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Digital Directing Audio Monitors’ Design

Remote capabilities, versatility, ‘clean sound’ are all important

The growing dominance of digital technology among audio monitors requiring designers to incorporate remote features, be versatile, while observing existing standards of producing “clean sound,” say audio experts.

by J.J. Smith

“In the olden days” (about 20 years ago), audio monitors only had to deal with basic two channel, analogue, making it “pretty simple, said Carl Dempsey, president and CEO of Wohler. Today, because there are so many systems used to produce audio, the “monitors have to be visual, they have to have screens that will tell exactly what the audio is;” he said. “It might be very simple audio—analogue two channel—but conversely it could be 16 channels, SDI, or it could have Dolby embedded in it,” he added. Therefore, audio monitors have “to be very flexible, (and it) has to have a user interface” and “be operator friendly.”

Being able to access an audio monitoring remotely is a feature that is growing, Dempsey said. Adding an application to an Iphone that allows technicians to monitor the audio in a master control room from a remote location is “the ultimate user friendly,” he said. And that can cut down on a facility’s labor costs, because that feature will make it likely that “fewer technicians be needed,” he added. That type of expansion into remote monitoring has more information technology (IT ) people getting involved in broadcast, he said. “We never use to see that… there use to be a wall, but now there’s a ‘convergence’ between IT and broadcast.”

H owever, Eugene Johnson, the managing director of Ward-Beck Systems, Ltd., says audio monitors have to provide “nice clean sound” and “it shouldn’t add or detract to the sound.” There are some systems that like to add bass to satisfy those “who like to hear a nice booming bass, but why add it when you shouldn’t have to,” he said. Audio monitors need to produce “flat frequency response” that needs to be “transparent” and does not add or take away from the program, he said.

AMS16-2AM Kevin Jackson, the “multi-viewer” product manager for Harris Corporation, says “audio monitoring has to handle a lot of systems, analog, video, Dolby, you’ve got be able to select which channel you want to monitor; that’s the challenge.” Before the “digital age,” multi-viewers were primarily managed stereo analogue audio channels, he said. However, digital audio embedded in video has become “important enough to influence design,” he added.

“Right up front when we’re designing a product we have to sit down and plan out the audio channels,” Jackson said. The audio source could be “a discreet source, it could be Dolby channels, we have to figure out how it can all get in,” he said. “So something (audio) that was a kind of an after though at the end of the design page, now has to be up front and is very important to our process,” he said.

AM P2-16V

An example of a multiformat product is Wohler’s AMP2-16V, which is a modular SDI-centric audio mixer and router with a complete suite of tools for managing signal level, loudness, Dolby program streams, transmission chain audio insertion, and emergency troubleshooting. With loudness control, mixing, and SDI embedding, the AMP2-16V has moved Wohler into direct transmission chain management. With regulations being adopted across the world, it is clear that loudness management is here to stay, and this product has it under control. In addition, channel clustering allows the user to group and label meters, and specify loudness level contributors. The routing and mixing facilities allows the user to connect nearly any installed input to any output, Using your monitor mix or and entirely separate configuration.

AMS 16

AMP2-16V Ward-Beck Systems says “the digital realm” requires audio be impressed in the video signal, and it has developed the AMS16, an embedded audio monitor. Using the front panel input source selection switches the operator can select from two inputs of HD or SD-SDI with embedded audio. When the source selection is made the unit will provide two re-clocked outputs on the rear panel and display the audio signals on the bargraph meters. In addition the unit will also provide discrete audio outputs of the selected source on the rear panel.

Pushbutton switches located below each meter pair can be pressed to route that signal to the internal speakers and also provide two outputs of this signal on the rear panel. There is a headset jack located on the front panel, and inserting a headset will automatically mute the speakers. The AMS16 has a built in power supply and occupies 2 RU of space.

“We developed the AMS16 monitoring system, this unit allows you to take in two HD SDI signals, which can be allows the user to monitor the audio stream by listening to it, or on the visual display the signals,” said Johnson. The system provides phase information, and the signals might be discreet AS, Dolby encoded, or DTS encoded. “So we made our AMS16 so that you can add a decoder to it,” he said.


Harris Corporation introduces the HView SX Hybrid multiviewer designed for hybrid applications with routing and monitoring of both traditional and internet protocol (IP) signals, the company says. The HView SX combines baseband and broadband monitoring, provides graphics, and optional integrated test and measurement tools for baseband signals in a single chassis, while the multiviewer/router solution is built to reduce integration costs and enable a more efficient use of space.

The HView SX multiviewer is within the output section of the Harris Platinum router frame, and is available as either a multiviewer-only or multiviewer/router integrated solution. Available in four chassis sizes (5RU, 9RU, 15RU, 28RU), this hybrid multiviewer offers unique features such as IP video display, RSS feeds direct to the display and advanced virtual network connection (VNC ) capabilities. With VNC, multiple standalone devices can be controlled with the click of a mouse; this allows operators to respond more quickly to alarms and enables systems integrators to eliminate dedicated hardware for control and monitoring of third-party devices.

T he unique thing about the HView SX is it is a hybrid product that takes sources off our best router, but also has the Internet port on the back that can stream IP video sources into it, Jackson said.