review
DK-Technologies MSD100C
Often overlooked, underplayed or unappreciated, good metering nevertheless
has a vital role to play in any system configuration as the window on your
sound. ROB JAMES settles down and inspects his goniometer.
T
HE NEED FOR ACCURATE and easy on the
eye metering should not be underestimated.
Although ears should always be the ultimate
decision making tools, we all have to operate within
technical constraints best judged with the help of a
trustworthy meter. The need for this has never been
greater. Production methods are rapidly changing
with the recognition that the conventional console
is redundant in many DAW — centric applications.
External metering is set to become the next big thing
along with the new breed of controllers combining
monitoring with source and destination routing. This
is not to say that DAW metering is inadequate, simply
that it is not in the right place. Metering must be
instantly visible and instinctive at all times and should
be able to look at sources and destination returns in
addition to levels inside the DAW.
Danish company, DK-Technologies is well
positioned to take advantage of the new age. MSD
stands for Master Stereo Display and DK’s first model,
the MSD 550, made its debut as recently as 1994.
Somehow it feels as if these meters have been around
for ages, always a sign of an appropriate and elegant
technology. Today, the DK range of standalone meters
runs from simple monochromatic stereo displays, in
the MSD100-series, all the way up to the flagship
(and costly) MSD600M++ modular multichannel
(up to 32) meter unit with surround sound analyser.
Apart from conventional metering this offers JellyFish surround sound monitoring, Leq(m) loudness,
spectrum analysis and many other options including
SDI break-out.
Until now the entry-level MSD100 series has
only offered relatively low-resolution (320 x 240)
monochrome screens. The originals sold in their
thousands and are to be found everywhere from
education institutions to major broadcast facilities. The
new MSD100C brings higher resolution (640 x 480)
and a colour display down to a more affordable price
32
point, along with the
main metering tools,
bargraph PPMs with
programmable scales,
phasemeter,
audio
vector oscilloscope and
level meter. Although
the asking price may
still seem a little steep
at UK£1200 (+ VAT), it
is worth remembering
that a standalone
single
mechanical
stereo PPM was over
UK£900, the last time
I checked.
I was brought up
on BBC standard PPMs
and I could probably
still line up a valve one
if ever the need arose.
However, times change
and the mechanical
PPM, no matter how sophisticated the electronics, is
no longer adequate for many current applications. The
general principles still hold good though. An ideal level
meter will have an extremely fast rise time and a much
slower fall time, will be simple to interpret, and will
be designed not to cause fatigue when used for many
hours at a stretch. The MSD100C ticks all the boxes
and adds several extras.
A maximum of four PPM bargraphs are grouped in
pairs. One pair is sourced from the analogue inputs,
one from the digital. Strangely, there is no Sum and
Difference option, with one pair looking at A+B and
one at S&D. For anyone not familiar with this, it is
a common UK broadcast option where one meter
measures the sum of the left and right signals (A+B)
while the other measures the difference between
them (A-B). Providing the difference is lagging the
sum by at least 3dB the signal is reasonably mono
compatible and the left-right signals are ‘in-phase’.
If the difference consistently leads the sum, then the
mono compatibility is compromised and the Left and
Right signals are likely to be out of phase. Although
the phasemeter does substantially the same job, and
the goniometer also conveys the same information in
a different form, there is a considerable body of opinion
that prefers the Sum and Difference alternative.
Metering is a very personal thing and ‘standards’
vary wildly from country to country. DK recognises
this and provides a wide range of scales along with
a PC application, MSD-Config, to upload these to the
MSD100C. This application also allows for limited
customisation of other parameters. Colours can be chosen
from a palette of red, blue, green, yellow, fuchsia, aqua
and white and various screen parameters can be varied.
Scales can be user defined within the DK-Scale section of
the MSD-Load application, also included. With this, even
LEQ(m) scales can be defined. The applications are not
the most user-friendly I’ve ever encountered, but you
won’t be using them very often.
resolution
Although supplied with a U-shaped mounting
yoke and base-plate for free-standing operation, the
MSD100C can easily be built into a mixing console
meter bridge or other custom furniture. The case is
thin (36mm) with a modest border around the screen,
making best use of scarce real estate. Three keys on
the front are the only operational controls and have a
very positive click action. Soft labelled Pre A, B and C,
pressing a key selects one of the three preset set-ups.
On power up this defaults to Pre A. Double-clicking
a key takes you to a list of the 11 presets currently
installed in the unit. The list is scrolled with the righthand pair of keys and your selection is assigned with
the left-hand key to whichever key was originally
double-clicked.
A single 25-pin D-sub connector deals with the
left and right analogue, stereo AES-EBU and power
connections. The supplied break-out cable terminates
in XLR connectors. Power uses a 4-pole version
to avoid any unpleasantness. This is a much more
positive solution than the coaxial power connector
fitted to the earlier MSD100 series units. The UK
power supply included is an in-line type. Two more
D-sub connectors’ deal with VGA for connecting a
standard PC-monitor and a utility connection for
RS232 to a PC and power.
DK continues its unbroken run of desirable products
with the MSD100C. The price premium over the
monochrome units is modest and the benefits of
colour tangible. Accurate metering is not an indulgent
purchase but an often overlooked essential. It is
also a good investment. In the same vein as a highclass monitoring system and long after this year’s
whizz-bang workstation is being used as a doorstop,
the MSD100C will still be a relevant and desirable
professional audio tool. ■
PROS
Precision metering; excellent operational
ergonomics; very pretty.
CONS
Configuration applications would benefit
from an update; no Sum and Difference
PPM metering; price invites competition.
EXTRAS
New software for DK’s flagship audio
meter, the MSD600M++, is aimed at
engineers working with surround sound
trailers and commercials for movie
theatres. The Graphical Leq(m) software
package allows users to mix to the
highest score on the Leq(m) loudness
standard. SMPTE timecode input brings
automated Start/Stop points and gives
a direct readout of where the sound
material can be optimised for louder
trailers/commercials.
Contact
DK-TECHNOLOGIES, DENMARK:
Website: www.dk-technologies.com
July/August 2005