Audio products

If the NAB2005 North Hall filled with audio products were a song, it might have been the tune “Happy Days Are Here Again!” It was the busiest show in recent memory, and the mood in the aisles was upbeat.

Solutions aplenty

To support remote recording, Edirol demonstrated the R-4 portable field recorder. Small size, high quality, portability and long battery life make this a good fit for anyone needing to store digital audio for later production. The recorder's connectors support full control functions for Sony HDV cameras.

Apple introduced its Soundtrack Pro software for audio editing and sound design. The program features a waveform editor with flexible Action Layers that allow users to instantly re-order, bypass or change any edit, effect or process. The new Mac-only software package has a new Intelligent Find-and-Fix feature, which provides a quick fix for common audio problems such as background noise, pops, clicks and hum.

Audio-Technica featured three new products: the AT892 MicroSet micro miniature mic, 2000 series wireless mic system and the AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone. The AT892 is a miniature omnidirectional condenser headworn mic. It has an ergonomic under-ear design and a flexible contoured loop that hooks behind either the right or left ear for a secure, comfortable fit.

Azden showed its new 100LT UHF wireless microphone system designed for smaller DV cameras. The 100LT has 63 user-selectable frequencies. Its compact size allots the mic to fit directly in a camera's light shoe. The company also demonstrated its APS 25 wireless powered speaker system, available with VHF, UHF and infrared wireless transmission, as well as its popular SGM-1000 phantom-powered (or battery-operated) shotgun microphone that features a switchable low-cut filter and a shock-mount mic holder and windscreen.

Sometimes considered the ‘big Kahuna’ of audio software, Avid's Digidesign announced several new products at the show. The ICON D-Command is a new control system for Pro Tools|HD and is smaller than the original D-Command large-format console.

In a standing room only booth, Digidesign unveiled the newest version of Pro Tools 6.9 for the PC and Mac with a new cross-platform feature set and enhanced tools for video post production. One noteworthy announcement was Digidesign's new DigiDelivery 2.0 file delivery system. The program allows post facilities to securely exchange of digital files of any size.

Facilities that have adopted the DigiDelivery system include Warner Brothers, Fox Film, Technicolor, Ascent Media, Universal Music, SDI Media and Skywalker Sound. According to the company, the new delivery system is more secure than FTP and can save broadcast and post facilities money by eliminating overnight delivery services. Sorry Fed-X.

Digigram highlighted its first professional USB audio interface that has been specifically designed for broadcast applications. The small UAX220, which is about the size of a breakout cable, provides stereo input/output via USB. Using USB 1.1, the UAX220 is plug-and-play and provides 24-bit/48kHz audio quality with Zero-latency for direct monitoring. (There's a handy headphone jack too). The device is powered via the USB port.

Euphonix had a busy booth, at the center of which was Max Air, a 96-channel digital mixing system designed for on-air, live-to-tape and outside broadcast applications. Also spot-lighted were its System 5-B and System 5-BP digital audio mixing consoles. The System 5-P audio post mixer includes a film monitoring panel and multi-operator capability for film and TV post applications.

The System 5-BP includes dynamic automation and can support more than 300 channels for both live and audio post applications. Also new this year is the System 5-MC integrated DAW audio mixing system and the announcement that Euphonix and SAN Solutions have teamed up to offer a new audio facility network server solution, which was shown for the first time at the show.

What good is surround sound and HD audio if you can't hear it? Speaker maker Genelec hopes to help with that.

Perfect for audio control rooms measuring up to 3000cu ft, the 8030 LSE PowerPak system consists of five Genelec 8030A two-way, bi-amplified active monitors, one Genelec 7060A LSE series active subwoofer and a Genelec acoustic/tape frequency/wavelength measuring tape. In addition, an 8030 LSE PowerPak setup guide is included for accurate speaker placement, wiring and fine-tuning.

One of the more interesting products at the show was from a small company called Holophone. The Holophone-MINI surround sound microphone is specifically designed for broadcast applications. It enables instantaneous, professional quality, 5.1 surround sound capture on any camera for broadcast ENG and field applications.

The Innkeeper 2 is a new two-line, rack-mount digital hybrid telephone interface from JK Audio. The front-panel keypad, display and handset jacks provide easy speed dialing and call setup. Digital hybrids allow you to send signals into the phone line while maintaining excellent separation between your voice and the caller. The balanced XLR output jacks contain only the caller's voice, so there's no more transmit/receive crosstalk common to analog units. It's only 7.2lbs and is about half the price of its competitors.

What is smaller than a pack of tictacs yet captures great audio? The new Lectrosonics SuperMini (SM) audio wireless transmitter. Housed in a tiny splash-proof package, the SM features a native digital hybrid, so there's no analog compandor. Lectrosonics' patent-pending Digital Hybrid Wireless technology provides both 24-bit digital audio and analog FM signal transmission to encode a digital signal delivering a 107dB signal-to-noise ratio and a flat frequency response.

NAB2005 saw Linear Acoustic leaving visitors impressed with its new LA-5421 StreamStacker audio bitstream multiplexer and LA-512 StreamStacker multiplexer and AC-3 splicer. The new LA-5124 offers enhanced channel density by extracting up to four 5.1 channel AC-3 encoded programs from a single AES-format digital signal. Stacked AC-3 streams produced by the companion model LA-521 multiplexer are fully compatible with all Dolby-certified AC-3 audio decoders.

Mackie, now a LOUD Technologies company, had plenty to show. Tracktion 2 is Mackie's updated audio recording and production software. It sports a clutter-free user interface, multitrack digital audio recording, automated mix down, full VST instrument and plug — in support. The program can import and export all major audio file formats, and is cross-platform Mac- and PC-compatible.

The new NAGRA V is a portable, digital two-channel recorder designed for television, film and documentary work. Recording 16-bit or 24-bit up to 96kHz on a removable hard disk, the recorder features pre-record, camera return monitoring, timecode with chase synchronizer, routable inputs, internal hard drive storage and audio limiter circuitry. It also records post-production compatible BWF files. According to the firm, the NAGRA V is designed as the successor to the popular NAGRA IVS-TC and is a possible replacement for R-DAT.

Neural Audio showed off its new NeuStar MultiMerge 5.1 product and announced that TV stations were already using it to broadcast 5.1 surround sound 24/7. Using sound from a two-channel mono or stereo source, the MultiMerge transcodes and merges audio sources and then provides an uninterrupted stream of 5.1 surround sound. According to the company, it is a simple and effective way for television affiliates to initiate 5.1 audio capabilities without breaking the bank.

When it comes to being refereed to as a “standard,” there are only a handful of companies that can claim their products are such. Neumann is one of them. Neumann booth visitors could try various mics, including the new BCM 705. The second microphone in the new Neumann broadcast line and the first Neumann dynamic microphone, the BCM 705 features the new Neumann mic capsule with mechanical suspension that helps reduce the mic's sensitivity to stand movement or handling shocks. The microphone comes with a mount that is elastically suspended and a mount that is compatible with standard broadcast-segment microphone arms.

The new Riedel DHY-101 digital telephone hybrid interface provides bi-directional communication between the intercom matrix and a standard DTMF capable analog telephone line. It features advanced DSP processing and echo canceling on both send and receive and can be used stand-alone or integrated in an artist intercom system.

Stagetec introduced an AES interface for its ORTATIS intercom. This nifty feature allows intercom signals to be sent over standard AES lines. This allows a conventional audio router to handle also the intercom feeds.

Stagetec also showed its new SDI embedding/de-embedding card for the NEXUS router. The router allows asynchronous signals to have different clock sources. This means that an SDI signal does not have to be in sync with the audio at the router. Sample rate converters on the router's XSDI board perform all the necessary conversions. Also new to the router is an optional eight-channel analog output card.

Finally, the company showed its AURUS direct-access console for live broadcasts. This sophisticated and flexible console can handle a maximum of 96 channel strips supporting 300 audio channels. The AURUS fully integrates with the NEXUS STAR digital router, which further expands the console's versatility.

Smart AV presented its Elite Series Smart Console for the first time at NAB. The Smart Console provides a touch-sensitive arc that can summon up to 96 channels directly to the operator's fingertips. The Smart Console is currently available in 48-and 96-channel configurations, with a 72-channel version coming soon. The console uses an Ethernet I/O to connect to a growing number of signal processing and routing devices and was shown interfaced to a Mac Logic Pro 7 workstation.

In a booth that resembled a small city, it was easy to see why Sony is a leader in broadcasting. Unfortunately, it was a little harder finding its audio solutions. Sony introduced two new microphones this year. The new ECM-674 shotgun microphone is compact and lightweight. Its rugged design is made for use with Sony's new line of HDV, DVCAM and XDCAM camcorders, but it can be used with others. The cost-effective mic has a two-way powering feature, which allows for either phantom power or battery operation. The new ECM-674 offers high sensitivity, low noise characteristics and both a flat and wide frequency response from 60Hz to 18kHz, with a dynamic range of at least 90dB.

For ENG applications, the Sony F-112 dynamic microphone features a rugged, ergonomic design with an omnidirectional capsule, capable of clear voice pick-up from all directions When combined with the optional wireless plug-on transmitter, the F-112 becomes an essential tool for field interviews.

Japan's Sanken has come up with the world's first dual-capsule lavaliere mic, the new COS-22. The ultra-miniature microphone measures only 1.25in in length but provides a full frequency response up to 20kHz. With two-channels, the dual-omnidirectional COS-22 is perfect for live broadcasting with a completely redundant dual capsule design with totally separated electronics.

It was standing room only as Sound Devices showed two new portable high-resolution digital audio recorders: the 722 and the 744T. Recording to an internal hard drive and/or a CompactFlash card, the small recorders capture uncompressed audio up to 24-bit at 192kHz and have analog and digital I/O's with linking capability for additional optional channels. The new 744T recorder features four channels, each with time code.

In the SSL booth was version 2 software for the SSL C100 digital broadcast console. It includes TouchPan, which provides full 5.1 panning access from one central touch screen. The mixing console features color-coded displays and comprehensive control of all surround parameter. The new software upgrade supports the I/O expansion for the Centauri core and increases the C100's range of applications by supporting 44.1kHz native sample frequency operation.

SRS Labs exhibited new enhancements to its Circle Surround (CS) product line and technology. The new Xtract 6.1 surround software utility helps users with mono or stereo audio upgrade to 6.1 channels. CS-encoded audio technology was also displayed in other booths, including Linear Acoustics and Holophone. CS encoding technology is specifically designed for the professional broadcast market, enabling instantaneous 5.1 surround sound capture.

With a 48-track hybrid hard disk workstation at its booth, TASCAM had one of its best shows in years. The new TASCAM X-48 offers the best of both the hardware and the software worlds in a state-of-the-art digital audio workstation. With 96kHz/24-bit recording across all 48 tracks and 192kHz recording across 24 tracks, the X-48 multitrack recorder also offers WAVE file and OMF import and export file support. In addition to the built-in automated 48-channel digital mixer, it has VGA display output, support for FireWire hard drives and Gigabit Ethernet with a built in DVD+RW drive for backups.

TSL could be heard at the show via the new compact loudspeaker, Cameo, which is a slim 1RU-mount audio monitoring reference speaker. With special internal processing and a state-of-the-art speaker, the unit allows the operator to hear the audio signal above the din of the broadcast operations room.

The Yamaha DM2000 audio console was shown controlling Steinberg's Nuendo and Cubase software applications and vice versa via the Studio Connections protocol. Additionally, five new proprietary add-on effects have been added to Yamaha's version 2 digital mixing consoles. The new effects plug-ins — Surround Post, Virtual Stomp, Reverb, Channel Strip and Master Strip — are designed to be used separately or in combination, and the control software is compatible with both Max OS X and Windows 2000/XP operating systems.

As another indicator of how fast 5.1 surround sound is growing, industry giant Wheatstone introduced the new SR-9 Surround Sound mixing console. A 6-channel, 5.1 surround sound (plus three stereo output mixes) digital mixer with live radio 5.1 surround sound processing, the new product features support for surround/stereo control room audio monitoring and the ability to handle four telephone callers/remotes simultaneously. For audio metering, there are switched meters with system-wide access via an embedded signal that does not require any AES signal allocations. There's an intuitive graphic interface for setup via included software that's automation-friendly with event scheduling abilities.

Wohler Technologies' new flagship product, the AMP2-E8MDA Dolby E audio monitor/converter, is a 2RU-mounted unit with a high-quality self-powered speaker system and eight 53-segment level meters. It functions both as an audio monitor and as a converter.

Zaxcom introduced the TRX900, a digital wireless microphone transceiver that can be custom-ordered with a wide array of features. The TRX900 has a unique built-in IFB that eliminates the need for on-air talent to wear two separate body packs.

New products weren't the only things going on. For audio pros at the show, there were lots of pure technology demonstrations and educational opportunities. Fresh off an IPO, Dolby Laboratories had a large impact at the show, with several technology and product announcements. The company set up a simulated broadcast center in its booth demonstrating Dolby products being used end-to-end for over-the-air, cable and satellite HDTV broadcasting. The company also announced that Dolby Digital Plus and MLP Loss less audio technologies have been approved as options for the next-generation of DVDs called Blu-ray and that Dolby Digital is to be the mandatory audio standard for the new HD capable discs. Dolby Digital Plus is the new extension of the popular Dolby Digital format used for digital cable and digital television broadcasting as well as DVD-Video. Plus is designed to offer discrete channel coverage to the newer 7.1 channel systems, as well as new streaming and mixing capabilities for the future.

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a journalist, entertainer and contributing writer and editor for Video Systems, Singer and Hawaiian Style magazines.