Product Review (February 2004) - Phonic
PAA2 Real-time Audio Analyzer

Measuring the listening space of your audio or home theater system is a sure way to know if you're getting the most out of your system. Taking those measurements can be a difficult and time consuming task and equipment needed to take such measurements can be quite costly, especially for those wanting to make one-time readings on their listening space. Simple level meters do not give users enough information about the frequency peaks and nulls that exist in practically all environments. A company called Phonic, known in the professional audio community, has introduced the PAA2 Personal Audio Assistant, a reasonably priced real-time audio spectrum analyzer that is loaded with useful features. The PAA2 is an accurate 31-band real-time analyzer capable of measuring frequencies from 21Hz to 20kHz. This handheld unit operates on four "AA" batteries and its lightweight design makes it simple to use. The 160x160 backlit LCD display with adjustable contrast gives the user plenty of useful feedback on the audio being measured. The built-in calibrated microphone can handle sound pressure levels from 30dB to 130dB. The unit also includes line inputs to measure directly from a source. The heart of the PAA2 is built around a Texas Instrument's TMS320VC5402A fixed point Digital Signal Processor (DSP) for very fast performance.

Controls and I/O
The PAA2 is a compact design that requires the user to push and unlock the microphone as it spins around from its seated position. Four buttons on the front panel are used for Power/Backlight, Right/Down, Left/Up and Enter. The user interface takes some getting used to, but in a short time we were operating the unit efficiently. A more desirable alternative is to use the Jog control, located on the left side of the unit. The operator can move quickly through the menu and submenu items and select by simply pushing on the wheel. The opposite side of the unit has a connector for the 6VDC power adapter and another connector for an RS232 interface that can communicate with a PC.

Both male and female XLR connectors are on the bottom of the unit. The male XLR outputs one of three signals for testing. Pink Noise or a 1kHz tone can be sent to a connected component. The unit also uses this connection to output the Polarity pulse for checking the system's wiring for proper polarity. The female XLR is used to measure line-level signals in dBu, dBV or AC or to check the phase of the input signal that is sent from the output connector when testing cables.

The back of the PAA2 has a Power Lock switch that is used to prevent the unit from being accidentally turned on. Since power is a simple button push on the front user panel, this switch helps prevent inadvertent battery drain. Also located on the back of the unit is the contrast control for the LCD display. The four "AA" batteries are also located here with a cover that slides on and off. There is also a standard threaded mount for a tripod to help hold the unit in position during measurements.

Operation
The PAA2 can perform full acoustical analysis using its real-time spectrum analyzer. Thirty-one, one-third octave bands are displayed on the screen real-time with selectable response times (35ms, 125ms, 250ms and 1 second) and weighting options (Flat, A and C). The operator needs to select the SPL (Speaker Pressure Level) range (30-90 dBSPL, 50-110 dBSPL, 70-130 dBSPL) for the test being run. The user can select any of the center frequencies and display the level that was measured with the numbers displayed above the real-time graph. The peak level can also be displayed for reference. There are a total of sixteen memory locations for storing data. The measured spectrum data can be stored to any one of ten memory locations. Averaged data from any or all of the ten memory locations can be stored to the remaining six memory locations.

The SPL mode can either measure sound from the calibrated microphone or from the line input. The weighting, response time, SPL range and peak level is also selectable in this mode. In addition, a bar graph exists along with the numeric readout of the SPL reading.

The EQ Setting mode is designed to help provide information of the acoustics of the room you are monitoring. Using the CD provided with the unit, pink noise is played back through the system and sampled by the PAA2. Multiple samples can be stored into memory, which the user can select to average. The averaged results can be stored to one of six unique memory locations. This data taken by the PAA2 will then calculate the amount of equalization that is required at each of the center frequencies.

The polarity test is designed to check either system polarity or cabling. System polarity is tested by sending out a pulse to the system electronics and measuring the sonic wave produced by the loudspeaker. If the system hears the pulse in-phase then a "+" is displayed on the screen. If it's out-of-phase then a "-" is displayed. A "?" will be displayed if the analyzer cannot determine the polarity. This same test can be run on a cable connected between the two XLR connectors.

Software
A serial interface cable is provided to allow the PAA2 to work with the application software provided. The software actually worked fine on our older Sony Vaio laptop running Windows ME. The serial link was surprisingly fast in the real-time mode with third octave bars updating at a reasonable rate. The memory locations took tens of seconds to load, but it wasn't unbearable for a serial link. The software allows the user to save or load data to/from the PAA2 using the hard drive. The software can also command the backlight on or off and the software display matches the PAA2 display.

Battery life on the PAA2 is rather short, so it might be a good idea to use rechargeable batteries. We tried a set of 1800mAH batteries during our testing and they work great. Our rechargeable batteries lasted about two to three hours while the alkaline batteries lasted a little longer.

Conclusion
There is finally a middle ground between the inexpensive Radio Shack SPL meter and the professional audio spectrum analyzers used by sound professionals. The Phonic PAA2 certainly comes closer to satisfying the professional while still keeping the test equipment investment amazing low. Considering the cost of the PAA2, it did very well in our tests and was really quite simple to use. Although the product is geared for sound professionals, many consumers will want this for setting up their audio and home theater systems. The full spectrum analyzer is a powerful tool and will satisfy those interested in getting their room acoustics in order. Subwoofer placement can be especially difficult and the PAA2 can help verify what you are hearing. Based on its performance and price, we can easily recommend the PAA2 to anyone willing to take the time to analyze and adjust their listening room.

- Kevin Nakano





Review System

Projector: Marantz VP-12S2 High-Definition DLP™ Projector
Screen:
Stewart Filmscreen 100" Luxus Deluxe FireHawk Screenwall
Preamplifier/Processor:
Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole« Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Mitsubishi HD-5000 Receiver
D-VHS VCR #1: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U D-VHS High-Definition VCR
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
Laserdisc Player: Pioneer CLD-D704 CD/VCD/LD Player
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable #1: Monster Cable M Series M500DVI DVI-D Cable
DVI Cable #2: Accell Corporation Gold Series DVI-D Cable
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Video Signal Analyzer: Sencore VSA794 NTSC Video Signal Analyzer
Color Analyzer: Sencore CP5000 Multi-Display Color Analyzer


Review - At a Glance


Phonic - Real-time Audio Analyzer

Features:

  • Super Accurate Real Time Spectrum Analyzer
  • 31 band ISO 21Hz-20KHz
  • 16 memory slots to store different position conditions and averages
  • EQ setting program íV programs EQ to achieve optimal and averages
  • Speaker Polarity Tester to determine whether your speaker are in phase
  • Super Accurate Level Meter for SPL and Line signals
  • Larger Display Screen (160*160 resolution) with adjustable contrast and backlight
  • Calibration capable (calibrate the standard noise generator within seconds)
  • Noise generator (total of 29 tests sounds including, pink noise, 1kHz and polarity)
  • Instant connection to PC for easy back and unlimited expandability
  • Uses 4 batteries for convenient replacement and portability

    Includes:

  • PAA2 Unit
  • 4 AA Batteries
  • AC Power Adapter
  • PC Serial Interface Cable
  • Leather Case
  • CDROM (26 Audio test signals and PAA2 software)
  • User's Manual
  • User's Manual


    Company Information

    Sales: sales@phonic.com
    Support: support@phonic.com

    Source: Manufacture supplied
    Model Number: PAA2
    MSRP: $470

    Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

    URL: www.phonic.com

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