The growing use of numerous audio networking and distribution solutions provides a backdrop of the future for digital audio. As we require transfer of more data at a faster rate, the audio world will continue to reap the benefits. Aviom's Pro64 Series of CAT-5 based digital audio networking systems is one of the leading products to benefit this growing segment of our industry.
At the top of the Pro64 Series, Aviom has recently added the 6416m 16-channel microphone input unit, which facilitates the introduction of 16 microphones to a network. Combined with Aviom's 6416o analog output interface, the RCI Remote Control Interface, and the MCS Mic Control Surface, a 6416m-based system can be used to transmit signals from the stage to FOH and/or a monitor desk up to 400 feet away via CAT-5e cables. It can also be used for any number of varied applications that require the transfer of high-resolution, uncompressed digital audio—from FOH to monitors or distribution to as many points required, installed audio networks of all types, and so on.
The Aviom 6416m mic-input module incorporates 16 quality mic preamplifiers with the technology necessary to introduce the signals from these preamps to a Pro64 network. There are controls and indicators relating to a channel's assigned A-Net slot and digital clocking (44.1 kHz to 192 kHz).
The front panel contains mute, edit, and activation buttons for each of 16 channels, along with link buttons for each of eight pairs. Each channel also features a six-segment LED meter and indicators for polarity, HPF insertion (-3 dB @ 85 Hz and 18 dB/octave), a 24 dB pad, and +48 V phantom power. 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 offers dedicated bandwidth over 14 channels for MIDI I/O, RS-232, and General Purpose I/O (GPI/O can handle both contact closure and time TTL). A knob in the lower right-hand corner of the front panel sets mic gain on any given channel in 1 dB increments.
The 6416m's rear panel contains 16 XLR mic inputs along with two female DB-25 connectors (grouped as 1-8, 9-16), which can be used as alternate inputs or as audio through ports as a passive split for monitoring or recording applications. Connection to 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 (24V) if you desire to separate the power supply from the unit or supply backup power.
An Aviom Pro64 network can be set up to run as a highly configurable system as all its A-Net ports are bidirectional and essentially interchangeable. It supports up to 64x64 channels or as a 64-channel network with no directional limitations on audio signal flow. 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. [Aviom recently introduced an updated version of the 6416o, which provides three line-level output choices (+4, +18, and +24 dBu) plus mic level output. — Ed.]
Aviom's RCI is a 1U box that provides an access point anywhere in a Pro64 system for connection of an MCS; it also acts as a standalone monitoring station. The MCS is the remote control (6-inch x 5-inch x 1.5-inch) with bicolor LEDs to indicate level for 64 channels, along with an expanded 12-segment LED level meter (0 to -48 dB) with peak hold (for clips on the unit's 64 bicolor LEDs) with the selected channel and numeric LED displays indicating slot number and mic gain in decibels. There is a numeric keypad; save, cancel, recall, and enter keys; and phase (polarity), low-cut, mute, pad, and phantom-power buttons. A single EtherCon RJ-45 port connects the unit to the RCI.
Using three 6416Y2 A-Net interface cards, I integrated the system with Yamaha digital consoles: a PM5D at 96 kHz and a M7CL at 48 kHz. Adjustments are made to set clock rate with dip switches on the 6416m and the interface cards. [According to the manufacturer, "The sample rate on the 6416m is set from the front panel with a push button. If the 6416m is used as the clock in the system, clock settings on the 6416Y cards do not need to be changed when the sample rate is changed — it happens automatically." — Ed.]
I used the Aviom clock as the master sync source. The demo system was used as a digital snake to get input signals from stage to FOH via CAT-5e cabling. The adjustments of the mic pres are handled with the included remote, and, once set, you can store the per-channel presets. This is handy when repeating similar applications yet cumbersome when you are used to setting up your show using the Yamaha console controls. [Aviom also supports mic pre remote control from the Yamaha console using the free downloadable m-control Pro64 software upgrade. — Ed.]
The sound of the Aviom mic pres is good; the Aviom improved the overall sonic quality of the Yamaha M7CL. In using them with the PM5D, they appeared brighter than the PM5D mic pres; I preferred the PM5D mic preamps. If the controls of the input gain on the Yamaha console talked to the Aviom, it would be much better. ["And with the m-control software upgrade, they do," offers Aviom. — Ed.] Audio is still very good with the Aviom, the converters sound pleasing, jitter is at a minimum, and there is very little latency.
Aviom Pro64 products should be welcomed in many applications: sound reinforcement, recording studios, houses of worship, theater, broadcasting and post-production facilities as well as many commercial installations. When considering a snake system for low- to medium-priced consoles, this system can offer simplicity in setup as well as sonic improvement.
Tom Young, longstanding mix engineer for Tony Bennett, is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.
Second Opinion: Aviom Pro 64
For this demo, I received two Aviom 6416m mic input modules, three 6416Y2 Yamaha interface modules, an RCI module, and the MCS remote. PAR contributor Tom Young had the system before me and was nice enough to keep everything configured, so it was pretty easy to plug and play. The signal and control lines, all via CAT-5e cables, made it really easy — out B on one unit, in A on another, and so on. For the demo, I put the cards into our Yamaha M7CL and only had to configure the inputs from the slots, then change the clocking — all very easy.
I tried using the console with the remote at the shop. Although small, the remote was very easy to get around; with it, you can access most options that are accessible on the faces of the 6416m units. The only major exception is the Link function, although this minor inconvenience did not bother me. Yet there was one issue that did really bother me. Engineers like to use their own settings off their cards/USB sticks. If this system were used in a festival or a one-stop-through tour, it would be nice to store all the various head-amp settings. However, this was not possible through the remote. [However, m-control software, as mentioned earlier in this review, allows settings to be stored in a Yamaha console. — Ed.]
At the time I received this system for review, Aviom released a firmware upgrade that I think everyone was looking for: the ability to control the preamps from a Yamaha console without needing to use the external remote. As a result, this upgrade fixed what would have been my number-one problem with the Pro64 system. The upgrade is a free download from the Aviom website. For this upgrade, you need to interface with the cards via RS-232 on a DB9 connector. Not many, if any, computers I use these days have a DB9 connector.
I had to use a USB to RS-232 adapter, and the upgrade has to be made in the environment of Windows XP, or higher. You not only have to download the firmware file, but the program to run it. As a result, I had my nose to the computer and the manual for several hours and was not able to get the two things to talk to each other. A call to Aviom suggested that it was my USB to DB-9 adapter and that I should to try using one of the USB to RS-232 adapters listed on their website. I bought and tried one of the recommended adapters with still no luck, even after another couple of calls to Aviom. However, the good news is that all of the Aviom systems now are being shipped with the firmware upgrade.
I preferred the sound of the Aviom preamps over the sound of the Yamaha M7CL's on-board amps. Personally, I think they have a much "warmer" sound in direct comparison with to the M7CL amps, and they stay a bit smoother in high-frequency ranges. Having a digital snake as part of the system was an added bonus, although it is recommended that it be limited to a length of 400 feet. ["With Aviom's MH10f, fiber can also be used between devices," offers the manufacturer. — Ed.]
The units offer significant flexibility in configuration. For example, if I had racked two units of two 16-channel mic pres, and one output module, the system could be split for small shows or combined for large shows. Combining the racks require only a single CAT-5e cable. It's worth mentioning that there is no option to run communications with this system, whether Clear-com or RTSbased; a line would have to be run separately for that purpose.
In conclusion, I believe that the Aviom Pro64 Series is an affordable option in a digital snake and networking system, and, in my use, it proved itself as a worthwhile upgrade to the Yamaha M7CL.
Karl Bader is a lead engineer for Washington DC-based Entertainment Sound Production and can be reached atKarlBader@espsound.com.