Dec 1, 2005 12:00 PM,
By Jack Kontney
Sound, video, and contracting award winners.
What's the next big thing? New products are brought to market at an ever-increasing pace. We see them at trade shows; we see them advertised. And, as your caretakers of industry news, we try to separate the “me too” variations from the innovative visions, the flexible solutions from the one-off idiosyncrasies. Of course, superiority, cleverness, and technical acumen alone do not ensure a great product. If it were that simple, we'd all be watching Beta format videotapes. Time tells the tale.
We took a look at the award-winning products from three 2005 industry trade shows — NSCA (Innovations in Technology Awards), InfoComm (Pick Hits), and CEDIA (Electronic Lifestyles Manufacturers Excellence Awards). All three programs are sponsored or co-sponsored by Sound & Video Contractor. The winning products have been semi-cleverly organized in accordance with the magazine name: Sound, Video, and Contractor. Although the first two areas are (mostly) obvious, the third includes software, control systems, convergence products, and hardware.
Systems approaches dominate the installation industry, so it's no surprise that system-based products dominated the audio awards this year.
With the introduction of its HiQnet control system, Harman International has created a comprehensive audio communications protocol. The core of HiQnet is its System Architect PC software, containing device-specific plug-ins for each of the Harman Pro brands, thus covering the full audio chain. This approach effectively integrates brands like JBL, BSS, Crown, Soundcraft, dbx, AKG, Lexicon, and Studer into a one-stop audio shop, with products and software drivers developed and optimized for use within the system. HiQnet supports Ethernet, CobraNet, USB, and serial control; sample rates up to 96kHz; and up to 64 channels of streaming audio.
Aimed at the custom home installation market, the iHome Multi-Center I from Audio Design Associates (ADA) is essentially three components in one: a 250GB music storage device with dual hot-swappable hard drives, a Media Center PC, and an IP control server. This makes it possible to control a multi-room music system from any PC, web tablet, or PDA using an Internet browser. The Multi-Center can store a full library of CDs and is fully compatible with both Apple iTunes and Microsoft Media Center software.
With its new Soundweb London, BSS Audio accepted the challenge of upgrading its programmable Soundweb DSP/matrix system (without replacing it!). Using the industry-standard distributed processing architecture of the original, Soundweb London offers new hardware, more flexible configurations, and dual-redundant CobraNet audio networking, as well as double the DSP power and more efficient protocols for using it. The basic building block module of the series is the BLU-80, which accommodates all common I/O configurations and is easily expandable with other London components. The system also features auto-IP addressing, browser-based diagnostics, and Ethernet-based system control.
An often-overlooked factor in effective teleconferencing systems is audio quality. Biamp Systems created the AEC2w acoustic echo-canceling input card for broadband technologies, designed for use in its AudiaFlex platform. In contrast to the frequency-limited technologies of the past, AEC2w uses a proprietary algorithm to provide full-bandwidth (20Hz to 20kHz) echo cancellation, so teleconferences sound as natural as possible. The card provides two channels of selectable echo cancellation, with assignable reference points for each input for seamless integration. It also suppresses background noise, using onboard DSP to preserve AudiaFlex system resources.
Lest we forget, great output starts with great input, and that means microphones. The DPA 3552 compact stereo microphone kit was a Pick Hit at InfoComm 2005. According to company president Bruce Myers, these mics use the same capsule and have “the identical sonic signature as our classic studio mic,” the B&K 4006. Designed specifically for low-profile piano miking, the mic easily and securely mounts on the harp with a pair of magnetic gooseneck bases. Mics are matched within