The Easy Button

Last week I was able to finally deploy the new EZ Mode (our term) for our student/community room PA. The room is our most-used room every week, supporting everything from Jr. & Sr. High to men’s and women’s ministry to MOPS. There is something happening in that room every day of the week. The system is relatively simple, but I’ve received more than one call at home on a Tuesday night from someone trying to make a mic work, or get sound out of the iMac. I began looking for a solution and found it in the Symetrix Jupiter 8 processor and a set of associated wall controls, the ARC2 and the ARC-SWK. I’ll write up a review of the Jupiter in a separate post. For this one, I’ll focus on how I used the wall controls to create an EZ Mode.

It All Starts With Planning

My first step in the process was to sketch out what I wanted to accomplish. Based on the way the room is used, we really needed two major modes of operation, with two subsets each. Big picture, it looks like this:

  • Mix Mode, Delays On
  • Mix Mode, Delays Off
  • EZ Mode, Delays On
  • EZ Mode, Delays Off

The room is a classic “two rooms in one with an air wall” layout; meaning sometimes we need the whole room, other times, just half. The main PA (hung over the stage) is the EV LiveX 15s and subs I’ve written about before. We also hung some EAW JF-80s (because we had them lying around) as delay speakers to fill in the back half of the room on the other side of the air wall.

Student ministries runs a full band for their events, so they need to be able to mix a full compliment of inputs on the Yamaha MG32 we have in there. Most of the other ministries/events however, require one or two mics, audio for video (either DVD or the iMac) and an iPod input. 

Since the Jupiter 8 has 8 inputs and 8 outputs, and the inputs can be either mic or line, I set about making up a plan. The input side looks like this:

  • 1&2 Stereo In from the MG32
  • 3&4 Wireless Mics 1&2 (also double patched into the MG32)
  • 5&6 Audio from Video (will eventually be the audio output of an Extron IN1508, for now, it’s a double-patched ProAV2)
  • 7&8 A dedicated “EZ” iPod cable. 

Outputs 1-4 feed the main speakers (L&R plus L&R Subs), while Output 5 feeds the delays. Output 6 feeds nothing, Output 7 feeds a CD recorder, while Output 8 is used to control the logic output that turns on and off the delay speaker’s amp. More on that later.

Basic Programming

The first thing we did was to get a baseline layout in all the DSP. Inputs and Outputs were labeled, patched routed and gained. We set up our crossovers for the main speakers and dialed in system EQ. We set up the delays and got their EQ where we wanted it. That formed the basis of our programming. 

The next step was to build presets that turn inputs and outputs on and off. Preset 1 is Mix, Delay Off, so we muted inputs 3-8, the delay output and turned off the delay amp. Preset 2 (Mix, Delay On) was created by un-muting the delay output and turning the amp on. 

Preset 3 is EZ, Delays Off. To create this preset, inputs 1&2 are muted, meaning the output of the MG32 is completely ignored by the Jupiter. We unmute inputs 3-8, which enable the two mics, video and the iPod cable. As with Preset 1, the delays are off. Preset 4 is like Preset 3, only with the delays on.

Once that was all set up, tested and found to be working, we hooked up the two controllers.

Controlling

Each menu in the ARC2 can control volumes, a mute button or change presets.

The ARC2 is a menu driven controller. It’s extremely powerful and enables you to control quite a few parameters inside the Jupiter. I could have done everything I needed with this box, but figured the addition of an ARC-SWK would make the system easier to use. In my set up, the ARC2 does one thing—enable users to switch between the four operating modes. 

Anything that the user sees can be edited easily.

This is accomplished in the Jupiter software; simply add a controller, create a menu, and load the presets. You can edit the labels to make it easy to navigate. Once it’s all assigned, you can simulate the controller to visually ensure it’s all working the way it’s supposed to. 

You can quickly and easily create menus to control just about every volume and mute parameter in the Jupiter. Not to mention switch presets.

The next step is to add in the ARC-SWK controller. The SWK is a 4-button, single encoder remote with an A and B side. This means you can control up to 8 parameters very easily. Ours is set up thusly:

Button 1A: Wireless Mic 1

Button 2A: Wireless Mic 2

Button 3A: Stereo Audio for Video

Button 4A: Stereo Audio for EZ iPod Cable

The ARC-SWK in software simulation mode.

The software makes it easy to control inputs and outputs as mono or stereo channels. At the moment, I don’t have any need to control anything else, though I have the capability to control four more parameters if need be. 

When controlling volume, you can specify minimum and maximum values—initial values are stored in the preset. It’s all very easy to do, and took less than 5 minutes to assign everything. 

The ARC series of remotes connect daisy-chain style to the Jupiter over Cat5. You can also send audio through certain wall panels, either in or out, depending on the model. 

Final Programming

What sold me on the Jupiter is the calendar feature. Once all the presets are built, you can create events (single or repeating) that will automatically switch modes. So in our case, on Tuesday morning, the system goes into EZ, Delays On at 8:45 AM for the Women’s Bible Study. At 3:00 PM on Wednesday, it switches to Mix, Delay Off for Jr. High. On Thursday at 8:30, it switches back to EZ, Delay On for MOPS.

Eventually, I will add the Jupiter to the network so I can access it from anywhere and create custom events (like next Friday when the Boy Scouts use the room). 

After all that, I dove into the logic outputs. The Jupiter has 4 dual-mode logic outputs. Each logic output can deliver 5 VDC for connecting an LED indicator, or act as a simple contact closure (alternately, you can just use the +5VDC to close an externally powered relay). The logic outputs are assigned to parameters anywhere in the system. In our case, to make programming easy, I assigned the control to Output 7, which we weren't using anyway. When Out 7 is muted, the delay amp turns on (using a Furman Relay). When it's unmuted, the amp turns off. The two mute states get saved into presets, and just like that, the amp turns on and off as if by magic.

The Cost

Doing something like this used to require a Crestron or AMX system, and programming could easily run into the thousands of dollars, not to mention the additional costs every time you wanted to make a change or the equipment cost. In this case, the whole system ran a little over $1,500, including controllers. It took me about an hour to set up all the programming (and another few hours to tune the system). 

It’s easy enough to use that any TD will be able to get the system doing whatever they want in no time. I was able to train our entire staff on the EZ mode of operation in about 10 minutes, and the documentation takes just two pages (and half of each page is a large picture of each controller). 

Best of all, I won’t have to take any more calls like this one...

Caller: Mike, the mics aren’t working.

Me: OK, so go to the fader labeled RF-A. Make sure the button above that fader is turned On and lit up.

Caller: [Long pause, obviously frustrated] I…I…don’t even know what a fader is.

Today's post is brought to you by the Roland R-1000. The R-1000 is a multi-channel recorder/player ideal for the V-Mixing System or any MADI equipped console or environment. Ideal for virtual sound checks, multi-channel recording, and playback.