The inevitable move to HD broadcasting requires a near-universal need for a new audio infrastructure. Fortunately, manufacturers are armed with a slew of new products aimed at making the transition as painless as possible. The recurring themes at audio displays were consistent and comforting: future-proofing, ease of use and awesome sound quality.
Digital mixing consoles
It's clear that, like broadcasting itself, the future of mixing is digital. The channel-hungry appetite of 5.1 surround with metadata demands a platform-based approach, with lots of processing power, a fast learning curve and seamless integration. The good news for broadcasters is that the console makers are ahead of the curve.
Calrec used its new console, the Bluefin-powered Omega, as a centerpiece to explain the secret behind its Bluefin engine. By using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), the desks provide complete mixing control, including 480 processing paths and 19 minutes of delay, on a single card. The efficiency of this design is ideal for mixing consoles, particularly in an HD environment.
Euphonix introduced the S5 Fusion console. This hybrid desk combines the DSP power of a large film console with the DAW control of the System 5-MC control surface. Using the EuCon protocol, the S5 Fusion offers full simultaneous control of several DAWs and applications, while still offering 24 independent channels with full DSP, making system expansion a simple matter of adding new workstations.
Solid State Logic (SSL) announced the HD upgrade of its C300 master studio system, a scalable design that also offers DAW control. The company has also re-engineered its 100 series consoles, including the C100 HD-S, a slim-line design offering 64 faders in a 92in frame, plus new version 4 software and a compact front-loading processor option.
Germany-based Lawo now offers its mc290 large format production console and mc266 broadcast mixing desk in North America. Lawo practices a holistic approach, using third-party control software to unify the audio and video chains.
Building on the success of the Vista 5 console, Studer has announced the release of a larger version that includes 42 faders and enables two-man operation. The company also announced the availability of an optional Dolby E I/O card for seamless decoding of 5.1 and metadata en route to the board.
Best known for powerful control surfaces, Fairlight also offers its Crystal Core technology in the form of the CC-1 plug-in card, a system on a chip that converts a computer into a multiprocessing media center. Yamaha announced version 2.0 of its PM5D consoles, including a rack-mount version, the DSP5D, and 30 new features.
While the entire signal chain may have gone digital, there's no denying that actual audio is analog. There was no shortage of new input devices on the show floor, many of them keyed to capturing surround sound without the need for time-consuming multimic setups.
Holophone announced it has licensed Dolby Pro Logic decoding into its H4 SuperMINI camera-mount surround mic. The company also introduced the SideWinder-6, designed to encode a 5.1 signal into stereo when using any of the company's surround mics.
Soundfield's DSF-2 system combines a multicapsule microphone with a rack-mount controller to allow decoding of its proprietary B-format output into any required format from 7.1 down to mono simultaneously. The company also now offers a Surround Zone decoding plug-in for use with most common DAWs.
Schoeps' approach adds an additional rear-facing capsule to the traditional midside stereo mic. The Double M/S Set uses three capsules to create five discrete channels using its MDMS U decoder.
Another microphone of note is the Neumann KM D miniature digital series, which takes audio into the digital domain immediately after it reaches the diaphragm. At the other end of the spectrum, Heil Sound introduced the stylish Deco Fin microphone, based on a 1.5in dynamic diaphragm that rivals the fidelity of condensers.
Wireless and digital recorders
These disparate categories have been slowly merging in the digital world, creating new functionality for field crews. The Zaxcom digital wireless line has added two transmitters, the TRX700 plug-on and ZFR800 handheld, both of which offer onboard recording of the transmitted audio with time code. The company also previewed the Deva 5.8 hard disk recorder, featuring 10 channels of recording to hard disk, DVD-RAM or CompactFlash.
Korg has entered the digital recorder sweepstakes, introducing the iPod-sized MR-1 and tabletop MR-1000 hard drive recorders. Both employ 1-bit recording for easy conversion to formats up to 24-bit and 192kHz without degradation.
Lectrosonics introduced the UM450, a digital hybrid wireless transmitter with extended range and interference resistance. Field producers will appreciate the updated SM miniature transmitters, which now include a GORE-TEX membrane to lock out moisture.
Audio-Technica unveiled the ATW-R1820 dual-channel wireless receiver with camera mount and outputs that can be used independently or mixed live. The company also introduced two stereo shotgun mics (9in and 15in) with onboard Mid-Side matrixing and switch-selectable stereo outputs.
Ultimately, after capture, encoding, processing and mixing, the audio must be heard. Digital ears remain a pipe dream, so we will always have loudspeakers. Digidesign announced its new RM1 and RM2 reference monitors.
JBL showed its LSR4300 series compact 5.1 monitor system, which incorporates HiQnet networking and a new version of its RMC technology, allowing one-touch compensation for low-frequency room anomalies.
Finally, for those who live in cans, Beyerdynamic offers its Headzone 5.1 monitoring system, which uses binaural environment modeling and ultrasonic head-tracking to recreate a 5.1 field within an enclosed headphone listening environment.
Jack Kontney is president of Kontney Communications, a Chicago-based content creation and marketing consultancy specializing in professional audio.
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