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Digihertz DAE418

Digital Speaker Management System
Published August 2016
By Paul White

Digihertz DAE418

If you’re looking for a no-frills, all-in-one speaker processor, this digital device ticks all the boxes at a very agreeable price.

Digihertz Audio are a technology company specialising in DSP products, most of which appear to target the live-sound market. On review is the 1U rackmounting DAE418, the top model of a range of three loudspeaker-management units. As with the lower models in the range, the first digit in the product name tells you how many inputs you get, and the last shows how many outputs; the other two versions are the DAE216 and DAE214. This product is built in China with a view to keeping costs down, and our review model was shipped directly from the factory. With 24-bit/48kHz converters, its DSP handles crossover duties, EQ (five-band parametric plus high and low shelving), delay (up to one second in 0.02ms steps), polarity, gain adjustment and compression/limiting.

There are four physical inputs on balanced XLRs and eight balanced XLR outputs, with a digital routing matrix that allows the unit to be configured appropriately to split the speaker feeds into the correct number of bands. Any output channel can be fed from any input channel. A pair of rear-panel RS485 in/out ports and a front-panel USB port allow for networking and for connection to a PC using Digihertz’s own software, though there’s no mention of any Mac OS equivalent so I was unable to check this aspect of the operation. We’re told that up to three devices can be networked using Cat5 cables, and there is the option to set a different address for each unit in the network.

For stand-alone use, setting up is done using the front panel, where a three-line LCD window sits alongside a small number of navigation buttons and a rotary encoder/push-switch. Short bargraph level meters are present for each of the inputs and outputs. The setup is intuitive, with one pair of buttons to go up and down the main parameters and another for adjusting the selected parameter. Menu/Mute buttons are located beneath each of the meters, and a lock function is available to prevent accidental adjustment of the parameters during use. Up to 30 user presets can be configured and stored for recall.

Most of the very brief manual is given over to exploring the menu structure of the DAE418, and virtually nothing to describing the possible range of configurations, though the preset names tell you pretty much all you need to know. When editing, a Copy Channel feature allows settings to be duplicated between channels where appropriate, and channel pairs can be linked to save on editing time in stereo or multi-speaker setups.

As supplied, the unit comes with 10 factory presets that cover most eventualities and which in most cases will only need adjustment to a few parameters, such as gain and crossover frequencies, to adapt them to your own speaker systems. These can then be saved as user presets. The simplest setup is as four channels of two-way crossovers, though you can also configure as a pair of three- or four-way crossovers, or as a single feed servicing between five and eight crossover bands. Any unused outputs may also be set up as aux outputs.

With four inputs and eight outputs, the DAE418 can be configured as a two-, three- or four-way stereo crossover, with the option to configure any unused outputs as full-range auxes.With four inputs and eight outputs, the DAE418 can be configured as a two-, three- or four-way stereo crossover, with the option to configure any unused outputs as full-range auxes.

Processing is arranged such that the inputs always have access to gain, mute, seven bands of parametric EQ, compressor/limiter and delay. The eight outputs offer the same feature set plus the high- and low-pass crossover filters and polarity invert. Each of the filters can be adjusted over the range 19.7Hz to 21.9kHz in both coarse and fine steps, and there are 12 types of filter slope from which to choose, ranging from 12dB/octave to 48dB/octave with Bessel, Butterworth and Linkwitz-Riley curve shape options.

The Menu/Mute buttons below the channel meters serve a dual function. A quick press activates or deactivates the mute, which is confirmed by a red LED. Pressing and holding brings up the channel parameters for the selected channel, which can then be navigated and adjusted via the data wheel and cursor buttons. A high-pass filter setting for the lowest band is usefully available as a subsonic filter, while the filter settings in the subsequent bands set the crossover points. That leaves a low-pass filter spare in the highest frequency band that can be used to shave off some high end if needed. I would have liked a larger display to confirm the actual routing and crossover points, but in reality you’re probably only going to create a small number of presets and then use them with few or no changes.

Having compressors on both the inputs and outputs is useful, as the output compressors, which come last in the chain, can be set up to work as fast, hard-knee limiters (the maximum compression ratio is 128:1) while the input compressors can be set to be far more gentle, with a choice of hard- or soft-knee operation and ratios as low as 1.2:1. Attack and release time is also variable, with both the input and output compressors having identical parameter options. It is also laudable that the seven-band EQ has a +15/-30dB gain range, making it possible to set up deep, narrow notch filters where needed. There are also enough bands to help iron out undesirable characteristics in a speaker’s frequency response. The maximum input and output level is 19dBu, (output impedance 50Ω), which although not as high a level as some analogue equipment, should be more than adequate.

In Use

We’re all rather spoiled by computer software that provides great visuals such as EQ curves, crossover shapes and gain-reduction metering, but clearly that isn’t practical when working only from a 1U front panel with limited screen space. Thankfully, operation here is simplified by the factory presets, which can be thought of as templates, and by the direct channel access buttons below the meters.

With fully configurable units such as this, where any output can be fed from any input, mistakes can be serious and costly so I’d be inclined to print out labels to run above the outputs just to make sure there are no connection errors. Other than that, the DAE418 produces clean audio with adequate headroom, it offers a generous number of filter options, and its menu system is straightforward to navigate. I do feel that the manual would be improved by a page or two of overview information rather than just diving in with a description of the buttons and menus, but there’s really nothing complicated about this unit. If you need an electronic crossover that can be edited to work with just about any speaker system and which also includes EQ, delay and limiting, this will do the job nicely.

Alternatives

There are many speaker processing systems about, ranging from low-cost Behringer units up to professional units from the likes of dbx and XTA.

Published August 2016