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Roland Aims for Flexibility

April 15th, 2015 Posted in Headlines By Dan Daley

One way you can tell that an industry has momentum is the number of people who want to join the club. At NAB 2015, 244 companies are exhibiting for the first time, including audio players like Source Audio and Zoom. There are also familiar names but in a new context. One of those is Roland, well-known for its decades of success with synthesizers and guitar amplifiers. But the Japan-based company dipped a toe in the broadcast waters in 2005 with a CAT 5 digital snake product using its proprietary Ethernet protocol.

The snake saw success with the BBC, which bought 75 of the then-exotic signal-transport devices, and, notably, with NBC Sports, which used them for the 2008 and 2010 Olympics broadcasts.

Fast forward to 2015, and Roland has its largest footprint ever at an NAB Show, displaying the M-5000 mixing console, a multirole platform that can pivot between mixing for live sound, recording and broadcast. Meeting broadcast requirements, the console can be custom-configured with up to 128 audio paths, 5.1 + LR output mix, variable mono auxes and matrixes, 5.1 + LR monitor setup, two automated downmixes, headphone monitoring, and a talkback channel.

But, says Christian Delfino, VP, sales and marketing, whose purview also includes the Roland Professional AV Group, it’s not just a matter of features: “We set out to design a console that can change as new technologies and formats come along.” The desk achieves that via a dense rear panel with I/O for 16×16 analog I/O, 4×4 AES/EBU, RS-232C, and MIDI formats. MADI and SDI are available via swappable input cards, which will also be developed to address new protocols as they come along.

Also being introduced at the show, Roland’s V-1200HD video switcher features a hybrid engine that combines a 4:2:2, 2M/E switcher with a 4:4:4, 10-bit multiformat-processor presentation switcher.

“The strategy is to develop synergies between products,” says Delfino, acknowledging that the dominance of broadcast television in such sectors as sports make it a more competitive time than ever for pro-audio manufacturers. The right approach, he says, is to be as open and as flexible as possible. Roland is relying on its OHRCA (Open High-Resolution Configurable Architecture) platform, which allows user-definable audio paths and supports multiple audio formats and protocols, all at 96 kHz.

“We’re using that to solve existing challenges in broadcast audio,” Delfino says. “And one of those is that new formats and protocols are always going to be coming along. Designing in flexibility from the start is the best way to approach that.”