AEQ CrossNET, Kroma’s digital intercom
AEQ is one of those manufacturers that, at least in the European market -and most especially, in the Spanish market- have always been there, offering quality audio systems. It started off with robust ISDN codecs and, ever since they acquired Kroma, it is a reliable manufacturer of communication systems. We are now fortunate enough to test the CrossNET system, a proposal for Intercom over IP from Kroma by AEQ.
Lab test perfomed by Yeray Alfageme
More specifically, we tested:
– A CrossNET matrix.
– TP8000 series panels: – One TP8416 desktop panel; One panel for 1 TP8116 rack unit.
– An Xplorer beltpack and its accessories.
– The Crossmaper software.
All this interconnected with standard IT equipment: one Ethernet Netgear switch featuring 24 ports -of which only 4 were used- and a Cisco Wifi AP. Because this functionality -i.e. not having to rely on specific equipment or infrastructure to interconnect systems- is really useful and makes it much easier to deploy the system within an already existing IT infrastructure.
CrossNET is a compact intercom matrix, one rack unit in height, with basic connectivity through IP based on DanteTM technology that supports the new AES67 standard, for transport of high-quality audio suitable for broadcast.
Furthermore, it comes with high-quality balanced analogue audio and includes support for Kroma’s legacy IP panels and interfaces featuring phone-bandwidth compressed audio, as well as for Kroma panels with digital audio link.
Thanks to its scalability -from a 40 x 40 system to a 168 x 168 system- Crossnet offers a wide range of external connections: analogue ports, digital ports, DanteTM AoIP and low binary rate IP. Integration of such a wide range of connections within the same unit allows users to reduce the external equipment needed.
The matrix is available in the following versions:
– CrossNET 40: 8 Kroma digital intercom ports, 12 broadcast-quality balanced-audio analogue ports and 20 compressed-audio IP ports.
– CrossNET 72: DanteTM IP Interface featuring 32 ports, 8 Kroma digital intercom ports, 12 broadcast-quality balanced-audio analogue ports and 20 compressed-audio IP ports.
– CrossNET 104: DanteTM IP Interface featuring 64 ports, 8 Kroma digital intercom ports, 12 broadcast-quality balanced-audio analogue ports and 20 compressed-audio IP ports.
– CrossNET 136: DanteTM IP Interface featuring 96 ports, 8 Kroma digital intercom ports, 12 broadcast-quality balanced-audio analogue ports and 20 compressed-audio IP ports.
– CrossNET 168: DanteTM IP Interface featuring 128 ports, 8 Kroma digital intercom ports, 12 broadcast-quality balanced-audio analogue ports and 20 compressed-audio IP ports.
TP8000 series panels
All panels in this series work with digital audio at 48 kHz and 24 bits, an audio quality that is much higher than previous analogue matrices, this making it possible to use the system to convey broadcast audio through them, all this compatible to DanteTM and AES67.
Both panels, the TP8416 desktop and the TP8116 of one rack unit, have 16 customizable keys in 4 different pages. They feature individual volume control for each communication point. Echo cancelling and built-in DSP. They also have a dual AoIP Dante port, a VoIP port, a digital port and an analogue port. The information is presented on a two-line backlit display, which has an additional line for indication of audio level at the crosspoint.
This beltpack is based on WiFi technology. You only need to link it to the wireless network where the matrix is connected and it will automatically load the configuration corresponding to its port and crosspoints. Using standard WiFi technology sometimes leads one to think that delay in communications will be an excessive one, but in this case you cannot tell the difference between panels connected through Ethernet and the WiFi beltpack.
We have 4 shortcut keys arranged on pages, another two customizable keys and a multipurpose screen. It can work either associated to an intercom matrix or as a Party-Line terminal. The device’s user interface, somewhat simple, provides everything that is needed to configure and access to all the functions offered by the beltpack, which is more similar to a full panel than a simple beltpack, as it was in analogue versions.
Its plastic-based build may seem little robust, but the behaviour of the interface and keys is correct and pressing a key by mistake or access an incorrect menu are not possible. The reach of the beltpack is the typical one in 2.4 GHz WiFi networks, something to be expected as it just uses this technology to communicate with the matrix.
Crossmapper control software
It is a tool featuring an intuitive user interface and powerful configuration possibilities. Through this piece of software we can get access to configuration, supervision and monitoring of our entire system.
Crossmapper software for PC facilitates set-up of Kroma’s intercom systems by means of an intuitive user interface.
The user has an easy access to the configuration of each terminal in the system, with different options for each key, as well as additional functions such as groups, phone dialling, IFBs, etc.
Once created, the map can be loaded on any of the 8 memory slots in the matrix via an Ethernet port or by using the USB port on the front and being activated without interrupting the ongoing communications in a seamless way for users. Crossmapper also allows supervising the status of each communication and terminal at all times, as well as consulting a complete event log afterwards.
Configurable audio levels
Kroma intercom matrices provide independent control of input and output gains, as well as the audio level for each audio source’s crosspoint. Thus, offsetting differences in audio levels for various devices, users, etc. becomes a very simple task.
The matrices support both calls and dialling within the basic telephone network, ISDN or GSM (SIM card). The only thing required is to include a box system and the adequate interface cards. Thus, Crossmapper enables assigning a telephone number to a certain key in order to dial and receive calls from said user in a quick fashion.
Thanks to Crossmapper’s Groups menu, several users can be grouped in such a way that it will be possible to establish communication with all of them at the same time, modifying their audio levels, etc., but always keeping individual control for each one of them.
By means of Crossmapper’s intuitive graphic interface, configuring destination of each key, communication type (one-way or two-way, between third parties, etc.), the operation of the relevant key (latch, push-to-talk or mixed) and audio levels of the ports concerned, are all very simple tasks.
Interrupted Foldbacks (IFBs) are assigned crosspoints that get interrupted by an event: an incoming call, an outgoing call, from a third party, etc. The system offers various possibilities for IFB implemented on the matrix and configured by the Crossmapper software. The different modes include from a full interruption, up to varying attenuation levels for the audio signals involved.
IFBs can be used with any device connected to the system and no additional hardware is required for implemeting this function.
The CrossNET system is really easy to configure. Based on standard IT technology and capable of interconnecting by using universal equipment, including a WiFi access point for wireless systems, it provides remarkable ease of use and a really fast installation procedure.
Within its range of prices and quality, even comparable to much higher-budget systems, it is a solution to be seriously considered in m mid-size production environments in which the basis will be based on pre-existing IT infrastructure.