Jun 22, 2010

New Blue Sky Monitor Offerings: SAT 2.65 and Sub 212

BLUE SKY 265/212 Pro Studio Monitoring setup

It's amazing the things we assume as common knowledge these days.  For example, we all know the earth is round.  And the moon isn't made of cheese.  And it turns out smoking really does cause cancer.  But did you know that you can actually own products and technology specifically designed for and used by SkyWalker Sound?  Seem amazing?  Well, it's true - true "Blue" that is.

That's right, Blue Sky actually sells an entire professional monitoring setup that was originally designed for and in collaboration with SkyWalker Sound:  The 265 Satellites and 212 Sub combination. (products offered separately, not as a standalone kit)  NOTE: the 265 satellites are NOT designed to be used as standalone stereo pair but are sonically matched to the 212 subwoofer.

If you've read my other reviews you know that I've tested almost the entire range of currently available professional studio monitors and that 2 other Blue Sky products, the Media Desk and Pro Desk both got glowing reviews from me specifically because they outperform their competition and at a price point that's hard to beat.  In fact I've been so surprised by the Pro Desk's performance that I'd considered anything larger to simply be… louder, but not better.

Well that assumption was blown away recently when Blue Sky sent me their latest masterpiece, the 265/212 combo.  The setup consists of (2) of their 2.65 satellites which enclose (2) 6.5" inch woofers each and their gorgeous single center-mounted tweeter - all with individual discrete amps - balanced with the massive 212 Sub which houses a dual "push-pull" 400-watt driver.  The subwoofer is nothing to take for granted; the enclosure is so tall that you could bolt-on a backrest and turn it into a seat - not that you'd actually want to sit on it during operation, mind you.  (That would be one hell of a sphincter-loosening device, ay!)

In all honesty I fully expected that the combination of literally four large-scale drivers in a near-field setup (remember, it's 2 woofers per satellite) coupled with that uber-sized subwoofer would simply be overwhelming for a single-user edit station and all that power would be wasted on ear-crunching output.  Boy was I wrong.  In fact what all that power does is reproduce sound in a completely distortion-free environment, something even the Pro Desk can't do when you start cranking the output.

Speaker technology is actually pretty difficult stuff to master and here's an example of what I mean:

Take the your typical orchestra; there are several instruments that vibrate the air around them at differing frequencies and velocities from the high-pitched squeal of a violin to the low and very highly-transient punches from the timpani (kettle drums).  Each of these instruments literally creates their own "space" in the air and their sound reaches our ears in slightly different ways - and times - which gives them their individualistic sound and a sonic footprint that separates them from other instruments.  It's also these characteristics that professional audio engineers have to take into account when setting up microphones to capture this multi-faceted environment.

Consider the above and now apply those same concepts to say all the sounds that happen within a movie production environment; you've got ambient sounds, the spoken word from talent (or singing vocals), sound FX (which more often than not includes LFE - low frequency extensions) and of course the soundtrack the producers choose.  All that stuff has to find it's individual space in the final output in the movie.

Now think about all those various sounds which can come from literally dozens of sources being squeezed down into just a few - often no more than four - separate speakers; 2 woofers and 2 tweeters.  And that's the typical stereo setup you see at an edit station.  Right?  Does that sound logical to you?  (pun intended)  Well it's not at all logical and, when you start to ramp up the volume to gain more clarity during a piece what happens?  You start introducing distortion because those speaker drivers can only vibrate back and forth so fast and, can only handle a limited number of frequencies at any given moment in time.  Clearly speakers have their work cut out for them, and smaller speakers especially are easily overwhelmed with large sound output.

And that's the basic model behind not only the Blue Sky philosophy of creating the "2.1" environment but also in the thinking behind these massive and multiple drivers for the 265/212 setup.  In effect what Blue Sky has done is not only divide up the workload for the speakers so the can more efficiently transfer all this information to your ears but, they've also given each separate driver it's own high-powered amplifier so they can move the mass of air with greater ease.

Think of it this way; a small inline 4-cylinder car can get up to 100 mph after a certain period of time and most likely near it's top-end limit "redline" of RPM too.  Whereas a large V8 motor will get up to 100 mph much faster and with a lot less effort, not nearly turning as many RPM's and not getting close to it's redline either.  This same concept applies to the 265/212 setup: More power, more drivers with less distortion and while not "overdriving" the speaker cones themselves.

The end result?  Everything from highly percussive LFE transients to the most subtle chirping of a distant bird is reproduced with unparalleled grace.  Compared to the Pro Desk the stereo imaging from this setup is nothing short of amazing; using my standard test sound files as a reference point hearing them played back on the 265/212 setup is almost like hearing them for the very first time - in a whole new dimension, almost 3D, for lack of a better term.  And floor noise?  No more perceptible than was apparent with the venerable Pro Desk: Extremely low and quiet.


At nearly $5K for the purchase price this system isn't for the newbie or inexperienced editor, but if you're dead-serious about hearing every minute detail of your soundtrack and truly getting an honest and unqualified perfect reproduction of your sonic environment I can't imagine anything outpacing the 265/212 setup from Blue Sky, not even at double the price.  Now if I could just figure out a way to make that subwoofer a temporary seat in my office….

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