Tech Focus: Audio Consoles, Part 2 — Product Wrap-Up

By: Dan Daley, Audio Editor, Sports Video Group

(Read part 1: Tech Focus: Audio Consoles, Part 1 — Continued Evolution)

Audio-mixing consoles for remote broadcast are still a relatively rarefied cohort at the high end of the market, but there’s diversity within the group, thanks to demand for more consoles of varying sizes and functionality. Here’s an overview of the leading contenders.

Calrec
The Apollo’s control surface uses Bluefin2, the second generation of Bluefin high-density signal processing, which provides Apollo with 1,020 channel-processing paths, 128 program buses, 96 IFB/track outputs, and 48 auxiliaries. In addition, Apollo has a second dynamics section in each channel, more than 70 minutes of assignable delay and three independent AFL/PFL systems for multiple operator use. The Apollo control surface manages all these channels over 12 layers and up to 320 physical faders. With single- and dual-fader options, the console has a higher fader density within its footprint than any other console, according to the company. In addition, the Calrec A/B path-selection system is retained for users looking to use the desk similarly to Calrec’s Alpha platform products. Layers and the A/B path system can be disabled if not required. Featuring full-color displays and touchscreens to provide high-resolution feedback of function and status, the Apollo control surface also has light-emitting knobs that change color depending on function for immediate recognition. The surface can be configured into different operational settings to suit the operator.

Apollo’s smaller sibling, Artemis, is based on the Apollo platform and offers the same Bluefin2 and Hydra2 core technologies. Using a combination of full-color displays, touch screens, and light-emitting knobs, the soft Artemis control surface provides instant visual feedback as well as the flexibility to reconfigure the desk on the fly. Available in three sizes, Bluefin2 gives 680 channel-processing paths to Artemis Shine, 340 to Artemis Beam, and 240 to Artemis Light, with up to 128 program buses, 64 IFB/track outputs, and 32 auxiliaries. Artemis Light packs all this into a 4RU enclosure. An integrated router enables all I/O functions to be performed by Hydra2, using high-capacity crosspoint routers and a variety of I/O units.

The Summa console is designed for broadcast professionals who may not require as many resources as the Apollo and Artemis consoles. Control is via a 17-in. multitouch screen inspired by familiar tablet technology, with a straightforward interface that uses established finger gestures to navigate the system. Summa’s considered control simplifies even complex workflow tasks, such as creating mix-minus feeds. Bluefin2 technology offers a pool of 180 channel-processing paths, eight groups, four mains, 16 auxes, and 32 tracks. The Hydra2 router core provides Summa with the same integral router technology as the Apollo and Artemis consoles.

Hydra2 is Calrec’s audio-routing system. Its plug-and-play architecture enables consoles to be connected as easily as their routers, with a single connection between routers providing 512 audio signals in both directions and enormous network expansion. The router does not require an entire console system to function; so complex networks can be created with minimal cost. Based on 8,192-squared router modules, Hydra2 allows connection of audio sources and system components over copper or fiber, with signals routed to any consoles or I/O boxes on the same network. www.calrec.com

DiGiCo
The SD10B follows in the footsteps of the SD7B, deploying Stealth digital processing with Super FPGA processing, floating-point precision, and superior analog conversion. The console has 96 channels, 48 buses, two discrete backstop PFL solo buses, and smart-key macro triggers. A 15-in. touchscreen, 37 touch-sensitive faders, and an on-the-fly–customizable work surface allow the user to quickly access console parameters.

The DiGiCo Optocore optical network can support up to five consoles and 14 DiGiCo SD-Racks totaling 504 inputs and outputs; an optional second network doubles this. The new audio router allows any input source routing to any output source, including to and from MADI. The modular SD-Rack can be configured with everything from analog to AES, Aviom, HD-SDI, Dante, and more. Two new racks, the SD-Mini Rack (four slots) and SD-Nano Rack (two slots), are available.

Sources can be injected directly into another console’s monitor matrix, allowing monitoring of any source on the network without using additional DSP channels. 5.1 surround inputs can be stacked onto a single fader, linked, then folded and unfolded on the surface with the touch of a button. Assignable macros facilitate such functions as fader start and stop commands, as well as snapshot scene recall.

New for 2014 are the Waves plugins expanded to 32 racks on all consoles, including Dugan automixer, WLM loudness meter, and WNS dialog noise suppressor. The newer SD9B and SD11B offer flexibility in smaller packages. With 48 and 32 mono and/or stereo channels, respectively, both consoles use the same large touchscreen and processing engine as the SD10B and can now be integrated into the same Optocore network. Optocore FX series can be used for additional analog AES intercom and MADI connections. The ultra-compact 12-fader SD11B is rack-mountable; the SD9B doubles up at 24 faders in a desktop package. www.digiconsoles.com

Lawo
The mc² Series mixing consoles for broadcast production, sports, and entertainment combine audio performance with flexibility to accommodate both conventional and IP-based infrastructures. High reliability and scalability underlie both the mc²66 and mc²56, which are offered in multiple configurations and channel counts, with frames optimized for everything from mobiles and flypacks to large production consoles. Highlights include the ability to quickly modify and configure systems and DSP resources, including assignment of any channels as mono, stereo, or up to 7.1 surround channels, with built-in loudness metering, up/downmix capabilities, highly programmable Audio-follow-Video functionality, and an automix feature that automatically adjusts levels of multiple microphones while keeping a constant ambient level.

To further streamline workflow, the system offers external GUI operation and the ability to prepare, store, and recall snapshots and productions that can be used to rapidly bring the console online in a variety of configurations supporting two or more operators. The console cores and Nova central routers offer multiple configuration options enabling mc² Series surfaces to be linked within a large broadcasting complex. Audio-over-IP integration platform supports AES67 and RAVENNA protocols. EMBER+ protocols are supported for automation and studio/remote-management applications. Additional audio-management features — embedding, de-embedding, channel shuffling, delay, and audio-channel mapping — are supported via Lawo’s new V_pro8. www.lawo.com

Solid State Logic
The C100 HD PLUS fully scalable digital broadcast console offers an ergonomic user interface and delivers fully redundant dual-operator–capable operation in a compact, convection-cooled frame suitable for OB-vehicle installation. C100 offers production-assistant–type features designed to streamline broadcast-audio production: dialogue automix, 5.1 upmix, DAW control, and C-Play embedded dual-player playout system. C100 and its range of I/O provides system-wide integration with comprehensive connectivity options; compatibility with Grass Valley, Ross, Sony, and Mosart production-automation systems; compatibility with Riedel RockNet and Optocore installed audio networks; and interface to Dante IP Audio Networks via the SSL MADI-Bridge.

The C10 HD PLUS compact, mid-scale broadcast console features a user-friendly interface that delivers the power of the larger C100 console in a smaller footprint. SSL’s Blackrock processor is built into the convection-cooled control surface, suiting it to OB-vehicle installation. C10 offers the same range of I/O options and software features as the C100, including production-assistant–type features to streamline broadcast-audio production: dialogue automix, 5.1 upmix, DAW control, and C-Play. Its range of I/O provides system-wide integration with comprehensive connectivity options; compatibility with Grass Valley, Ross, Sony and Mosart production-automation systems; compatibility with Riedel RockNet and Optocore installed audio networks; and interface to Dante IP Audio Networks via the SSL MADI-Bridge. solid-state-logic.com/

Stagetec
Three consoles for on-air broadcast share similar modular surface designs and DSP and I/O-routing architecture. Designed specifically for live work, they feature hot-swap capability, up to four independently controlled mic splits, full redundancy up to double optical lines, light weight, and extremely low power consumption.

The flagship multiformat-production console, AURUS, is available in 16-96 faders and 300 DSP channels with 128 buses. It works in 5.1 and 7.1 surround, and stereo and mono can be done simultaneously with on-board down/upmix capabilities and separate multiple-bus configurations. The console offers fully motorized dynamic fader automation and editable snapshot and scene automation.

The CRESCENDO mixing console is a response to increased demand for a slimmed-down control surface and price with the DSP power available in the larger AURUS when needed. All controls are within easy reach of a seated operator. Snapshot automation is extensive, with ability to set glide times between snapshots for enhanced audio-follow-video control. AFV muting and level changes via external control are readily available through the NEXUS LOGIC system.

The ON AIR Flex 24 latest digital mixing system is aimed at the radio and smaller TV-broadcast markets. The modular, flexible, and scalable system features control surfaces that can be laid out to the broadcaster’s specification for combo, studio, or edit operation. The work surface comprises self-contained fader modules (four in each and up to 24 faders per system) and a monitor module. The GUI software runs on any PC linked via Ethernet to the controller unit mounted in the system frame. Once set up and running, the GUI simulates all control elements so that operators have full access to every control on the physical control surface, including all metering, faders, and encoders. www.usa.stagetec.com

Studer
Studer recently introduced its Vista X digital console and Infinity Processing Engine. The Vista X retains the Vistonics and FaderGlow user interface from previous versions in the Vista line, providing control of 800 or more audio DSP channels and more than 5,000 inputs and outputs. At the heart of the system is the Infinity DSP core, which uses CPU-based processors to provide huge numbers of DSP channels for large-scale, high-resolution audio processing and mixing. This offers significant advantages, with CPU processing providing a scalable system, faster development of new signal-processing designs, huge channel counts, full system redundancy without a single point of failure, and the possibility of running third-party algorithms.

The new Infinity DSP engine provides 12 A-Link high-capacity fiber digital audio interfaces, providing more than 5,000 inputs and outputs. A newly designed high-density I/O system, known as D23m, is used to break out these A-Link connections to standard analog, digital, and video interfaces. The A-Link interface also provides direct connection to the Riedel MediorNet distributed router, allowing many Infinity systems to be connected with router capacities of 10,000 squared or more. A key element in the design of the Infinity Series is to prevent a single fault’s causing loss of audio, and the new Vista X console features four processors, offering complete redundancy of the control surface with instant switchover between main and standby system without audio break. www.studer.ch