Hands-On Review:The Swiss Army DA for stage or studio.


by Michael Dennison
Over the last few years, I’ve been adding to my project studio a bit at a time. From a little plastic mixer and four-track tape recorder to a full-blown digital production facility that handles voiceovers, sound design, and recording, my little studio has seen it all. In the early days, one headphone jack was all I needed, and only then to avoid disturbing the neighbors. Somewhere along the line, things shifted and I found that I needed to feed two or three headphones at a time, so I added a headphone distribution amp to my rack.

This setup was just what I needed—it allowed me to jam with friends and record voiceover talent with ease. However, recent developments have made it clear that dishing out the same mix to everybody is far less than the ideal solution. I recently had a situation with a singer who needed so much of herself in the headphones that the other band members were not only getting short-changed in the mix, they were also getting short-tempered. I was able to solve the problem by pressing that old plastic mixer into play by routing the eight-bus signal outputs to the mixer, and creating an entirely different mix that focused on the singer. Had any of the other band members felt the need for their own special mix, I would have been in deep trouble!

The solution
One week later, a Musician’s Friend review package arrived at my door. I opened the box, and found bliss in the form of a blue-anodized box—the Furman HDS-16 Headphone/Audio Distribution System, and its companion piece, the HRM-16 Remote Mixing System. After a quick peek at the manual, I realized that this is the perfect solution for the “more me” dilemma. No longer would I need to be stuck with one mix for every performer.

Furman HRM-16 Personal Headphone Mixing StationTell it to the DA
Unlike my current headphone distribution amp, the Furman HDS system separates the distribution amp (the
HDS-16) and the headphone mixer (the HRM-16). The two-rackspace HDS-16 Distribution Amp locates the source input jacks on the front panel, making it ideally suited for life in or near your patch bay. With both TT and 1/4" front-panel jacks at your disposal, it’ll fit nicely in any pro or semi-pro setting. It accepts eight mono inputs, numbered 1-8, into either the TT or the 1/4" jacks, plus four stereo-pair inputs, labeled A-D. Other front face controls include talkback I/O that patches into the mixer’s talkback system, and a switch that solos stereo pair D. This is perfect for feeding the main mix to the studio so the talent can listen without running back to the control room after every take.

On the rear panel, six 50-pin Centronics connectors send both power and signal to the remote units. The HDS-16 has enough juice to power eight separate HRM-16 mixers—six from the HDS-16, and two daisy-chained off of the HRM-16.

Jack in the mix
HRM-16 is analogous to my little plastic mixer (albeit of far superior quality) in that it allows the performer to make their own custom mix. That’s where the similarity ends, though. It will mix up to 16 channels (eight mono channels with pan knobs, plus four stereo pairs), features two stereo headphone outputs, bass and treble shelving EQ, a mono-send/stereo-return effects loop, line out, master volume, and a built-in mic/talkback system that lets you communicate with the control room and other musicians between takes. Two connectors on the back accept the signal from the HDS-16, and let you connect another HRM-16 in series.

Furman HDS-16 Headphone Audio Distribution AmpJack of all trades There are a number of ways this system can be used beyond the normal studio headphone distribution application. At a live gig, instead of compromising everybody else’s stage mix to deliver a blend that’s geared for the lead singer, give each musician or section an HRM-16, and create an individual mix for each. Not only will the band be thrilled with their personalized monitor mix—by hearing more of what they need, they’re likely to play and perform better as well.

Another great use of the HDS is to provide a separate mix for live recording. Dedicate one of the six outputs to an eight-channel submix and build a stereo mix complete with effects. Run the outputs of the HRM-16 into the two-track recorder of your choice and capture your band for posterity!

I recently needed to distribute two individual mixes to three different destinations—a stereo cassette and video recorder, and a mono broadcast transmitter. I finally used multiple splitters and aux channels, and ended up with more cable spaghetti than I care to remember. I got the job done, but it would have been much simpler and less time-consuming using the HDS system. Using one HRM-16, I could use the two stereo outs to feed the cassette and video recorders, and use the effects loop to create an alternate mono mix to send to the broadcast transmitter.

In conclusion
It was a good day when the HDS system landed on my door. It opened up a lot of new possibilities I hadn’t considered before—possibilities that will not only make my studio clients happier, but will give me the flexibility to take on gigs I wouldn’t have considered previously. In other words, the HDS system rocks, and I’ve decided that it deserves a place in my arsenal of audio tools.

Musician’s Friend has the HDS-16 and HRM-16 in stock at great prices. Take this opportunity to boost your studio’s capabilities today.

Features & Specs

  • Winner of Mix’s 2001 TEC Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement
  • Custom headphone/monitor mix
  • Perfect for tracking, overdubbing, rehearsal, and onstage monitor mixing
  • HDS-16 routes 8 mono and 4 stereo signals to HRM-16
  • HRM-16 designed for tabletop or mic stand mounting
  • Built-in talkback system
  • 25' linking cable included with each HRM-16 unit
  • All inputs balanced
  • Line outputs balanced or single ended
  • 3-year limited warranty