To paraphrase an old industry adage, “Great sound makes your pictures look better.” Never has this concept been more critical than today. The mandated leap to digital enables HDTV, and a truly immersive HD experience requires surround sound. With this being the last NAB before the DTV conversion, the solutions for multichannel capture, mixdown and monitoring were both expected and delivered.

Broadcast surround and loudness control

With the coming onslaught of channel-hungry 5.1 broadcasting, control of audio streams will become increasingly critical to broadcast operations. Linear Acoustic showed multiple solutions, highlighted by the new UPMAX:neo, a dedicated stereo-to-5.1 upmixer and Broadcast Engineering Pick Hits winner. Other significant announcements included the AEROMAX:one for local loudness control with Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding, and the AEROMAX 5.1-XL, with loudness control, upmixing and metadata management.

Dolby Labs showed the Dolby Media Meter, a software-based plug-in for the Media Producer Suite that allows ingest of multiple programs, logs against preferred loudness ratings and tags any areas that are out of specification. In addition, the LM100 loudness meter has been upgraded to include the ITU-R BS.1770 loudness algorithm.

Aimed at program aggregators and playout facilities, Evertz's Pick Hit-winning IntelliGain loudness control system addresses both commercial and channel-to-channel loudness variations by detecting and adjusting the audio variations without adding audible artifacts.

Another Pick Hits product, the Graham-Patten Sonarae monitor, uses push-button simplicity, which enables NLE operators to hear one or two channels from a mix, or accumulate multiple channels into a stereo or mono mix while maintaining a constant level. A built-in delay function allows compensation for up to nine-and-a-half video frames of latency.

Mixing consoles

Most notable in this category was the debut of the compact Lawo mc256. Large TFT touch screens provide full functionality, while primary mixing activities remain on the control surface. A new architecture allows 16 automated faders per bay, while the central control section boasts Lawo's powerful hyperpanning surround control. Snapshots are easily moved among mc2 Series desks via USB thumb drive.

German manufacturer Salzbrenner Stagetec brought its new AURATUS console for OB trucks, a full-featured but streamlined version of the company's flagship AURUS desk. Offered with 16 to 40 faders handling up to 64 busses and 140 inputs, it features a mic input section that handles up to +24dBU, 153dBA above the input noise floor, eliminating analog-domain gain trimming and guaranteeing that the console can't clip.

Solid State Logic leverages its SuperAnalogue technology with the introduction of the new Matrix console, a hybrid design with superb sound and full digital control that also functions as a master control surface for DAWs. In essence, the Matrix is a summing line mixer, with 32 fader inputs, four stereo returns and dedicated channel output to the DAW record path.

In the field

The channel-hungry prevalence of reality television has inspired the need for an ever-increasing number of audio channels to be captured and transported. Sound Devices celebrated its 10th anniversary with the introduction of the 788T field recorder. This rugged, feature-packed unit offers eight-track recording with time code iXML metadata, with the ability to capture to three simultaneous destinations: its 160GB internal hard drive, high-speed CompactFlash (CF) card and an outboard device via firewire or USB.

A Pick Hits award winner, Zaxcom's Fusion is a digital mixer/recorder designed for multisource capture situations like reality TV and surround sound. Two CF card slots enable redundant recording of four audio tracks without moving parts. The internal 16 × 16 mixer's extensive capabilities are realized through a TFT touch screen, and four additional record tracks and a full digital effects package are options.

Nagra showed two significant new models: the Nagra VI, a six-input, 120GB hard disc recorder, and the Nagra LB, a two-channel flash recorder. The Nagra VI offers broadcast wave recording at sampling rates up to 96kHz and is iXML compatible. The Nagra LB is designed for high-resolution (up to 192kHz) field recording, with full onboard editing and the ability to send files via Bluetooth connection to a cellular phone.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Studer announced its OnAir 2500 console. Designed for both remote and studio applications, this self-contained broadcast system houses control surface, I/O breakout, DSP core and power supply all within a sturdy, compact chassis.

Other notable field-ready hardware included the MAYAH Communications Flashman II, a portable audio recorder/codec that can feed live audio to the studio while simultaneously recording for editing in the field.

JK Audio introduced BluePack, a handy beltpack for field reporters that offers Bluetooth connectivity for filing reports via mobile phone.

Microphones and wireless

Lectrosonics showed a new RF concept in prototype form. The D4 is a four-channel digital wireless mic that holds four interleaved channels on a digital carrier, with both transmitter and receiver measuring roughly 5in wide × 5in deep × 2in high, making it perfect for camera-hop applications.

Holophone won a Pick Hits designation with the introduction of the PortaMic 5.1, a budget-priced camera-top surround mic with integral Dolby Pro Logic II encoding to stereo outputs, allowing direct recording of surround in ENG/EFP applications. Sony showed two interesting camera-top products: the DWT-B01 and DWR-S01D portable digital wireless system, and ECM-680S, a switchable stereo/mono shotgun microphone.

The big news from Shure was its UR1M, a micro-sized transmitter for the UHF-R system. The UR1M measures less than 2in tall, is specially treated for sweat resistance and offers 10/50mW selectable RF power.

Sennheiser introduced two twin products. The EM 3732 twin wireless receiver boasts a 90MHz tuning bandwidth, onboard frequency search and integrated antenna splitter. The company's MKH 800 Twin microphone is a dual-capsule design with discrete outputs, allowing post-production manipulation of the two signals.

Tools of the trade

Also new and notable were Wohler's WohlerPlus audio processors, configurable to meet precise functionality needs, including DSP, monitoring and metering. Users of Aviom's A-Net digital networking system were treated to the 6416a microphone preamp module, a 16-channel unit with high-quality preamps and MCS handheld remote interface. Finally, those waiting for a surefire way to archive their vinyl record collections should note the Audio-Technica AT-LP2D-USB turntable, which converts the audio to WAV, WMA or MP3 files.

Jack Kontney writes Broadcast Engineering's Audio Technology Update e-newsletter and is president of Kontney Communications, a communications and content creation firm.