Jun 21, 2010

Blue Sky Pro Desk 2.1 Review


Any experienced film or video editor will tell you that one component to getting a good sequence is having the ability to accurately monitor the soundtrack from vocals to sound effects and of course music.  To accomplish that task specialized speakers called "near-field monitors" were created to allow the speakers to be physically close to the editor without requiring high sound pressure levels (SPL) or "volume" to be used.

Over the years as movies evolved into more sound-track driven experiences with extreme low-end sounds often referred to as LFE (low-frequency extension) and surround-sound mixes became the norm, having an accurate sound monitoring setup was critical to achieve a well-balanced sonic environment for the editors to do their work and have a good reference point for what the final product would sound like to the end-user, especially when re-mastered for DVD audio (and now Blu-Ray too).

One of the problems however - and one that caused a great deal of controversy - is that most editors that already had high-quality 2-channel stereo monitors - satellites as we refer to them now - were simply adding a subwoofer to their setups to add LFE capabilities to their edit suites, but that sub was not sonically matched to the 2 stereo near-fields already in-place creating a very unbalanced and often overpowering bass component to the mix.  Not to mention many of these same editors simply didn't understand how to properly setup the sub placement or output level relative to the satellites.  And so many abandoned the "2.1" setups because of the poor sonic performance.

But in point of fact, having a distinct separation between satellite speakers which handle the high and mid-range frequencies and the subwoofer which generally handles the low-end frequencies below 100hz is both logical - and necessary.  Why?  For that we need a quick overview of how a speaker actually works - see my page in the "How To" section about how speakers work and why a 2.1 system is the perfect solution.

For the average home-studio editor or independent producer on a tight budget about $2000 is all they can afford for an accurate monitoring setup, and a few systems both traditional 2-channel and 2.1 systems are available in that price range.  But after extensive testing with leading brands such as JBL, Alesis, Dyn-Audio, Mackie, ADAM and even Genelec I came across a 2.1 system that blew me away - and what surprised me more was that the cost for this 2.1 system was LESS than the cost of a high-end 2-channel option from all the others:  The Blue Sky Pro Desk 2.1.

One of the distinguishing features of any natural-sounding speaker is the quality and accuracy of it's tweeter; Blue Sky uses an ultra-high quality VIFA assembly with conical diffuser for it's SAT 5 MKII satellites used in the Pro Desk system.  High-frequency output from the VIFA tweeters is almost surreal; it's very life-like and airy without "pinching" your ears with too much sharpness and is responsible for most of the accurate stereo imaging produced by the satellite pair.

The mids are produced by Blue Sky's proprietary 5" inch driver assembly that has a wonderfully flat and linear response across a broad frequency and SPL range.

The Universal 8 subwoofer is a perfect match with the SAT 5 MKII's both sonically and electronically as the sub matches the satellite's backplane controls for output and mid-cut frequency settings.

As with any professional monitors all the audio connections are locking  XLR-type with 3-prong ground power cable ports.

But great sound just doesn't happen by opening the box and turning on the setup, it most definitely requires properly locating both the satellites and the sub and clear instructions along with a setup guide is provided with the Blue Sky manuals.

If you've never heard a properly setup 2.1 system or, have never used a subwoofer in a traditionally stereo-only environment then you'll be absolutely amazed at how much sonic information you've been missing - and how accurately the Blue Sky Pro Desk reproduces all these sounds without coloration or distortion.


As I mentioned earlier there are a handful of competitors who offer more expensive options to the Blue Sky Pro Desk 2.1, but none of them *sound* better or are more accurate, you're just paying for a different brand label on the product.  And when you consider that the entire setup is less than $2k retail (not including shipping) it's an impossible system to pass up.  In fact, the *only* system I've heard that sounds better is the massive Sky System One from Blue Sky which, by the way, just happens to be what Skywalker Sound uses.

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