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Audio Review: Intelix Audisey Athena

Apr 10, 2009 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Ease of use, power, and small size make for an attractive matrix mixer.

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Intelix Audisey Athena matrix mixer.

Intelix has introduced its Audisey Athena matrix amplifiers in two configurations: eight inputs by eight outputs or 16 inputs by 16 outputs. The company names numerous audio distribution chores as likely applications for these devices, such as corporate boardroom, council room, house of worship, education, government, retail, themed environment, restaurant, bar, and residential uses. It's nice to have an onboard DSP in a matrix mixer, but it's even better to have power amplification in addition to that DSP, and the Athena units do indeed sport that feature.

These units present a Spartan front panel, with only a control section and a 16-character-by-two-line LCD alphanumeric display featured. There is an array of LEDs—eight for the Athena-8 and 16 for the Athena-16—which indicates whether audio is present in the matrix. To the right of this display segment is an extremely simple control section consisting of two buttons labeled "Mode" and "Select" and a data-entry wheel. To the right of these controls is a USB connection.

On the rear panel of each Athena unit is a vast array of I/O, starting at top left with Phoenix-style connectors representing the unit's inputs (eight on the Athena-8 and 16 on the Athena-16). To the right are more Phoenix-style connectors representing audio-monitor outputs, the number of which again corresponds with the model—eight or 16. In the vertical middle of the left side are computer connections—specifically an RJ-45 Ethernet connector, an ReO bus connector, two RS-232 DB9 connectors, and a PCMCIA card slot. A bank of dipswitches above the slot determines the data transfer rate for the RS-232 interfaces, ranging from 9600 baud to 115,200 baud. The PCMCIA slot facilitates insertion of Intelix's proprietary Logic I/O card, which provides eight contact-closure inputs and eight 5V logic outputs. Along the bottom of the rear panel—from left to right—are the unit's IEC power receptacle and switch, two SPDIF I/O pairs, two EDAC modular 20-pin outputs to feed separate Audisey 70V distribution transformers, and eight or 16 (depending on the model) Phoenix-style loudspeaker outputs.

Each Athena input features DSP control of gain and a three-band parametric EQ. Each band's center frequency can be set at any of the 255 steps between 20Hz and 20kHz. Bandwidth can be adjusted from 0.1 octaves to 2.5 octaves. Maximum cut is -15dB, and maximum boost is +6dB. Each output features high- and low-shelf tone control with corner frequencies adjustable from 20Hz to 20kHz and gain from -15dB to +6dB. For more precise spectral control, there is a five-band parametric EQ on each output channel. Each band, like the three-band EQ on the inputs, features 255 center frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz with 0.1-octave to 2.5-octave bandwidth and -15dB to +6dB cut or boost maximums, respectively. Output level is also under DSP control, along with digital time delay, ranging from 0 milliseconds to 3.98 milliseconds. Each output channel features a compressor with five adjustable parameters: threshold, variable from 0dB down to -127dB; attack time, variable from 1 milliseconds to 100 milliseconds; release time, also variable from 1 millisecond to 100 milliseconds; ratio, variable from 1:1 to infinity:1 for hard limiting; and gain, variable from 0dB to 20dB. True matrix mixing can be accomplished at each of the 64 crosspoints in the Athena-8 and at each of the 256 crosspoints in the Athena-16. Ramping/slewing and linear/log taper controls are available for matrix mixing, and in linear mixing, the control resolution is 0.4dB per step. Overall gain is variable from -100dB to 0dB. The post-DSP/postmixing outputs feed Class D amplifiers, which facilitate a lot of power without a lot of weight or real estate. Indeed, the Athena units deliver a nice complement of mixing, DSP, and amplification in their 3RU rackmount boxes. They weigh in at 24lbs., which is not bad considering the number of amplifiers onboard. As a matter of fact, I'll even go out on a limb and say that this is a very robust amount of power from a 3RU unit. Unless you really need substantial SPL, these amplifiers would absolutely do the trick.

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