Last year, right before LDI, we did a pre show announcement about Pathway Connectivity preparing to announce their latest DMX node called the Parthport Touring Edition. After a couple months of refinement and beta testing and getting the bugs worked out, Pathway has begun to ship the Touring Edition Node. The folks at Pathway Connectivity were kind enough to send us a unit to write a review.
First, a little bit about the Pathport Touring Node:
The Pathport Touring Edition Node is designed with the needs of the rental and tour markets in mind. The Touring Edition (TE) is fully configurable without need of a computer or network connection. This truss-mountable single port DMX node has an IP 54 weather rating and the full feature set of all Pathport nodes. It’s also the first Pathport to incorporate DMX diagnostic tools directly from the user menu. The TE will report incoming levels as well as transmit DMX to test downstream equipment and connections. The TE is also the first handheld RDM controller and tester. The TE can discover any RDM-compliant gear downstream. It can also edit basic device properties such as DMX start address.
Click through to read our review and close up shots of the TE:
We begin our review of the Pathway Connectivity Pathport Touring Edition Node, Model 6182 with a little background information provided from the Users Manual. The TE is a one-port DMX-over-Ethernet node intended, (but not limited to), for use in entertainment and architectural lighting systems employing DMX512 as the control protocol. The TE can either output or input 512 channels of DMX, (depending on control protocol).
The TE supports some of the most well known and used DMX-over-ethernet protocols in the industry such as ArtNet, Pathport xDMX, Strand Shownet, ETC Net2 eDMX, (output only) and streaming ACN (E1.31 sACN)/ETC Net3. In addtion to those protocols, the TE also supports RDM (E1.20 Remote Device Managment) as a controller device. The TE has the ability to discover RDM enabled devices and can report back as well as reconfigure the DMC starting address for those fixtures.
Similar to all the other Parthport one-port nodes, the TE can address up to 128 universes of DMX and discover up to 128 RDM devices. What sets the TE apart from all the other one-port nodes not only from Pathway and all the other one-port nodes on the market is that the TE can be configured at the device with the built in buttons and menu system. The TE does support the ability to be configured through Pathways, Pathport Manager software, (freely downloadable from Pathway’s website). This software must be installed on a windows PC. We tired configuring the TE both from the three on board buttons and menu system as well as the Pathport Manager software. The easiest by far was configuring the TE by the on board menu system. It is clearly laid out and easy to navigate and thus does not need to be connected to a network or PC to configure.
While we are a Mac friendly group, we understand that most of the industry still uses windows based PC for control and network devices. On a side note, we have been wondering how a web based manager might be to implement to configure nodes and devices. This would thus allow any PC running windows, Mac or linux the ability to uses the same “software” to do the same job.
Next we look at the physical layout and construction of the Touring Edition. At first glance, the TE has an unfamiliar look to it. Typically in the industry, nodes have be square boxes with just and input or output for 5 pin DMX and and ethernet connection with maybe an LED or two to signal connection. Here, Pathway has taken a different approach and put the two connection types under the “wings” of the node. So when the device is hung to where the connections are pointed down, the TE has an IP54 enclosure rating thus resistant to dust partials and splashing water. This can be quite useful is some venues and tours.
For powering the TE to send DMX singnal, the TE must be connected and powered via a POE (Power-Over-Ethernet, IEEE802.2af) switch or hub drawing less than 5 watts. While the TE does have a 9 volt battery built into it, battery power is only able to provide about 30 minutes of operation and is not suitable to run a show or event off of. The TE is autosencseing so when POE power is detected at the unit, it will not draw or use the 9volt battery power. However, when POE power is lost, the TE will not auto switch to battery power. This could be a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it. The 9volt battery “backup” might be nice inorder to properly send a shut down signal to your moving devices to safely shutdown everything in case of power lose across the system. But looking at the other side, if power is lost across the system, there is no need to send a shut down command, the devices have already lost power.
The TE has two type of connections coming in to the “wing” sections of the unit. One is a female RJ45 ethernet jack. The ethernet jack can acept a standard RJ45 connector or a Neutrik Ethercon connector. To help keep the IP54 rating and to make sure a tight connection is made, it is recommend to use a Ethercon cable. This not only keeps the water and dust out of the ethernet connection, but also provide a stronger connection in the even that the cable is tugged or strained. On the other “wing” of the TE is a female 5-pin XLR jack for DMX. The female XLR means that the TE is natively a DMX output device, but the port direction can easily be changed via the on board menu system or throught the Pathport Manager Software.
The TE has two indicator LEDs beside both jacks on the “wings”. A blue LED indicated that there is an active network connection and the green LED indicates that DMX input or output depending on how it is configured is active and sending signal. This gives a quick and easy indication that signal is coming into and out of the device.
Built into the TE is a two line, 16 character back light LCD display and three push buttons. This gives the user the ability to configure the TE at the device using the 9 volt battery power supply. We found that the on board menu system very easy to navigate to update, configure and test DMX signal all while not being connected to a network. To activate the device while not connected to a network, all we had to do was push any of the three buttons to wake the device. From there the buttons are labeled on the LCD display to enter into the menu system. The top level of the menu system is the network settings, Port Settings, DMX Port Monitor, DRM tools and Test DMX Ouput. Scrolling between the top level menu items is quick and easy and then selecting OK button to go deeper into that menu item or ESC to go back. We found that the buttons need a firm press to select the option. This is a good thing, it prevents something for accidentally getting selected it if a button gets bumped.
Overall, the Touring Edition node is a smart choice for tours and the rental market as the TE is built strong and can handle the heavy abuse that those type of events and locations it would be used in. The TE makes getting a DMX singal to a remote location much easier by running a less expensive cat5 cable then running the equivilent length of DMX cable.
The TE retails for $520.00 and is available from your local Pathway dealer. Visit our image gallery below of the Pathport Touring edition to see the different menu’s within the unit as well as different angles of the TE.