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DD Audio PM151 and ABC10 Setup and Sound Quality Tests

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The DD Audio PM151 and ABC-10 were unboxed and set up where they belong, in my small 12’ X 14’ home office.  I spend quite a bit of time in the home office; it is great when I can evaluate a product while getting other things done at the same time.  Since it seemed fitting for studio monitors, I used a RME Babyface as a DAC for all listening evaluations with both a MacBook Pro and Windows PC as sources.  All music tests were run through the MacBook Pro using Audirvana as the source program.  The DD Audio PM151 monitors took the place of a pair of do-it-yourself studio monitors that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the past year.  To contrast, I also have a KRK Rokit 6 G2 limited edition loudspeaker on-hand from a good friend.  

As far as setup goes, the PM151s were placed near the back of my desk approximately 9 inches from the back wall.  They were toed in so that they were directly facing me at my comfortable typing position.  In this configuration, the speakers are approximately 3 feet from my ears.  The PM151s 80Hz high pass filter is engaged and the ABC-10 subwoofer crossover is set to 80Hz with the 35Hz bass boost setting engaged.  A calibrated RTA was used to level match the subwoofer and PM151s.  The volume was set to 100% on the PM151s and the ABC-10 was level matched with the volume control set to approximately 70%.  

Listening Configuration

DD Audio PM151 Setup

Sound Quality Tests

Evaluating a powered monitor is a little different than evaluating a loudspeaker meant for the living room.  First of all, when I think of the word “monitor,” I think of something a performer uses to hear themselves as they perform.  The term studio monitor describes something designed for engineers to use as they mix music down for broadcast, movies or audio recordings.  The engineer is looking for a studio monitor that allows him to create a single mix that sounds good on car stereos, portable audio devices, boom boxes, over the radio, on televisions and even on hi-fidelity playback systems.  Unfortunately, a good purpose-built studio monitor is not necessarily a good sounding speaker to the average listener.  

This DD Audio compact system outputs plenty of power for near field listening. 

The lines are a little blurred in today’s market place because many of the studio monitors found at your local music store are sold to people that are not true recording engineers, but individuals that have a computer, microphone and an acoustically inadequate room.  Most of these individuals would not buy a studio monitor that didn’t sound good to them.  Therefore, the term studio monitor is becoming increasingly ambiguous.  Given this ambiguity, I will gauge this powered monitor system as something that a consumer would purchase primarily for music playback and secondarily for computer activities like video games.

 John Legend – Redemption Song

All You Need Is LoveThis song is a great place to start because the bass and electric guitar recordings are excellent while the vocals typically sound a little harsh on systems that have a flat frequency response.  On the DD Audio PM151, the bass guitar sounded pretty right to me in the subwoofer region.  However, above that I felt like the chest thump was missing.  So at this point I turned the subwoofer off and fiddled with the 80Hz high pass switch and found that the bypassing the high pass filter seemed to significantly improve the bass response in a region I would guess is above 80 Hz.  Using the RTA again, I changed the subwoofer crossover to 70Hz which evened out the bass pretty well in-room.

This combination provided that expected chest thump at pretty decent power levels.  I continued to crank the volume and reached a C-weighted slow SPL of 101dB before noticing any obvious distortion.  Enabling the 80Hz high pass filter allowed the system to play a little louder but it is not worth it unless you are hosting a party.  This compact system outputs plenty of power for near field listening for most people that still have normal hearing.  

The bass and lower midrange of this speaker are clear.  However, I sensed a little bit of muddiness in the midrange and treble.  An issue with any studio monitor sitting on a desk is reflections off of surfaces such as the desk, back wall, computer monitor and anything else that clutters your desk.  I placed a four inch stack of CDs under each speaker and felt like this improved the speaker’s response and imaging at my listening position.

While the song now sounded much better, I was not missing the harshness of the vocals in this recording.  This means that the treble region is definitely laid back compared speakers with a flatter frequency response.  To validate this theory, I sampled a few tracks with known annoying high frequency content and was not annoyed at all.  Just to get an idea of how the PM151 sounded compared to a standard monitor, I ran the same test with the KRK Rokit 6 and noticed the same phenomenon when the tweeter level was set to flat.  However, the KRK Rokit 6 has an adjustable high frequency driver so it was easy to make annoying songs sound annoying.  Using the RME Babyface, I added a 2dB shelf filter at 2kHz that clearly added the sibilance I was used to hearing in this track.

Youth Group – Skeleton Jar

While this is a pretty obscure title, I am very familiar with it.  Youth Group released this song in 2003 and it features a pretty real sounding drum kit, clean electric guitar, bass and vocals.  This track is great for testing the midrange and treble balance of a system.  This recording has the propensity to get harsh on many systems.  This harshness comes primarily from a great amount of energy in the midrange and lower treble from the cymbals in this drum kit.  The cymbals have a tendency to just smear into a constant clash that is extremely fatiguing.  

On the PM151 and ABC-10, the kick drum stands out as sounding very real.  The vocals, electric guitar and bass were on point too!  The cymbals and snare, while a little fatiguing, were manageable on the PM151s.  This means, to me, that this system will let you enjoy your music collection without extreme bias toward favorable recordings.  I think this is what the majority of listeners are looking for.  I am admittedly spoiled when it comes to imaging and I cannot say that this system produced much of an acoustic image in this setup.  I didn’t really expect it considering the price point or convenient desktop placement though.

Youth Group - Skeleton Jar

Youth Group - Skeleton Jar

Video Game: Bioshock Infinite

I am not much of a gamer but with a little time on my hands I figured I would give Bioshock Infinite a run and see how gaming sounded on the DD audio system.  One thing is for sure, the audio in video games has come a long way!  This game is set in a fictional floating city in 1912.  The game’s score is original and the sound effects are awesome.  While the imaging of the PM151s was not extraordinary for music, it was easy to locate where enemy gunfire was coming from using stereo imaging cues alone.  The dialog, music and gunplay were extraordinarily immersive and realistic.  It is fun playing video games with a subwoofer capable of reproducing explosions that can scare you when you are not expecting them.  

Overall, game sound translated to feelings as the designers intended.  Much of this is due to the game’s use of and DD Audio’s ability to create a large dynamic range.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite Title

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

shadyJ posts on July 14, 2014 22:17
Kudos for using a polar map. The more I learn about polar map charts, the more useful I think they actually are. Here is a informative presentation by Earl Geddes on the matter, who is, as far as I know, the chief proponent of Polar Maps as a measurement of loudspeakers, he gets into polar charts at around 13:00, but you will want to watch it from the beginning for context:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fE2nWVwFT9k&feature=youtu.be
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