In The Spotlight
For the first install of our brand new section, TPi’s Kelly Murray attended the launch of Harman Soundcraft’s latest range of audio mixers, with a difference. Harman’s Andy Trott tells how the Si Performer may just light up your way of thinking...
“Obviously we’ve started something here. We’ve lit a fire and it’s going to burn; it’s going to get bigger,” said Andy Trott, Harman’s VP and GM of Mixers, Microphones and Headphones at the launch of Soundcraft’s latest product range.
By the company’s own admission, it takes something completely different to make a digital audio console stand out from the crowd these days, but Harman’s Soundcraft has done exactly that with the launch of the Soundcraft Si Performer range of mixers, which, thanks to the integrated DMX functionality, adds lighting control options to an already impressive and powerful audio feature set.
Trott highlighted: “I’ve tried to create a very innovative culture within our business, and I was very involved with the Si Compact, the control surface I actually designed a lot of personally. With the Si Performer, one of our guys said, “Why don’t we put lighting into the console?” and I wasn’t sure about it at all at first. So, we thought through the business models - which is very important - and it struck a chord. I can’t be credited with the idea, but I do have a really excellent team. It’s about thinking outside the box, and it shows the culture of integration at Harman is there.”
Trott noted that the launch - which took place at London’s Soho Theatre in mid August - went exceptionally well, and was intended to make a big impact pre-PLASA. The enthusiasm for the new generation of technology integration, (debatably a brave one) he says comes from the type of employees Harman has on its work force. “So many people are in bands and enjoy recording, they’re musicians and engineers and they really love our industry. You often hear people saying “my work is an extension of my hobby” but for us, it really is.”
The Si Performer builds upon the successful Si Compact range to which it bears a likeness, providing almost twice as much DSP power and increased functionality, with an input capacity of 80 inputs to mix on all models. The built-in I/O does not disappoint: Si Performer 2 with 24 mic and eight line inputs, and the Si Performer 3 with 32 mic and eight line inputs, plus the four FX return channels. The provision of two option card slots allows I/O expansion via any of the Soundcraft stageboxes and option cards from the Soundcraft ViSi Connect range, giving the possibility of patching up to 80 inputs to mix, or from CobraNet, AVIOM or AES inputs via the appropriate cards.
The unique integration of a DMX512 port offers core lighting control. The first release of software provides four scene masters (A-D) with associated slave channels on the ALT fader layers, individual colour intensities or parameters are set on the slave faders with an overall master level fader, which itself may be assigned to any of the main fader layers for simultaneous access to audio and lighting levels.
To automate the process, DMX settings may be stored alongside audio settings in the snapshot system, so both may be recalled automatically by a single button press or via an external MIDI command. With selective isolation, snapshots with just audio or lighting parameter changes may be recalled.
“We’ve wanted to say this is the first console of its kind in the world, but you have to be very careful when you make claims like that, however, we’ve done a lot of research and I’m confident to say that this is the first. It’s important we don’t give the wrong impression; we’re not trying to be a big lighting manufacturer and this isn’t meant to compete with a full lighting console, but for the audience we do target, this could really change the way people work. You can have one engineer operating both audio and lighting,” elaborated Trott.
“At this moment, we’ve targeted very specific markets and businesses. It’s great for smaller bands and small theatres, and it will work great in corporate hospitality. It eradicates costs and it’s greener for a start. We are naïve on lighting at the moment; I don’t mind admitting that. We’re not a lighting company but the technology is there to help us.
“It often works out interestingly because you don’t look at it in a traditional way and it’s really exciting to be merging the markets. When you work in technology it’s always amazing to be a part of something that could be an acorn. This is exciting territory. We saw from the Olympics opening ceremony the importance of lighting and video. There’s always another angle, and we try to provide a solution on a smaller scale, but the options are limitless,” the VP told TPi.
The console was showcased with the sounds of The Beatnicks and Westend singer, Kerry Ellis beautifully lit. The entire design process only took around a year to complete; a fast turn around by any standard, but the idea was soon crystal clear. Trott added: “When we first thought about it, we thought that lighting was quite complicated as it wasn’t something we know about, but actually, the technology behind it is straightforward. Once we thought about how to map it on the audio console, it was great. We have the trump card with the fader glow... It’s so simple to operate. It’s literally a case of pushing the fader to control the lighting.”
And, continuing the notion of providing technical support for its clients, the Harman brands will be putting a large emphasis on training across the board for both Soundcraft and Studer consoles.
The feature-packed audio console with fully-parametric 4-band EQ as standard on all input channels, and as usual on Soundcraft’s digital range, BSS graphic EQs on all bus outputs. This is in addition to the already standard filters, gates, compressors and delays on all inputs, compressors and delays on all outputs, which when calculated delivers the equivalent of over 220 rack units of processing in a tiny footprint. Unlike many other digital consoles at this price point, all this processing is fully available all of the time, there are no compromises on the amount of DSP in use.
A total of fourteen mixes may be configured in various combinations of mono and stereo to a total of 20 mix busses; great for mixing in-ears and wedges in a monitor situation. These busses are supplemented by four stereo matrix mixes, four dedicated FX busses, and three master Mix busses which offer true LCR mode mixing make the buss structure immensely powerful.
Users can now enjoy the addition of eight VCA Groups and eight mute groups, which now start to show the absolute power of this new console from the Soundcraft stable. Each channel features a custom LCD screen to show identifications such as channel name, assignments, graphic EQ frequencies and DMX data, plus signal metering. The Si Performer will be controllable from the Soundcraft ViSi Remote iPad app along with the Soundcraft Vi Series, Vi1 and Si Compact consoles.
The Si Performer range will be on display at PLASA, Marlborough 1 Room, from Sunday September 9.