It’s Sommer Time
I need a high-quality pro-standard audio/video/broadcasting cable for a concert level production at a good price. Which one of the 3,000 products in your catalogue would you recommend?
The Sommer catalogue certainly is a fat body of work, and with all the industry attention on glamorous high-end products, it’s really hard to get passionately worked up about signal cables. However, at Germany’s Sommer Cabling Systems, there must be a lot of people who do just that; one look at their catalogue and you can see their “passion” is distributed across the broadest possible spectrum of high-quality cabling solutions. Without cables, well, there’s no gig. And, if you have ever tried cheap cables, you would have found that generally they equal no gig as well.
The name “Sommer” sounds like a product that comes from somewhere near the “Lucky Dragon String, Cable and Coat Hanger Company”, somewhere in Southern China. In Europe and USA, the name Sommer is associated with top-end recording and concert production. In fact, Sommer is “patched into the high-end of the market with connections from the top down”. It’s new to Australia but we’ve all heard enough ‘tyranny of distance’ and ‘down under’ jokes.
Situated in Strasbourg, on the German-French border, the company is surrounded by good restaurants and the highest of high-tech engineering organisations. In broad fact, Sommer is the only European cable manufacturer that manufactures all of their cables in Germany. That is why Sommer has acquired such a first-class international reputation. Consistent quality is about attention to detail and with Sommer’s engineering background, it’s not likely to be anything else but as good as you can get.
FRIEDHELM SOMMER: The company founder knows what music is supposed to sound like.
Sommer’s broad range has every possible cable product from multiple grades of signal cable, AES/EBU, optical, CAT5, AMX, multi-pair hybrid, specialised DMX, concert class multicores, stage boxes and accessories, do-it-yourself lead making equipment, broadcast and studio patch systems. There’s almost no end to it, and there’s almost no end to the trouble this family-owned company will go to when it comes to clever product development.
Sommer is not just microphone cable, there’s a selection of digital friendly cables for all purposes
Long-Lasting Cables? It’s a Long Story
There’s more to making long-lasting cables than just wrapping copper in some plastic. The secret lies in the combination of the sleeve mixture. Here, Sommers engineering leaves nothing up to chance. Experience in chemistry and real world testing has led to a number in innovations not seen in other cable brands.
Most cable brands have the faults ‘built in’ not designed out.
It’s the everyday standard practices in most cable brands that lead to shortened cable life. One simple example is the use of talcum, found in almost all cables to encourage flexibility. When talcum is mixed in to lubricate the inner cores, a little PVC can be saved, but… the flexibility will soon be lost. Besides, by adding talcum, the sleeve and the insulation will soak up moisture like a sponge (e.g. during storage in a road case, outdoor shows, humid environments, cold climate areas, etc.), and it will release it again even when slightly warmed. With the moisture the elasticity will also disappear and the cable will get porous and brittle, and the original protection of the sleeve will be lost.
High temp tolerant polymer materials (Teflon, PVC, PE, and VPE-insulation) prevent the need for talcum and also improve capacitance figures, while halogen free and flame retardant sleeve material, according to standard VDE 0472, complies with the strict European standards.
One example of this is the PRIMUS. The PRIMUS is the perfect cable for the demanding stage and sound technician. It’s not expensive but it has a large wire diameter of 2 x 0.50 mm2, making it suitable for especially long distances. The strong composite PVC-jacket makes it simple to wind and enormously robust. The double shielding (aluminized fleece + copper spiral shielding) makes the PRIMUS 100 % optically opaque and absolutely free of noise and crackling even under difficult stage conditions. As a pre made cable, Sommer supplies it with NEUTRIK NC3MX and NC3FX connectors.
(Order code: Black=SW, Blue=BL)
When it comes to the big gig, it’s Really Sommer Time.
Sommer has a large and comprehensive collection of signal distribution systems for live sound and broadcast/recording. This is where Sommer’s attention to detail and scientific approach pays off.
How do you want it? They will make it.
Sommer will custom manufacture a concert core to your specifications, but if you just want to buy it or build it as you go as an ‘Ikea package’ you can start small and build up. There are a number of wiring standards and the Sommer web site shows all the most common standards for the popular multi-pin systems around. You can build up your core stock to easily integrate as you expand with no redundant bits or adaptor clusters.
You don’t have to be shopping for 6 splits of 96 channels at a stadium to be a Sommer owner. Smaller compact cores full of clever little innovations are where the action is for the average working production company or venue installer.
We’ll Start with the Basics
The BASIC core is a reasonable priced stage box, supplied completely pre-wired with a permanently installed multi-pair cable. The system is space saving and well thought out. The BASIC stage box is ideal for the sub-distribution of drum sets, for simple stage application, and for compact PA set ups. Even at this reasonable price there is no compromise: Sommer supplies the double shielded and individually insulated stage multi-pin cable MISTRAL MCF (no foil multi-pair!) and NEUTRIK built-in sockets on the stage box. Of course, the in/outputs for the stage box are clearly numbered, as are the individual wire pairs and channels.
The cable end has a 1.50-meter splice.
The next level up gives you access to endless multipin configurations in a pro standard core.
The “Plug Mama” stage box is the first small ‘ergonomic’ box multipinned or hard wire
Here come some more options. All high quality cores and not as expensive as you may think from a totally German manufactured product.
You can start with small multipin systems that eventually become sub trunks of a larger system. And you don’t have to touch a hot iron; it all fits together out of the box!
When bigger is better
When it comes to big multi-cores, even the thickest cable is rubber-like pliable and behaves more like a shoelace than a concert core. But it doesn’t stop there, there’s a load of useful accessories;
This roadie is not taking her funky Generation-X pet for a walk; she is however utilising the Sommer easy “Mr. Wheeler” heavy multicore dispensing and retraction system. This clever system removes the necessity for figure-8 or the tiresome under and over method of cable packing and makes running long multicore runs a breeze.
The ring drum turns inside the case like a carrousel and the cable is pulled from the case (LxWxH: 75 x 75 x 40 cm) across a deflection roller. After the gig, the cable is simply pushed back into the drum. The ring drum goes along with the turn and the cable smoothly rolls up inside the case. Close the flap – into the truck! A perforated hole to the inner core makes it possible to insert a multi-pin or adaptor, respectively.
And What About the Light Show?
BINARY 234: This pre-made cable is excellently suited to transmit 110 AES/EBU 2 DMX512 data formats. Important: The use of a standard microphone cable is not recommended, due to possible data and information losses (caused by the "skin effect"). For lighting a data loss will cause a total backup of signal transmissions, e.g. for controls of moving light units.
This well-priced cable will make it easy to switch from the standard microphone cable to a good AES/EBU-cable. Sommer’s AES/EBU-cable guarantees data transfer free of faults even over long distances of up to 100 m. Sommer uses the AES/EBU-cable BINARY 234 with 100 % shielding and NEUTRIK XLR-plug connectors NC3MX-BAG and NC3FX-BAG. For the DMX-cable with feedback channel try the DMX-cable BINARY 434 with double shielding (cross-braiding + foil) and plug connectors NC5MX-BAG and NC5FX-BAG. Sommer also supplies the BINARY 234 with NC5-NEUTRIK plug connectors, with a 3-pin assignment.
XLR male --- XLR female 3-pin, NEUTRIK (Order code: Black=SW, Blue=BL)
This is only a small taste of what Sommer has to offer. Next time you are tied up in knots about an important cable job, Sommer is worth a serious look. For price, quality and broad range, it’s in a class of its own.
To see the vast product range, check out the Sommer web site: www.sommercable.com
Sommer Cable is distributed in Australia by Group Technologies (Australasia)
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