I arrived at the 2003 NSCA (National Systems ContractorsAssociation) Expo in Dallas coming off of a tour that ended in Perth,Australia. Many exhibitors spent the previous week at FrankfurtMusikmesse, so we were generally an upbeat, if somewhat jetlaggedgroup.
By far the most intriguing product at NSCA was from EAW (www.eaw.com). Here, areturning Ken Berger (welcome back, Ken!) introduced its DigitallySteered Array (DSA) Series based on technology derived from thecompany's large-format KF900 system. The series includes the DSA250full-range, two-way, self-powered speaker column (about $6,000 list),with onboard DSP and 16 channels of amplification for eight 4-inchwoofers and eight horn-loaded 1-inch dome tweeters. Windows-basedDSAPilot software allows users to control and vary the speaker’svertical coverage in real time. During a single-box demo, Berger'svoice could be clearly heard moving across the listening area. Whileintended for houses of worship, applications from Broadway to themeparks also come to mind. The DSA230 LF module extends the overall arraywith eight more woofers.
Several second- or third-generation line array speakers, such asMeyer’s MILO, EAW’s SLAM and Nexo’s GeoT-Series,launched the week before at Musikmesse, were covered in last month'sMix or at mixonline.
Two new compact line array debuts at NCSA represent opposite ends ofthe design spectrum. Renkus-Heinz' (www.renkus-heinz.com) PNX-102 compact line arraymodule houses dual 10s with dual 1-inch compression drivers exitingfrom a vertical slot between them. Each 72-pound module is a foot highby 2-feet-wide ($2,499 list). The Martin (www.martin-audio.com) W8LC three-way,all-horn-loaded, compact line array combines a 12, two 6.5-inch midsand three 1-inch drivers ($ 4,995 list). Though not horizontallysymmetrical, the individual horn loading of the W8LC's three sectionsprovide extremely smooth frequency response.
Overshadowed by its extended family of line arrays wasMeyer’s (www.meyersound.com) intro of the UPJ self-powered,two-way speakers ($3,700 list), with Variable Orientation (rotatable)horns. They come in two versions, replacing the discontinuedUPL–the original self-powered live sound speaker–with moreflexibility and 6dB more output. It weighs almost 30% less than a UPA,yet only 3dB shy. Both models employ a 10-inch woofer and a 0.75-inchexit compression driver, but the UPJ-1P provides 80° HF coverage,while the UPJ-2P has narrower 50° coverage.
New subwoofers worthy of note include Bag End’s (www.bagend.com)($1,980 list) S21E-I, a single 21-inch ELF sub-woofer in a compact2-cubic-foot enclosure rated 800 watts continuous and providingresponse down to 8 Hz. Sound Physics Labs (www.servodrive.com), makers of the BassTech 7Servodrive subwoofer, introduced Stealth ($2,650 list), a horn-loaded,dual-12 sub using conventional drivers in a clever design that's only18 inches wide, but 3.5-feet-tall and deep. Stealth gains enormousefficiency from quarter-space loading by placing the mouth of the hornat the intersection of a wall and floor to achieve boundary-dependent,106dB sensitivity.
The big console news was Yamaha’s (www.yamaha.com) highlyanticipated PM5000, marrying the convenience of digital scene recallinto a 35-bus LCR analog desk. Features include 12 stereo aux buses,eight mono auxes (alternatively usable as groups), 12 VCAs and an 8mono + 4 stereo matrix. Besides motorized faders, its deep sceneautomation includes all channel assignments for 990 user-titledmemories with recall and fader safeties. Standard configurations of 52,36 and 28 channels include four stereo inputs, but additional ones canreplace mono channels. The largest is 500 pounds, 84 inches wide and$93,000 list. Yamaha’s demo room provided a nostalgic look at itsentire line of analog and digital consoles through the years. I admitfeeling a bit verklempt as I pushed a PM1000 fader one lasttime. PM5000 faders can push themselves.
DiGiCo (www.digiconsoles.com) poured on the new featuresfor its high-end D5 Live touring board, including gain tracking, which,when used in a complete D5 Live FM (FOH/monitor) package, allows eitherconsole operator to change input gain without affecting the soundbalance on the other console. DiGiCo also showed DiGiTRACS"!: a56-track, disk-based soundcheck/show recorder based on MergingTechnologies' Pyramix platform.
NSCA had plenty of slick new EQs. Last year, Australia'sLake Technology (www.contour.lake.com) teamed with Clair Brothers onthe Clair iO, found in many Clair drive racks this past year. Lakeintroduced Contour ($4,995 list), a similar 2-in/6-out, 24-bit/96kHz,PC-controllable digital processor. Besides its impressive wirelesstouchscreen interface, it offers low latency, "Optimal Phase" FIRtechnology with 2 ms of propagation and can layer an unlimited numberof filters. Its filter-synthesis algorithms provide new types offilters: The "raised cosine" graphic EQs have minimal filterinteraction. Besides traditional parametrics, "mesa" filters–withflat tops or bottoms–can be defined, even with asymmetricalslopes. Beyond the usual crossovers, Contour also produces linear phaseand "brick wall" slopes exceeding 100 dB/octave. Contour is sure tofind its way into top tour drive racks this summer.
TC Electronic (www.tcelectronic.com) showed the EQ Station ($6,995list), an 8-channel digital EQ in a 2U chassis. Functions include29-band graphic, 6-band parametric and two types of dynamic EQ. It canbe operated directly from its front panel, via a high-quality, colorTFT display and many direct-access knobs/buttons, or using externalPC/Mac editor software over Ethernet. An optional 4U MotoFader remotecontrols up to 32 channels of graphic EQ during live performances, andit all fits into a 12-space rack. EQ Station will also be offered as a4-channel EQ in the same chassis.
Apex (www.apex-audio.be) introduced the Intelli-QReal-Time System Optimizer ($4,450 list), a 2-channel processorthat’s controlled from a Windows PC. Its GUI layers the varioustypes of EQ to show the interaction of graphic, parametric, highpassand shelving filters.
Rane’s (www.rane.com) new DEQ-60 ($999 list) 2-channel30-band digital equalizer uses an advanced DSP algorithm, calledPerfect-Q"!, to create the exact response dictated by analog-style,front-panel sliders, with virtually no interaction or ripple. Inaddition to low- and high-cut filters, each channel also has wide3-band tone controls crossing over at 300 and 4k Hz.
XTA (www.xta.co.uk) offers 30% savings on its new DP6iAudio Installation Controller over the DPA-226 processor thatit’s based on. Without most of the 226’s front-panelcontrols, it’s intended to be programmed and controlled viaXTA’s AudioCore software. The 226’s usual knobs, switchesand meters are replaced with a single mute-all button and four morebuttons to allow front-panel recall of the first four presets.
In other EQ news, BSS’ (www.bss.co.uk) new 3088 Soundweb Lite is identicalto the original Soundweb without the networking for two-thirds theprice.
Wireless and More...
AKG's (www.akg.com) WMS-4000 pro wireless operates on1,200 frequencies, and has easy setup features such as AutoScan,Environmental Scan and Rehearsal. Transmitters get up to 15 hours onNiCads or 12 hours with the new BP 4000 intelligent battery pack, whichrecharges in an hour. The half-rack receivers have LEDs showing statusindication from across the room, and can be controlled andmonitored–in groups of eight connected to a hub–by a PCover Ethernet.
Beyer's (www.beyerdynamic.com) Opus 800 wireless has fourreceivers in a 1U chassis. Up to 16 systems operate simultaneously on100 preprogrammed frequencies across either TV channels 62 through 64or 67 through 69 (450 to 498 MHz). Its innovative Automatic ChannelTargeting scans for open frequencies, which it then transmits via IR tothe transmitter.
Production Intercom (www.beltpack.com) introduced the miniature BP.15($225 list, $266 with the silent vibrator option found on its full-sizebeltpacks). The name comes from this pager-sized beltpack being aseventh of the volume of PI’s normal model, still with a normal4-pin headset connector, but the 3-pin intercom XLR connection is via aNeutrik NanoCon adapter. Also in the same miniature form factor is theTR-1 ($169) IFB talent receiver, with 1/4-inch and 3.5mm earbudconnectors.
To add touchscreen interfacing to an existing computer-based audiosystem is WACOM's (www.cintiq.com) Cintiq pen-mouse computer monitortablets. The $3,499 list 18sx’s SXGA resolution is 1280x1024; thesmaller 15-inch model has 1024x768 resolution and lists at $1,899. Bothare TFT active-matrix LCD with 160° viewing angles.
Perhaps the biggest hits of NSCA were pretty small–at least insize. Ivie Technologies' (www.ivie.com) IE-33 is a miniature acousticalanalyzer offered as a $1,399 package with a Compaq iPAQ 3950 PDA loadedwith acoustic analysis software (RTA, SPL metering, seat-to-seat, stripcharting, polarity, scope functions, etc.). A custom jacket withpreamp, A/D converter, USB/RS-232 interfacing, measurement mic andcharger are included; other software releases are planned.
Not to be outdone, Gold Line (www.gold-line.com)demo'ed its DSPCI Black Box, now with a Palm PDA interface, offeringpocket-sized, color screen displays of full, 1/3, 1/6 and 1/12-octaveRTAs; NC; RT60; speaker timing; intelligibility; distortion testing;and more.
Mark your calendars for next year’s contractor spring break inLas Vegas, from March 19-21, 2004.