Ingenious mixer system for NEXUS networks
Take some fader panels, install them into studio furniture, add monitoring and connect everything to a new or existing NEXUS audio network. The result? ON AIR 24, a small yet flexible mixing desk with proven audio quality and versatile applications not just for self-op in radio
Traditionally, the STAGETEC range of consoles has been positioned at the top of the premium market segment. »We started 15 years ago with large consoles. Digital audio technology was very costly, and for smaller applications our high-quality desks would have been simply too expensive«, Dr. Klaus-Peter Scholz explains the historical development.
Today the situation is different. Processor performance has improved significantly in the past one and a half decades while prices have remained the same – or even fallen. For this reason small and medium digital desks with premium audio quality and extraordinarily effective DSP have now slipped into an interesting price segment.
Development of smaller mixers began in 2007 with the introduction of the AURATUS. Since the end of 2010 STAGETEC now offers a full range of digital mixing consoles, from the large AURUS to CRESCENDO and AURATUS down to the newest and smallest mixer, the ON AIR 24. Inspiration for the name came from the field of application in which the desk will probably be used most: mixing live radio broadcasts.
From module to console
The control components of the new desk are based on a modular construction principle and thereby differs fundamentally from its older siblings. In the environment where small mixers are used, no two applications are exactly the same and each table is tailor made. Also, every broadcaster has their own individual approach to self-op broadcasts. Therefore the ON AIR 24 control surface is constructed out of a number of different modules, the number and disposition of which is determined by the customer.
The most important ON AIR 24 module is the fader panel. It features four channels and just two rotary encoders usually configured to control gain and pan. With its compact design, it makes quick and accurate operation possible. The fader panel is constructed as a totally enclosed cassette and is installed directly into the presenter’s desk – an innovation for STAGETEC since all other STAGETEC control surfaces are delivered built into a chassis. Up to six fader modules for a total of 24 faders can be arranged as desired to make an ON AIR 24.
The second component is a monitor panel made for monitoring and play out. It supports switching between two monitoring systems, two headphones outputs for guests which can be fed with different signals and has a number of buttons whose functions can be specified individually with the assistance of comprehensive logic programming. Since this range of functions exceeds the requirements of some applications, the module is offered in four different configurations.
Dr. Klaus-Peter Scholz, one of the managing directors of STAGETEC, about the configuration capabilities of the new console:
»ON AIR 24 is aimed at the international market. Therefore, national habits play an important role. For example, American or Australian broadcasters want two buttons in the channel strip of a broadcast console, one for »on« and one for »off«. In German broadcast studios a single button is popular, opening the channel on the first press and closing it on the second. Therefore ON AIR 24 offers configurable buttons and functions. At the end of the day, each system will be unique in its modular design, its audio routing and its factory defined configuration.«
While the fader and monitoring panels make up the desk controls, the actual audio processing is done on a mixer board hosted by a NEXUS base device. The smallest STAGETEC console makes use of the same XCMC board, which was developed originally for the AURATUS. However, to keep the price at an appropriate level for a small mixer, the board can be procured in scaled down form.
Independent of the number of physical faders every ON AIR 24 processes from 24 to 40 input channels. The mixer structure offers eight groups, eight sums, eight aux sends, and eight mix-minus buses. All inputs and outputs are provided by the NEXUS network which can range from a single Base Device, installed locally, to a campus-wide audio network. Thanks to this proven principle the new console offers the same outstanding audio quality and ease of integration users are already familiar with from larger STAGETEC consoles. Besides which, the ON AIR 24 can be controlled by all relevant radio automation systems and embedded into almost any broadcast environment.
Division of labour – always different
Applications for the ON AIR 24 range from a simple DJ mixer or selfop console to complex broadcasts, which are assisted technically. However, not all the functions should be accessible by the presenter. Dr. Klaus-Peter Scholz, »We want the presenter to have all the necessary basic controls built into the table as hardware for quick and easy operation. For any other controls that some presenters might want, a so called virtual panel can be installed, a remote software program running on any PC or laptop computer.«
The software remote controls the mixer via ethernet and makes additional sound processing accessible such as EQ, filters and dynamics, which are not available on the fader panels. Thus, the concept supports more complex types of broadcast with two presenters or with occasional technical assistance. This flexibility is underlined by the fact that all the panels can be arranged arbitrarily and distributed around the presenter’s desk, thus allowing for twoman-operation.
Furthermore, the software is used by the technical supervisor as a configuration tool to set programme specific parameters for the next broadcast. For example, the monitor panel buttons can be assigned to specific sources or logical functions can be programmed and triggered later by the press or release of a button. Or the fader assignment and the entire routing can be changed. In a larger network with several ON AIR 24 consoles, the PC-software can configure, supervise and remote control all the attached mixers on the network.
System thinking scores
In today’s radio environments the ON AIR 24 will work in Stereo. Nevertheless, it is already designed for multi-channel and therefore ready for future expansions to surround in radio broadcasting. Apart from this, today there are already applications for the new small mixer where multi-channel is mandatory. These range from video editing rooms to small broadcast vehicles – applications where only a small number of faders for editing or mixing are required.
The world’s first installations of ON AIR 24, put into operation in February 2011, are perfect examples: The technically refurbished SNG (Satellite News Gathering) vehicles of WDR German radio in Cologne.
Today, many broadcasters want to single source all the technical components for a major project. Simplified spare parts inventory, effective in-house servicing and standardized operational philosophy are good reasons for this trend. Thanks to ON AIR 24 STAGETEC can now fulfil this requirement and are now able to offer the entire portfolio from the self-op desk to the large-scale mixing console. The youngest member of the product family complements the STAGETEC range of products perfectly. It covers an important segment and prepares the ground for new creative applications.
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