It was roughly two years ago when the staff at KTVT-HD, a CBS-owned and -operated station with coverage in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, started planning the construction of a mirror to its news control room. The station considered a Euphonix CS3000B digitally controlled console as a twin to the CS2000 already installed in the facility. However, it became obvious that everything except the audio signal path was digital. KTVT-DT is currently broadcasting regular standard-definition digital and HDTV programs with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital surround sound.
At that point we started looking at digital audio boards. I read everything I could find about all-digital consoles and finally got a demo from our top choice - Euphonix, with the then unreleased System 5.
A fellow KTVT engineer and I attended a demonstration of the prototype System 5 board, which was just an eight-fader module setup with PatchNet and a multitrack as playback source. We covered every conceivable wiring and install question and were pleased with Euphonix's answers.
I was impressed with the metering and Euphonix's built-in flat screens. Mix-minus, EQ, dynamics, input levels for main and swap were available without going to a center section to view one channel at a time. The faders were much more straightforward than the CS series.
The PatchNet system is amazing. It is a MADI-format patching system that operates in the same way as a traditional patchbay. The source and destination are located and selected, and the digital patch is made. Non-MADI inputs and outputs such as AES/EBU or analog format require Euphonix converters. Once a group of signals is selected, every signal in that group appears on the main part of the screen for patching. Being able to name your ins and outs and patch them any way you see fit - and to use PatchNet to convert between analog and AES - was useful.
After the demo, we decided that the new System 5 was the board we had to have. Despite the fact that it cost more than we had budgeted, our general manager agreed. The System 5 we ordered features a total of 52 fully resourced channels with EQ, dynamics, insert points, auxiliary sends, multichannel routing and multiformat panning. The control surface includes 24 fully assignable channel strips and a master control section.
After the System 5 was delivered I started to get a little nervous. Going from an analog board to a digital console was a big step, and the System 5 and CS2000 had to share input sources. Also, KTVT-HD was serving as the first on-air experience for the System 5. Each time I would label my sources and build a project and titles, Euphonix would come out and install new software, deleting most of my work. Because this forced me to memorize sources and setups, it was probably for the best. I should point out that this experience was long before we were on the air, and now software updates have solved the problem. Since KTVT served as a Beta site prior to going on-air, we had early software before the PatchNet labeling was finalized.
For the sake of redundancy, all the main studio microphone sources are on one Euphonix ML530 mic/line interface box, with backups on another. Everything connected to the board runs off UPS power supplies, so that we can lose a mic box or a few modules and still be able to hold a show on-air. With the versatility of an all-digital board like the System 5, we could do a show on a single module if need be.
We initially put the System 5 on-air in March, handling a one-hour variety/talk show titled "Positively Texas." We have now gutted the old analog-equipped control room for remodeling and are using the System 5 for a daily two-hour morning show, a 30-minute show at noon and an hour of "Positively Texas," plus four evening newscasts. The transition has gone much more smoothly than I thought it would and, in operation, the System 5 has been superb.
We use a wide variety of mic setups on our shows, some of which are hard-wired, some wireless and some a mixture of both. With PatchNet we have all the mic and line inputs at our fingertips via assignable patching to on-surface channels, without having to utilize a multifader board. The System 5 offers very nice-sounding EQ and dynamics. Once it has been set up the console surface is very user-friendly. Our weekend audio engineer handled the weekend shows without a problem after about an hour of training.
One negative was that you have to create a group to provide a single stereo fader. This was not a big deal unless you needed to change your mix-minus on that source. To do that, you had to change the assignment at the slave channels, which were usually hidden somewhere on the surface. Full stereo channels will be offered in V2.0 software, which will be shipping by the time this review appears. We also knew going in that the GPI trigger software hasn't been written yet. For now, we have limited floor foldback to the talent because we cannot mute the studio. I have been told that a fix will be out later this summer.
Other designs we looked at were lacking a number of important features, including sufficient mix-minus buses and clean feeds, and lacked the System 5's versatility and ease of use. The System 5 lets me set up a number of different outputs with the push of a button and accommodate multiple inputs easily and conveniently.
For "Positively Texas" I also need to handle musicians performing live in the studio with as many as 20 live microphones. The System 5's Snapshot Recall and Channel Grouping capabilities provide a lot of power and versatility in a small package.
All in all, the System 5 was a simple choice for us, and I must say I'm pleased with it. The System 5 digital console has been easy to use. In news operations, people only notice audio when it's bad or not there. I'm glad to say through many huge changes, we have gone unnoticed.