Blue Sky provide their innovative speaker technology, first seen in the Sky System One, in a new and more compact system.
The Blue Sky Pro Desk system belongs to the same family as the somewhat larger Sky System One reviewed back in SOS February 2003, the obvious difference being its lower power rating. The Pro Desk 2.1 stereo system under review here comprises a pair of two-way satellite speakers (model Sat 5) plus a single subwoofer/bass unit (model Sub 8). A Pro Desk 5.1 system is also available for surround applications, and owners of 2.1 systems can upgrade their systems for 5.1 use at a later date if they wish.
Blue Sky's approach differs from that of other manufacturers insomuch as the sub is not an add-on to extend the low end, but rather handles all the low end for the system in much the same way as the bass driver in a conventional three-way system would. The satellite speaker drivers are fed an 80Hz, 24dB/octave high-pass filtered signal via integral active filters and so behave exactly like the mid-range and high-frequency drivers in a three-way system.
Both satellite speakers and the subwoofer have IEC mains sockets to provide the necessary power, while conventional balanced XLR cables (not supplied) are used to connect the satellites to the sub. All the subwoofer's connections and controls are on the rear panel, along with the power amplifier's heat sink. The audio feed enters the sub on a pair of balanced XLRs and there are two more XLRs providing an input to, and an output from, the sub for integration into other systems or for driving an additional subwoofer. A gain knob controls the level of the subwoofer, with a calibrated reference position, and a computer-style connector allows an optional remote volume control (called the Functional Volume Control) to be connected, a feature that will be particularly welcomed by anyone trying to set up a computer-based system without a mixer.
Overall, the subwoofer cabinet measures a modest 13 x 16 x 15.76 inches and it sits on four screw-in conical feet. It's pretty heavy at 22kg, not least because it is built from 0.75-inch MDF with an inch-thick baffle. It is powered by a single eight-inch, long-throw driver with a two-inch voice coil and, unusually, this has an aluminium cone. The amplifier, a discrete bipolar device, is rated at 100W and in a typical room it covers the 20-200Hz part of the audio spectrum. A fabric grille covers the front of the unit.
Because the satellite speakers only have to handle from 80Hz upwards, they are relatively compact at 10.88 x 6.62 x 10.23 inches, but again they're heavier than they look (11kg), because of their heavy MDF construction and integral power amplifiers. Their bases are fitted with threaded inserts that are compatible with industry-standard Omnimount stands and brackets. The tweeter has a curious nipple-like profile, described by Blue Sky as dual concentric and is, like so many of the best nipples, of Swedish origin! Its ferrite magnetic assembly is magnetically shielded, and the design utilises a soft diaphragm 0.75 inches in diameter within an integral waveguide.
Like the subwoofer, the 5.25-inch mid-range driver has a concave aluminium cone, this time driven by a 1.5-inch voice coil. This driver is also magnetically shielded, and is driven by a 60W amplifier with an electronic crossover, though no details of the crossover characteristics are offered. Each satellite has a rotary gain control with a reference position, and the quoted frequency response extends from 200Hz to 20kHz (±3dB). When set up with the sub, that means it's possible to achieve a system response of 20Hz to 20kHz, though the exact figure depends on the room characteristics to some extent. A switch on the rear panel allows the 80Hz high-pass filter to be bypassed, allowing the speakers to be used in different systems where the bass/mid-range crossover is placed before the speakers in the signal path.
I set up the system with all the gains in their calibrated positions, and in my room this produced the best overall tonal balance. It didn't take long to find a location for the sub box that gave a nice even bass on all notes, after which it was just a matter of selecting material and listening. The first thing you notice about this system is that it has tremendous bass extension, though the bass doesn't sound deliberately hyped — it's just that everything has so much depth. Dance music engineers and producers should appreciate this especially, as it provides some insight into how the bass balance will hold up on a big club sound system. What's more, the bass end doesn't feel detached from the rest of the spectrum, a failing I've noticed in some other systems that use a sub.
Higher up the spectrum, the sound is clear and very well-defined, though perhaps just a trifle bright for my own taste. However, it's nothing too serious, and I imagine the speakers were voiced this way because a lot of people like to work with this kind of sound. The stereo imaging also holds up well and, even if you place the sub box right over to one side, there's still no sense of anything being out of place.
The Blue Sky Pro Desk provides a compact and sensibly priced solution for anyone in the UK wanting full-range monitoring in a project studio where there isn't room for conventional full-range monitors. This system behaves like a physically much larger installation and it can play loud as well as deep. You could also do worse than use the system as the front half of a home cinema surround system — I tried this for a few days and was well impressed. Because this isn't a 'two baby full-range speakers plus a sub' system, but rather a three-way system where the bass speaker just happens to be in a separate box, there is none of that lower mid-range boxiness you sometimes get from other small speakers and a great deal more bass extension than you get from most sensibly sized full-range monitors. What the speakers lack in high-end smoothness, they more than make up for with solid, dependable bass end, and the bottom line is that the sound you get is very much a sound you can work with.