Widgets Magazine

Crestron’s Entry into DSP

Editor’s note: This is our first review at AVNation. As such, the process of reviewing products may evolve over time as we get better and more systematic. Also, Crestron is an underwriter of AVNation.
At InfoComm 2016 Crestron introduced their entry into the world of digital signal processing (DSP) with their Avia line. It was something they had been hinting at for a few years. With the roll out of Avia Crestron enters into a select group of companies that integrators can go to for virtually every aspect of a commercial installation except for the display. They have products for control, video processing, speakers, amplifiers, and now DSP. I had the chance to review an Avia. These are my thoughts.
The Box
It may seem silly, but I’ll start with the actual box. It’s a well-made piece of hardware, only single rack unit. The models vary in their I/O (input/output) configuration from 8×6 to 12×8. If the line goes well, I would like to see the product expand to offer variable card placements. This would inevitably mean a bigger box to accommodate the cards. For the flexibility, most designers would give up a rack unit or two of space.
The Software
The Avia Audio Tool Software is a standalone software used to design and configure the DSP processing going on inside the box. I mention the independent part as some of Crestron’s software tools have lived inside the Toolbox environment. This does not.
You have the option of tying into a box through the network or USB or starting/editing a DSP file untethered. The DSP layout is a fixed DSP system with gain, EQ, compression, and AEC (on the appropriate channels). The interface is relatively simple to get around. They overcome the restrictions of a fixed architecture with the use of various Aux Sends. This allows you to add more processing to a signal or group of signals.
As an example, if you have a group of microphones used in a conferencing setting. Most of the time there would some form of gate used on those mics so as not to allow unnecessary noise to go down the line when no one was talking. The most efficient way to accomplish this would be to group these together, point that group of mics to an Aux Send and add the gate and other processing to that Aux Send.
The Sound
For this review, I connected the Avia to an existing house of worship sound system with EV speakers and Crown amplifiers that were already in place. The inputs we used were two Sennheiser wireless microphones and an electric guitar running through a DI box.
At first, we flattened the sound and, as you would expect, it wasn’t great. This is to be expected mainly because most rooms need some form of processing. After adjusting the EQ response on the outputs and setting some compression to the microphones, the overall sound started to round out. The end product was comparable to the existing processing in the room.
Built in the DSP, we were testing (DSP-1283) was Dante, USB, and phone system. This allows you flexibility when designing a system. You can use the Avia to input professional level audio into a soft codec video conferencing system. Avia also lets you send audio down a Dante system.
There is one trick for those in the Crestron environment that sells the Avia over competing DSPs. That is the ability to convert the DSP I/O into a graphic interface for touch panel creation. Those who create touch panel layout understand that one of the more tedious parts of their jobs is creating VU meters as well as volume and mute controls. With the Avia software, you have the ability to select which channels and what interface you want to send over to the graphics team. You then send them the file and drag and drop those controls and VU meters onto the touch panel file. It will save countless hours of graphic and programming creation.
The Bottom Line
A product line that starts at $2,000 list price the Avia is a good value overall. I am personally not crazy about fixed architecture DSPs. That being said, the Avia could be used by both beginners and seasoned audio programmers. Beginners would most likely find the fixed architecture comforting as they have the signal flow laid out in front of them. Experienced audio engineers will find the options available to them for signal processing familiar. The Avia is well worth taking a look at if you have a fully Crestron system. It keeps everything in the same family.
This is our first review at AVNation TV. We are looking to do more. If you are interested in having one of our AV professionals evaluate your product and/or service, let us know at Press@AVNation.tv

About Author

Tim Albright

Tim Albright is the founder of AVNation and is the driving force behind the AVNation network. He carries the InfoComm CTS, a B.S. from Greenville College and is pursuing an M.S. in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. When not steering the AVNation ship, Tim has spent his career designing systems for churches both large and small, Fortune 500 companies, and education facilities.

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  1. Avatar

    …group of microphones… …conferencing setting… …some form of gate,,,
    Dude, it’s called an automixer. Look it up. https://crestron.com/downloads/pdf/product_misc/avia_dsp_amix_configuration_notes.pdf
    Your advice, “group these together, point that group of mics to an Aux Send and add the gate and other processing to that Aux Send.” is ridiculous, wrong, and shows a complete lack of understanding of both conference rooms generally and Avia specifically.

    • Tim Albright

      Dan, thank you for the comment. You are correct, an automixer would do the same thing. I was attempting to point out how to get around the fixed architecture of the Avia software. In retrospect, a differnt example should have been used.

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