I love it when new boxes appear as if by magic on the doorstep. That magic, in this case, was the TNT driver and as I'm sure you can imagine, I know most of the local delivery drivers by name.
On this occasion, it was not the normal pile of printed cardboard boxes but a nice shiny flight case that I coaxed down to the studio. Within I found a pair of DB7 Linear Phase monitors by newcomers to the studio monitor market OS Acoustics based down in Christchurch, Dorset in the south-west of the UK. It always bodes well when a company have taken the time to make sure that the item being sent for review is going to arrive in the best possible condition as first impressions really are very important.
The DB7 Linear Phase Active Studio Monitors
OK, so there are a lot of words here so I'm going to start by breaking it down for the Drummers and Bass players among us.
Active: The DB7 is powered by "Ultra Audiophile" Class-D amplifiers. The high-frequency 1” Ceramic Coated Magnesium tweeter is driven by a 150-watt amp and the 6.5" Aluminium basket low-frequency woofer is driven by a 500-watt amp module. So there is plenty of power and my world power = volume.
Studio Monitors: The DB7's have been designed with critical listening environments in mind. Now that could be music production, mixing for broadcast, TV or Film or Mastering.
Linear Phase: This is, of course, the big one and the DB7's claim to monitoring fame. For this, I am going to turn to Tom Osbourne who is one of the team at Absolute Music in the UK. They are one of only two dealers in the UK who have the DB7's and he does a far better job of explaining this that I can.
“The two main features we want from our monitors are the ability to reproduce each frequency at the correct pressure level, or loudness. When this is achieved we see the familiar flat line frequency response. We also want them to reproduce each frequency at the correct time, this is where most speakers fall down, generally reproducing the high frequencies before the lows. In a linear phase system, each frequency is reproduced at exactly the same time. Below we see the less familiar impulse response graph. As you can see, the amount of 'time smearing’ is significantly less and resembles the test signal much more closely in the Yellow pulse. The price we pay for this extra accuracy is a 5 millisecond delay, which is why we decided to load the DSP board with and without the linear phase setting. The obvious choice being to disable while tracking and enable when mixing, or choose to use it or not according to your own personal preference"
The speaker cabinets are solid. Very solid. I'm told they are internally braced to significantly reduced cabinet resonances which cause smearing of the stereo image and if you are curious to know more you can check out the OS Acoustic web page as there is an entire article on the internal construction on the speakers. The black oak veneered finish is a little 1980's HiFi but it is pleasant enough but not setting the world on fire either. I am told they are looking into offering other wood finishes including Walnut, Ash, Maple, Cherry and Cedar, which I'm sure will look stunning and bring the outside look up to date with the inside tech.
Onboard Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
The DB7's house some fairly powerful processing on board. There are 8 presets that are selected by the preset selection encoder. As you can see by the handy key on the back LP settings indicate the Linear Phase circuit is active and RBC is the Room Boundary Correction circuit is enabled. Now the RBC is said to help out in smaller rooms and studios but I can't find anywhere what the official definition of "smaller" is. So, if you opt to try the DB7's give this a go for yourself, that is, unless you mix in a genuine movie theatre or cinema then I am quite sure these are not "smaller" rooms.
This is one of the elements of a speaker test I love the most. I get to listen to some of my favourite music and really analyse what I am hearing.
In total, I listened to 12 very different pieces of music using all 7 DSP modes (setting 1 being flat with no DSP). As a film music and Star Wars mega fan, I started off with the Star Wars main title theme music. In flat mode (setting 1) I found the bass to be a little lacking but as I worked my way through the different DSP settings different elements of music seemed to pop out at me. In the end, setting number 6 (Voiced With Room Boundary Correction) sounded the best to my ears.
We then moved onto some more conventional speaker testing tunes including Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold", "Peg" by Steely Dan possibly my favourite song in the world "Rosanna" by Toto. On all these tunes the vocal felt a little harsh and overly bright. The guitar solo in Rosanna also felt a little bright something I had not felt on any other listening system.
Sticking with guitars and all things rock to try and hone in on this tone issue I tried "Hooks In You" by Marillion and some Iron Maiden. The DB7 can really push the tones of distorted guitars. I'm not sure if that is a good thing but you really get to hear what is going on. You could call it harsh but I think its just a slight EQ push in the DSP. I'm sure this could be tweaked if it turned out to be a problem.
Bringing things a little bit more up to date I tried "Sleep Sound" by Jamie XX, Etherwood "Souvenirs" and a rig tester favourite "Cloud 9" by Jamiroquai. Modern Dance and EDM is really where the DB7's shine. The bass end is full and powerful, it's almost like there is a sub you can't see because you can feel the air movement from the front-facing ports.
The changes with the different DSP settings are very subtle but for me, position 6 worked best. Yes, I know this setting does not use the Linear Phase technology but maybe I'm used to hearing tiny bit out of phase sounds coming from speakers. Maybe we all are?
The top end issue with distorted guitars and vocals did worry me a little so I contacted the team at OS to see if there was an issue with the set of speakers I had or if this was something that was being reported. This may sound strange but I was pleased to find that this has been an issue for other testers and listeners. The reason I am pleased is that OS Acoustic are doing something about it. They are listening to and working with their audience to get it right. Thus far I'm told they have made tweaks based on the feedback they have been getting in the shape of a 1dB dip at 4.8Khz with a Q factor of 2.5. The other thing they have done is take 1.9Khz up 0.5dB with a Q of 2.2. These sound like small adjustments but this is bang in the harsh frequency range and I'm sure will make all the difference to the point where I want to get the DB7s back for a second round of listening tests. OS Acoustics are a very small and very new company and if this is what they can do with their first product then only fantastic things are to come.
There is no short way of saying it, these are great speakers and great speakers come with a price tag. However, in these days of speakers costing up to and well over £10,000 a pair of OS Acoustic DB7s come in at a smidge under £3000 which is a great price for a speaker that is designed, engineers, build and testing right here in the UK. One thing we are famous for, in our small island, is the ability of our "men in sheds' to do great things. Now those sheds could be recording studios or speaker building facilities but more power to the little guy's who are doing great things. Long may the OS Acoustic product line continue and if you are in the market for some serious monitoring, then check out the OS Acoustic web page and get yourself to a dealer to listen to these things for yourselves.