Harrison Consoles Introduces Full

Harrison Consoles Introduces Full
Harrison Consoles
Builders of the World’s Finest Professional Audio Consoles
Harrison Consoles
Introduces Full-Function
Native DSP System
White Paper
December 2006
Full-Function Digital Signal Processing
Commodity Hardware Components
Future-Proof Expandability
Open-Source Computing
Xrange Introduction
Harrison Consoles, an industry-renowned manufacturer of digital and analog
audio mixing consoles, is introducing the Xrange digital signal processing
(DSP) system to support its comprehensive line of digital console surfaces.
The Xrange line is comprised of components that are engineered to use
native-based processing and audio-over-Ethernet to provide a totally expandable DSP solution for recording, broadcast, live venue, and motion picture
applications. The system combines these two technologies to bring the highest
level of audio performance with a much lower customer investment in equipment and infrastructure. The Xrange system delivers an impressive list of cost,
performance, and scalability benefits to the professional audio arena.
The introduction of the Xrange system represents a major paradigm shift in
the design of the DSP back-end for small, medium, and large format console
systems. The Xrange system is comprised of modular components that unlock
the power of off-the-shelf industrial computer hardware running the opensource Linux operating system to accomplish state-of-the-art console DSP.
Xrange delivers the sonic purity and headroom of a true 64-bit, floating-point
digital audio path and the numerous benefits of audio-over-Ethernet
connectivity. For cost-constrained applications, Xrange can also operate at a
32-bit audio depth.
By implementing a native-based platform, Harrison Consoles can leverage the
aggressive performance-to-price competition in today’s computing hardware,
data processing, and network communications markets. Additionally, customers
do not have to wait through a complete redesign cycle when a more powerful
DSP chip set comes to market.
The traditional approach to console design has been based around highspeed, proprietary, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) or field
programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)—and more commonly, dedicated digital
signal processors such as the tried-and-true Motorola 56000. More recently,
the Analog Devices SHARC processor delivered floating point capability that
improved the sonic quality of digital audio.
Harrison’s approach to the market has been to meet the audio industry’s needs
for both small and large systems. To meet the calling for a massive DSP system that provided a large number of audio channels to handle new surround
formats as well as large-scale film post-production, Harrison introduced the
SHARC-based digital.engine DSP system in 1999. The digital.engine offered a
system that was capable of expanding to 768 channels of fully resourced
audio, with each channel processed using 40-bit precision. The digital.engine
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was constructed using “building block” modular components that combined to create a
large-expansion system offering superior sonic quality.
When Harrison embarked on the transition to native (host processor-based)
processing, the same “building block” philosophy was applied to the Xrange DSP
system. Additionally, Harrison successfully achieved numerous key design objectives
in engineering the Xrange system:
Š Minimize the number of proprietary hardware devices
Š Utilize off-the shelf processing hardware to optimize system costs and enable
Š Utilize the Linux operating system and Harrison DSP software to enable scalability
without the upgrading limitations or “next release wait time” of proprietary software
Š Utilize 64-bit, floating-point precision to further optimize sonic quality and headroom
Š Utilize the cost and simplicity benefits of audio-over-Ethernet as the signal transfer
Xrange System Overview
Harrison now offers a full line of components required to create a customized digital
back-end that meets the audio requirements of any customer application. The
Harrison Xrange system consists of the following:
Š One or more Harrison Xengine processing computers
Š The Harrison Xrouter digital router, which integrates the functionality provided by
Harrison’s older-generation router core and router master
Š Harrison Xlink Ethernet connection protocol
Š Optional Harrison standard or premium I/O devices that can accommodate
conversion of multiple audio formats including AES and analog
Every part of the DSP path—from full-featured channel processing (including EQ,
dynamics, fader, trim, delay, phase, panning, and bus assignments), to full surround
monitoring functions for music and film applications, to specialized audio tools like
de-essing and multiband compression—is processed on a standard (but specially
configured) Xengine processing computer equipped with high-capacity multiple AMD
Opteron processors.
Each device in the Xrange line of components is connected using standard Cat6
cabling. Using Harrison’s Xlink audio-over-gigabit Ethernet transfer protocol, Harrison
consoles can route any signal to anywhere within the console system.
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So why would you want a 64-bit audio path?
Well, this is one situation where less is not more. With 16-bit systems, if you did too
many operations—even functions as basic as level changes—round-off errors would
occur due to the limited "numeric dynamic range" of a 16-bit system. Accumulate
enough round-off errors, and the sound quality suffered. The 32-bit floating point
was a major improvement, but 64 bits gives just that much more headroom and
dynamic range. The improvement is particularly noticeable with material like reverb
tails that decay into nothing, even when you really turn up the volume at the end.
Those "fizzing" decays of low-res systems are gone forever.
The other big difference occurs when you're running projects with lots of tracks,
plug-ins and soft synths. That's a lot of calculations going on at once, and 64-bits of
resolution can handle it without you having to worry too much about clipping and
other issues that relate to limited calculation abilities.
And, of course, we like to put all this in perspective, so . . . is 64 bits a huge step
forward? For audio, there's no doubt that it removes the limitations of the not-verylimited-in-the-first-place 32-bit floating-point format. As there are still passionate
arguments about whether mixing "inside the box" produces satisfactory audio
results, 64-bit resolution should help people feel better about living in the digital
As to 64-bit hardware and operating systems, although 64-bit systems aren't
necessarily twice as fast as 32-bit systems, they are indeed faster and as far as I'm
concerned, faster = better. After all, playing or recording music is — or at least,
should be — a real-time experience, and your tools should help facilitate that."
Craig Anderton, "64-Bit Buzzword Is Shorthand For Something Deeper",
ProSound News, December 30, 2005
The Xrouter component is designed to accept (up to 8 input and 8 output) standard
MADI signals for interfacing to any standard MADI device. The Xrouter allows full,
arbitrary signal routing of any microphone, line, or AES3 input to any channel. The
Xrouter has up to 4 gigabit Ethernet ports to connect to up to 4 Xengine processing
Xlink Ethernet Connectivity
Harrison’s exclusive Xlink connection protocol provides a sustained bandwidth of 256
signals at 64 bits at 48kHz (128 signals at 96kHz). Xlink uses standard gigabit
Ethernet and off-the-shelf network adapter cards. Although this method places large
demands on the computer infrastructure, Harrison is committed to using commodity
components in order to truly leverage market forces. Sustained throughput at nearly
full capacity is a daunting challenge; however, Harrison has successfully engineered
fully qualified gigabit Ethernet cards to maximize packet throughput.
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The Xengine Processor
Harrison’s prime commitment is to sonic quality. Consequently, Harrison has
employed native processing to offer an industry-best processing depth of 64 bits.
Each Xengine employed in an Xrange system is powered by multiple AMD Opteron
64-bit processors. Each Xengine can process 48 fully resourced channels of audio at
48kHz and 64 bits. This performance is achieved using a moderate speed-grade dual
processor configuration, and will increase over time as faster and higher-capacity
processor performance comes to market.
Because AMD’s Opteron processors are 64 bits wide, they easily accommodate the
processing of many audio channels at 64 bits. Each audio channel features 8 bands
of EQ (each band with selectable EQ type), a full dynamics section including compressor and gate, and comprehensive bussing and panning. A width of 64 bits, which
currently is a Harrison exclusive, extends mantissa from 23 bits to 52 bits. The exponent moves from 8 bits to 11 bits. With 64 bits, the dynamic range and resolution of
audio are simply beyond question.
The Harrison
There is a trade-off between sampling rate or bit depth and the number of channels
that can be accommodated by a single Xrange processor. The maximum number of
channels for 48kHz is approximately twice the number for 96kHz. The maximum
number of channels for 32 bits is approximately twice the number at 64 bits.
A hard real-time Linux kernel provides low latency (10 samples) and high reliability.
Xlink provides for up to 256-signal input and output for each Xengine.
Each Xengine has two Ethernet ports. The control port is used to receive control from
the Harrison IKIS™ Control and Automation Platform. The Xlink audio port (copper or
optical) provides audio I/O for 256 64-bit bidirectional signals. Each signal within the
channel processing is available to travel to and from the Ethernet port. Each channel
has A & B inputs, a patch point which can be located anywhere within the fully flexible
signal flow, a direct out, and bus outputs.
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Each Xengine is connected to an Xrouter router via the Xlink Ethernet connection. No
word clock input is necessary on the Xengine. The Xengine operates as a slaved
device and gets its clocking information from the Harrison Xrouter.
Each Xengine is housed in a sturdy, brushed aluminum 4RU chassis with attractive
badging. A redundant power supply option is also available.
Xengine Specifications
Bus Architecture
Digital Signal Processing
Channel Functions
Internal Processing
Sample Rate
Vari-Speed Sample Rates
Audio Input/Output
Power Supply
48 channels per Xengine computer (typical), full processing
on all channels (96kHz)
Up to 48 Main, 16 Aux and 16 Mix/Reassign
Native, dual AMD Opteron processors
Compressor/Limiter with Side Chain Insert, Expander/Gate,
Input Select, Flexible 8-band EQ w/notch, bell, HP and LP
Filter, Channel Delay, 16 Aux Sends, 8-wide Panning (optional
16-wide Panning), Programmable Insert Point, Main Fader
64 bit floating (or optional 32 bit)
48kHz, 96kHz, or 192kHz
+/– 12.5% (38.5kHz to 54kHz, 77.2kHz to 108kHz,
154.4kHz to 216kHz)
Xlink – standard Gigabit Ethernet
4RU (7 inches); 2RU (3.5 inches) option available
Internal, fused PSU; optional redundant PSU available
The Xrouter Router
The Xrouter is Harrison’s new MADI and Ethernet audio-based router that is capable
of 1536 x 1536 routing. Harrison can easily scale a console surface from a 48-channel
system to over 500 channels. These very large systems are accomplished by strapping multiple Xrouters together in a large configuration. The connections between
each Xrouter maintain Harrison’s ultra high-resolution 64-bit depth, with no degradation in audio quality.
The Harrison
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The Xrouter has 8 MADI inputs and 8 MADI outputs to connect to Harrison’s highquality premium I/O or to any MADI-equipped converter or device. Additionally, the
Xrouter has 4 Xlink Ethernet ports to connect to other Xrouter units or to the Harrison
Xengine. Each Xrouter can be cascaded in a tree structure to achieve truly massive
system channel counts. When a MADI signal is routed to a MADI output, the signal
passes through unaltered. When a MADI signal is routed to an Xlink output, it is converted to 64-bit floating point. Any Xlink-to-Xlink route is kept at 64 bits. When an
Xlink is routed to a MADI output, the signal is dithered and truncated. Independent
output dithering is available at 16-, 20-, or 24-bit.
Harrison truly employs an “anything to anywhere” philosophy. All points within the
console (patch points, direct outs, channel A & B inputs, bus outputs, and the inputs
and outputs of Harrison’s suite of Digital Audio Tools) are available and visible to the
Xrouter and thus to the system. One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many routes
can be assigned simply and quickly via the IKIS router control screen. Also, the
Xrouter has partitioned summing nodes, which allow systems to have both multi-user
busses and per-user busses. It is important to note that the multi-router busses can
be summed across an entire Xrange system, even if the system is comprised of a
large number of Xengines.
The Xrange incorporates a “hot spare” (N + 1) method of redundancy. The system will
automatically detect any Xengine processor that has failed. When the system is fitted
with a redundant (hot spare) Xengine, the Xrouter will automatically switch in the hot
spare Xengine in the event of processor failure.
The Xrouter is housed in a sturdy, brushed aluminum 2RU chassis with attractive
badging. The front face of the Xrouter integrates a panel of user-convenient LED
performance indicators. A redundant power supply option is also available.
Xrouter Specifications
Sample Rate
Vari-Speed Sample Rates
Signal Capacity
Power Supply
Connection Types
Word Clock Input
8 MADI inputs, 8 MADI outputs
4 Xlink Gigabit Ethernet ports – 64 bits, 256 channels
48kHz, 96kHz, or 192kHz
+/–12% (56 channel MADI)
up to –12% (64 channel MADI)
1536 inputs and 1536 outputs
Internal, fused PSU; optional redundant PSU available
MADI/Copper: 75 ohm coax with BNC connection
MADI/Fiber: 62.5/125μm multi-mode with SC connection
Ethernet/Fiber: 62.5/125μm multi-mode with SC connection
Ethernet/Copper: Cat5e or Cat6 / RJ45
AES3 and TTL
2RU (3.5 inches)
10 samples
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Benefits of Harrison's Open-Source, Industrial Computer-Based,
Audio-over-Ethernet DSP
When considered in total, the benefits of Harrison's unique approach to DSP back-end
design are numerous — and quite compelling:
• Industrial computers are commodity items. Upgrades and repairs cost less due to
high market competition, high demands, and high production volumes.
• An upgrade is as easy as installing a new computer. As the hardware industry
introduces innovations, Harrison implements them into its DSP.
• Diagnosis and repair of computer problems can be performed by local professionals
at reasonable cost.
• Software is the dominant factor in system design and scalability, with many of the
hardware restrictions removed.
• The DSP system, and the number of channels it can support, is expanded easily by
adding more computers and/or routers.
• Space and noise are reduced due to a small computer footprint.
• Utilization of audio-over-Ethernet dramatically reduces cable clutter and streamlines
the installation process.
• Full floating-point interconnects between processing units mean no truncation and
no clipping. The clipping indicators that are necessary between processes on
competing products are not needed, resulting in greater simplicity.
• 64-bit, floating-point processing delivers improved precision over a fixed point 48-bit
system. Plus, it provides a much greater dynamic range than any current fixed point
• With 10-gigabit Ethernet availability coming soon, future expansion is ensured, with
easier resultant changeover to higher bandwidth processing.
Xrange Application Versatility
Three Xrange application diagrams are shown on the following pages. These
diagrams illustrate the application versatility, configuration options, and
scalability of the Xrange system.
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Application #1: Single range System with router,
3 engine Processors, and dubber Recorder
- 48 fully resourced channels at 64-bit
- Optimized performace-to-cost
- Large expandability capacity using additional
routers /
MADI Input
Harrison Xdubber
Digital Recorder
Xengine (channels 1-48)
MADI Output
Xengine (channels 49-96)
Xengine (Monitor – 5.1 matrix)
Application #2: Production Facility Routing and Distribution
- Full facility router connectivity
- Full audio-over-Ethernet infrastructure over large distances
- Centralized or distributed control of production environment
Master Control
Control Room A
Xlink 256 channels 64-bit Ethernet
Machine Room
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Application #3: Large-Scale Multichannel Configuration
with router as Master Router
- 448 x 448 inputs/outputs
- 396 fully resourced channels at 64-bit
- Console-wide bus summing
Xrouter Master
- Large channel capacity for film post-production
or multiple stems
MADI Input
Xrouter #2
Xrouter #1
MADI Output
(channels 1-36)
(channels 109-144)
(channels 37-72)
(channels 145-180)
(channels 73-108)
Xrouter #3
(channels 181-216)
Xrouter #4
(channels 217-252)
(channels 325-360)
(channels 253-288)
(channels 361-396)
(channels 289-324)
Xlink 256 channels 64-bit Ethernet
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IKIS Automation and Control
Each Xengine and Xrouter in the configuration is controlled by the Harrison
IKIS Control and Automation Platform as one large system network. IKIS
administers all console configuration and setup functions, provides both
Snapshot and Scene List Recall for broadcast and live venue applications, and
provides Dynamic Mixing Automation for post-production and music mixing.
IKIS administers all customized, high-resolution graphics displays available to
operators via TFT monitors that complement the Harrison console surface. All
signal processing and routing parameters, signal levels, and meters for each
channel within the system are viewable on a dedicated IKIS TFT display. IKIS
also provides many levels of console configuration and displays of all console
parameters that are not normally utilized in real-time operations.
Integration with Harrison Console Surfaces
Xrange is a totally expandable audio processing back-end that complements
the comprehensive line of Harrison console control surfaces, including:
Š the MPC4D™ console for large-scale film and television post-production
Š the Trion™ console for music recording/scoring, broadcast, post-production
and live venues
Š the value-engineered Air 24/7™ broadcast console for studio and mobile
Harrison consoles deliver several features that are a perfect complement to
the scalability and versatility of the Xrange DSP system. All Harrison consoles
can be expanded in multiple 8-fader sections, and each fader group is
supported by a dedicated set of channel strip displays displayed on a TFT
monitor mounted above the fader section.
Harrison Consoles now offers the Xrange line of native components required
to create a customized DSP back-end that meets the audio requirements of
any customer application. Any size of console is attainable using the Xrange
processing elements, from large to small and any size in between.
Execution speed, reliability, and sonic quality have always been the key
attributes of Harrison console systems. The Xrange DSP system truly realizes
these attributes for the world of recording on the digital console, while delivering future-proof channel expandability and processing scalability.
Delivering over-the-top resolution, low latency, and virtually boundless expandability, the Xrange DSP system offers an impressive performance-to-price ratio
for any and all professional audio applications.
Nashville Headquarters • 1024 Firestone Parkway • La Vergne, TN 37086 USA • PH (615) 641-7200 • FX (615) 641-7224
www.harrisonconsoles.com • info@harrisonconsoles.com
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