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EAW Anya – The new girl comes to town…

Mon, 02 Feb 2015 11:02

EAW Anya
Anya is a self-powered full-range array system from EAW. In some ways Anya is like traditional line array systems, but probably the key point of difference is that vertical coverage is controlled electronically rather than mechanically.

EAW calls this ’Adaptive’ technology, and it can also be found in their Otto subwoofer. For reasons soon to become obvious we didn’t review Anya in-house but instead went up the road for the official launch night.

Each Anya cabinet comprises 14 HF drivers (35mm voicecoil on 1” exit), 6 MF drivers (38mm voicecoil on 5” cone), and 2 LF drivers (4” voicecoil on 15” cone). Each driver is individually amplified and has its own DSP channel with EAW Focusing. That’s a lot of brains and a lot of horsepower.

There’s no specific nominal vertical beam width for each module because it can be whatever you want it to be. Anya can steer sound up or down in the vertical plane through a range of 180 degrees and it does so from a vertical hang. How low down the frequency spectrum you can effectively steer the sound depends on how many modules you employ – just like any other line array it has to obey the laws of physics.

Because the vertical pattern control is done electronically you don’t need gaps in the line source to achieve the result, nor do you need to make any physical changes to the array to modify the coverage. It’s clever. You could theoretically use a single module, but low end steering is more effective with more modules. More modules also gives you higher SPL – see the Resolution 2 plots for single, 3 and 6 modules illustrating vertical steering at 200Hz. Note with the increase in modules not only where the sound is, but also where it isn’t.

Operating range of each cabinet is 35Hz to 18kHz with a nominal horizontal beam width of 70 degrees. The system is scalable in the horizontal plane, so if you add additional columns then each hang covers 60 degrees. Because the hangs are dead vertical and the cabinets are angled at the sides, each hang can physically about the entire length of the adjacent one. This is very exciting, since it drastically reduces the comb filtering you’d encounter when joining ’J’ curved arrays. The result is more consistent audience coverage and smaller interference zones.

All the rigging (bar the fly bracket) is integrated into the cabinets. Push a pin on a box, and rigging tabs extend into the box beneath it. Push a different pin on the lower box to lock into those tabs. It’s simple, fast and there’s limited scope to get it wrong. Up to 18 cabinets can be flown in a single hang with a 10:1 safety factor. The fly bracket can be suspended from one, two, three or four points to accommodate available rigging facilities. The accompanying system power/data distribution rack can be ground-stacked or flown too.

The dolly on which the modules travel is rated to hold an entire stack of 18 boxes in case ‘captain chain motor‘ isn’t paying too much attention at de-rig (whether your stage can hold it is another matter). Ordinarily you’d travel three or four modules per dolly depending on whether you’re using a ramp or forklift to unload the truck. When the system is first powered up, infra-red transceivers on every abutting face to see if any neighboring boxes are present. This information then automatically configures the Resolution 2 software to display the array logically as it exists in the physical world. If too much sunlight or whatever causes a problem with the IR, you can configure the layout manually using internal winky lights on the front of each boxes for identification. Audio inputs include Dante, AES, and for the complete philistines, even analogue. Auto failover is supported between primary and secondary Dante and future firmware releases may see this feature further expanded upon.

Now the cool bit. You’ve got the system in the air, powered, and you can see it all in the software. Now draw the area over which you need coverage and hit the ’go‘ button. Resolution 2 calculates all the necessary control parameters required to achieve this then once you hit ’upload‘ it sends this configuration info to Anya. Anya then steers the sound to exactly where you’ve asked it. It’s pretty subtle about the whole matter too – the coverage just magically shifts with no break in audio or weird noises. You can even modify the coverage mid-show if you need to.

Reading about this is one thing, but actually experiencing it is another thing entirely. The sensation of hearing the PA completely re-steer itself to another part of the venue is almost eerie. There’s also a ’find me‘ function, where you place reference mics at the boundaries of your intended coverage area and leave Anya and Resolution 2 to just figure it out.

Early in the day I was lucky enough to spend some time alone with Anya at the Concert hall in the Concourse at Chatswood – a venue in which I work quite regularly. I’m very used to how the room sounds with the house PA, and I’ve heard it with a several other systems toured in as well. There’s a certain predictable element of confusion inherent to putting amplified sound into a reverberant space designed for acoustic performances. Anya eliminated this by putting the sound only where the audience sits and massively reducing the reverberant field of the space. It’s seriously quite incredible. Coverage is even where you want it, and just stops where it’s supposed to.

It sounds good too. Straight off the bat with no system EQ in place, frequency response is fairly neutral and doesn’t have the shelf type attenuation apparent in the high frequency end of some systems. The system I tested was six cabinets per side, so with 24 x 15” drivers in the air (and another 24 x 21” sub drivers on the deck) I wasn’t game to turn it up as loud as it would go. I don’t think I even really got past idle on the amps, and I was pushing serious level. It’s definitely a serious large format system and I’d suggest the companion Otto adaptive sub will only add to the excitement.

Each Anya cabinet has an internal reference microphone, and this can be used to compare what each box is doing with its stored factory trace information. All this happens inside the box, and if it detects a problem with a driver (impedance, response, whatever) this is logged internally. When the system comes down after a show (or before it goes out), checking each box is as simple as pushing the ’test‘ button on the back. A battery powered circuit lights up the adjacent LED – green for all good or red meaning you need to power up the box and check the logs for a problem.

If you lose a driver mid-show, Resolution 2 will report this and give you the option to ’heal‘ any gap in the coverage caused by the loss. Importantly the system won’t automatically change anything by itself – any change to what it’s doing requires user input. Once the driver is replaced, you can re-calibrate the module’s internally stored traces. Internal sensors inside each Anya cabinet detect movement of the array and will alert the user via Resolution 2 if it’s been tilted.

For all its brains, Anya won’t stop you doing fundamentally stupid things. You still need to point it in the right direction, spec it the right way, power it appropriately and control it correctly. Good underpinning system knowledge is still important. All in all Anya is quite exceptional. It’s a sound system that does exactly what you ask it to. If you’re a great engineer you’ll love it. If you’re a lousy engineer then you’d better prepare some good excuses now, because Anya won’t leave you anywhere to hide.

All of this comes at a premium – at 130kg each, the modules are definitely not lightweight. Any large format line array (Anya sits in the top end price bracket) is a big investment, so value for money counts. Anya gives more of the punters the same sound experience as the mix engineer and I reckon there’s a lot of value in that.

Brand: EAW
Model: Anya
RRP: The system sold as a complete G24 compliment (ie. 24 x boxes plus accessories) is approximately R14 million excl VAT.
Price correct at time of print and subject to change.
Distributor: Surgesound
Product Info:

Review syndicated from CX Magazine.