A short history lesson. Back in 2003, when we first sprang the idea of real-time, uncompressed audio running on a standard Ethernet backbone, everyone applauded — with the world becoming ever more networked and IP-centric, IP-Audio was an idea whose time had come. What broadcasters needed was a way to get audio from legacy devices into the AoIP realm. So we invented Axia Audio Nodes to interface studio audio devices with Livewire networks. And the networked studio design they enabled revolutionized the way broadcast facilities are built.
Introducing xNodes. xNodes are the new generation of light, half-rack, high-performance IP-Audio interfaces. They're loaded with advanced new features and capabilities. They're so advanced, in fact, that they practically configure themselves. They're fanless, which means they're noiseless too; you can put them in any studio. They have a versatile mounting arrangement that lets you deploy two xNodes in just 1RU of rack space, as well as by themselves on ceilings, walls or under counters with the available wall-mount kit. They've got even better audio performance specs than our original Audio Nodes (and those were nothing to sneeze at). They even have managed power options and dual network interfaces for redundant operation.
Five flavors to choose from. Broadcast studios have a mixture of different audio signal types, so there are a variety of xNodes to match.
- Analog xNodes have 8 mono or 4 stereo balanced line-level inputs and 8 mono or 4 stereo balanced line-level outputs, on RJ-45 and DB-25 connectors. Each input is switchable to accommodate either consumer-level -10dBv or professional level +4dBu sources. Short-circuit protected outputs can deliver up to +24dBu before clipping. Axia uses only studio-grade A/D/A converters and low-noise components.
- AES/EBU xNodes have 4 AES/EBU inputs and 4 AES/EBU outputs. Left and right input signals may be split and routed independently as mono signals. Audio is everything to us, so performance specs are stunning: 48 kHz sampling rate, 126dB of dynamic range, and <0.0003% THD. Sample rate conversion is available on all inputs; the unit can also be synchronized to a house clock to provide sync for your entire Axia network.
- You've got the audio in the system — what about machine control? GPIO xNodes provide 6 general-purpose logic ports for control of studio peripherals. Audio devices, loudspeaker muting relays, signal lamps, etc. Each port has 5 opto-isolated inputs and 5 outputs. A logic port can be associated with any audio input or output. It's transparent: logic always follows audio in an Axia network, so control is routed right along with your source material.
- Microphone xNodes have four professional-grade microphone preamps with selectable Phantom power and software-adjustable gain. There are also four balanced analog line outputs to conveniently deliver headphone and studio monitor feeds back to your talent. Like the Analog and AES xNodes, inputs and outputs are presented both on easy-to-install RJ-45s and high-density DB-25s, to suit your connection preference.
- The Mixed-Signal xNode is your utility player; perfect for places that require a mix of different audio I/O types. It provides 1 selectable Mic/Line analog input, 2 dedicated analog line inputs, 3 analog line outputs, 1 digital AES3 input and 1 AES3 output, and 2 GPIO ports. It's truly a "jack of all trades," and master of them all.
"So what can I do with these xNodes?"
A whole lot! xNodes are the building blocks of an Axia network. One xNode, alone, can be a 4x4 routing switcher, or a 4-output digital distribution amp. Two xNodes connected by a CAT-5 cable become a 4x4 Ethernet snake. In the studio, they provide I/O for an Axia console; distributed I/O that can live right next to your audio sources. Check out the diagram below (click for a better view):
Or, check out this scenario: a studio built around an Axia console with integrated console engine. The engine provides all the I/O for the studio, and a Mixed Signal xNode is located in the adjacent studio, providing monitor and headphne feeds, Mic input, and I/O for a record/playback peripheral. And it's still got I/O to spare. (Click below to see it bigger.)
Super Sonic Setup. xNodes take the hassle out of IP-Audio setup. They're smart — so smart that they virtually configure themselves. All you have to do is plug it in and give it an ID number; it assigns itself an IP address and even names its own inputs and outputs (you can give 'em custom names later if you like). Plug in your sources and let the audio flow. And if you do want to customize settings, there's no fancy software needed — just your PC with any old Web browser will do.
Belt and suspenders? If you're the kind who likes even their backups to have backups, you'll appreciate this: xNodes have dual Livewire ports. That's so you can connect each one to different legs of your Axia network. If one link goes down, the other takes over; seamlessly, automatically.
Likewise, xNodes have dual-redundant, auto-switching power supplies. You can plug 'em into the wall (note the internal, auto-ranging power supply: you'll never find wall-warts powering Axia gear), or use PoE (Power over Ethernet) supplied by your network switch or Axia console engine. If your preferred power source drops, the other goes online instantly. And because xNodes can run on PoE, you can locate them just about anywhere — even in spaces where conventional power is hard to come by.
Connect it your way. Of course xNodes provide audio I/O in the RJ-45 format that's become the standard for IP-Audio systems. But if you prefer locking XLR connections, who are we to argue? A DB-25 connector on the back panel complements the array of RJs. You can use off-the-shelf DB-to-XLR cables, like the Hosa DTF-803 pictured here; just plug it in and start hooking up your audio.
Compatibility assured. Perhaps you've already got an Axia network installed (thank you!). Will xNodes work with the Axia gear you already have? Naturally! xNodes speak Livewire, the AoIP protocol that powers more than 50,000 networked pro audio device sat radio and TV stations around the world. One click to hook up, and they're ready to go.
RAVENNA-compatible, too. Livewire has partnered with RAVENNA (the IP-Audio standard from ALC Networx) to open the door to an even wider range of networked broadcast and pro audio gear that can connect to your Axia network. Add an xNode to any Livewire network to create a gateway that allows connection of equipment from other RAVENNA partners. Read more here.