I really am enjoying our forum over at HomeTheaterEquipment.com
because so many new, unique and exciting products are being brought to my attention en masse that would've otherwise gone unnoticed for one reason or another. Among them is a small black box from a company called miniDSP. The miniDSP 2x4 reviewed here is a unassuming piece of kit at $125 retail and yet, as I found out during my time spent with it, is among the more versatile home theater products I've encountered. You see, the miniDSP isn't a standalone product, but is instead a small device that you can use to load home theater programs that carry out a variety of chores. For me, and for the purposes of this review, this meant subwoofer parametric equalization. Additional Resources
• Read subwoofer reviews
from Home Theater Review.
• Visit HomeTheaterEquipment.com
to discover more gear like the miniDSP.
The miniDSP itself is roughly three inches square and maybe an inch tall. Its all-black housing plays host to two RCA-style analog inputs on one end and four analog audio outputs on the other. A USB input is also present and serves as the unit's power supply, though the required USB to power adaptor is not provided. This leads me to believe that it is the intent of the miniDSP's creators that it remain plugged into a PC or Mac 24/7, though I did not use it in that capacity.
Inside the small aluminum housing is a small circuit or motherboard that houses the unit's 28/56-bit Digital Signal Processing Engine and its 48MHz microcontroller. The miniDSP uses Nichicon Audiophile capacitors, but otherwise, not much else is specified about what is happening under the hood. Truthfully, what makes the miniDSP tick are its proprietary plug-ins (think apps) that make it "dance." Each plug-in costs an additional $10 and can be downloaded via miniDSP's website, uploaded and used as needed by the end user. If you want to use the miniDSP to control and provide parametric EQ to multiple subwoofers, as I did, you'd simply download the appropriate plug-in, which for me was the two-way PEQ 21 plug-in.
Buying the required plug-ins are easy and straightforward, provided you don't rely on satellite Internet as I have to do. I'm confident this is not the case for many other people, so getting your miniDSP up and running should be rather painless. For me, it meant having to rely on a friend to download the software, then email me the file (it's small) so that I could install it on my laptop. Thankfully, miniDSP's plug-ins are both PC- and Mac-compatible, so those loyal to one or the other won't be forced to run emulation software. The plug-in itself resides on your computer's hard drive and merely serves as an interface to the miniDSP itself. The two-way PEQ 21 plug-in is a self-contained program that was initially designed to be used in an active stereo-plus-subwoofer application but, due to its somewhat step-by-step nature, you can pick and choose which of its feature sets you wish to utilize once you're inside the program. Like I said, I was only interested in the PEQ 21's subwoofer capabilities which makes for a powerful combination when in conjunction with Room EQ Wizard (REW)
If you know anything about EQ and have the requisite tools and knowledge to go it alone, then the PEQ 21 plug-in is all that you require. However, if you're like me and appreciate it when technology helps streamline the process, then I urge you to download REW and use it in conjunction with the miniDSP device. With REW, I was able to generate a six-band filter pack very easily, using an outboard Behringer USB interface, a Radio Shack SPL meter and some inexpensive RCA cables running to my two JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers
. With the filter pack data in tow, I was then able to manually enter it into the PEQ 21 plug-in and then upload it to the miniDSP itself. I have only three caveats about this process. First, the PEQ 21 plug-in rounds up to the nearest whole or half integer when entering in your frequency, gain and Q settings, making absolute equalization somewhat of a compromise. Second, there is no indicator light letting you know that your settings have taken hold inside the miniDSP's processor. Third, I didn't like having to toggle between two different programs, even when miniDSP claims to have direct support from REW. Either they do or they are working on it, but using the version that was available to me, I had to toggle between REW and PEQ 21, which simply isn't as smooth, or as easy, as what I do with my reference Behringer Feedback Destroyer Pro that I normally use for my subwoofer equalization. Once the filter pack was uploaded to the miniDSP and I connected its included USB cable to a USB power adaptor, it performed as advertised and provided me with smoother, more accurate bass response from my two JL Audio subwoofers. Read about the high points and low points of the miniDSP processor on Page 2.