The XTA story
From humblest beginnings in a spare room in Worcestershire, to the million pound facility of the present, the XTA story is far from ordinary.
Have a read through our history and find out how it all began, with a mic splitter, right up to the present day with our range state of the art digital signal processing.
Andrew Grayland and John Austin former R&D manager and one of the Technical Directors of Klark Teknik started XTA in 1992. Having overseen many of the benchmark products produced by KT, both Andrew and John felt that DSP (digital signal processing) technology could find a home at the heart of PA systems. At this time DSP was often disregarded because of its audio quality, but Andrew and John felt with the right algorithms and using 32-bit processing coefficients instead of 24-bit – what the majority of DSP designs were using – digital equipment could be designed that would sound very pure and clear.
Split, Analyse, Equalise
The first product to ship bearing the XTA name was the DS400 mic splitter, followed by the RT1 and GQ600. This gave Andrew and John the time to develop the DP100 digital delay unit, which incorporated three bands of parametric EQ on each of its four outputs. The units quickly found a large fan-base, and demands for more EQ and control led to the DP200. The DP200 gave users access to EQ control not only on the outputs but also on the inputs, along with high and low pass filters using the first version of XTA’s remote control software, AudioCore. Although designed largely for instillation use, the DP200 found its way on to the touring circuit due to the high sound quality and flexibility that the digital control brought.
Setting the Standard
To deal with the increased demands of the touring market the DP226 was launched in 1997 followed by the DP224 in 1999. Giving users even quicker access to all the parameters from the front panel of the units the DP226 soon became the benchmark for speaker management systems. Along with the hardware control, XTA also increased the capabilities of its software platform, AudioCore, allowing users to remotely and even wirelessly adjust the entire system using multiple controllers. The DP226 and DP224 were soon further complimented by the DP6i – an installation version of the DP226, offering the same fantastic sound quality and power, but with a basic user interface, designed to be remotely controlled through the ever popular AudioCore PC software.
With the original success of the DS400 still being fresh in everyone’s mind, the development of its successor, the DS800, was continuing apace, and the unit also was released also in 1999.
Digital Heart, Analogue Soul
One of the key features often sited as being a reason as to why the DP226 sounds so good is the transparency of the limiters, even when being driven hard into limit. Expanding on this knowledge of dynamic control, the SIDD and Series Two were launched in 2000/2, being designed to give engineers the digital dynamic processing tools needed on analogue desks. With a product range that looked analogue including dual compressors, dual gates and dynamic EQ but utilising digital processing the Series Two products have become very popular especially on the festival scene. With the advent of digital consoles the Series Two units are still finding new fans due to their AES input/output option keeping the signal through the desk digital, but giving the engineer a surface that looks and feels analogue.
The Best 4 x 4s
In 2005 XTA launched the 4 Series system controllers and has seen sales increase by 30%. The DP448 has retained the accessibility of the DP224/226 but greatly increased the processing power and facilities available. The completely flexible routing of up to 4 inputs and 8 outputs along with the expanded filter suite the DP448 is one of the most powerful speaker management systems available. The DSP platform was completely redesigned, now operating at a native 96k/24bit rate. Incorporating up to 72db per octave crossover slopes, a full 28 band graphic EQ on each input, and two stage D-Max limiting on all the outputs with total remote control from AudioCore the DP448 has again set the standard for system management.
Attention All Control Freaks!
AudioCore was first available as a relatively basic Windows 3.1 package to control DP100 units. As new products were developed, the capabilities of the platform have been expanded upon, with a major “step-up” in performance being the addition of “Array Control”, initially designed for use with the Rolling Stones world tour in 1999.
This tour included a huge arsenal of DP226s to control the entire db Sound EV X-Array system and was a tremendous success, helping the DP226 to become the industry standard that it still is, eight years later.
To this day AudioCore sits at the heart of the system, giving engineers and technical staff the tools they need to get the job done fast. AudioCore has evolved over the last ten years from our R&D staff listening to the users and spending as much time at as many gigs and festivals as possible evolving a platform that is intuitive, stable and simple to use.
With the success of the DP226 and DP224 around the world XTA needed to expand not only its production space but also offer its R&D staff the environment they needed to be able to create innovative digital products. Just as importantly dedicated demo rooms were created to allow for extensive listening tests. In 2001 XTA moved into purpose built premises, and in 2005 expanded this space and building to accommodate its continued growth.
Traveling Other Paths
Constantly looking at the future, XTA started a research program in 2003 on class D amplifier technology. The first two products to emerge from this work have been the BP401 and BP501 – hugely powerful dual mono digital amplifiers with comprehensive DSP and microprocessor protection, diagnostics and monitoring in a remarkably small package. The first client for these OEM units was Funktion One, who were so impressed with the sound quality and power of these modules that they redesigned all their subs and the infamous Res2 to produce active versions.
In March 2007, after over two years of talks, the directors of both companies came to the decision to merge XTA and MC2. This was completed just in time for Pro Light and Sound held in Frankfurt and was announced at the show. The deal saw Andrew Grayland leaving the group as a director and shareholder but continuing to work on a consultancy basis for the companies. Along with XTA and MC2 one more company completes the new cluster of business, Quested Monitoring, having been acquired by MC2 in 2004. Combining the recourses of all three companies, XTA is set to bring some very new and exciting products to the market. With a view to also start an education program at its UK headquarters XTA is continuing its growth and reputation for exceptional products and service.
It’s All About Install with an ”i”
With the power of DSP ever increasing, inevitably some older parts become obsolete and production of the DP226 and associated products (including the Series 2 processors) ceased in 2008 with over 10000 DP226/4s alone having been sold over the products’ lifetime.
The success of the 4 Series prompted requests for an installation version to replace the DP6i and we responded with a sexy new look in the form of the DC1048 – the start of the installation range of processors,
With a touch panel remote and a new software package, iCore, for control, it forged the start of a system-wide ethos to combine XTA processing with MC2 amplifier technology.
iCore offered the installer an alternative to AudioCore, combining control of the DC1048, MC2 Ti Series amplifiers and more recently 4 Series with powerful new features such as custom panel design and system control parameter linking.
While the 4 Series provided an expanded and improved product range to replace the DP226, many customers were sad to see the Series 2 dynamics (especially the C2 compressor and D2 dynamic equaliser) not being similarly updated.
To rectify this situation, late 2010 saw the introduction of the DP548 – Dynamic Audio Management.
Combining all the power of the 4 Series with the dynamic equalisers and compressors of the Series 2 units, it became the new flagship unit, offering the equivalent of four D2 processors, eight channels of C2 compression, and a fully fledged DP448 (now with matrix mixing) in a combined package for the additional cost of a single D2 unit.
The introduction of our TechBlog in 2010 proved to be a great forum for users to get the most up to date information about the powerful new features of the unit, and see how the dynamic EQ works in real time in a freshly updated version of AudioCore.
Other changes at the helm of the company in spring 2011 saw the departure of Ian and Carol McCarthy with John and Terry getting back to their roots and Ian and Carol getting back to their travels!
Multiply and Divide
Following a successful year in 2011-12, and needing to recruit more engineering staff, the R&D Department gradually grew to twice its size and moved into larger open plan offices within XTA headquarters. The first fruits of this increased resource came in the form of the DS8000 – a complete re-engineer of the immensely popular DS800 mic/line splitter.
With even greater flexibility than the original and improved specifications, the DS8000 has many new features to improve not only performance, but also reliability, including the ability to connect two units together to provide “buddy-linked” power supplies so should one lose the mains supply the other can power both units.
Its development didn’t stop there either, with the introduction in spring 2013 of the digital version – the DS8000D – which added XTA quality analogue to digital converters and AES outputs to the unit, in addition to all the analogue splits. Each input now offers a split to a minimum of two transformer balanced outputs, two electronic balanced outputs and two AES digital outputs at up to 192k, with wordclock I/O – a formidable combination!
Since the joining of forces with MC2, long time users of both brands had been asking for a product that would combine the best technology of both companies.
Following several years of development, the result was what had been heralded as the most powerful amplifier in the world – the APA platform in 2014. Featuring native Ethernet control, Dante audio networking and sufficient processing to power four channels plus supply digital audio back onto the network, APA featured a brand new power amplifier platform that could provide up to 4 x 5000w/channel with an enhanced power supply. This allowed high performance to be sustained into the most difficult loads and for longer than just a few milliseconds, as often cited on misleading class D amplifier specifications.
The research into the power amplifier design led onto the introduction in 2017 of MC2’s first DSP amplifier series the Delta Series, which also became the DPA and DNA Series for XTA later that same year.
The DPA and DNA amplifiers offered unique features such as 4 channels of processing + 4 independently processed aux outputs (DPA), and the ability to output these auxes onto the Dante network to be used by either other DPA amps or by DNA amplifiers that were non-DSP designs with the ability to accept analogue or network audio.
In a range of powers for both DSP and non-DSP enabled models, coupled with the most extensive remote control options ever offered by XTA (Ethernet, USB, RS485 and with a bespoke iPad app DeltaDirect), these quad channel amps have provided a new platform of processing which is future proofed for the next chapter…