The best innovators constantly ask themselves: “This is good — how do we make it great?” That’s been true of Crestron’s products, and some terrific examples of that idea in action can be found in the audio department. Never ones to be complacent (since we’ve learned, after all, that “good is the enemy of great”), the team behind sound delivery has been improving preamps, amps, and speakers — and developing state-of-the-art digital signal processing.
That brings us to a recent Crestron offering: Certified Audio Profiles.
“We know that dealers are trying to give our customers the maximum return on every audio product they buy, but they have limited time to do so,” says Ekin Binal, Crestron’s director of product management (AV solutions). To that end, Binal and his colleagues have overseen the development of several updated Crestron DM NAX™ amplifiers, along with two new speaker lines (built in partnership with Origin Acoustics) designed to make the most out of the power those new amps are pushing. “Our latest amps come with powerful DSPs,” says Binal, “which allow us to improve the frequency response of speakers and also allow us to preset microphone configurations and gain stages to the recommended baseline out of the gate.” Those baselines have been dubbed Crestron Certified Audio Profiles, and they’re available for both Crestron speakers — notably the new Reference and Ultimate lines — and a growing list of third-party products, including microphones.
Before a dealer begins tuning a room, the components themselves need to be optimized, and that’s the function of these profiles. “Surprisingly, no audio product is perfect — even high-end models,” notes Binal. “When you’re designing a speaker, there are always some compromises.” Binal gives the example of a three-way speaker, a product in which each component is responsible for delivering a certain range of frequencies. “The transition of that signal from one component to another requires a crossover, and a DSP allows us to make that transition as optimal as possible,” he says.
Profiles for Both Residential and Commercial Applications
“The profiles are based on speaker brand and model,” Binal explains. “So the Crestron Ultimate IC8 has a separate speaker profile than the Ultimate IC6 or the Reference IC6, and so on.” The Profiles are based on reference distances and ideal conditions to set that optimal baseline. “The goal here is to leverage DSP to make transducers sound as good as possible in a controlled environment, and the dealer can then take it from there,” he adds. But those baseline settings make an impact, says Binal: “You can tell the difference immediately — the speakers really shine once the Profile settings are added.”
Tweaking frequencies is not the only function of the Profiles. “The Profiles take into account the impedance, the power handling, and those other attributes of the speakers, so at least you have a consistent volume output across all the rooms you’re integrating,” says Binal. “That was important for this feature since having level volume in every room reinforces that solid baseline of functions,” he says, noting that the Profiles ensure protection of every speaker since they provide control over the entire system. “The Profile does more than smooth out that response across the curve and deliver the best possible sound out of the component; it’s also putting in protections and limiters.”
It’s important to note that the Profiles are designed for deployment in both residential and commercial settings — hence the need to optimize an ever-broadening array of microphones for unified collaboration solutions. “Mic profiles are important, especially if you're using analog mics,” says Binal. “In many cases, you’ll need to add gain to that microphone for it to work properly. Some have phantom power, some don’t. Some recommend filtering so that you can remove some of the rumble. We don't do any EQ on the mics because we didn't want to change the way a mic sounds. But we do want to ensure that we're creating the proper baseline of gain for the specific mics, and we're collaborating with the mic manufacturers to ensure we preserve the sound signature of every device that is part of the program.”
“We’ve created partnerships with leading microphone and speaker manufacturers,” says Binal. “We have a database that will ultimately be placed alongside our driver portal in the cloud.” As of this writing, microphone partners include Shure, Sennheiser, and Audio-Technica; speaker partners include a growing number of industry leaders, in addition to the profiles created for Crestron products. There’s room for tweaking for various use cases, too: “By default, we generally have one profile per model; it’s up to the speaker partners if they want to create additional profiles for various use cases,” says Binal. “We do have audio profiles outside of this on the DSP amplifiers for jazz, rock, spoken word, or a variety of other content-specific settings.”
Pulling the profiles is a simple process for Crestron dealers and installers, says Binal. “Our integration is super easy through the WebUI — with the ultimate plan to make this no different than our driver portal and a cloud-managed interface.”
The goal here is to save dealers time — an ever more valuable commodity in a landscape where staffing can be challenging in a tightening labor market. “The time you’ll need to invest to get from good audio to great audio is greatly improved,” says Binal. “And that, of course, gives our dealers an opportunity to provide more value to their customers as Crestron integrators.”