Alcons SentinelAlcons has announced Sentinel, a range of amplified loudspeaker controllers tailored to match the requirements of its pro-ribbon loudspeaker systems.

Sentinel emerged from calibrated listening tests between the company’s ALC series of amplified loudspeaker controllers and products from leading amplifier brands. ‘We compared sound quality on stereo imaging, depth, width and resolution,’ says Alcons co-founder Tom Back. ‘Most people in the pro audio world would think that each amplifier of a given rating is the same, but we found that there are large differences between each model and the various technologies used.

‘Of course, we did further testing on output, thermal behaviour, user interface, integrated processing platforms and serviceability, which also revealed lot of differences. Overall, with such high-resolution transducer technology as Alcons pro-ribbon, the differences were too big for us to ignore.’

Rather than striking an OEM agreement with an existing amplifier manufacturer, Alcons developed a proprietary platform to meet the demands of professional audio use. Sentinel features 4-inpuy/4-output input matrix routing, with internal 96kHz sampling – custom sample-rate conversion accepts signals from 44.1kHz to 192kHz digital AES3 format. The future-upgradable powerful DSP engine enables minimal latency during processing of complex (IIR, FIR) algorithms.

DSP features include parametric equaliser (including shelf, notch, high/low-pass) and delay per channel, factory presets for all Alcons systems and configurations. The ‘linear’ preset enables Sentinel to be used with third-party loudspeakers, while maintaining full DSP functionality.

The four independent class-D amplifier stages and two redundant switch-mode power supplies all have a microcontroller, allowing all parameters to be monitored and guided via the internal communication network. This means maximum operating efficiency (even with one power supply shut down) and extensive status/application logging can be maintained at all times. The modular construction not only facilitates future hardware upgrades for more powerful processors but also offers easy ‘in-the-field’ servicing, bringing potential downtime to an absolute minimum.

Signal Integrity Sensing (SIS) circuit dynamically compensates impedance effects in long speaker cables and connectors, resulting in a tight sub and bass response, matching the fast transient response of the pro-ribbon mid-high frequency reproduction. This circuit doesn’t require any manual presetting, but operates dynamically, on SIS prewired systems.

Sentinel is operated by a Linux-based main controller, through a large, intuitive colour 480 x 272 pixel TFT touchscreen and RGD-LED rotary encoder. Remote control requirements are served by ALControl, Alcons’ proprietary ALC control software protocol, to control individual or clusters of Sentinels, to be operated from both Mac and PC platforms; Also control from mobile devices is possible through a VNC app. Spare module slots and two RJ45 connectors enable optional audio-over-network control.

‘The main focus in the development of the Sentinel range was to obtain an “audiophile-grade” signal path and a surplus of headroom under any circumstance, to get the maximum performance out of Alcons sound systems,’ says Back. ‘It is designed to offer the highest possible sound quality and most realistic sound experience, at any sound pressure level, in any application.

‘It has meant that our R&D path took longer than the ‘short cut’ of an OEM agreement, but it has definitely paid off. We can truly say that the combination of Alcons sound systems and the Sentinel platform raises the bar for maximum obtainable sound quality in sound reinforcement. It sets new standards of hi-fi sound at concert SPLs. And, most importantly, it’s a future-proof investment.’


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