Calrec Broadens Networking Horizon With New Compact I/O Expansion Units

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At the 2015 NAB Show Calrec announced two compact aluminum expansion units that can be used to expand and distribute a Hydra2 network.

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The new Fieldbox range of small-format I/O units brings the advantages of Calrec's Hydra2 stagebox to rugged environments and areas where rack space is at a premium. These 1U half-rack units are ideally suited for work in outside broadcast environments where I/O need to be spread over a large area, such as at a golf course. Fieldboxes can be located and distributed exactly where they are needed using just two high-capacity network cables for full redundancy. This setup allows for significant savings on rigging time and cabling costs, and it also reduces cable storage and transport.

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The locational flexibility goes even further, as the units can be powered not only by an AC feed, but also by an industry-standard battery pack. Minimizing the distance that analog cable mic level signals are carried reduces the noise and interference picked up, improving overall audio performance.

"Fieldbox applications are not limited to outside broadcast; they can benefit any fixed or temporary installation where a small number of analog inputs and/or outputs is required in a specific location, such as in small studios, voice-over booths, and control rooms for monitor feeds," said Calrec Product Manager Peter Walker. "The Fieldbox functions just like any other Hydra2 I/O box, providing remote control over input settings that utilize Hydra2's sophisticated sharing, protection, and access management system, along with active status monitoring and a backup Hydra2 network connection."

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To add even further distribution flexibility to a Hydra2 network, Calrec has also developed the H2Hub. Like the Fieldbox, the H2Hub uses the same compact form factor to provide a hub or switch point for a Hydra2 network. A single connection from the router can then be switched via the H2Hub to multiple I/O units, or to multiple H2Hubs if further I/O distribution is required. The H2Hub's connection and distribution options make them ideal for forming ad hoc networks, especially when combined with Fieldboxes and other Calrec I/O infrastructure.

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"Most significantly, the Fieldbox has been designed to support future audio-over-IP connectivity for use with shared IP networks," Walker adds. "AoIP is a hot topic at the moment, but committing to a single format at this time is a real risk for our client base. We have integrated into the Fieldbox design the functionality to insert an optional AoIP subcard. This will allow our clients to upgrade to an AoIP format in the future and still have access to all the protections built into the Calrec protocol. At this time we are talking with several manufacturers about this development and future-proofing our clients' I/O investment."

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