Axia - Element 2.0 Console System

CAN A RADIO CONSOLE BE OVER-ENGINEERED?

Only if you think “good enough” really is good enough.

“OCD” redefined

Building great consoles is more than punching holes in sheet metal and stuffing a few switches in them. Building a great console takes time, brain-power and determination. That’s why we’ve hired brilliant engineers who are certified “OCD”: Obsessive Console Designers, driven to create the most useful, powerful, hardest-working consoles in the world.

How It began

Meters20-odd years ago, Axia console designer Michael Dosch (who was designing custom consoles for recording studios) went to work with Jack Williams at PR&E – still called Pacific Recorders then. Jack's BMX consoles were ultra-reliable, sounded great, and were nearly indestructible. At PR&E, Dosch  learned how to design consoles without compromise — how to over-engineer them. 15 or 20 years later, many of the boards he designed are still on the air.

 StudioA new kind of console

By the late 1990s, computers and routing switchers were becoming an essential part of the broadcast studio, and Steve Church, who’d introduced digital phone hybrids and ISDN codecs to radio, had been thinking about how useful it would be to combine console, router, and computer network. He called on Dosch to design this new kind of radio console.

In 2003, Axia was launched to make digital consoles, but with a twist: Axia consoles would be integrated with the routing switcher, and networked to share resources and capabilities throughout the studio complex. This intelligent network of studio devices lets Axia build consoles that are more powerful and easier to use than ever.

Our team of engineers blended the best ideas from old-school analog consoles with innovative new technology to produce bullet-proof boards that can actually make shows run smoother and sound better.

livewireAnd we invented a way to network studios, consoles and audio equipment using Ethernet. It’s called Livewire™, and it’s now an industry standard. Livewire carries hundreds of channels of real-time, uncompressed audio plus synchronized control logic and program-associated data on just one skinny CAT-6 cable.

ethernetLots of well-known broadcast software and hardware companies (over two dozen already) now make products that work directly with Livewire. Thanks to this scalable network technology, integrated router control is a standard feature of every Element. Any source in any studio can be loaded on any fader with no need for add-on panels.

And Livewire lets you bring computer audio into the air chain without going through multiple A/D/A conversions. Our IP-Audio Driver lets you connect computers directly to the network without any intermediate I/O — all that’s needed is a CAT-5 cable and your computer’s Ethernet port.

Feature packed

Board-ops told us they wanted a console that’s powerful, yet easy to use. So we designed Element to be user-friendly, yet still have all the power of a full-on production board.

Element

For example, Element Show Profiles can recall each operator's favorite settings with the push of a button - audio sources, fader assignments, monitor settings and more. And each jock's Show Profile contains personalized Mic Processing and Voice EQ settings that load every time they're on the air (so the midday guy will stop badgering you for "just a little more low end"). There's even a "panic button": one key-press returns a Show Profile to its default state instantly. (No more 3 A.M. "Help!" calls.)

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Did we say "mic processing"? You bet. Every voice channel gets studio-grade compression, de-essing and expansion from the processing experts at Omnia, plus three-band parametric EQ to sweeten the deal. There's even built-in headphone processing so you don't have to waste money building a separate side-chain just for the studio cans.

Jocks have complained for years that making a mix-minus is too hard - so Element constructs mix-minuses automatically. Plus, mix-minus settings are saved for each audio source, so that sources, backfeed and machine logic all load at once. And every fader has a "Talkback" key to communicate with phone callers, remote talent or other studios using the console mic.

Speaking of phones, board-ops have enough distractions without having to reach for an outboard phone control panel. Element has hybrid controls with dedicated faders for Telos talkshow systems; there's even a dial pad so jocks can dial, pick up, screen and drop calls without ever diverting their attention from the console.

Nearly every air talent has accidentally changed a fader's audio source while it was on-the-air. To prevent that error, Element "queues" source changes: the operator must turn the fader off before the next assigned source "takes".

The radio console, redefined.

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Element was designed to fulfill either a production or on-air role, with amazingly powerful features waiting just beneath the intuitive surface. For instance, Element can mix in 5.1 Surround as well as stereo. That's standard; nothing extra to buy (except more speakers). There are four stereo Aux Sends and two Aux Returns, so production guys can use their favorite outboard FX boxes. Great for custom IFB feeds, too.

Got a PA mixer tucked away in a studio corner to mix mics for live performers, talk shows and such? Element has 8 Virtual Mixers - no outboard gear needed. And the Virtual Mixers emulate ACU-1s, allowing tight integration with automation and satellite systems.

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You can administer Element remotely, from home, the airport - wherever there's network access. A password-protected web server lets you examine the state of the console, see what's on the air and even fix operator mistakes, without ever leaving the comfort of that new Aeron™ desk chair you (ahem) "requisitioned" from the Sales department.

Small VU meters mounted at desk level are hard to read, so we re-invented the traditional meter bridge. Element‘s big meters are presented on an easy-to-read computer monitor along with large analog and digital clocks, event and countdown timers, and tallies that light when mics are open, delay is active, or during phone calls. You can even customize the display by adding your station's logo.

Beneath the surface

There's more to building a great board than just features. Consoles have to be rugged, to perform flawlessly 24/7, 365 days-a-year, for years at a time. So when it came time to choose the components that would go into Element, we literally scoured the globe for the absolute best parts - parts that would take the torture that jocks dish out on a daily basis.

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First, Element is fabricated from thick, machined aluminum extrusions for rigidity and RF immunity. The result: a board that will stand up to nearly anything.

With so many devices in the studio these days, the last thing anyone needs is gear with a noisy cooling fan. That's why Element's power-supply is fanless, for perfectly silent in-studio operation.

Element modules are hot-swappable, of course, and quickly removable. They connect to the frame via CAT-5, so pulling one is as simple as removing two screws and unplugging an RJ - no motherboard or edge connectors here.

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Faders take massive abuse. The ones used in other consoles have a big slot on top that sucks in dirt, crumbs and liquid like the government sucks in taxes. By contrast, our silky-smooth conductive-plastic faders actuate from the side, so grunge can't get in. And our rotary controls are high-end optical encoders, rated for more than five million rotations. No wipers to clean or wear out - they'll last so long, they'll outlive your mother-in-law (and that's saying something).

Element's avionics-grade switches are cut from the same cloth. Our design team was so obsessed with finding the perfect long-life components that they actually built a mechanical "finger" to test switches! Some supposedly "long life" switches failed after just 100,000 activations; when they found the switches used in Element, they shut off the machine after 2 million operations and declared a winner. (The losers got all-expense-paid vacations to the landfill.)

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Individual components are easy to service, too. Faders come out after removing just two screws. Switches and rotary volume controls are likewise easy to access. And all lamps are LEDs, so you'll likely never need to replace them.

Engineers have said for years that console finishes don't stand up to day-to-day use. Silk-screened graphics wear off; plastic overlays last longer, but they crack and chip - especially around switches and fader slots, where fingers can easily get cut on the sharp, splintered edges. We decided that we could do better.

Element uses high-impact Lexan overlays with color and printing on the back, where it can't rub off. And instead of just sticking the Lexan to the top of the module like some folks do, our overlays are inlaid on the milled aluminum module faces to keep the edges from cracking and peeling - expensive to make, but worth it. For extra protection, there are custom bezels around faders, switches and buttons to guard those edges, too. Element modules will look great for years.

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By the way, those on/off keys, fader knobs and bezels are our own design, custom-molded to give positive tactile feedback. The switch is flush with the bezel, so it's easy to find by touch. But if something gets dropped on it, the bezel keeps the switch from being accidentally activated.

More than just products

Catfish learned something else important from his time at PR&E: "Even the best products are nothing without great support." So Axia employs an amazing network of people to provide the best support possible: Application Engineers with years of experience mapping out radio studios... the most knowledgeable, friendly sales people in the biz... Support Engineers who were formerly broadcast engineers. Plus a genius design team, software authors who dream code... one of the largest R&D teams in broadcast.

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And now Axia has become radio's first console company to offer 24/7 support, 365 days a year. Chances are you'll never need that assistance, but if you do, we'll be ready for you. Our 'round-the-clock help line is +1-216-622-0247.

Proudly Over-Engineered

Are Axia consoles over-engineered? You bet. If you're looking for a cheap, disposable console, there are plenty out there - but this ain't it. Not everyone appreciates this kind of attention to detail, but if you're one who seeks out and appreciates excellence wherever you may find it... Axia consoles are built just for you.

Rugged individualism? Or family togetherness? The choice is yours.

If you haven't figure it out by now, Element gives you choices - plenty of them. Here's another choice: build your system a la carte, with a separate StudioEngine and audio nodes for I/O, or go the all-in-one route with PowerStation, the heavy-duty Axia integrated console engine. Only Axia gives you this choice of system architecture design.

xnodes-dual-rack-300pxThe "do it yourself" method: Some folks like to mix 'n match. We understand - you like to customize your systems to fit your own unique wants and needs. Super: just pair your Element console with an Axia StudioEngine (a hardened, fanless, Linux-based mixing appliance that's the brains of your console), and add a separate Element Power Supply / GPIO node. Plug them into an Axia-approved Ethernet switch, then choose from a variety of fan-free Axia xNodes to add analog, AES/EBU and Microphone-level I/O in whatever combination you want.

powerstation thumbThe "one-box" solution: Hey, you're working at breakneck speed. You need to get that new studio in service, pronto. We hear you! Meet PowerStation, the integrated console engine that works with Element consoles. It's a fanless, 4RU powerhouse that puts the mixing engine, console CPU, analog, digital, Mic and GPIO I/O into one easy-to-install appliance, along with a built-for-broadcast Ethernet switch with Gigabit, and a hardened power supply (with redundant power and expansion options). PowerStation — the one that gets 'er done.