Amp Rant

Silas Pradetto

Graduate Student
So, I've been a long-time Crown Itech and Itech HD user but lately I'm getting a bit annoyed with both Crown's amps and the other big players' amps - Powersoft and Lab.Gruppen.

The Goal:

  1. To be able to distribute audio on an IP network to all my amps, with a relatively simple way to input the signal into the network. This would be either an analog/AES to network converter box, an existing MY card, or cards for other consoles.
  2. The ability to process FIR for the major industry players, including Fulcrum Acoustic, EAW Graybox, and Vertec V5.
  3. Very good power/size ratio, preferably 4 channels in 2U, with a minimum of 2000 watts/channel at 4 ohms.
  4. Good control software for DSP settings and audio routing.
  5. Good manufacturer support and pricing.

Crown Itech HD:

  1. My issues with the Itech HDs include a completely antiquated, high-latency networked audio protocol, Cobranet. I was going to use this live, but many things prevented it. The network is supposedly latency and sample rate adjustable, but it's dependent on the compatibility of all the devices on the network. I couldn't get it to do anything different than 48k at 5.33ms latency. Unfortunately, JBL Vertec V5 settings require 96k sample rate, and with Cobranet working only at 48k, I can't use V5 on a Cobranet network. JBL's solution is to 'use AES'. That's not a solution. Additionally, nothing seems to really work with Cobranet that well, and configuring it in general is a major task.
  2. Itech HD, according to EAW, cannot process their graybox tunings.
  3. Other than the new 4x3500HD, the amps are not very power dense, being 2 channels in 2U. They do offer the power I want, though.
  4. System Architect is normally fantastic, but lately, I've had other major issues loading Vertec V5 settings into the HDs with the newest firmware. For some reason, the presets only load about 10% of the time. The rest of the time either the preset half loads and there are no controls on the control screens (very, very odd), or the presets only appear in name and there is no actual DSP happening - the amp is wide open. Trying to go back to my old amp device files does not fix the problem, usually, and has caused me some major headaches at recent shows.
  5. Manufacturer support of the Itech line seems to be very good and the pricing is also very good.

Lab.Gruppen PLM:

  1. So, Lab.Gruppen supports Dante, one of the nicest networked audio protocols. No complaints there, the amps even include an integral switch so an external switch isn't needed for each rack.
  2. PLM can only process FIR for EAW's graybox tunings, and when doing so is very limited with input options.
  3. Good power ratings and excellent power density.
  4. The Lake software has always been a mystery to me, anytime I see someone using it I'm baffled, and many tell me that it's a pain to use.
  5. No idea about their support or pricing.

Powersoft K series +DSP:

  1. Powersoft does not support any networked audio protocol other than the proprietary KAESOP thing they do. This runs a couple AES3 lines down the unused pairs of a 100Mbps network connection to form a ring network. That's all fine and dandy, but I run gig everywhere, which uses all 4 pairs, and probably won't appreciate a non-Ethernet signal being present.
  2. Powersoft can process FIR for everything except Vertec V5. JBL won't likely ever make V5 publicly accessible, so this is as good as it's going to get.
  3. K series are probably the smallest and lightest amps out of all of the options, with tons of power.
  4. Armonia is excellent from what I've been told and in my limited experience.
  5. Manufacturer support gets mixed reviews from people I've talked to, pricing is very high compared to other options, but you have to pay the most for the best, right?

Summary:

None of the above options offer what I want, with the main issues being networked audio and FIR compatibility. Considering there are a ton of companies that are deploying scores of amplifiers at each show, I'm trying to figure out why the network part of this equation has not been really addressed. Is everyone afraid of using networked audio? Is it too complicated for the average tech or company to understand? Why is it any more difficult than distributing 100 channels of analog audio? (I think it's vastly easier...).

Finally, why can't the Lab PLM FIR function actually be useful?

I wonder if anyone has any other ideas or suggestions for amps to look at?
 

Ivan Beaver

Graduate Student
Jan 11, 2011
2,300
10
0
Atlanta GA area
Re: Amp Rant

Not to change the subject-but I remember a number of years ago (OK a decade or more) there was a lot of discussion amonst the industry "leaders".

They were talking about all the issues with audio interfaces-balanced- unbalanced-600 ohm-10K-different connectors-dbu-dbV-dbm and so forth.

I remember reading an article that said-Are you ready for this? "DON'T WORRY-when we go digital-we will fix all the interface issues and everything will be easily compatible".

YEAH RIGHT!!!!!!!!! It is MUCH worse than ever before-and I don't think it is going to change any time soon. Everybody has their own idea of what is "best".
Anybody remember "Lone wolf"-and how that was going to be the "standard".

Has ANYBODY every actually used a Lone Wolf system?

The nice thing about standards-is that there are so many to choose from.

I know this doesn't help-but just wanted to throw in a little bit of history.
 

John Roberts

Graduate Student
Jan 12, 2011
2,309
3
38
MS
www.resotune.com
Re: Amp Rant

Not to change the subject-but I remember a number of years ago (OK a decade or more) there was a lot of discussion amonst the industry "leaders".

They were talking about all the issues with audio interfaces-balanced- unbalanced-600 ohm-10K-different connectors-dbu-dbV-dbm and so forth.

I remember reading an article that said-Are you ready for this? "DON'T WORRY-when we go digital-we will fix all the interface issues and everything will be easily compatible".
Magazine articles are rarely written by industry leader's'. Maybe one leader, or more likely someone promoting one of the sundry protocols they had an interest in succeeding.
YEAH RIGHT!!!!!!!!! It is MUCH worse than ever before-and I don't think it is going to change any time soon. Everybody has their own idea of what is "best".
Anybody remember "Lone wolf"-and how that was going to be the "standard".

Has ANYBODY every actually used a Lone Wolf system?
I recall the shock when I ran into an old suit, that I had actually worked for 10 or 15 years earlier. Back then he was a slick general partner in a R&D tax shelter that was big on licensing patented technology (and generating tax deductions several times your investment :). The government shut those down in the mid '70s by rewriting the tax laws, but this guy mysteriously re-appeared in our booth at an industry trade show in connection with licensing one of those interface systems (might have been LW). Certainly somebody was counting on a huge payday and revenue stream. I don't know who is making money off it all now, not me.
The nice thing about standards-is that there are so many to choose from.

I know this doesn't help-but just wanted to throw in a little bit of history.
I have a slightly different perspective on this history, but agree the audio business has never been very adult about sharing. I recall attending one meeting at an NSCA show where many of us were working together on proposals for a common industry wide standard, but in most cases there were winners and losers among the different manufacturers who had already picked sides, (Just like XLR pin 2/3).

I recall it taking an act of congress to get Peavey's Media Matrix to talk to Crest Power amps.. and they were in the same family so to speak.

But you know me... I like powered speakers so you just send them an audio feed (maybe even wireless, but I'm waiting for a consumer wireless computer protocol to do the heavy lifting. It's in the cloud dude... ) :)

JR
 

Langston Holland

Sophomore
Jan 13, 2011
222
0
16
Pensacola
Re: Amp Rant

Very nicely written and accurate rant Silas, thank you. :)

I've avoided the digital tower of babel by installing the processor in the digital snake rack in my A rig or the amp racks themselves in my B rig. In either case, the signal going to the amp racks is analog. This keeps my amp racks useable for racks 'n stacks dry rentals as well.

Yamaha has proven as prescient as anyone in the digital audio world and their take when going beyond the primary digital snake transport of CobraNet, EtherSound or Dante has been AES3. This thinking is continued in their new CL consoles.

At present, I think the most industry-compatible way to send digital to an amp rack is via AES3. The auto-fallover from digital to analog with all the major players is helpful. The fact that AES3 cable is also the best line level analog cable is a happy coincidence with such a setup.
 

Steve Payne

Junior
Jan 16, 2011
362
1
18
Richmond, VA
soundworksva.com
Re: Amp Rant

Silas - We are using the PLM 20ks and I will make a couple of comments. Not sure about your FIR filter observations, but I do know that FIR filters are implemented in the Turbosound Flex Array settings which we use. Support has been very good with Josh being pretty readily available by phone to answer our dumb assed questions. We are generally very happy with the way our systems sound with the PLMs and their performance so far has been very good. The Lake control software works fine once you FINALLY get your head wrapped around it. The interface is atrocious. Nothing should need to be so obscure, confusing and convoluted.
 

Silas Pradetto

Graduate Student
Re: Amp Rant

Silas - We are using the PLM 20ks and I will make a couple of comments. Not sure about your FIR filter observations, but I do know that FIR filters are implemented in the Turbosound Flex Array settings which we use. Support has been very good with Josh being pretty readily available by phone to answer our dumb assed questions. We are generally very happy with the way our systems sound with the PLMs and their performance so far has been very good. The Lake control software works fine once you FINALLY get your head wrapped around it. The interface is atrocious. Nothing should need to be so obscure, confusing and convoluted.

If there are at least two companies using FIR with PLM, that is slightly reassuring to me. I want Fulcrum to get FIR going with the PLMs but they haven't worked on it yet due to some restrictions in the DSP.
 

Jason Raboin

Sophomore
Apr 6, 2011
224
2
18
Northampton, MA
Re: Amp Rant

Rich tried to explain to me why he can't get what he needs for the Fulcrum boxes out of the Lake processing, but I couldn't follow. Hopefully he will chime in and explain it.

MY8-Lake cards in CL consoles would be slick solution.
 

Silas Pradetto

Graduate Student
Re: Amp Rant

Rich tried to explain to me why he can't get what he needs for the Fulcrum boxes out of the Lake processing, but I couldn't follow. Hopefully he will chime in and explain it.

MY8-Lake cards in CL consoles would be slick solution.

Essentially, he said using FIR takes up two input processing channels, making a 4 channel amplifier into a 1-input amplifier. Not exactly sure why, he said something about DSP limitation. So the amps would be good for a multi-way line array box or something but not multiple single- or bi-amped boxes on one amp with FIR.

I'm sad to say the least.
 

Jason Raboin

Sophomore
Apr 6, 2011
224
2
18
Northampton, MA
Re: Amp Rant

I know it doesn't satisfy everything on your wish list, but what about waiting for the Fulcrum processor and using amps without DSP? It's based on Ashly NE series, which offer Cobranet, Ethersound, and AES input options.
 

Silas Pradetto

Graduate Student
Re: Amp Rant

I know it doesn't satisfy everything on your wish list, but what about waiting for the Fulcrum processor and using amps without DSP? It's based on Ashly NE series, which offer Cobranet, Ethersound, and AES input options.

There's no way I'm going back to non-DSP amps, unfortunately.

A more promising option might be to wait till everyone releases powered boxes and just lose all my regular amps...I'd like that.
 
Re: Amp Rant

A more promising option might be to wait till everyone releases powered boxes and just lose all my regular amps...I'd like that.

But then how will you get networked audio to your new powered boxes? :D~:-D~:grin:

If there are at least two companies using FIR with PLM, that is slightly reassuring to me. I want Fulcrum to get FIR going with the PLMs [...]

Steve mentioned an FIR implementation for Turbo's Flex Array loudspeakers. I can't pretend to know exactly what they are doing, but I ASSume they are making use of Lake's brick wall and/or linear phase FIR filters. We do not use said filters; instead our TQ processing addresses the FIR's individual coefficients and creates a wholly unique magnitude and phase response.

To date this function is only available for EAW's Greybox files. To be fair, this was no mean feat to accomplish in the Lake platform, and EAW worked closely with Lab.gruppen to make it so. They deserve to hang on to the IP.
 

Michael John

Junior
Jun 25, 2011
351
9
18
Sydney, Australia
eclipseaudio.com
Re: Amp Rant

Lab.Gruppen PLM:

  1. The Lake software has always been a mystery to me, anytime I see someone using it I'm baffled, and many tell me that it's a pain to use.

I hear you. It never really twigged for me until I used it with a tablet, and once I got that, other features fell into place. I find the whole UI is frustrating and non intuitive with a laptop and mouse, but perfect with a tablet. (All the buttons map to functions keys though...)

Crown Itech HD:

  1. Itech HD, according to EAW, cannot process their graybox tunings.

And being part of Harman/JBL, I could understand why they aren't open to accommodating EAW.
 
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Steve Payne

Junior
Jan 16, 2011
362
1
18
Richmond, VA
soundworksva.com
Re: Amp Rant

I hear you. It never really twigged for me until I used it with a tablet, and once I got that, other features fell into place. I find the whole UI is frustrating and non intuitive with a laptop and mouse, but perfect with a tablet. (All the buttons map to functions keys though...)



And being part of Harman/JBL, I could understand why they aren't open to accommodating EAW.

Michael,
I agree that a tablet is of the essence for the Lake Software to even begin to make sense, though I certainly don't find it "perfect" on that hardware. The obscure terminology, file system, graphics and on and on just make it way more counter intuitive than it needs to be in my eyes. Then there is the inability to give an amplifier a unique identifier that will live with the amplifier so that you at least know which amp is loading onto the network without having to physically be looking at the activity indicator light on the face of the amp! Arrrrggggghhhhhh. In all fairness, there is a lot to like about these amps, and the control software is for the most part very powerful....I just think that much of the interface could be much simpler and more intuitive.