Munro Associates are both complete, active 5.1 surround sound systems. Featuring five M3D cabinets, two single 18-inch subwoofers, three XTA DP224 digital crossovers, six Dynaudio Acoustics T1000 amps and a Munro custom monitor switching system, the M3D system is designed for audiophile-quality 5.1 monitoring in free-standing or soffit-mount applications. The THX-approved M3F version of this system is designed for applications where L/C/R cabinets must be mounted behind a projection screen or at a distance from the listening position. A switching system for both M3D and M3F versions allows the user to switch between 5.1 monitoring and stereo modes. Both systems are available in a variety of hardwood and matte black finishes.
NHT Pro offers a variety of surround combinations, most notably its ABC 5.1 system ($6,800), based on the company's A-20 Stereo Monitoring System ($1,800 a pair). The system's 250-watt amp, though designed and EQ'd for the A-20, is rackmounted in order to keep monitor size smaller, avoid vibration issues and put system controls close to the mix position. The two-way acoustic suspension A-20 incorporates a 6½-inch woofer and a 1-inch metal-dome tweeter. Features include balanced inputs, a 5-position input-sensitivity control and a 5-position high-frequency switch to compensate for distance to the listening position. The B-20 Subwoofer System ($2,000) is a powered subwoofer system consisting of two 14-inch enclosures, each housing a long-throw, 10-inch woofer. As for the A-20, rackmounted 250W amps power the B-20 system; all system controls are the same as the A-20, except for the high-frequency compensation. The B-20 system can operate in either stereo or mono (LFE) modes. Rounding out the ABC 5.1 system is the C-20 center channel speaker ($1,200), which is identical to the A-20 except for a flat front instead of an angled one.
The PMC/Bryston BB-5 Active System ($138,000) is a top-of-the-line powered surround system from the Professional Monitor Company. The BB-5 monitor is available in active stereo pair configurations and comes in black ash, walnut, oak, cherry and rosewood finishes. Its transmission-line design features a 15-inch radial woofer, 3-inch fabric-dome midrange, and 1-inch silk soft-dome tweeter with double chamber. Available in passive and active versions, the latter includes an external amp and electronic crossover, and sports a frequency response of 17 to 25k Hz. The company's XB3-A sub ($7,000 each) rounds out this massive system with its own 15-inch radial woofer, double-veneered MDF cabinet and 800W power-handling rating.
High-end 5.1 surround systems from Quested Monitoring Systems ($54,000 to $113,000, depending on configuration) employs the company's Q412 cabinets for front left and right channels, the Q212 for the center, and either the Q212 or Q412 for rear channels. The Q412 is Quested's largest three-way monitor and is designed for soffit mounting in large control rooms. The Q412 uses the same custom 12-inch radial chassis bass drivers as the Q212, and its mid driver and tweeter are each soft-dome units (3-inch and 34mm, respectively). Both the Q412 and Q212 are supplied with analog crossovers or optional digital crossovers that offer 80 user presets, and four of the company's AP800 amps deliver over 2,000-watts RMS to each cabinet in the Q412 (1,400W RMS in the Q212). Quested's QSB118 subwoofer can be used for bass extension and/or the bass effects channel, and comes with a separate electronics package that also includes the AP800 power amp delivering 450W RMS into 8 ohms. The subwoofer's main cabinet contains one 18-inch driver with a 4-inch, four-layer voice coil, triple rear suspension allowing for peak-to-peak movements up to 20mm, and a vented magnet for enhanced voice coil cooling.
SLS Loudspeakers' SLS 6.1 System ($8,000 in custom oak finish, $6,850 in black) is a digital-ready surround studio monitoring solution that incorporates the company's S8R monitors and a pair of matched PSS12 powered subwoofers. The S8R is a two-way monitor that is used for all channel configurations (5.1 and up), and features a 5-inch ribbon tweeter and an 8-inch woofer in a 19×10½×11¼-inch (H×W×D) enclosure. Frequency response is 44 to 20k Hz (±2.5 dB), and maximum SPL is 110 dB. The PSS12 subwoofer includes a 12-inch woofer, offers a 28 to 150Hz frequency response and features a variable crossover (50 to 100 Hz). The SLS 6.1 System features the company's new PRD500 ribbon driver; SLS' line-source technology reportedly provides higher transient response, extended dynamic range and sonic accuracy.
Offering no less than four 5.1 packages and three 10.2 solutions, Tannoy's top-of-the-line 5.1 system is the company's System 800A Surround Package ($5,736). Comprising five System 800A active loudspeakers and a PS350B subwoofer with bass-management control, the System 800A system can be switched from 5.1 surround to full-range stereo operation via a footswitch, ideal for referencing 5.1 mixes to source-stereo program material. The System 800A monitors, all magnetically shielded, employ Dual Concentric drive units well suited to multichannel operation and are bi-amped (90 watts for both LF and HF sections).
Now handled through Wave Distribution, the TA-2A from Truth Audio is an active mid-field design with two 8-inch polycone woofers and a 1-inch, cloth-dome tweeter offering a frequency response of 25 to 20k Hz. Power is via a 530-watt internal amp, yet each monitor weighs just 60 pounds. Retail is $1,499.50 each. The speaker is also available as the TA-2P (passive), an unpowered version that's $749.50. The optional TA-SW active-powered subwoofer features a 12-inch driver, internal 250W amp, and a frequency response that ranges from 32 to 160 Hz (sweepable). The sub is designed to work with either the active or passive TA-2s in 5.1 and 6.1 applications.
One of many custom surround installations by Westlake Audio includes a BBSM/Lc8.1 system for Greg Ladanyi at Tidal Wave. In this system, two-way passive BBSM-5 monitors ($1,497.50/each) are used for the five surround channels with a Lc8.1SW subwoofer ($4,795/each) holding down the low end. The BBSM-5s are phase-coincident, low-distortion monitors that each include two 5-inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter; frequency response is 55 to 20k Hz. Incorporating steep slope crossovers, the BBSM Series monitors can be ordered in bi-wired or passive bi-amplification modes. The passive Lc8.1SW subwoofer stands 27 inches tall by 14 inches wide, contains two 100-inch woofers, weighs 100 pounds, and features a 34 to 18k Hz frequency response.
Yamaha's best pro surround system centers on the company's MSP10 speakers and SW10 subwoofer. The bi-amplified, magnetically shielded MSP10 ($749/each; $799 for sunburst maple finish) reproduces 40 to 40k Hz (-10 dB), and features an 8-inch LF woofer and a 1-inch titanium-dome tweeter, which are powered by 120- and 60-watt amps, respectively. The MSP10's back panel includes a low-cut filter switch at 80 Hz, a 3-position low/high switch, and master volume and tone controls. The SW10 ($849) is a front-ported subwoofer that features a redesigned, long-stroke, 10-inch woofer and built-in 180W power amp; frequency response is 25 to 150 Hz. Three balanced XLR inputs/outputs are included.
Randy Alberts is a California-based audio and music author and journalist. His first book, TASCAM: 25 Years of Recording Evolution, is in final production.
MANUFACTURERS OF PROFESSIONAL SURROUND MONITOR SYSTEMS
ATC Loudspeaker Technology
Blue Sky International
Griffin Audio Design
Hot House Professional Audio
(distributed by Stanton Magnetics)
KS Pro Sound Systems
Quested Monitoring Systems