I recently wrote about my experiences with the HEDD Type 05 two way monitors and I was pleasantly surprised by their performance and tasteful delivery, being nice sounding monitors which also proved helpful to the mixing process. I was keen to see what something from the HEDD range which was a little more serious would be like and to that end I arranged the loan of a pair of Type 20 compact three way monitors.
Upon unboxing my first impression was of the serious construction of these monitors. They are of dimensions typical of a compact three way and at 15Kg each they are only a little on the heavy side but probably because of the grippy, rubberised finish of the cabinet they mean that to move them you have to lift them, they don’t really slide. While we all want our monitors to stay put, do be careful when leaning over to adjust them, just ask one of the muscles in my back… The driver complement is a 7.5” woofer, a 4.5” midrange driver and an AMT ribbon tweeter. The cabinet is front ported and the crossover frequencies are at 250Hz and 2.5KHz. Ample amplification is provided via three 300W class D amplifiers and the back panel provides analogue input via balanced XLR and unbalanced phono with analogue trim pots and LF and HF shelving filters. The pair of speakers are handed into left-right pairs and there is provision for a HEDD Bridge card if you want to add Dante.
So that’s the package in a nutshell, what do they sound like?
In a word impressive. The specs tell me the frequency range covered is 32Hz - 50KHz but without any tolerances this doesn’t tell me much. To be honest I don’t pay much attention to frequency range specs as experience tells me that these figures often don’t tell you very much about what a speaker is like to use in the real world, and of course we’ll have to take their word for it about the 50KHz! On firing up these monitors my first impression is of bass, lots and lots of bass. I’ve spoken a lot in the past abut how strongly I feel about the timing of speakers and how I feel many ported designs don’t perform well in this area. I’m happy to report that using a couple of my favourite test tracks I can confirm that these speakers don’t suffer from tardy bass. They perhaps don’t have the tight, dry bass of an infinite baffle design but they are in no way sloppy and the impression of deep, rich bass was very nice to be around.
I didn’t explore how loud these monitors go and in a near field application in a small room I suspect neither will you. With a max peak SPL at 1m in excess of 120dBSPL there is plenty of headroom available from the three 300W amp modules per speaker. I’m sure this is in part responsible for the effortless bass performance. While some people still have reservations about class D amplifiers, I feel their performance is definitely on a par with all but the very best class AB amplifiers and with the efficiency of class D designs you get far more of that power translated into audio rather than heat, and these monitors are heavy enough without putting massive power supplies and heat sinks into them.
To continue the theme of power, the voice coils on the bass drivers are quoted at 2” which strikes me as large for a 7.5” driver. This might well be part of the reason why it sounds as controlled as it does, a large voice coil driven by a powerful amplifier means that the speaker cone does exactly as its told, particularly if it is light. The LF and midrange drivers are built of an interesting material called UHC (Ultra Honeycomb Composite) which is stiff but light. I’ve not come across it before but it does appear to work extremely well.
The midrange driver is a 4.5” cone which covers 250Hz - 2.5KHz and the midrange performance is where I’ll start in my attempt to communicate what these monitors sound like. Looking for a really thick sounding recording to check out whether things get congested on the Type 20s I passed over my usual recordings with prominent electric pianos and settled on “Caramel” by Suzanne Vega, all deep vocals, clarinets and jazz guitar. The upper midrange just worked, very tidy without the crowding I’ve heard before using this track but this track did show the tendency of these monitors to favour deep bass over ‘knock” and for this reason when I came to mix on these monitors I decided to dial back the 50Hz low shelf by -2dB. This definitely helped my mixes but I’ll follow this with the caveat that bottom end issues are so room dependent that this should be seen as comment rather than criticism.
The AMT rIbbon tweeters have great transient response, they really catch every corner in the top end. The sound is towards the bright end of things, I’d characterise it as between a soft and a hard dome but with really great transient response. To see how things were at the boundary between the midrange and HF drivers I tried “Words Of Love” from Beatles For Sale as the twangy guitar is hilariously spiky around 2.5K, that’s right on the crossover between the mid and HF drivers and the Lineariser plug-in brings it up even more.
The Lineariser plug-in is a clever hybrid approach to DSP speaker correction taken by HEDD. Using electronics to correct the frequency response of speakers has happened for years, I first came across it in the amplifier cards for PA speakers built by d&b Audiotechnik but even the humble Bose 802 has used fixed EQ to correct speaker response. More recently it has become possible to correct for a speaker’s time domain performance and linear phase filters and crossovers have become a reality. This correction is usually incorporated into hardware in the speaker but HEDD have designed a free plug-in to correct the speaker’s response using the processing power already available in the host computer. This incurs some latency but at mixdown this is acceptable.
I tried the lineariser when I tried the type 05 and found the effect subtle but significant. On a three way speaker the effect is still subtle but more noticeable, something you notice more when you switch it off than when you switch it on. A necessary side effect of using the lineariser is that output drops by 9dB, apparently it needs the headroom for the processing but headroom isn’t lacking in this design with the aforementioned 3x 300W amplifiers per speaker.
Something I’ll usually try on a new pair of monitors is “Play Dead” by Bjork, a really good test track for high midrange/bottom of treble (4-6K) as there are bright strings competing with a snare and some very compressed crashes. Here the HEDDs do well translating something which can sound messy or harsh. A good sign. Imaging is solid and the sense of an airy top end which “takes the lid” off your audio is just as in evidence on the type 20s as it was with the Type 05s.
With all this listening to music (on a pair of speakers? Who would do such a thing?) how about mixing something? The experience of mixing on a different set of monitors is always a little odd, the difference between a set of monitors which suit you and ones which don’t is in how quickly you start to feel at home. As I’ve already mentioned, the bottom end wasn’t working for me in my room without some adjustment but once attended to, everything became comfortable very quickly. A couple of things which flag up that I’m not comfortable with my monitoring are changing my mind about the level of the snare in the mix, which must be about midrange performance, and judging the level of effects, which probably has more to do with top end performance. Both settled down very quickly and reverb tails in particular were easy to judge and seemed to translate back to my familiar old monitors predictably. These monitors were hard work to install (don’t lean and lift!) but were easy to get on with once installed.
HEDD clearly didn’t get lucky with the design of the Type 05. The Type 20 is a solid performer and at just under £3000 a pair are definitely worth a look of you are after something which is a step up from a pair of bookshelf sizes 2 way nearfields.