Audio At NAB 2024

The 2024 NAB Show will see the big names in audio production embrace and help to drive forward the next generation of software centric distributed production workflows and join the ‘cloud’ revolution. Exciting times for broadcast audio.

For decades, broadcast manufacturers have looked to NAB to drive R&D deadlines. And why not? As the biggest broadcast trade show in the world, it attracts more broadcasters with deeper pockets and more inquiring minds than any other event. Alongside September’s IBC in Amsterdam, these events are the best barometers for both visitors and vendors to assess the temperature of the industry. What is the next big thing and how should we be preparing for it?

With all the right people in the same place at the same time, the Las Vegas Convention Center is the best place to have a mooch around and find out, if you have a comfortable enough pair of shoes.

Over the last few years, a heady combination of IP-enabled technology, AI and remote production technologies have all piggy-backed on each other to help broadcasters create more flexible ways of working, and those who have started that journey are now all looking to get to the next stage. That stage, predictably, is the cloud, and as far as audio is concerned it has always seemed some way off.

But the cloud plays very nicely with remote and decentralized production, and as the market for IP equipment matures, the requirement to decouple the audio from the video makes the prospect of a flexible SaaS mix engine seem very doable. And when broadcast resources can be defined to fit the size of the production rather than the other way around, we’ll reach a new level of flexibility.

So with NAB on the horizon, how are audio manufacturers aiming to deliver it? Have they gauged the temperature correctly?

In truth? Yes and no. While some are confidently progressing with plans to virtualize services, others are not quite there yet.

Vendor Focus

Lawo (Booth C4110) have announced a major milestone in their long history of broadcast audio systems development and in their microservices based HOME App development – the HOME mc² DSP app. 

HOME mc² DSP app, is the microservice-based equivalent of Lawo’s A__UHD Core.  A new member of the HOME Apps family, the ultra-low-latency HOME mc² DSP app is a server-based, CPU powered agile audio engine. With an instantly familiar feature set, it combines the immense flexibility of the HOME Apps platform in terms of connectivity and scalability with Lawo’s legendary audio processing quality.

The HOME mc² DSP app can be used together with mc² mixing consoles or software only mxGUI to instantiate a (virtual) mixing system at the press of a button wherever audio processing is required at short notice.

Despite its CPU-based technology, the HOME mc² DSP app performs at the same ultra-low latency as its hardware counterpart. Lawo say that all capabilities and characteristics are so similar that operators are unable tell whether their console surface or headless mixer controls a hardware-based A__UHD Core or the mc² DSP app. Switching between the two - and back - is possible at the push of a button in the HOME UI.

The HOME mc² DSP app automatically scales with future CPU developments and because it is microservices based can provide anything from just a few channels to several thousand DSP channels where needed. With support for mono, stereo, 5.1, and NGA Immersive Mixing formats; a flexible number of AUX, GRP, and SUM busses; and much more, HOME mc² DSP is the app-based alter-ego of the A__UHD Core. Any HOME App can be stopped at any time, freeing up server capacity, Flex Subscription credits, and reducing power consumption in the process.

“HOME mc² DSP leverages the unique granularity and flexibility of the HOME Apps platform regarding input and output media transport protocols,” said Christian Struck, Lawo’s Senior Product Manager, Audio Infrastructure. “It will support mixed-format SMPTE ST2110, NDI, and SRT production environments, and newer formats that may become relevant further down the line. There are no plans to discontinue the A__UHD Core as it remains the processing tool of choice for audio-only workflows in a live-sound context.”

Lucas Zwicker, Senior Director, Workflow and Integration, CTO Office at Lawo, said: “The introduction of the HOME mc² DSP app is the next milestone in Lawo’s audio history. This is not a lift-and-shift implementation of an existing product: HOME mc² DSP has been carefully reengineered from scratch to cope with tomorrow’s requirements regarding converged audio, video and commodity-based processing infrastructures. Of course, we deliver the sonic performance our customers have come to expect from mc² mixers.”

Dante (Audinate) (Booth C3008) has been resolutely focused on the cloud for some time. As a complete AV-over-IP platform that is interoperable across thousands of products, from hundreds of manufacturers, the Dante protocol already has a head start. At the 2024 NAB show, their focus is on Dante Connect, a suite of products that allows equipment in Dante-enabled networks to be accessed in the cloud by taking advantage of commonly available compute and giving users access for a range of productions, regardless of location.

The Dante Connect cloud application enables audio interconnection anywhere in the world.

The Dante Connect cloud application enables audio interconnection anywhere in the world.

Their cloud based application the Dante Connect Gateway tackles sync and delay in the cloud by managing connectivity between on-prem, edge or cloud locations, and matches the clocking of audio sources from on-prem equipment to virtualized environments. It takes the on-prem clocking source and automatically negotiates the bridging between all remote sources, assigning the appropriate buffer to maintain the same experience to everything. In this way, according to Audinate’s Director of Marketing, Patrick Prothe, “It facilitates remote production.”

Solid State Logic (Booth C6307).  A number of manufacturers have already been working closely with Audinate to take advantage of the work it has done in this area, and SSL is unveiling its System T Cloud platform at NAB, which it describes as a “virtualised mixing solution for broadcast audio” and uses a fully integrated Dante Connect implementation.

The system is based on a virtualized DSP processor that was announced in 2023 in conjunction with fellow Audiotonix manufacturer Calrec. SSL’s System T Cloud supports stereo, 5.1 and immersive formats up to 7.1.4 with 9.1.6 monitoring. It provides 256 processing paths, with 256x256 Dante Connect connectivity on its Virtual Tempest Engine. Audio routing control is managed directly from the UI and stored and recalled with the showfile, while SSL says that any combination of hardware and software control interfaces can be utilized across a distributed production architecture.

RTS (Booth C3810).  Looking to promote flexibility, comms specialist RTS is bringing its VLink Lite to NAB, which it describes as a cost-effective version of its established VLink system. VLink Lite runs on any iOS or Android device and can scale up to eight Partylines and 64 users. 

RTS VLink Lite.

RTS VLink Lite.

The company is also previewing a software ecosystem for intercom configuration, control and system monitoring, with an eye on a full launch later this spring. Leveraging the performance of its existing AZedit software for RTS matrix systems, the new software adds new workflows, such as an Intercom Manager which provides the ability to drag and drop any resource to any device, while a user-configurable Keypanel Editor allows for custom tailoring of the interface.

It also adds an Intercom Resource Search Engine to quickly find any resource available in the Intercom Manager, Multiple Keypanel Editor Sessions to view an unlimited number of keypanels at the same time, and a simplified way to review and change set-up pages on devices.

With IP allowing broadcasters greater access the cloud, RTS is also keen to focus on its range of ST2110 implementations. Features like channel-by-channel selectivity enable users to choose if a channel speaks ST2110, OMNEO, Dante, etc, and delivers the ability to add ST2110 capability to upgrade existing equipment.

Riedel (Booth C4907).  Riedel has been carefully expanding its range of live production tools for years, and with products covering intercoms, media networks and video production the German company is across all the changes that the broadcast industry is embracing. It even has a dedicated Networks Division which aims to provide customised data communication networks which includes integration with the cloud.

The Reidel Artist Smart Panels.

The Reidel Artist Smart Panels.

From an audio perspective, Riedel’s Bolero wireless intercom series, which won an Emmy as part of the Television Academy’s 75th Engineering, Science, and Technology Emmy Awards last summer, will once again be centre stage. The addition of a Bolero Standalone 2110 (AES67) mode, means there are now three network modes available for Bolero systems. Taking advantage of Riedel’s Artist infrastructure, Bolero Integrated includes SmartPanels and extensive I/O connectivity, while Bolero Standalone Link and Bolero Standalone 2110 (AES67) keep things simple. Bolero Standalone Link delivers plug and play simplicity with no need for an Artist matrix, while Bolero Standalone 2110 (AES67) enables users to set up a standards-based ST2210 IP network.

Sennheiser (Booth C4732).  Meanwhile, Sennheiser might be more focused on capturing real life than life in the cloud, but is still approaching NAB with a view to deliver greater flexibility with its new MKH 8030 figure-of-eight RF condenser microphone for broadcasting, field recording and studio applications. Previewed at IBC 2023, the MKH 8030 makes its NAB debut just in time for shipping; official availability is May 2024.

The new Sennheiser MKH 8030 figure of eight RF condenser mic.

The new Sennheiser MKH 8030 figure of eight RF condenser mic.

Following a series of field tests throughout last year, Sennheiser says that it has been implementing suggestions and feedback from its field testers since IBC. Unlocking M-S, double M-S, and Blumlein stereo recording options, its sound signature has been engineered to blend in with the sound of Sennheiser’s existing MKH 8000 series microphones and shares the same benefits, like insensitivity to climatic conditions, a very wide frequency response, and low self-noise.

Also on show are improved accessories for the entire MKH 8000 series, as well as what Sennheiser describes as a “streamlined portfolio of broadcast headsets”, which the company says makes it easier for the customer to find the best model for any application.

Blackmagic (Booth SL 5005).  It’s almost eight years since Blackmagic bought Fairlight with a view to integrating audio into its video workflow, and at NAB last year it announced a host of audio features in its DaVinci Resolve 18.5 update. This included the ability to combine related audio tracks or mixer channels into groups, edit to timecode or musical tempo, automatically sort audio clips based on classification, and deliver automatic binaural rendering of a full Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 mix.

Ironically, it’s all been pretty quiet since then, with subsequent updates up to the v18.6.5 in February 2024 adding little new audio functionality, but with NAB once again driving R&D deadlines, you never know – either way if audio post is your thing then Blackmagic is worth a visit.

Bridge Technologies (Booth C4939) are a leading developer of monitoring & compliance products mainly utilized in playout so their main coverage is found here in our Monitoring & Compliance At NAB article. We mention it here because they have announced new capabilities for their VB440 probe which offer those working in immersive audio production for live broadcast, some useful new monitoring tools which can be accessed by the audio production team during the live broadcast. 

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