Record It Live uses A.I.R. Consoles technologies for recording -
A.I.R. Consoles are powered by SAC/SAW software platforms. The following excerpt gives a bit of a background on the tech we use to help get great sounding recordings...
(excerpt from the article in Live Sound 10/2010)
TECH-TRANSITIONS - Going Mobile
The 2-pound, 72-channel wireless console. by Ken DeLoria
NOT SO LONG AGO, mixers had six channels, round knobs, and green paint. Next came a parade of large-format mixing desks, weighing hundreds of pounds. Later, the first digital consoles appeared, also weighing hundreds of pounds.
(Is there an echo in here?)
Finally, second generation digital consoles emerged as smaller, lighter, and less expensive versions of their predecessors, some with surprisingly advanced capabilities including really useful on-board effects, choice of EQ types, optional plug-ins, and much more. Whether you love, like, or hate them, digital consoles have forever changed the way that business is conducted in pro audio.
Today a similar technology transition is taking place that’s likely to become a full fledged revolution in the not-too-distant future. While we strongly suspect that some of the leading console companies are already working along these lines, it’s no secret
that a small innovative company based in Las Vegas called RML Labs is leading the charge into this new frontier, in much the same way that other companies took the leap of faith to transition from analog consoles to digital formats some 20 years ago.
RML Labs, the creator of the Software Audio Console (SAC for short), is a software development company that has turned a Windows PC into a powerful virtual live mixing environment. “It all started because I was tired of humping heavy consoles into venues and decided to do something about it,” explains Bob Lentini, inventor of SAC and owner of RML Labs. “As I began working on the initial concept, I quickly realized that a host of other advantages would become even more important than simple weight reduction.”
Lentini came to this realization quite early (“bleeding edge” being close to the mark), having introduced SAC as a proof-of-concept way back in 1992 at an AES convention in New York City. Now, nearly 20 years later, SAC has proven its worth on thousands of shows mixed by a regiment of front of house and monitor engineers who weren’t afraid to try something out of the ordinary.
“First and foremost, this new approach, centered on digital technology, would have to sound exceptional - not just good -
with respect to the best analog consoles of the day,” Lentini notes. “Making great digital sound takes meticulous care in
programming, and that doesn’t happen overnight. The variables are immense.” After two decades of work, he contends,
“We’ve been able to achieve sonic properties that match, or perhaps exceed, the offerings of even the largest
and most well-funded companies.”
While researching this story, the author spoke with numerous users who are as passionate about SAC’s sound quality as Lentini. One is Steve Emler, longtime front of house mixer for Tesla. Elmer told us, “While the other aspects of SAC are useful and intriguing, if it didn’t sound as good, or better, than anything else I’ve heard, it wouldn’t fit my needs.”That says a lot. Elmer’s comments indicate that it’s not just about convenience, as valuable as that may be, but about sonic excellence which is something that all conscientious professionals continually strive to achieve.
A key attribute that enhances the sound quality of a SAC system is it utilizes linear integer processing with hexi-decimal extensions that eliminate fractional values when digitizing audio. With other digital audio formats, their mathematical calculations of audio are summed primarily in fractional values - and these must ultimately be interpreted to 1 or 0 (binary code). Such interpretations are made randomly and result in inherent inaccuracies. SAC, on the other hand, does not round-off ones and zeros arbitrarily. The greater accuracy of these proprietary algorithms result in audible improvements that not only emulate analog, but perhaps even improve upon it, in terms of reduced noise floor, lower distortion, and increased resolution.
That’s a mouthful, to be sure. For those of us who do not design A/D and D/A chip sets for a living, or spend our time writing hexi-decimal code, the simple explanation is that SAC provides a level of audio purity that goes well beyond the norm. Users passionately agree that Lentini’s algorithms provide an audible improvement that’s not only significant when analyzed scientifically, but clearly audible as well. It seems that the topology and component selection of the analog portion of the pre-amps plays a smaller part than might be expected, when the digitalization is so well executed. To the uninitiated, this may well seem like a complete reversal of the established standards that have prevailed since the dawn of analog electronics. Let’s explore further.
Of significant importance, SAC is written in assembly language. A declining art in these modern times, where C++ and other high level languages are the norm, assembly language is low-level and close to machine code - and therefore highly efficient. Events happen extremely fast in assembly language because processing overhead is very low. An old 486 processor running assembly code can beat a new multi-gigahertz CPU that’s running a high-overhead language. What’s fascinating, and very important, is that the results can be heard, not just benchmarked.
While a SAC license can be purchased directly from RML (and a free demo is available at www.softwareaudioconsole.com), software alone does not a system make. And while a small-business software developer needs to stay very focused on, well, software, which is what Lentini loves to do, numerous other bits and pieces are needed to make a real-world functional system - and they must be carefully integrated with expert knowledge and care.
An Audio Innovation Research Console consists of a one or more banks of microphone pre-amps (usually 8 channels per bank that normally include output channels), plus one or more PC tablets for remote control. Options include a touch screen controller
(up to a 32-inch screen with 50 touch points), and all other supporting hardware that brings the whole system together.
An AIR console can be as small as 8 x 8, or as large as 72 x 72 – and 128 x 128 will soon be available for mega-events.
Presently, various commercial preamps can be utilized - and often are - but the company is headed in the direction of developing its own optimized I/O product that will talk directly to the assembly language code that SAC is based upon, thereby providing what might be accurately called a ‘super-interface.’
The range and depth of possibilities that this brings to the table is consider-able. Much like the introduction of the early digital consoles long after the world became comfortable with analog desks, an AIR console is best utilized when the engineer fully embraces the new approach that AIR is capable of bringing to the workflow - rather than trying to merely emulate a physical console of the past.
BAND ON THE RUN
Every AIR console comes equipped with Lentini’s SAW (Software Audio Workstation), which works in the background to capture the inputs, the groups, the outputs, audience reaction microphones, or whatever else you tell it to, up to 72 tracks. The resultant recording can be used for a virtual sound check at the next gig, or it can become a full fledged album release in its own right.
You can overdub flubbed vocals at a later date in the studio, use an auto-tune plug-in, or leave it as raw. And speaking
of plug-ins, the SAC platform supports VST, which means that a vast range of effects can be applied to one, or as many,
virtual consoles as desired. While the band is enroute to its next destination, the engineer and producer can be busy mixing-down last night’s performance for Internet release, archival purposes, tomorrow night’s virtual sound check, the next day’s radio broadcast, or any other artistic or commercial requirement.
Those who desire physical faders instead of virtual ones, can interface an AIR console to a wide selection of commercially
available control surfaces. Up to 256 faders, buttons, and rotary controls can be mapped to inputs, outputs, Aux sends, EQ and so on. Future AIR products will include dedicated fader banks that can be combined with PC tablets, bringing the best of both formats to users.
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