Recently, I purchased two Henry Studio Drives for use at two news workstations at a state news network in Louisiana. At each workstation the Henry unit is wired to a PC running Adobe Audition, a small powered tabletop speaker, a router output controlled from the PC, a microphone and a telephone feeder circuit.
There are two pieces to the unit; an audio I/O chassis designed to mount on the rear of a PC or nearby on a shelf or to the wall, and the front panel unit, which can fit inside the standard 5¼" drive bay in a PC, or you can install the (included) optional top cover for desktop use. The two pieces connect with an included ribbon cable. In our application, we put the Henry mixer front panel unit on the desktop and the PC on the floor below, with the audio I/O unit mounted on the wall of the studio furniture desk near the PC.
There are six inputs that supply four mixing channels: a mic, the phone/Line 1 input (Line 1 is unbalanced stereo, the phone input is mono, balanced and transformer isolated), Line 2/Line 3, both stereo balanced, and the last channel is for the PC sound output. Most of the inputs and outputs are ¼" phone jacks and are on the rear panel of the I/O unit; everything we tried worked well, balanced or unbalanced. The headphone jack and a jack for a feed from an MD player or other portable unit are on the front panel of the main unit and are ⅛".
Performance at a glance
Mounts inside a PC case
One mic, six line inputs
Multiple outputs including mix-minus
Separate I/O unit
The unit's built-in mic preamp had plenty of gain, low apparent noise and no audible headroom issues. We fed it from a classic Shure SM-58 and it worked just fine. The unit features a “cough switch” capability, a mic processor insert point and even a mute tally output for an on-air light.
There is an air monitor input to the monitor section; in our case we fed it from the network's main feed, so the news people could listen for network errors or failures. In a conventional station, of course, this would be connected to an off-air receiver, giving the tiny mixer all the needed capabilities to actually program a radio station.
The unit offers all the basics for connecting to a telephone, including a telephone input and a mix-minus output, both mono, but it still lacks a built-in hybrid. Not needing two-way capability, we used them with a simple in/out switch, an isolation transformer and a standard Western Electric 2500 desk phone set. This way we were able to send and receive phone feeds — just not at the same time. The unit is tough enough to connect directly to a standard telephone line and pick off incoming audio; connected to a modern telephone hybrid, though, you can have a full-duplex on-air conversation with the device.
I was pleased by the small form factor and by all the features. The built-in headphone amp is loud enough for even the deafest jock. The LED VU meters are nice and bright. The potentiometer have a solid feel and everything ran in a good, linear range on the controls — not too far up or down.
The only thing I didn't like was that there was a fair amount of bleed-through from the line input to the output, even with the potentiometer all the way down. In our application, we fixed this problem by dialing the router to a dead channel when not in use, and I'm told that Henry has fixed with this issue in later units.
USB adds flexibility
Since the introduction of the Studio Drive, Henry Engineering has released the USB Adaptor, which connects the audio mixer to a computer via a USB port. The USB Adaptor is a plug-in circuit board that mates to the Studio Drive mixer unit. It can be installed in about 30 seconds, and can be retrofitted to any Studio Drive system.
Patton is the president of Michael Patton & Associates, Baton Rouge, LA.
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