Neutrik Test Instruments
Minilyzer ML1 Review


by Eddie Ciletti

NTI is independent of the connector company of the same name **

  Have you been avoiding the plunge into the world of geek-dom? Neutrik has solved that problem once and for all by packing an arsenal of the most essential and powerful measurement tools into an affordable user-friendly package called the "Minilyzer." The "street" price at MCM $399. The ML1 is a handheld audio analyzer designed to be used at the moment an audio mystery appears — because we all know that when the technician shows up the problem will be gone...

In addition to the primary capabilities of this powerful little box — detailed in the seven major headings below — there are a handful of "little things" that make the ML1 about as audio-friendly as a piece of test equipment can be. For example, most portable and affordable test equipment is often unbalanced, a serious issue when trying to measure a balanced device under real-world conditions. The ML1 includes a balanced XLR input as well as an unbalanced RCA input. Three AA batteries supply power, automatic turn-off time is adjustable and four user presets allow the ML1 to boot into your favorite mode. There is even a headphone jack.

Of the Seven Functions, many are intermixed within the large, easy-to-read, backlit LCD screen. For example, the LCD is large enough to display LEVEL in large bold characters while simultaneously including an analog-style linear-meter at the bottom, a frequency counter in the upper left corner, plus an inspired Input Balance indicator in the upper right corner. (See heading # 5.)

NOTE: Despite the piccolo footprint, la machina (the ML1) is quite capable of getting you into trouble. Translation: It is just as easy to take a bad measurement as a good one. Please read the Sidebar: The Ultimate Test, to learn how to compile real data.

1. LEVEL
The ML1 displays the RMS value of a sine wave test signal in milliVolts (mV), as well as the relative level in dBu and dBV, referenced to 0.775volts and 1volt RMS, respectively. In addition, the ML1 has a RELATIVE mode for precise comparisons of two or more signals — Left and Right, for example — with a signal-to-noise ratio as wide as 119dB!

NOTE: For years, technicians purchased the Fluke 8060A ($479 @ www.i-mcm.com) for its ability to measure RMS volts and dBu / dBm. The Fluke doesn’t do dBV, its noise floor bottoms out @-74 dBu (compared to -99dBu for the ML1) and it’s too old to have the DSP to do ALL the sexy things that the ML1 can do. Because the Fluke is a Volt-Ohm-MilliAmp meter, however, it has no upper level limit — compared to the ML1’s 7.75volt / +20dBu ceiling. I would like to see this ceiling raised 10dB.

2. THD+N
When measuring Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N), the "+N" infers that Noise is included as part of the measurement process. How can it not be? Unless pushing a device purposefully into the red, you hope that both distortion and any noises — hiss and hum — are way down in the sub-basement of random electron movement. The only way to easily separate distortion from noise is to use the built-in 3rd Octave analyzer. More details under 3rd Octave, heading #7.

Inside the ML1 is an A-to-D converter capable of 119 dB of dynamic resolution. The sample rate limits bandwidth (frequency response) to 20kHz, as pointed out by Neutrik in the manual. This can potentially yield different (most likely lower) readings relative to more sophisticated gear, but only when in the LINEAR (flat response) mode. Analog test equipment is not bound to the sample rate. The Hewlett Packard Model 8903B Audio Analyser, for example, has a 30kHz "window."




Reprinted with permission from Eddie Ciletti, Tangible Technology, 2001
© 2001 by Eddie Ciletti, All Rights Reserved



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