Cool Interconnectivity Tools

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Though not as sexy as gleaming microphones, boutique preamplifiersor the latest studio monitors, our industry boasts a massive wave of new components in the pro audio category of Interconnects, which includes cables, connectors and DI products.

Fromhigh-endcablesandnewconnectivitydevices frommanufacturers like Neutrik;to A/Ddongle-typeproductsfrom Switchcraft;tosolidcore, world-class Swisscablesfrom VOVOX;savvyaudioprofessionals know that whenitcomestosignalflow,itcansometimes bethelittlethings thatmatter.

PARTI:CONNECTORS

PerhapsAmphenolisa less-recognizedbrandinconnectivity forsound engineers, especiallycompared to pro audio industry stalwart Neutrik. YetAmphenol connectorsare found acrossthe board inproaudio products, including, forexample,within the two superb bus-powered USB2-channel preamplifiers currently sittingon mydesktop;boththe FocusriteScarlett2i2and TascamiXRboastdual-Amphenol comboXLR/ TRSontheirfrontpanels.

Neutrikisourindustry’sdefacto leaderin connectivity, whetherby sheer numberofpatentedhigh-qualityaudioconnectortypes,proliferationinthefield orboth.Thatsaid, Neutrik’s most exciting XLRaudio product is arguablyits low-latency XiriumProline,builtuponthecompany’sDiWA(Digital Wireless Audio) technology.Offeringcompression-freeandFCC license-freewireless transmissionofaudio within the 5GHzband, XiriumPro’s 20to 20k Hzaudiotransmissionsystemprovideslatencyequalto3milliseconds, regardlessof numberofdevicesused.A varietyofanalog/XLRanddigital AES/EBU and Danteinputandoutputmodelsare available.

Since 1989, Utah-basedRolls Corporationhasofferedawiderangeof proandconsumer audiointerconnects, aswellasprocessors,amps,mixersandmore. Mostnotably,thelarge numberofproductsinitsAccessory lineallowscustomers topairalmostanysoundsourcetoanother input. Theproducts areaffordablypricedandwell made,too.

Best known  for  its  connector lines, Switchcraft offersothermod- ernconnectivitysolutionssuchas its AudioStix DI productline,ideal for audioenvironments thatneednew signaldistribution formsonabudget. Specifically, Switchcraft’s318BTisthe world’sfirst phantom-powered Bluetooth 4.0audio receiver DI. Featuringa SwitchcraftbalancedXLRconnectorandpoweredviastandard48V phantompower, the 318BTwirelesslytransmitsanyBluetooth audio source(via2,402-2,480MHzfrequencies)upto50 feet away (obstructed indoor)or100 feet (unobstructed lineofsight).

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With availablebulkandprewiredcableandconnectorsofalmostevery kind, plustons of“blackbox”interconnectproducts, New York-based Whirlwindhasbeeninbusiness formorethan40 years,providing U.S.- builtnetworking solutions forawiderangeofend-users. Most recently, Whirlwind haslaunched afiber-optic departmentand builds custom signalandpowersystems formajorclientsworldwide.

PARTII: CABLES

Basedin Buena Park,Calif., Hosa Technologyspecializes in interconnects between musical instruments andproaudiodevices, yet offersabevy ofnewand useful tools that blur the linesbetweenconsumerandproaudioapplications.Caseinpointis Hosa’snewDrive,a Bluetooth3.0audio receivereasilypairedwithanyaudio source,and featuringbuilt-intrackbuttons for controlatthe playback systemand3.5mmTRSaudiooutputandaUSBMini-Bchargingport.

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AccordingtoMogamipromotionalmaterials, “every foot of Mogamicableismadein Nagano, Japan,under thedirectsupervisionofthe company founder, whocontinuestoworkeveryday.” It’snowonderthat virtuallyallpro-gradeanalogsignalinfrastructureshavewallsfilledwith Mogami, availableinsingle-channelcablesand2-to48-channel snakes, andmore.Thecompanyofferscablingin Silver,Goldand Platinum delineations(inname,notmaterials).

Firstknowninconsumer audiomarkets,MonsterCablewas founded by NoelLeein 1979,makingandsuccessfullymarketing multiwirespeakercabletoaudiophile-types. Yearsdownthe road, Monsterdroppedthe “cable”fromitsmoniker andventured intoheadphone,speaker,power conditioning,portable audio,andhome theater, amongother markets. Today,proaudiotypesenjoyhigh-quality Monster interconnectsunder itsPro Musiciancategory, featuringinstrument,microphoneandspeaker cables,aswell asvarioussplittersandadapters.

Michigan-based Pro Cospecializesinbuildingaudiointerface productsfromcablestohighchannel-countanaloganddigitalsnakes,IEM controllers andvariousdistributionsystems. Bulkconnectors, wireand othercomponent-leveltoolsareoffered,too. Notably,Pro CobuildscustomI/Opanelstofitawiderangeofneeds,frombroadcasting tostudio andlivesound,tocomprehensive A/Vsystems.

Van Dammecable,manufacturedbytheUK’sVDC Trading,isnow distributedinthe U.S.by Fingerprint Audio, whichwillcarrytheentire Van Damme line featuring audio,fiber,data andvideocablesinbulk, manufacturedandpackagedcablepackages. Usingits Van Dammeproducts, VDC Trading hascreated comprehensive cablinginfrastructures forsuchvariedclientsasAbbey Road Studios, Coldplay, Muse, X-Factor, Wimbledon, WestfieldShopping Centers,Sky Network,CNNandothers.

I first heard of VOVOXseveral years ago whenthecompany’sdistributor, Audio Plus, sentovera fewmicrophone and instrumentcables for evaluationfromboth their“sonorous”and “link”product lines. (Over)builttolast,these VOVOXcablesarethebestandmostdurable I’veeverused. Hand-assembledin Switzerland, the sonorus direct S non-shieldedbalancedcable, forexample,boastsa singlesolid-corepure copperconductor, anatural fibernetting surroundperconductorwire and muchmore.

PARTIII:CONNECTIVITYANDPREMIUMDI

AltoProfessional’s Stealth Wirelesseliminates the need forcablebetweenanytraditional soundsourceandpoweredspeaker,openingan affordablearrayof placementoptionsinvariedlivesoundenvironments. AsimpleUHF-based waytobypasscablesbetween amixerand loudspeakers,the Stealth Wirelesspackageconsists ofonetransmitterand two receivers,withthreepoweradapters(12VDC,300mA) foreach, plus mountingaccessories:twoM10screws(formounting Receiverstofly points onpoweredspeakers)or“hookand loop” Velcro-stylestrips(for mounting receiversonvirtuallyanysurface).The Stealth’stransmitter isswitchablebetweenmonoandstereo,sendingoneortwochannelsof audiotoevery receiverinrange (reportedlyupto200 feet away)andon thesamechannel (oneof16UHFchannels).

Several yearsago,Iorganized a multiproductevaluation focusedon directinput boxeswiththehelpof recording engineer Rob Tavaglione andtechnicalassistancefrom formerProSound Newseditor Frank Wells. The followingtwo DIswerestandouts forseveralgood reasons:

Accordingto Rob, theAR-133fromBSS, a Harman company, provides fantastic bass responsechar- acteristics thatwere “biggerthanlife,and afullnessthatwould be helpful with troublesome [sound sources]like ply-topacousticguitarsandlightweight, anemicbassguitars.” Meanwhile,the legendary Type85 DIfromCountrymanjustified itselfwithits “time-provenruggeddesign,widefrequency responseand goodheadroom…withslightly forwardmidrange response andcomparably leanbottom.”

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Eventide’sMixingLinkis acleverlittle (4.8x3.95x2.15-inch) creativeaudioproduction tool in the form of a stompbox. It featuresahigh-qualitymicrophonepreamp with phantompowerand65dBofgain, plus aneffects loop,headphoneoutput,andvarioussignalcombinationparameters.

GraceDesign’s Felixisa2-channel acoustic instrument “preamp/ blender”housedinafloorunitwithprimarycontrols locatedonthetop, andI/Oonthe rearpanel.Each Felixchannel includesanindependent EQsectionandthree footswitches formix,boostand mute/tunefunctions. Felix’s rearpanelincludesa Gracem101stylemicpreampinputon anXLR femaleconnector, andtwoinstrumentinputs on1/4-inchjacks. Four1/4-inchjacksprovideaccesstoatuneroutput,aux footswitchinput, dedicatedampoutputandeffectsinsert.

Along with all kinds of creative tools for recording production, JonathanLittleofLittleLabsmakessomeofthemost flexible DIand connectivity devicesinthebiz.A greatexampleofLittleLabsingenuityisthe PCPInstrumentDistro, a1-in/3-outguitar splitter featuring transformer-isolated,guitar level/impedanceoutputs with phase reverse, groundliftand leveladjustoneachoutput,designed forguitar re-amping. Includesan “audiophile”-grade DIandguitarcablelinedriver.

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Radial Engineeringarguably has more pro-grade I/O, analog connectivity and routing/snake options than any manufacturer in the market, seemingly offering the precise tool for any need, environment or venue. An ideal example of their I/O tools is the relatively new Di-NET DAN-TX stereo direct box, with 1/4-inch, RCA and stereo 3.5mm input jacks, allowing connectivity between instruments or line level sources, and networked audio systems using the Dante protocol. DAN-TX operates witha 24-bit/96 kHz A-D converter; its local 3.5mm headphone output allows for simple signal monitoring.

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RapcoHorizonbuildsa variety of useful interfacing tools, including its neat little iBLOX Series, which allows musicians to use their favorite iOS device-based instrument amplifier emulation easily during performances. Features includea 2-foot lead with 1/4-inch right angle plugs for instrument input, belt/instrument strap clip, 6-foot iPhone interface cable, black powder-coated aluminum chassis for durability, and high-quality, hand-soldered connectors. Headphones or IEMs plug directly into iBLOX.

Accordingto my frequent review collaborator, Nashville-based recording engineer Russ Long, Rupert NeveDesigns’ RNDIisa fabulousmodernactive DI, fea- turingaClassAdiscreteFETamp circuitthatnotablyaddsflattering harmonic content. “It reallyshinesonbassguitar,”heexplains,“where itcomplementsthebass’midrange tone,makingitpracticallyjumpout ofthemix whilethebottom-end retains thesmooth, richfullnessofa completelytransparent DI.”TheRNDIalso featuresanLEDcurrentconsumption meterwithgroundliftandspeaker/instrumentswitches.

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