NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, isn’t really a recording or music show, but there are a few items of interest that pop up. It’s a physically large show, bigger than NAMM and AES, but not as large as CES. Here are a few items of interest from my first (half) day at the show:
With the growing popularity of small format digital consoles for live sound applications, some have developed a reputation for being somewhat power-sensitive. I’m not convinced of this myself, but there are a lot of UPSs, line voltage regulators, and power conditioners being purchased and hauled along on the gig, many for the wrong reason because they’re not the right kind of device for the job. Superior Electric showed the SEG Series Stabiline UPS which looks to me like it would be a good portection device. More pricey than.your run-of-the-mill computer UPS, these offer true full-time on-line design, which means that they’re making the output voltage all the time, whether the source is the AC input supply or the battery. This provides a sine wave (<2%THD) output regulation within +/- 2% and zero switching time when the AC source is removed. A 1 kVA unit should be fine for most FOH needs including a computer, and that will set you back about $700. It’s available both in a rack mount and free standing case. With the number of $400+ music store power regulator/conditiners being partnered with digitital live consoles, this seems like a pretty good deal.
Henry Engineering’s catalog is full of nifty little gadgets primarily oriented toward connecting unmatched inputs and outputs. New this show is an interesting and new stereo metering concept. Instead of the conventional pair of left and right channel meter scales, this has a single scale of tri-color LEDs with red indicating the level of one channel and green indicating the level of the other. When the two channels are equal in level (left-right balanced) the meter indication is yellow. Since other than under test conditions or pure mono, one channel is always a little different from the other, the top one or two LEDs will be red or green, but a normal indioation is with most of the LEDs yellow. A second scale provides similar information about L+R (channels in phase) and L-R (channels out of phase). You’re OK if most of theLEDs are green, and there’s trouble if most are red. Inputs are either analog or AES/EBU digital. Now this is stuff that anyone who calls himself an engineer should be able to hear, but remember, this is a show for broadcasters. When you have feeds coming in from many places which get screwed up in transmission more than you’d think (it’s not just wires any more), the engineer in the control room can more quickly notice that there’s a problem with a source that’s about to go on-air. The punch line is that since this is largely a software-based device, the designer says that in addition to the hardware version, it could be a software plug-in. This display provides the sort of information that’s useful to a mastering engineer, and in the studio it would be handy for checking on problems with stereo-miked sources or leakage between mics. Stay tuned.
Speaking of new digital consoles, Roland has had a strong line of digital live consoles for several years now, but since they tend to go into fixed venues or travel with integrated shows, they tend to not get the press in the usual MI magazines that they deserve. They have a new model in the series, the M-480, that offers 48 channels, 19 buses, 6 stereo effect return channels, 12 1/3 octave graphic EQs, 4-band EQ, dynamics, and delay on all input channels and output buses. It’s fully integrated with Roland’s REAC multi-channel bus including their digital snake system. The long throw (100 mm) faders are motorized, but before you reach for your wallet – this is a live sound console and not really intendedfor studio use. The faders don’t have control outputs, so it doesn’t offer the features that people want to see in a studio console intgegrated with a computer-based DAW.
The concept of the virtual sound check, where a multi-channel recording is played back through the console to simulate musicians on stage, is alive and well at Roland. Along with the M-480 they’ve introduced a 48-track solid state recorder/player. Again, not designed to be used in the studio, it integrates with the Roland I/O system to record direct channel outputs and introduce them back into the signal path just after the A/D converter at the digital snake input. It records to a removable solid state disk drive which can be pulled out of the panel by unscrewing two thumb screws, and there’s a USB connector on the back of the drive, as well as on the back of the recorder, for file transfer and backup.
More to come