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Author Topic: The Whirlwind AES Qbox  (Read 15956 times)

Ken Freeman

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The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« on: July 17, 2007, 08:05:17 pm »

The Digital Q Box

Okay, it was a month that it sat on my desk before I got it out and started seeing how this device shakes out. Mine came without a manual, so as I often do, I'll just started plugging it into things to see what happens…. I have a few shows coming up where I will be using digital console and amplifiers that have AES inputs, so that will be a place to check this puppy out.

Physical:  The construction is robust, the case is made from real metal (Honest) and has all of the critical bits recessed into the front face or protected by the handle.  I like that.  It runs on either four AA batteries or remote power supply.

The Whirlwind AES Qbox has a few more controls, lights and knobs that the typical cue box as this is a digital device.  It appears to take in both balanced and unbalanced AES on XLR and BNC style connections.  The BNC’s appear to be compatible with the RCA SPDIF outputs from most pro-sumer CD and DVD players when they are outputting a standard stereo stream.  I am not sure what happens when they see an AC-3 multi channel signal.  That we will test too.

On the face is a few new fun function knobs like MODE, speaker selection, which I presume to listen to the different channels in the AES stream. There is an on board speaker and a mic in the front panel.  The speaker has a volume control and the mic…well I guess we will have to figure that one out.

Things I don’t know but want to find out:

Can I leave the device in my AES pathway without degrading the signal?
What happens if the batteries run out when I do this?  If I use the supplied wall wart power supply, can I create a ground hum?
Will it generate a signal that I can put into my Crown I-Tech amps when I have them running using the AES inputs?

More in a bit as we discover this cool new tool.

Kenindex.php/fa/10179/0/
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Phil LaDue

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2007, 08:57:30 pm »

This is an official Road Test?

Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2007, 10:06:38 pm »

To the best of my knowledge, yes.  I will not try to break it as the nice folks at Whirlwind might want it back, or I might want to keep it....

Ken Freeman
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Brian Bolly

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2007, 10:17:41 am »

Ken,

Add to your list of questions:

1) How long does a set of batteries last?
2) If I leave it in the signal chain, does it add (any significant) delay?

I'm about to pony up the cash to get one of these things for a couple upcoming stadium installs and I'm curious about how well it does.

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Al Keltz - Whirlwind

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2007, 04:56:32 pm »

Hi Ken,

I believe you got the prototype from our NAB Booth so no manual. The manual is available here:

http://www.whirlwindusa.com/ftp/Blackbox/manuals/aesqboxman. pdf

I'm forwarding your questions to the design engineer here and will report back soon.

- Al
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Al Keltz - Whirlwind
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Al Keltz - Whirlwind

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2007, 05:49:30 pm »

Here's what the guys with the bits and bytes have given me so far. I'll just give some operational details and leave the real world testing to you guys.

- Al

---------------------------

"The BNC’s appear to be compatible with the RCA SPDIF outputs from most pro-sumer CD and DVD players when they are outputting a standard stereo stream."
The LED showing sample rate received should be steady ON for a pro bitstream signal and flash when detecting consumer bitstream.

"I am not sure what happens when they see an AC-3 multi channel signal."
A flashing FAULT LED should indicate when the unit is locked to a non-standard PCM signal.

"Can I leave the device in my AES pathway without degrading the signal?"
The signal is input to the digital receiver, decoded, fed to both the digital-to-analog converter and the digital transmitter, and re-broadcast without passing through the analog domain. (Data is unchanged.)

"What happens if the batteries run out when I do this?"
Signal stops.

"If I use the supplied wall wart power supply, can I create a ground hum?"
The unit uses a switching power supply that should prevent that.

"If I leave it in the signal chain, does it add (any significant) delay?"
The short answer is a few microseconds.
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Al Keltz - Whirlwind
800 733-9473, x140
alk@whirlwindusa.com

Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2007, 07:28:37 pm »

Thanks Al,

I like being on the cutting edge!

Ken
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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...The plan
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2007, 01:17:09 pm »

Okay…So what’s it do and why do you need it?   Thanks again Al for the updates and info on what this product is supposed to do.  The manual may help if we get stuck. I will try to address the questions I have posed and received as we are using this in our upcoming projects.

Here is my design for an upcoming show that I will load in on this coming Monday.  We are driving this with a Yamaha PM-5D RH and using a mixed bag of our JBL Vertec 4888’s and JBL VRX 932’s.  I am driving the front VRX systems with Crown I-Tech 6000’s and will try to use the AES output on the console connected to the amps to do the business.  I will use the Whirlwind AES Qbox to assist in checking this out and making sure that my system is delivering the goods. As this is a fairly involved system, we will not have a lot of time to play with toys, which is a much better test of how something like the AES Qbox will work in the field for you when you cross the digital divide.

Ken

Edit: Title


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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Update from Comic Con
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2007, 01:48:25 pm »

Okay, the first show was kind of a bust.  Turns out that I can’t drive 500 feet of AES down an analog snake and expect it to work.  Having the Whirlwind AES Qbox made checking that out quick. We switched to the standard analog outputs and everything works fine, with the exception that I have no less than 4 Analog to Digital flops in my signal chain.  I was hoping to eliminate a few of these by moving my audio signal in the digital realm.  I did use the AES Qbox with a single piece of mic cable and I have no problem shipping Digital program 25, 50 or even 100 feet from the PM-5D RH, but it did not want to go 500 feet in the drive snake.  Thankfully I had the Q box to make quick time of sorting this out.  More in a bit.

Ken
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Michael 'Bink' Knowles

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Update from Comic Con
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2007, 03:13:00 pm »

Flop for you this time but the AES QBox means you save lots of pain and grief and wasted hours onsite trying to make it all work.

As far as multiple A/D/A/D/A conversions... it is what it is.  Razz
At least it's not the Audio Purists From Hell convention.  Laughing

-Bink
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Andy Peters

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Update from Comic Con
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2007, 04:10:21 pm »

Ken Freeman wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 10:48

Okay, the first show was kind of a bust.  Turns out that I can?t drive 500 feet of AES down an analog snake and expect it to work.


Ah, yeah.  You should be able to go 500' or more no sweat with proper 110-ohm cable.

-a
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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Update from Comic Con
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2007, 05:15:00 pm »

Andy Peters wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 13:10

Ken Freeman wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 10:48

Okay, the first show was kind of a bust.  Turns out that I can?t drive 500 feet of AES down an analog snake and expect it to work.


Ah, yeah.  You should be able to go 500' or more no sweat with proper 110-ohm cable.

-a


I knew that I was pushing it...when we started the project, I had my delay amp racks at FOH and all of about 25 feet away....Then they sort of moved after the pre-rig team ran all the speaker cables to the backstage area.  It was worth a shot, but it sure was handy to find out from the AES Qbox that there was no Sync.

Ken
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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Audio Purists From Hell convention
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2007, 10:10:05 pm »

Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 12:13


At least it's not the Audio Purists From Hell convention.  Laughing


That show is early next year.  I'll have to see if you are available to come down for that one.

Ken
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Michael 'Bink' Knowles

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox...Audio Purists From Hell convention
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2007, 01:55:16 am »

Ken Freeman wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 19:10

Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sat, 28 July 2007 12:13


At least it's not the Audio Purists From Hell convention.  Laughing


That show is early next year.  I'll have to see if you are available to come down for that one.

Ken



Ouch! If you're game, I'm game.   Shocked  

-Bink
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Michael 'Bink' Knowles
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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2007, 08:13:11 pm »

So, a few weeks later after running up a few more thousand miles on the soon to be useless frequent flyer programs, we are back in the shop for some serious shop tests with the AES Q-Box.  I had one of the PM-5D’s fired up for an upcoming show and thought I would pass a few bits through it and see how it behaves.  As you can see, it spits out the bit rate info.  Here is how I set it up for the run through.  I have put some labels on things that are hidden around the side of the device or ones that can mess you up.  The channel switch is my new favorite because there is no digital cross talk.  You can run one side into full clip and the second is very quiet...until you flip the switch and the headphones try to jump off your skull....Ouch.

index.php/fa/10770/0/

Ken

Edit: Grammer
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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2007, 05:24:09 pm »

Here we are aqain  I switched the output from the 5D from 96K to 48K.  The screen is a little fuzzy...might be the operator and too much Pete's Coffee this afternoon, but the AES Qbox grabbed it right away as noted by the 48K light on the top of the picture.

The AES Qbox would be pretty handy as a tool to see if maybe the A-1 is asleep at the wheel and might not have the configured the console correctly when it comes to directly interfacing outboard gear using AES I/O.  Never had that happen?  Yeah...

Ken

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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox: Next stop.
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2007, 10:57:58 pm »

Next stop for the AES Qbox on tour is Boston.  I have a large industrial project with some big wig talent and a mix of DigiCo, Yamaha and Meyer Digital hardware.

Ken

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Ken Freeman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox: Skipping this stop.
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2007, 12:52:45 am »

Yep,

A show for AARP in Boston.  A good sized one at that.  Talent included Tony Bennett, Earth Wind and Fire and the incomparable Rod Stewart.  My plans for an all digital drive fell apart when one of the acts insisted upon a PA that only had analog inputs.   Digital Cue box back into the work box...

More later.

Ken
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Nicolas Lowman

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Re: The Whirlwind AES Qbox: Skipping this stop.
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2008, 02:19:20 pm »

Hi Ken,

I have enjoyed your thoughts on the AES qbox. I was looking at one when they first came out as we were playing with some digital drive. I haven't been doing much in the way of digital interface lately, however I figure the day will come fairly soon when I am. When the day comes I reckon I will be burning the credit card for this very cool toy. A comment on the itech AES input on the Crown Itech amps, the ones that I have used will read 96K on their input, however they will only pass 48K out the loop out. If memory serves me correctly we would only daisy chain like four at a time. In order to feed more amps the signal would hit a DA as soon as it got to the stage.

How does the headphone output sound on the Qbox? Is it very high quality or is it kind of a utility just to be able to hear what is on the line.
How about the onboard speaker? Is it pretty good or similar to the analog Qbox?

Another digital question I have is, how can you tell if you are on the very edge of being a stable signal. Would you have to put the signal on an Oscope? I mean you said it wouldn't lock on a analog cable at 500 feet. What happens if you plugged it in at 300 feet and it locked but it was on the verge of barely working? If it sounded fine on the qbox and through the PA, then I would think it would be fine. I wouldn't want to run the PA on a digital drive without knowing that that it is a very solid lock. If you put the signal on a scope, could you see a square clock signal and be able to see rounded edges when the signal gets a little shaky? This would be useful information to be able to check wordclock cable integrity as well. I haven't had to put a monitor and foh console on the same wordclock yet, but I figure the day is coming. I would definitely want to be able to make sure that I had a good solid clock on that.

Does anybody know of a good book or reference on AES and wordclock distribution? Much as I hate to admit these things are going to affect us all. There are many questions that it would be good to the know the answer to like.
Do you ever need to terminate an AES connection?
How far can you send an AES signal on 110 ohm cable? 500' 1000'?
How far can it reliably travel down an analog snake?
I have also heard that some AES devices output will better than others?
There are similar questions for the wordclock. Imagine if you had FOH and MON both slaved to a masterclock, if that clock isn't completely stable it could nuke everything. It is a very frightening thought. I could see a show with a digital console on both ends of the snake being synced along with a Protools playback system that is interfaced via AES as well. It may not be common right now but we will face it. Whoever it teching something like that in a touring situation better have his stuff together for sure.

Sorry if this got a little off the topic of the Whirlwind device, guess I tangent a lot. If I should post this in the main forum instead I can.

Nicolas

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