Review: Inter-M PAC 5000
A zone controller with a few tricks up its sleeve.
Text:\ Graeme Hague
Back in issue 2 I had the chance to look at Inter-M’s PX8000 audio matrix. The matrix tag explains everything, really. But although it was very clever at doing what it could do, routing various inputs sources in all directions, the PX8000 missed out on a few basic features that I expected many venues would need. The more day to day operations were lacking.
Now Inter-M has the PAC5000 and this unit addresses all those questions I raised earlier. The PAC5000 is much more of a hands-on device that suits operators who are constantly changing their programming. We’re talking about foyer entertainment, background music that is altered daily according to a client’s needs, unscripted announcements and also localised PA systems for lectures and seminars.
PAC’ED TO THE RAFTERS
The PAC5000 offers multiple media, microphone and line inputs, plus the usual connections for fire alarm and emergency broadcasts. These can all be routed across 24 zones. To provide more separation, it can broadcast two sources simultaneously throughout two separate groups (A and B), each of 12 zones. In other words, a single microphone can be routed to Group A, while background music is playing to Group B. Logistically, you can split your building in half. If you choose the same input (microphone or CD for instance) for both groups, then you are broadcasting the same material across all 24 zones. Each input is given a priority status over others except for the Aux inputs, which continue to play; so that music for example, isn’t entirely interrupted by voice-overs. However, the Emergency microphone will defeat everything. The two groups ultimately route to a 120 Watt, 100 Volt amplifier each.
Having to double up on your input selection to reach everywhere could be annoying, but two disparate groups of a dozen zones each does add a lot of versatility. You can also program in custom groups of zones of less than 12 each, meaning that certain areas can be muted (or included) by choosing that program. Like many of these multi-zone controllers you should spend a little time setting up programs and presets that will remove the fear-factor for people scared by too many buttons. The other familiar controls, such as individual volume knobs, are clearly marked.
For straightforward situations like providing ambient music, the PAC5000 has a built-in FM tuner and a CD player with MP3 and WMA capability. Interestingly, the CD unit has the added feature to copy CDs to the PAC5000’s internal memory “so that it will lengthen the durability of the CD mechanism”. This set off a small copyright violation alarm in my head, but we won’t go there. That internal memory has better, maybe more legal, applications. Standard audio files, like oft-used announcements or advertisements, can be stored here and programmed to be played regularly. Another source of pre-recorded files is the USB port on the front of the unit. USB can be chosen as an input and any files stored on an attached device, such as a flash drive, are displayed and available for playback.
Remote control via a computer or AMX/Crestron system is available through an RS232 serial connection. The PAC5000’s GUI then gives you extra options to refine your system. A three-band equaliser is online and there are settings for timed announcements. In fact, while the access to menus on the front panel is good, the GUI is better – no surprise there. Another terminal allows for hooking up a 24 Volt back-up battery that the PAC5000 will charge when mains power is okay. This battery will only maintain essential connections and functions during emergencies and talking of which – there is a choice of two chimes to politely get customers’ (or staff’s) attention and two sirens to send them fleeing for the exits. If that doesn’t work, a tiny condenser ‘Emergency Microphone’ is installed on the front panel for live announcements that can be replaced by something more to your liking, using an input on the rear.
The PAC5000 has all the bases covered for a configurable multi-function, multi-room venue. If you need more zones, four PAC5000s can be slaved together.
Magna Systems & Engineering: www.magnasys.tv or (02) 9417 1111
Price: $2400 (inc GST)