What it does:
Lectrosonics is well known for robust, good-sounding wireless systems in the film production and TV broadcast worlds. But an appropriate product for theatre and touring was missing from the line, and the company wanted to expand the product line into these two market segments. The Venue Receiver (VR) system — with a lot of features packed into a small package — will make a big impact in these two segments. The VR is a modular six-receiver system that all fits into a 1RU rack mount package. It is designed for live sound, sound reinforcement, and location recording.
The VR system is a modular, multi-channel receiver with the capability of running between one and six receiver modules in a single rack space. It operates with Digital Hybrid Wireless™ transmitters, and a variety of analog transmitters. The Venue Receiver Master (VRM) unit, which is a frame or “host” for the receiver modules, provides power, balanced XLR output connectors, antenna distribution, and a control interface including an LCD screen. Also, the VRM is part of the Lectrosonics LecNet2 network protocol, allowing for all parameters of the hosted receivers to be controlled remotely via a GUI interface on a PC.
The VRS receiver modules are built on the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless technology, a patent-pending method of transmitting signals using 24-bit digital audio and an analog FM radio link in the UHF band. This method has several advantages, including wide audio bandwidth, wide dynamic range, and a lack of companding artifacts usually found in pure analog radio systems. The design overcomes channel noise in a dramatically new way, digitally encoding the audio bitstream in the transmitter and decoding it in the receiver, yet sending the encoded information via an analog FM wireless link. This proprietary DSP algorithm eliminates a compandor circuit and its artifacts, and preserves the RF spectral footprint of analog FM designs to simplify multi-channel coordination with existing analog wireless systems. An additional feature of the Digital Hybrid technology is that other wireless schemes can be emulated using compatibility modes, thus making this system backward-compatible with analog wireless units. Currently, the VR is compatible with all previous Lectrosonics wireless transmitters, and those from Sennheiser and Shure.
Since diversity reception is important for avoiding multipath RF dropouts, the VR system allows for several different diversity schemes to be used, depending on user preference. The first and most commonly used method is switching diversity, where the RF from both antennas is combined to provide the strongest signal. If the signal drops in level, the phase from one of the antennas is switched so that the signal is again boosted. Ratio diversity is also available, which uses two receiver modules and sums the RF from both to arrive at the strongest signal. Frequency diversity can also be chosen, where two transmitters and two receivers are used at the same time, on different frequencies. The VR allows mixing and matching of these diversity schemes within one master assembly. However, the ratio and frequency methods involve two receivers, thus limiting the number of channels useable in a single master.
How It Came To Be:
Lectrosonics wanted to expand with appropriate products for the touring and theatre markets. “Following the introduction of the Digital Hybrid Wireless system into our portable broadcast and film products, we concentrated our efforts into developing a multi-channel receiver system that will provide high performance, a compact size, an elegant control interface including computer GUI, and a competitive cost,” says Karl Winkler, director of business development for Lectrosonics.
“Although the original concept called for a four-channel receiver, it was determined later that more and more wireless channels are being used in theatres and touring applications, thus six channels would be more appropriate,” comments Winkler. “In order to more easily coordinate such a multi-channel wireless system, the computer interface was included along with the ability to scan the local RF spectrum to find clean operating frequencies.”
Lectrosonics is not resting after the introduction of the VR and continues to offer more products to expand the line. “Just released this year is the SM [Super-Miniature] transmitter, an ultra-compact, splash-proof beltpack unit with 100mW RF output and LCD interface for programming,” says Winkler. Like the VR, the SM includes compatibility modes so that users can couple this new transmitter with their existing analog receivers from Lectrosonics and other manufacturers.
“Soon to be released is a new version of the VR module, called the VRT, incorporating tracking front-end filters,” continues Winkler. “This technology is currently used in the high-end film production receivers, such as the UCR411A, and allows for a greater number of channels to be used simultaneously, even in high-RF environments.”
What End Users Say:
Citing the numerous challenges of performing in an unflattering acoustic environment, Jim Elliott, technical director for the Amarillo Opera in Amarillo, TX, uses the Lectrosonics Venue system to provide an unobtrusive wireless miking system for the Opera's live performances. “Our problem is that we currently perform in a civic center that seats 2,400 people, and there are some definite dead spots,” comments Elliot. “Even the best opera singer cannot fill that hall because of the acoustics. For the last ten years, we've ‘sweetened’ the sound of opera singers by miking them.”
Elliott needs a system that offers superior frequency agility, since a coliseum is located nearby. “With the coliseum hosting tractor pulls, hockey, and indoor football, we're always running up against strange frequencies. We needed a product that would search for frequencies and helped us re-assign quickly.”
With the help of Kyle McMenamin, owner of Pro A/V Texas, the Amarillo Opera purchased 10 channels of the VR system in two chassis — one with six modules, and one with four. Citing “invisibility” as a clear perk, Elliott completed the wireless system package with Countryman IsoMax E6 EarSet microphones and the compact Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless LM transmitter beltpacks. “We have really enjoyed using them so far,” states Elliot.
“I can't speak highly enough of the Lectrosonics Venue,” McMenamin offers. “Jim had been looking for a new wireless system. After using it, he felt that it was the greatest wireless system in the world. They had no more wireless problems. Certainly, it is user-friendly. The compactness of it astounded me. I have handled a lot of wireless microphones and I had never seen one that was so compact. With six channels in a one-rack unit space, it is just amazingly compact.”
Michael Fay, senior engineer with Escondido, CA-based Sound Image discusses his installations of the Venue system. “We first installed a 12-channel system at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in San Diego. I installed one of the first releases and we discovered a few things,” he says. “I worked with Gordon Moore [vice president of sales at Lectrosonics], who really went above and beyond to work with us. I have specified these in a number of other applications. Santa Monica College will have 18 channels in the mainstage and nine channels in the black box.”
Fay first saw the VR system at NSCA. “I was familiar with Lectrosonics, but the Venue hadn't hit the streets yet. I knew it was going to be a homerun product, because it was addressing so many concerns,” he explains. “I saw it as a high-end product that could be accessible to the middle of the market in terms of price but with premium performance. The building block capabilities of the frame and the receiver modules made sense for the client that wants to expand later. The built-in antenna distribution to daisy chain multiple frames, which as an integrator, makes my life so much easier. Lectrosonics has a feature set under the hood that is pretty hard to beat with anybody's product. The fact that they include a USB port and the software package so you can monitor the status on a computer monitor is wonderful. You get lots of things that you can manipulate if you need to but you don't have to if you don't need it.”
Fay concludes, “I am really happy with the unit and will continue specifying it when I can.”
Visit www.lectrosonics.com for more information about Lectrosonics.