Ross Video Fuels R&D with Help from Audio Precision
"AP Analyzers are the world's best measuring tool - the gold standard in audio." - Mike Pala, Hardware Architect, Ross Video
Written by: Kevin Young
Since 1974 Canada’s Ross Video has offered a wide range of smart production solutions to power video productions that serve billions of daily viewers across the world. Ross Video equipment assists with virtually every application imaginable in the creation of content for Broadcast.
Ross Video is not only respected as a designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art video equipment. From the company’s early days led by founder John Ross, they were producing high end audio equipment and were one of Audio Precision’s very first Canadian customers back in the late 1980s.
Even so, the recent purchase of three Audio Precision (AP) audio analyzers in one year is an unusually substantial investment, says Geoff Maurice of GerrAudio, Audio Precision’s Canadian distributor. “Typically, the lifespan of AP's instruments can be fifteen to twenty years. There’s no reason to change them unless there are new features that are required, so it’s common to see one analyzer purchased in a given year, but not three.”
The purchase of two APx585Bs and one APx525 unit (both with the Advanced Digital IO option) was made owing to Ross Video’s growth and the expansion of both the products they offer and functionality they provide.
“It’s certainly not because our previous units aren’t functioning” explains Ross Video Hardware Architect, Mike Pala. “The thing about Audio Precision is that their products are too good. We still have analyzers we’ve used for 20 plus years." Consequently, Pala and Ross have a great deal of experience with AP products. “They're the world’s best measuring tool – the gold standard in audio”
It was Ross Video’s acquisition of an Ottawa-based company, which has since become part of the Ross Connectivity Team, combined with Ross’ increasing focus on the addition of advanced audio tools to their products that drove this most recent purchase, he continues: “they brought a lot of audio, Audio over IP, and AES67 expertise, and they’re now focused on audio products; specifically, throwdown boxes for converting analog or AES audio to AES67 and vice versa, that support multiple channels. We bought the eight-channel APx585B Flex Audio Analyzer units for them so the Connectivity Team can run eight audio channels from our product into the AP unit and analyze them all in one fell swoop. That’s very useful for them.”
Ensuring that the audio technology created by Ross Video conforms to the most stringent audio specifications is critical for the broadcast industry. “AP’s analyzers are our go-to tool to help us identify problem areas, improve those things, and verify the performance we expect,” Pala adds. “Ross is getting a lot more serious about audio and we’re now producing standalone audio products, not just products that are integrated with our video offerings. Although we are still doing that as well.”
As an example of that focus, Pala cites the upcoming 2021 release of Ross Video’s Ultrimix-MXR Software Enabled Virtual Audio Mixer, and the software's incorporation into their Ultrix Routers - the ‘first software-enabled audio mixer in a router platform’.
Essentially, Ultrimix-MXR is a virtual audio mixer that will offer unparalleled flexibility for audio workflow, providing a 4-band parametric EQ, noise gate, and compressor/limiter for each input on the router. Additionally, Ultrimix-MXR boasts 128 direct outputs for simple audio processing as a standard feature and can be added to any Ultrix frame.
As for the APx525, Pala continues: “As a matter of fact, that unit is sitting next to me right now. And I’ve been very active using it on this project. I’m using the APx525 because I don’t need the multi-channel functionality or testing speed that Ross Connectivity does. My needs are pretty specific. Basically, we’ve developed our own audio EQ, which is what I’m working on. Now, how good an EQ sounds, is very subjective, but having the AP analyzer to measure the accuracy of our filters and contrast that with filters from other manufacturers has been invaluable in the development cycle. I can’t stress enough how important this tool has been. We couldn’t have done what we have without Audio Precision.”
Given the new features recent iterations of Audio Precision’s analyzers offer, you might think some of the older units Ross has would have been ‘retired’. “They have not,” Pala says, emphatically. “They’re still very much in use. We have R&D labs all over the world, including one in my basement now that we’re all home because of Covid. But we also manufacture the products we design, so we still use older Audio Precision analyzers like the System TWO for testing in our manufacturing plants, particularly for our legacy products.”
Like Audio Precision’s analyzers, Ross Video’s offerings tend to be exceptionally long-lived. “Honestly, it seems that every time we try to kill off a product, we get an order for one,” Pala says, laughing.
Although Pala hadn’t worked with GerrAudio for some years before joining Ross Video in 2002, he's always respected them as being a leader in high-end audio. "The professionalism of everyone I’ve ever dealt with there has always been excellent.”
That said, “when it comes to the AP analyzers, we don’t typically have trouble with them, so we don’t have to bother GerrAudio much for service or support. Other than the odd time our APs require routine calibration, we’ve had very few issues over the years because Audio Precision's gear just works.”
While there are other products available that provide similar functionality, that's not good enough for Pala. “Some are less expensive, but any time I send out a screenshot or a graph with that little AP logo in the corner, nobody questions it. Other manufacturers just don’t have the brand recognition and reputation that Audio Precision has. Secondly, with the suite of tools AP offers, we can get our job done more quickly. Besides, even if we were to bring in an analyzer from some other manufacturer, we’d just have to measure it against an Audio Precision unit anyway. Why waste time on that? Just buy the box you know will work.”