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The audio revolution at Prolight + Sound 2016

The annual Prolight + Sound exhibition in Frankfurt plays host to an increasingly strong contingent of broadcast technology suppliers. David Davies reflects on some of the

The presence of huge outdoor stages and halls stocked full of PA and equipment geared towards the live and install markets mean that Prolight + Sound hasn’t always been perceived as a must-attend for broadcast professionals. But with an increasing number of vendors working successfully across all of these areas, its coverage of broadcast technology continues to expand with every passing year.

As might be expected, many of the most exciting developments at this year’s event – which took place at usual venue, the Messe Frankfurt, from 5-8 April – pertained to networking technology. Consider, for example, the showcasing of products that support Ravenna – ALC NetworX’s low-latency, IP-based networking technology that was primarily devised with the broadcast market in mind. More recently, the technology’s compatibility with the AES67 standard has been widely highlighted.

An extensive selection was to be found on ALC NetworX’s own booth and individual company stands, and included the groundbreaking Genelec 8430 IP network compatible SAM studio monitor. Incorporating Smart Active Monitoring and GLM AutoCal automated system adjustment, the 8340A’s Ethernet audio streaming capability is compliant with AES67 and Ravenna, and supports all the typical standard audio sample rates. The resulting system is suitable for settings including digital edit suites, radio, TV, outside broadcasting, post production facilities and music studios.

“With the technological progress that has been made in the field and the serious involvements with AoIP by broadcasters and other customers, we feel there is potential for a well-engineered monitor to provide both convenience and high performance benefits that IP networks can deliver,” said Siamäk Naghian, managing director of Genelec. “We think that the 8430 is exactly that monitor and I anticipate an enthusiastic reception of the product amongst the audio community. Audio over IP is no longer the future of monitoring – it is here now.”

But Genelec’s new monitor was by no means the only Ravenna-related product development on show at PL+S, with other notable items including: the GigaCore 14R Gigabit Ethernet switch from Luminex; Omicron Lab’s OTMC-100 antenna-integrated PTP Grandmaster clock; Merging Technologies’ Hapi networked audio interface; Neumann’s DMI-8 digital microphone interface equipped with a Ravenna card; and Boldburg’s Galileo range of Ravenna-enabled modular multi-core devices.

‘Indisputable extra value’

Another Ravenna technology user, Lawo brought a very extensive selection of its latest and greatest products to Frankfurt. These included the mc²36, an all-in-one mixing desk ‘built to broadcast standards’ but with a feature-set that also makes it suitable for theatres, houses of worship and more. Also in the spotlight were the mc²56 and mc²66 mixing consoles, as was the Nova37 hybrid Ravenna/MADI plug and play audio router for instant set-up of small-sized audio networks with a maximum of 1536×1536 crosspoints. Lawo also showed its range of video tools, including V__pro8 and V__link4.

With Lawo’s Kick automated, close-ball audio technology continuing to make an impact throughout the broadcast sector, the company’s innovative credentials remain as robust as ever. As Christian Struck, senior product manager audio production at Lawo, told TVBEurope: “Lawo has always been a driving force of the development and adaption of new technologies, and the latest technologies [surrounding immersive audio and other next generation audio techniques] are no exception. We pushed the development of early 3D mixing for broadcast some years ago, and we actively follow the latest developments around object-based mixing, personalisation and so on. When the market embraces the technologies we will be happy to support it.”

With regard to forthcoming developments, Struck confirms that “the usability and additional benefits [brought to the production]” continue to underline Lawo R&D for broadcast. “Without revealing any secrets, it is clear for Lawo that new and innovative technologies with an indisputable extra value always have a substantial position in our development plans,” he says.

Processing progress

The continued evolution of digital mixing technology was another recurring theme at Prolight + Sound ’16. One of the most notable developments came from DiGiCo, which presented an SD7 desk installed with the new Quantum 7 processing engine that is scheduled for release in spring 2017. Developed with seventh generation FPGA devices, Quantum 7 is set to deliver a number of enhancements. These include Nodal Processing – which means that processing can be applied to any node on the auxiliary section of the console, allowing engineers to send unique processing on each send from a single or multiple channels – and the True Solo system, enabling the operator’s monitoring system to replicate almost any section of the console.

Finally, the show provided a basis to mark several significant company anniversaries, not least the 20th birthday of networking technology Optocore. Two decades on from the first Optocore product being made available, its networks are used in OB vans, studios, stadiums, theatres and more. In 2012, the company founders created a separate company, BroaMan, to focus on the broadcast and AV markets.

On a busy PL+S stand, Tine Helmle, who was Optocore VP of sales and marketing from 2001-2012 and now serves as BroaMan’s managing director, reflected: “A lot of this success is down to the fact that the technology is rock-solid, user-friendly, long-lasting, and involves low power consumption; the green aspect of our products is very important. We have great clients worldwide, a great worldwide portfolio, and brilliant projects to work on. So yes, we are very happy with our current position.”

An example of vibrant attention to detail and cutting edge R&D characterises the Optocore and BroaMan stories. Fortunately, there were plenty of other examples to be found on the showfloors of an event that is now on the calendar of many broadcast professionals as they gear up for the frenetic period that commences with NAB very shortly afterwards.