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July 2014
Issue: February 1, 2005

AUDIO MIXING CONSOLES

By: By Christine Bunish


Studers Vista 8 is equipped with the companys Vistonics user interface.
From meeting the demand for greater console/workstation integration and launching full-featured but small-footprint boards to introducing classically-styled, large-format desks, audio console manufacturers today offer an array of products to fit every film, broadcast and post production application.

EUPHONIX

"Digital audio workstations have revolutionized the audio post business," declares Andrew Wild, VP of marketing for Euphonix (www.euphonix.com/). "Every audio post and music session runs from a workstation, so it's essential that the console communicate with that workstation. But it's a complex process to hook the control surface to the workstation - there's no universal protocol you can use."


Mackies X.400 is designed for digital, analog and hybrid studios.
With the launch of its System 5-MC integrated DAW digital audio mixing system at AES last fall, Euphonix has produced a product to meet the demand for console/workstation integration. The 5-MC tightly integrates the Euphonix System 5 control surface design with DAW applications such as Steinberg's Nuendo and Merging Technologies' Pyramix, which support the Euphonix-developed EuCon protocol. The control surface can be fitted with 8- to 48-channel strips and comes with the MC Intelligent Application Controller for master console functions and integral control of the DAW. The MC can also control any other software application running on the workstation through keyboard commands mapped to the 56 SmartSwitches and, for non-EuCon DAWs such as Pro Tools, it supports the HUI control protocol.

"Principal engineers no longer work with just one application," says Wild. "They tend to switch all the time from audio editing to samplers to video editing and the Internet. So we made the center section adapt to the application the engineer is working in."


Euphonixs MC is designed to serve as a workstation controller.
Wild says Euphonix is "working to encourage" others, including video editing system manufacturers to adopt EuCon for high-speed connectivity.

The 5-MC, which begins shipping in March, has generated a lot of interest from post production and music clients, Wild reports. "Our main market is broadcast consoles and high-end audio post, but when Euphonix started, our primary customers were short-form post and project studios. The 5-MC gets us back to the markets we started in."


Yamahas DM1000 is in V.2 release.
DIGIDESIGN
With the ICON integrated console Digidesign (www.digidesign.com/) expands its offerings in the high-end mix console arena, reports Rich Nevens, the company's director of worldwide console sales. ICON enables operators to accomplish every aspect of a project - mixing, recording, editing and processing, complete with integrated video and delivery - within a single, fully-integrated environment. It features a D Control control surface, Pro Tools' HD or HD Accel mix engine and Pro Tools|HD converters for its I/Os.

"People think because ICON is based around Pro Tools that it is simply a control surface for Pro Tools," says Nevens. "But ICON can operate as a powerful, large-format, realtime mixing console with the flexibility of all the great-sounding plug-ins available for Pro Tools. When you add the Pro Tools recorder/editor into the mix, ICON takes things to a new level."


Fox Television recently installed six 32-fader, 96-channel Solid State Logic C200 digital production consoles.
In addition to supporting mixes up to 24-bit/192 kHz in 7.1 surround, the integrated console features tricolor displays on touch-sensitive controls, a wide range of visual mixing feedback, dedicated center section and per-channel control over all processing functions and routing, global automation, and full studio and control room monitoring.

A key feature of ICON is its scalability: from a basic 16-fader system for short-form post mixing to large-scale, multi-operator film dubbing systems.




"One of the big benefits of ICON in post production is that if you're using Pro Tools for editorial, you can take your Pro Tools session out of the edit bay or pre-mix room to the mix stage and every parameter immediately comes up on the surface," Nevens explains. On the video side, ICON also offers interoperability with editing systems from sister company Avid.

Since ICON began shipping in late spring of 2002 systems have been installed at NBC, ABC, Technicolor, Widget in LA, Another Country in Chicago and numerous other locations. "We've sold more than 170 systems," Nevens says. "For those using Pro Tools as their editor, ICON provides a high-end control surface perfectly married to the editor. Since everything is integrated in one package with digital video, ICON's workflow is unmatched."


A Fairlight Constellation XT in the companys factory studio in Australia.

SOLID STATE LOGIC

Over 60 SSL C-Series consoles (www.solid-state-logic.com/) have been installed since launching in summer 2003, many at high-profile post studios, including Fox Television and CBS. Fox boasts six C200 consoles in their post studios, producing more than 400 spots and trailers each week for Fox programming.

The C200's latest V.2 software offers many enhancements designed to solve the digital post issues raised by HD production; Revolutionary ThetaPan provides the ability to pan "images" around the room, providing both subtle and dynamic soundscape manipulation. New variable sample rate operation for the DSP offers multiple native sample frequencies plus pull-up and pull-down, including 96 kHz at 24-bit operation, with no loss of console facilities. New Sum and Split bussing add flexibility for stem creation and mixing when working with multiple release formats. In addition, integrated workstation access allows creative mixing using the console's DSP while providing direct control of the workstation editing interface.

Introduced in April 2004, SSL's AWS900 addresses the needs of post applications that require an extremely high-quality analog record path, zero-latency cue mixes/foldback, and full in-built 5.1 monitoring control with LFE management.

In addition, the integration of a large-scale ergonomic control surface for DAWs provides the missing link for modern post applications working directly to disk.

The record path of the AWS900 uses SSL's "SuperAnalogue " technology, an analog circuit design that delivers ultra-wide audio bandwidth with an ultra low noise floor, exceeding the requirements of today's 96 kHz/24-bit workstations. The AWS900's workstation controller exploits the speed advantages of a knob-per-function layout for transport control, mixing, monitoring and automation, ensuring ease of use, rapid operation and enhanced productivity.

AMS NEVE

AMS Neve's DFC Gemini, which began shipping after NAB 2004, is the third-generation film and TV mixing console in the DFC family. DFC consoles have been used on many feature films, including The Incredibles, Polar Express, Bridget Jones's Diary, Alfie and Shark Tale. "The DFCs are the most-established film-mixing consoles," says Simon Daniels, product marketing manager for AMS Neve (www.ams-neve.com/).

The new Gemini, which can be found at Sound One in New York and Warner Bros. in Hollywood, has many innovative features. "The most obvious change is moving to TFT meters with WavTrak," says Daniels. WavTrak displays audio waveform information on a path-by-path basis as well as provides users with level and dynamics metering, graphical EQ curve and pan display.

Gemini runs alongside the CineFile scalable recorder/dubber for a fully-integrated workflow. "It's a robust multitrack record and playback dubber running under remote control from the console rather than a replacement for an AudioFile or Pro Tools DAW," Daniels explains. In addition, Gemini incorporates Encore Plus, the latest-generation of Encore automation which offers significant speed enhancements and new functions such as Reconform, which reconforms automation from the picture change list - a valuable tool for film and TV work which is often re-cut up to the deadline. Encore Plus also offers remote control of DAWs such as Pro Tools, Nuendo and Pyramix.

A newly-developed DSP "gives about 70 percent more power to the system," Daniels adds. AMS Neve also offers a proprietary set of three plug-ins: Neve Classic EQ, Multiband Dynamics and Bass Enhancer. "More plug-ins will be coming," Daniels promises.

Introduced in 2001, AMS Neve's Logic MMC, the spiritual successor to the Logic 2 console with 24-bit/96 kHz operation, is positioned as more of a multimedia console. "It's got the Neve sound, Encore Plus automation improvements and improved DSP," says Daniels. The MMC12 is a fixed-figure 12-, 18- or 24-fader version of the MMC. "It's a full-scale post production mix console scaled to a small surface," he notes.

YAMAHA

While designed as live boards, Yamaha Commercial Audio's PM5D and PM5D-RH (www.yamaha.com/) have been discovered by the broadcast and post industries. "This has always happened with Yamaha digital boards," notes products manager Marc Lopez. "Although they're designed for one market, they're so versatile that other markets take them over. The PM5D, which began shipping last summer, is a super version of our DM2000, which was designed for live work, but because it has 24 busses and 56 inputs, the PM5D is able to be used for recording and mix down in broadcast trucks and facilities. And it has surround sound support which is important for post production and a small footprint."

With these consoles, customers have a choice of two front-end configurations. The PM5D includes 48 XLR analog mono inputs and balanced TRS insert I/Os with manual mic preamps based on the circuitry found in the DM2000, plus an additional four stereo line level inputs. The PM5D-RH includes 48 XLR analog mono inputs with recallable mic preamps derived from the head amplifier design of the Yamaha PM5000, with four stereo inputs that will accept mic level signals.

"We've gotten a lot of praise for the sound quality of the boards," Lopez adds. "And, as with other Yamaha digital consoles, there's a vast amount of DSP built on board: 12 graphic EQs, eight reverb engines, parametric EQ and compressors on every I/O channel."

The PM5D's Studio Manager software package, available since last fall, allows mixer control in realtime from the computer and offers the ability to create a mix offline. "You can do a lot of channel naming, routing and basic set up before you get to the mixer then sync the computer with the mixer," Lopez explains. "It's a real time saver upfront."

Last summer Yamaha also began shipping DM1000 V.2. The popular DM1000 was designed for post as a powerful, 19-inch rack mountable unit that can mix 48 channels and features built-in surround monitoring and panning, dynamic automation, full-length faders and a touch-sensitive mini joystick panner. NBC has multiple DM1000s and New York's Rainbow Communications has eight units in its post/broadcast facility.

The console's V.2 software "brings it up to the level of the operating systems in the other consoles in the DM family," says Lopez. "It also gives access to new effects plug-ins and provides Edit Suite Audio Mixer (ESAM) control for audio-follow-video with little interaction from the editor."

MACKIE

Mackie's new flagship Digital X.Bus consoles (www.mackie.com/) offer features the manufacturer says are currently unmatched by digital consoles selling for tens of thousands of dollars more combined with a platform that can integrate seamlessly with today's varied audio and music production environments: analog, digital or a hybrid of both.

Available in two models, the X.200, which began shipping last summer and counts Paramount Studios among its customers, and the X.400, which is slated to start shipping next month, both share the same basic feature set. They include a dual-touchscreen interface, 96 kHz operation (optional to 192 kHz), on-board automation and DSP, 25 100mm Penny + Giles faders, a configurable I/O card cage and a FireWire I/O card option. In addition, both models are compatible with select VST plug-ins.

The X.Bus consoles' most distinguishing feature is their two 15-inch touchscreens, which provide access to most functions while keeping the physical button count within reason. Both touchscreens and the mouse can be used simultaneously and operate independently allowing users to select the best interface for the task at hand.

Even though they are fully-capable recording consoles that can be integrated into both digital and analog recording environments, both consoles have also been designed to integrate seamlessly with modern DAW-based studios. Both feature full Mackie Control Universal functionality onboard that allows them to function as a control surface for most major DAW software.

While the X.Bus consoles have plenty of onboard processing, users can also run select VST plug-ins internally without the need for a separate computer and/or operate plug-ins in a desktop or laptop computer system and interface that laptop with the dXb via FireWire. Because the consoles employ an industry-standard motherboard, users can also load select VST plug-in cards like the UAD-1, which comes standard on the X.400 model.

The X.400 features additional capabilities intended specifically for post, including a more expansive 96 x 96 channel I/O matrix (48 x 48 at 192 kHz) or a minimum of 72 channels with DSP at 96 kHz (36 channels with DSP at 192 kHz). The X.400 is also equipped with more advanced surround sound functionality that includes 24 busses, flexible panning assignment and complete surround monitoring features.

FAIRLIGHT

When Fairlight (www.fairlightau.com/) introduced its Constellation XT at AES the new product placed the company on the leading edge of the large-format audio console marketplace. XT, now the flagship in Fairlight's DREAM Series, boasts 240 fully-featured channels, industry-first OLED displays, major gains in DSP, improved ergonomics and advanced DAW/mixer integration. Delivered in a single 8U frame and offering six-band parametric EQ, two-stage dynamics, 12 aux sends, a 48- or 96-track recorder and a suite of low-latency, integrated plug-ins on each channel, the XT DSP core redefines the delivery package and feature set for the large-format mixing category.

"Constellation XT broadens our product range to address the film and high-end television post markets," says sales and marketing director Stuart DeMarais. XT also includes an integrated, fully-featured 96-track DAW with Virtual Studio Runner, providing Virtual In/Out mailbox clip management and offline archiving capability to the DREAM family in the studio environment. Using Fairlight's MediaLink server technology as a host, the system automatically detects incoming files and automatically posts to the studio's or client's FTP site, or even burns the file to any available CD or DVD drive.

With XT, "we're providing a complete, integrated solution and not just a control surface," DeMarais notes. "That differentiates us from others in this market. We're the only audio company that can provide a completely networked post environment, including bidirectional control of the nonlinear video editing system from the console panel."

XT's In Line Panel (ILP) provides both dedicated and assignable controls of the channel's input settings, EQ and dynamics filters, auxiliary sends, surround panner and all of the currently inserted plug-ins. The new ILP is also fitted with 72 Organic Light Emitting Diode displays (OLEDs) allowing detailed information on any selected parameter value to be displayed at super-high resolution. Unlike traditional LCDs, OLED displays are crystal clear in all light environments and from practically any viewing angle.

"Use of OLED technology is an industry first which enables meaningful and useful information to be displayed on the channels themselves," DeMarais points out. OLED technology requires very little power and yet produces radiant, self-luminous displays that do not require backlighting, resulting in thin, very compact displays in a greater number and a larger size.

SOUNDTRACS

Soundtracs introduced its DS-00 digital console, for post and film applications, live-to-air broadcast mixing and mobile broadcast installations, about 18 months ago. Among its key features are expandability from 17 to 49 faders and 64 to 160 channels of full processing; stereo, LCRS, 5.1 and 7.1 surround mixing with a 40 x 8 monitor matrix; full dynamic and snapshot automation; an onboard effects option with automation recall; 96 kHz operation with multiple output sample rates; and an optional Film Panel Expander for mixing large features.

At NAB 2005 the DS-00 will announce optional support for the Oasis protocol; this will be available at the end of the first quarter. Oasis support will enable the DS-00 to link with the Pyramix audio editing system to control mix moves inside the editor from the console surface. "You can prep offline of the console and import your moves onto the console for the mix," notes sales director James Gordon. "Facilities looking at Pyramix will be interested in this. A number of facilities which have chosen Soundtracs are looking for new editing platforms. This adds weight to choosing Pyramix, a very impressive audio editing platform."

Developed by a group of manufacturers seeking audio standards, Oasis is "pretty much an open platform," says Gordon. "Communication between the audio editor and the mixing console is a relatively new idea. People don't want to wait for transfers or file exchanges. We've begun to support Oasis communications protocol by talking with Pyramix. But we've also opened discussions with a couple of other audio editing manufacturers."

STUDER

The Vista 8 from Studer (www.studer.ch/), which made its debut at NAB 2004, combines the best features of both the Vista 6 and Vista 7 to create a digital mixing system that represents another leap forward in ergonomic design and operational ease.

Like its two predecessors, the Vista 8 employs Studer's Vistonics user interface, which integrates touch-sensitive rotary controls and buttons with flat-screen displays to bring visualization and operation into immediate proximity. When the operator touches a desired function overview, all settings are clearly displayed via the adjacent TFT screen; there are no submenus, and every parameter is just one button-press away. This immediate access to all settings combined with Vistonics' "where you look is where you control" concept makes the Vista 8 even more intuitive to use than a standard analog console.

Ideal for surround production, Studer's Virtual Surround Panning (VSP) feature allows operators to create a realistic 5.1 (or optional 7.1 or Dolby EX) sound field modeled around only a few simple parameters. VSP simulates a defined acoustic space and positions the sound source within this space.

The company believes the role of dynamic automation has never been more important to the flexibility needed by today's dedicated and multipurpose audio rooms. With this in mind, the AutoTouch Plus Dynamic Automation system meets these requirements by being powerful, flexible and easy to use. Fully capable of satisfying just about any sonically-demanding production environment, the 24-bit Vista 8 can be used in 48 kHz or 96 kHz modes and features an extensive routing matrix integrated into its DSP core.

A highly-reliable console for post applications thanks to its proven digital technology, the Vista 8 desk has generated a lot of interest from the post community. It is equally suited for broadcast and live performance environments such as concert halls, theaters and houses of worship.