An Equator monitor is a studio monitor that allows an engineer or producer to hear the minute details in the mid-range in order to avoid distortions or "rubs" in the final production. They provide mid-range clarity.
In order to achieve midrange clarity you need studio monitors with specific attributes:
Equator Studio Monitors are phase and time coherent to avoid midrange phase distortion.
Equator Studio Monitors provide a matched left and right output for absolute imaging.
Equator Studio Monitors have extremely accurate mid-range voicing.
Achieving a Phase & Time Coherent Studio Monitor Over the years we have been forced to accept that a well designed studio monitor has the high frequency transducer mounted on a baffle above the low frequency transducer. Wrong. Whereas this approach is easier and cheaper to do; the design is unnatural and has an absolute inherent problem. Audio radiates in all directions. When audio is split at the crossover and sent to two components located in two separate places on a baffle, the radiated audio from each location collides throughout the listening environment resulting in midrange phase distortion.
Our solution was to create a system where the full range of audio emanates from a single location. By doing this, the audio radiates in a single phase and time coherent manner without the phase distortion of a traditional tweeter over woofer design. A coaxial design is where the high frequency transducer is mounted in the center of the low frequency transducer. In the case of our Equator Q Series, a high SPL high frequency compression driver horn is mounted directly in the center of a high SPL low frequency woofer. In the case of the D Series, a silk tweeter is mounted directly in the center of a 5.25" low frequency woofer. With any of our coaxial designed monitors, precision clarity and precise imaging can be achieved because the sound emanates from a single point-source (what we trademarked as Zero-Point Reference™).
Coaxial studio monitor designs have been involved with some of the greatest music of all time. The coaxial Altec 604 had been directly involved in delivering more hits than any other studio monitor of its kind, including all of The Beatle recordings. They were the studio monitor at Abbey Road and most other major studios of the time. There were known challenges with the proposed Equator Q Series monitor design, both technical and sonic (the latter because our ears had become accustomed to silk tweeters and fourth-order crossovers, not coaxial horns). How to address them in a new era? With serious DSP.
Matching The Transducers
Equator studio monitors have an incredible amount of internal DSP control that allows us to match transducer output at the assembly line so that every speaker built within a model delivers a matched response. This is vital in achieving accurate imaging. In speaker manufacturing, no two transducers come off an assembly line exactly alike. Ever. Most professional speaker companies pass a transducer if its performance is within +/-2 dB of spec. That means that at the end of the transducer assembly line, the speaker is swept for its frequency response, accurately revealing its response from 20Hz to 20kHz. A line is placed above 0 at +2dB and one is placed below 0 at -2dB. If the average of the peaks and dips is greater than + or- 2dB, then that transducer makes its way into the trash. If the average is less than +/- 2dB, into production it goes. Some manufactures adhere to a lower tolerance. As such, they are throwing away fewer speakers so they can charge less for the end-product. The greater the average +/- spec, the worse the imaging will be during use.
Even with two passed transducers at +/- 2 dB, you can wind up with a left/right pair having a +2 dB peak on one side and a -2 dB dip on the other. That is a 4dB problem.
Because speakers cannot be matched during the transducer manufacturing process, the answer is to match them inside the speaker cabinet using DSP. We've put the power inside each unit to do just that.
Each of our transducers are digitally adjusted not only to compensate for manufacturing tolerances, but also to precisely match its output performance with that of every other transducer within a system, from stereo through 8.2 setups. We adhere to the pro standard specification of +/- 2dB but we go much further.
When an Equator transducer passes the initial frequency tolerance and moves to the next production phase, the frequency response data, the detailed peaks and dips across the 20Hz to 20kHz range (its DNA) is captured. When that transducer makes its way into a cabinet, the response information (the DNA) of that particular transducer is then loaded into its individual amplifier system via a back panel data connection. The internal DSP recognizes it as transducer information and assigns a host of filters to ensure that this particular unit delivers s corrected, uniformed output. To put it simple: at Equator we digitally match every Q10 with every other Q10 or every Q12 with every other Q12 or every D5 with every other D5 etc ... a matched output for every speaker of the model insures dead accurate imaging.
The impact of incorporating serious DSP into the Equator Audio studio monitors was immediately apparent in the overall development process. In the pre- Equator days, a sample transducer would be developed along with an amplifier, cabinet, crossover, port tube, and so on. The design would be tested and a review of the measurements would direct changes to fix whatever problems were seen. The main test was done with a MLSSA Measurement System. The prototype speaker was placed in the center of a huge wooden baffle with the exact size for the prototype cut out of the center, creating a huge wall around the unit. A test microphone was positioned exactly 27 feet from the center of the speaker. The computerized test would be run and would reveal a graphic display of the audio pointing out the problems that existed. In order to improve the results a change in the design was necessary. Each change required new prototype components, which meant waiting for new samples to be designed and manufactured (usually 8 weeks or so), then taking the old speaker system apart and reconstructing it with the new components. Each revision created new unforeseen problems which meant new components would need to be redesigned and manufactured to address those problems, another 8 week wait for new samples, another reconstruction, and another test. So on and so on and so on. It was like trying to get your hands around jello. One problem gets fixed and another problem would develop. After a long series of design changes and compromises a good product would emerge. It was a long, laborious process.
Fast forward to spring 2007. A prototype Q12 studio monitor equipped with our coax transducer and internal DSP was taken to a prominent acoustic test lab which was originally built for NASA in the 40s. This lab had become a premier test lab and houses one of the largest anechoic chambers in the United States. A Q12 was placed in the chamber and bolted down to a table; an arc of 19 microphones, each spaced successively off-axis in 5-degree increments, hovered above exactly 27 feet from the Q12 compression driver horn. A test signal was sent through the Q12, the readout was analyzed.
With a laptop and a new set of coefficients based on the test results, new code was downloaded via USB into the Q12, where the monitors on-board CPU made adjustments. Multiple times, back and forth from control room to chamber retesting. More analysis, more code. The Q12 never left the table. The readout at the end of the day: flat both on axis and off. In one afternoon we accomplished what used to take many months.
High Sound Pressure Level w/ Compression Driver
High SPL can simply not be reached with a traditional tweeter mounted flush on a baffle. Even those using a waveguide fail to reach high SPL. The only way to reach extreme sound pressure levels before distortion is to incorporate a real high-frequency compression driver horn. Although this is typically a very expensive component, the Q Series studio monitors feature real high-frequency horns while still maintaining a competitive price.Equator Q Series studio monitors do not incorporate a strict traditional crossover such as second-order or fourth-order curves. Instead, the speaker's internal CPU facilitates a digitally controlled transition from low to high. Yes, the "curve" starts as a fourth-order curve at one frequency and ends at another, but it incorporates precise adjustments throughout the crossover range, most notably in the 2nd and 3rd harmonic allowing signals from the low- and high-frequency drivers to blend without the phase distortion normally associated with traditional crossover designs.
Equator Room Analysis (Q Series Only)
Every room has sonic anomalies. Monitoring in the direct or near-field can dramatically reduce them but not completely eliminate them. We developed a proprietary system that automatically addresses these problems. Through the use of existing recording hardware, the Equator Room Analysis software analyzes the room and adjusts the speaker's output.
The system corrects for room nodes in three dimensions (front to back, side to side, and floor to ceiling) and for placement/boundary conditions (e.g., monitors near a wall, free-standing, placed asymmetrically, etc.). It also compensates for secondary reflections from computer monitors, mixing consoles, and other reflective surfaces. Comb filter problems, long ignored, are finally brought under control.
The software can automatically adjust the system for optimal playback at multiple listening positions. These corrected listening positions can be analyzed, stored and instantly recalled. The software also allows for intensive custom voicing control as well as having the ability to mute, solo and EQ each individual speaker within a system.
Voicing for the New Age
Making sure that each speaker has a consistently flat and matched output is one hurdle.Voicing studio reference monitors so that they deliver complex instrument translation in a clear and predictable manner is the ultimate goal. Until now, voicing had been a tedious hit or miss process.In the past there was a tendency to use familiar recordings as voicing reference material to aid in deciding where the final plus and minus frequency adjustment would occur. Typically those decisions were not made by the recording engineer that actually recorded that reference material but by the design engineer and perhaps a consultant.So, with those adjustments an assumption was made as to the appropriate level and placement of the specific instruments.An assumption was made.Each adjustment took an extensive amount of time to make: the physical replacement of amplifier components. The tonal results were not quickly known or referenced.
With the use of our internal DSP, we are able to make instant voicing adjustments.For the D5, we sat with multiple award winning recording engineers (one at a time).These golden eared people have proven their hearing ability by producing hits.Their successful mixes were used as the voicing reference material. The approach was to establish instrument levels and placement and voicing characteristics emanating from our monitors as they were heard when mixed by the actual recording engineer involved. In an instant a frequency could be raised or lowered until it was at the same level through our monitors as it was when originally mixed.