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Networking

Networking Infrastructure Requirements

Shielded Cat5e is required for the interconnection of the MXW Access Point (MXWAPT8 & MXWAPT4) to the Audio Network Interface (MXWANI8 & MXWANI4). 100 meters maximum between network devices is allowed.

  1. Single room with isolated audio & remote GUI - No special networking infrastructure is required. For remote webserver access and control, standard off-the-shelf Ethernet equipment and shielded Cat5e cabling is sufficient.
  2. Single room with networked audio routed outside the room - Gigabit Ethernet switches are required for maximum channel count and quality of service. The MXW Audio Network Interface provides a 4-port Gigabit switch.
  3. Multiple rooms with isolated audio & remote GUI - No special networking infrastructure is required. However, RF performance is optimized for adjacent rooms by combining the clocking signals on the same network (See: MXW System Clocking), and no more than 4 network hops is recommended.
  4. Multiple rooms with networked audio routed within or outside the rooms - Gigabit Ethernet switches are required for maximum channel count and QoS.

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Best Practices

Use the following best practices when setting up your network topology to ensure reliable communication:

  • Always use a "star" network topology by connecting each component directly to the switch or router.
  • Use only 1 DHCP enabled server per network. Disable DHCP addressing on additional servers.
  • Power on the switch and DHCP server prior to MXW equipment.
  • To expand the network, use multiple Ethernet switches in a star topology.
  • Do not loop network connections.
  • All networked devices must be set to the same subnet mask.
  • All devices must be at the same firmware revision level.

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MXW System Clocking

The Microflex Wireless (MXW) system leverages a custom wireless protocol for convenient, worry free RF coordination. Input and output audio is routed over a network using the Dante digital audio networking standard. This network approach allows for any Dante device, on the same subnet, to transmit and receive audio to the MXW system. Complex clock synchronization mechanisms are needed to provide this ease of use and flexibility. This section should provide a high level understanding of why clock synchronization is needed and provide best practices for system setup.

Before diving into the details of how the MXW system handles clock synchronization, it is good to review some high level concepts. In the clocking system there are two roles a device can play, they can either be a Master or a Slave. The Master’s role is to be the source of the clock for all devices on the network. The Master needs to have un-interrupted operation at all times during system use, or else there will be a disruption in audio for the ENTIRE system. The Slave’s role is to receive the clock from the Master and tune its operation to this schedule. These clearly defined roles of clock production and consumption remain constant unless a change occurs to the system architecture.

As previously discussed, MXW’s custom DECT protocol utilizes both time and frequency to maximize the number of microphones that can be on air. Accomplishing this requires that transmission happens only at that predetermined small window of time for any given microphone. Considering that this timeslot is only 417 microseconds, a very high precision of clocking must be achieved system wide.

KEY POINT 1: In Microflex Wireless clocking, the time slot synchronization is tightly coupled to the Dante digital audio network clocking. In effect, they are one and the same.

Therefore, in a network of MXW and Dante devices, one of your MXW Access Point Transceivers (APT) must be the Dante Master. This is because other Dante devices do not meet the timing specifications needed by DECT to tightly coordinate the RF time slots. Every MXW APT is configured, by default, to be a Dante Preferred Master. The Preferred Master is a higher level of clock Master, a designation which “forces” the Dante clock Master to change to allow the MXW APT to Master, but only if no other Preferred Master is on the network.

KEY POINT 2: IF a Preferred Master is already on the network, then no change will take place and the new device will be a clock Slave. Below is a screenshot of Dante Controller which shows the current devices on the network and their clock status; either Master or Slave as well as which devices are Preferred Masters.

Shown Below: Clock Status for a large system – notice only 1 device becomes clock master

content_mxw_system_clocking.png

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Control and Network Audio Network Interfaces

MXW components are designed as a plug-and-play system, discovering each other automatically when connected over standard Ethernet equipment.

Components are then grouped together to transport two types of data: Shure Control and Network Audio. Both interfaces use the same network jack and cable for transport.

The following describes the two interfaces and their functions in the MXW system:

Shure Control: Control Software and 3rd Party Control

The Shure Control carries data for the control software (GUI) operation, firmware updates and 3rd party control systems (AMX, Crestron). This data is transported to all MXW components connected to the network.

Network Audio

This network carries both the Dante digital audio and the control data for Dante Controller. This data is transmitted between the APT, ANI and the computer (except when connected to ANI port 4 with Uplink enabled). The network audio requires a wired, gigabit Ethernet connection to operate.

Network Interfaces for MXW Components

Component Interface Descriptions
Access Point Transceiver (APT) Shure Control and Network Audio are configured to separate IP settings. These must be changed individually via the Configuration Page.
Audio Network Interface (ANI) Shure Control and Network Audio are combined to share the same IP settings
Network Charging Station (NCS) Shure Control IP settings only. Network Audio is not transported by NCS

The below image shows where to change the Network Interfaces on the APT:

content_mxw_network_interfaces.png

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Using Static IP Addresses

Static IP addresses are commonly used in corporate network topologies. In this mode, the user will be forced to assign unique IP addresses to the MXW Device. Because the address is assigned, it will never be altered by a change in network topology such as adding/removing a DHCP server. The responsibility is on the user to ensure the IP address is not already in use.

Version 2.0.5 and later:

Beginning with firmware version 2.0.5, the process for setting manual IP addresses has changed, simplifying it dramatically. We have created a brief video tutorial that can be viewed here.

Version 1.2.8 and earlier:

Go to the Configurations tab of the control software to monitor the IP configurations of each network interface. By default, they are set to Automatic (DHCP) mode. DHCP mode enables the devices to accept IP settings from a DHCP server, or automatically fall back to Link-Local settings when no DHCP is available.

To manually assign IP addresses to the MXW system, follow these steps (Note: It is important to change Chargers and ANI’s prior to the APT Control Interface. Once the APT Interface is moved to a different subnet, it can no longer access the other devices):

  1. Open the Configuration tab of the APT GUI.
  2. Select the Network Charging Station from the Devices drop-down.
  3. Select the Manual (Static) IP Mode.
  4. Enter the IP settings and press the Apply button.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for each Audio Network Interface and additional Chargers. Make sure they are set to the same subnet.
  6. After the other devices have been configured, repeat steps 2-4 for the Access Point Transceiver Network Audio Interface (if Dante is desired to be on the new subnet).
  7. Repeat steps 2-4 for the Access Point Transceiver Control Interface.
  8. Change the IP address of the PC/Mac to the new subnet and verify connectivity with all MXW Devices.

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Uplink Mode

Uplink Mode is an optional setting in the Audio Network Interface (ANI) that is used to limit the traffic on a network and provide a layer of security. Uplink Mode only transports control data to other MXW Devices, Third Party Control devices or a control PC/Mac. This mode blocks network audio and data for Shure Web Discovery Application (Bonjour Service), Dante Controller and Dante Virtual Soundcard. To access the MXW APT or ANI GUI, the user must have prior knowledge of the device’s IP address, the Discovery Application will be empty.

Uplink Mode can also provide a layer of security by limiting the accessibility of the Dante audio. By default, Port 4 of the MXW Audio Network Interface is in Switched mode to allow easy access and setup. In the Preference Tab of the MXWANI’s GUI, select Port 4 Mode Uplink to block digital audio packets from being routable to the corporate LAN. In Uplink mode, the meeting room’s audio is excluded from Port 4’s interface. Audio cannot be eavesdropped over the network by anyone even if they have Dante Virtual Soundcard (DVS) software, or try to use Shure’s or Audinate’s device discovery application, or try to use Dante Controller to view channels from the meeting room. None of these is possible if the only Corporate LAN connection is from the Uplink Port.

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Control Strings

The MXW wireless system can be controlled by AMX, Crestron, Extron, etc.

The touch screen can control/monitor:

  • Volume
  • Mute
  • Mic Button Status
  • Channel Name
  • Audio Meter
  • Battery Charge Status
  • Battery Run Time
  • and more

The control string document and a Crestron module written by Shure can be found here.

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Wireless

APT Placement

The Access Point (APT) is typically mounted to a ceiling or wall near the microphone coverage area. For best results, perform a Spectrum Scan at potential locations to find the optimal placement

Use the following best-practices when selecting a location for the device:

  • Direct the face of the access point toward the intended coverage area.
  • Position the access point so there is nothing obstructing a line of sight to the microphones.
  • Keep device away from large metal objects.
  • Keep at least eight feet between access points.
  • Mount with its reset button and LEDs accessible, as it may be useful for troubleshooting.

Important: Always perform a "walk around" test to verify coverage before using a wireless system during a speech or performance. Experiment with antenna placement to find the optimum location. If necessary, mark "trouble spots" and ask presenters or performers to avoid those areas.

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Range & RF Power Level Selection

MXW Range is Administrator-controllable via the web server interface of the Access Point (Preferences Tab). The selection of RF Output Power directly affects the range of the system, but does NOT affect battery life significantly, since the system is applying attenuation, rather than supplying extra current to the low-noise RF amplifier. The run-time difference between a mic at low RF power and max RF power is on the order of 15-20 minutes.

Below are the typical ranges, Line-of-Sight, you will get with each power setting, with suggested applications. RF power level is a global setting, rather than a per-microphone setting.

  • Low Power (0.63 mW) 10m radius from APT(>30 ft) Small Conference Room
  • Med Power (3.16 mW) 20m radius from APT (>60 ft) Medium Conference Room [DEFAULT]
  • High Power (15.85 mW) 35m radius from APT (>100 ft) Large Meeting Spaces, Auditoriums
  • Max Power (79.43 mW) 50 m radius from APT (>150 ft) Ballrooms

Range should be thought of in a system sense, rather than an individual microphone sense. All microphones in a system will have approximately the same range. This is because the system is Bi-Directional – any Power Level selection is not only applied to the Microphone, but also to the Access Point. It would potentially “de-sensitize” an Access Point’s receiver functionality to have it transmit at high power next to another Access Point needing to receive Low Power microphones.

Single microphone walk-outs will typically FAR EXCEED the stated range. For example a single mic at Max power has a line-of-sight range of over 500 feet. A single mic at low power will often walk-out over 100 feet before a drop-out. However, MXW is designed to be a multi-microphone system, so the ranges above are stated in the context of the Maximum number of microphones on air.

RF Power Selection is an over-the-air command, providing the convenience of walking out a set of microphones at a certain power level, and then changing the power level as required for additional walk-around tests. The microphones do not have to be re-linked, re-docked etc, they receive the power change command immediately and adjust their output power.

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Spectrum Scanner

Microflex Wireless Access Points are an extremely important tool to make channel count decisions. Within the webserver GUI, simply hitting the Spectrum Scanner button opens a pop-up dialog box that immediately delivers 4 key pieces of information:

Low/No Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) Spectrum (depicted as the color Green with a percentage)

  • This represents the percentage of timeslots that have Received Signal Strength Indicator levels (“RSSI”) below a certain threshold. These timeslots are considered “open”, and will always be the first timeslots selected by the system as microphones are brought on-air.

Moderate RFI Spectrum (depicted as the color Yellow with a percentage)

  • This represents the percentage of timeslots that have RSSI levels below the “busy/occupied” threshold, but above the “open/clean” level. For MXW systems, these timeslots can still be used for perfect audio, but they are less desirable than completely open spectrum. Only after enough microphones power up and use up all the “green” spectrum, the yellow begins to be used.

High RFI Spectrum (depicted as the color Red with a percentage)

  • This represents the percentage of timeslots that have RSSI levels at or above the “busy” threshold. They will not be used by the MXW system because the desired signal cannot be consistently received in the presence of high interference.

Channel Count Estimates

  • Conservative – You will normally be able to achieve this channel count easily, even if you violate a few best-practices. This number is the “no-brainer” number of channels that you can be confident of getting on air in the room the scan is being done. The estimates assume that the Low/No RFI spectrum is 100% usable, and that the cleaner half of the Moderate RFI spectrum can be used as well. Conservative estimates also allow 10-20% of the spectrum as a buffer against any outside interference to enable immediate and undetectable interference avoidance.
  • Aggressive – You will often be able to achieve this channel count when you deploy system best practices such as:
    • Selecting the appropriate power level for the room (see Power Level Selection)
    • Locating Access Points 8-feet away from each other so that one does not de-sensitize the adjacent Access Point. If 8-feet separation is not possible, use the largest separation possible in the installation.
    • Clock Synchronizing Shure MXW systems with other Shure MXW systems whenever possible. (See MXW System Clocking)
    • Re-Banding* any existing DECT headsets by Jabra, Plantronics etc. These often come in a variety of frequency selections. A site survey is necessary to scan for these with the scanner, and also physically inspect the adjacent work spaces in case the devices are currently not in use. *Re-Banding requires return or re-purchase of these headsets into 900 MHz bands, 5.8 GHz bands, 2.4 MHz bands etc.

content_mxw_spectrum_scanner.png

Above: Current Spectrum meter will display channel count estimates, and dynamically change as the RF environment changes.

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Audio

Metering

The Access Point audio metering is a ‘0dB = Full Scale’ type of display. The MXW ANI is also a 0dBFS type. Red LED’s in the webserver GUI will light up ~-1dB dBFS, just below actual clipping. This seems “tight” but it is actually ~3-4 dB from audible clipping artifacts, so it is OK to occasionally touch RED during peaks, such as plosive pops. The metering is not a peak-hold meter, but rather a periodically sampled value (internally sampled at 48kHz) that is refreshed to the GUI every 100mS for sufficient real time display. The device keeps track of the peak sample within each 100mS refresh time, and uses the peak value (as opposed to the RMS average value) within each 100mS refresh to use for display on the GUI to deliver the optimal real-time metering without adding unnecessary network traffic.

Remember that Access Point audio metering is showing you the mic audio at the MXW Access Point. So the Access Point GUI is where you need to adjust mic gains for optimal signal to noise – you want to see healthy metering here first, before doing final adjustments of gains downstream.

The metering at the Access Point will be identical to the metering in the Audio Network Interface. They both depict the Dante digital audio signal which is identical across Dante devices looking at the same signal. The MXW ANI should generally not be used to adjust adjust mic levels – the MXW ANI simply allows you to attenuate the OUTPUT levels to line/aux/mic, with 1dB increments above and below those nominal levels to deliver healthy signal to the next device in the signal chain – typically a teleconferencing DSP or possibly a live sound mixer. At LINE level output, and at 0dB gain setting, there is no attenuation applied. For Aux and Mic levels, a PAD is applied to the signal to reduce levels to the desired nominal level.

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MXW1 Bodypack Microphone Compatibility

The MXW1 bodypack can automatically switch between the internal and externally connected microphones. The bodypack can also be forced to one element or the other by changing a setting on the APT GUI Monitor page. This setting can be changed on a per bodypack basis and its selection is saved across power cycling.

Below is the new APT Monitor Page channel strip for the MXW1 bodypack:

content_mxw_monitor_page.png

There is a dropdown menu which allows the user to select the Input Source with the following options:

  • Auto – The transmitter will automatically select the TQG input when it is detected, if not detected the internal omnidirectional microphone is used*
  • Internal – The internal omnidirectional microphone is always used
  • External – The device only functions through the TQG connector
  • Power Off – Turns off the bodypack microphone

The bodypack has two Mic Gain settings, one for the external microphone connected to the TQG connector and one for the internal omnidirectional microphone. The active microphone is also indicated by a green highlighting of the “Int” or “Ext” label above the Gain setting.

*The Auto setting has been tested and validated on the following microphones:

  • Countryman E6
  • MX150 B/O-TQG
  • PG30TQG
  • WBH53B
  • WL185
  • WL93

The Auto setting does NOT function on the following microphones, please set the Bodypack Mic Source to External when using these microphones:

  • Countryman E2
  • MX153 B/O-TQG

If the microphone you want to connect is not in the above list, please test it out prior to using it. If it does not function correctly, use the Internal and External settings to control the audio signal flow.

 

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System Configuration

Access Point Channel Mapping Rules

Depending on the MXW Configuration, the Charger slots may or may not be available for Linking microphones to the Access Point. Also, depending on the components selected, the audio routing to the Audio Network Interface (ANI) could change. Follow the graphs below to determine what slots are active based upon the APT Model (4 or 8 channel) and the Chargers/ANIs selected in columns A and B:

content_mxw_network_charging_station.png

content_mxw_audio_output_device.png

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Factory Reset

If a device isn't appearing on the network after trying troubleshooting methods, perform a reset on the specific hardware to return the device to default settings. Factory default settings are designed for automatic compatibility with other Shure networked devices. Note: performing a factory reset will clear any MXW Group and Link associations. The password to access the software will reset to admin.

Use following instructions to reset each device:

Access Point Transceiver

Press and hold the reset button for 10 seconds. The LEDs on the APT will flash to indicate the unit is rebooting.

CAUTION: The Factory reset deletes all Group associations and microphone Links saved in the device.

Audio Network Interface

Press and hold the reset button for 10 seconds. The front panel LEDs will flash to indicate the unit is rebooting.

Networked Charging Station

1. Turn off the power switch.

2. Press and hold the Link button.

3. While holding the Link button, turn on the power switch.

4. Continue to hold the Link button for 12 seconds until the LED illuminates amber.

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Saving and Loading Preferences

The MXW Access Point GUI allows the user to Save and Load all the settings on the Preferences page. This feature could be used to simply have a backup of the system Preferences or it could be used to quickly switch the meeting behavior based upon the use of the room.

These settings could save a lot of time when dealing with configurable or multi-purpose rooms. For example, when using a small room configuration for a conference call, the user may want the RF Power Level on “Low” and the Mute Preference to be set to “Local Mute –All” (to Mute the entire near end during a call). Later on in the day, the MXW system may want to be used in a large room configuration where the RF Power needed is “High” and the Mute Preference is “Local Mute – Individual”.

Both of these Preference sets can be easily recalled anytime the room purpose changes. Simply press the “Save Settings” button on the Preferences page of the APT GUI to save the current setup to a file in a known location with a descriptive name (such as “SmallConferenceCall.conf” or “LargeDiscussionSetup.conf”). Later, to swap settings, press the “Load Settings” button and find the saved “*.conf” file.

 

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