Intercoms & Talkbacks Update

  • With David Kirk

Intercoms & Talkbacks Update

Contributing Editor David Kirk highlights the latest developments from the manufacturers of broadcast communications technology...

Intercoms and talkbacks are the glue which allows broadcast production staff to operate as a co-ordinated team, almost regardless of location. This short overview provides an update of developments in this vital area over the past six months including new products and services introduced at the September 2023 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam. Most significant trends are the accelerating adoption of IP networking - no surprise there - and a gradually increasing number of subscription-based offerings. 

AEQ’s XPeak intercom system supports up to 28 user terminals in desktop, rack, wired beltpack, wireless beltpack, and PC configurations. These can be connected to each other without need for a matrix. The stationary terminals have eight four-way lever keys, with two functions per lever, and individual level regulation on the key itself. The beltpacks have four keys. Wired user terminals also have Bluetooth and USB connections. The system is complemented by the XPEAK_IF interface which provides analog, digital USB and AoIP AES67/Dante connectivity. Internet-based automatic remote connection is available. Each terminal automatically communicates via a service installed in the cloud.

Also recently introduced by AEQ are the TP9116 range of intercom user panels, supporting up to 190 ports on the company’s Crossnet and up to 1,000 ports on the Conexia. Each panel has 16 four-way lever keys with two functions per lever, in addition to individual level regulation in the key itself. Talk and Listen functions and individual volume control are provided for each communication point, controlled using a 4-way lever key. 16 cross-stitch keys on four pages can be used to manage up to 64 destinations or groups. Other features include AES67 and Audinate Dante IP audio connectivity, low bit-rate voice, three-band equalisation, echo cancellation, background noise reduction, automatic voice levelling plus an internal 1 kHz and pink noise generator. Processing profiles can be created and stored. Clear-Com has introduced version 13.1 configuration software for the Eclipse HX Digital Matrix.

“EHX 13.1 allows role-based logins, streamlining configuration and enabling users to quickly move from device to device,” says Simon Browne, Vice President of Product Management.

“System administrators can set a single key to contact a user regardless of the device they are logged on, saving the effort of having to configure several keys when a user moves between several devices during a production."

"The user experience is greatly improved by a simplified login to whichever endpoint device is closest at hand, using keys that allowing ‘follow-me’ operation. Clear-Com continues development around the ST2110-30 standard with NMOS IS-04 and IS-05 being added to EHX 13.1. IS-04 relates to the discovery and registration of devices on a network. IS-05 handles device connection and management. EHX 13.1 additionally supports our new 2X10 20-key IP-based panel that provides a desktop option for Eclipse HX users.”

Comrex's EarShot IFB is a hardware-based system that delivers live audio feeds to callers. It is designed to provide telephone-based live studio content and IFB audio to field-based remote broadcasts. Up to 30 callers can dial in and listen to the audio feeds - this makes it possible to replace up to 30 POTS lines with one simple box.

EarShot IFB has four audio inputs. Two of the feeds can alternatively be configured as IFB inputs. Up to 30 callers can dial in and listen using standard telephones.

LaON’s Genie is a matrix-free digital IP intercom system designed for use in broadcast studios, outside broadcast television productions or wherever high quality audio communications are required. Systems of various sizes can be configured from elements comprising a base station, IP key panel, IP remote antenna, IP repeater, IP belt-pack, line router, WAN link, 5 GHz wireless belt-pack and 5 GHz IFB receiver. IP or wireless systems can be configured to function together or separately.

Genie supports up to 128 IP key panel or IP belt-pack connections, and 128 wireless belt-pack connections with 70 full-duplex communication channels from a single BS1000 base station. It is a daisy-chain PoE scalable solution for use with up to 66 remote antennas or repeaters, facilitating connection across an entire studio, stadium and theatre. LaON's GCM software provides the tools needed to perform system configuration and management.
Genie can be operated in the 5 GHz UNII band for wireless communication, accommodating up to 29 RF channels on one link.

Radio Active Designs’ SPX-1 headset “works great with our RAD belt packs in any environment but particularly during events that have extremely high noise levels,” says James Stoffo, CTO. “Communications during music awards shows, concerts and sporting events can be extremely challenging due to high SPL.” The SPX-1 has dynamic microphone on a flexible mount which can be configured for left or right ear use. The dynamic speaker unit offers an impedance of 200 Ω, frequency range of 150-6,000Hz, and 106 dB maximum SPL. A flip-up boom switch automatically turns the microphone on when in the horizontal position and off when vertical.

Riedel Communications’ Bolero 2.4 GHz operates on the 2.4 GHz band Instead of Bolero’s standard DECT band. The 2.4 GHz iteration is intended for use in regions where DECT carrier frequencies are either limited or unavailable, such as China, India and South Korea. Bolero 2.4 GHz has a feature set which is practically identical to the DECT version, including the same three network modes: Integrated, Standalone Link and Standalone 2110 (AES67). The 2.4 GHz band limits use to eight beltpacks per antenna instead of 10 but allows connectivity anywhere with just one ‘global’ region for 2.4 GHz antennas. “Having won both the DECT Award and Red Dot Award, the Bolero system has shown itself to be highly intelligible, efficient and resistant to multipath reflections” says Wolfgang Fritz, Senior Product Manager. “Now, compared with other 2.4 GHz wireless intercoms, Bolero 2.4 GHz has double the operational range and supports more than twice the number of belt packs per antenna. “The 2.4 GHz iteration comes with Bolero’s high clarity voice codec and its unrivalled multipath tolerant receiver technology adapted to 2.4 GHz, allowing the system to continuously adapt to changing RF reflection environments. With near-field communication (NFC) touch-and-go beltpack registration; an ergonomic, robust beltpack design; and three modes as beltpack, desktop key panel, or walkie-talkie, Bolero 2.4 GHz is just as easy to use, sleek, and versatile.”

RTS’ DSPK-4 digital speaker station is an IP-based version of the company’s wired analog speaker station predecessor. “The latest addition to the RTS Digital Partyline product lineup, it features several key enhancements such as high-quality digital audio, Power Over Ethernet and hybrid IP/digital/analog functionality,” comments Nico Lewis, Senior Sales Manager. “Using standard Ethernet connection, the DSPK-4 interfaces with a range of working environments and is available in desktop, flush-mount and wall-mount versions. The DSPK4 has a full-colour TFT display and an icon-based menu interface which allow local configuration to match customer preferences. RTS has also introduced a feature set specifically designed for SMPTE ST 2110 operation. “Our KP-Series keypanels, ODIN matrices and OMI (Omneo matrix interface cards) now ship 'hardware ready' to facilitate glitch-free operation. A call light function for Odin and OMS (Omneo Main Station) which is compatible with the latest third-party supplier call lights has been implemented for the theatre and entertainment industry.”

Telos’ Infinity IP Intercom “leverages the full potential of a distributed AoIP infrastructure for internal communication or contribution audio,” says Martin Dyster, VP of Business Development. “Its matrix-free design and distributed DSP architecture offer a quantum leap in scalability, ease of integration, and efficiency. Part of the Telos Infinity family, it delivers sophisticated comms virtually to any computer, tablet, or smartphone and can be hosted on-premises or in the cloud, while the VIP App for iOS and Android turns any smartphone into an Infinity panel. Infinity VIP is the first fully featured cloud-based intercom. It opens up a whole new world of virtual communication workflows, meets the demands of today’s remote workforce, and brings the benefits of virtualization to our customers in a meaningful way.”

Unity Intercom describes its production intercom system as being designed to run on devices that you already own. Self-hosted and cloud-hosted versions are available. The self-hosted version runs on the customer’s Apple Mac, supporting up to 128 party-line channels and three groups. Licences are permanent. The cloud-hosted version is managed on Unity Intercom’s servers on a weekly or monthly subscription basis. Six party-line channels can be shared by a user group. The service can be accessed via a Wi-Fi or cellular network. The system can also be used to carry broadcast.