Crown International's pro audio focus for NAMM this year was the exhibition of its totally redesigned IQ Network, previously known as the IQ System. The simultaneous introduction of Crown's 'IQwic' software and three PIP modules -- the IQ-PIP-Lite, IQ-PIP-USP3 and IQ-PIP-USP3/CN -- are notably bolstering the launch of this new platform.
The IQ System was originally introduced in 1988 as a means of enabling professional audio equipment, particularly Crown amplifiers, to be controlled and monitored via a remote computer. Over the past 14 years, it has grown to become widely successful in both the touring and systems contracting markets.
Until now, IQ's system communication has been based on a proprietary two-wire bus. This new second generation, however, is based on the popular and cost-effective Ethernet structure. Communication now travels via 100Mb Ethernet between components utilizing Crown's new TCP/IQ protocol, which affords a large increase in communication speed (100Mbps rate versus 38.4kbps -- over 2000 times faster!) and the ability to add more components to a network.
Furthermore, Crown announces that TCP/IQ has successfully been integrated into the present CobraNet digital network. This means that IQ components incorporating CobraNet now have a single network connection containing both bi-directional digital audio as well as bi-directional control and monitoring information for the amplifier and its related IQ functions.
In light of these developments, Crown has created a new PC software interface known as IQwic, short for IQ Windows Intelligent Control. Aside from supporting both TCP/IQ Ethernet and CobraNet, IQwic offers all of the features and functionality of the most recent IQ for Windows v5.1 software -- including its 'drag and drop' methodology -- then adds to it a new 'system view', which not only shows the products and their performance, but product interconnections as well, including easy CobraNet audio signal routing between products. Like Crown's previous software offerings, IQwic is available for free download to users via the IQ website, www.iqaudiosystems.com.
Jim Stembel, Crown International marketing director for networking and touring, is quick to point out that IQwic will support IQ2 and older products just as well as the new ones. "Crown is firmly committed to supporting its legacy install base," he says. "If someone already has Com-Tech 10 Series or Macro-Tech 02 Series amplifiers in an installation and wants to add CTs Series with TCP/IQ to a new wing, the IQ Network has a gateway in place that will consolidate the two different technology platforms so they appear within IQwic as one system. It's completely seamless to the installer or operator."
In addition to IQwic, three new amplifier modules incorporating Crown's new TCP/IQ protocol are being announced. The most basic of the three, the IQ-PIP-Lite, allows for network control and monitoring of analog audio. Equipped with 10 internal presets, the module boasts Crown's Smart Amp feature set, which includes energy-saving auto-standby mode, an input compressor and four output limiters -- peak voltage, average power, clip eliminator and thermal limiter. Real-time speaker load monitoring and comprehensive system error reporting are also included, as is an AC Line Voltage Monitor when used with Crown's new CTs Series amplifiers. Connectors include RJ45 Ethernet jacks for 100Mbps communication, an amplifier output audio listen bus, and both input and output auxiliary ports. The Lite is also backwards compatible in that it can function in standard PIP1 amplifiers by utilizing Crown's USP2 Adapter. And certainly one of the most noteworthy things about the IQ-PIP-Lite is its price, which retails for significantly less than the IQ-PIP-SMT and IQ-PIP-MEM, making it Crown's most affordable IQ-PIP module available.
The second new module, the IQ-PIP-USP3, incorporates all of the Lite's features then adds extensive DSP capabilities, even more so than its predecessor, the IQ-PIP-USP2. Taking advantage of Analog Devices' SHARC floating-point processor chip (providing well over 1500dB of internal dynamic range!), the USP3 uses the same critically acclaimed filters found in Crown's popular IQ-USM 810 digital mixer/processor/router and offers a total of 64 assignable filters (versus only eight per channel on the USP2). A generous 2.1 seconds of signal delay per channel (instead of 600ms) is now available in 20 microsecond increments. Furthermore, the USP3 is equipped with a variety of useful signal generators, including pink and white noise, adjustable sine wave and dual uncorrelated generators for noise masking.
"The USP3 is truly exciting because it offers blazingly fast speed, sonically superior filters and enhanced DSP functions, yet it is basically the same price as our popular USP2," notes Stembel.
Lastly, the IQ-PIP-USP3/CN builds upon the USP3 by offering CobraNet connectivity. On the CN version, two RJ45 connections (one primary and one secondary) are used to bi-directionally deliver TCP/IQ, CobraNet audio and the CobraNet Listen Bus all over the same Cat5 cable. Unlike its predecessor, the USP2/CN, the USP3/CN module is additionally equipped with two balanced analog inputs, as well as a choice of automatic input configurations, including analog override, CobraNet override, analog input only mode, and analog to CobraNet audio network. As with the USP3, retail pricing on the USP3/CN is very close to that of the USP2/CN.
Significantly, all three of these new modules are loaded with their own TCP/IP stacks, separate from the CobraNet TCP/IP stacks, which allows for direct Internet connectivity without a computer. According to Stembel, "Just as an example, by using this type of setup, a restaurant or retail environment could have nothing but audio products in its rack hooked to an Internet switching router. With no computer on site, the system would be virtually tamper-proof. Meanwhile, the installer could have secure access to the system from anywhere around the world via the Internet. This is a huge step in audio connectivity."