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Jeanius Electronics Russian Dragon RD-R3

Timing Analysis
Published August 1995

Repackaged and re‑launched, one of the audio industry's only specialist timing analysis tools is back in the shops. Dominic Hawken takes a closer look.

Taking its name from a dubious pun on the words 'rushing‑dragging', the Russian Dragon was released on an unsuspecting market about five years ago. After receiving a number of very reasonable reviews and endorsements from major producers, it then appeared to vanish without trace and is now a rare sight even on the secondhand market.

The basic concept of the unit is to provide an accurate method of determining which of two different audio signals came first — a perennial problem in the recording industry since the first drummer played along to a click track — and one which has been further compounded since the arrival of frame accurate sequencers and MIDI triggered samplers. The Russian Dragon offers a finite LED display capable of graphically showing the timed relationship of two individual sounds, all within a claimed accuracy of a fraction of a millisecond.


The rear of this extremely compact 1U unit is simplicity itself, housing only three sockets: two mono jacks for the audio inputs that feed channels 1 and 2, and a connection for the power supply (a simple external unit supplied as standard). The front panel is dominated by a large, horizontal row of 25 square LEDs, consisting of a central display, surrounded by 12 smaller versions on either side. The comparative timing between the two main audio signals is then shown as a position on this scale, offering a visual indication of the current synchronisation state.

Another set of jack inputs for the two channels are fitted to the front of the unit, together with separate rotary input level controls. Simple LED VU meters are available for monitoring source levels, and each channel is also equipped with a Polarity Check button — more of which later. At the right‑hand end of the panel are two Mask rotary controls, together with their associated trigger LEDs, which are used to set the speed at which an individual channel can re‑trigger. Lastly, a nine position rotary switch, next to the power button, adjusts the scale of the main display from one to nine milliseconds in single units.

...drummers playing along to click tracks can now also have the benefit of a visual display, rather than just a loud ticking noise in their cans.

Channel 1 is designed to be the 'reference' or 'click' input, and channel 2 takes the sound or instrument that is to be checked. Almost any type of sound will do, but obviously, the more rhythmic the input, the greater accuracy achieved. Once a reference source has been connected, the large central LED flashes whenever audio is received on this channel. Any signal detected on channel 2 then lights one of the other 24 LEDs, indicating its relative timing with reference to the original signal. A lit LED to the left of centre indicates that the signal is 'dragging' (ie. later than the reference), and one to the right indicates that the signal is 'rushing' (ie. earlier). The further the outer LED is from the centre of the display, the greater the time differential detected between the two signals.

To check a drummer's synchronisation with a click track, a wide scale would be used; a narrower one to test the timing of a sequencer against a recording. One exceptionally good feature is the inclusion of the Mask controls, which determine a channel's re‑trigger speed. If a channel appears to 'double trigger' because of extra noise between transients, or extra beats in the rhythm, then adjusting the Mask time can silence the input to the Russian Dragon when a trigger is not required. With careful use of the Mask function, it is possible to analyse even the most complex of drum tracks against a simple click.

All Fired Up

Set up is quick and easy — feed the two separate signals into the appropriate sockets, adjust the input levels, then sit back and watch for any timing discrepancies. For the really hi‑tech approach, Jeanius have included a polarity check button on each channel, which displays whether a trigger sound begins with a positive or negative transient — the Russian Dragon analyses the time between positive transients only, so this is a good way of testing for possible errors, especially when synchronisation times are very small. Feeding the same pulse into both channels immediately showed the 'snake eyes' display — the two inner LEDs light up to confirm perfect synchronisation. Gradually introducing a delay into channel 2 caused the unit to track the timing difference with a moving LED.

The owner's manual is well thought out, with a number of in‑depth examples describing how to use the unit in typical situations. The only caveat is that some care should be taken when setting the input levels, as overloading the unit (or alternatively feeding it a signal that is too low) can cause inaccurate readings. This is only to be expected with a unit such as this, and in general the system performed flawlessly.


I can think of many different uses for the Russian Dragon in today's technology‑based studios. As the producer Keith Cohen states in the manual, the system is probably best left connected directly across a Mix‑2 buss, so that if any sounds need to be checked for timing accuracy, all the engineer has to do is solo both sources and pan them hard left and hard right. Programmers who resort to locking up kick drums because the synchronisation details have been left off the track sheet need worry no longer, and drummers playing along to click tracks can now also have the benefit of a visual display, rather than just a loud ticking noise in their cans. Other uses include synchronising delayed loudspeaker systems for PA use or locking variably spaced microphones in phase. The overall accuracy of the system is very high, and as such, I am sure that the unit would be a worthwhile addition to any studio rack.


  • Simple to use.
  • Mask function helps analysis of complex drum tracks.
  • Extremely accurate timing reference.


  • None!


Essential visual timing aid for drummers who play to click tracks or anyone wishing to check timing sources against an accurate reference.