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34 l August 2012

livefeature Footprints in the

ONCE COMPACT, always compact. Now that processing has been separated from control, it seems there’s no going back. Flexibility is everything, and in the smallest possible space users appear to require the greatest number of options. How long this inverse ratio will continue is anybody’s guess, but it shows no signs of market fatigue. Allen & Heath’s iLive concept has been pushing this envelope from its inception, dividing MixRack from its surfaces by a single Cat5. For Allen & Heath’s R&D director Rob Clark, God is in the detail. “A key development within iLive has been high-quality, digitally controlled mic preamps,” he says, “which help immensely in reducing control density – particularly on systems with high channel counts – as well as providing resetability and remote control, allowing the preamp to be at the point of signal connection. “We’ve been able to keep the

iLive surface compact through custom channel LCD design, touchscreen technology and efficient power supply design. Careful user interface design has enabled easy-to-use channel strip layering for reduced surface width, culminating in the iLive- R72: a 19” rackmount, 72- channel strip surface capable of controlling a 64 x 32 mix engine.”

UNDER THE unique and industry-bending auspices of Uli Behringer’s The Music Group, compact digital consoles are reaching down from the high end and up from entry level. No one knows exactly how the co-existence of affordable Midas mixers and ambitious Behringer mixers will pick apart industry sales channels,

“Our new mix engine minimises input to output latency, so that routing audio from a channel to a bus, then to L-R and finally to a matrix, has one of the smallest signal processing delays among the current market leaders,” adds Cadac’s senior development manager, Peter Hearl.

ARRAY OF LIGHT Sheldon Radford, Avid’s senior product manager for live systems & consoles, knows when the chips are down. “Being able to ride the processor wave has been key to reducing the size and cost of digital desks,” he states. “Whether it’s a multicore Intel chip running the operating system or a powerful DSP or FPGA processing audio, the physical components are now

“We decided not to go down the route of 3D-rendered analogue graphics. Instead we copied the aviation

industry: clear, precise information when the user wants it” Peter Hearl, Cadac

much more integrated and pack greater capability into a smaller form factor, and often use less power. Just as important is the trend towards audio


any more than the co- existence in the market of PreSonus and DiGiCo. But, as the 21.5kg Midas PRO1 joined the fray at InfoComm in June, the same show saw the launch of Behringer’s X32: a 128-input/output, 32-channel compact digital mixing desk with Midas- designed preamps and a $3,000 price-point.

networking, to remotely locate all I/O rather than cram it all inside the desk.” So does John Stadius at DiGiCo: “For us it’s the move from multiple DSP chips to a single FPGA,” he says. “This has allowed us to make more compact surfaces, with integrated audio processing, that can still deliver groundbreaking channel counts. It also allows us to make lower-cost models that still have the same audio quality as our SD7 and SD5 models. This has never been possible before.” At Soundcraft, product

manager Richard Ayres is another FPGA acolyte. “The advancements in FPGA technology allow us to change

the internal architecture of our systems to meet changing customer and technical requirements,” he points out. “If you need a new processor to optimise Ethernet message handling without having to reach for new physical hardware, you’ve got it. The fact these new FPGA chips do more in smaller spaces, combined with lower chip operating voltages, reduces heat, reduces power supply loading and leads to a reduction in the space needed for placement of the part and its heat-sink.” Yamaha has a long history of

developing its own DSP chips, and at the London R&D Centre senior manager of product planning Terry Holton insists there’s more to compactness than the control surface. “Creating a compact console is only part of the complete solution,” he says, “since extensive effects and signal processing is also required for most live mixing applications. While digital consoles have been able to

provide built-in alternatives to outboard processing for some time now, the quality and character of these internal processors hasn’t always been sufficient to completely replace external devices. “Recently, we’ve been

focusing much of our attention on developing more advanced algorithms to provide very high- quality internal processors that take advantage of the greater amounts of DSP power now available. VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modeling) is the key technology that has allowed us to accurately emulate highly regarded analogue processors in DSP. This has led to the Premium Rack in the new CL Series consoles, for example, which includes the Portico EQ and Compressors developed in close collaboration with Rupert Neve. When you can provide such high-quality processors inside the console itself, external devices can be increasingly eliminated, allowing the entire mixing system to become more compact.”

The CL series comprises three consoles, for all scales of show – CL1, CL3 and CL5


What makes compact digital console designs possible, and why do people want them? Phil Ward follows the strongest technology trail since line array…

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