Phonic PAA6 Review

The PAA6 is Phonic’s latest offering in its series of Personal Audio Assistant test gear. 1/06/2010 9:13 AM Eastern

Phonic PAA6 Review

Jan 6, 2010 2:13 PM

Phonic PAA6

The PAA6 is Phonic’s latest offering in its series of Personal Audio Assistant test gear. The PAA6 augments the 31-band RTA, SPL, polarity, and RT60 measurement abilities of the PAA2 and PAA3 (reviewed in the January 2006 Mix) with a full-color LCD touchscreen; stereo operation; Fast Fourier Transform (FFT); THD+Noise; and Scope, Phase, and LEQ functions. The PAA6 weighs approximately 1lb., and it’s about the size of a paperback book.

A 480x272 LCD touchscreen dominates the PAA6’s front panel. Controls include power on/off, run/stop, signal generator on/off, and a navigation joystick. On the top panel are two balanced XLR line inputs, an XLR line out, and a receptacle for the included stylus. Two measurement mics are recessed alongside the body and pivot outward. The bottom panel features a USB connector, DC power inlet, and SD memory card slot. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery (3 hours of operation), a DC adapter, and a padded case are included.

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Tap on an icon for the desired function, and the PAA6 opens it. The function is not active until you manually select Run from either the touchscreen or the hardware button. Kudos to Phonic for making the OS easy: It provides access to most functions without requiring a visit to the manual, and signal-generator parameters are available from the main screen of any application.

Onscreen buttons activate or deactivate each channel, while a display indicates mic or line input. When only one channel is active, that channel occupies the entire screen. At the top of all screens are a battery indicator, clock, and calculator. Most of the applications feature a Set button for setting mic or line input, response time, and weighting (A, B, C, or off).

An SD card slot is provided for file storage, but getting your data out of the box is important. At press time, Phonic had not yet released software that enabled realtime operation via PC, and I was unable to interface the unit successfully with a PC running Windows XP or Vista for file transfer. FFT, RTA, and RT60 measurements can be stored to dedicated memory slots as .txt files, but currently, the only way to get them out of the PAA6 would be to store them on an SD card and use a PC card reader.

The PAA6 is packed with useful functions that any pro looking for hard data will enjoy. I liked how the RTA can be set to octave, 2/3-, 1/3-, and 1/6-octave resolution. A yellow arrow indicates the peak band, and tapping any frequency bar in the RTA brings its SPL to a numeric indicator. Click on EQ Setting to display the reciprocal EQ you’ll need to flatten room response. When RTA data is stored to memory, the reciprocal EQ is also stored.

The phase checker indicates the number of degrees of phase difference between left and right channels—useful for head alignment of analog tape machines or evaluating the phase relationship between paired mono compressors or EQs. I could easily locate wiring problems using the polarity checker; by switching the input to “mic,” you can make a loudspeaker part of the test chain. When polarity is correct, “Phonic the Audio Guy” smiles at you on the screen. When polarity is reversed, he frowns.

LEQ measures equivalent continuous noise level and displays the results as SPL for 10 frequency bands, measured over a period of time from a few seconds to 48 hours.

The most interesting capability is THD+Noise. Connect the output from the PAA6 to a destination device, and the output of that device is fed back into the PAA6. You can evaluate the unity gain point or observe changes in distortion while input level or input frequency is varied.

I found the PAA6 works as advertised, but the lack of a PC interface leaves room for improvement. Installers and live sound engineers will find this unit invaluable part of their toolkit.

Product Summary
Company: Phonic
Product: PAA6
Pros: Easy to use, onboard measurement mics, compact, powerful.
Cons: PC software not yet available.
Applications: Sound reinforcement, contracting, installations, troubleshooting, and testing.
Price: $1,200

Display: 480x272 color LCD
Signal generator: Pink noise, white noise, sine wave, sweep, polarity, triangle, and square waves
Functions: RTA, LEQ, RT-60, FFT, THD+N, polarity, phase, scope and meter (dB SPL, dBu, dBV, and Volt)
Inputs: Balanced XLRs
Output: XLR line-level
Power: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery or DC adapter
Removeable media: SD card slot
Interface: USB

Steve La Cerra is Mix magazine’s sound reinforcement editor and is the front-of-house engineer/tour manager for Blue Oyster Cult.

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