Wireless Audio Software Trends and Shure Updates: Wireless Workbench 6.12 & ShurePlus Channels 1.3

To make customers’ wireless management processes more efficient, Shure continues to improve its suite of software solutions. Recent advances have led to new releases of Wireless Workbench® 6, our desktop app for device monitoring and frequency coordination, and ShurePlus™ Channels, our iOS app for device monitoring and control. These releases fulfill four principal customer needs: connectivity, control, diagnostics, and mobility.

 Let’s look at those one at a time.

Connectivity

As technology advances, the ability of audio products to be network-connected is no longer exclusive to the high-tier market. Connectivity has trickled down to a broader, more affordable range of products, and the environments in which these products are connected are increasing in scale. The connectivity of an entire building, venue, or campus unlocks new capabilities for device configuration and management that just weren’t possible before.

An update to Shure Wireless Workbench 6 (version 6.12) brings networking capabilities that enable monitoring and control of supported devices across subnets, or smaller sub-networks used to divide and manage large enterprise networks. With this functionality, a system technician or building administrator can monitor a wireless audio installation that spans, say, every building on a college campus. By consolidating the management of wireless audio systems, administrators can monitor larger installations and remotely diagnose issues, saving time, money, and stress. Instead of racing across campus to diagnose a “broken microphone,” administrators can connect to Wireless Workbench 6.12 and troubleshoot remotely, whether it’s a dead battery or RF interference.

Control

As the connectivity of a system increases, so do several other factors: the number of connected controllers (users, software applications) and the number of mistakes they make. Sure, it’s great to be able to do anything from anywhere, until everyone can and someone makes a catastrophic change.

In the wireless audio space, audio professionals are keen to prevent inadvertent changes, especially to key operational parameters like frequency, transmitter power, and output level/gain. That’s why Wireless Workbench 6.12 introduces support for Access Control, a feature that requires authentication of networked Shure devices before accepting changes from Shure software applications.

Supported by Axient® (with firmware 1.17 or later), ULX-D® Digital (with firmware 2.0 or later), and PSM®1000 (with firmware 1.4 or later), Access Control lets wireless operators create a PIN (numerical pass code) for any of these systems.  Once a PIN is specified, Shure software applications will maintain full monitoring privileges for those devices, but will not be able to make changes to device parameters without authentication.

Here’s an example: An administrator installs Wireless Workbench 6.12 on a public computer in a venue where daily technicians load in for the day. Thanks to Access Control, they can monitor the health of the wireless systems through WWB’s Channel Strips or Timeline without the ability to make parameter changes that can derail a carefully configured system. (More about Timeline in a moment.)

Access Control is also supported by the 1.3 update to ShurePlus Channels. Wireless operators and technicians can add mobile device monitoring to their arsenal of tools from anywhere in the venue without giving away control.

Diagnostics

Anytime a technician needs to configure gear he didn’t purchase, or an administrator tries to fix a bodypack she didn’t break, the real audio engineering skills kick in. The most useful tools an engineer can have are the ones that lead to an accurate diagnosis of an issue’s root cause.

When it comes to wireless audio systems, there are countless things that can go wrong. Antenna misplacement, damaged RF cables, poorly configured RF distribution, incorrect or erroneous filtering, and inappropriate transmit power settings are just a few issues that can plague wireless rigs. Worse yet, a completely “functional” wireless system can suffer from unexpected issues that are not reproducible on command, such as RF interference.

Timeline, a feature new to Wireless Workbench 6.12, is a comprehensive data-logging utility designed to record and visualize essential channel parameters for Shure networked wireless systems. Timeline can record data for huge wireless installations for extended periods of time, capturing the performance of parameters such as RF and audio level, battery life and more. Timeline also lets users annotate logs with markers to catalog significant events. One might do this during a walk test, when the transmitters of a microphone system are in the dressing room or at the farthest point from their receivers within the venue. These annotations are automated by the devices themselves as well, which capture frequency and power output changes of connected wireless systems during operation.

With this tool, users can better understand exactly how their wireless systems fare throughout a performance. System parameters and hardware configurations can be tweaked to optimize wireless performance after the user inspects this data. For example, changes to transmit output power and/or antenna placement can be monitored and changed if the desired RF levels recorded during usage differ from what was expected. Thanks to Timeline, wireless operators can spend less time looking for the issues and more time resolving them.

Mobility

The advent of mobile apps in the audio industry puts unprecedented power in the pockets of audio professionals. Whether allowing users to adjust a monitor mix from the listening position of the talent or to respond to a low battery alert from halfway across the venue, mobile apps have raised the bar on what can be accomplished with connected audio systems.

The ShurePlus Channels iOS app delivers monitoring and control for networked Shure wireless systems. The 1.3 update introduces the ability to monitor channel status information for multiple wireless channels at a time. With this Dashboard view, wireless operators can inspect vital stats for multiple systems (RF and audio meters, transmitter battery life) in a quick-glance view to find the channel that is clipping or to zero in on the one transmitter that’s dropping out.

Closing Thoughts

Software applications can make tedious or lengthy jobs more efficient, complicated jobs simpler, and increase an audio technician’s accuracy, access, and flexibility. As spectrum regulations continue to evolve, audio networking protocols emerge and interconnected systems become more prevalent, software like Wireless Workbench and ShurePlus Channels will empower audio engineers to succeed.

Feature Update Summary

Wireless Workbench 6.12 System Control Software

Wireless Workbench 6.12 Screenshot

Version 6.12 includes a suite of power-user features that bring new levels of management and diagnostics to wireless operators.

  • Extended frequency coordination tools allow users to push the limits to achieve frequency counts for high-channel applications.
  • Access Control enables audio engineers to protect supported devices with PINs controlling who can change device configurations and properties.
  • Remote Device Connection allows for monitoring and controlling devices across subnets, consolidating wireless management for enterprise installations.
  • Presets expedite device configuration, allowing for sets of parameters to be quickly applied to devices.
  • Timeline delivers enhanced logging capabilties for networked wireless systems, visualizing RF performance over time.

Download version 6.12 at www.shure.com/wwb.

ShurePlus Channels Version 1.3 Mobile App for iOS

ShurePlus Channels 1.3 on iPhone and iPad

Version 1.3 increases users’ ability to monitor, organize, and access key channel parameters.

  • Dashboard displays RF/audio meters and active transmitter information for multiple channels in a single view.
  • Access Control enables audio engineers to protect supported devices with PINs controlling who can change device configurations and properties.
  • Groups offers the ability to color-code and categorize channels that can be sorted and organized according to user preferences.

Download version 1.3 at the App Store.

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Sam Drazin

Sam Drazin

Sam is a Product Manager for software products at Shure. A graduate of the University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL) with a BS in Music Engineering, Sam is thrilled to be working on products he uses regularly himself. In his free time, Sam can be found playing keys in jazz combos around the city, or cooking with various international ingredients and experimental new kitchen gear at home. He started with Shure as an intern, and has been full time with the company since 2010.

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  • Marc Kennedy says:

    Can Channels app support alerts on an Apple Watch? Very cool to have silent haptic alerts.

    • Rebecca Senft says:

      Hi, Marc. Currently the Channels app does not support alerts on Apple Watch. But this is great suggestion, and I will pass it along to our engineering team. Thanks!

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