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Two Screen Beauty

The beauty of having two screens not only gives you more channels to view at any one time, but it allows you to utilise one as a setup or master screen, while still operating with the other. You are always looking in the same location, whatever function you have highlighted.

S21: Rewriting the Rule Book

40 flexi-channels

That makes an equivalent of 80 Digital Signal Processing (DSP) channels.

Equivalent of 46 buses

16 x stereo (32), stereo Master (2), solo buses (2 stereo, 4 total), and 10 x 8 Matrix (8)

96kHz as standard

Plus, with proprietory Stealth Digital Processing and as with the SD9, there is no reduction in audio processing.

Now that Prolight+Sound is over for another year, British console manufacturer DiGiCo would like to set the record straight and thank all those that visited their booth at the exhibition.

“With the S21, we wanted to re-write the rulebook. To test the conclusions we previewed at Prolight+Sound without publishing or unlocking the full software potential, or even the intended release specifications,” says DiGiCo’s managing director, James Gordon.

This different approach makes perfect sense when you take on-board that the core of S21 is DiGiCo’s Stealth Digital Processing. This FPGA based technology is the key that unlocks the flexibility that the R&D designers need to specify and deliver the ultimate console. This has been demonstrated to existing clients, as every console in the SD range has benefited from complimentary advancements in core processing and software since their launch. 

“We wanted to design an entry level console that retained all the features and values DiGiCo is known for in terms of quality, ergonomics and style, and one we could be truly proud of at a price point that allows even more audio engineers to join the DiGiCo family. In fact, that was the condition John Stadius put on his design team. It is also why the console has been hidden in development for close to three years,” confirms James.

When you walk up to the console you can instantly tell it is a full member of the DiGiCo stable. The build quality and design takes on all DiGiCo’s core values such as aluminium extrusions, RGB switch encoders with HTL (Hidden Til Lit), Polycarbonate overlays and two large multi touch screens that allow the operator to get an unrivalled overview of what is at their finger tips.

“The challenge we faced in R&D was providing a true pro ‘high-end’ console at the desired price point,” John Stadius adds. “The brief we got was very strict, we had to develop a console that gave the operator all the sensations they would get when stood behind the SD7.

“This requirement really motivated the team and S21 is the result. The worksurface design speaks for itself, but in terms of audio, you have the same FPGA algorithms as the SD7 and the Mic Pre design is lifted from the 192kHz SD-Rack. The audio statistics on this console are very much high end; it should surprise a lot of new to DiGiCo engineers. Oh, and its 96kHz with no processing limitations from day one like all the other DiGiCo consoles. As I said, no compromises were allowed!”

Here's what you get:

  • 96kHz as standard
  • 24 mic line inputs
  • 12 analogue outs
  • 2 AES I/O (mono)
  • Word Clock I/O
  • 1 GPI and 1 GPO
  • DVI out (for an external monitor)
  • 2 DMI Card slots (up to 64 I/O per slot)
  • 2 Ethernet connections for Networking
  • 2 x 24 segment master/solo meters
  • Touch sensitive rotaries with integrated switch & HTL
  • 2 x multi-touch screens
  • 21 x touch sensitive moving faders
  • 4 x layers of banks of 10 faders
  • Customisable bank and channel layout
  • Snapshots
  • Integrated USB2 Audio I/O interface for recording and playback of up to 48 channels 40 x Input flex-channels Mono/Stereo (equivalent of 80 DSP channels)
  • 46 busses: 16 x flexi-busses Mono/Stereo (equivalent of 32 DSP busses), Stereo Master (2), Solo busses (2 stereo, 4 total), and 10 x 8 Matrix (8)
  • 10 x Control Groups
  • 1 x Compressor per channel and buss
  • 1 x Gate per channel and buss (switchable to ducker, or compressor with side chain access)
  • 16 x assignable 32 band Graphic EQs
  • 8 x FX engines (reverbs, delays, w/modulation and enhancer)
  • 4 x assignable DiGiTuBes
  • 4 x assignable Multiband Comps
  • User definable Macros
  • An extremely high power headphone amplifier with 1/4 inch and mini jack socket

DiGiCo’s belief in audio quality and road worthy mechanical design has limited their ability to release an affordable introductory product. These values have required the same pioneering approach to design, not to follow the trend but to deliver the flagship for a price point - and change expectations. DiGiCo’s S21 does exactly that. By using new, lower cost FPGA components programmed with the same audio algorithms, and combined with a new form of control processor, DiGiCo is able to deliver the S21 with the fundamental technological values at it’s core. Running in harmony with the FPGA core is a new ARM QuadCore RISC processor. Delivering faster processing with lower power consumption, this efficient tool, combined with the audio core, has allowed the development of a cost effective console worthy of carrying the DiGiCo brand to existing and new owners and users.

How to make the step

To date, it has been the Tiger SHARC controlling the FPGA, but integrating these three technologies, along with networking capabilities, was a brand new challenge. Using the high power QuadCore SoC, associated with high bandwidth memory, S21 connects to a low power 484-ball array FPGA which in turn connects to fourth generation control SHARC DSP, capable of not only controlling the FPGA, but offering the potential for additional processing in the future. The compact footprint of the S21 has no relationship to the scale of processing power going on under the polycarbonate worksurface.

Two Touch Screens

Touch screens are now part of our daily lives, but if you go back to our digital beginnings, DiGiCo incorporated them in designs as long ago as 1997. Continuing their integration, with the advantages of speed of control and user feedback, meant that S21 had to bend the rules again. We utilised the latest P-CAP multi-touch screens for clear visual feedback and gesture control, but also did not limit the user to a single screen - by providing multiple multi-touch screens!
The compact dual screen design of S21 provides 10 channel strips per screen allowing the operator instant feedback and control on 20 simultaneous channels. This amount of instantaneous feedback offers total reassurance when mixing large shows, but the newly designed drag, swipe and drop channel layout system makes it simple for operators to move channels and busses across the surface to design their own custom fader layouts.
Whatever function you are using, there is an interactive meter where you would expect it, and helpful colour coding so you know which section you’re looking at, be it channel, aux, or group.
Visual feedback is all reinforced with the HTL functionality of the encoder rings, and anything not in use is automatically greyed out on the console so operator’s attention is drawn to the right controls.
The beauty of having two screens not only gives you more channels to view at any one time, but it allows you to utilise one as a setup or master screen, while still operating with the other. You are always looking in the same location, whatever function you have highlighted.
Touch the EQ screen, and you can choose to pinch, touch and drag your curves on the touch screen, or for a more tactile experience, use the rotary encoders to fine-tune your frequencies, then press to change function or switch on/off. It’s the same philosophy for all other processing functions within the console.
The new look screen designs are all developed under the flat designs philosophy, to aid the user learning curve and take away distraction from an operator. These new designs will still be familiar to existing DiGiCo users, but allow new operators to feel at home and ready to take advantage of the wealth of integrated processing.
Channel Bank Layout: as with all DiGiCo products, you can alter where the banks are located, and mix and match any channel, aux, group, control group, or matrix within a bank, with the ease of drag and drop, at the touch of a screen.

Redefining Industry Expectations

As an audio engineer, when you first stand in front of a S21, it looks and feels remarkably inviting. You want to touch and control the audio. This level of connection with the audio sources and their manipulation is something the worlds leading audio engineers experience when they harness the powerful SD7. From the aerospace graded aluminium extrusion, the durable polycarbonate overlays, the RGB LED Hidden To Lit technology coupled with touch sensitive faders / encoders and integrated LED light bar, you know it’s a DiGiCo before you turn the PA on. The S21 redefines industry expectations at its price point.

The FPGA Revolution

Since our inception in 2002, we at DiGiCo have always tried to think outside the box. We were the first manufacturer ever to use TFT touch screens; and from day one, we opted to use FPGA technology over DSP, which has been instrumental in our SD Series playing a pivotal role in eight of the top ten grossing tours of 2014.

S21 : Gallery

More images will appear here soon. Check back regularly.

S21 : Internet Chatter


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