Whirlwind Brings Pro-Quality Sound Mixing to Multi-Room Venues with MPM4 Zone Mixer Using 32-Bit SHARC®

Whirlwind has been in the professional audio business since 1975, making its start by building the highest quality cabling for electric guitars and moving to stage and house sound cabling, preamps and mixers and most recently to professional digital sound distribution. Its products sell under the Whirlwind, US Audio and E Sys brands to distinguish the cabling, analog and digital solutions that it now builds. Whirlwind has built its reputation and its business in the last 30 years and now has major installations worldwide at venues such as the 1988 Seoul Olympics, major Las Vegas, casinos, theaters and resorts and the Weis Center for Performing Arts at Bucknell University. Whirlwind has a core belief in providing the highest quality in all of their products. This lead them to produce their own cable and connectors for audio cords, build their own PCBs for electronic gear and when it came time to select a DSP for their latest digital audio mixer, SHARC was at the top of the list.

"SHARC's 32-bit floating point performance and development tools sold us on the adoption of SHARC DSP for the MPM4. Our experience in quickly completing a design that meets the high quality standards that define a Whirlwind product confirms for us that SHARC is the hands-down leader in professional audio signal processing."
- Michael Laiacona,
President, Whirlwind

The MPM4 is a new digital mixing and paging system for up to 4 rooms (or zones). It incorporates 4 stereo inputs that can be routed to the zones and 4 priority input s that can be used for paging, etc. and will override the programmed selection. Remote control panels in each of the zones can select the source and set volume for the zone. Typical applications are in professional offices, restaurants, hotels, etc.

Mixing it Up: From Analog to Digital
The MPM4 is the first all digital zone mixer from Whirlwind. Previous products relied on an analog signal path. The move to digital mixing has allowed Whirlwind to increase the number of zones served by the mixer, increased the amount of equalization that can be applied to the signal for each room, and simplifies the design and operation of the entire system. The MPM4 is also easy to set up. It has a simple user interface and does not require a computer for setup or operation.

Performance and Development Tools Make the Difference
The Whirlwind engineers were familiar with the SHARC brand from its use in many professional and consumer audio applications, but had not worked with SHARC in the past. They knew that a floating point approach to the solution would eliminate many intermediate scaling issues in the design. They were struck by the 32 bit floating point performance that SHARC provided and very impressed by the development tools available for audio engineers. The development team made use of Visual Audio 2.6 and VisualDSP++ which greatly reduced the development schedule. They credit the availability of standard audio modules, a platform based development approach, and integrated development, debug, and profiling capabilities for the efficient development. Whirlwind is using the SHARC 21262 to handle the entire audio path. It is performing equalization, mixing, routing, and ducking (automatically dropping the main source volume to allow the priority inputs to be heard). SHARC performance was crucial, and the I/O and memory interface provided the right hooks for connecting to the systems components. ADI distributor, Avnet, provided field applications support from their local Rochester office to aid in the design. After this development experience, the team is definitely planning to use SHARC in future digital mixer designs.

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