Wireless Omnidrive Control Becomes Reality During Bowie Tour


David Bowie's current Reality tour has provided the perfect platform for BSS Audio to launch its new SB2 software, which has been successfully controlling ten FDS-366T Omnidrive Compact Plus devices over a wireless LAN.

Liverpool-based Adlib Audio, which recently provided stacks, racks and control to Bowie for the inaugural three-month UK/European leg of his world tour, was quick to upgrade its existing stock of 366s to incorporate the new WHISEWORKS-NTM(tm) filtering method. The decision to do so was easy, said Adlib's Dave Kay. "It cleans up the bottom end of any PA system, and the new filters sound much more natural; it is like the difference we heard when we changed from analog to digital crossovers."

He continued, "We believe the 366 processor has always been the best on the market and the new filters and SB2 software have breathed new vitality into the platform. The beauty with BSS is it does what it says on the box, particularly in the limiting section; it's a precision instrument.

"Front-of-house engineer Pete Keppler's spec for the tour required a wireless remote for system EQ. This was the opportunity we needed to push SB2 to the next level."

And it has been this evolution of the original Soundbench software platform that has excited the tour's system tech, Tony Szabo. SB2 has enabled Adlib and BSS to build custom control panels into a single user interface--instead of a separate GUI for each device--and Szabo believes that the blazing access speed this affords should now be the audio architectural standard for all future touring.

"When Dave (Kay) and Andy (Dockerty) at Adlib asked me to come out as system tech, I persuaded them to set up a tablet PC wireless environment," explained Szabo. "This now seems essential if you want to be a serious forerunner. However, my experience with other manufacturers' tablet PCs was that when it was asked to control a computer and server PC in a KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) extender setup, it just ran so slow because of the amount of information being streamed."

To increase access speed, Kay proposed a wireless LAN, using a Cisco WiFi Access Point, to create a wireless network in the venue and a wired Ethernet backbone on which a Moxa NPort server sat to provide remote com ports to the Tablet PC.

Szabo elaborated, "This is basically a 1U, 16-port device that takes Ethernet in and spits out RS232. We have ten 366Ts coming out of the NPort, and it's a home run every time because it's now just one piece of kit talking to the Omnidrives. In fact, we could have had 16 or more 366Ts on the network!"

Szabo noted that the Cisco WiFi access point and Moxa NPort at front-of-house takes the Ethernet signal out of the air and converts it into a format so that the tablet can talk directly to the Omnidrives. "And because it's wireless, we can walk around the room with optimum controllability."

He acknowledged that the success of this project depended on BSS running parallel software updates back at base in Potters Bar. "Their software engineer, Graham Hammell, ran an identical rig at all times so I was able to keep in touch by email to report the performance of each new software release."

As a result, he predicts that this will be the blueprint for the future. "The only way it will continue improving is by fine-tuning the software."

Kay, for one, is already embracing the flexibility that the wireless Ethernet offers. "With remote control of the 366Ts, we have been able to EQ the system zone by zone while sitting in the coverage area of each hang. And as WiFi products become more financially accessible, we will soon be wondering how we ever lived without it. Who said they would never own a mobile phone, eh?"

In addition to the ten BSS Omnidrives and SB2-equipped tablet PC, the latest Bowie tour has benefited from many other sister Harman company products, including over 100 JBL VerTec line array elements and 52 Crown MA-5002VZ amplifiers.

Kicking off in Copenhagen in October, the Reality tour visited 14 countries throughout Europe and the UK during the remainder of 2003. Since then, the entourage has now moved on to do a sweep of US cities before heading to Australia in mid-February and Japan in March.

About the FDS-366T:

The FDS-366T incorporates two new filter types designed around the Australian WHISEWORKS-Neville Thiele Method(tm) filters, and BSS Audio is the first pro audio manufacturer to embrace the new technology. These filters are comparable to Linkwitz-Riley 24dB/oct. and 48dB/oct., but with improved performance and steeper roll-off slopes of 36dB and 52dB respectively.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, BSS Audio is a leading British manufacturer of signal processing systems serving live sound, theatre, broadcast and recording markets. The company's products are distributed in the US by Harman Pro North America (HPNA), which also distributes products for AMEK, Soundcraft and Studer. HPNA is a subsidiary of Harman International.

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