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Audio Review: Aviom 6416m

Great-sounding input unit allows you to network 16 microphones. 10/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Audio Review: Aviom 6416m

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Great-sounding input unit allows you to network 16 microphones.




Audio Rev 6416

Recent years have seen the introductions of numerous audio networking and distribution solutions, and there is no reason to believe we've seen the end of it. As computer experts continue to develop increasingly sophisticated technology to keep the business world wired together and to transfer more data at a faster pace, the audio world will continue to benefit. Aviom, which has developed a strong reputation in the domain of personal monitor systems, boasts its Pro16 and Pro64 series Cat-5-based digital audio networking systems. It has recently added the 6416m, a 16-channel microphone-input unit that facilitates the introduction of 16 microphones to a network. Combined with Aviom's 6416o analog output interface, the Remote Control Interface (RCI), and the Mic Control Surface (MCS), this four-box system is likely to be used to transmit signals from the stage to FOH and/or a monitor desk up to 400ft. away via Cat-5e cables. Nevertheless, the system could be used for any number of applications requiring the transfer of high-resolution, uncompressed digital audio from point A to point B or distribution to points B, C, D, and beyond. I was recently able to spend time with such a system.

The Aviom 6416m mic-input module is the newest addition to Aviom's line of products intended for use within the Pro64 and Pro16 networking and distribution systems. It is composed of 16 quality mic preamplifiers, along with all the attendant technology necessary to introduce the signals from these preamps to a Pro64 or Pro16 network. One thing to like about the 6416m is that it incorporates not only 16 pres, but also the interfacing necessary to network them. It is convenient to have it all integrated into a single box, despite the loss of one level of modularity (which, frankly, is not that important anyway). The front panel features mute, edit, and activation buttons for each of 16 channels, along with link buttons for each of eight pairs (1/2 through 15/16 to be exact). Each channel also has a six-segment LED meter and indicators for polarity, HPF insertion (-3dB @ 85Hz and 18dB/octave), a 24dB pad, and +48V phantom power. There are also controls and indicators relating to a channel's assigned A-Net slot and digital clocking (with all the common sample rates from 44.1kHz to 192kHz). Aviom distinguishes clearly between channels and slots, which is very important with a network that can represent a 64×64 matrix. Control master and cancel/enter buttons are also featured on the front panel, as are controls and a display for the system's Virtual Data Cable (VDC) slots. VDC is very clever and useful, with dedicated bandwidth over 14 channels for MIDI I/O, RS-232, and General Purpose I/O (GPIO), which can handle both contact closure and time TTL. A knob in the lower-right-hand corner of the front panel determines mic gain on any given channel in 1dB increments.

The 6416m's rear panel is mainly dedicated to I/O, with the obvious inclusion of 16 XLR mic inputs along with two female DB-25 connectors, which are intended as alternate inputs or audio through ports for channels 1 to 8 and 9 to 16, respectively. A likely use for the DB-25s is as a passive split for monitoring or recording. Connection with the A-Net is facilitated by two EtherCon RJ-45 ports (A and B), and a section is dedicated to VDC I/O — including MIDI in and out, an RS-232 port, Euro-type blocks for contact or TTL, and dip switches that determine the behavior of the VDC ports. An IEC connector accepts AC power, and there is a 4-pin DC power input if you'd like to physically separate the power supply from the unit.




Audio Review: Aviom 6416m

Oct 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Great-sounding input unit allows you to network 16 microphones.




The Aviom 6416o is essentially the reverse of the 6416m, with 16 channels of analog outputs associated with A-Net slots. Each channel features a three-segment LED meter, a selector button, and a slider switch that toggles between line and mic output levels. With the exception of the 6416m's per-channel input controls, save/recall buttons, and Control Group button and indicators, the front-panel controls on the 6416o are identical to those of the 6416m. Similarly, the rear panel of the 6416o is nearly identical to that of the 6416m, with the notable absence of the 4-pin DC power input.

Aviom's RCI is a 1RU box that provides an access point in a Pro64 system facilitating connection of an MCS and also acts as a standalone monitoring station. In addition to its front-panel A-Net and Group Control buttons and LED displays, it features a headphone jack and volume knob, facilitating direct monitoring of any network audio resource. In addition to its headphone jack, it features a balanced line-level XLR output on its rear panel, which also sports the A and B EtherCon RJ-45 A-Net ports and both IEC and 4-pin DC power inputs like the 6416m does.

The MCS is a roughly sandwich-sized remote control (literally 6”×5”×1.5”) with bicolor LEDs to indicate level for 64 channels, along with a 12-segment LED level meter for the selected channel and numeric LED displays indicating slot number and mic gain in decibels. The MCS also has a numeric keypad; save, cancel, recall, and enter keys; a peak-hold button associated with the meter; and phase (polarity), low-cut, mute, pad, and phantom-power buttons. A single EtherCon RJ-45 port connects the unit to the RCI.

So what can you do with all of this? Again, the system I evaluated would normally be used as a digital snake to get 16 signals from stage to FOH via Cat-5e cabling. Aside from this obvious application, which is child's play for the system, there are numerous other uses and features worthy of mention. The system facilitates the storage of per-channel presets, which is very handy in applications that see a rotation of musicians (for instance, in house-of-worship situations). The any-input-to-any-output flexibility makes the system useful in virtually any application that can be described as audio networking or distribution — such as a postproduction facility, a recording studio, or a broadcast studio.

One attribute of the system that could be simultaneously described as a strength and a weakness is that there is no possibility of control of the network system by an external computer. (This feature will be added in 2009, according to the company.) Aviom developed the A-Net system using the physical structure of Ethernet, but deliberately avoiding the protocols of Ethernet networking. This facilitates leaner, meaner data transfer. At the same time, however, it eliminates the possibility of computer control — which can be considered a reasonable trade-off, particularly if computer control is not important to you. If it isn't, you actually wind up with a more robust and reliable network of audio.

Does the audio sound good? Absolutely. The only available amplitude resolution is 24 bits, and sample rates range from 44.1kHz to 192kHz. When your Nyquist frequency is 96kHz, you're in pretty good shape. The converters sound great, jitter is at a minimum, and there's very little latency to speak of. The Aviom 6416m gives you 16 dead-quiet mic pres that sound great and the ability to introduce them to a digital networking and distribution system — all features very worthy of consideration.


PRODUCT SUMMARY

  • Company: Aviom
    www.aviom.com
  • Product: 6416m
  • Pros: High-quality audio networking, powerful Virtual Data Cable.
  • Cons: No control by external computer.
  • Applications: Digital snake, audio networking, and distribution.
  • Price: $7,500 (6416m); $3,275 (6416o); $1,365 (RCI); $885 (MCS)

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Input gain range: 0cB-55dB (variable in 1dB increments)
  • Frequency range (±0.3dB): 20Hz-23kHz (48kHz sample rate); 20Hz-45kHz (96kHz sample rate); 20Hz-53kHz (192kHz sample rate)
  • THD+N: 0.0015% @ 1kHz -10dBFS; 0.007% @ 1kHz -1dBFS
  • Dynamic range: 112dB
  • EIN: -127dBu
  • CMRR: 78dB @ 1kHz / 75dB @ 10kHz, typical


John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations, and he provides high-quality podcast production services.




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