New Developments in Digital Snakes

Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By George Petersen

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Cable snakes and system interfacing are hardly the stuff that generates huge headlines in the audio press. And 20 years ago, this article would have never existed. But these days, with the industry-wide acceptance of protocols such as EtherSound and CobraNet and the ease of fiber or Cat-5 cabling, copper is definitely on the way out. Expensive and bulky, analog snakes are prone to ground loops, EMI and RF interference while digital systems avoid these dilemmas and others, such as signal losses over long cable runs or the age-old issue of who gets the first split. Offering the ability to carry control information along with multichannel audio feeds, digital provides a flexible, easily reconfigurable solution, whether in the most basic or highly complex installations.

Owners of digital consoles who are looking into a digital snake should begin their quest with the manufacturer, where upgrading to digital-based audio/control distribution may require little more than an interface cable between the console(s) and stage box, or perhaps adding some optional cards. In the market of hardware- and software-driven systems for distributing audio and control data, changes are frequent and continually evolving. With that in mind, we checked in with some third-party suppliers of digital snake products (listed alphabetically).

WHAT'S ON THE MARKET

The Aphex 828 Anaconda interfaces a 1788A to consoles, DAWs and recorders.

Unveiled at last fall's AES show in San Francisco, Aphex (www.aphex.com) is now shipping its Model 828 Anaconda, a 64-channel, bi-directional snake that interfaces the company's 1788A remote-controlled preamps to consoles, DAWs and recorders. The first permanent install went into KCET Los Angeles, the country's largest public TV station, linking the studio to a Yamaha digital console in its control room 400 feet away using a high-speed fiber line that also carries control (transport, gain, etc.) and metering data to/from the 1788A preamps.

Recent interface/converter peripherals for the Anaconda system include the Model 141 8-channel ADAT-to-analog converter, the Model 142 8-channel analog-to-ADAT converter and the bi-directional Model 144, an AES-to-ADAT and ADAT-to-AES interface that converts four stereo pairs of AES or S/PDIF to/from eight ADAT-format channels.

Aviom’s 6416dio provides 16 digital I/O channels to/from a Pro64 A-Net audio network.

The news at Aviom (www.aviom.com) is that the Pro64 version of its A-Net technology is finally available. Pro64 A-Net expands on Pro16 A-Net while improving the flexibility of the architecture, increasing the channel count to 64×64 (with higher sample rates) and data integration for remote control of mic preamps, network management and distributing user control data. The first Pro64 install handles the tielines from the new Pearl stage at The Palm complex in Las Vegas to the facility's state-of-the-art control room.

Aviom recently unveiled several peripherals that expand the potential of the Pro64 series. A two-rackspace unit, the 6416dio provides 16 digital I/O channels to/from a Pro64 A-Net audio network using the AES-3 format, with support for all sample rates up to 192 kHz. Due out at the end of this month is the 6416Y2, a Y2-format card that interfaces between Yamaha console/mix engines and Aviom's Pro16 personal monitor mixing system. The 6416Y2 supports up to 16 simultaneous I/O channels and handles variable sample rates of 44.1/48 kHz or 88.2/96 kHz. Multiple cards can be used to provide 64x64 capability.

Aviom's new AV-M8 module provides eight mic level signals to a Pro16 system; its AV-P2 outputs two analog channels from a Pro16 A-Net digital audio stream. Multiple modules can be used for increased channels or more splits; both rackmountable modules are shipping.

At InfoComm, BSS Audio (www.bssaudio.com) showed a hardware/software update for its Soundweb London range. Users involved with teleconferencing will be interested in software Version 1.14;. When combined with a new, dedicated SHARC DSP card, it provides Acoustic Echo Cancellation technology. The card requires a new BLU Series interface (models BLU-80A/32A/16A); these are identical to the existing BLU models except that they have a larger power supply to handle the needs of the SHARC card. Also new is a BLU-555 telephone hybrid.

Digigram (www.digigram.com) is shipping its LX6464ES EtherSound PCI network soundcard, which can transmit and receive 64 EtherSound channels. The card offers a bridge between computer audio apps for recording/playback and an EtherSound network, with DirectSound and ASIO driver support. Also new are three EtherSound-enabled AES/EBU devices: models ES881v2, ES16161v2 and ES1241v2. All new interfaces implement ES100 (the latest upgrade to the EtherSound technology), which permits the design of original network topologies, such as redundant rings. The latter allows automatic redirection of the audio and control data stream in the alternate direction in the event the ring is accidentally broken.

The LightViper VIM-MY32 mini-YGDAI interface components from Fiberplex (www.lightviper.com) are designed to connect Yamaha digital consoles directly to the company's fiber-optic audio snakes. Designed as a plug-and-play solution, two VIM-MY32 card modules (master/slave set) will handle 32 (24-bit/48kHz) audio sends and eight returns via fiber. With an additional card set, a Yamaha PM5D can operate with 64 sends and 16 fiber-optic returns. The cards also support Yamaha's M7CL, DM2000, DM1000 and LS9 units, and control protocol for AD8HR remote mic preamps is provided.

Also new, LightViper's YamMon software lets users of non-Yamaha consoles remotely control up to 255 of Yamaha's AD8HR preamps from a laptop computer. Used with the LightViper 4832 system, this PC app (a Mac version is coming) controls phantom power, HP filter in/out and roll-off frequency, channel level/trim, word clock settings, metering, labeling and more.

Optocore (www.optocore.de) launched the PTP32E, a point-to-point link with redundant fiber connection carrying 32 AES/EBU digital audio channels and bi-directional composite video. Optocore also offers its Y Series network modules for consoles with Yamaha YGDAI mini-slots or the DIO8 for the PM1D, with 64 audio I/Os per module or (with multiple modules) up to 512 channels per Optocore network ring on a single fiber pair. The most recent option for the company's optical network system is the DD8RP Repeater Device, which can expand the system's normal multimode, 700-meter range via four link ports that can operate in standard multimode or be switched to mono mode for runs up to 100 km.

Last fall, Peavey (www.mediamatrix.com) licensed EtherSound technology for its MediaMatrix, Crest Audio, Architectural Acoustics and other brands. No word yet on any EtherSound-enabled MediaMatrix gear, so stay tuned for further developments. Meanwhile, MediaMatrix announced its NION nX DSP Audio Node and NIO I/O cards. The NION nX core is based on three floating-point SHARC DSPs, and its Scalable I/O Architecture has optional plug-in cards in two module bays supporting up to 16 simultaneous analog audio channels, while an integrated CobraNet port provides 64 channels for a total of 80 simultaneous configurable audio channels. New NIO I/O cards include NIO-AES — offering eight AES pairs (each pair is selectable as input or output channels) — and NIO-8i with eight line inputs (24-bit A/D).

Momentum from Pro Co Sound (www.procomomentum.com) is a modular, expandable (up to 256-input) Ethernet snake system featuring a digital mix engine and numerous connectivity/conversion options. It's based on single-rackspace, 8-channel rackmount modules for input/outputs. A DSP engine can be added to an output unit for use as a personal monitor/distributed audio mixer. It features pro-quality mic preamps, wireless mix engine control and a touchscreen controller for remote system operation. Options include fiber optics, CobraNet, and Phoenix and D-Sub 25 connectors.

The DigiPHY line of RapcoHorizon (www.rapcohorizon.com) Ethernet-based products uses modular 8-channel mic/line input and line-level output units that can be monitored or re-configured on-the-fly locally or remotely via included software. The modules can be connected in daisy-chain, star or mixed topologies using standard or the company's DuraCAT5e Cat-5e cables with Neutrik Ethercon connectors. Inputs have phantom power, programmable gain and 80Hz/12kHz filters.

The Roland S-1608 16x8 digital snake is based on the company’s REAC protocol.

Roland Systems Group (www.rssamerica.com) is now shipping the S-1608, a digital snake in a fixed 16×8 configuration. Based on the same 24-bit/96kHz low-latency REAC protocol used in the company's flagship S-4000 modular digital snake system, the S-1608 features 16 mic inputs and eight returns over a standard Cat-5e cable. The S-1608 can also be used with an S-4000 to create a 48-input, 16-return digital snake. Users can also employ the S-1608 in pairs or multiples to create flexible split-stage or stage zone setups. Preamps are controllable using the S-4000R hardware remote or the included RCS software for fast setups with preset memories.

The D32IO-A digital audio snake terminal from Violet Audio (www.violetaudio.com) handles up to 32 channels of 24-bit/96kHz audio over standard Cat-5 cable. The unit acts as an AD/DA converter, digital transmission hub and physical connection terminal, with analog I/O connectivity via four analog D-Sub 25-pin ports. Ports can be factory-preconfigured for operation in either a 32/0, 24/8 or 16/16 implementation, depending on customer needs. Violet Audio also offers rackmount D-Sub breakout boxes with XLRs for AES/EBU or analog signals.

E MOD networking and I/O module digital interconnects from Whirlwind (www.whirlwindusa.com) offer solutions for nearly any install. The PXP Series converts 16 channels of audio to/from various protocols: PXP-CA (CobraNet-to-Aviom A-Net), PXP-EA (EtherSound-to-A-Net) and the bi-directional PXP-CE (CobraNet-to/from-EtherSound). The two half-rack, 2-channel interfaces include the CO2a (CobraNet to line-level analog output) and the CI2L (line-level to analog to CobraNet input). New 8-channel modules are the CI8L (analog-to-CobraNet input) and CO8a (CobraNet-to-analog outputs), both in single-rackspace packages. About to ship at press time is the CIA (Computer Interface Alternative), which can control Whirlwind's E-Snake directly from a Yamaha digital console, providing access to parameters such as gain and phantom power without the need for a computer.


George Petersen is Mix's executive editor.






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