New all-weather digital wireless comms offers huge benefits

When SSE Group were looking to replace their old intercom systems with a scalable, all-weather alternative, with both the festival season and the corporate and broadcast markets in mind, they set a fairly demanding criteria. The new system needed to be reliable, function both internally and externally, and be operable over IP.

Their search took them to Pliant Technologies’ revolutionary new wireless CrewCom system, distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd.

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CrewCom is based on a new technology platform that offers the industry’s highest user density, unparalleled range and scalability. Aside from excellent voice quality, the system comprises the industry’s smallest fully-featured professional full-duplex wireless radio packs, multiple simultaneous frequency bands and many user features.

“This system looked very promising when it came to replacing our existing systems.” said SSE Senior Project Manager, Miles Hillyard.

He was soon talking to Sound Technology’s Application Engineer, Danny Kyte, before investing in four of the CrewCom radio packs and two transceivers, with additional I/O.

Running on 2.4GHz RF frequency, CrewCom operates on its own proprietary network. The system allows up to six beltpacks to be run on one remote transceiver, or 32 perpack in high density mode. The system can run multiple transceivers, allowing comms between many people in many locations without the expense of a matrix system.

Highlighting some of the elements of the CrewCom design rationale, Kyte says, “The new beltpacks are much lighter than our previous system and the transmission distances much increased. The packs allow selection of up to four of 1024 conferences, assigned simply by sending a unique profile to a user’s pack. The system is extremely flexible, scalable and easy to integrate with a wired system, and the software is informative and intuitive.”

SSE sound designer, Marcus Blight, who configured the new systems for festival use, agreed. “Having used several wireless comms systems recently I can safely say I have nothing negative to say about CrewCom. Since Download second stage in early June this has simply flipped from site to site with very little change.”

The system lives in an 18U rack with SSE’s other shout and patch gear.

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“For our festivals we have been using it as a basic three-channel system,” he continues. “The first ring is ‘Shout’, which is connected via 4-way to the shout desk that roots feeds from FOH, monitors, broadcast and the patch crew together. Secondly it is used as a wired system, which is integrated into the standard 2-way party-line comms between FOH and monitors, mainly used for talking privately to the FOH crew whilst an artist is

onstage and an engineer is trying to concentrate in the FOH tent.

“Finally, we have a ‘Pvt ‘ ring, which is a private talk for the wireless comms users. The fourth channel has been left as a second private, so that the patch crew can use ring 3 for discussing patch information and ring 4 for discussing who wants a cup of tea!”

One stage tech who has used the system first hand is Beth O’Leary. It accompanied her to the Community Festival’s N4 stage, while she has also used it on the second stage at Download, Wireless Festival Pepsi Max Stage and Cambridge Folk Festival main stage. She was the only patch person on the N4 stage and the system was used to interface with their shout speaker system to enable communication between FOH and monitor engineers.

Having wide experience, she says it is smaller and lighter than other comms systems she has used. “Once [CrewCom] is programmed it’s intuitive and straightforward both to set up on site and use. I’m reliably informed that the programming side of it is very simple too.”

Beth adds, “The range is good and solid, and if there are any weak spots we have extending transceivers that we can add into the system. The packs are totally straightforward and simple to use. You barely think about it, it just works, which is what you need on a busy festival stage.”

As a result, CrewCom system covered the N4 stage easily, without the need for an extender, she confirms. “The signal was always solid and the audio was perfectly clear.”

“The benefits and advantages with CrewCom is that it is so simple to set up exactly as you want,” concludes Beth. — “You have enough channels and settings to cover a wide range of gigs and scenarios, and it’s really easy to use.

“No one has time for fiddly comms during a show, so something that is so easy you barely think about it is ideal. Of course I will always be happy to see the CrewCom system on a spec sheet, as it’s a reliable, clear system.”

 Having set out to design a wireless intercom solution that would change the way professionals use intercom, allowing both out of the box small wireless systems and large-scale deployments for crews needing dramatic scalability and user count Pliant Technologies have certainly come up with a viable, user-friendly alternative for the UHF-replacement market.