EXCLUSIVE: The official launch of EAW's long-awaited UMX.96 digital live console has come one step closer with the news that the desk is to head out on its first major road expedition next month. In development for four years and originally announced to the trade in 2005, the console represents the first fruition of the loudspeaker manufacturer's ambitious plan to achieve "complete control" of the signal chain, writes David Davies.
Possessing a digital mixing engine that supports up to 104 inputs and 44 outputs, the UMX.96 is billed as the first digital live console with integrated loudspeaker system processing. In addition to reducing the requirements for external audio routing, the 3 x 12 integrated system processor employs EAW-designed EQ, crossover, delay and limiter algorithms, and can be fed from any output mix.
While initial production models possess 48 mic pres, a planned expansion chassis will allow for up to 96 channels. The specification also includes the first console integration of SmaartLive audio measurement and calibration software, an Intelligent Encoder control with adaptive feel and a 15-inch high-resolution touch screen display.
Bar a one-off appearance with '80s pop-rock band Foreigner in Washington earlier this year, however, the console has been conspicuously absent from the world's stages since its preview at AES in October 2005. So, to put it bluntly, what's taken so long?
"It's an incredible learning curve to produce something like this - it's a very complex product - and we wanted to get it right," says Martyn 'Ferrit' Rowe, who joined EAW in March to support the UMX.96 and contribute to the company's training programmes after 30 years on the road as a monitor engineer and system tech. "I've noticed that with a lot of consoles that get put out, the people who buy them are almost like unpaid beta testers. We wanted to make sure the thing was ready and could do everything we said it could before we released it."
While an official release date has yet to be confirmed, the first two complete production models are expected to arrive at EAW's Whitinsville HQ in early autumn, so hopes are high for a console that Ferrit believes will go "head to head with [Yamaha's] PM5D".
Prior to an official roll-out, however, there will be an opportunity to glimpse the UMX.96 on Foreigner's latest US tour. According to Ferrit, the band's FOH engineer, Don Dodge, specified the console having been "very impressed" with its performance at the one-off show in March.
See the August issue of PSNE for more on the UMX.96 and other current developments at EAW.
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