Otari ND-20 Network Audio Distribution Unit

Jun 1, 2001 12:00 PM, BY GEORGE PETERSEN

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In nearly every sector of professional audio — recording, broadcast, post-production, contracting or sound reinforcement — the benefits of networking and the convenience of sharing/accessing audio files among many users within a facility are obvious. Unfortunately, setting up an audio network can be a daunting task of interconnecting routers, hubs, networking cards, computers and other peripherals. With that in mind, Otari has introduced a simple audio networking solution based on its ND-20, a modular unit that communicates to other ND-20s via an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) derivative called mLAN, where audio signals can be distributed throughout a high-speed network and output in analog or digital signal formats.

Housed in a two-rackspace chassis, each ND-20 offers up to 32-channel capability (or 16 channels at 96 kHz) and has four rear panel slots for I/O modules. Available 8-channel modules include +4dB analog line inputs, +4dB analog line outputs, XLR mic inputs and multichannel AES/EBU digital.

The optional CB-178 remote control unit is a compact tabletop (or console-top) unit that adds real-time control of gain/pad/limiting/phantom power for any mic preamp module in the network, as well as offering remote system configuration. The CB-178 communicates via FireWire and adds the ability to select and monitor any channel with a 20-segment LED level meter and headphone output with level control. The system can be controlled from multiple points by using two or more CB-178s.

The ND-20 can also be used as a stand-alone AD/DA converter with 24-bit resolution. All I/Os are capable of 96, 48, 44.1 and 32kHz sample rates (with ± 12% varipitch), plus pull-up/pull-down rates. MADI and TDIF I/O, as well as mLAN (over the IEEE 1394 high-speed serial bus) formats are also available. Sample rate conversion is built into all AES input channels with individual control over each channel.

Other ND-20 features include selectable internal or external clocking (with BNC wordclock I/O provided for the latter) and rear panel switches for routing the signals from each I/O and setting system configurations. The ND-20 can be AC- or DC-powered, and both power inputs can be used simultaneously in broadcast-style installations requiring redundant power supplies for fail-safe operation in the case of blackouts or other AC loss.

Multiple ND-20s can be connected using standard 6-pin IEEE 1394 cable or fiber optics to create an audio network capable of 96 channels (48-, 44.1 kHz) or 64 channels at 96 kHz. Using the 3-port IEEE 1394 interface on the ND-20's rear panel, various network topologies can be created either in a simple “daisychain” arrangement (attaching 16 additional ND-20s in series) or a “multiple-chain” array, which uses several ND-20s in series, each feeding more ND-20s in a tree-style configuration. More complex possibilities are possible by adding a third-party IEEE 1394 hub to create “star” networks.

Because the configuration is IEEE 1394-based, individual units can be hot-swapped without the need to power-down the rest of the network. Likewise, ND-20 networks are subject to the limitations of other IEEE 1394 protocols; for example, a maximum of 63 devices can be connected to a single network, and no more than 16 cables can be used between the most distant devices. Using a wired connection, the maximum distance between two adjacent units is 4.5 meters, although the use of an optical cable extends this distance to 500 meters. Another point to keep in mind is that the ND-20 currently supports a 200MB/second bandwidth. ND-20 support of 400MB/second — via an optional plug-in daughterboard — is planned for later this year, which would increase the maximum number of system channels to 192, depending on the connections and/or sample rate requirements.

The ND-20 is priced from $3,895 — additional I/O modules begin at $730. A wide variety of options (including the $1,895 CB-178 remote) are offered, so systems can be tailored to suit individual needs.

Otari Corporation, 8236 Remmet Ave. Canoga Park, CA 91304; 818/598-1256; fax 818/594-7208; www.otari.com.






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