Weak Link In The Chain

mike2 Sometime back, I speculated that perhaps we were approaching the point where the sound man would no longer be necessary. I was only half kidding-pointing out that quickly developing digital technology would let the sound system compare what it was “hearing” with digitized reference material that it could attempt to duplicate.

We’ll, at least in the realm of portable live sound, there is still at least one area where the sound person’s ability to problem solve still makes him/her valuable.

I’m talking about the use of microphone signal multicables (snakes as they are known) that delivery signal back and forth between the stage and the mix position.

There are so many different standards in use for the digital “snake” that making these links in the signal chain work with the equipment they meet up with on both ends guarantees the sound man will have a job for years to come.

There is a great push to digitize this signal path, because one of the greatest costs affiliated with touring productions is that of moving case after case filled with heavy copper and steel wire.  If the signal moving along these cables can be digitized and then carried along fewer and smaller conductors or along fiber optic cables, the weight and cost savings is significant.

At this point, there is no standardization among manufacturers who make this equipment, and it doesn’t look like either the connectors or the transmission protocol are anywhere close to being agreed-on.

Many years ago, the makers of pro audio equipment agreed on the XLR standard for equipment, and it has made it easy to use equipment manufactured by lots of companies together in the same sound system.

More recently, the Neutrik Speakon connector system has been adopted by lots of speaker and amplifier makers, and this connector appears to be well on its way to becoming an industry standard.

Until this lack of standards issue is settled among most of the major pro audio players there will be no rush to adopt the digital mic snake.

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