|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
I've always loved good metering when I'm mixing. My ears are highly developed but they can fool me depending on how I feel. Good meters are indifferent to feelings, they just report the connected signal level.
JLM Audio is located in Australia. It's the brainchild of designer Joe Malone. They make a number of interesting DIY products, kits and boutique audio items which serve recording and pro sound industries. I used JLM kits to rebuild some analog VU meters and you can read about them here on High on Technology.
In this review we're going to take a close look at the JLM PPM500 stereo level meters which are packaged for use in 500 series racks like the API VPR500. These meters display peak and average levels simultaneously. They are totally unique and indispensable.MY OUTSIDE THE BOX HEAVEN
My DAW feeds a 40 channel Soundcraft mixing console. It has four stereo groups.
Group 1-2 is always my drum mix. It has a Drawmer 1978 bus compressor on it.
Group 3-4 is usually my electric pianos (optional DBX 166A bus compressor).
Group 5-6 is synthesizers (optional DBX 166XL bus compressor).
Group 7-8 is where guitars get mixed.
The Stereo Master output is where all the groups come together (optional API 2500 bus compressor).
I usually send the bass guitar directly to the stereo group.
Every channel of the console has a little 4-segment LED meter built in but these are all pre-fader, nice to have when you're trying to figure things out but almost useless during mixing.
Each console group output has a 10 segment LED ladder built into the Master Control section but these are only 10 segments. They're nice to check for signal presence but not terribly useful for precise mixing.
I needed better metering to help me zero in on exactly what's going on in a mix. That is what led me on my quest which ended when I found the JLM PPM500 level meters. I bought one to put on the Stereo Output. After a couple of months of use I ordered four more for the subgroups. I became addicted to the display and ordered one with the digital-input option for my Tascam stereo recorder.
Using these meters is such a joy and your mind becomes accustomed to their visual display. Drums, piano and bass are principle instruments in my compositions. With JLM PPM meters I can see exactly what's going on.
EXTREME RESOLUTION - JLM PPM500 IN DETAIL
Each meter is a standalone 2-channel device. JLM includes an XLR-to-XLR turnaround cable so both connectors on an API rack can be treated as inputs for the two meter channels.
There are 40 discrete LEDs per meter ladder. The top 30 are in 1 dB increments, the bottom 10 are in 2 dB increments for a total display range of 50 dB.
The 1-dB increments are where all the action is, your ears and your brain feast on this kind of data, it feels right and good to have this information, it eliminates misconception without any extra thought. All this matters when you're writing music and recording it simultaneously. Technical problems can kill a fragile musical thought or idea. A quick glance at a JLM PPM500 can alleviate any worries and help you keep focused on what you're chasing or it can alert you to too big or not big enough signals.
There are several display modes available, they're chosen using little pushbuttons located beneath the displays.
I leave my JLM PPM500 meters in the mode shown which shows average level (VU) in green and peak value in red.
Once you begin using these JLM metering tools to monitor and mix they become part of you and your workflow. They eliminate ambiguity and let your mind chase whatever muse is happening. I love tools that help keep the technical process in the background and let me focus on the creative part of making music. At a glance, even from across the room, I can tell exactly where my level is using the JLM meter, no metering in my DAW delivers anywhere near the same visual feedback.
I created the following video to show everyone what these wonderful meters look like "in action". I'm not a high-tech vidiot so I kept it simple, it's just my iPhone laying on the console. The music starts with the drums on the 1-2 drum bus and keeps adding instruments until the end where they fall back out of the mix. Notice the decay of the meters after the song ends. In day to day use that decay ballistic is very important in making sure a fade out does not happen too soon.
Unique high-resolution peak and average display available simultaneously
Compact, 500 module packaging
High quality fiberglass circuit boards and through-hole components
Digital input option
Available as a kit or fully assembled
Expensive for assembled version
I could go on and on about how great these meters are. They are available assembled or as kits (I bought mine assembled, these are complex kits to build).
I've had some of them in operation for over three years so I'm pretty confident about their long term reliability.
JLM is quick to respond to email inquiries and I've consistently found them to be very responsive and fast to fill orders. Keep in mind, JLM is in Australia so they are opposite of our waking period in the USA (especially on the East Coast).
Check them out on the internet at jlmaudio.
Thanks for reading High on Technology. Good Music To You!
©2022 by Mark King. It's not ok to copy or quote without written permission.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE|
Neither Mark King nor High on Technology received any compensation for this article.