Routers Move to the Center of Audio-Signal Processing
Routers are the new hubs of the audio-signal chain, with more features — such as MADI interfaces and format conversion — included. The field offers more choices than ever, as the examples below indicate.
The Apex audio routing switcher features include an 11RU 256×256 frame with either 75-ohm unbalanced BNC connectors and MADI BNC ports or 110-ohm balanced DB25 connectors with MADI BNC ports, and simultaneous synchronous/asynchronous support for 30- to 100-kHz signals. Four frames can be connected linearly to create routers up to 1024×1024, and, with the Apex Plus model, sizes of 2048×2048 can be achieved.
The Concerto Series multiformat routing matrix mixes digital and analog, audio and video formats up to and including 3 Gbps, as well as timecode and port data, all within a single frame. Its 7RU and 8RU frames can hold up to four cards to configure up to a 128×128 matrix. It also features integrated A/D and D/A conversion for audio with selectable processing for mono mix, invert, swap, and dual left/right operation. Concerto is also the platform for the Maestro channel-branding and master-control solution, allowing a mix of video and audio routing along with master control in one chassis.
The Acappella multiformat utility system of compact single- and mixed-format routers is designed for a variety of broadcast and production settings, including small studios, sports arenas, and mobile-production trucks. The 1RU line ranges from 8×4 to 16×16 models with up to four independently controlled levels and single- and selected multi-format routing capabilities. Features include synchronous digital audio switching and digital audio processing, including sum, swap, invert, and silence generation. Acappella routers also offer a variety of signal-processing capabilities, providing the ability to reclock video at all standard data rates, including 1.5 Gbps, and digital audio silence generation when no input is available.
The Sonata MADI breakout boxes convert audio signals to or from a MADI interface and carry 64 synchronous 24-bit digital audio feeds on each of their coax cables. They support either analog or AES signals in balanced or unbalanced form, delivering full signal flexibility. The Sonata breakout boxes, specifically designed to work with the Apex router and Maestro channel-branding and master-control system, allow simple audio expansion with a minimum of cables. They work with other standard MADI equipment, typically providing AES and analog connections for digital audio-mixing consoles.
Harris is adding new MADI interfaces to its Platinum and Platinum MX routers. The MADI interfaces can accept up to 128 signals of mono audio for presentation to a TDM crosspoint. This means it can effectively connect up to four audio consoles to the router over coax or fiber, quadrupling the number of potential audio signals and creating a much higher-density audio-signal-routing solution. Platinum large-scale routers also support an eight-channel frame-sync input card and mux/demux embedded audio processing. The new input card allows up to eight wild video signals to be synchronized to house reference without the use of external frames or wiring. In addition to synchronization, the card performs demultiplexing of up to 16 channels of embedded audio in each video stream, allowing the audio to be routed independently and discretely. ASI, SD, HD, and 3-Gbps signals are supported, as are coax and fiber connectivity. In addition, Harris has introduced several enhancements to the router-control system, including enhanced tie-line capability, a names-based protocol that improves support with third-party vendors, and a configuration application designed to improve both speed and usability.
The Harris Panacea line of affordable, compact routing switchers comprises a large selection of matrix sizes, options, and built-in control features. Panacea wideband digital multi-rate routing switchers offer a clear growth path from lower-bitrate SDI and ASI to high-bandwidth HDTV applications. The AES/EBU routing switcher provides synchronous switching for balanced or unbalanced digital audio signals. Analog is also supported, with the Panacea wideband analog video router switching standard composite NTSC, PAL, SECAM, and analog component video signals, and RF/IF up to 200 MHz. The Panacea analog audio router switches standard stereo and mono analog audio signals, including timecode.
The Nova73 HD offers 48- and 96-kHz operation, Dolby-E compatibility, and clock-synchronized switching to video frames or internal DSP, as well as a potential of up to 8,192 inputs/outputs, available via AES3, MADI , HD-SDI, and ATM interfaces, all in a compact 10RU package. Nova73 HD features hot-plug capability and online configuration, allowing users to expand and change the system during live broadcasts. In terms of security, Lawo’s STAR² technology provides maximum redundancy and fail-safe operation. Other features include interface versatility via Lawo’s DALLIS card-based I/O system with fiber-optic infrastructure and with direct ATM/SDH connection and unique Dual Self-Healing Star topology. Systems include Comprehensive control protocol remote MNOPL (TCP/IP) and error surveillance via SNMP.
The Nova29 is a network hub, based on MADI technology. Features include 16 MADI ports; 1024×1024 I/O (in addition to internal signal); transparent signal routing; a compact 1RU design; fast visual feedback with colored LED indicators above each MADI port; configuration/maintenance via zirkon.exe software and SOP Explorer; sample rate switchable between 44.1 and 48 kHz; 256 loopbacks and a 40×40 talkback matrix.
The Nova17 has an extensive set of features within a broad performance spectrum, with up to 128 inputs/outputs; four optional MADI interfaces enable another 256 channels. All the channels are interconnectable, and mono routing is possible for AES interfaces. In addition, the system provides internal signal processing; gain control; a summing matrix; and equalization.
NVISION 8500 Hybrid routers combine resilience with cost, space, and power efficiency, due to the integrated audio processing, and offer simplified cable management using high-density cabling, direct fiber connectivity, and audio concentrators. The product line includes four frame sizes, with matrices from 144×144 to 1152×1152.
The 8500 Hybrid router integrates digital video/audio routing and 16-channel de-embedding/shuffling/embedding and breakaway, saving cost as well as space, weight, and power. It also eliminates audio-to-video latency problems due to external de-embedders/embedders. The router’s integrated audio processing eliminates the need for external de-embedders/embedders for feeding MADI to/from the audio console. MADI audio tracks, such as a voiceover from an audio console, can be easily embedded into SDI video. The router offers patented N-on-1 crosspoint redundancy to provide zero-downtime capability, with a backup system for the largest possible impact block in the router. A redundant crosspoint array continuously shadows the main array, and, in the event of a failure, a single action repairs the situation by “gang-switching” all outputs to the good, redundant crosspoint card during the next vertical interval.
The Cheetah Enterprise audio-routing system (unveiled at the NAB Show) will handle up to 6144X6144 and is designed specifically for large-venue environments. The PESA Enterprise audio-routing system provides a unified solution for audio and timecode applications. At the heart of each distributed audio system is a 1RU Data Exchange Engine (DXE) chassis that connects up to 24 independent I/O frames, which can be stacked to serve as a centralized system. Alternately, each I/O frame can be independently located at the source several miles away by using fiber-optic cabling interconnects. Each I/O frame supports up to 128 inputs or outputs for a total of 1536X1536 in only 25RU. With additional DXE units, systems can be populated up to 6144X6144 using four DXE chassis. The Cheetah DRS-EARS allows users to integrate AES/EBU, analog audio, MADI, and timecode — all within one distributed system.
The NEXUS system (awarded a 2010 Engineering Emmy) offers a distributed architecture that can be configured in a ring of up to 256 timeslots or star (4096×4096) topology. Based on a TDM backbone, it provides a large contingent of I/O possibilities: analog, AES, MADI, HD-SDI ,and Dolby E, as well as full data transport, sync, GPI/O, RS232, RS422, RS485, MIDI, and an intelligent-logic control system. The NEXUS can be slaved to several video routers, including those from Evertz, Grass Valley, Harris, NVISION, PESA, and ProBel. Transport is via fiber with a system latency of less than 0.2 milliseconds so distance between base devices is not an issue and the paths can be doubled up for redundancy if desired.
Embedded-audio signal processing has been added to the UTAH-400 series digital routing switchers. The new capability comes via a new line of SDI, AES, and MADI I/O boards that rely on advanced FPGA (field-programmable gate-array) technology to perform signal processing. In the past five years, embedded and MADI audio have become the norm in media operations of any significant size.
Embedded audio supports a more streamlined system overall, but its inflexibility can make it difficult to shuffle audio channels as needed in larger, integrated facilities where quick changes to live feeds are common. Now Utah Scientific has built advanced signal processing into the router’s I/O board, enabling it to deserialize and decode a signal into its component data streams without compromising the router’s overall operational reliability. As a result, audio channels are shuffled automatically without an outboard device or manual intervention.
The enhanced UTAH-400 routing systems also incorporate a virtual control panel to provide an easy-to-read display of the video signals and their associated audio positions. The GUI design enables control of digital-signal–processing functions and other signal-configuration information.