DiGiCo makes Pharrell happy at Montreux

Montreux Jazz Festival takes place annually on the glorious setting of Lake Geneva. It has played host to the who’s who of music since its inception, almost half-a-century ago, with acts as eclectic as Miles Davis and Marcus Miller, to Alicia Keys and, this year, Pharrell Williams,  and they always come back for more! DiGiCo consoles a key component across the Festival’s audio system, with Pharrell also bringing in his own SD7.

This is year 48 for Montreux, and  be it on the modest, yet ultra-cool outdoor Music in the Park stage; the 1,800-capacity Music Club (formerly the Miles Davis Hall); or the quite majestic Stravinsky Auditorium, where Montreux debutant, Pharrell Williams, had the crowd begging for more during week one, DiGiCo is always in control.

Pharrell show

Pharrell show, we guess one of his hats on stage. In the foreground, the Kyle Hamilton’s FOH SD7.

In fact, all the leading DiGiCo models are in play, from the flagship SD7, which holds fort in the Stravinsky, to the ultra-compact SD11, which sits in the same venue providing talkback, alongside the house SD5 in monitor world. Furthermore, SD8s, SD10s, and SD9s all have their part to play, in the Jazz Lab, the Jazz Club, the Rock Cave, and Montreux Palace. 

“My relationship with DiGiCo has always been strong, not only because of the quality of product, but because of the personal service we always get from their team,” says sound coordinator at Montreux, David Weber. Incidentally, Weber made his Montreux debut the same year as DiGiCo, in 2009. “I was brought in here as they needed someone who wasn’t going to be heavily involved with the business side of Montreux – just the music; they needed someone that was into the festival, and would concentrate solely on the audio.
So, I specified in DiGiCo consoles, Meyer Sound loudspeakers, and Shure microphones, which together is a fantastic mix. DiGiCo is on all of the stages here at Montreux; it’s the perfect solution, and the reliability has been superb, we’ve had no issues at all. In fact, I like the consoles that much I’ve even bought my own SD9! It’s on one of the festival stages at the moment, and when we’ve wrapped the event up, it’s coming home with me!”

It’s not just Weber that thinks like this. Pharrell’s FOH and monitor pairing, Kyle Hamilton and Jeremy Peters, are adamant that they could not deliver their show accurately using anything other than DiGiCo kit and brought in their own pair of SD7s for Montreux.

Kyle Peters Pharrell MJF2014

Kyle Hamilton Pharrel Williams’s FOH Engineer and Jeremy Peters Monitors Engineer in front of a SD5.

“It’s about finding a consistency with Pharrell and using the SD7s, we’re able to do that,” reveals Hamilton, adding that the effects inside the desk are of the highest order.

“Pharrell’s vocal chain just hits an Avalon 737 compressor, then heads straight into the console, where I do my EQing, effects, and compression. Because the preamps and processing are great on the SD7, that’s really all I need to do, which suits me, as less is more is always my preferred approach.”

Peters has a similar theory, and cites the SD7 as the perfect tool for his job at stage left. “What I really like is the versatility of the DiGiCo,” he explains. “The SD7 gives me the luxury of quality dynamic processing and multiband compression, so I have no need for much else – just some cool Waves plugins to give a little extra colour to the sound.”
Both engineers are also benefitting from using DiGiGrid at Montreux, which has been transforming their workflow. “What we did on this gig was a lot of fun, and also amazing,” smiles Peters. “Kyle and I used the DiGiGrid MGB and both multitracked every song every day, so that when the band leaves, we can come back and make any changes we need to the mix. Since

Pharrell is so serious about the record, we took the live elements and the non-live elements, and did an A-B test with the record, and made them perfect. So when Pharrell hears Kyle’s FOH mix, it’s the record, but with a live feel. It helps us create the perfect sound.” 



For worldwide premiere “Days of Future Past”

The K2 teamed with the X-Men

For the launch of the summer blockbuster film X-Men: Days of Future Past, 20th Century Fox staged its worldwide premiere at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on midtown Manhattan’s west side.
The debut of the $200-million-plus film, attended by Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry and other stars, was a huge event filling a hall inside the cavernous Javits Center and illuminating a 75-foot-wide screen hung on the hall’s north wall.

The showing also had to be able to reproduce the film’s bombastic 5.1 surround soundtrack, but the Javits is no cinema; the same huge floor-to-ceiling glass wall that offers spectacular views of the Hudson River and New Jersey can also create uncontrollable aural reflections that would turn the hall into an acoustical nightmare. 

A view of the room with his step and, in the background, the screen 23 meters wide.

A view of the room with his step and, in the background, the screen 23 meters wide. One easily sees left behind steel tubes, the glass wall revealing a beautiful view of the Hudson and New Jersey, something unusual in cinema. We also distinguish the structure that carries the 115XT in charge of reproducing the atmosphere side.

Event producer Samantha Sackler Productions tapped NYC-based See Factor Industry, its longtime collaborator on east coast events and movie premieres, who called upon the sonic equivalent of a superhero: L-ACOUSTICS’ K2, a lightweight, high-powered, full-range line source array system that made its official debut earlier this year.
For the X-Men premiere, the AV specialist deployed 24 K2, 12 SB28 subs and 16 coaxial 115XT HiQ wedges, all powered and processed by L-ACOUSTICS’ LA8 amplified controllers. See Factor also provided all lighting, rigging and management services for the event.

“When doing movie surround sound events in unconventional venues with very high expectations from the client, and knowing that producers, directors and sound editors will be in the audience, it is quite challenging,” observes Mark Friedman, one of See Factor’s principals. That was certainly the case at the highly reverberant Javits facility, due to its large reflective surfaces. 

Friedman notes that reproducing the 5.1 surround soundtrack is important to fully experience a film like X-Men: Days of Future Past. See Factor’s technicians work with cinema-sound specialists from Dolby, as well as projection specialists from Digital Media Systems, to set up the sound system, carefully calibrating parameters such as delays and time alignments between speakers and calculating horizontal and vertical dispersion patterns. However, in such a reverberant environment that process is vastly more complicated.

An original way to go to the movies with her ​​as a left / center / right, three lines of 8 K2

An original way to go to the movies with her ​​as a left / center / right, three lines of 8 K2 and bring the necessary reinforcement subwoofer which are so fond of the sound designers and mixers Hollywood 3 stacks 4 SB28.

It’s rare that you’d need to use a system as large as a K2 for a film premiere, says Friedman, who adds that See Factor has also deployed L-ACOUSTICS KARA systems for the debut of other films such as the newly released James Brown biopic Get On Up, which premiered at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, the opening night of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival at the Beacon Theatre, and the now-classic Johnny Cash biography Walk The Line, which had its debut at the Hammerstein Ballroom. “But the Javits is huge and called for a much larger sound system.”

It also called for a smart, flexible sound system, and the K2 is exactly that. The K2 was configured in three hangs of eight modules each for the left-center-right cinema-sound frontal array, with eight 115XT HiQ wedges arrayed on either side of the room as surround speakers.
On the hang closest to the glass wall, the K2‘s unique PANFLEX asymmetrical variable horizontal coverage technology came into play with that speaker hang having the directional fins on the speakers set for 35 degrees of horizontal dispersion while the right hand was set for 55 degrees, thus keeping the sonic energy off the reflective glass surface and focused on the audience seating area.

The angles were determined based on the use of L-ACOUSTICS’ SOUNDVISION 3D acoustical simulation software, which offers real-time mapping in coverage and delay modes, including time-delay optimization, and subwoofer acoustical and mechanical data. In addition, the operation of all of the speakers, zones and LA8 amplifiers were coordinated through L-ACOUSTICS’ Network Manager, which provides a graphical interface optimized for tablet PC use and lets systems designers place units and groups in the workspace in a way that reflects their location in the field.

“This is what really made it work – the ability of PANFLEX to precisely aim the sound asymmetrically to avoid reflected sound,” explains Friedman. “At the same time, the DSP algorithms in Network Manager provided complete control over the amplifiers and speaker zones. K2’s PANFLEX gave us the physical level of control while Network Manager gave us the electronic plane of control, and those tools were invaluable.”

 Dolby Sound Engineer David Berti was responsible for calibrating the audio for both the X-Men and James Brown premieres. “The See Factor crew was very professional and easy to work with, and they nailed both shows,” he says. “The audio playback was extremely accurate to cinema standards, and See Factor’s designs, speaker selection and positioning made my job of tuning the rooms very straightforward, yielding the correct playback response expected by the film makers. Both film companies were very happy with the results stating that the sound far exceeded their expectations.”

For more info on See Factor Industry, visit www.facebook.com/seefactor



DiGiCo 14-18 The Musical

Set during the First World War, 14-18 – The Musical is a very ambitious musical theatre production. With the 1900-strong audience sat on a moving bleacher within a vast set, an innovative audio design was key to its success. 

A DiGiCo SD5 digital mixing console was the logical choice for co sound designer Guido Olischlager. Set in Mechelen’s vast Nekkerhal, an hour west of the Belgian capital Brussels, the show is produced by entertainment company Studio 100 and features a set the size of two football pitches.

Guido Olischlager 14-18

Guido Olischlager

We chose DiGiCo because it’s one of the favorite brands of all three audio guys involved – myself, Marc Luckx (sound designer) and Thomas van Hoepen (operator),” says Guido. “Critically, the SD5 is also one of the few digital consoles that can take this many inputs, outputs and mixes and it can also mix surround sound, which is a feature of this show.

Another advantage of the SD5 is that it meant we could also use Optocore. Because of the moving bleacher, we needed a 350m Optocore network, with optical MADI running from the TiMax system distributed to the system amplifiers.”

The mobile bleacher moves the audience up to 150m within the set, so a complex audio system was needed to ensure fidelity of sound throughout the show. This required a versatile mixing console that had large i/o capacity.

The audio system features 36 arrays of Coda Audio ViRAY, 18 flown subs, 8 FX subs and seven front fills to cover the moving bleacher, 44 flown full-range units for monitoring and surround sound, 12 stereo in-ear monitoring mixes, an induction loop system for audience members with a hearing impairment, plus technician comms. With 140 inputs and the SD5’s 32 in / 24 out matrix used to capacity, it’s a show which places considerable demands on the mixer.

Digico 14-18

The SD5’s fader starts is a very nice feature for monitors in musicals, because it allows the monitor level to be a set pre-fader. When we have to bring the faders down during the show, we can do it without adjusting the monitor levels. That is a really big plus,” says Guido.
“If you’re following post-fader and an actor  talks too loud, his level goes down in the monitors and so he talks louder again to hear himself – meaning you’re fighting against each other. With the SD5, we’re setting a level for monitors and then opening and closing faders independently – no problem!”

Guido and his team tweaked the SD5’s software to their precise specifications, with support from DiGiCo’s Netherlands distributor, Jaap Pronk of TM Audio. “It was very helpful to speak to Jaap. It meant I could speak Dutch with him and we could adjust the desk to precisely how we needed it,” says Guido.

14-18 starts its second run at Nekkerhal on 5th September. Site : www.1418.nu



Swiss Role for Yamaha and Nexo at Lausanne’s Newest Venue

HEMULausanne’s Haute Ecole de Musique (HEMU) is the leading music college in French-speaking Switzerland.

Offering degree and Masters level courses in classical, jazz and modern music, it opened a brand new performance venue in June 2014 which features a comprehensive Yamaha and Nexo audio system.

HEMU’s new BCV Concert Hall is located in Lausanne’s Le Flon district. Historically one of the city’s poorest areas, the project is the latest instalment of a long-running drive to improve its fortunes. Designed to host a wide range of concerts, as well as rehearsals, exams, conferences and film screenings, the BCV Concert Hall features Yamaha and Nexo equipment throughout. 

Supplied by Zap Audio and installed by Vevey-based Auditech, the main 300-capacity performance space features a Yamaha CL3 digital mixing console and Rio3224-D i/o unit. Output is via a Dante network to Dante-fitted Yamaha-Nexo NXAMP4x1 controller-amplifiers and a Nexo GEO S loudspeaker system, Nexo RS15 subs and PS8 surround and stage monitor speakers.

HEMU Salle

Meanwhile, seven further rooms are each equipped with a Yamaha MG124CX mixing console and a pair of DSR112 loudspeakers. Four DXR8 loudspeakers and nine CDS300 CD players are also installed.
The Dante network is installed throughout the entire building, allowing the CL3, Rio3224-D and recording facilities to be ‘plugged in’ anywhere they are needed.

This provides exceptional flexibility which, combined with the proven reliability and audio quality of Yamaha and Nexo equipment, means HEMU can derive the maximum return from its investment by also renting out the new venue to a wide range of clients.


Meyer Sound LEO Powers 200,000-Strong CfaN Gospel Crusade in Burundi

Christ for All Nations for All Nations (CfaN) recently debuted its new Meyer Sound LEO linear large-scale sound reinforcement system at a four-day gospel crusade on the outskirts of Bujumbura, Burundi.

A panoramic view of the crowd facing the stage on the far right.

A panoramic view of the crowd facing the stage on the far right.

Set up in an open field without delay towers, the LEO system performed flawlessly for the musical and speech programs in front of 200,000 visitors, and replaces CfaN’s Meyer Sound MSL-3A conventionally powered loudspeaker system that has served the ministry for 26 years.

The Meyer Sound system under close surveillance.

The Meyer Sound system under close surveillance. The main hangs consist of nine LEO-M and three MICA loudspeakers each. Side hangs consist of 8 MICA each. On the ground and also white four 1100-LFC per side takes care of the low end.

Unassisted by giant video screens, lighting effects, or pyrotechnics, CfaN events rely heavily on exceptional audio reinforcement. “Clarity of speech is our primary concern at these events,” says Derek Murray, head of sound operations for the ministry. “The LEO system is able to cover very large areas with high intelligibility, as proven by positive reports from the perimeter of the field.”

The system’s dual main hangs in Bujumbura comprised nine LEO-M and three MICA line array loudspeakers each. Side hangs were eight MICA loudspeakers per side, and four 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements per side provided low-end reinforcement.

In addition, 10 UPA-1C conventionally powered loudspeakers supplied in and out fill. Control and optimization was handled by a Galileo Callisto loudspeaker management system with one Galileo AES processor and three Galileo Callisto 616 array processors.

LEO gives us more power in a smaller package, so we now have the space to carry subs without having to leave behind other critical material,” reports Murray. “With the addition of the 1100-LFCs in Bujumbura, we were able to improve the quality of the music presentation—to the obvious delight of the crowd.”

CfaN maintains two Meyer Sound systems for its African ministries: an M3D line array loudspeaker system is used in West Africa, and the new LEO system, based in Kenya, is used for East Africa.

Main and side hangs from behind and facing the audience. On the ground four 1100-LFC takes care of the low end.

Main and side hangs from behind and facing the audience. On the ground four 1100-LFC takes care of the low end.

CfaN’s East Africa system also travels with three DiGiCo SD9 consoles linked by optical fiber to a DiGiCo SD-Rack, Shure UHF-R wireless microphone systems with Beta 58 capsules, and a Sennheiser IEM system.

“The fact that we’ve used our MSL-3As for so long, under grueling conditions, is a testament to the longevity and reliability of a system that is still supported almost 30 years after it was first produced,” observes Murray. “Just as the MSL-3A was a game-changer back in the 1980s, LEO is a great product that perfectly fits our needs.”

Reverend Daniel Kolenda facing the crowd. Behind him LEO is on duty.

Reverend Daniel Kolenda facing the crowd. Behind him LEO is on duty.

The event in Bujumbura, attended by Burundi’s President and First Lady, was led by evangelist Daniel Kolenda, who succeeds CfaN founder Rev. Reinhard Bonnke as principal leader of ministries in Africa. The German-born Bonnke first launched his African ministries in 1967. 

“Mondovisione Tour – Stadi 2014” – RCF and Ligabue are going strong!

2014 is the year of the Mondovisione Tour. The Italian rocker Luciano Ligabue will perform around all the main soccer stadiums in Italy throughout the entire summer.

RCF Mondiovisione

The main hang stage left.

The main hang stage left. 24 TTL55-A, weighting precisely 1,6T without the bumper. Easy !! The red coulour seems a good idea to play with during the show with some fixtures. On the left of the shot, the side hang is comprising of 20 TTL55-A. The rear wiring is made of AC, analog audio and network.

It is a journey full of expectation and emotion, as Ligabue has decided to tour with sound reinforcement from RCF, the legendary company from Reggio Emilia which sets the benchmark for excellence in the international professional amplification industry.

In 2013 Ligabue and his band tested the RCF audio system, with great satisfaction, at both the Royal Albert Hall in London and at the Arena di Verona.

RCF engineers along with the artist’s audio technicians were able to study the best system structure for this tour, conceived for the major Italian stadiums.

48 x TTL55-A speakers will be used as front fill (24 each side) and 40 x TTL55-A as side fill (20 each side).

Two central clusters of 12 TTL36-AS subwoofers each, will be hung on the rear of the stage, in an unusual position over the band but technically optimised to avoid interference — thanks to the steering technology of RCF RDnet.

12 TTL 33-A modules, set on the stage, will help direct the sound toward the audience; the TT25-SMA and TT45-SMA stage monitors will be specifically dedicated for the musicians’ monitoring.

The stage during Ligabue’s show

The stage during Ligabue’s show. Nope, the TTL55-A main hangs aren’t on fire, just well lit !!

Providing low-end extension will be TTS56-A subwoofers, set in cardioid configuration on the floor, with a curved design to allow a uniform distribution of low frequencies throughout the listening area.

Located right in the middle of the Stadio Olimpico di Roma, Ligabue’s stage shines and offers a 180° view for the audience.

Located right in the middle of the Stadio Olimpico di Roma, Ligabue’s stage shines and offers a 180° view for the audience. The 88 TTL55-A main and side hangs perfectly complement the stage design. Two central clusters of 12 TTL36-AS subwoofers each hung on the rear of the stage and 60 TTS56-A subwoofers set in cardioid configuration on the floor, provide low-end extension.

The main system will be controlled by RDNet, RCF’s proprietary network, which will allow the technicians to set and control the system parameters in an optimal way for every situation. The RMS power of the complete RCF system reaches 800kW.

Audix 3M : three heads better than one

Audix M3Audix announced at the 2014 Las Vegas InfoComm  the release of the newest microphone for the installed sound industry, the M3 Tri‐element Ceiling Microphone.  

Audix co‐founder and VP of Sales, Cliff Castle, commented, “The innovative design and engineering of the M3 tri‐element microphone makes it a stunning addition to the Audix conference ceiling mic series, the M70, M40 and M55.

The M3 is the only multi‐element design available with fully balanced circuits below the ceiling and a UL rated plenum box solution above the ceiling tile.

The low impedance design of the M3 system allows for extremely long cable runs without cross talk or interference.

Featuring a sleek profile with contemporary design, the M3 other features include:

  • 100% RF shielding and immunity
  • Stealth design, low profile
  • Gold diaphragm capsules with shielded and fully balanced circuits
  • Very low self noise
  • Frequency and pattern tailored for voice clarity and rejection of extraneous noise
  • Evenly dispersed sound with undetectable phase
  • Adjustable cable length
  • All visible components of Audix microphone are same color, black or white
  • High‐quality silicone jacketed microphone cable
  • Includes plenum rated junction box with RJ45 connector

At IBC 2014

DPA Shows Its New d:screet™ Necklace Microphones

A close shot of the d:screet™ Necklace Microphone in place.

A close shot of the d:screet™ Necklace Microphone in place. Obviously the miniature 4061 capsule is omnidirectional, hence the direction of the head.

DPA has overcome the biggest challenge of all – how to give control of mic placement to non-technical actors or reality show contenstants without compromising sound quality.

DPA’s solution, which will be on show at IBC 2014, is the d:screet™ Omnidirectional Miniature Necklace Microphone – a cleverly designed mic that houses a legendary d:screet 4061 Omnidirectional Miniature Capsule in a soft rubber necklace.

“These microphones are perfect for situations where fast costume changes are necessary – or for reality TV shows where the contestants have to place microphones without help from a trained audio engineer,” says DPA’s CEO Christian Poulsen. “The necklace design ensures that the microphone sits in exactly the same place on the body every time, so there is no need for EQ-ing between different recordings.”

A view of the complete microphone

A view of the complete microphone showing his rear signal output and what seems to be the rear clasp making easy the setup around the neck, specially in case of delicate hairstyling.

The d:screet Necklace Mic is already being used in the Danish adaptation of Big Brother and DPA anticipates plenty of interest from other reality TV productions. The mic comes in black, white and brown and in lengths of 47 or 53 com (18.3 or 20.9 inches).

At IBC 2014, DPA is exhibiting alongside its Dutch distributor Amptec on booth 8.D70. 

Belgium’s Anderlecht FC upgrades audio facilities with Nexo

Anderlecht stadium

An overview of the Anderlecht stadium. Under the metal roof resting on concrete beams, we see two of the 19 clusters of 4 speakers. They are securely lashed to the same beams.

One of the Belgium’s best-known football teams is celebrating an audio refurbishment at its home stadium, the Stade Constant Vanden Stock, known better as the Stade d’Anderlecht.

Home to Anderlecht FC, the 24,000-capacity Brussels stadium, used solely for football, needed to upgrade its 25-year-old PA/VA system.

Following evaluation of three possible solutions, longtime Anderlecht solution supplier Prosonix, together with NEXO’s Belgian distributor’s Pascal Deneef, proposed a NEXO compact, 2-way GEO S12-ST system.

The GEO S12-ST, a specialist stadium version of the popular GEO S12, fitted the stadium’s requirement for long-throw line array cabinets perfectly.  Another major reason for choosing the NEXO option was the success of the GEO S12-ST system installed in France’s Stade de Valenciennes, a similar venue in size and design.

NEXO’s Paul Massiani, together with Pascal Deneef, used the company’s proprietary NS-1 software to design the 82-cabinet system; 19 clusters of 4x GEOS12-ST + 3 clusters of 2x GEOS 12-ST from the concrete roof, using GEO fixed installation brackets together with custom-made brackets which allow the clusters to be turned. 

A cluster GEO S12-ST being laid.

A cluster GEO S12-ST being laid. We can clearly distinguish the framework connecting the concrete beam frame attached thereto by means of threaded rods.

One challenge facing NEXO was the inherent difficulty of containing noise levels within the stadium due to age and its metal and concrete construction. The GEO S12-ST – a high-output, long throw cabinet – features a tight dispersion pattern, keeping as much noise as possible inside the stadium. The system also produces enhanced speech intelligibility up to 20 metres from the GEO S12-ST clusters to the lowest seats, and 15 metres to the rear seats in the tribunes; in simulations, sound levels reached 110dB. 

The system is powered by 6x NXAMP4x4 powered TDControllers, which support the Dante network protocol. Use of Dante allowed the acoustic designers to specify BSS Soundweb for system control. Operated via a touchscreen in the control room, Soundweb was selected for its processing, presets and zoning functionality.
It provides full flexibility for managing the stadium’s 22 audio zones, which can be used in a variety of combinations. This allows messaging to be tightly targeted to each specific zone, in fact a special request from the police. Additionally, in the event of a system problem, Soundweb will automatically contact the administrator who can log on remotely to assess the situation.

Nexo Stade Anderlecht Nexo Stade Anderlecht The network runs on an all-new fibre optic cable infrastructure installed by Prosonix and sub contractor SPIE, providing full redundancy and fire-resistance for up to an hour. It can also accommodate future addition of sub bass loudspeakers and further extensions of the system.

Under the supervision of Deneef, SPIE was also responsible for the installation of the 22 clusters and amplifier/processing racks, and managed to get this job done in  just 3 ½ weeks time with incredible results !

Contacts : www.prosonix.be – www.audioxl.be – www.spie-be.com


VISTA X, the future is here… and it’s bright

We had not yet seen the Vista X, nor its mysterious processing unit, Infinity Core. It was unveiled on June 18 at a restaurant in Issy les Moulineaux, where the staff of Studer and of Audiopole delved into questions of flavor, aroma and, especially, presentation… the first one in Europe. Here they faced with patience and relish an Infinity of questions about the new flagship.

Vista X

Vista X served up with 40 faders and lacquered wood sides. Visible to the right is the Studer rack containing the two elements that complete the system, a Core 800 and a D23.

RIP DSP, C++ rules

As we just reported in these columns barely a month ago, the Vista X is the first console to turn to the CPU, walking away without looking back on DSP technology and, in particular, Analog Devices’ SHARC, which has dominated the audio processing field for which it was specifically designed for two decades. The reason is simple, when you put Moore’s famous Law on one side and the DSP performance curve on the other.

Jean-Philippe Blanchard in full presentation

Jean-Philippe Blanchard in full presentation – obviously happy to announce the release of a product that will enable Studer to take the driver’s seat in the world of Broadcast.

Jean-Philippe Blanchard, director of the broadcast division of Audiopole, perfectly illustrated this reasoning in this graph from his excellent presentation. It shows the capacity of processing cores to handle channel counts.

GraphiqueOn the Y axis, we have the number of channels, plotted against the years from 1992 to today on the X axis.

The curves speak for themselves: the processing power of the DSP has evolved much more slowly. The 120 megaFLOPS of 1992 has now grown to 2.7 gigaFLOPS – 22 times more.

This is a quite respectable growth and sufficient to find happiness with products such as, among others, the Vista 1, which make great use of it, but it is incomparable with the increase in the processing power of the CPU in the same period.

If you were to take the current processing power of a Core 800 and apply the famous law – which has proven accurate – that states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles every two years since 1965, within 6 years, Studer would reach a processing capacity of 3720 channels on a single 64-core CPU.

Today it takes two 8-core processors to reach the already superlative figure of 840. Speaking of capacity per chip, today’s DSP can manage 19 channels in full processing, whereas an x86-type CPU can exceed 400.

Voilà… an FPGA!

We will discuss further on how it is managed in the x86 CPUs – which, however, are anything but designed for audio – but, despite this abundance of power, two operations take place outside of this processor, summing and routing. Because these amount to simple tasks that are always the same, and therefore easy to program, Studer has chosen the reconfigurable hardwired logic of an FPGA to carry them out. They have given themselves a lot of margin with this, as the model they have chosen could handle a whopping 10,000 channels.

A view of the extremely comprehensive display of Vista X

A view of the extremely comprehensive display of Vista X with, under each meter bar, a display of a portion of the audio that has been processed through the channel; a big help when the number of simultaneous signals is constantly growing.

The rest of the operations related to audio, such as dynamics processing and EQ, are calculated by the brave little Intel Xeon Cores, for which the Studer algorithms have been rewritten for a Linux OS. On an x86 processor, 7 physical cores take care of audio with two parallel tasks on each core, therefore 14 virtual cores, while the eighth is reserved for the operation of a conventional PC server and all the functions such as communication or routine maintenance that the user cannot touch.

There is a complete disconnection between these tasks and the group of cores that make up the x86 CPU and this is the very cornerstone of the Studer software to avoid interference between the two that could randomly interrupt the audio processing. This proprietary Linux-based operating system required several years of development. The result is that the Infinity “engine” is cheaper and much more flexible, because it is built on standard components that have a much faster renewal than processors with their roots in the little world of audio and, finally, it benefits from programming tools and people capable of implementing them in very large numbers. The DSP and even the FPGA cannot stand up to this.

Fader glow or colorized faders – one of Studer's previous innovations inherited by Vista X.

Fader glow or colorized faders – one of Studer’s previous innovations inherited by Vista X.

5.1 routing, clearly another job for the FPGA.

5.1 routing, clearly another job for the FPGA.

Two power levels are available: the Core 400, with one CPU, and Core 800 which has two. The numbers in the model indicate the number of potential routes in full processing but with one caveat: we’re talking about channels at 48 kHz and 24 bit; at 96 kHz, divide this by two. Further, for the moment, the Vista X only runs at 48 kHz but we were told that this sampling rate will soon be doubled, or even more – the A-Link card attached to the front of the D23 also displays 192 kHz.

Is there anything under the hood?

The central section of the Vista X control surface.

The central section of the Vista X control surface. Note the super-complete level display, the controls, the individual bar graphs with no problem showing 5.1 and so on…

As strange as it may seem, the real Studer innovation is the proprietary software capable of managing each individual core of an x86 processor. In the end, looking at the Infinity Core more closely, what we found was almost disappointing, accustomed as we are to densely populated DSP cards.

Once pulled from the front, the drawer of a Core 800 containing all the electronics looks like a server motherboard with two Xeon 8 cores, RAM, two removable power supplies and an SSD; so far, nothing really new.
However, Studer has personally developed the central PCI Express card.

A view of the PCI Express card designed by Studer

A view of the PCI Express card designed by Studer specifically for the Core and the Infinity system. Underneath the fan, on a blue socket is the FPGA. You can make out on the left one of the two CPUs. All the way to the right, you can see the SSD boot drive.

In addition to the twelve I/O ports for the fiber optic links with the interfaces, it also has and FPGA hidden behind a fan. This PCI card can convey up to 5000 channels to the motherboard. The big advantage of Studer is pushed further by the Vista X, with total freedom to configure the console as you like in terms of input channels, outputs and auxiliaries.

Anything is possible up to the capacity offered by the Core, the sampling rate, and any plug-ins inserted without losing resources due to routing, since the latter task is taken care of by the very muscular FPGA.


A diagram demonstrating the simplicity of the wiring

A diagram demonstrating the simplicity of the wiring required to deploy Vista X in a redundant configuration, including the Core and two D23 units.

These twelve bidirectional ports convey data in a new language developed by Studer, A-Link, a kind of counterpart to the SSL Blacklight II, which permits the interlacing of many more channels than simple MADI, which suddenly seems quite pokey by comparison.

A standard derived from 3G video, A-Link allows the transport of 1536 channels at 24 bit/48 kHz, probably half at 96 kHz. The interface is optical with an SFP cage, which makes it easy to switch from single- to multi-mode. The links are redundant as standard and the same link carries the clocking signal and the input and output interfaces.

The Department of Redundancy Department

As it is the epitome of a broadcast system and globally appreciated for it, the latest Vista goes even further in terms of its capacity to guarantee reliability under all circumstances. If the connection between the console and the Core is established conventionally using network cables, they are doubled on both networks. Two fiber links connect the I/O racks and CPU. All power supplies are duplicated, as is the fan in the Core. For maximum security, it is also possible to connect two Cores in parallel to the same D23 interfaces through A-Link.

The new D23 interface is designed to work with the A-Link protocol.

The new D23 interface is designed to work with the A-Link protocol. The new cards are the MADI card and the A-Link HD card.

No need to have specific cards or special routines, D23 automatically switches in less than one sample if one of the two processors were to fail. This means that it is better to keep an eye on the screens to know which processor you are using, as your ears will never know from the sound!

The control surface also features improved redundancy. Where in previous models it would switch to a redundant PC, Vista X is now equipped with two redundant PCs that run in parallel, what Studer calls the Vista Quad Star: four CPUs, of which one handles the control surface, a second handles the display and the other two are ready to take over in case of a crash.

Auf Wiedersehen D21, willkommen D23

Though it is widespread, the D21 is forced to bow out, as it is unable to accept A-Link connections. It is thus the D23 and its 384 input and output channels that takes its place, twice those of its predecessor and really a lot for a 3U rack. Another improvement of this interface is the incorporation of a small CPU which allows it to manage the routing locally and to process audio independently.

Compatibility with the past remains, though, because the D21 cards can be used in the D23. DANTE is not forgotten, either: a module exists that accepts 64 in and out on its Ethernet network through a single RJ45 connector. A final card is proposed to interface two MADI connections, each fully redundant and capable of carrying 64 channels. Two ports are available with SFP cages and, for shorter cable runs, there is a good old coaxial link on a BNC connection.

A slide showing the Dante card in a Studer setup.

A slide showing the Dante card in a Studer setup.

The Dual MADI card opens up the proprietary A-Link format to the now widespread MADI.

The Dual MADI card opens up the proprietary A-Link format to the now widespread MADI.

Plugging into Studer

In front of such an abundance of power, the question arose immediately: Will it be possible to keep some of it in reserve to run plug-ins and, moreover, VSTs or to use the same Studer Vista FX of the rest of the Vista range and its two Lexicon PCM96 engines?

Roger Heiniger, the Vista product manager at Studer, at the microphone with JP Blanchard, who keeps his hand on the knob. They also know how to do sound at Audiopole.

Roger Heiniger, the Vista product manager at Studer, at the microphone with JP Blanchard, who keeps his hand on the knob. They also know how to do sound at Audiopole.

We took advantage of the presence of many members of the staff from Audiopole, but also from Studer Regensdorf, with Vista Product Manager Roger Heiniger to get to the bottom of this.

Regarding the 2U effects rack from Studer, the answer is no, as the HD connections are not present on the new Infinity Core. Concerning VST plug-ins, even if everything is theoretically possible, the risk is too great to run “foreign” dll in the Studer CPU using a wrapper, the crash of a plug-in could jeopardize the very operation of the Core and, consequently, the console.

As Roger says, some VST plug-ins are very stable, others less. This implies strict selection and long periods of intensive testing. We must therefore be satisfied with those from Studer, BSS, DBX or Lexicon, which will soon make their appearance, to guarantee secure and tested operation, especially as Studer will abandon the racks of external effects and delegate all of the work to the Core.

An Infinity of models & brands

The big news is the CPU processing mode and the hardware that goes with it. Studer adopted a name that reflects the future potential and current power: Infinity.

Andrew Hill, Director of Development at Studer, says that this CPU technology will be valid for the next 10 to 20 years and that all other manufacturers will soon go the same way. Jean-Philippe Blanchard, like Roger Heiniger, the Vista Product Manager at Studer, do not hide the fact that this CPU technology will soon be operated by other brands of the Harman group that are more focused on the live market, especially since a Vista X SR version is not on the agenda. However, it is possible to upgrade a Vista 5 or 9 with an Infinity Core, but not Vista 8 because of its analog monitoring circuit.

The Task Force deployed for the first presentation of the Vista X.

The Task Force deployed for the first presentation of the Vista X. From left to right: Kevin Renaudier, Audiopole broadcast technical support, Julie Costa, head of Studer marketing at Harman; behind her is Jean-Luc Mazzucco, Audiopole technical support and, all the way in the back on the left, with the blue shirt is “find the intruder” Serge Babkine, who also came to discover the new “Rolls Royce of Studer”, as Karl Chapman is pleased to call it. To the right of Julie Costa, we have Roger Heiniger, Vista product manager at Studer, and Génaelle Testard, Audiopole technical support and maternal support, Karl Chapman, Studer head of sales, and Jean-Philippe Blanchard, director of the Audiopole Broadcast Division, and, finally, Audiopole sales engineers Jean-Luc Gerards and Philippe Delépine.

Coffee and the check, please

The first console will be delivered during the summer to Euromedia, who drew its checkbook faster than anyone else in France and even in Europe, and who, therefore, deserved a healthy round of applause during the presentation.
In an interview with us, Jean-Philippe Blanchard gave the price range in the ballpark of € 200K for a Vista X system with a 40 fader console, a Core 800 and three D23: clearly a broadcast and high-end positioning.