IBC 2008 saw launch of a new Lawo console

crystal ─ welcome to digital broadcasting.

In a world premiere at IBC2008 in Amsterdam, Lawo launched the new crystal console.

crystal is a new generation of digital audio consoles, designed for radio on-air and edit-suite applications. It breaks new ground providing a highly ergonomic and forward-looking design within a price range that should allow everyone investments into professional equipment.

It is characterised by an easy-to-operate surface with a manageable amount of control elements and displays ─ guaranteeing a short training curve and high operational safety, also for frequently alternating users. To ensure short start-up times and to save costs, the crystal is delivered with a choice of ready-to-use configurations for standard application. However, it also offers the possibility to be freely configured and to be adapted to the users’ workflows.

Starting from € 6k, crystal not only provides the comprehensive functionality of a conventional 4 fader mixer, but additionally features an integrated matrix of up to 288 I/Os, customisable configuration and intelligent networking with other consoles and matrices.

The crystal comprises the control surface - a tabletop console, and the base unit - a 19 inch chassis which houses I/Os, signal processing and the control system. Both units are connected via CAN bus (CAT5 cable), known as a practicable and reliable interface for real-time applications. 

The control surface, available in different variants from 4 to 16 faders, excels in a compact and flat design of high value as aluminium is the only material used. With a chassis height of only 3 cm, the console appears more like modern desktop equipment than a conventional mixer - fitting smoothly into representative control rooms, studios, journalist cubicles etc. without countersinking the furniture ─ another advantage in regard to installation time and costs.

Particular attention was paid to the ergonomic aspects and operating philosophy. Every channel strip is generously equipped with two displays ─ one of them being solely used for the display of the source label in a large font, directly arranged in context with the most often used pushbuttons for the channel On/Off function for maximum operational safety. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays were chosen because of their high resolution, brilliant sharpness and wide viewing angles ─ guaranteeing perfect legibility independent from the user’s position. In addition, the console provides status LEDs just below the faders, which can be used as a colour marking (e.g. red = DJ, blue = guest, yellow = radio automation, etc). This prevents mistakes in hectic situations as well.

All pushbuttons are illuminated with RGB LEDs giving a fancy look and enabling the user to have distinguishable colours for different functions ─ e.g. every signal processing unit has its own colouring (blue is EQ, magenta represents DYNAMICS, etc). Buttons close to the upper OLEDs are ‘soft-labelled’ via the display itself, whereas other buttons provide exchangeable inlays. Thus, all buttons can be assigned with functions and expressions the user is familiar with.

The surface comes with bargraphs for level and phase indication, and to support ideal working conditions even more, an ambient light sensor adjusts the brightness of displays and buttons according to the actual illumination of the environment.

To complement the surface, optional extras are available: key panels with illuminated push buttons or LCD keys, auxiliary GPIOs for extended control e. g. with 3rd party devices - and the graphical user interface VisTool (touchscreen software) for operation, added functionality and visualisation e. g. of DSP parameters, signal levels and the snapshot database.

Like the surface, also the base unit was kept in a very compact design. With 19 inch width and only 1 RU height, it hosts the entire processing power und control system of the console. Four line and four mic inputs (also usable as line), eight line and two headphone outputs, four AES3 in and outs (stereo) as well as eight optocouplers and relays are provided in the standard frame. Optionally, the base unit can be extended with two plug-in boards for additional Line I/Os, AES3 I/Os or HD and SD SDI embedder/de-embedders for video environments. For the integration into larger structures and to link the console to main control rooms and other studios, MADI can be equipped ─ whereby four fibre-optic ports provide up to 256 additional audio channels. Thereby all in- and outputs can be freely routed via the integrated matrix ─ allowing to use the mixing console in a very flexible way, and also for routing purposes. Besides mixing, signal processing is provided with equalizers, dynamics (compressor, expander, gate), limiter and delay. Programmable logic, used for functions like monitoring selection, conferencing and white/red light control, is a further powerful feature of the crystal. Besides stand-alone applications, it even allows intelligent networking with other systems for resource sharing and other cross-system functions such as program switches, talkback and red light routing. Integration with radio automation systems is also possible via a dedicated protocol.

The Base Unit’s integrated OLED display distinguishes the crystal from similar devices: status information is not only provided via single LEDs for global alarm or the like, but shows essential details for maintenance and service directly at the frame. For example you can recall the IP address of the device directly at the frame, to gain access to the comprehensive health monitoring which can be displayed via conventional web-browser. In general, the crystal is conveniently serviced and maintained via network: software as well as configuration updates are executed with graphical tools and TCP/IP.

In total, the crystal console introduces new standards in an entry level price segment, making professional audio equipment affordable also to broadcasters und radio stations with a smaller budget and allowing them concentrate on their main focus ─ producing great broadcasts.