I use a lot of mixers—front-of-house, monitor world, on my computer, on an Aviom—but I can’t say I’ve ever worn one. Seriously, really? Lectrosonics has introduced a new in-ear-monitor (IEM) system that allows you to wear a four-channel mixer. Bring it on!
The Quadra IEM is a new line of digital wireless monitors that boasts a considerable array of upgrades to a niche market that hasn’t seen much innovation in a number of years or even decades. The Quadra allows you to send up to four discrete channels of audio to a wireless beltpack, where the user can dial in the four-channel mix as desired. Clearly, you could send someone any combination of mixes or individual channels. A four-channel mixer isn’t exactly a huge mixer, but it certainly could make life easier.
The setup and operation is pretty straightforward. The half-rack, 1u M4 transmitter has four balanced analog inputs. The first two can accept AES/EBU signals if you want to keep it all digital. There’s a large LCD display that shows you the four channels’ meters as well as standard tuning and device names.
The M4 receiver beltpacks are relatively small (3”x4”x1”) and constructed of a sturdy metal housing. Instead of one volume knob, there’s three, one of which as two concentric controls. Four channels at the artists’ fingertips does require the artist to do a little more, but it’s pretty simple. The unit can be operated in two modes. In one mode, you have control of the left and right master volume on the concentric knob, and then you can dial in the third and fourth channels on the other two dedicated knobs. The idea in this mode is that you can set your overall volume by referencing channels one and two, and then add or subtract the third and fourth channels as desired. In the other mode of operation, all four controls correspond to the four-channels. In this mode, however, you don’t have a master volume control. You can never have everything, can you?
For artists who don’t want the four-channel option, the system can be run in the familiar stereo mode.
Beyond the four-channel breakthrough, Lectrosonics has destined the Quadra for the relatively baron world of the 902-928MHz industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) bandwidth. In the increasingly crowded world of wireless communication, the ISM bandwidth is considered relatively open and is best known for hosting EZ Pass systems. License-free operation is expected to be reliable and interference-free, according to the manufacturer. The system works on digital transmissions and promises “ruler flat 20Hz to 20kHz response” audio (at 24-bit/48 kHz), something that has been missing in analog IEMs for years. Latency is only 1ms with the analog inputs and 0.5ms when using the AES/EBU inputs.
One possible drawback is that the system has limitations in how many can successfully operate at once. In four-channel mode, you can only operate four systems at once. In stereo/two-channel operation, you can operate up to eight systems. This is due to the bandwidth needed to send four discrete audio channels. So, in the biggest asset to this unit, you’re limited to four users. It’s also a battery eater, using three AAA batteries for up to six hours of use. The onboard DSP is responsible for this up-tick in battery drain.
Have you ever wished you would never have to hear, “Can I have some more of me please?” Go get yourself a Quadra.