29 Jul 2015

Review: Meyer Sound CAL

Smarter than your average column speaker

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Something I really like about Meyer Sound is that their solutions to challenging audio problems are founded firmly in science, not marketing. Every functional design decision is made for a reason based on actual physics.

CAL, or the Column Array Loudspeaker from Meyer was designed with the specific purpose of vocal reproduction in acoustically difficult environments. It doesn’t do anything much at all below 125Hz – not because they couldn’t have made it work, but because that’s not what it’s designed to do. It was designed for speech, and the majority of human voices don’t have a lot going on under 100 or even 200Hz.


While CAL provides a horizontal coverage angle of 120 degrees, the cleverness of it lies in its vertical coverage, which can be electronically steered. The vertical coverage can be switched between 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 degrees, and it can also be steered up or down in one degree increments by as much as 30 degrees. A common misconception about how this works is that the drivers inside the cabinet physically change angles to adjust the vertical coverage, but this is not the case. The coverage is altered by changing the timing relationship between the transducers.

CAL is available in three different sizes – CAL 32, CAL 64, and CAL 96. The larger two models allow the vertical coverage to be split into two sections, meaning you can use one CAL to cover a floor
and balcony area. The model numbers reflect the number of transducers in each unit, and there are effectively three 20mm tweeters for every one 4” driver. Each driver has its own DSP and digital amplification channel. Little wonder that at just over 3m tall, CAL 96 weighs 78.5kg – not actually very heavy at all when you consider how much stuff is jammed inside!

Meyer Sound isn’t the only company to make a steerable column speaker, so it’s important to address the points that distinguish CAL. First up, CAL is AVB capable and AVnu Alliance certified. It has dual AVB ports on EtherCon connectors, and you can input up to three AVB signals. If you don’t want to input AVB, CAL also has three analogue inputs with loop-throughs as well as AES/EBU input, all on phoenix connectors. Also on the same type of connector are GPIO terminals for mute and override, logic inputs to change presets, and even NC and NO fault contacts. It’s perfectly setup to integrate with 3rd party control systems or paging systems.

The way CAL will work in a space can be predicted using Meyer’s MAPP system. Once it’s installed, CAL is controlled by Compass software. Compass provides a visual representation of what the vertical coverage is doing, as well as access other features such as the on-board parametric EQ. Four “preset” configurations can be built and uploaded into the CAL. The upload takes several minutes, but once it’s done, switching between configurations is fast – less than a second. The CAL mutes its output briefly while it switches from one config to another.

The steering is quite phenomenal to experience. We setup four presets – one with a 5 degree vertical and another with 30 degree, both exiting at 0 degree. We made another preset with a 5 degree splay angled 30 degrees downward, and switching between them the change was very obvious.

The spec says that the CAL 32 we tried is good for 106dB at 30 metres. This distance extends to 60 metres for CAL 64, or a whopping 90m for CAL 96. Frequency response is 105Hz – 15kHz +/-4dB (free field 1/3 octave resolution @ 4m).

Who has a room 90 metres long? Well, airports do for a start, as do some churches, sporting complexes, and many other public spaces. Of course you don’t actually need a room at all, since straight out of the box CAL is weather proof and ready to install outdoors. It’s not even an option, it’s already included in the price, as is custom colour matching. Also included in the price is full RMS monitoring and even data logging right there inside Compass. The level of detail available in the monitoring is staggering – you can see exactly what each part of the speaker is doing.

CAL does exactly what it says it does in the spec elegantly, and precisely. It sounds good, and more importantly provides the user a fantastic tool to achieve high level speech intelligibility in difficult spaces, with the flexibility to adjust coverage on the fly as the application or audience size demands.

  • Brand:  Meyer Sound
  • Model:  CAL 32
  • RRP: AUD $23,547.00 Ex GST, including brackets, weather protection and colour matching.
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