(click thumbnail)Wheatstone's Vorsis AP3 processor sat in the lobby for a day or two before I could get some space cleared on both my calendar and my desk to fiddle with it. I remember picking up the box it came in and thinking the company must have sent me a power supply to one of their Generation series consoles. The thing was heavy. I got it unpacked and immediately noticed the construction; it maintains its weight in a stylish way.
The Vorsis AP3 is a 1 RU chassis with a front face that exceeds the width of the box terminating in rack-mounting ears. I was pleased to see that rack-mounting has returned to being a priority to designers at an early stage of development as opposed to an add-on kit that directs the user to "remove four cover screws and bolt on the ears if you to want to rack mount it," which can leave the unit sagging into the rack under the weight of the wires.
Stations can use the processor for HD processing, or general signal processing of audio sources that are mic, line or digital AES. The Vorsis AP3 also can be used in postproduction.
I probably would have built the Vorsis in a two rack unit chassis, allowing the end user a little more space. The front panel is a bit cozy, however the button size helps alleviate this. The back panel also is rather crowded. I had to reach around the back of a processor a few times while working in the dark. Having the connectors spread out more would be helpful.
The left-hand side of the front panel is dedicated to six separate, multicolored LED displays. Above and beyond these displays are four bright blue LEDs showing the limiting status of each output and the expander of each channel.
To the test
Product CapsuleThumbs Up
Multicolored LED displays
Factory presets; vocal preset, in particular
16 back-panel connectors; 7 XLR
A 2 RU chassis might give the user more space
Tight front-, rear-panel real estate
Contact: Wheatstone in North Carolina at (252) 638-7000 or visit www.wheatstone.com
As I played with the unit into the late afternoon, I became aware of a developing problem down the hall in our control room. We were doing our normal three-market afternoon talk show from a chicken shack someplace, and the POTS codec was having trouble maintaining a connection at a decent rate.
I was informed that the POTS codec had stabilized, but at such a low connection rate the audio was really bad and centered at about 2 kHz. We still had about two-and-a-half hours left to go, and hanging up and re-dialing to start the whole reinitializing process again seemed stupid.
During the next commercial break I used two microphone cables out of the remote kit to insert the Vorsis AP3 into the signal path between the output of the POTS codec and the input to my distribution amplifiers. I selected Preset 19: Vocals, one of the 21 already programmed, ready to use factory presets - a nice touch - by pressing the front panel Presets button and rotating the knob below the alphanumeric preset display window.
I asked for a line check from the remote and was pleased by the immediate change in the audio and let them back into the show. My cell phone rang within 20 seconds of the show resuming. It was the operations manager of my sister stations; he was at the remote and witnessing the low connection rate listening to the remote on his station in his car. He asked if we had reconnected at a higher rate. I told him what I had done, explaining that I had only connected two mic cables and pushed a button.
Pleased with the possibilities of improving it even farther, I began to teach myself the Vorsis AP3 while live on the air. I stepped through the factory presets while passing audio through the unit and settled on one that I liked even better - Preset 21, VOX-M, a vocal preset that did a fine job of allowing me to roll off some of the frequencies I had too many of, creating the effect that I had more of the frequencies I wish I had.
As for how it sounded? I was not able to notice any measurable audio differences from input to output while bypassing the processing, nor was I able to destroy my input audio at the output while pretending not to understand the settings or features it offers. The presets get you going right away, and you can start to tailor your sound as you become more familiar with the unit.
I was pleased with the magnitude of control the software offers a user of the Vorsis. In seconds, my trusty, beater Dell Latitude had become interfaced to every adjustable setting on the thing. I could change the screens from Input - where I could change from mic to line to AES, flip the phase of either or both inputs, set the pre-emphasis, select mono or stereo - to the Filter screen where I could diddle with a low- and high-pass filter with an adjustable notch.
The Expander screen activates when a signal falls below a predetermined level. It had a Hang adjustment I liked a lot. This gave me some wiggle room between opening and closing the expander. There are individual screens and control settings for the De-esser, Parametric Equalizer, Compressor, Output and System sections of the unit.
The System screen allows you to select 44.1 or 48 kHz sample rates in addition to a one-click "auto follow" feature I could have used a month ago on a console install. It also offers the ability to derive dual mono, stereo from A or stereo from B, from the inputs.
The back panel is neatly laid out and has, counting the AC EII power connector, 16 connectors. Seven of them are XLR. Two of these are the mic/line analog inputs and each has a tiny green LED next to it to display the status of the front panel selectable input level. The AES input is available not only on an XLR but also an RJ-45 making it seem easy to connect to a facility-wide router system.
The closest thing I have to a router is the 4PDT relay in my air chain for the EAS. I was not able to play with this. The Vorsis is at home on an Ethernet network and impressed me with the ease at which I found it on our network. The outputs are XLR as well; analog channel 1 & 2 as well as two separate AES outputs.
Wheatstone has a multifunctional Vorsis site that lets visitors download the brochure on the AP3 for more information. Visit www.vorsis.com/brochures.html.