AMS Neve Logic 3 Review

AMS-Neve Logic3 image
FIELD TEST: AMS Neve Logic 3

Digital Production System

By Mel Lambert

The AMS Neve Logic 3 Digital Production System packs a remarkable amount of mixing and processing power into a minimum amount of space. Designed for smaller-format mix-to-picture and multimedia facilities, the Logic 3 will accommodate up to 32 input sources routing to eight output busses, four stereo auxiliary sends, plus master stereo or surround-sound outputs. Full four-band parametric EQ, two-stage filters, compressors, limiters and expander/gates are provided on every signal path.

   Like other members of AMS-Neve's Logic Series of all-digital consoles, the smallest member of the family utilizes a high degree of assignability to present the appropriate controlling element to the user, dependent upon the particular function to be manipulated. And, as with the larger-frame Logic 1 and Logic 2 digital systems, the L3 comes complete with an AudioFile hard-disk editor/recorder, which can be supplied in eight-, 16- or 24-track configurations, with optional removable MO-based drive capability. Existing AudioFile user can also add a Logic 3 console to their systems.

   In its smallest configuration, the Logic 3's control surface comprises a 9U by 19-inch wide chassis, into which have been located a central, high-resolution color TFT screen; various assignable Logicator controls for implemented EQ, dynamics and other system changes; a bank of four, assignable moving faders to the right; and a small array of monitoring and related controls. The familiar AudioFile display and controller can be placed to either side of the L3 surface, and linked to it via a high-speed TAXI connection.

   The Logic 3's main processor rack can be remotely located in a central machine room, for example. The DSP rack can be populated with various 16/20-bit A-to-D cards, plus AES/EBU, SDIF and MADI-format I/Os to accommodate different sources and destinations. D-to-A output cards in both 16/20-bit topologies are also available. Insert points can also be set up to feed external analog/digital hardware. The entire L3 system can be referenced to a sampling rate of either 44.1 or 48 kHz, with 10% varispeed.

   Also provided via AudioFile is full transport control of outboard audio and video decks, using conventional 9-pin serial or networked ES-Bus protocols; up to five audio or video transport can be connected directly to an L3 system. All signal processing implemented by the Logic 3 console and companion AudioFile editor/recorder is carried out entirely within the digital domain, using 32-bit floating point arithmetic. Critical areas, such as equalization, are processed in double-precision format.
 

Flexible System Configurations
In reality, the Logic 3 comprises a pool of digital signal-processing resources that are allocated by the user to physical front-panel controls, and then utilized to perform automated mixing, equalization, dynamics and related functions. Using AMS-Neve's extremely powerful Desk Designer software, the user if free to develop a kind of "Erector Set" model of the required console configuration. Dependent upon the amount of DSP cards loaded into the L3 mainframe, a total of 32 full-equipped mono inputs (or 16 stereo) can be generated, routing simultaneously to eight group/record busses, four stereo aux sends, and a stereo feed. Channels and groups can be set up as mono or stereo signal paths, the latter being equipped with AB/MS switching and width controls. Physical inputs and outputs- analog and/or digital, the latter is various species of I/O format- are then mapped to the selected front-panel signal path. Ingenuity personified.

   All configurations, including the sequence in which system elements are linked together within a channel strip, for example, can be stored to hard disk, for later recall by the system. In fact, since all of the front-panel console settings can be retained as events tagged to timecode, they can be easily re-assigned to another section of the console as necessary.

   Incidentally, all automation data generated by an L3 console is fully compatible with larger-format L1 and L2 systems; obviously channels would need to be re-assigned to accommodate a larger or smaller mainframe configuration, but the paradigm is valid. (In this way, for example, smaller editorial suites equipped with L3s might be used to develop music, effects of dialog pre-dubs, which can then be seamlessly laid up to a Logic 1/2 being used for a master mix-to-picture session.)

   Having "built" the required console within Desk Designer, the L3 displays the result within its central, high-definition color screen. Here, a lower section shows the fader position of the first 16 input channels, together with the in/out status of EQ, dynamics, insert point and other circuit elements, pan and routing to the aux sends, buss outputs and main L/R stereo busses. The remaining 16 mono channels- if that is the current configuration- can be viewed within the window simply by pressing a bank-switch button. A system option enables the stereo outputs to be augmented by a full LCRS panning array, for more complex mix-to-picture and related multichannel applications.

Usefully, each channel strip is identified by both its channel number (1 thru the maximum of 32 mono paths), plus a four-digit user-programmable label. While more alphanumeric digits would have been useful, it's not too great of a linguistic handicap.

Above the main TFT color screen are located the controls that form the heart of the Logic 3's assignable design. A bank of 16 Logicator knobs feature a ring of miniature LEDs mounted beneath the control that shine up through transparent bezels. Each continuous control is brightly lit, and can easily be seen from a distance. Logicators can be called from a channel or group, and set to display the current system settings, including EQ, dynamics and other functions. The system takes less time to master than it does to describe; rest assured that any engineer that has used a conventional console, and can select the appropriate SEL button, can be up and running in the minimum of time. A remarkable development

   Between the Logicator bank and the various monitor controls are twin bargraph displays that show the main stereo output, plus a second assigned signal. Meter ballistics can be set for PPM, VU or peak-reading. Small, four-segment meters located just above each fader serve as signal-present and clip indicators.

   The parametric EQ section comprises up to four-bands of equalization, plus two bands of filter. EQ is continuously variable from 12 Hz to 20 kHz, with low-shelf, high-shelf, notch or bell response in each band. Q/bandwidth is variable from 0.1 to 10; cut/boost is 24 dB. Precise values of each control are also displayed on a companion alpha-numeric window. I found the L3's EQ to be very smooth and warm sounding. I soon discovered, however, that I was calling for a lot less EQ that I might have used on an analog console, simply because I could zero in on the frequency of interest, or add a gentle bell-shaped curve. The built-in dynamics section offers a separate expander/gate and compressor per signal path, dependent upon the initial user set ups.

 

Assignable Moving Faders
Despite the fact that the standard L3 configuration offers just four assignable moving faders, this is nothing of a handicap. (And if more fader elements are required, AMS Neve offers optional four-fader "sidecars" with PFL speaker; up to three of these units can be added to provide a total of 16 assignable faders.) A series of dedicated buttons to the right of the color screen enable banks of four input channels to be assigned to the physical faders, or group busses in sets of four. In addition, inputs or outputs can be locked to a selected fader position, and retained while the others are re-assigned as required. It's a very flexible system and, once again, a way of working that takes only minutes to master.

   In operation, the Logic 3's timecode-based automation is very easy to set up and implement. The normal array of read, write, update, isolate and trim mode selections are offered; building a mix piecemeal and then refining it dynamically is a snap. As with snapshot automation, all fader, mute and other dynamic moves are fully memorized to a sub-frame accuracy, and can be recalled from the system's hard drive. (Long-term archiving is to conventional 8 mm Exabyte.)

  I could write a tome on the powerful AudioFile, but let's just say that it does just about everything that one might expect from a seasoned, industry-proven random-access editor. (I would not have expected less from an Emmy Award-winning design.) Available in eight-track increments up to 24 tracks, AudioFile is very intuitive to use, and features one of the best sounding scrub editors that I've yet encountered; just like analog tape, you gain a real sense of the material being auditioned, and can zero in very quickly to the precise edit location. The normal arsenal of crossfade profiles and labeling is offered by AudioFile.

 

In a Nutshell
   The Logic 3's compact dimensions belie its creative power. While assignable functionality may not be for everyone, there can be no denying that the L3 Digital Production System packs a lot of powerful mixing and processing functionality into a table-top layout. My only minor complains would be that I'd like to see a break in the front-panel surface so that the assignable Logicators, metering and monitor-select section would be at a slight angle to the screen and fader bank. Although this would improve visibility from a central position. I can live with the current manifestation. Also, additional color coding would be useful, to help more clearly delineate sections of the surface, and also different Logicator roles. (The same function could be achieved via multi-colored LEDs in the various readout windows, but these- unfortunately- would be far too expensive!)

All in all, the Logic 3 and companion AudioFile represents excellent value for money for the growing number of small- and medium-size post or multimedia facilities that are looking for a simple-to-use, yet great sounding mix-to-picture systems that also offers full editing functionality. It's a great buy!

2017 Media&Marketing. All Rights Reserved. Last revised: 03.29.17