Audio Quality: It’s Not Just About Loudness

Nugen Audio recently added timecode functionality to its VisLM: Visual Loudness software, allowing operators to greatly precisely reference alerts, true-peak overs, maximum values and other indicators to picture.

LOS ANGELES—As the broadcast television production environment becomes increasingly more complex, audio monitoring product manufacturers are releasing innovative devices to meet the challenge. The focus is no longer just loudness monitoring; new products also address issues of multiplatform remote access, limited real estate and monitoring of more formats.

Wohler offered a sneak peek at the NAB Show of its next-generation iON monitoring solution, which provides remote access and control from computers and handheld devices with real-time streaming video and audio content for viewing and monitoring.

“Our iON product leverages Wohler’s world-class technologies to meet evolving signal management and confidence monitoring needs from a single platform that users can control from any web-enabled device,” said John Terrey, vice president of sales for the San Francisco-based company. “iON provides real-time streaming of content and metadata from locally installed, modular rackmounted hardware devices that manage all I/O connections at their source so that the remote user—working virtually anywhere on a tablet, smartphone or computer—can perform content checks and critical analysis of audio, video and related metadata from multiple facilities. Audio, video captioning/subtitling, loudness, metadata, MADI and MPEG stream monitoring and analysis all are available from one user-configurable software interface.”

Responding to the relatively recent adoption by the broadcast industry of the two-decades-old MADI transport, Wohler also launched its AMP1-MADIe unit, available in single- and multi-mode versions, with Ethernet control and configuration earlier this year.

TSL’s versatile but cost-effective SAM1-3GM is aimed squarely at live TV production, providing monitoring of 16 channel sources of embedded SDI in a 1RU box, allowing installation where space is at a premium. Analog or AES input channels can also be mixed into the monitoring chain, reducing the need for ancillary equipment.

Operation is simple, according to Martin Dyster, head of audio, TSL Professional Product Ltd. in Buckinghamshire, U.K. “All you need to do is press a button and you automatically hear the signal that you need to hear,” he said. “If you want to hear multiple channels at the same time it can also mix as well as monitor. You can mix AES and analog together, SDI and analog together, so in an increasingly complicated production environment you’ve got a tool that is really, really versatile and really easy to understand.”

For those seeking a very compact, dedicated loudness metering solution, TSL’s addition to its PAM line, the new PiCo handheld device, is available in five versions that display stereo, multichannel or surround sound from analog, AES or embedded SDI sources. All international loudness standards, including ITU, AES and ATSC, are supported.

TSL has also extended its Monitor Plus range out to eight models that now support 3G HD-SDI, as well as analog and AES inputs, with versions that include 12- or 26-segment bargraphs. Particular emphasis has been placed on audio reproduction; TSL has engaged a leading U.K. audio engineering house to optimize front speaker performance, with each model featuring separate HF and LF drivers driven via time accurate active crossovers.

One of the companies on the forefront of dynamics processing and loudness control, Linear Acoustic, has also released several monitoring and metering products over the years. Earlier this year the company began shipping its LQ-1 Loudness Meter, which complies with the expected menu of worldwide standards and recommended practices and accepts a wide range of input formats.

According to Christina Carroll, vice president and executive director for Lancaster, Pa.-based Linear Acoustic, the company drew up a laundry list of features to include in the LQ-1, particularly a compact form factor that would allow it to be easily adopted in remote trucks and small edit bays. The new product had to be user-friendly, flexible, accurate and affordable, Carroll said.

German manufacturer RTW introduced several new audio monitoring products recently, including a version of its TM7 TouchMonitor with a 3G-SDI interface. Recognizing the importance of the U.S. market, the company also opened a sales and support office in Pennsylvania this year. The TM7-HW20714, which accepts all currently available SD, HD and 3G formats, is intended for remote trucks and other installations where space is limited. The 7-inch screen (the TM7 won an iF Product Design Award two years ago) now displays up to 32 audio channels from any combination of inputs with this new 3G-SDI interface.

This new model includes four AES3 inputs and outputs (eight channels each, total). De-embedded SDI signals may be routed to any existing AES output.

On the software side, a new license allows the generation of digital line test signals according to EBU 3304, GLITS and BLITS definitions. It also enables automatic analysis of channel allocation, level, phase and delay, and polarity of received BLITS 5.1 test signals.

Another provider of audio monitoring products, Marshall Electronics, offers the AR-DM2-B digital audio monitor in a 2RU frame with tri-color LED bar graphs. It targets TV facilities, studios, post production, VTR bays, mobile vehicles, satellite links, etc.

The AR-DM2-B supports 16 audio channels with four slots available for interchangeable input/output modules. It features 100 percent digital processing and Dolby Digital/Dolby E decoding, with the olptional ARDM-D552 module.

Not all audio monitoring products are hardware-based. U.K.-based Nugen Audio has developed a range of software tools that monitor and manage loudness and offer a variety of audio analysis and audio processing options.

The company has been previewing its new standalone MultiMonitor software program at trade shows this year. The application enables operators to monitor loudness and true-peak on 16 different channels at once.

“Relying on hardware to monitor multiple audio streams is costly and takes up space because it requires a physical meter to be plugged into the console for each channel,” said Jon Schorah, creative director for Nugen Audio. “MultiMonitor will give broadcasters a compact, convenient way to measure loudness on every channel on the mixing console, simultaneously, all in one place.”

MultiMonitor, which can measure up to 96 audio inputs in mono, stereo or 5.1 in a single window, is available in Windows or Mac versions, and is scheduled to begin shipping in Q4.

The company has also added timecode functionality to its VisLM: Visual Loudness software, allowing operators to precisely reference alerts, true-peak overs, maximum values and other indicators to picture. A dialog gate option enables automatic measurement of dialog sections within the source material. For easy diagnostic reference, measurements can be written to automation tracks and viewed against the waveform in the DAW timeline.

Steve Harvey began writing for Pro Sound News and Surround Professional in 2000 and is currently senior content producer for Mix and a contributor to TV Tech. He has worked in the pro audio industry—as a touring musician, in live production, installed sound, and equipment sales and marketing—since November 1980.