Review: Symetrix Jupiter 8

Last time we looked at installing the “EZ” button. The heart of that project is the subject of today’s review; the Symetrix Jupiter 8. The Jupiter line is comprised of three units, the 4, 8 and 12. The Jupiter 4 is a 4x4 model, the 8 an 8x8 while the 12 is a 12x4. 

There are no controls on the front, and from an install perspective, I like that.

What is clever about the Jupiter line is how they are configured. Symetrix calls the configurations “Apps,” after the smart phone model. “Apps,” are really pre-built configurations. To be fair, there are a bunch of apps, and more are being added all the time in response to customer demand. So while it’s not a true “drag and drop” DSP (for that check out the Solus line, it’s pretty amazing), there is plenty of power in the system, and chances are you can find a configuration “App” that will meet your needs.

For our room, I wanted to be able to do a stereo PA with subs, plus two mono delay speakers and a record out. On the input side, I needed stereo L&R from the mixer, two mono mic inputs from the wireless mics, a stereo video input and a stereo iPod cable. After a little looking, I settled on the Sound Reinforcement #5 App. I should have looked a little farther because Sound Reinforcement #7 would have actually been a slightly better choice, but the minor improvements don’t make it worth it to re-do the whole set up.

The EQ is full featured, though I would have preferred a finer window. -48 dB is a bit excessive.

I’m not sure if it wasn’t available in version 1 of the software, or if I just missed it, but it’s possible to easily drag and drop module settings from one to another. For example, the way the speaker management is set up, you can’t gang the L&R output EQ. But you can get the left set up the way you want and quickly control-drag it to the right EQ. 

You can create custom presets that can change things down to a single output channel EQ Q setting. but they missed simple things like a “select all” button. Instead, if you want to capture a speaker management setting, you have to click roughly 50 checkboxes, twice if you want both channels. That’s a lot of ticking checkboxes. UPDATE: Turns out you can shift-click checkboxes, so it only takes a few clicks to select the entire range. So that's better. END UPDATE

It's powerful, but would a "Select All" and "Select None" button been that hard to add?

Another interface gaff is the inability to move through fields with the tab key. You can double click on any parameter number and directly enter the value, but if you want to use the keyboard to knock out a bunch of values, you’ll have to keep one hand on the mouse. This is a pretty common omission, which puzzles me every time I see it (the Roland S-MADI Bridge software has the same shortcoming).

Once you get over that, the processor is actually pretty good. It sounds reasonably good, certainly on par with other processors in this price range. The amount of DSP in the package is quite impressive and I had no trouble getting the system sounding good, and setting up system limiting and building my EZ preset system. 

Keep in mind, this is just the DSP configuration of the App I chose. There are many others.

The system is quite easy to use. The control layout makes sense in general, though it did take some experimenting to make sure we understood exactly how the matrix router worked (ProTip for Symetrix: Labels are helpful). 

The output DSP is quite full-featured. Apps are available with 2-, 3- and 4-way crossovers.

Attempting to delve into every single capability of the Jupiter 8 would take far too long. Instead, I’ll hit a few highlights. First, the 8x8 architecture is significant at this price point. Most systems in the $1000-ish range are 2x8 or 4x8. Having those extra 4 inputs enabled me to build a very useful EZ mode for my room. 

Second, the ARC control network is very clever and useful. The two control panels I installed are connected via ARC using Cat5 cable. With the right control panels, you can even send audio over the Cat5, which could be very useful if you need a way to distribute audio throughout your campus, or provide a mic or line plug in on stage somewhere. Symetrix also included four logic outputs that are very handy for switching external things on and off; for example, at some point, I will eliminate the wall-mounted light switches in our community room that turn the amps on and off; we already switch the delay amp on and off based on the preset that’s active.

I would have preferred an IEC power connector, but oh well.

Third, the unit has an Ethernet jack on it and is network accessible. Now, to you and me, it’s 2011, and we’ve been using Ethernet to connect computers and stuff for, oh…what, 15 years now. But the pro audio world is just discovering this magical interface (if I see one more RS-232 only controlled product released in this decade, I’m going to go ballistic). One of the big selling points for me was the ability to drop the Jupiter on my network and control it from anywhere. For the TD that likes to stay home on his day off but still needs to field troubleshooting calls, this is a big deal. 

Adding and editing external controls is drop-dead simple. No funky code language, just selection options from menus.

Finally, version 2 of the software introduces the new ARC-Web control. ARC-Web allows you to create a mobile or web version of any of the wall controls that is accessible from anywhere on the net. Yes, you’re reading that right; you can switch presets and adjust volumes from your iPhone. Or Android. Or iPad. The system is smart enough to detect what browser you’re using and present the menu in the appropriate format. Not that long ago, doing something like this required a Crestron or AMX system and a lot of programming. Now it’s a few clicks away. 

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, the Jupiter includes a calendar that can fire off event changes to recall various operating presets. I have my system set up to switch back and forth between four modes all week long, all without any user intervention. And the wall-mounted menu makes it easy to override those choices if the user prefers. 

Overall, I give the Jupiter a solid B+. If anyone from Symetrix reads this, give me a call and with a few simple software tweaks, we can get it into the A+ grade really quickly. 

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