AIRAURA X3

Most recording engineers and audio pros understand what to do with 31-bands of limiting, EQ, and the other tools in AirAuraX3.
They can create sonic masterpieces that literally make people stand up and pay attention. Or dance. Or weep. Or laugh. Or just get carried away. An increasing number of radio engineers are starting to get it, too.

For you, the best sound on the dial is there to make your own with AirAuraX3. Take your on-air sound way farther than with any other processor on the market. We believe this is the future of audio-for-radio.

And now, with Wheatstone® baseband192 technology, you can inject that incredible signature sound straight into your transmitters digitally. Radio has absolutely never sounded this good.

AirAuraX3 Front

The AirAuraX3 and What It’s All About

Dual wide screen displays give you new ways to visualize your sound for incredible control


Being loud just to be loud is easy. It’s been easy for years. Turning up the volume without causing listener fatigue – that’s the real challenge. X3 technology inside our AirAura delivers that sought-after loudness without ever sounding harsh, clipped, distorted or overdone. It simply sounds real.

The AirAuraX3 spectral audio processor for FM is equipped with processing technologies that simply didn’t exist until now, starting with a new final clipper that creates extremely competitive loudness while also minimizing listener fatigue. Another new technology unique to our third-generation AirAura helps extend perceived stereo coverage, and yet another technology helps hide the annoying coding artifacts that might be present in a station’s stereo source material. AirAuraX3’s incredible dial presence, its three selectable stereo multiplex modulation methods, its ability to help mask coding artifacts, its mitigation of many stereo multipath annoyances as well as its exclusive clipper technology, make it THE processor for on-air FM. 

Dual front panel wide-screen displays show extensive detail about the processor’s operation. In addition to real-time measurement of input, output, and RMS (loudness) output levels, its comprehensive metering also shows all gain reduction activity.

AirAuraX3 accepts audio feeds from three different kinds of sources: Analog, AES3, or WheatNet-IP. AirAuraX3 is WheatNet-IP aware and can be controlled in the same manner as any WheatNet-IP BLADE. Each AirAura input may be configured for automatic failover in the event of an unplanned audio outage. Specialized analysis functions exclusive to Vorsis offer an astonishing overview of input or processed audio. And for ultimate flexibility, AirAura gives you remote processor control via wired Ethernet or integrated WiFi connectivity.

Of course, your music still has that AirAura sound that keeps happy listeners calling with compliments. Add a host of fresh factory presets that take advantage of all the new technology and you’ve got the best processor in ANY market!

AirAura is completely designed and built in Wheatstone’s New Bern, NC USA plant.

 


Features

  • Final clipping technology – very clean and very loud – simultaneously

  • Five-band AGC with Sweet Spot Technology tuning capabilities

  • New codec artifact reduction algorithm helps tame coded stereo source material

  • 31-band limiter algorithms

  • Left/right analog output routing for FM and HD processing

  • Equalizer offers both parametric and Baxandall-style shelving EQ

  • Bass management system with enhanced tuning features

  • High performance stereo generator with DSB and two SSB encoding methods

  • Guru GUI tuning capabilities

  • Advanced analysis features for displaying internal and external signals

  • Comprehensive security features designed for mixed-use sites

  • Post-processed loudness analysis conforms to BS-1770-S standards

  • Preset storage for up to 160 processing presets

  • Analog, digital and WheatNet-IP audio I/O with automatic 'failback to primary'

  • Exclusive stereo multipath controller technology for enhanced stereo reception

  • WheatNet-IP compatible

  •  
  • Remote processor control via wired Ethernet or integrated Wi-Fi connectivity

  • Specialized audio analysis functions for input or processed audio include:

    – 1,024 point FFT

    –Oscilloscope

    –Energy versus Frequency

    –3-D plot of spectral content vs. time

    –Spectral Dynamic Range (a Vorsis exclusive)

    –Display of AirAura's clipper distortion masking activity

  • Wheatstone® baseband192 built in for digital link to transmitter



The Design Concept: Taking a Different Path

Why AirAuraX3 was Designed Differently from Scratch. Meet our Idea Factory...

JeffMikeSteve

‘Status quo. Normal. Fine. Good’ There is a safety in those words that can keep people from trying to be their best. And, for some, exactly what they want is to be as good, or maybe a little better, than someone else. So we politely ask them to leave the room now. With AirAuraX3, we give you a tool set that will let you change things...craft that sound you’ve always heard in your head and KNOW can be had...make a difference. Get your hands and ears around an AirAuraX3 and see what you can do with it. Then look in the mirror and see if there’s not a light bulb floating over your head.

Not coming from the radio processor business gives us a VERY unique perspective. Without a product line or technology to protect, we have the advantage of starting fresh, with our only goal being ultimate audio performance, rather than market share. It’s liberating and rewarding developing a new paradigm instead of having to protect an old one.

Jeff is the senior engineer and is responsible for designing hardware.

Steve Dove is our “Minister of Algorithms’ and has authored the miles of code that the hardware uses to make Vorsis magic.

Mike Erickson is our chief evangelist and sales engineer and constantly has his hand on radio’s pulse.


Jeff: The processor’s overall definition, its hardware capabilities and how the software will function generally comes from me. Mike then provides great input for ways to make the product more user-friendly and he and I collaborate creating presets and testing functionality on many levels. Steve and I are constantly discussing ideas for processing algorithms and we collaborate on turning those ideas into great sound.

Mike: We have a great lab where we can see how our boxes play “on the air” vs. our competitors, but there is nothing like actually GETTING hardware on the air to see how it performs in the living, breathing environment that is a radio station. 

Steve: A perfect storm of capabilities and experience, and a fabulously supportive environment – that’s Wheatstone. From the outset we didn’t have the burden of the ‘tyranny of convention’ or an entrenched mindset, so we’re able to carve new trails. 

Jeff: We value our customers’ input, combine it with our own observations and knowledge of the product, and work hard to make products even better. We try very hard to design

hardware platforms that don’t easily become obsolete. As with Wheatstone® baseband192, many times new features can, as if by magic, come to our products through a simple software upgrade.

Mike: A lot of our development comes from customer feedback. They drive this whole thing, and making the box flexible to fit many different situations is one of our goals.

Steve: Simply put, if there’s a demonstrable shortcoming somewhere, you address it. But there’s plenty of original stuff going on too, and that’s where the real advances come from. Developing algorithms, you’re forever dancing a tango with the 400lb. subjectivity gorilla; it’s easy to get led astray or worse unless you continually compare to a known. Opinion is just a start.

Jeff: By the time the first customer has hands on the product we’ve collectively spent thousands of hours using it. As consumers of high tech products ourselves, we hate vaporware, so nothing leaves Wheatstone until it has the features we said it would have and it does exactly what we said it would do.

Mike: I’ve had more “ah-ha!” moments when describing the 31-band limiter than almost any other feature. I think some engineers who may not be familiar with the 31-band limiter idea do a double take and ask “did I read that right? 31 bands?!?!” when they first hear of it. But when you realize what we have done... created a limiter that does, really, on the fly editing of peaks in the audio and is so selective it cannot be heard, and when you hear it... it comes together.

Steve: Science! The whole ‘31 band’ thing came about because I wanted to harness the inherent self-masking of psychoacoustic ‘critical bands’ for radical but transparent control. Twenty-odd discrete but interrelating bands? Madness! Anyone who’s been in pro-audio for more than ten minutes has used a classic 31-band graphic EQ, most know the frequencies, and skilled folk intuitively know the control to reach for when there’s a problem. It was as straightforward to do 31 as fewer. Computer science meets psychoacoustics meets the customer.


The X3 Toolbox
(or Should We Call it ‘Treasure Chest’?)

The Processing Power Inside AirAuraX3 is Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen...or Heard

 

AirAuraX3 Speedometer

 

AirAuraX3 Distortion-Managed Final Clipper

AirAuraX3 has a new improved final clipping technology that gets you even louder and cleaner – simultaneously. Its new final peak clipper is based on proven Vorsis technology that does not generate the objectionable aliasing and intermodulation distortions commonly associated with less-complex clipper technology. The result is squeaky clean audio, even at extremely competitive loudness levels. AirAura utilizes high resolution distortion recognition algorithms to discern audio from distortion. The full detail selectivity afforded by this technology is the best way to sense and truly mitigate distortion. Other technologies can only make a “best guess” at separating desirable audio components from undesirable distortion products.

By analyzing the audio and the distortion products created during peak control, AirAura removes distortion products and other artifacts that a listener might find objectionable. It is highly adept at minimizing intermodulation distortion, especially close-spaced difference frequency intermodulation products in the midrange frequencies where human hearing is the most sensitive.

During beta testing in major markets, listeners commented about how smooth and open the entire audio spectrum sounded when processed by our new AirAura clipper. Achieving effortless competitive loudness on the air while remaining subjectively cleaner than their usual on-air processor was never an issue. In fact, in one top-ten market we were actually asked if we could “turn it down just a little bit.”

AirAuraX3 “Full Detail” Processing

The AirAuraX3 has an entirely new algorithm for selectively processing only those frequencies that need processing, which overcomes the limitations of peak limiters in other on-air processors. Using 31 limiter bands selected according to ISO standard 1/3 octave center frequencies, the AirAura limiters (one for FM, one for HD) perform precision spectral energy control without generating additional density or artifacts usually associated with peak limiters having fewer bands. Operating according to accepted principles of human psychoacoustics, the action of the limiter goes completely unnoticed by the ear. Because of the need for very shallow limiting in each band, there are absolutely no ‘swishing’ artifacts and no unnatural density buildup; just increased on-air loudness, detail, and “listenability” of the station’s programming.


AirAuraX3’s Smarter Stereo Enhancement

Operating in the sum and difference domain and utilizing specialized spectral management algorithms, AirAura’s Smart Stereo Enhance provides a smooth, natural, wide listening experience without triggering multipath effects. It delivers an extremely stable ‘on-air’ stereo image that’s exciting to listen to. Users have reported hearing, for the very first time, artistically important nuances in familiar music that could not be heard when that material was processed by other on-air processors.

AirAuraX3 PostCode Tool

Some audio processors precondition audio to make it more favorable for a codec’s input, but no on-air processor had ever been developed with features specifically designed to help already coded stereo audio sound better after the fact. That is, until now.

AirAuraX3’s all-new PostCode Tool™ helps minimize the audibility of coding artifacts in stereo program material without degrading the overall listening experience. By reducing the swishing, swirling, grainy artifacts of coded audio, the AirAuraX3 enables listeners to listen as long as they like with no fatigue.

AirAuraX3 five-band Sweet Spot AGC

AirAuraX3 has new improved Sweet Spot Technology (SST) that effectively manages the behavior of the multiband AGC as program content density changes, something a typical broadband AGC simply cannot do. It effortlessly handles transitions between the hyper-compressed recordings of today and those of the past that have considerably more dynamic range. SST achieves uncannily natural-sounding consistency in both on-air loudness and spectral balance regardless of density variations in the incoming source material.


Wheatstone® Baseband192

Wheatstone’s baseband192 is an open standard technology that eliminates the use of an analog composite interface between processing and transmission, which has been the last holdout to the 100% digital air chain. A single AES/EBU cable between a Wheatstone processor and a current solid-state FM transmitter carries the baseband signal, bypassing the need 
for multiplexing in the exciter and eliminating the resulting signal overshoot with associated loudness tradeoff. The baseband192 interface is now available as a standard feature in Wheatstone AirAura X3, AirAura X1, FM-55(e), FM-55, FM-25 and Aura8-IP audio processors.

See more at:  Wheatstone Audio Processing Technology Overview 


AirAuraX3 Bass Tools

AirAuraX3 has a new and better Bass Tools system with new tuning features that enhance deep bass without affecting the cleanliness of mid and high frequency program. Bass detail and the clarity of higher frequency audio are enhanced by this more powerful algorithm. If you thought second-generation AirAura bass was something, you will be amazed at the deep and natural sounding bass coming from the AirAuraX3.

 

 
AirAura CarFromNick
Yep. Bass So Big It Will Blow Your Doors Off...

 

AirAuraX3 Exclusive Multipath Control

Exclusive to the Wheatstone line of audio processors is the Multipath Limiter. This single user control can help mitigate the audible effects of multipath as well as reduce receiver-induced stereo blend by limiting the amount of L-R as a percentage of L+R for a more consistent and predictable sound.

Results can include an increase the range of your reception coverage. 

For more info, click here

Multipath

The Bigger Picture
AirAura X3's Built-In LCD GUI Gives You Incredible Control
 
AirAura gives you brand new ways to interact with your processor. Far more than pretty lights, these detailed graphic displays provide you with visual analyses of audio functions. Pictured are just a handful of the options available to provide a level of sound editing sophistication never before seen in our industry. They’re also pretty durned cool....

AirAuraX3 MainScreen

Multiple Functions Can Be Displayed Simultaneously

The top third of this screen shows the audio levels preset at the AirAura inputs and outputs with sample accurate, true peak meters. The center third shows the chosen analysis display. A variety of visual displays of audio can be selected from a drop down menu. These include 3D displays of the audio, loudness meters, stereo enhancement meters among others. The loudness meter is selected in this example.

The bottom third of this screen shows the gain reduction, or amount of processing, that is occurring in the SST, the five-band AGC, the 31-band limiters, and in final clipper. The display may be switched to show this information for either the FM or HD processing sections.

AirAuraX3 FFT

FFT Baseband

This screen is the FFT baseband display. This display shows the baseband spectrum that is being sent to the exciter via the analog composite outputs on the rear of the AirAura or via baseband192. At a glance you can see the L+R audio, pilot, upper and lower sidebands and any other subcarriers that have been injected into the AirAura’s SCA inputs.

AirAuraX3 Fourier

Fast Fourier Transform

This screen shows an FFT, or Fast Fourier Transform of the processed audio at the output of the entire processing chain. The FFT can be switched to show the output of the FM or HD processing paths.

AirAuraX3 LR Ratio

Stereo L+R/L-R Ratio

This analysis meter shows the ratio of L+R/L-R (sum to difference). The further to the right, the more stereo separation is being transmitted (enhanced at the source of a combination of source separation and added enhancement in the AirAura). The further to the left, the less stereo separation being transmitted.

AirAuraX3 Energy v Freq

Energy vs Frequency

This screen is the Energy versus Frequency display. Measuring the output of the entire processing chain this display indicates the total relative loudness in various parts of the audio spectrum. The display may be switched to show the effects of processing for the FM or HD signal paths.


IMD comparison
How it looks = how it sounds...
 
What you are looking at are actual plots showing typical intermodulation distortion of the two leading processors vs our AirAura processor. See anything that would indicate why ears have grown tired of listening to radio? We’re not saying we’re radio’s great hope, but we DO treat its listeners with respect. Clean first - THEN paint-peelingly loud. That’s the order it’s got to be in....

AirAuraX3 IMD AA

AirAuraX3 IMD O1

AirAuraX3 IMD O2

AIRAURA X3 REAR 091113

 

Specifications

OVERALL SYSTEM
Headroom 20dB
Nominal Operating Level -20dBFS digital, +4dBu analog
Latency (FM Section) 15.4ms, analog in to analog out 14.2ms, AES in to AES out
Latency (HD/DAB Section) 11.2ms, analog in to analog out 12.6ms, AES in to AES out

ANALOG LINE INPUT
Type electronic differential, RFI suppressed
Input Impedance >10K ohm (bridging)
Optimum Source Impedance <1K ohm

DIGITAL LINE INPUT
Data Standard: AES3 (AES/EBU), two channel stereo

WHEATNET-IP
Data Standard: Wheatnet-IP, two-channel stereo.

INPUT FAILSAFE
Automatic failover to alternate audio input source if audio fails on primary input.

VOICE SYMMETRY PHASE ROTATOR
Makes voice waveforms more symmetrical to reduce processing distortion.

EQUALIZATION
Three separate four-band parametric equalizers:
EQ Set 1: pre 5-band AGC
EQ Set 2: post HD/DAB multi-band limiter
EQ Set 3: post FM multiband limiter

FIVE-BAND AGC/COMPRESSOR with ADVANCED SST™
AGC operates in sum/difference domain. Exclusive Vorsis SST retunes the five band AGC/Compressor to maintain consistent program density as programming elements change.

31-BAND ‘FULL DETAIL PROCESSING’ MULTIBAND LIMITERS
One 31-band section is assigned to FM signal path One 31-band section is assigned to HD signal path FM section operating modes: Independent, Wide, and Timbral

BASS TOOLS
Intelligently minimize bass induced intermodulation distortion and improve bass impact. ‘Texture’ control also permits fine tuning of how deep bass sounds on smaller loudspeakers. Bass Tools adds virtual subwoofer capabilities, extending a floor feel by intelligently enhancing frequencies in the 40-90Hz range.

 

AIRAURA FINAL CLIPPER 
Advanced ‘distortion aware’ final peak controller intelligently manages processing artifacts to minimize or even eliminate audible processing and intermodulation distortion. 

DSP-BASED STEREO GENERATOR 
Stereo Width Limiter to automatically minimize multipath distortion 
Dual SCA/RDS/RBDS Inputs
Dual Composite Multiplex outputs 

LONG AND SHORT FORM PROGRAM SCHEDULER 
Automatically changes presets daily, weekly, or as desired, including long-form ‘once in the future’ preset changes. 

ACI (AUTOMATION CONTROL INTERFACE) 
Responds to commands from program automation system via Ethernet connectivity. Commands from program automation can change presets or even modify individual processing adjustments without changing presets. 

WIRELESS REMOTE CONTROL 
Remote control is by dedicated Windows-based Graphical User Interface and connectivity via 100BaseT wired Ethernet and 802.11g/b wireless. 

GPIO (GENERAL PURPOSE INPUT/OUTPUT) 
Eight optoisolated logic inputs are slavedto first eight preset storage locations while four optoisolated outputs are dedicated to system alarms.

ELECTRICAL REQUIREMENTS 
90-250VAC, 50-400Hz, <100VA 

PHYSICAL DIMENSIONS 
19" (48.3cm) wide, 5.25" (13.3cm) high, 15.125" (38.2cm) deep  (including Wi-Fi antennas) 

SHIPPING WEIGHT 
26 Lbs, 11.8kg. 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES
Operating Manual, Audio Processing Guru®–Windows-based Control Software*, Wi-Fi antennas, 6' IEC power cable, CDROM containing manual in PDF form, Factory Default Presets. *GUI Pro Software, which allows access to every processing control, is available as a free download after registering for it at wheatstone-processing.com.

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