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Review: Ashly Audio pêma 4250

Nov 3, 2010 2:30 PM, By John McJunkin

A powered processor for zoned sound systems.

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Ashly Audio pêma 4250

Ashly Audio pêma 4250

As we look back on the audio technology of yesteryear, sometimes we smile about how basic and simple some of it was. Imagine consoles with no moving faders, onboard signal processing, or recall. Or imagine near-field studio monitors with no amplifiers or DSP. OK, I’m being a little facetious here, but a world without certain audio technology conventions such as presets for outboard effects processors is unimaginable in the 21st century.

For a moment, imagine dialing up dozens of parameters with only knobs in a fast-paced live-sound environment—a daunting task at best. We have grown very accustomed to things that didn’t even exist 40 years ago, and didn’t become commonplace until 25 or 30 years ago. I’m curious as to at what point in the future we’ll fondly remember amplifiers without signal processing, matrix mixing, and network control. We’re definitely headed down that road.

There are still plenty of pure power amps, but increasingly, amps are incorporating an expanding spate of digital signal processing, internal mixing options, and remote control via networking. I know some will kvetch about “more things to go wrong” and certainly, the likelihood for failures increases along with complexity, but I would respectfully submit that the additional sophistication is worth it in the case of amplifiers. Ashly Audio has introduced the pêma (Protea Equipped Media Amplifier) line of amps, and these units do indeed feature substantially more sophistication than a plain vanilla amplifier. I evaluated a pêma 4250, and I discovered a useful device that contractors and integrators should consider.

Ashly touts the pêma series as “the world’s first powered processor.” It is debatable as to whether it’s an amp with processing or a processor with an amp, but either way, it’s intended primarily for zoned sound systems. There are four amps available: the 4125, 8125, 4250, and 8250. The leading figure in the designation refers to the number of amplifier channels the unit offers. The remaining three figures refer to the output power of the amplifiers, either 125W or 250W (double that available by bridging). Multiple configurations of each of these four basic models are available, with a 120VAC or 230VAC power mains option; a CobraNet or EtherSound networked digital audio option; and three constant voltage options of 25V, 70V, and 100V.

I evaluated a pêma 4250 with EtherSound and standard low-impedance outputs. All units offer eight inputs (either +4dBu balanced Euroblock or summed mono -10dBu RCA inputs for consumer or prosumer devices). All eight inputs have mic preamplifiers that deliver +15V phantom power (switchable in 4-channel blocks), and channel 1 can be configured as a transformer-isolated -20dBu TEL-PBX 600Ω input. The unit is controlled remotely by either Ashly’s Protea software or Ashly’s NE Ethernet, or by serial remote controllers. Although the system I evaluated did not include remote controllers, I’ve had prior experience with them, and they work nicely, offering some pretty sophisticated programmable control in particular with the neWR-5 controller. Although all parameters are accessible from the Protea control software, the pêma front panel also offers signal attenuation.

Owing to the intended remote control of all parameters, the pêma’s front panel is sparse and simple. At the left is a large power switch and LED indicators for power, standby, protect (indicating voltage or temperature faults), disable, and communications status. A cooling air-intake grille is situated in the middle of the front panel, and to the right are the aforementioned attenuator knobs, along with metering and current, temp, and bridge status LEDs for each of the system’s amp channels. From left to right, the rear panel of the pêma features a 10/100 Ethernet jack (RJ-45); a digital I/O section; and eight inputs, each with a balanced Euroblock connector and two RCA inputs. Above the inputs are the system’s preamp auxiliary outputs. To the right of the inputs and auxiliary outputs are the system’s main speaker outputs, again in the form of Euroblock connectors. Below those are logic and control-oriented Euroblock connectors, and finally in the upper right hand corner of the rear panel is the power mains inlet.

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