MS-8 comes with the pre-amp/amp, a small display, a wireless remote control, a binaural microphone and a setup CD.
MS-8 will have 8 speaker level inputs, 8 line level inputs and an ipod input. The inputs are summed to provide a full-range 2-channel signal. If 6 or fewer inputs are required, then the last 2 can be used for an additional aux input.
There are no digital inputs. Why? Because the real benefit of digital input is "no noise". The downside to providing one is that for 99 percent of users, it's more hassle than it's worth and will cause a great deal of confusion. Not too many people understand that the connector doesn't determine the signal. What I mean is, if we put a toslink input and a user hooks up a toslink output, it will only work is the signal is compatible. DVD-Audio isn't available on a digital output, DVD signals are 48k, PCM is 44.1, home-made digital audio can be anything. The signal from tuners is often only output on the RCAs. For the vast majority of users, there is no benefit and too much opportunity for disappointment. As far as noise goes, our inputs are differential, so the common mode noise rejection is super high. There won't be any noise.
There are 8 input channels, so the 8 speaker level inputs and 8 line level inputs are basically in parallel. You can use any combination.
Once the signals have been combined and un-EQed (for a flat 2-channel signal), the signal is processed with Logic7. That provides signal steering for a center channel (if you have one--if not, no problem) and processing for side and rear channels. L7 works on any 2-channel source and is our version is written for cars rather than live-in rooms, so it sounds MUCH better than any of the encoded formats in a car. The 2-channel down mix of any encoded DVD or DVD-A disc will play back in full surround. If good-old 2-channel is what you want, L7 is can be defeated and the channels are fully configurable (there are 8 output channels and they can be pre-amp channels or powered channels--20W x 8 at 4 ohms, 30W at 2 ohms). You can have 3-way front, a center and a sub, 2-way front, rear and a sub...whatever you want to do.
The electronic crossover that's built in is fully configurable. You can assign any channel to be anything and it includes an EZ setup mode and an advanced mode. In EZ setup, you tell each channel the speaker location (front right, for example), then you tell it what speaker is connected (6" full-range). It sets the crossover point. In advanced mode, you tell the channel the location (right front) and then assign a filter type (HP, LP, BP) and then you set the filter frequency (you can assign any value between 20 at 20kHz) and the slope (1st-4th order).
After the crossover setup is completed, you move on to the EQ. You put on the microphones (they look like airline headphones but contain microphones instead of speakers) and insert the CD. The display will give you some instructions to sit in the driver's seat and look at the left mirror and press "go". the unit will make a quick sweep of all 8 output channels. Then it will ask you to look forward and will make another sweep. Finally, it'll ask you to look to the right--another quick sweep. You can measure only the driver's seat or up to 4 seats. After the measurements are made (takes about 5 minutes) the unit will calculate the frequency response, level and arrival time for all 8 channels in each seat and crunch some numbers (another 30 seconds or so). It auto-tunes the car with 48 measurements per seat (up to 4 seats). It will output a tuning optimized for the driver, passenger, compromise between driver and passenger and one for the rear seats. If you use a center channel, both front seats will sound the same and the image will be great for rear seat passengers too.
After the auto-tuning is done, it will allow you to change the target curve. You can call up a 31-band EQ tool and make whatever changes you want. Unlike a regular EQ, you don't have to find an RTA and tune the car with the EQ, you just draw the curve you want to hear and press "go" and it does the work in implementing your curve. Then you can switch back and forth between your curve and the automatic one and continue making changes until you're satisfied. The curve you draw will always be adjusted in level so that the maximum number of bits are available to describe the signal (optimized for dynamic range). Once you save the curve, you can access any of the settings optimized for any seat using the remote control and the display.
You can turn Logic7 on and off, adjust the level of the center channel, use a balance control, fader, 3 or 11-band graphic EQ or adjust the level of the bass. The bass control isn't a gain control for the subwoofer output, it's a filter that works with the crossover and applies the right amount of bass to ALL channels so the illusion of bass up front isn't destroyed when you turn up the bass.
Answers to some likely questions:
1. You don't have to use the unit's volume control. You can use the one in the head-unit if you want to.
2. Maximum input voltage on the RCAs is 2V and 15V on the speaker level inputs. The signal is converted directly into digital after the preamp buffer, so a high signal level is far less important in this device than in conventional ones. The input is fully differential, so there won't be noise. I suggest speaker level connections because they are COMPLETELY isolated from ground.
3. The automatic EQ isn't exactly parametric or graphic. It's a very powerful algorithm that works on the impulse response to adjust both time and frequency response. It's amazing and does in about 30 seconds what I can do with an 80 band parametric EQ, crossover, time alignment and a serious analyzer in about 3 days.
4. The display doesn't have to be mounted. If you don't want iPod control or the ability to adjust after setup, you can unplug the display and use MS-8 as a "black box".
5. The unit is small--about 8.5" x 11" x 2.5"
6. Price will be about $800...TBD
7. The software is updatable via USB and a PC.
It does what all other OEM integration tools do and what every other DSP (EQ, Crossover, Time alignment, 7.1) processors do, but it sounds better, is easier to use, is less expensive and is far more advanced in terms of DSP power. Best of all, it's a tool you can be successful with, rather than a whiz-bang collection of filters and adjustment possibilities that require a PhD in acoustics to use.
MS-8 Project Manager
Harman Group (JBL)