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Symetrix Jupiter 8 Review

Sep 13, 2010 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Simple app-style control from an intelligent processor.

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Symetrix Jupiter 8

There's nothing new about the notion of controlling a hardware engine with a software front-end interface. It's an idea that is now being exploited at every turn—and rightfully so. Controlling hardware from a flexible, user-definable interface is a powerful and easily understood way of doing things, which may be important if volunteers or other untrained users will be working with a system. A newer, more up-to-date twist is now being incorporated into the software-controlled hardware paradigm—a twist that was suggested by the introduction of apps for smartphones.

Today's smartphones are computers, for all practical intents and purposes, and the apps developed for them range from very simple processes to highly sophisticated programs. Either way, the owner of the phone can download and use apps intended for an incredibly vast diversity of purposes, including reading novels, locating via GPS, and multitrack digital recording. Symetrix has introduced its Jupiter digital signal processor/routing system, which leverages the notion of apps as used with smartphones. Jupiter's diversity of purposes is not as wide as that of smartphones, but it is broader than that of most other hardware platforms.

Specifically, the Jupiter serves in four different domains: mixing and routing, public address and distribution, sound reinforcement, and special purpose signal processing. I spent time with a Jupiter 8 and found that the app model translates into these domains nicely.

Symetrix' Jupiter 8 is the mid-line model in a line of three new processors, including the Jupiter 4 and Jupiter 12. Because of the software-front-end-controlling-hardware-engine topology, the physical unit is just about as simple as it gets, and I really like that way of thinking—not to mention the handsome hardware unit. It's a 1RU processor with only display LEDs and a network connector on the front panel, and a rear panel populated with a power inlet, network connectors, analog I/O, logic outputs, and external control inputs. The audio, logic, and control connections are all Euro-style 3.81mm terminal blocks. This is the beauty of relegating all the control to a software front end: The apps grant the user all the necessary control over the system, so virtually no front-panel controls are necessary on the hardware. Symetrix does make proprietary hardware controls available for in-wall mounting, including the ARC-2 wall panel and the RC-3 potentiometer. Switches and logic outputs can also be connected to the unit. The point of these remote controls is to facilitate basic control over the system by end-users in remote locations. In particular, the ARC-2 is quite sophisticated, with the capacity for preprogramming with up to 24 menus through which the end-user can navigate to gain control of the system. I was not shipped any of these controllers, but I have had experience with them using other Symetrix systems.

In Symetrix' vernacular, the first of the four types of apps available is "mixing and routing." These apps include signal routing and automixing type configurations for houses of worship, courtrooms, and banquet rooms—which seems pretty basic, but the automixing capacity of the system can get quite sophisticated. The second type of app is "public address and distribution," intended for distributed speaker systems such as in public transit stations, theaters, and shopping malls. Here, signal distribution is a key function, but ducking signals for the benefit of public announcements is also important. Symetrix' third type of app is used in the domain of sound reinforcement, intended for applications in nightclubs, courtrooms, and lecture halls. The main focus of this type of app is loudspeaker management signal processing, along with signal routing. The fourth and final Symetrix app category is "special purpose signal processing," intended for broadcast facilities, production suites, and live sound. This would include signal routing between broadcast studios, mastering-type processing to polish broadcast signals, and similar EQ and dynamics processing for live sound.

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