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Unraveling Cable Problems - AvNetwork.com

Unraveling Cable Problems

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Roland's S-4000 preamps and Digital Snake System provided audio for the Lincoln Center Festival Series. Since its inception in 1971, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors has grown into one of the largest free summer festivals in the U.S., with audiences averaging 200,000 each summer. Over the past 36 summers, Out of Doors presented hundreds of major dance companies, renowned jazz musicians, and traditional music and dance performances. For the first time in the festival's history, the audio will be delivered via digitally using the RSS Digital Snake System.

The crowds at this year's Out of Doors marked the first generation to hear the digital quality of S-4000's preamps when listening to artists from Dave Brubeck to Arlo Guthrie to the exotic Dance Africa Theater. Show was held in the plazas surrounding Lincoln Center in New York City -- Josie Roberston Plaza, South Plaza, and the Damrosch Park Bandshell -- from Aug. 2 through Aug. 27.

Twenty-six year freelance audio engineering veteran, Jon Laterza spearheaded the transition from analog to digital after using the RSS snake in a Sony demo in Las Vegas last year. Laterza's credits include audio engineering and front of house management for major New York events including the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, the Today's Show Summer Concert Series and stage shows for Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
More than 100 varied performances take place during the Out of Doors festival. To provide flexibility for the changing audio requirements, Laterza selected the RSS Digital Snake system. Positioned at the front of house, configured with 64 inputs and 16 outputs, the digital snake gives the front of house team the versatility to switch back and forth as performers take the stage.

The digital snake ran into a Yamaha PM5D at front of house and an M7CL at the monitor mix. Since the source audio from the RSS snake can be split using standard gigabit Ethernet switches, providing for the monitor audio was very easy and eliminated the need for bulky analog splitters. Since the split is a 24-bit, 96kHz digital copy of the original there were no induced hums, buzzes or any of the losses associated with analog splitters.

During set-up, Laterza praised the 24bit 96kHz Cat-5e system as a "lightweight dream", especially in contrast to a "56 pair". We had four days to load four stages. It actually only took about a day and a half, most of which was spent hanging speakers. The snake installation was an hour maximum. With the low cost of Cat-5e, the crew left the cabling behind, which saved the venue on post-event labor.

Among the product's top attributes, Laterza lists the audio quality as a favorite. He raves about the mic pre-amps clarity and sound. "The fact that there is no noise when I turn the snake on is a vast improvement over previous years. No hums, buzzes or clicks, which means one less place to look when I am trouble shooting," says Laterza. Since the preamps are on stage, the Cat5e cabling provides very high quality audio without the high frequency losses that come with analog snakes. The preamps are controlled from the FOH position using the system's S-4000R remote controller. After the gains have been set up during sound check, you can store the settings as presets in case there is more than one act.

The variety of acts allowed Laterza to take advantage of his board presets. "The varied music to dance performances required us to be ready for transitions, which is why the presets were so important to us. We found it much quicker and more versatile to have it all on-board."

The snake provided the crew with the streamlined performance they needed, as Laterza recalled. "This is all I use now. Without a doubt the whole future of our business is going digital like this. We've been going this way because it saves time for set up, adds reliability and takes up less space in the trucks. Literally, we are saving gas. It's huge to be able to run 300 feet without line loss as well. We're working smarter and not harder and accomplishing the same thing, or even better, in half the time."

When it came to troubleshooting, Laterza rates the RSG staff as exceptional. Every phone call was returned quickly and provided helpful answers. "I love it. The snake does what you say it does. And that's so rare today." For more information visit www.roland.com

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