Tech Focus: Audio Monitoring

By Dan Daley, Audio Editor, Sports Video Group

Production Trucks See Small Changes

Change is creeping into the remote-production truck. For instance, the front-line vehicles of broadcast’s army are tentatively beginning to incorporate digital-audio networking into the signal flow on trucks, mainly on the comms side. And, when it comes to that most fundamental piece of equipment — the monitor speaker — small changes are being noticed.

There’s more to choose from, to start with. Regular occupants of the mix compartments now include speakers from Genelec, Neumann, Dynaudio, JBL, and Blue Sky, with others appearing here and there according to network or A1 preferences.

“We’ll poll a number of A1s when were in the planning stage of a big new truck,” says NEP design engineer Michael Naugle. That includes the recently commissioned SSCBS, which was built for CBS Sports and launched Aug. 18 for golf and will be the unit covering Thursday Night Football. It’s fitted with Bowers & Wilkins CM5 S2 speakers and an ASW10CM S2 subwoofer at the main and submix positions, the choice of CBS A1 Ed Soltis.

At the network level, ESPN has regularly chosen Blue Sky speakers, and NBC has a preference for the Neumann KH120s, when it notes a preference.

“They tend to be pretty open about that,” says Naugle of the Peacock net. “We can accommodate almost any request an A1 or network makes. The thing is to find what they want in the right form factor for each truck. It has to fit in the space, but there’s definitely a lot to choose from.”

(SSCBS also has the first production-truck implementation of Dante audio networking. Two Focusrite RedNet D64R units provide up to 64 bidirectional channels of both coaxial and optical MADI interfaces between the Dante network and the truck’s Evertz routers, as well as a bridge to the intercom system.)

All Mobile Video audio-development specialist Ian Vysick gets lots of input about speaker preferences from A1s and on speaker placement as well. A new AMV truck, as yet unnamed, will have the video monitors at eye level and the speakers, usually at ear/eye level, positioned above them.

“We’ve been watching how people use their monitors,” he explains. “Having to sit there for long periods looking up at the video can be literally a real pain in the neck.”

AMV’s work skews toward entertainment but reflects a growing willingness to experiment more with how audio compartments are configured and how audio gets into and out of them.

“With multiview monitors, the mixer can configure the pictures however they want, as long as the program stays in the middle,” says Vysick. “Audio gives you a little more leeway in terms of where its monitors have to be placed.”

He also says that, for the first time, he’s using automated room-correction DSP software, part of the Dynaudio Air monitoring system going into the new truck. “I like that it gives us some extra control and some information, such as when the drivers are sagging,” he explains. “But you have to be careful with room correction: you never know exactly what it’s taking into account.” He means that the inevitable noise that will penetrate the audio compartment to some extent could become part of the environmental information that the automated-correction software uses to make its calculations.

Automated-room-correction software is now available from most of the regular denizens of the trucks — including JBL, Genelec, and Blue Sky — as well as Dynaudio. It’s being tentatively introduced into the truck world.

But waiting ahead is an entirely new universe of audio formats that will send immersive sound to set-top boxes. Audio monitoring will inevitably have to cope with that.

“Object-based audio is down the road, maybe three to four years,” says Naugle. “But, for now, 5.1 [surround] is plenty.”

A Broad Range of Options

Monitor-product options for mobile broadcast grew over the past year, in terms of both brands and models, underscoring the fact that, while the physics of the limited space available in trucks remains immutable, the range of what audio mixers aboard those trucks want to hear remains as diverse as ever and the ways they can hear it are equally varied. Here is a look at some of those options.

Blue Sky
The new digital Star System One, comprising Blue Sky’s SAT 6D speakers and SUB 12D subwoofer with new Digital Audio Management Controller (AMC), delivers full-range near-field monitoring configurable in 2.0, 2.1, 5.1, and larger for broadcast surround-sound applications. Each 450-W bi-amplified SAT 6D has state-of-the-art A/D and D/A converters with USB calibration input for speaker-room optimization (SRO). Each satellite speaker features a 6.5-in. woofer with a radial magnet structure and 1-in. Scan Speak ring radiator tweeter. The SUB 12D woofer features a single long-excursion 12-in. woofer and a 400-W, low-distortion power amplifier with state-of-the-art A/D and D/A, as well as USB calibration for SRO. Blue Sky’s AMC provides analog and digital inputs with USB calibration/SRO and level control.

Dynaudio Professional
Air-6 monitors have onboard DSP offering EQ to tune the speakers and user ability to select dispersion patterns to overcome anomalies faced in truck environments. The tweeter is an Esotec 1.1-in. soft-dome, rear-chamber, magnetic-fluid, 4-mm die-cast aluminum-front, pure-aluminum–wire voice coil. The woofer is a 6.5-in., one-piece molded-polypropylene cone, 3-in. pure-aluminum voice coil, magnetically shielded.

With a small, 6.7- x 10.2- x 8.3-in. footprint, the new Dynaudio Professional BM Compact mkIII achieves a frequency response of 49 Hz-24 kHz bi-amplified with 50 W for the 5.7-in., one-piece thermo-formed MSP cone woofer and 50 W for the D-281 28-mm/1.1-in. soft-dome tweeter. The speakers are crossed over at 2,100 Hz, with a 6-dB/slope. The brand-new BM5A mkIII, priced the same as the BM Compact mkIII, takes frequency response from 42 Hz to 24 kHz with a 7-in. molded-aluminum–frame woofer, one-piece thermo-formed MSP cone, 75-mm pure-aluminum–wire voice coil; and 28-mm soft-dome, rear-chamber, magnetic-fluid, 4-mm aluminum tweeter.

SAM Series 8000, 8200, and 8300 compact innovative enclosures deliver wide frequency response with superb imaging qualities. From the compact 8010A (bi-amp, 3-in. woofer) through the self-calibrating SAM 8260A (tri-amp, three-way, all models feature an entirely aluminum minimum-diffraction-enclosure (MDE) design with integrated advanced Directivity Controlled Waveguide (DCW). In addition, all models have large internal volumes, curved edges, and high mechanical strength. All 8000, 8200, and 8300 systems are magnetically shielded for use in environments where video monitors are in close proximity.

The LSR2300 Series studio monitor system addresses the demand for cost-effective, high-performance monitoring systems, driven by the proliferation of affordable, computer-based production and mixing systems. The LSR2300 Series comprises the LSR2328P bi-amplified 203-mm (8-in.) studio monitor with 165 W of amplification, the LSR2325P bi-amplified 133-mm (5-in.) studio monitor with 90 W of amplification, and the LSR2310SP powered 254-mm (10-in.) studio subwoofer with an integrated 180-W power amplifier.

The first studio-monitor line to incorporate JBL’s patent-pending Image Control Waveguide, the new JBL 3 Series is designed to deliver exceptional imaging and detail for broadcast-production customers working in stereo and surround-sound formats. The 3 Series comprises the LSR305, a 5-in. powered studio monitor with frequency response of 43 Hz-24 kHz and peak SPL of 108 dB, and the LSR308, an 8-in. powered studio monitor, which provides a response of 37 Hz-24 kHz and a peak SPL of 112 dB. The LSR310S subwoofer extends the low-frequency response of the system into the 20 Hz range.

KH 120 studio monitor has a Mathematically Modeled Dispersion (MMD) waveguide, flexible acoustical controls, analog class-AB amplifiers, large-headroom analog input, and extensive range of mounting hardware. A newly introduced digital version, the KH 120 D, has the same features but adds a digital BNC input and a buffered delayed BNC output.

Reveal 402 and 802 monitors are the latest in the Reveal product line. With a 4-in. LF/MF driver and ¾-in. soft-dome tweeter, the 402 offers a 50-W bi-amp module and frequency response of 56 kHz-48 kHz to ensure maximum power and tonal clarity. The 8-in. custom high-efficiency driver and 1-in. soft-dome tweeter of the 802 are coupled with a front-firing bass port for optimal LF performance where space is at a premium. Both monitors feature Aux Link, which allows instant interface-free listening via the included ⅛-in. mini-jack cable.

The MSP7 has a 6.5-in.-cone woofer driven by an 80-W power amplifier. The tweeter has its own 50-W power amplifier for low-mid– and high–frequency ranges. Low-reflection die-cast magnesium baskets maximize mechanical precision while minimizing unwanted coloration. The 1-in. tweeters feature titanium domes for precise reproduction up to 40 kHz. Waveguide achieves uniform high-frequency dispersion of 120 degrees, and the unit offers balanced XLR-type connectors for input.

The MSP5 features a 5-in.-cone woofer driven by 40-W amplifier and a 1-in.-dome tweeter driven by 27-W amplifier. The waveguide horn achieves broad, uniform high-frequency dispersion over 120 degrees. Features include advanced driver and enclosure design, uniform dispersion across the system’s full reproduction range, flat frequency response out to 40 kHz, balanced XLR-type input for direct compatibility, and unbalanced ¼-in. phone-jack connector.

The new HS Series consists of the 5-in. HS5, 6.5-in. HS7, and 8-in. HS8 monitors, along with the HS8S subwoofer. The monitors come equipped with transducers featuring an advanced magnetic-field design that regulates the flow of magnetic response to provide natural, seamless sonic transitions. Each component’s materials have been optimized to significantly improve the accuracy of signal reproduction throughout the audio spectrum. All HS Series full-range models are two-way bass-reflex bi-amplified and feature a new high-resolution 1-in.-dome tweeter designed for extended high-frequency response with very low distortion up to 30 kHz.

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