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Field Report: Wheatstone Bridge
The number of cards used is dependent on the number of input sources and total mix buses. Frames may be equipped with redundant DSP cards to self heal should a DSP card fail. Mapping DSP cards with their respective mixing surface and frame is accomplished using XP Configuration GUI software.
The CPU card is a full-blown computer in a small package that provides control for the router frame. It is a PC/104 computer with RAM, Flash disk (in place of a hard drive) and an Ethernet port. This device communicates with all the control surfaces, Ethernet controllers and PC XPoint GUI software via TCP/IP. It is backward compatible with legacy Wheatstone products that use RS-485 serial communications.
The Wheatnet Audio Network Card, as alluded to earlier, connects a master chassis to a local chassis via CAT-5e or fiber optic cable. This card also comes in a four-port variety for connecting multiple frames, control surfaces or hubs together. An audio network card transports as many as 64 bi-directional channels of audio. Physical connections include two DB-9 connectors for RS-485, RJ-45 and fiber optic ports for Wheatnet audio connections.
XPoint marks the spot
The XP (XPoint) Configuration GUI is a Windows-based application that configures, monitors and controls the entire router system. Audio source and destination connections are viewable at a glance while sub-menus guide the user to configure hardware, channel definitions and create connection salvos, cross-point locking and system diagnostics.
While the XP Configuration GUI provides extensive configuration and control options on a central PC, the Bridge Digital Audio Network is also controlled by hardware and software interfaces. Rack- and console-mounted XY controllers as well as TCP/IP-based button panels provide tactile input selection.
Three levels of system access to XPoint protect the operation from tampering or accidental changes. The software setup guides the system administrator through Ethernet/IP address changes and various system configuration menus. Each frame or tier must be configured defining what type of card is installed in each slot position.
Most of the sub-menus will be rarely used once the system has been configured. The Cross-point Grid screen will be the most frequently used, perhaps on a daily basis. This 512 × 512 point grid separates the sources vertically from the destination signals horizontally. From here, signal definitions are created denoting the channel name (in eight characters), mode (mono, stereo, 5.1 surround, etc.) and the frame (tier), card and channel where the audio or logic function originates.
Routable logic works similar to its audio counterpart where logic inputs (contact closures or button presses) are cross connected to logic outputs. The duration of the output closure lasts as long as the input state remains in a closed position. These logic signals may be piggy-backed onto audio signals: i.e. when a microphone channel is opened, a logic closure for tally is also active. As many as six logic signals can be ganged together. Triggered port logic is a means by which salvos are activated, such as a talk-back function for temporary audio changes made by contact closures.
Despite the rapid pace to which our world is being reduced to a keyboard, mouse and monitor, there is still a need for push-button panels. Wheatstone has developed a line of TCP/IP-based button panels for this purpose. Once assigned a static IP address, the GP series panel can be programmed to perform specific audio routing and logic changes.
Where more extensive control is needed, short of installing a full-blown control surface, outboard XY Controller modules are used. Each XY controller can access any source or destination signal within the system, or be limited to a specific group of signals. Limiting signal visibility prevents certain users from making unauthorized changes. Signal visibility can be defined on the XY Controller GUI software as well as on stand-alone XY controllers.
Wheatstone has a long-standing reputation in the broadcast industry for durable, reliable and sensibly designed consoles. The Bridge digital audio network system and the companion Generation series consoles are no exception. During my recent installation, I was able to witness first hand the commitment to customer service Wheatstone provided from design all the way through to installation and final configuration. We experienced a couple of software glitches in the beginning that were troublesome, but they were resolved in a timely fashion.
As Wheatstone looks to the future, certain improvements such as expanding the limited eight-character label size might be useful. I found it tedious to locate a specific input or output signal on the XP GUI, especially when you have to browse through 512 entries. It would have been helpful to sort sources alphanumerically as opposed to just a sequence of router channels.
All in all, the Wheatstone Bridge digital audio router system is a well-designed and flexible system, keeping pace with the ever-evolving nature of broadcasting.
Chestnut is assistant chief engineer of the Entercom Kansas City stations.
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.
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