Techwatch Oct 07

October 6th, 2007

Fairlight’s XYNERGI Media Production Centre. 

Readers with an interest in popular music might recall that in the eighties an Australian company, Fairlight Instruments, developed the first commercial digital musical instrument capable of sampling sounds. (See “A little bit of History” below)

Fairlight is in the news again this month, having just released a digital audio workstation which continues the Fairlight tradition of “disruptive” innovations.


The new product is called Xynergi, and you can download a brochure here. To call it a digital audio workstation is an understatement, to say the least. It is, as Fairlight puts it, “The world’s first unified media production centre”.

Its key specs are:

  • 230 Hi Resolution audio channels
  • 8 bands of EQ on every channel
  • 3 stages dynamics on every channel
  • 12 auxiliary sends per channel
  • 72 user definable mix busses
  • Audio bridge to VST and Rewire
  • Up to 220 physical I/Os per card
  • Comprehensive monitor system
  • Integrated Pyxis Track Video
  • Less than 0.5ms processing latency

Xynergi utilisies two new technologies which are world firsts.

The most obvious innovation is the control surface which looks a bit like a QWERTY keyboard with some extra knobs and displays. But its simple look betrays an incredible chameleon-like ability to completely change its function and re-label its keys from moment to moment. Take a minute to view this short video.

Unlike some keyboards which use expensive and power-hungry LED matrix displays in each keycap, the Xynergi keyboard uses a clever optical system to project full-graphic images onto the keycaps.

Less obvious but even more impressive is the audio processing hardware at the heart of the Xynergi. Judging by the audio specs listed above, you’d expect to have a rack full of DSP chips and another rack of I/O. You’d expect power consumption of a kilowatt or more, and there’d be a row of noisy fans to cool it. And you’d be paying maybe $50,000 for it.

But the whole Xynergi kit comes in a box you can carry under one arm, and you get change from $25,000.

The secret? Fairlight’s new Crystal Core audio processor card. Here it is, in all its glory.

Crystal Core card

One tiny PCIe card with enough horsepower to deliver 230 channels of beyond-studio-quality audio processing. It plugs into a standard PC and consumes only 8 watts. No fans!

After an absence of about 20 years, I was delighted to be asked by Fairlight to help them with some market research and business planning early this year. I got to see the Crystal Core and Xynergi keyboard at prototype stage. It was hard to believe what I was seeing and hearing. I kept looking under the desk for the DSP rack..

Fairlight will be releasing the Xynergi at the AES convention in New York from Oct 5-8. I predict it will be the hit of the show.


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