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InfoComm 2009, Day 1: Back To The Future
Big new developments that feature some old-school philosophy at a very busy first day of InfoComm
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The Expo portion of InfoComm 2009 at the Orlando Convention Center is underway, so let’s dive right into a very busy and interesting day one of the show.

This morning I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rich Zwiebel. Ever heard of Rich? If not, let me take this opportunity to note that Mr. Zwiebel has made a profound difference in the lives of many audio professionals for more than 20 years with trailblazing technologies such as MediaMatrix and CobraNet. And he’s not done yet, by any means, as evidenced by the roll-out of the new QSC Audio Q-Sys.

Here’s Q-Sys in a nutshell: it is a completely integrated sound system platform extending from audio input through to the loudspeakers, and along the way, it supplies all audio routing, processing, control and monitoring necessary for any sound reinforcement system. And then some… Get the salient details here.

Rich was very generous in sharing with me his observations on the way the technology has evolved as he’s gone along. An early inspiration came more than two decades ago, when he wanted to develop a mix-minus capability in a very large (more than 50 mics) system. This started with taking a large-format analog console and going through the arduous process of adapting it to the application. It worked, but obviously, something more streamlined, efficient and providing far more capabilities was the goal.

Another influence was his design of a sound reinforcement system for the then-new Georgia Dome in Atlanta about 20 years ago, which deployed a very early iteration of Crown IQ control and monitoring of the system power amplifiers. (I had the pleasure of meeting Rich for the first time on that project, and to my everlasting “thanks” still remember him leading me on a crawl around the catwalks at the top of the dome, blazing hot and a couple hundred feet above the surface.)

Gary Tschetter (left) and Rich Zwiebel, key drivers of new QSC Q-Sys (click to enlarge)

Several aspects of that project came into play that moved his mind along, but chief among them was the shear amount of cabling it took to link the entire thing together. In fact, he notes that the budget for wire, cable and installation easily matched that of the entire rest of the system. Cue the development of leading-edge digital system control and networking and audio and data transport that ensued.

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Yet it’s actually been a full circle process now with the introduction of Q-Sys, Rich notes. Back in the day (before digital), the first priority and emphasis was sound quality. In the ensuing years, rapid advancements on the digital front did wonders for functionality, infrastructure, convenience, repeatability, reporting, control and a myriad of other aspects, but in Rich’s take, it also led to less focus on sound quality. Addressing that was his imparative, shared by that entire QSC development team that includes long-time industry veterans such as Gary Tschetter.

As a result, Q-Sys isn’t just an exceptionally powerful platform. It has been designed for operational simplicity: so simple to operate that the user’s focus can be devoted to sonic excellence, rather than paging through myriads of computer screens and trying to understand device linking and so on.

Several large-scale systems currently moving into the installation phase are incorporating Q-Sys, and we’ll be providing coverage as soon as they’re ready. In the meantime, kudos to Rich, Gary, and the QSC team for raising the bar.

Michael McDonald, VP of sales and marketing for Harman Professional, opened an introduction to several new products with the observation that the economy seems on the way to recovery, and this is based upon his frequent discussions with dealers and distributors around the world.  In fact, the outlook in some markets is quite upbeat.

Harman presented a wide range of new developments. Highlights include a new automatic microphone mixer - the DMM 4/2/2 - from AKG. It’s a processor controlled digital automatic mixing algorithm with four balanced universal (microphone/line) inputs and two stereo AUX inputs providing a unique and very intelligent mixing algorithm with noise sensitive threshold.

Going “old school” again, the DMM 4/2/2 has a very cool control concept allows users to access all microphone functions (ducking, automix and so on) via a single rotary switch on the front panel. (It can also be remotely controlled via logic in/outs with a Sub-D connector.)

The new AKG DMM 4/2/2 automatic mic mixer (click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, dbx debuted the new DriveRack PA+, which includes a new, updated library of stored loudspeaker and amplifier settings, and much more.

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JBL introduced 14 new loudspeakers, with additions to the ASB Series, 8138 ceiling loudspeakers and more that we’ll cover later, but the new CBT Series of passive line array columns stand out in particular. They feature proprietary Constant Beamwidth Technology circuitry, which delivers consistent constant directivity coverage and audio clarity. The coverage pattern of the CBT models can be adjusted—with a simple switch—between Broad Mode (designed for mid-throw situations) and Narrow Mode (for long-throw applications), which allows them to meet the requirements of a broad range of applications.

Again touching on the “back to the future” theme, recall that Crown was a leader in plug-in amplifier technology from the outset, and at InfoComm 2009 today unveiled the PIP-USP4, the fourth generation DSP-based PIP (programmable input processor) module for CTs Series amplifiers. This single plug solution contains audio distribution, control and monitoring, and is a Harman HiQnet series component. And, it also incorporates the OMNIDRIVEHD DSP Engine that is featured in premium I-Tech HD amplifiers. 

Speaking of HiQnet, Harman Pro VP Rick Kreifeldt led the introduction of new HiQnet System Architect 2.0, which provides users with intelligent choices based on job function, system application and system sophistication. Rick explained that this new system design philosophy centered on workflow and the use of a diagrammatic representation of the installed or live sound venue. Find out more about HiQnet System Architect 2.0 here.


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