Audio Routers Continue on the Path to Integration

Audio routers have become far more sophisticated in the past year. They had to: convergence with video-signal routing is making the move to the fully integrated multisignal router inevitable. Here are some of the choices that sports-broadcast professionals have now.

Grass Valley
The Apex audio-routing switcher features 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 provides 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 as many as 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 offers single- and selected multiple-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. Sonata boxes 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. The Sonata breakout boxes work with other standard MADI equipment; typical applications include providing AES and analog connections for digital audio-mixing consoles.

MADI interfaces have been added to Platinum and Platinum MX routers and 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 providing much higher-density audio-signal routing. Platinum large-scale routers also support an eight-channel frame-sync input card and mux/demux embedded audio processing. The 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.

Affordable, compact Harris Panacea routing switchers provide a large selection of matrix sizes, options, and built-in control features. Panacea wideband digital multirate routing switchers offer a clear growth path from lower-bitrate SDI and ASI to high-bandwidth HDTV applications. The Panacea AES/EBU routing switcher provides synchronous or synchronous quiet switching for balanced or unbalanced digital audio signals. Analog is also supported with the Panacea wideband analog video router, which switches standard composite NTSC, PAL, SECAM, and analog component video signals, as well as RF/IF up to 200 MHz. The  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 via AES3, MADI , HD-SDI, ATM, and Ravenna interfaces, all in a compact 10RU package. Hot-plug capability and online configuration allow 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 I/O system DALLIS technology 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 Lawo 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 Lawo Nova17 has an extensive set of features within a broad performance spectrum, with up to 128 inputs/outputs; up to four optional MADI interfaces can be added to enable another 256 channels. All the channels can be interconnected, 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- and space-efficiency, thanks to integrated audio processing, and offer simplified cable management, with high-density cabling, direct fiber connectivity, and audio concentrators. The line comprises four frame sizes, with matrices from 144×144 to 1152×1152. The 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. 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 8500 Hybrid router offers patented N-on-1 crosspoint redundancy to provide a 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 recently introduced DRS audio distributed routing system with Enterprise Data Exchange Engine (E-DXE) is a full-featured 24-bit, 96-kHz routing system for audio and timecode signals. DRS uses high-speed multiplexing technology for signal distribution, rather than a crosspoint matrix array, and its modular architecture makes it easy to tailor the system to specific configurations. At the heart of every DRS is PESA’s DXE frame, where the actual signal routing takes place. It provides all the essential signal-processing features, including input-sample-rate conversion, input gain, and phase inversion. AES3, AES3id, timecode, analog audio, and MADI (AES-10) signals can be processed within the same system without external converters, and each DRS can be sample-rate–adjusted to support 44.1 or 48 kHz. Packetized data are routed over a Gigabit Ethernet network between frames through the DXE to deliver desired input signals to desired output connections. Input and output delay can be set independently on every I/O channel. With up to two seconds of delay available to every I/O, external audio delay systems are unnecessary.

Offered in three package sizes, DRS can accommodate a variety of audio requirements. The compact DRS Series-C uses an internal control card to support 64 mono I/O in a 1RU frame, and two frames can be combined via an Ethernet port for 128×128 I/O (no DXE processor frame necessary). DRS Series-M supports small and mid-range routing needs with up to four 512×512 I/O frames, which combine to deliver up to 2048×2048 I/O. DRS Series-E systems, which accommodate enterprise-wide systems with E-DXE, support up to five 1536×1536 I/O frames to increase the I/O count to 7680×7680. In addition to standard signal I/O frames, DRS includes two special-purpose circuit cards for embedding and de-embedding digital audio, which marries the video-routing capability of the Cheetah video matrix routers with the audio-routing capability of the Cheetah DRS audio router. The Cheetah DEMUX-3G card provides 16 SDI video inputs and de-embeds all audio groups and channels from all 16 video signals. Up to 128 de-embedded audio signals can be selected as input sources for the DRS channel group.

The NEXUS system 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 offers a large contingent of I/O possibilities — analog, AES, MADI, HD-SDI, Dolby E — as well as full data transport, sync, GPI/O, RS232/422/485 and 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. Because transport is via fiber, with a system latency of less than 0.2 ms, distance between base devices is not an issue, and the paths can be doubled up for redundancy. Introduced at the recent NAB Show, a new interface board for the NEXUS network system can be used in new and existing networks. The XDIP board connects NEXUS to networks running Audinate’s Dante, which enables audio and media networks to be created on existing standard Ethernet infrastructure using TCP/IP. The Dante also complies with the emerging AVB standard IEEE 802.1BA.

Utah Scientific
Embedded-audio signal processing is available for the UTAH-400 series digital routing switchers. The new capability comes via a new line of SDI, AES, analog stereo, 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 has 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. With advanced signal processing built into the I/O board, the router can deserialize and decode a signal into its component data streams without compromising 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.

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