In this Focus On, thanks to the support of Luca Cilloni (Product Specialist libra TT+ RCF) we’re going to take a look the new features of the RdNet software, part of a system for the remote supervision and management of loudspeakers for professional sound reinforcement from RCF. RdNet is now in version 2.0 and has been developed entirely by RCF‘s R&D department, and can be used with almost all TT+ professional products.
RdNet at a glance:
The RdNet 2.0 platform is made up of three essential elements. The first is the RdNet control RdNet software, which, together with the firmware for all the systems supported and the firmware of the Control 2 e Control 8 interface, are the main parts of the software. A second element is the ‘union’ of the hardware, or the Control2 and Control8 interfaces that enable the software to dialogue with the third – diagnostic and controlled – element, the loudspeaker.
The ‘core’ is therefore represented by the visual software running in nativeWindows environment and series of dedicated Hardware, both stand alone as well as installed directly in the RCF loudspeakers.
Communication takes places by means of Cat5 cables in “daisy chain” mode, starting with a network cable; from a port of the controller to the “Data Input” port of the first device, then leading from the “Data Link” port to the second device, and from there connecting to the following device up to a maximum of 32 devices per channel. The RS-485 communications standard was chosen for data communication, with its high reliability and stability that enable to send out and receive data using a simple XLR cable.
Just to avoid any misunderstandings, we should remember that the system does not transmit digital audio signals and, therefore, the performance of the RS-485 connected to the transmission speed has no effect at all.
Once cabling has been completed, the software identifies the position occupied by each device in the network and assigns a unique identifier to each of them. This process takes place completely automatically and, once scanning has finished, the devices are shown exactly how they are connected to each other.
When the network has been created we can access the base window of the software, which is clear and immediate in its use. The classic controls, such as GAIN, EQ, DELAY etc. are displayed in an equally unequivocal and familiar graphic design, thus not needing a lot of specific training to use. The numerous operations that are possible with this software are described in the users manual.
The RdNet interfaces are the connection point between RdNet software and the loudspeaker systems to be controlled. There are 2 different types of interface: the first with two communication ports and the second with eight.
RdNet Control2 is a self-powered USB interface with two ports, each of which can handle up to 32 devices, controlling a maximum of 64 loudspeakers at the same time. Control2 is powered directly by a computer USB port computer and does not need any external power supply. Each Control2 can be connected to a computer.
RdNet Control8 is, on the other hand, is a USB/Ethernet interface in rack 19” 1HE format with 8 ports. In this case too it can manage up to 32 devices, controlling up to a total of 256 at the same time. A Control8 can also be connected to the computer if a USB port is used, or up to 20 Control8 per computer if the Ethernet port is used with a switch. The simultaneous connection of Control8 e Control2 on the same computer cannot be carried out.
What and how:
RdNet 2.0 enables to control each single function of each single device connected to the network. After the set-up phase, which can take place completely automatically as we have seen (the software recognises the devices that are connected to the network), you can intervene on the different parameters of the user interface of RdNet that provides an intuitive graphic reproduction of the real layout of the speakers.
The sensors installed on each speaker enable to obtain live information such as the level of the incoming signals, situation of internal amplifiers, working temperature and, in the case of the TTL55, information regarding inclination thanks to the inclinometer that these speakers have. Other functions can be controlled by the software enabling to operate directly on each speaker or on groups of speakers, thus facilitating and speeding up any actions to be carried out.
Features include eight filters that can be selected by the user (which can become 8PEQ, or high pass, low pass, shelving), MUTE functions, entrance level and Delay to enable the alignment of the speakers.
One of the strong points of the system is certainly the possibility provided by the software to simplify some operations thanks to “Groups” of speakers previously allocated. This means that a series of commands can be to the groups as well as the application of functions that make some operations automatic that would, without these functions, need to be done one speaker at a time.
With this in mind, for example, “Curve” and “Tilt” functions are the most interesting ones. They enable to curve electronically – more precisely simulate via electronics – the physical curve of a horizontal (Curve) and vertical (Tilt) array of subwoofers the same distance from each other in order to control the emission pattern on the horizontal and vertical plane.
At the same time, parameters such as MUTE, EQ, Gain, Delay, Polarity… are easy to control and apply to the groups of speakers.
We spent an afternoon with Luca Cilloni studying RdNet 2.0 which, as first impression, seemed to be an extremely intuitive system. More specifically, it is its ease of use that makes it suitable for diverse types of use, without being daunting to even the least experienced users.
The more experienced users, on the other hand, could say that the more ‘advanced’ functions are, in a certain sense, excluded with this system. The truth, as Luca confirmed, is that RdNet does not aim at substituting dedicated signal process hardware but has been created and developed for the optimization of a system for high level sound broadcast.
RdNet is, in fact, a system for the control and management of speakers of RCF‘s pro series and which can, alone, offer a series of really interesting and powerful utilities both for normal users as well as for more advanced operators, but does not have any problems in working side by side and cooperating with other dedicated machines being used in the sector for some years now (Galileo, Lake, XTA just to name a few).
The possibility offered by the ‘top-level’ system of the professional series, the TTL55, is truly sophisticated and useful, which, thanks to the on-board inclinometer, provides information on the inclination of each single speaker, really useful on installation and optimization of the system. The next step – speaking theoretically – could be the the digital transport of audio signals, maybe using in part the architecture of the network already used for the RdNet, and so completing RCF’s already attractive offer of systems.
But really this is not so easy to do (the communications protocol has nothing to do with the transmission of digital audio) but on the other hand the final cost of the product is still one of the most competitive on the market in terms of price/performance ratio.
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