LD Systems DDQ 10 & DDQ 12 Active Speaker Systems – Fairtrade – Test Report by tools4music
What is decisive for the quality of a PA speaker system is the quality and combination of the speakers and the ability to match these components optimally with one another. As far as the first point is concerned, with the brand-new DDQ active series, LD Systems can draw on abundant resources. Adam Hall distributes BMS and Faital brand speakers, which are used without exception in the DDQ Series. Together with the Dutch Hypex power amplifier modules and final manufacturing in Germany, the DDQ Series is a living piece of Europe. So tools dispatched Inspectors Reimann (responsible for the finer points) & Boche (responsible for the “rough stuff”) to evaluate the sustainability of the AAA rating that looks so good on paper.
The speakers also have M10 rigging points. The recessed active electronics power the drivers with two 400-watt amp modules controlled by a Sharc DSP. As a special feature, the DDQ Series also incorporates a “look-ahead” limiter circuit. The input signal is delayed by 1 millisecond, giving the limiter enough time to adjust optimally to the signal received. A ground lift feature helps eliminate ground loop hum, and next to the XLR input socket there is an XLR socket for looping through the input signal. Activating the switchable low-cut filter simultaneously activates a low-pass filter on a third XLR socket which provides users a frequency-corrected signal for a subwoofer.
All of the XLR connectors are made by Neutrik. Regrettably, the system lacks any additional RCA or jack inputs permitting simple docking with a smart phone or other outside sources for a spur-of-the-moment party. The active electronics are cooled by a low-noise fan. The design is unobtrusive and the cabinet made of 15 mm birch multiplex with a non-see-thru protective grille cuts a good figure for my taste.
Tooting and blowing
We grabbed a pair of DDQ-12s and drove to the first live test at Viersen’s newest location for hand-made rock music: the “Rockschicht”. That night, the club was showcasing two bands: “Crash Casino” and “Dreadnut Inc.”. “Grabbing”, however, is an issue of sorts. The DDQ Series is equipped with the stylish “Evolutive” handles. Admittedly, they look good, but somehow they do not fit this writer’s hands – which are probably abnormal mutations. Anyway, given their low weight, it was no trouble to carry the enclosures a few meters onto the “Rockschicht” stage.
By way of supplementation to the practical test by Christian Boche, both speaker systems in the new DDQ Series by LD Systems were tested in the anechoic chamber at Berlin Technical University.
Fig. 1: The driver complement of the DDQ10; Faital 10-inch woofer and BMS tweeter with a 1-inch voice coil
Fig. 2: Driver complement of the DDQ12; Faital 12-inch woofer and a slightly larger HF horn, but with an identical driver (BMS 4524)
An initial glance at the frequency response of the DDQ-10 (Fig. 6) reveals a balanced spectrum along the 0-degree axis, whereby the measuring distance was 6 m. There is minimal accentuation of the high-frequency range above 5 kHz; otherwise, the tuning is oriented toward maximum linearity. A lower limiting frequency of approx. 65 Hz must also be regarded as good for a speaker of this size, whereby DSP-based distortion correction by means of a boost at the frequency of bass-reflex resonator plays a major role.
Fig. 3: A view of the inside of the connector panel: power supply (right), two power amp modules (Hypex UCD-400, middle), and a custom-developed DSP board (standing on edge behind)
Fig. 4: The system incorporates a digital signal processor by Analog Devices (ADSP-21261)
Fig. 5:The LD DDQ10 during the measurements in the anechoic chamber with the grille removed
The dispersion behaviour, shown in this depiction as an isobar diagram covering a full 360 degrees, evidences largely even directivity in the horizontal plane (Fig. 7). On average, the splay angle is 97 degrees between 1 and 10 kHz. While the DDQ10’s HF horn does have an asymmetrical dispersion pattern (with a wide angle at close proximity and a narrow angle at long range), this behaviour is not depicted in the measurements shown here, which merely represent a cross-section through vertical 0-degree planes. On the whole, the standard deviation of the horizontal dispersion behaviour is an acceptable 9 degrees. For the vertical dispersion (not depicted here for lack of space), the average splay angle is 69 degrees and the standard deviation is 14 degrees. Fig. 8 depicts the decay of the DDQ10. Besides the slight remainder of a cabinet resonance at approx. 350 Hz, the decay delays around 1 kHz are especially conspicuous. When measuring the maximum sound-pressure level, this spot also evidenced a susceptibility to non-linear distortion. This leads me to suspect that it is caused by a diaphragm resonance of the 10-inch woofer.
Fig. 6: DDQ10 frequency and phase response (measuring distance 6 m, smoothing 1/24 octave, measurement microphone MTG MK-201)
Fig. 7:Horizontal dispersion behaviour of the DDQ10 (measuring distance 6 m, smoothing 1/24 octave, angular resolution 5 degrees)
Fig. 8:DDQ10 periodically scaled decay
The DDQ-12 in the series likewise evidences an astoundingly even frequency response (Fig. 9) Apart from a small step at around 500 Hz, there are absolutely no observable emphases – here, too, we see a tuning oriented toward maximum linearity. As in the DDQ-10, the bass range is assisted through the use of a parametric filter at the bass-reflex frequency, thus attaining a lower limiting frequency of approx. 65 Hz. Because the DDQ12 uses the same HF driver (BMS 4524), which has a relatively small ring diaphragm, a smooth response is attained up to 20 kHz, the limit of human hearing.
The directivity on the horizontal plane (Fig. 10), measured here through a full 360 degrees and normalised at mean maximum amplitude, evidences an even slightly better result than with the smaller DDQ10. The average splay angle is approx. 88 degrees between 1 and 10 kHz, whereby the standard deviation is an extremely low 5 degrees. For the vertical dispersion (not shown here), the average splay angle is 62 degrees with a slightly higher, but still good standard deviation of 11 degrees. As with the DDQ10 before, the decay behaviour (Fig. 11) evidences slight remnants of a cabinet resonance (in this case, at around 300 Hz). Other than that, there is nothing to complain about.
Fig. 9: DDQ12 frequency and phase response (measuring distance 6 m, smoothing 1/24 octave, measurement microphone MTG MK-201)
Fig. 10:Horizontal dispersion behaviour of the DDQ 12 (measuring distance 6 m, smoothing 1/24 octave, angular resolution 5 degrees)
Fig. 11:DDQ 12 periodically scaled decay
It’s pretty astounding what is possible in this price class by using good components. Compliments to the Development Department at LD Systems for their work on these speaker systems, which will probably define a new standard of quality in terms of value-for-money.
As always, all of the measurements for which there was no room here are available for downloading as a PDF file in the “added-value” area at www.tools4music.de. There you will find not only the isobar diagrams for the vertical dispersions, but also measurements pertaining to non-linear distortion, series stability, grid difference effect, and the frequency responses of the electrical crossover function in the DDQ12.
While Crash Casino were able to make do with the Rockschicht’s standard monitor set, Dreadnut Inc.’s three-piece brass section required additional amplification. Time for the DDQ12 to make its debut. With its relatively broad dispersion angle (80 x 50, DDQ10: 80 x 60), a single monitor was actually enough for the guys. The band also managed well in terms of level, at least during the sound check, which the author carried out with the band because their own audio engineer apparently had trouble finding the venue. Shortly before show time, the colleague turned up at the FoH mixing board “just-in-time”. So, entirely in keeping with my role as service provider, I snuck backstage to handle the monitor mix with my iPad. The only requests were a little more keyboard for keyboard player and a touch more lead vocal. That is, until the horn section kicked in. I interpreted three thumbs up to mean “we need more sound”. I kept pushing the corresponding mix bus fader up further and further, but the colleagues still weren’t satisfied. After a moment of contemplation, it dawned on me: the monitor must be dead. With my most elegant interpretation of an early eighties bent-over roadie crawl, I floated across the stage and saw already from a distance, thanks to the LED that wasn’t on, that the monitor wasn’t getting any power. Cause: the power cord had come unplugged. The test systems we received still came with ordinary power cords. The series models, however, will ship with lockable Volex power cords.
Before reconnecting the cable, I dialled back the gain a good bit to avoid setting off a feedback inferno. Then I hustled backstage again and fine-tuned the settings again on the iPad. Now it was all good. Loud, clear monitor sound for three horns during the entire concert. That’s the way it should be. So chalk one up in the “win” column.
Udo and I
LD Systems latest creations apparently have plenty of headroom, but what about the subjective sound characteristics? To this end, come along with me, after the fact, to a gala event held by (and this is not a joke) a Viersen demolition company. The tasks was to run the sound for a professional gala band and the pianist & singer Andy Rühl, whose repertoire covers the greatest hits of Austrian pop star Udo Jürgens. The gala band used the four DDQ monitors in addition to two in-ear systems. Two DDQ-10s covered up to four vocalists, one DDQ12 covered a saxophonist and a trumpet player, and the final DDQ12 was reserved for the drummer. “Ten Ahead” was the name of the young group from Zülpich, who went about their work very professionally. Because of an acute lack of space, the stage was more or less directly in the audience area and the band were extremely conscious of the fact that, at least for the first couple of hours and during the meal, the onstage volume would have to be kept low. Although the band consists of ten musicians (four vocalists and six instrumentalist) the sound check only took around thirty minutes. During setup, I hooked up the LD Systems monitors with our four Sennheiser EW-500 wireless links and the matching 935 handheld transmitters. Using an iPhone and the RTA app (see test in tools 2/2013), the configuration was adjusted in terms of sound to the microphones and the space in two or three frequencies. The band seemed pleased. In general, it all seemed suspiciously easy that afternoon, until – you guessed it – “Udo J.” appeared …
On paper, it couldn’t have been simpler. One vocal mic, a grand piano miced with two condenser mics, and a player with backing tracks. Five channels altogether, plus a monitor with an LD Systems DDQ10. Duration of sound check: it felt like 66 years – which is when life begins. In any case, I can’t remember the last time I had to give an artist a painstaking justification for the pre-delay in a hall preset.
To make a long story short: Andy Rühl is a demanding customer. The instructions about monitoring in his technical rider should have clued me in to this, since they expressly say: “Sound quality and volume of the monitor system must be of the highest level”. Admittedly, the colleague’s artistic output is thoroughly professional, which is why the sound check orgy led to an impressive final result. Phew – milestone attained! Time to suit up, since the dress code applies to technicians, too. Our presenters for the evening were two of the clebratee’s grandchildren – eight and ten years old respectively. So it was bound to happen that a microphone occasionally wound up pointed at the monitor or deposited on top of it when there was nothing to announce at the moment. Feedback? All quiet – my luck seemed to be holding.
After countless speeches, the buffet was finally opened. The band played a long set with quiet dinner music. After dessert, when all was in readiness, the Udo Jürgens reincarnation took his seat at the piano and began tickling the ivories. But what was happening here? Fast, jerky hand motions parallel to the piano in mid-song indicated that “Udo” wanted everything a lot louder. At first I thought that maybe the power cord had developed a mind of its own again, but no: he really wanted it that loud. The monitor and front-of-house mixes quickly shattered the restrained gala sound barrier, but no one seemed to care. After just a few numbers, “Udo” was surrounded by ladies of a certain age, whose heart-strings he played with the same virtuosity devoted to the outstanding sounding Kawai grand piano. A half-an-hour and three encores later, Udo left us wanting more. He is the king: but so is the DDQ10. If you have ever tried to obtain good sounding reproduction of a miced up grand piano via a monitor, you know that volume reserves are limited. Score a point for LD Systems; the DDQ Series is now officially Udo-compatible.
Ten Ahead took over the helm musically for the rest of the evening, and lived up entirely to their slogan “the hardest working band in showbiz”. The band played continuously until half past one in the morning. Thanks to their complement of four lead vocalists, they were able to give people a rest on the vocal cord bench almost without anyone noticing. An interesting concept. It was also interesting that singers monitoring needs were covered solely by two DDQ-10s. After the gig, the singers were full of praise for the quality of the monitor sound, which the author is happy to pass along to the LD Systems Development Department here.
Before the author takes test systems to a live event, they first have to survive an important initial audition. In addition to the author, the “jury” consists of colleagues from the lighting company “Ministry of Light” in Viersen as well as the rock cover band Ranzig, since all of the participants share a large warehouse. In essence, the place is open around the clock: someone is always there and there is always music in the air. Whether the lighting colleagues are servicing their moving heads, the band is listening to new songs or the author is listening to playlists on his iPod while soldering cables – test speakers are never damned to inactivity here. Thanks to the numerous participants, the range of test music is widely varied – from Jacques Brel to Norwegian death metal. With regard to the LD Systems DDQ Series, we had a few “difficulties in communication” at first, since the speakers lack RCA or 3.5 mm jack inputs. At our home base, Apples iPod/iPhone is the most popular outside audio source. It’s a good thing that the author has plenty of mini-jack to XLR adapters that make it possible to connect the player directly to the box. The opinions were seldom so unanimous when it comes to “audio quality”. The DDQ Series simply sounds “right”. In other words, you hear the music and not the speaker system. The candidates have an astounding amount of bass considering the compact DDQ enclosures. Of course, for genuinely deep bass, an additional subwoofer is required. With many PA systems, I like to program an additional +2-dB shelving filter in the controller at 10 12 kHz, but the DDQ speaker systems don’t need any additional “icing on the top”. Rich treble that doesn’t get on your nerves – a pleasure. The final dry run is always my voice through a Shure SM-58. Ideally, with a low-cut filter and an attenuation at approx. 300 Hz, a useable vocal sound should come out of the speakers. In this discipline, too, the DDQs show no weaknesses; the tuning of the speaker systems is good and practical. We affirm: fine-tuned speaker systems “Made in Germany” at a fair trade price.
– Appealing look
– Results of the measurements in the anechoic chamber at the TU Berlin
– Flexibly adjustable pole mount flange
– Affordable price
– Sound workmanship
– High-quality driver complement
– Integral Sharc DSP
– Neutral sound
– No input (RCA or mini-jack) for external sources
Whether full-throttle or gala, LD Systems’ DDQ Series meets professional standards when it comes to sound and looks. The installed brand-name drivers are well matched. The other components (cabinet, power stage modules, and DSP) are of comparably high quality, as confirmed by colleague Fabian Reimann’s extensive measurements in this test. For an asking price of just under 1,000 Euros, these speakers shine like the sun if you feed them the right audio signals. The only icing on the cake that is missing for me is more ergonomic handles for “love without regret”. What remains? I bid adieu to the new DDQ Series with a whispered “Merci Cherie”.
Additional information about the products can be found at:
tools4music Magazin, Germany, June/July 2013
Authors: Christian Boche and Fabian Reimann
Markus Jahnel/ Sales Director at Adam Hall: ”
Of course we are very proud of the DDQ Series, and the results of the tools test also reflect the enthusiastic feedback received from our customers. In concept, design, and manufacturing, the DDQ Series is 100 percent made in Germany. Considering the target price of less than 1,000 Euros, this definitely represented a challenge for us. The DDQ speaker systems and the test show that we can also hold our own in the Champions League. The installed Schurter power socket already has a Volex lock – in future, a matching Volex cable will be included. Before the end of the year, these products will be joined by the DDQ SUB-212, a DSP-controlled active 2 x 12-inch band-pass subwoofer with 1,000 watts RMS and the DDQ SUB-18, an active, direct radiating, DSP-controlled 18-inch subwoofer with 1,400 watts RMS. A 15-inch version of the DDQ tops is also being planned. Then the DDQ family will be complete.”
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