By Dan Goldstein On April 15, 2009Wheatstone Brings 30 Years’ Experience With Its iXO Expandable Audio DSP Platform
Looking back over the past decade of commercial AV contracting, one of the greatest changes has been in the sheer scale of typical projects. Spaces just seem to get bigger and bigger every year, regardless of the prospects for the economy.
It’s against this backdrop that Wheatstone Corporation has entered the professional AV space with its own dedicated brand, Wheatstone Commercial Audio, and its first major product line, the iXO expandable audio DSP platform.
The Wheatstone story begins in 1974, when the company was founded
Wheatstone is currently located in a state-of-the-art, 52,000-square-foot facility in New Bern, NC.
as Audioarts Engineering in Bethany, CT. Audioarts made audio consoles for recording studios and touring companies under the Wheatstone trademark, alongside signal processing boxes under its own name. By 1981 Wheatstone Corporation had been incorporated and had entered the radio broadcast console business. Five years later the firm had moved to a larger facility in Syracuse, NY, and began diversifying into television, as well as smaller radio stations.
Fast-forward two decades and we now find Wheatstone in a state-of-theart, 52,000-square-foot facility in New Bern, NC. The company has been here since 1998 and now employs almost 100 people in the design and manufacture of digital control surfaces, audio networking products, AoIP automation interfaces, and digital signal processors, among other things.
According to Jay Tyler, director of sales, the pivotal moment in the company’s recent history was the 2001 launch of the Wheatstone bridge router, which he described as “an extremely robust router that could house a number of audio cards, network cards, and bridge cards—it became the foundation of many of our TV and radio products, linking studios together with a high-speed, lowlatency network that was robust enough to deliver live audio.”
Tyler added that commercial audio seemed a logical next step, though an important difference between Wheatstone’s broadcast-industry bridge products and the iXO platform is that with the latter, you manipulate the audio in real time. “You manipulate just what you want your matrix to do, on a network that supports literally thousands of cross points,” Tyler explained.
The sheer size of possible iXO networks,
Wheatstone’s iXO expandable audio DSP platform.
a direct legacy of Wheatstone’s heritage in broadcasting, is bound to be welcomed by contractors who face not just larger-scale jobs, but projects that need to be future- proofed to cater for subsequent expansion or modification. Howard Mullinack, Wheatstone’s director of marketing, came up with a couple of examples:
“Take a convention center that adds a new hall. Instead of bringing the entire system down and rendering the whole facility useless, iXO allows you to take your matrix from, say, 1000 x 1000 to 1256 x 1256 without any interruption. On a smaller scale, if you are upgrading a set of VTR devices that are traditionally analog and that might be, say, 30 inputs into the matrix, with iXO you simply pull out the analog card, plug in the digital card, and away you go.”
The speed with which audio can be delivered is another broadcastlegacy benefit to take note of, alongside iXO’s very high levels of redundancy and hot-swappability. As Mullinack pointed out, “If one part of a broadcast facility goes bad, these companies can’t afford to shut their stations down while it’s fixed.”
The iXO platform has been available for a little over a year and has already been used for large-scale deployments in the U.S., Australia, and Russia. Mullinack emphasized, though, that the company is only beginning its marketing push now, after the feature set has been “polished up.” Nor is that process yet complete. “We will actively develop the software, adding particular features,” he said.