InfoComm Audio Roundup
Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Jack Kontney
This year’s show highlights an increasing number of application-specific designs.
The audio pavilion at this year's InfoComm was bigger than ever. Centered in Hall A of the Anaheim Convention Center, the audio manufacturers offered a tempting menu of new products and old favorites. And while the recent trend toward convergence products continued, the overriding theme was firmly toward application-specific design.
The dominant story coming out of the audio pavilion was the announcement of Audio-Technica's new SpectraPulse wireless system, scheduled to ship by the end of 2007. Transmitting in the 6GHz range using ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, SpectraPulse promises interference-free, secure wireless with easy setup and operation. At a time when the future of conventional wireless is on hold until the FCC determines its post-DTV fate, Audio-Technica has moved forward with a transmission system that transcends the limitations of the familiar RF architectures.
SpectraPulse is designed for any application in which stationary boundary mics are appropriate, such as boardrooms and meeting rooms, handling up to 14 simultaneous channels with a single rackmount receiver. The Mtu101 boundary microphone transmitter unit has a power switch, a channel selector, status LEDs, and a programmable touchswitch. The system also includes an audio control interface to set system functions and a charger/encryption interface for up to seven transmitters. While the nature of the system's low-power, short-pulse transmission scheme offers inherent security for content, A-T also offers an optional 128-bit encryption package that meets National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards.
Rather than modulating a carrier signal, SpectraPulse operates via a series of very short (3-nanosecond) pulses, which are monitored by the digital receiver module, converted to digital audio, and output via Cat-5. A rackmount audio control interface keeps the time-based system in sync and handles digital-to-analog conversion, allowing the output to interface with any audio or teleconferencing system. Performance is keyed to the vocal range (100Hz to 12kHz), and latency is a miniscule 1.5 milliseconds — outstanding for a digital system. SpectraPulse has a transmission range of 75ft. to 100ft., and it is limited to indoor operation under FCC rules.
There was plenty of news on the input side of the audio chain, as well. Audio-Technica's Engineered Sound mic line has gone next-generation, now offering more than 50 models, all RoHS-compliant and RF-immune. Meanwhile, Shure has redesigned and expanded its Microflex installation line, including the MX690 wireless boundary mic, which uses the SLX platform. The new MX395 series consists of button-sized boundary mics available in three finishes and three polar patterns. The company also showed an expansion of gooseneck options and its MX396 multi-element conference mic.
AKG Acoustics introduced the WMS 450 wireless system with automatic setup and rechargeable batteries. The company also announced the availability of its successful new C5 and D5 microphones in wireless versions, both in the WMS 450 and in the premium WMS 4000 platform.
Electro-Voice showed the Rev wireless system with automatic frequency selection and remote monitoring, as well as the PolarChoice PC boundary mic with four selectable pickup patterns, available in wired or wireless versions.
Sennheiser has tuned its acclaimed e912 boundary microphone for speech applications in the form of the hemi-cardioid Evolution 912 S, which boasts an onboard preamp and a choice of three finishes. The company also announced that its entire line of Sennheiser Installed Sound (IS) mics is now available in Nextel gray.
Of course, nothing gets heard at all without some sort of loudspeaker, and they were in plentiful supply. In keeping with the industry trend toward application-engineered design, there seemed to be a “perfect fit” product for virtually any venue or situation, with a strong emphasis on high sound quality.
Speaking of great fidelity, Meyer Sound is already shipping its new UPJunior to great acclaim. This compact, self-powered VariO design has a rotatable horn, allowing 80°×50° coverage in either the horizontal or vertical plane.
Meanwhile, at L-Acoustics, the news was small, literally. Designed for low-profile applications, the Kiva system is an ultra-compact line array that incorporates the full Wavefront Sculpture Technology found in the acclaimed V-Dosc system. The stylish Kiva cabinets achieve full-bandwidth audio down to 80Hz and can be coupled with either the Kilo or SB118 companion models for low-frequency extension, all optimized and amplified with an LA4 controller.
Among its line-wide array of new products, QSC announced three additions to its AcousticDesign speaker series for background and paging systems. For ceiling mount, the AD-C42T and AD-C81Tw are two-way designs with full range response and surprising low-frequency extension, while the diminutive AD-S32T will fit almost anywhere, promising good sound with mil-spec reliability against dust, salt, humidity, and temperature.
JBL Professional also emphasizes high-quality atmospheric audio with its Control Contractor Series of ceiling- and surface-mount loudspeakers. And JBL now offers DrivePack analog input processor modules for its VP series.
New to the InfoComm show floor was Boston Acoustics, already a legend in consumer hi-fi. Now available to contractors through D&M Professional are the company's on-wall, in-wall, and in-ceiling designs, plus the stylish Voyager Rock outdoor speakers.
Resistance to the elements is the entire focus for One Systems USA, a new Nashville, Tenn.-based speaker company. With two patent-pending technologies — Equivalent Throat technology and Inside/Only Voice coils — One Systems products share an impressive combination of high output, excellent intelligibility, and full-range sound, with every product in the line fully operational under any weather condition.
Renkus-Heinz (R-H) was demonstrating its RHAON (Renkus-Heinz Audio Operations Network) network control through the new Sygma series of installation loudspeakers, using the CobraNet protocol for monitor and control via a PC-based user interface. R-H announced that all its product lines would become RHAON-ready by the end of the year.
Of course, no one hears a thing if the speakers aren't powered, and there was no shortage of installation-specific amplifiers at the show. A new player, Face Audio, debuted its Contractor series of mixer-amps and high-powered Titanium Extra Class-AB amplifiers to the U.S. market. Among established brands, QSC showed its brawny PowerLight 3 series, operable either under network control or as straight-up analog devices.
Meanwhile, Lab.gruppen expanded its user-configurable C Series to eight purpose-specific models, with monitoring and control through its NomadLink networking system.
EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
Soundcraft answered the call for a more modestly sized (and priced) version of its Vi6 digital touring console. The new Vi4 offers the full functionality of its big brother with 48 inputs on 24 faders.
Taking an entirely different approach, Crest Audio showed the CV-20 console, a flexible VCA-based approach suitable for handling front-of-house and monitor mixing duties simultaneously.
To relieve stress over audio networking issues, Whirlwind was showing its PXP, a protocol exchange system to help Aviom, CobraNet, and EtherSound digital transport systems to coexist.
Aviom continued its expansion of its A-Net Pro64 system with the 6416Y2 card to interface with Yamaha digital consoles and the AV-P2 output module, for pulling a pair of channels, in analog, from any point in an Aviom digital network.
At the Harman Pro Group, BSS unveiled an update to its Soundweb London platform with its new HiQnet London Architect v1.14 software and Blu-8 zone controller. In addition, it announced the AEC input card for London Blu, with four independent channels of acoustic echo cancellation.
With teleconferencing beginning its morph into “telepresence,” the need for seamless, natural-sounding telephony has never been greater. Polycom has introduced SoundStructure, a processing system that inserts sophisticated DSP and acoustic echo cancellation between its HDX video codecs and the audio inputs.
And in a quiet corner of Hall A, Yamaha was showing the ProjectPhone teleconferencing audio unit. Already available in Japan, ProjectPhone is a long, sleek desktop audio unit containing an array of 32 microphones that work with onboard DSP to localize and track each talker, keeping everyone on mic for a natural sound.
One of the best parts of a tradeshow is finding the next generation of cool and useful new toys and tools. Think CD players are obsolete? Think again. The Denon DN-C640 slot-in network audio player can play virtually any audio format including CD, DVD, and data discs, and it has the ability to stream audio playlists from a PC, server, or LAN.
Kaltman Creations showed the Spectran HF4040 spectrum analyzer, which handles the entire RF spectrum from 10MHz to 4GHz at an amazingly low price. Also of note were the Extron Electronics AVTrac raceway for discreet deployment of conference room power and datelines, Neutrik's new Crimp-XLR connectors, and BTX's labor-saving MaxBlox EZ termination system for HD15 and DB9 connectors.
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Jack Kontney is president of Kontney Communications, a Chicago-based content creation and marketing consultancy specializing in professional audio. He can be contacted at www.kontneycomm.com.
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