As the world of immersive audio continues to grow, not just in the professional space but in the consumer home audio world, the demand for production houses to be spec’d to meet these demands is paramount. With the big-name streaming services requiring productions to be delivered in surround and immersive audio options, it confirms immersive sound experience is very much here to stay.
Being able to effectively manage and control larger audio systems such as 5.1, 7.1 surround right up to a Dolby Atmos configuration is no mean feat and as you’d expect. It requires a hefty I/O count and lots of processing power. One impressively spec’d and one of the more affordable units that can handle just this is the JBL Intonato 24 and we had the chance to take one for a spin.
On the surface the Intonato 24 is a rather sleek but unassuming looking dark grey box in a 2U rackmount form factor, with some input, output, status and clock source LED’s on the front panel. But turning around to the back you’re met with a mass of DB-25 connections as well as Ethernet, RJ45, USB (more on those later). At this point, you start to realise how much this box must be able to handle.
As the name suggests, Intonato 24 allows for connection and control of up to 24 speakers –compatible with all professional monitors, so no playing favourites (there are some specific JBL studio monitor and sub presets). Being able to connect either via analogue (with variable sensitivity) or digital (AES/EBU) gives users nice input flexibility, analogue outputs are on DB-25 connectors, so you’ll want to load up on some snakes to connect to your speakers. You’re also able to connect a whopping 256 channels of networked audio via HARMAN BLU Link or Dante (with the additional BLUDAN box), so there’s a wealth of options available and able to handle complex setups. The female XLR connector is reserved for either the RTA mic for calibration or to be used with a talkback mic if desired for communication with talent during recording sessions.
Under the Hood
The real power of the Intonato 24 lies in its control software, which is Mac, Windows, iOS and Android compatible. From here you select and control speaker layout, organized into profiles and scenes, input and output configuration and system calibration. Navigation is easy and intuitive and great when used with a touch screen. At times a little clunky when switching between different areas of the app, but nothing that appeared to affect actual performance. Although, a future firmware update should fix this.
Setting up a system is really quick and anyone remotely familiar with basic patching configuration will feel right at home. The nice thing about being able to make different profiles allows for instant setup changes. So if you’re needing to run a simple stereo mix then suddenly jump to your 5.1 or even Atmos configuration, simply click and you’re away laughing!
There’s effective Bass Management for complex, multi subwoofer setups where the crossover frequency can be applied and adjusted between subs and satellite speakers. There’s even an option to select the crossover filter types (Bessel, Butterworth and Linkwitz-Riley) with variable slope rates. Paired with LFE control, including low pass frequency slider control and again a selection of Low Pass Filter types gives users a massive amount of frequency and filter power at their fingertips.
Aside from the aforementioned layout, profiles, scenes, frequency and filter types, calibration is the name of the game and where Intonato 24 really flexes its muscles. Having this aspect of a system setup taken care of will save a lot of head-scratching, especially when it comes to time alignment, not to mention EQ and limiting (dbx OverEasy soft-knee limiter in this case). You can, of course, configure and calibrate each speaker and the system yourself or otherwise run the auto-calibration. This very powerful feature takes care of speaker level matching (trim), time alignment (delays), and room EQ (12-band PEQ).
The room in which we tested (which has a healthy amount of low-mids present) was calibrated to very effectively. A quick run around with the RTA mic left for a very neutral, balanced response in the listening position. Being able to adjust user EQ (8-band PEQ) separately from the room EQ allows for even finer adjustments if required, so you’re able to tweak to your hearts desire.
For those wanting to have the full-blown experience, there’s an optional Intonato Desktop Controller. A simple, slick remote controller which is nicely laid out with dedicated, colour-coded button and a level control knob. So once you’ve got your system calibrated and in order, you can put away the control app and access the key aspects of your system via the controller. It does look particularly virtuous atop a nice console, but hey, that’s not a necessity.
Round the Block
There’s a lot packed into this humble-looking box that makes up the Intonato 24. From high-end production houses to smaller DIY setups, the Intonato 24 swanks the features required for all multi-speaker systems. Watch this space as the immersive audio (and its associated gear requirements) takes the world by storm.
|Input Channels:||24 speakers (maximum)|
|Analogue Inputs:||3x DB-25 (Groups A, B, C), 1x XLR (for RTA mic)|
|Analogue Outputs:||3x DB-25 (Groups A, B, C)|
|Digital Inputs:||3x DB-25 (AES)|
|Other I/O:||1x Ethernet (DHCP network-enabled), 2x RJ45 Blu Link|
|USB:||1x Type B|
|Software Control:||Intonato Control app|
|Compatibility:||Mac, Windows, iOS, Android|
|Accessories:||1x RTA measurement mic|
|Form Factor:||2U Rackmount|