Consoles Take Center Stage at PLASA

Live Sound Show Features Smaller, Powerful Mixers
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Maybe it's the economy, or simply a growing demand for smaller-footprint boards that consume less of those profitable seats in the prime main floor spots, but the hot console debuts in London at this week's PLASA show fit that category precisely. All featuring power and versatility in compact frames, the new entries in this market are the DiGiCo SD8, Midas PRO6 and Soundcraft's Si3.

DiGiCo SD8

Enter the DiGiCo SD8
After launching its breakthrough SD7 live sound console a year ago, you'd think that DiGiCo would take a minute to rest, but there's no signs of slowing down at this manufacturer. Its new SD8 provides the major functionality and remote preamps of its D Series in a smaller, entry-level package, yet features Stealth Digital Processing (combining Super FPGA and Analog Devices Tiger SHARC chipsets in its Tiger SHARC FX engine), offering effects, reverbs, dynamics, output matrix and more.

SD8 features include 37 touch-sensitive moving faders, multi-function control knobs, electronic labelling and a 15-inch touch-sensitive, hi-res TFT display. Acting as the console's primary command center, the TFT works in harmony with every other control of the console, automatically displaying functions relevant to what's being done at any instant. A physical fader, knob or backlit electronically labelled button is either provided for every major mix function-or can be programmed onto one of the provided user macro buttons.

All 24 channel faders and 12 assignable aux/master faders can be instantly assigned as channels or masters, allowing 36 main faders to control inputs, if desired. Also standard is a 12x12 output matrix; its 12 buses being additional to the console's 24 stereo, solo and master buses.Sixty mono or stereo channels-the equivalent of 120 channels-can run full DSP simultaneously.

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Close up of DiGiCo SD8's touch-sensitive faders with 20-set bar graph meter next to each fader

Despite the SD8's compact footprint, there's plenty of horsepower-the number and quality of effects, dynamics or other functions is available to all channels simultaneously, no matter how the console is set up. Features were also not curtailed in the least, offering appreciated touches such as 20-step LED bar graph meters next to each channel fader and the same snapshot automation control (with removeable USB storage of sessions and setups) as the other D-Series consoles.

I/O flexibility is a priority. Besides a full-function 48x8 Stage Rack with remote control of its studio-grade preamps and 100-meter MADI digital snake, the SD8 includes convenient onboard local I/O with eight mic/line inputs, eight line outputs and eight AES/EBU inputs/outputs.

The DiGiCo D8 is on display this week at PLASA in London's Earls Court Exhibition Center, booth J18, or at next month's LDI show in Las Vegas, booth #2750. For more information, visit www.digiconsoles.com.

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Midas PRO6

Midas PRO6
Two years after the launch of its revolutionary XL8, Midas has unveiled its second networked digital audio system. Adapting hardware and software technologies from its larger sibiling XL8, the new PRO6 offers the same sample-synchronized audio performance in a compact, more affordable package that combines digital mixing/processing and comprehensive audio distribution-all in a single system.

The PRO6 system comprises a Control Centre and two 7-rackspace units handling DSP and I/O. Despite its small 54x36-inch footprint (about the size of a 32-channel Verona mixer), PRO6 can deliver up to 80 simultaneous input channels and as many as 32 discrete mixes in monitor mode, with all channels having full EQ and numerous dynamics processing options. The standard PRO6 provides 56 channel inputs, eight returns, 41 buses (16 auxes, 16 matrix, three masters and six solos). Also included are eight internal stereo FX processors, parametric equalization (four-band on inputs; six-band on outputs), eight standard (up to 36 max) 31-band graphic EQs, 5.1 surround panning and comprehensive, easy-to-use routing. Automation includes up to 1,000 scenes with save/recall snapshot capability and archiving of show files.

This modular system allows for some variations in physical placement and system size. With the addition of more I/O hardware, the PRO6 network can expand up to 264 inputs and 264 outputs. All components communicate via a proprietary network over readily available, standard cabling and connectors that carry both control data and open architecture AES50 digital audio. Also standard is a dual-redundant 100-meter-long gigabit HyperMac (192x192) digital snake using Cat-5e copper cabling.

Based on familiar analog lines, the control surface is designed for intuitive operation. The surface is divided into three main processing bays for logical control of inputs, mix parameters and master (output, automation, comm and monitor) functions. Two large, daylight-viewable screens are dedicated to mix and master operations, showing parameters, effects, routings, etc. and Navigation is via a combination of hardware controls and two trackball controllers.

The PRO6 uses a stable Linux operating system and is designed to be tolerant of many types of hardware or software failure. This is achieved via dual-redundant systems where any key component has an identical redundant spare available to take over in the case of failure.

The Klark Teknik DN9696 Recorder can be used with the PRO6 Live Performance System for live multitrack recording and virtual sound check. Besides alternate I/O cards (analog mic/line, AES/EBU, etc.) optional equipment includes the XL8 DL451 I/O and DL431 splitter and the DN9331 RapidE for remote graphic EQ operation.

The Midas PRO6 is on display this week at PLASA, booth #J33. For more information, visit www.midasconsoles.com.

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Soundcraft Si3

Soundcraft Si3 Live Console
Also unveiled at PLASA is Soundcraft's mid-market Si3. While this latest console shares much of the technology of its larger-format cousins, the Si3 takes a new direction with a decidedly different-yet quite familiar-twist on ergonomics.

Designed for either touring or fixed installations, the Si3 comes in one flavor, with 64 mono inputs, four stereo ins and 35 output buses (24 aux/group, eight matrixes and L/C/R main mix outs)-all in a single chassis including the control surface, rear-panel I/Os and internal power supply. Also standard are four onboard Lexicon effects processors, 12 VCA groups, eight mute groups, bar graph metering for all 35 bus outputs, comprehensive internal/external talkback, built-in tone oscillator and eight analog insert points for using outboard processing on the outs. And rather than the usual cost-saving method of using DB25 multipin connections, the Si3 has balanced rear-panel XLRs for all channel I/Os and buses.

This all-encompassing approach in a compact (66.3x32.1x13.3-inch, WxDxH) design will appeal to users seeking an easy set-up/plug-in replacement for an analog desk. While the Si3 is offered in one frame, options include a redundant secondary power supply module and four rear-panel slots that accommodate MADI interfaces or AES/EBU input cards.

Much of the Si3's appeal stems from its new take on the control surface itself. Gone is the typical central screen common to many digital mixer designs; it is replaced by a compact touchscreen used mainly for console setups and housekeeping functions. Taking the topology from Soundcraft's earlier 328 and 324 mixers to the next level, the Si3 combines the analog-style control of gain, EQ, dynamics, aux sends, pan, phantom power, polarity reverse, etc., of the Virtual Channel Strip (VCS) with rotary encoders and bright OLED displays.

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Close up of Si3's OLED displays

OLEDs and encoders in the output section are used primarily for output signal controls such as EQ, dynamics or Matrix routings, but when needed, they can also serve as dedicated controls for the Lexicon processing. Alternatively, any output encoders/OLEDs can be switched to handle EQ and dynamics control for any selected input or output channel-whenever a user may prefer central control.

The Si3 also employs Soundcraft's FaderGlow™ system, which uses a multicolor LED with a unique diffuser alongside the fader track to indicate which function is currently active on the fader. When used to control aux or monitor sends, the faders illuminate orange (or green for groups, blue for VCAs, etc.) in line with the corresponding function. Any confusion about whether a fader is assigned to a channel input, group, aux or VCA is eliminated. And as the color codings follow the Soundcraft Vi6 setup, engineers moving between consoles will be equally at home with both.

Beneath that control surface is Soundcraft's Embedded Multiprocessor Mixing Architecture (EMMA), a single PCB with Analog Devices SHARC processors handling all functions on an embedded operating system within the mixing core, and four Lexicon AudioDNA chips for the onboard effects. Dynamics-such as gates and compressors-are drawn from the heritage of sister Harman companies dbx and BSS Audio.

Certainly, there's a lot more to the Si3, which offers full storage of console settings as presets that can be sequenced from a cue list and recalled from dedicated automation keys. The board has Harman HiQnet network control, and an offline editor lets users create/tweak/store console setups-from the hotel, tour bus or anywhere using a laptop PC.

The Si3 is at PLASA (booth #D22) and makes its North American launch at next month's AES (booth #202) in San Francisco. For more information, visit www.soundcraftdigital.com.