Audio Review: Technomad Schedulon
Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin
Solid scheduling-enabled audio player and recorder that fits the simplicity bill.
Technomad, manufacturer of military-oriented audio equipment (particularly PA systems) has introduced its Schedulon scheduling-enabled audio player/recorder. This device is nearly identical to Technomad's SuperConductor, which is the purely military version of the device. As a manufacturer of military-grade technology, Technomad is known to make its products figuratively bulletproof, and the Schedulon was developed with this notion in mind. It records to and plays back from RAM, so there are no moving hard-disk parts to cause problems. It's distinguished from similar computer-based solutions by the fact that it is a standalone device, immune to viruses or operating system crashes or hang-ups. I've always been a great believer in over-engineering, which helps avoid embarrassment and, more importantly, the potential loss of clients that can be caused by equipment failures. The Schedulon very much appeals to my sensibilities in this regard.
The military recognizes that much of its equipment is destined to be operated by 18-year-olds who have little experience with technology, so simplicity is the key word. The Schedulon's 1RU front and rear panels very clearly fit that bill. There are just five features on the front panel: From left to right, there's an LCD display, a data-input knob, a removable thumb-drive access panel, an RJ-45 Ethernet port, and a large bat-handle power switch. The LCD displays 32 characters on two lines, and it is very reminiscent of the old-school Yamaha processors and synthesizers. The data-entry knob is of the large variety colloquially described as “chicken-head”; it spins continuously for data input and can also be depressed as a pushbutton switch. It doesn't get much simpler than a single knob and a basic LCD display for control and feedback.
The rear panel is also simple. From left to right, you'll find a fuse holder, the unit's integrated AC power cord, a Neutrik 1/4in. TRS output jack, a second RJ-45 Ethernet port, and two stereo RCA pairs representing audio in and rec in. Again, the Schedulon sports a very straightforward, no-nonsense design, which is right in line with the requirements you'd expect from the military.
The Schedulon is essentially designed to do one thing: automatically play audio at prescheduled times or immediately under human control if desired. There are obviously numerous applications for such a device. In an educational setting, specifically a school, the Schedulon can be used to play tones or recorded speech intended to alert students that class begins in 10 minutes, again 5 minutes later, and then a final alert 1 minute prior to the start of each class hour. The minimum time resolution of the scheduling is 1 minute, so countdowns that update every minute are possible. Additionally, emergency messages can be delivered, alerting students of a fire or other dangers. For numerous applications, the ability to play hourly chimes to indicate the time is nice, particularly since a specific number of chime strokes can be played or even a pleasant voice can announce that it's 10 o'clock, for example. Up to 100 scheduled playback events can be programmed into the system. In military settings, the device can be used to play Reveille in the morning, Taps at dusk, and other military-oriented sounds. As a matter of fact, the device ships from Technomad with quite a number of military sounds, including alarm sirens and bugle calls. Among other applications, the Schedulon would also be useful in subways, airports, hospitals, or other public buildings, even to provide BGM. For that matter, this system would be useful for any application in which you would otherwise use a flash-drive-based recording/playback system.
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