Pictured at Soundcraft's new Si3 digital console are Director of Marketing Communications Dave Neal (left) and Product Manager James Shears.By Frank Wells
Potters Bar, UK (August 25, 2008)--At this month's PLASA show in London, Soundcraft will formally introduce the Si3 digital live sound console, the first (and the flagship model) of a new console line. "It's a totally integrated unit," says Product Manager James Shears, "no racks, power supplies are built in, audio ins and outs are on the back on physical XLRs."
The Si3 is conceived as a plug and play replacement for a conventional mid-format analog console: “Effectively, take your analog one out,” says Shears, and “put your digital one in.” Shears says there won’t be “a half-fitted” Si3; the configuration is fixed, though ample for a broad range of applications, including the House of Worship market. The Si3 has 64 physical mic/line inputs, 24 buses and eight matrix outputs. Each bus output has a dedicated physical connection and metering. “You can assign those as groups or auxes, however you wish,” says Shears. “You want 24 auxes, you’ve got 24 auxes.” says Shears.
“The technology we developed for this is called EMMA, Embedded Multi-processor Mixing Architecture--basically it’s a console on a board, and we can then use that for different platforms depending on how much I/O we want,” says Shears.
Local OLED blocks at each encoder provide information like channel names, current encoder function, metering and status.The Vistonics control surface technology (developed by fellow Harman Pro company Studer and employed on Soundcraft’s Vi6 console) and the outboard DSP engine that Studer and Soundcraft share for the Vi6 and other consoles, are currently cost prohibitive to deploy at the target price point of the Si3—-in the mid five figures (roughly half the price of a Vi6 with the same nominal I/O). The Analog Devices SHARC-based EMMA platform will be migrated down to a number of future products. The Si3 uses a single encoder knob and fader per control strip, the control and display topology still benefiting from the Vistonics-like philosophy of distributed and agile displays. Local OLED blocks at each encoder provide information like channel names, current encoder function, metering and status (i.e. VCA assign, phantom power, polarity reverse).
“What we’re trying to do is get away from having to go into a screen to see something,” explains Shears. Indeed, though the Si3 will be able to support an external screen and editor software, the onboard touch screen is diminutive and is primarily used for housekeeping and set-up functions, and for display of EQ curves.
The Si3’s four modular rear panel I/O modules each have 16 inputs and eight outputs, with a central I/O panel handling such signals as the main output buses, assignable analog insert I/O and external stereo playback device input. In addition, Lexicon signal processing units are built-in to the Si3--four of the same units employed on Soundcraft’s Vi6. The few options available for the already full-featured desk will include power supply redundancy, a UPS back-up and, for four option slots, cards to handle additional interfaces like MADI, CobraNet and I/O suitable for direct connect to digital stage boxes and headphone systems. Harman HiQnet connection is, as one would expect, standard.
Two 16-channel fader sections sit either side of center, each controlling 32 channels of input. In a “Global” mode (think “horizontal”), the encoder and corresponding OLEDs for each strip control the identical functions for each channel, allowing a quick view of pans, bus sends, mic gains and so forth across each input channel. In the “Channel” view (or vertical), the full range of controls (gain, pan, EQ, dynamics, etc.) for a selected channel are laid out across the 16 encoders and displays. “Channel mode is like you’ve taken your analog channel strip and you’re just lying it on its side,” explains Shears.
12 faders and two rows of 12 encoders and displays allow control of various functions, including parameters of the Lexicon processors.In the center section, 12 faders and two rows of 12 encoders and displays allow similar control of output and VCA group functions, and the parameters of the Lexicon processors. Soundcraft’s FaderGlow illuminated fader tracks change illumination color by function for a quick indication of whether the faders are controlling groups, VCAs, mute group assignments or channel levels.
Snapshot automation and preset and user definable keys round out the Si3’s capabilities. A walk through of the Si3 draws the simple conclusion, “it’s a console,” bridging the simplicity and familiarity of an analog console with the power and flexibility of digital.