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When you last bought a new piece of equipment, did you accept the manufacturers word that it would work OK when you installed it in your studio? Probably you did, and relied on goodwill - and ultimately sale of goods legislation - that if there happened to be a problem that it would be sorted out quickly and efficiently. But a mixing console is large and complex, and especially in a custom built or adapted console there is a lot that could potentially not be quite as right as one might wish. For broadcasters, pre-delivery acceptance tests are vital to make sure a new console is up to scratch.
The acceptance test has two purposes. Most of our customers in broadcasting will issue a very detailed specification for the desk when they come out to tender and we will either reply to that specification or we will quote our own specification. This would be both an operational and performance specification. When the desk is complete and ready for delivery the customer will come along, and the first thing he will do is check that the desk functions to his specifications. The normal functions of the desk are not much of a problem because they tend to be fairly standard, but what the customer will be checking are all the special panels and the extra facilities that have to interface with other equipment that he owns. He will do a functional check and make sure that absolutely everything does what it is supposed to do and then he will do a performance check on the desk. This used to be a very lengthy process but nowadays we provide the customer with a full set of test results from the automated test equipment and they will tend to spot check these. It is very important for our Independent Television customers, who have their facilities inspected by the IBA, to make sure the desk meets Code of Practice. Similarly the BBC have very high standards of performance that have to be met.
Testing a desk fully and ensuring that it meets the specified standards can be a very lengthy procedure.
For a standard product we are looking at two or three days for the customer to do his acceptance test. If it was a desk with a lot of special facilities or if it was a new type or particularly large then the customer would be here for two or three weeks testing absolutely every single facet of the product. A mixing console these days has many thousands of paths that all have to be checked, or certainly a representative sample. They need to feel comfortable with the desk because by the time its installed it will be the end of a long and expensive period for them. They could have had a television studio out of service for nine months with all the attendant expense of that and they will be working towards a deadline for going back into service. This process ensures that the only thing that you are likely to get is a very minor component failure, and that there are no faults in the system.