NSCA Expo 2003Top 20 New Live Sound Products From Dallas

Apr 9, 2003 12:00 PM, By Mark Frink

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I arrived at the 2003 NSCA (National Systems Contractors Association) Expo in Dallas coming off of a tour that ended in Perth, Australia. Many exhibitors spent the previous week at Frankfurt Musikmesse, so we were generally an upbeat, if somewhat jetlagged group.

By far the most intriguing product at NSCA was from EAW (www.eaw.com). Here, a returning Ken Berger (welcome back, Ken!) introduced its Digitally Steered Array (DSA) Series based on technology derived from the company's large-format KF900 system. The series includes the DSA250 full-range, two-way, self-powered speaker column (about $6,000 list), with onboard DSP and 16 channels of amplification for eight 4-inch woofers and eight horn-loaded 1-inch dome tweeters. Windows-based DSAPilot software allows users to control and vary the speaker’s vertical coverage in real time. During a single-box demo, Berger's voice could be clearly heard moving across the listening area. While intended for houses of worship, applications from Broadway to theme parks also come to mind. The DSA230 LF module extends the overall array with eight more woofers.

Several second- or third-generation line array speakers, such as Meyer’s MILO, EAW’s SLAM and Nexo’s GeoT-Series, launched the week before at Musikmesse, were covered in last month's Mix or at mixonline.

Two new compact line array debuts at NCSA represent opposite ends of the design spectrum. Renkus-Heinz' (www.renkus-heinz.com) PNX-102 compact line array module houses dual 10s with dual 1-inch compression drivers exiting from a vertical slot between them. Each 72-pound module is a foot high by 2-feet-wide ($2,499 list). The Martin (www.martin-audio.com) W8LC three-way, all-horn-loaded, compact line array combines a 12, two 6.5-inch mids and three 1-inch drivers ($ 4,995 list). Though not horizontally symmetrical, the individual horn loading of the W8LC's three sections provide extremely smooth frequency response.

Overshadowed by its extended family of line arrays was Meyer’s (www.meyersound.com) intro of the UPJ self-powered, two-way speakers ($3,700 list), with Variable Orientation (rotatable) horns. They come in two versions, replacing the discontinued UPL–the original self-powered live sound speaker–with more flexibility and 6dB more output. It weighs almost 30% less than a UPA, yet only 3dB shy. Both models employ a 10-inch woofer and a 0.75-inch exit compression driver, but the UPJ-1P provides 80° HF coverage, while the UPJ-2P has narrower 50° coverage.

New subwoofers worthy of note include Bag End’s (www.bagend.com) ($1,980 list) S21E-I, a single 21-inch ELF sub-woofer in a compact 2-cubic-foot enclosure rated 800 watts continuous and providing response down to 8 Hz. Sound Physics Labs (www.servodrive.com), makers of the BassTech 7 Servodrive subwoofer, introduced Stealth ($2,650 list), a horn-loaded, dual-12 sub using conventional drivers in a clever design that's only 18 inches wide, but 3.5-feet-tall and deep. Stealth gains enormous efficiency from quarter-space loading by placing the mouth of the horn at the intersection of a wall and floor to achieve boundary-dependent, 106dB sensitivity.

Console News
The big console news was Yamaha’s (www.yamaha.com) highly anticipated PM5000, marrying the convenience of digital scene recall into a 35-bus LCR analog desk. Features include 12 stereo aux buses, eight mono auxes (alternatively usable as groups), 12 VCAs and an 8 mono + 4 stereo matrix. Besides motorized faders, its deep scene automation includes all channel assignments for 990 user-titled memories with recall and fader safeties. Standard configurations of 52, 36 and 28 channels include four stereo inputs, but additional ones can replace mono channels. The largest is 500 pounds, 84 inches wide and $93,000 list. Yamaha’s demo room provided a nostalgic look at its entire line of analog and digital consoles through the years. I admit feeling a bit verklempt as I pushed a PM1000 fader one last time. PM5000 faders can push themselves.

DiGiCo (www.digiconsoles.com) poured on the new features for its high-end D5 Live touring board, including gain tracking, which, when used in a complete D5 Live FM (FOH/monitor) package, allows either console operator to change input gain without affecting the sound balance on the other console. DiGiCo also showed DiGiTRACS"!: a 56-track, disk-based soundcheck/show recorder based on Merging Technologies' Pyramix platform.

EQ Excitement!
NSCA had plenty of slick new EQs. Last year, Australia's Lake Technology (www.contour.lake.com) teamed with Clair Brothers on the Clair iO, found in many Clair drive racks this past year. Lake introduced Contour ($4,995 list), a similar 2-in/6-out, 24-bit/96kHz, PC-controllable digital processor. Besides its impressive wireless touchscreen interface, it offers low latency, "Optimal Phase" FIR technology with 2 ms of propagation and can layer an unlimited number of filters. Its filter-synthesis algorithms provide new types of filters: The "raised cosine" graphic EQs have minimal filter interaction. Besides traditional parametrics, "mesa" filters–with flat tops or bottoms–can be defined, even with asymmetrical slopes. Beyond the usual crossovers, Contour also produces linear phase and "brick wall" slopes exceeding 100 dB/octave. Contour is sure to find its way into top tour drive racks this summer.

TC Electronic (www.tcelectronic.com) showed the EQ Station ($6,995 list), an 8-channel digital EQ in a 2U chassis. Functions include 29-band graphic, 6-band parametric and two types of dynamic EQ. It can be operated directly from its front panel, via a high-quality, color TFT display and many direct-access knobs/buttons, or using external PC/Mac editor software over Ethernet. An optional 4U MotoFader remote controls up to 32 channels of graphic EQ during live performances, and it all fits into a 12-space rack. EQ Station will also be offered as a 4-channel EQ in the same chassis.

Apex (www.apex-audio.be) introduced the Intelli-Q Real-Time System Optimizer ($4,450 list), a 2-channel processor that’s controlled from a Windows PC. Its GUI layers the various types of EQ to show the interaction of graphic, parametric, highpass and shelving filters.

Rane’s (www.rane.com) new DEQ-60 ($999 list) 2-channel 30-band digital equalizer uses an advanced DSP algorithm, called Perfect-Q"!, to create the exact response dictated by analog-style, front-panel sliders, with virtually no interaction or ripple. In addition to low- and high-cut filters, each channel also has wide 3-band tone controls crossing over at 300 and 4k Hz.

XTA (www.xta.co.uk) offers 30% savings on its new DP6i Audio Installation Controller over the DPA-226 processor that it’s based on. Without most of the 226’s front-panel controls, it’s intended to be programmed and controlled via XTA’s AudioCore software. The 226’s usual knobs, switches and meters are replaced with a single mute-all button and four more buttons to allow front-panel recall of the first four presets.

In other EQ news, BSS’ (www.bss.co.uk) new 3088 Soundweb Lite is identical to the original Soundweb without the networking for two-thirds the price.

Wireless and More...
AKG's (www.akg.com) WMS-4000 pro wireless operates on 1,200 frequencies, and has easy setup features such as AutoScan, Environmental Scan and Rehearsal. Transmitters get up to 15 hours on NiCads or 12 hours with the new BP 4000 intelligent battery pack, which recharges in an hour. The half-rack receivers have LEDs showing status indication from across the room, and can be controlled and monitored–in groups of eight connected to a hub–by a PC over Ethernet.

Beyer's (www.beyerdynamic.com) Opus 800 wireless has four receivers in a 1U chassis. Up to 16 systems operate simultaneously on 100 preprogrammed frequencies across either TV channels 62 through 64 or 67 through 69 (450 to 498 MHz). Its innovative Automatic Channel Targeting scans for open frequencies, which it then transmits via IR to the transmitter.

Production Intercom (www.beltpack.com) introduced the miniature BP.15 ($225 list, $266 with the silent vibrator option found on its full-size beltpacks). The name comes from this pager-sized beltpack being a seventh of the volume of PI’s normal model, still with a normal 4-pin headset connector, but the 3-pin intercom XLR connection is via a Neutrik NanoCon adapter. Also in the same miniature form factor is the TR-1 ($169) IFB talent receiver, with 1/4-inch and 3.5mm earbud connectors.

To add touchscreen interfacing to an existing computer-based audio system is WACOM's (www.cintiq.com) Cintiq pen-mouse computer monitor tablets. The $3,499 list 18sx’s SXGA resolution is 1280x1024; the smaller 15-inch model has 1024x768 resolution and lists at $1,899. Both are TFT active-matrix LCD with 160° viewing angles.

Perhaps the biggest hits of NSCA were pretty small–at least in size. Ivie Technologies' (www.ivie.com) IE-33 is a miniature acoustical analyzer offered as a $1,399 package with a Compaq iPAQ 3950 PDA loaded with acoustic analysis software (RTA, SPL metering, seat-to-seat, strip charting, polarity, scope functions, etc.). A custom jacket with preamp, A/D converter, USB/RS-232 interfacing, measurement mic and charger are included; other software releases are planned.

Not to be outdone, Gold Line (www.gold-line.com) demo'ed its DSPCI Black Box, now with a Palm PDA interface, offering pocket-sized, color screen displays of full, 1/3, 1/6 and 1/12-octave RTAs; NC; RT60; speaker timing; intelligibility; distortion testing; and more.

Mark your calendars for next year’s contractor spring break in Las Vegas, from March 19-21, 2004.






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