Jacob Krzywak

The Lawo company was established in the year 1970 and was founded by the father of its current president, Philip Lawo. Since the beginning of its activity it has dealt with the design and production of innovative and specialized audio solutions for a broad range of applications. Its area of operations encompasses broadcasting, radio, as well as theater and live solutions. We encourage you to check out the conversation with Wolfgang Huber from Lawo. We asked Wolfgang about the company’s beginnings, technological development and most recent solutions (incl. the mc²36 live console).

Multimediav: Who had an idea to create the company manufacturing pro-audio solutions. How the beginning of LAWO company activity looked like?

Wolfgang Huber: Peter Lawo, father of the current CEO Philipp Lawo, founded the company in 1970 with the purpose of producing innovative electronic equipment for a wide range of applications, audio units for broadcast system integrators were only part of the product portfolio.

Complete audio broadcast systems came into focus when Peter Lawo was approached by the regional public broadcaster “Südwestfunk” (SWF) in Baden-Baden – a close-by town – for electronic sound devices.

Has the first mixer been created in 1970?

The first full (analog) audio mixing console was created in 1974, delivered in 1975 to the so-called “Experimental Studio” of the regional broadcaster SWF. This studio and the first Lawo console were used by contemporary composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez.

What were the unique features of your first mixer?

The first consoles were all analog mixers. Our first mixer was called “The Red Mixer” due to its color, and already provided mechanical precision settings. Also the highly modular surface was a characteristic, which remained a typical feature for all following Lawo consoles. The first mixer included a routing unit – also typical for Lawo consoles to integrate signal processing and routing for the mixer. The analog consoles were followed in 1985 by hybrid consoles – analog signal processing and digital control for automation – and 1994 by fully digital consoles (the mc series and later, with new technology, the mc² series). This meant also the decision to purely focus on broadcast audio. Lawo now builds audio mixing consoles for broadcast, radio, live, Houses of Worship, theater and fix installations based on RAVENNA IP technology.

Have all Your solutions been aimed rather for radio and TV?

In the beginning, Lawo built large broadcast consoles that were used mainly for TV installations or OB vans and production studios, but were also used for radio. The mc² family of consoles nowadays provides solutions for recording, broadcast and live/theater applications, representing top-level systems of highest DSP performance and routing capacity and user friendly layout. In the last two decades, Lawo developed specific radio on-air consoles that are worldwide successful, namely the sapphire and crystal series. They are designed for a fast learning curve, easy operation and a broad range of workflow adaptation by configuration.

Are all Your products the mixers?

Lawo designs and manufactures pioneering audio and video technology for TV and radio broadcast production, post-production, as well as live performance and theatrical applications. Products include digital audio mixing consoles, routers, video processing tools as well as IP-based video and audio transport solutions. All products are developed and manufactured according to highest quality standards at the company’s headquarters in the Rhine valley town of Rastatt, Germany.

When the idea of designing the first digital mixer came to life and for what market it was aimed for?

Philipp Lawo was very early involved in the company and worked as Head of R&D and he had the idea of creating a fully digital audio mixing console. The result was the mc series, introduced in 1994, which proved to be very successful in the broadcast market.

Today I want to talk about mc²36 mixer. Is it the first Live mixer in Your offer?

Our mc²56 and also mc²66 consoles were in some occasions already used for live purposes and in theaters and opera houses. The live and theater applications have become in the meantime a field of very sophisticated productions with many requirements Lawo has a lot of experience by its broadcast history. The performance on stage – large theater productions, many microphones for open-air classic concerts, and many performers on open-air rock concerts on different stages – requires these days also high DSP power and routing capacity, redundancy for best reliability. So our concept was from the start to keep these features and add live features and adapt the console surface to the requirements and workflow of the operators.

The mc²36, is the first console within the mc² family with an all-in-one architecture: A powerful DSP micro-core with internal 512×512 port audio matrix, and integrated I/O make it ideally suited to permanent installations with limited space. As it is natively equipped with RAVENNA/AES67 technology, the mc²36 integrates seamlessly into IP infrastructures. And for operational security, the console not only has redundant power-supplies but also DSP redundancy.

What preamps have you decided to use

Lawo develops and manufactures everything with own resources – from mixing console to processing core to I/Os and mic preamps. Lawo is committed to excellence in sound which can be only achieved by expertise and knowhow within the company and combined with highest professional ethics. Our R&D applies both experience and innovative spirit, and our production teams use leading edge precision automats and tools for best quality. Tests follow every production stage to guarantee the quality level. The preamps of our mc²36 console represent the latest development stage in mic preamps by Lawo.

Tell us something about the signal processing. The flexibility of mixer operation are mainly its environment, intuitiveness, and simplicity. How does the control in mc²36 look like?

The mixing console can be flexibly adapted to the requirements – easily, on the fly! This refers not only to the bus structure (namely mono, stereo or surround), but also to the signal processing order. And regarding user friendliness: Operating and controlling of the console is child’s play, supporting the sound engineer by clearly laid-out surface and convenient pop-up windows on the displays. The comprehensive function set can be operated via the large touchscreens, which makes working with an mc²36 a user-friendly task.

The patching problem is solved in many ways by the manufacturers. Is Your method intuitive?

We don’t see patching as a “problem”… a sound engineer at a Lawo mc²36 console may use the touchscreens for patching – a plain and easily understandable way.

Can the user work on tablet and dedicated software?

The mc² series supports the Lawo iPad app for mastering the remote adjustment of the console settings. This helps the sound engineer to tune the PA while moving around in the audience area in a concert hall or an open air festival area. Our mxGUI software allows the offline configuration so that a setup can be prepared – simply by using your laptop computer.

How many physical channels can mc²36 operate?

Up to 192 DSP channels are operated via up to 40 physical faders.

Do You support operation of the most popular network audio transmissions?

In terms of connectivity, the console’s interfaces include 32 mic/line inputs, 32 line outputs, eight digital AES3 inputs, eight digital AES3 outputs, eight GPIO ports, one MADI (SFP) port, three RAVENNA/AES67 channels, and a headphone jack. In addition to the onboard I/O, a MADI tie-line connection and three RAVENNA/AES67 Audio-over-IP ports provide future-proof connectivity for up to 384 external inputs and outputs, offering a total capacity of 496 physical inputs and outputs.

And if plenty is not enough, the mc² Compact I/O is a convenient and cost-efficient way to expand the mc2 36’s connectivity and to provide a distant stagebox solution in addition to the On-board I/O. Connected via CAT5 or fiber (optional), the ruggedized 5RU stagebox provides 32 Mic/Line inputs, 32 Line outputs, 8 digital AES3 inputs, 8 digital AES3 outputs, 8 GPIO and a MADI (SFP) port. The mc² 36 allows for connecting up to three mc² Compact I/O.

The mc²36 is also fully prepared for intelligent networking with other mc²36/mc²56/mc²66 consoles, and can be operated in combination with Lawo Nova audio routers, giving instant access to thousands of audio channels. Lawo mc² consoles provide intelligent mechanisms (including user-rights management) to allow input sharing between consoles.

How the problem of recording has been solved?

The console integrates easily with various workstations with the routing system allowing for direct recording by tunneling the console or by using recording inserted in the channel. With the convenient Remote Desktop functionality it is possible anytime to display the parameters of the recording software on the console’s screens, and set and control them via touchpad and keyboard.

Is there a possibility of implementing the external effect plugins?

With the WAVES SoundGrid integration the operators have access to Waves’ comprehensive plug-in library, allowing them to conveniently control reverbs, multi-tap delays, graphic equalizers and multiband compressors directly via the console’s keyboard and touch-screen.

Is mc²36 the mixer versatile in its use?

Even though the mc²36 is ready-to-go on delivery, it is not limited to a fixed configuration. Any aspect of the console can be adapted to meet specific users’ needs. All production data can be saved on a USB stick and transferred to another console – a facility that is particularly valuable in rental applications.

Lawo AG

Lawo designs and manufactures pioneering audio and video technology for TV and radio broadcast production, post-production, as well as live performance and theatrical applications. Products include digital audio mixing consoles, routers, video processing tools as well as IP-based video and audio transport solutions. All products are developed and manufactured according to highest quality standards at the company’s headquarters in the Rhine valley town of Rastatt, Germany. For additional information, please visit the company online at www.lawo.com.