Lake Technology Contour Pro 26 Series Digital Loudspeaker Processor

Incorporating a powerful arsenal of equalization, crossovers, limiters and measurement tools, the new Lake Technology Pro 26 Contour Digital Loudspeaker Processor offers a degree of control for live performance sound systems that, I would hazard, is unequalled by comparable products. For system setup and adjustment, the all-digital system also includes a Spectrum Display and other analytical functions; for added flexibility the system can be controlled via a wireless link from a tablet PC.
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Incorporating a powerful arsenal of equalization, crossovers, limiters and measurement tools, the new Lake Technology Pro 26 Contour Digital Loudspeaker Processor offers a degree of control for live performance sound systems that, I would hazard, is unequalled by comparable products. For system setup and adjustment, the all-digital system also includes a Spectrum Display and other analytical functions; for added flexibility the system can be controlled via a wireless link from a tablet PC.

Features

The rackmounting Pro 26 handles two analog inputs routing to a total of six analog outputs - that can be set up as two-channel, two or three-way crossover, or a single four/six-way configuration; the new Pro 26D model features AES/EBU-format digital ports supporting sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz. Analog I/O converters run at 24/96, while all internal processing uses 40-bit extended-precision, floating-point math. Ethernet ports enable multiple units to be interlinked for system control and interrogation from a master PC or wireless tablet. All system settings are held in non-volatile EPROMs.

And let's not overlook what's offered in Contour: Full networked control across multiple processors in a multi-way, multiple-speaker array from a remote location, so that all system settings can be adjusted during a performance to correct atmospheric and sound absorption changes.

Internally, Contour utilizes Mesa EQ filters to provide equalization profiles that have been optimized for loudspeaker response, while the firm's Ideal Graphic EQ response lets the user see exactly what is being dialed in. Also, the system's Ideal Crossovers features linear phase crossovers with greater than 180 dB/octave transitions for surgically accurate frequency band transitions. So, instead of using graphics and parametrics to develop the required EQ response, Contour allows a virtually unlimited number of filters to be applied to large sound system with a few strokes of a graphic pen. True RMS and Soft Clamp limiting is also available on all outputs.

Lake Controller software provides a unified interface for Contour and the standalone Mesa Quad EQ Processor, and runs on any Windows desktop, portable or table PC with a standard Ethernet interface. Lake's companion SIA SmaartLive Controller software enables spectrum, spectrograph or transfer functions to be displayed with a dramatic amount of detail while adjusting system EQ.

SmaartLive V5, an option for with Contour, is SIA Software's dual-channel FFT-based audio measurement software and standard for real-time sound system measurement, optimization and control. The SmaartLive Controller displays results, and passes control information from the Lake Controller back to SmaartLive. This communication link can be provided on the same host computer, or across an Ethernet network to connect two PCs.

For system measurements, a built-in FFT-based real-time spectrum analyzer plots level-versus-frequency for the measurement channel input, processed into octave or fractional-octave bands. SmaartLive Spectrograph RTA display provides a way of looking at the frequency content of an input signal over a period of time, and presents the data in three dimensions: time on the y axis, frequency on the y and energy as changing color. SmaartLive's real-time Transfer Function is useful for setting up sound system EQ and crossovers by comparing input and output signals. A major advantage is that the software's dual-channel approach operates with a wide variety of test signals, including music or program material.

In Use

During evaluation sessions at the Hollywood Bowl (see companion article), various settings on the sound rig's four Contour units could be adjusted individually or as a group, depending on the parameters being targeted. One Contour Pro 26D provides high/mid/low control of upper cabinets in the left and right arrays, while a second handles H/M/L control of lower boxes on each side, and a third controls subwoofer cabinets. The fourth Pro 26D controls front-fill elements suspended below the left and right main arrays.

Having set up each individual amp send to cabinet elements, the entire system can be equalized overall with a single on-screen fader adjustment. And, without pausing for breath, the sound crew can zero back into a single cabinet array and adjust individual parameters for any processor located on the network, or to selected clusters of processors.

As I discovered, Lake's Controller software has been optimized for use with a touch screen display, as well as conventional mouse or trackball. Instead of digital readouts and buttons, Contour offers onscreen faders and controls for a very easy-to-use interface.

The unit will generate Bessel, Butterworth and Linkwitz-Riley crossovers, selectable up to 48 dB per octave, or linear-phase, brickwall crossovers, with transition slopes exceeding 180 dB per octave (the latter to prevent off-axis lobing and cancellation between loudspeakers); low/high-shelf and parametric filters can also be added to each output.

The unit's EQ Overlay can either be a graphic or a parametric while the Mesa Filter offers asymmetric filtering, a function that is said to truly match the asymmetrical response of loudspeaker cabinets. Up to eight Overlays are available per Crossover Module.

Summary

The degree of precise control achievable with this system is truly unequalled. As sound rigs become more sophisticated and audience expectations increase exponentially, nothing currently available comes close to matching the sonic manipulation power of the Lake Technology Pro 26 Contour Digital Loudspeaker Processor. - Mel Lambert

For more information contact Lake Technology at 415-861-1147, www.proaudio.lake.com.