By Richard Forte | As seen in Professional Sound – August 2016
Neutrik, the company best known as the industry leader in connector technology, has managed to cut out the “middleman” and gone wireless with its newest contribution to the pro audio market.
Xirium Pro is a dual-channel, modular, and expandable wireless audio system that offers an alternative to long cable runs and format converters. A single system consists of two base station units – one for transmitting and one for receiving. Each base station can accommodate any of four different module types: line level analog, AES/EBU, Dante, or Repeater. All modules are equipped with a rechargeable lithium ion battery capable of powering the module for up to 10 hours as well as being able to run on mains.
All of the modules are completely compatible with one another, making it possible to use an AES/EBU transmit module at one end and have it converted into line level analog L/R output at the receiver module. In addition, one base station can transmit from one format to an unlimited number of receivers using different output modules. With a range of up to 1 km line of sight, this is an excellent way to overcome the 100 m limitation of Dante over Cat-5E and deliver two channels of Dante audio from any input module. Unlike conventional wireless systems operating at 2.4 GHz, Xirium Pro uses Neutrik’s proprietary Digital Wireless Audio protocol (DiWA) over the 5 GHz band to deliver uncompressed 24-bit/48 kHz line level audio with a linear response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The audio quality is absolutely pristine.
I was recently given the opportunity to test the dual channel analog modules at a golf course gala fundraiser. The event was held in two separate rooms, each with its own stage and entertainment. To save space and reduce clutter, each stage was equipped with a wireless mixer and controlled by an iPad. The challenge was to migrate the audience from one room to the next by shifting the sound source from system A to system B midway through the performance. This could have been done easily with two 150-ft. XLR cables had it not been for the numerous thresholds and open floor space the cables would’ve had to cross. With a clear line of sight from Stage A to the entrance of the second room, I was easily able to transmit the mix from Stage A to the receiver module connected to Stage B. Not only did I avoid having to lay cable and cable mats, I also prevented any possibility of ground hum by avoiding the physical cable connection between the two independent sound systems running off of separate power.
The Xirium Pro system performed flawlessly and the quality was indistinguishable from that of a digital snake. This is clearly a superior solution to standard cable runs, especially in demanding installations like on a golf course green where a feed needs to be sent to the clubhouse a great distance away and the cables need to be invisible, or to send audio to delay zones at outdoor concerts.
Given the system’s need for line of sight to work properly, each base station is equipped with a mounting bracket that can be used to attach it to a mast or truss to get above the heads of an audience and establish direct line of sight to the receiver unit. Where terrain or other obstacles are in the way, a receiver base station can be equipped with a repeater module to go around corners and complete the link. A repeater can also be used as a range extender for distances exceeding 1 km. In addition, when multiple repeaters are used, the receiver can act as a true diversity receiver and switch between the repeaters and transmitter automatically to select the strongest signal.
For more demanding jobs with greater channel counts, up to five separate systems can be run simultaneously for a total of 10 discreet channels, and the entire network can then be linked, functions monitored, and parameters like transmission power and delay controlled via an easy to use iOS or Android app. Syncing the two units for my simple stereo application was as easy as connecting a Bluetooth earpiece to a smartphone. Push one button on each of the base stations and the two units link together. Absolute child’s play!
With an analog input to analog output latency of 3.6 m/sec., these units are fast enough for any professional audio application and particularly well suited for driving delay towers. With Xirium Pro’s rugged built quality, ease of use, and versatility, this system would be a very powerful addition to any professional AV company or live sound provider’s inventory.
Richard Forte, the principal of Forte Sound, is an independent audio engineer based in Montreal. Having toured internationally for over 35 years, he specializes in providing ultra-compact, high-performance digital audio mixing and recording equipment for live musical events and concert tours. For more information, visit www.fortesound.com.