Next Gen: First Look At the New NEXO Line Array
Bringing the philosophy of modularity to life

May 07, 2012, by Paul Watson


At Prolight+Sound in Frankfurt last March, NEXO revealed its concept for a new modular-design high-end loudspeaker series called STM. Just prior to the show, I paid a visit to the French manufacturer at its Paris headquarters to get the full low-down the new system.

The STM (Scale Through Modularity) project actually got underway more than two years ago when NEXO decided to replace the popular GEO T Series line array (launched in 2002) and build a “next generation” system. In a nutshell, the concept enables line arrays to scale up or down depending on event audience size, ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 people.

“We were determined not to create just another line array,” R&D director Francois Deffarges told me. “We certainly didn’t want it to be a stadium-only system, but rather, useable for business in arenas in the winter time as well as a range of smaller venues for different live applications, which is ultimately what led us down the modular route.”

STM arrays can be configured from four discrete loudspeaker elements with the same cabinet width: M46 main, B112 bass, S118 subbass, and M28 “Omni” modules. Configurations can comprise arrays of main cabinets only, or main plus bass, or bass plus main plus bass.

Perspective of new STM arrays. (click to enlarge)

The ability to add extra bass cabinets to the system in order to increase power and headroom without introducing phase anomalies translates to vertical arrays that offer scalable low-frequency flexibility.

In The Boxes

The M46 main cabinet offers drivers with flat membranes, which the company says helps produce very even full-range coverage over the entire 90-degree horizontal dispersion. HF frequency range is designed to stay completely linear using Kepton Polymer diaphragms that enhance tonal response and long throw.

The M46 includes 4 x 6.5-inch LF/MF drivers and 4 x 2.5-inch voice coil neodymium HF compression drivers. Published peak SPL is 145 dB, and frequency response is 85 Hz - 20 kHz. The cabinet measures 13.8 (h) x 22.6 (w) x 28.2 (d) inches, and weighs 121 pounds.

R&D director Francois Deffarges at NEXO headquarters. (click to enlarge)

The B112 bass cabinet is outfitted with a neodymium high-excursion 12-inch bass driver with 4-inch voice coil and shares the same dimensions, weight, and gravity center as the M46. The hybrid horn-loaded design maximizes the efficiency of the driver, delivering 6 dB more than a standard front-loaded driver in this frequency range.

With a 1 x 3,000-watt, +/- 3 cm excursion 12-inch LF driver, the B112 has a 141 dB peak SPL and a frequency response of 63 Hz - 200 Hz. It has the same dimensions and weight as the M46.

The S118 subbass cabinet has a neodymium high-excursion 3,000-watt 18-inch driver. A bandpass load was incorporated to help provide output equivalent to conventional dual 18-inch units. Peak SPL is stated as 143 dB, and frequency response is 25 Hz - 85 Hz.

The S118 measures 27.6 x 22.6 and 28.2 inches, and weighs 187 pounds. It can be flown in the array or groundstacked in line and can run in omnidirectional or cardioid sub mode.

The M28 Omni cabinet is used for down fill and provides 120 degrees of horizontal dispersion and 0 to 15 degrees splaying angle between modules. The cabinet is loaded with 2 x 8 inch LF drivers, 4 x 4 inch MF drivers, 1 x HF compression driver, with a 140 dB peak SPL and frequency response of 60 Hz - 20 kHz.

The Omni cabinet measures 13.8 x 22.6 and 28.2 inches and weighs 84 pounds. And, it should be pointed out that it can also be used independently from the M46 or B112.

STM modules, from left to right: M46 main, B112 bass, M28 Omni, and S118 subbass. (click to enlarge)

Building With Legos

NEXO was also keen to get as much “grass-roots” input as possible at design stage, to see if there was anything in particular that people would like to see incorporated into a new system.

This involved
close interaction with three leading sound rental companies, as well as numerous system engineers and riggers.

“We went directly to the guys that rig the kit and asked them what they’d like to see in a new line array,” Deffarges says, “and one of the main points was: ‘make a system I can fly on my own.’ That, we realized, was where the true value could lie.”

In reality, this translated to the proprietary PistonRig system built into each cabinet, delivering streamlined compression-mode rigging. Specifically, PistonRig allows pre-setting of inter-cabinet angle values, while newly developed REDLock handle locks front rigging points from rear of cabinet.

All rigging adjustments are made from one position at the rear of an array. Further benefit comes from the 1-1-1 ratio (main, bass, sub) of the STM cabinets.

The back side of the STM modules – the dial on the back of each is the PistonRig for pre-setting of intercabinet angles, with a REDLock handle lock below each. (click to enlarge)

“One person can fly it, via its motor suspension and two rigging points,” Deffarges states. “The system also includes 1-ton rigging parts, and we’ve designed self-correcting modular dollies that make it very easy to organize and move systems of any size, anywhere. This, we feel, is pretty unique.

“It’s like building a system with Legos, in a way,” he continues. “The main enclosures can be flown as a single column only, or you can combine bass and main enclosures on the same column. Or, you can ground stack it, putting a main and a bass enclosure on top of a couple of subs, for example, so it becomes a plug-and-play stand-alone system too, if you want it to be.”

Racks For Stacks

STM cabinets are paired with the NEXO Universal Amp Rack (NUAR), which contains plug-and-play digital patches, real-time system monitoring and control network functionality in addition to two NXAMP4x4s, which together can power up to 12 STM loudspeakers, in groups of three.

“The NUAR is also compatible with any other NEXO products, of course, but it works particularly well with the STM modules,” Deffarges insists. “STM dovetails with the rest of our kit seamlessly; for example, you could use it in conjunction with RS18 subs – we just wanted to keep everything as flexible and simple as possible.”

NUAR includes a new dual-voltage version of the NXAMP and works in conjunction with the new Digital Meter Unit (DMU), an intelligent input patch panel providing digital communication with the NXAMP, and the new Digital Patch Unit (DPU), an intelligent output patch panel.

NEXO Universal Amp Rack (NUAR) with digital patches, system monitoring, control network functionality, processing and audio power. (click to enlarge)

A choice of network cards is provided. Along with the company’s established NXES104 EtherSound network control, there’s also an NXDT104 Audinate Dante audio plug-in card for AVB-ready digital networking.

NEXO product strategy director Ken Iwayama says the NUAR adds an extra dimension due to its new Dante capability: “For many years, we’ve been an EtherSound partner, but that platform is primarily suitable for live use, whereas Dante is more flexible, and primarily suited to installs. It’s easier to match it with existing IT infrastructure in the project for example, and it’s a very good option which allows us to cater for a wider range of applications.”

One more caveat – in the near future, users will be able to download from iTunes the first release of NeMo, an app for the iPad and iPhone that provides remote control over a NXAMP network from anywhere in the venue.

Deffarges concludes by stating his satisfaction with the outcome of the two-plus-years project. “The production of the STM has only been possible due to the exceptional hard work from everyone in all of our departments, working together as one unit. It’s been about the technicians, the support guys, the R&D guys, the training – everyone. Modularity has become a philosophy at NEXO, and we believe it can re-define touring sound.”

Yamaha Commercial Audio

Paul Watson is editor for Europe for ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International.

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Next Gen: First Look At the New NEXO Line Array