Soundcraft Si Performer: Digital Audio / Lighting Console

Soundcraft Si Performer: Digital Audio / Lighting Console
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Soundcrafthas launched arguably its most unique
console to date, the Si Performer, which, as well
as boasting a series of audio enhancements
over the manufacturer’s successful Si Compact,
is the first ever audio console to integrate DMX for
lighting control.

The world launch of the Si Performer took place in the
cosy basement of London’s Soho Theatre in Dean Street
last week, where a capacity crowd witnessed a sensational
vocal display from West End and Broadway leading lady,
Kerry Ellis, who performed Defying Gravityfrom the
show Wicked and then a rendition of Etta James’ At Last,
before top covers duo, The Beatniks, took to the stage for
an hour-long set of hits from the s and s.

At FOH position for the duration of the show was
engineer Pete Freeman, who operated the audio and the
lighting from Soundcraft’s latest baby, the Si Performer.
This was the first show ever where both of these
disciplines were controlled by one person working from
one piece of kit.

Little Big Console

First and foremost, let’s be straight: the Si Performer is
a very capable audio console. It has a ‘turbo-charged’
version of the Si Compact engine and boasts identical
audio quality, yet it also provides a huge channels to
mix – double that of the Si Compact; busses ( more
than the Si Compact); eight VCA groups and eight mute
groups; a fully parametric four-band EQ with shelf on the
HF and LF bands; and L/R/C panning.

One of the immediate advantages in having more
inputs, according to Soundcraft’s product specialist,
Richard Ayres, is versatility.

“For example, if you wanted different EQ and dynamics
on the house and monitor patches, Si Performer allows
you to double-patch one mic to fader one on two different
layers,” he explains, “It will process them independently,
with layer ‘A’ doing FOH, and layer ‘B’ doing monitors, so
it’s horsepower that you can harness without having to dip
into your pocket.”

Two models have been released: Si Performer
and Si Performer , which have and mic inputs
respectively. Both also have eight line inputs and four
return FX channels. There are two option card slots, which
allow I/O expansion via any Soundcraft stage box (hence
the possibility of inputs to mix) or from CobraNet,
AVIOM, or AES inputs via the appropriate cards.

A Bright Idea

But what is entirely unique, of course, is the integration of
DMX. A DMX port is set into the back of the console
to provide core lighting
control – and as Ayres
reveals, “It can do a lot
of lights”.

“The implementation
we are releasing with
version one deals with
or DMX addresses –
that could essentially be
independent dimmer
channels,” he explains.
“We are not trying to
make this console out to be
something it isn’t, though
– if you start wheeling
in a bank of movinghead
devices each with
a US, price tag,
that type of fixture is not
intended to be operated by
this console.”

Unsurprisingly, the
R&D for Si Performer was
significant; as Soundcraft
wanted to make sure its
placement in the market
was absolutely right.
A number of lighting
operators and production
companies were involved,
and members of the
Soundcraft team even
enrolled themselves
in lighting training
courses to gain a better
understanding of
the industry.

“Positioning it is the
really important thing
for us, and we see that in
the smaller applications:
churches, theatres,
corporate hospitality,
small band gigs; we’re not
pretending we are a Martin
or a [Grand] MA desk, we
are exploring a new area
for integrated lighting
and audio consoles,” says
Soundcraft’s President,
Andy Trott. “It’s a damn
good audio console, that’s
for sure, but the lighting
adds a new dimension, so
you can run a complete
event from one console,
like you saw at the
launch today.”

Another key aspect
with any new product at
Soundcraft, Trott reveals,
is the customer’s business
model: “We had an engineer in recently
who was blown away by the product,” he
says. “In his theatre he has a small audio
console and a small lighting console,
and under certain applications he can
now replace both of those with one Si
Performer, which saves a
seat, and in turn creates
more revenue for his
business.”

Ayres says it’s been a
fascinating journey so
far, and a particularly
interesting one for
an audio company.
He also sees great potential
for Si Performer in the
US market – a market
Soundcraft has already
doubled its business in
over the last months.

“One of the customers
that this has great appeal
for in the US is portable
churches; and the schools
and colleges have much
bigger arts facilities over
there than here in Europe,
so they’ll also benefit,”
he insists. “At a school assembly, for
example, you might need the lights up
or lights down, and all you’d need to do
is open up a slider on the console – very
simple.

“Add to that the fact that we have
more and more integration with
[Harman’s] HiQnet system, and there
is suddenly the practical possibility
of someone actually doing this from
a touch screen panel on their BSS
unit, or recording a preset via MIDI.
These are all realities today for
this console.”

The first release of the software
provides four scene masters (A-D) with
associated slave channels on the ALT
fader layers. Individual colour intensities
or parameters are set on the slave faders
with an overall master level fader, which
itself may be assigned to any of the main
fader layers for simultaneous access to
audio and lighting levels.

To automate the process, DMX
settings can be stored alongside audio
settings in the snapshot system, so both
may be recalled automatically by a single
button press or via an external MIDI
command. With selective isolation,
snapshots with just audio or lighting
parameter changes may be recalled.

Each channel also
features a custom
LCD screen, which
shows channel name,
assignments, graphic
EQ frequencies and
DMX data, as well as
signal metering.

Although for now,
if working on the
type of event where
you would typically
need a separate
light and sound
engineer, that would
probably still be the
case, there are big plans for
Si Performer and the future looks rosier
still – especially as DMX functionality
on the ViSi remote looks to be just
around the corner.

The End Of The Tunnel?

“The next step is to set about doing
additional coding for the consoles;
it will primarily always be an audio
console, and we will not sacrifice
any audio functionality to tip the
balance in favour of the lighting,
but there are several areas that
we’re excited about enhancing,”
Ayres enthuses. “We want to improve
support for intelligent lighting, and
improve show management; and a
big thing you will see soon is DMX
functionality appearing on the ViSi
remote, which will mean it is then
essentially two control surfaces, so you
could have one guy working the audio
from the console and another tweaking
the lights from an iPad. How far this
will go, who knows, but it’s been an
amazing journey so far.”

“It’s entry level at the moment, but
it will soon get sophisticated; and the
area that is very attractive for us is
the potential of remote lighting control
for a pretty complicated show,” Trott
concludes. “That’s very interesting,
and us coming at it from a naïve area
might mean we have new ways of
doing things that the lighting guys
may have been blinkered to.”

From The Distributor

“For single-operator
applications, particularly
we think within
theatre and corporate
AV, the Si Performer
combines extremely
well specified audio
functionality featuring
renowned Soundcraft
sound quality with the
unique integration of
DMX control. Sound and
lighting fader functions
can be combined in
layers, delivering
comprehensive show
control in a single,
compact package.
Not designed to replace
a sophisticated lighting
desk – or operator –
the Si Performer is a
compelling new console
option for situations
where an operator’s role
already combines sound
and light.”


Ian Cullen,

Marketing Director,
Sound Technology Ltd

Information

• • DMX/lighting control integration

• • 24/32 mic inputs

• • 80 channels to mix

• • 35 busses

• • Eight VCA groups

• • Eight mute groups

• • Two Option card slots

• • HiQnet integration

Manufacturer

Soundcraft, UK

www.soundcraft.com

UK Distributor

Sound Technology

www.soundtech.co.uk

Price Details

UK: £TBA

THE REVIEWER

PAUL WATSON’S
experience in the music
industry stretches
back to his time
as a touring musician
ten years ago, then
working alongside
some experienced
producers before
opening a recording
studio and writing
for the pro audio
world. He now writes
for a number of
international trade
publications.

DMX Explained

The DMX512 protocol is an ANSI standard lighting control
protocol, in much the same way as MIDI is a standard protocol for
controlling musical instruments – though DMX messages are less
specific. Rather than sending individually addressed messages,
the DMX packet is a set of 512 (or fewer) value slots, plus a start
code that specifies the type of data to follow. Lighting fixtures
can use those slot values as required, so a single DMX network
might address up to 512 dimmer channels, or 256 pan-and-tilt
values, for example.

DMX512 connections are normally made with XLR5 connectors
(sometimes XLR3), and a DMX network is set up as a daisy
chain with a single master (controller). Basic lighting fixtures
normally use sets of binary DIP switches to set their DMX slot
numbers (addresses).

The open, unidirectional nature of a DMX packet, means that
what happens when the controller sends that message is down to
the slave devices in the chain. The controller has no ‘knowledge’ of
what is happening down the line.

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