Helixnet Digital Network Partyline System
Helixnet Digital Partyline system is a 12 trace intercom system capable of powering up to 20 belt packs from a single base station (10 Bp per power line). Base stations can be linked over a network using an ethernet module to increase the capacity of the system. That same ethernet module can be used to access all of the system settings available on the front panel. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how to network, link, and configure the Helixnet system using the Browser based control interface, saving time and footsteps for busy intercom techs! But first, an overview of the units connections and front panel operations.
Power Lines: Above you can see that there are two separate 59v digital intercom power lines, each with a two parallelled connections (male and female). Each of the two power lines will power up to 10 HBP-2X belt packs. If a HKB-2x (four channel speaker station) is put in line without a dedicated power source, the number of supported belt packs will go down, as these require more power. When figuring out your power lines it helps to remember the following.
The manufacturer will always pad the power specs of a device
1 HPB-2x draws 4w of power
1 HKB-2x draws 13w of power
1 HKB-2x draws equivalent power to 3 HPB-2x
SA out: The stage announce output can be programmed to rout a headset microphone on the base station out to a console for announcement or IFB purposes.
Program In: This allows for program to be piped into the entire intercom system. Each HBP-2x has an analog volume knob on the rear which allows an operator to adjust their program listening level.
Module Slots: These are card slots which will accept the following modules:
HLI-4W2 – 2 port 4 wire interface module – each port individually programmable to any of the 12 traces
HLI-2W2 – 2 port 2 wire interface module – ports also individually programmable, can be configured for compatibility with various 2w protocols.
HLI-ET2 – 2 port ethernet module – LAN network interface module which can be used to link up to 3 base stations over network. Once part of a LAN, a user with a laptop (or anything with a browser; i.e. tablet, smartphone) can access the base station settings by typing that base stations IP address into their browser. On the first attempt a user will be prompted to enter a username/password – this is by default admin/admin. More on that later.
Unit Face Operations
For the purpose of keeping this concise I will assume that the reader is already familiar with the basic front panel operations of the HMS-4x base station. For those who are not familiar I recommend a skimming of the manual. This article is geared towards Helixnet users who want to broaden their capabilities using the available networking tools. Thus, I will not be discussing on-face operations such as naming and assigning traces, 4w and 2w module programming, station settings or audio settings. I will now, however walk through the process of linking base stations and establishing a LAN for remote settings access.
Networking & Linking
When an HLI-ET2 Network Module is present in the Base station, a network menu will be available in the HMS-4x. This menu contains settings for DHCP and Manual IP addresses, as well as station linking and master-member settings. I always keep my station at a static IP address so that I can keep a bookmark of that IP address in my browser for quick access.
To enable/disable DHCP and set a manual IP address you press menu and follow these options:
Networking>Preferences>DHCP>Select Enable or Disable
To manually set the IP address:
Networking>Preferences>IP Address>Edit IP address here
In order to link bases, one ethernet module port on each station must be connected to the same LAN network. The Helixnet manual claims that consistent subnet masks are not necessary for station links, but I find it helps to clear up a troubleshoot if you maintain a consistent subnet mask. This can be found in the Network preferences as well. I will typically put my Helixnet, Wireless Microphones, Consoles, and PA control network on the same network and subnet mask and use manual IPs across the board to maintain ease of remote access to gear.
It is important to note that most gear will connect quickly and without hassle using DHCP and self assigned IP addresses. Manual IP addresses are not a necessity, But it does mean that you don’t have to learn a new IP every time you go to access your Helixnet system from your browser.
Once you’ve got your network settings the way you want them, it is time to enable the station link. One unit must be designated the master through the following:
Others must be set to member:
These settings in place, and all cables connected; the units should automatically link. The Helixnet Manual states that links require a reboot to take hold, but I don’t find this to be the case. Once linked, the fourth screen on the HMS-4x will display an icon (Shown Below) to indicate a successful link.
If the link is broken the icon will appear as below with a missing center.
And when searching or establishing a link the center of the icon will flash.
Establishing Remote Access
With a computer or tablet, connect to your LAN (can be hard connection or wifi). Once connected you can enter the IP address of your helixnet base station into your browser, and access your settings. Again on the first attempt the user will be prompted to enter a username/password – this is by default admin/admin.
Rather than ramble on explaining the user interface, I’ll let Pete Erskine give you the run down. This is the video that I used to learn this system, it is pretty concise and very thorough. Enjoy!
Additional helpful notes
A single role can be assigned to multiple beltpacks. In this instance, all of those beltpacks share the settings in that role. This comes in handy when making quick global intercom changes, but can be a pain when the users of those packs request different setting changes. With this in mind it is advantageous to make a separate roll for every station in your system.
Local Config cannot be accessed through the software. So a unit which is set to local config will need to be assigned a roll in order to be manipulated remotely.
Base station roles contain the module settings for 4w and 2w interface modules. When using roles on a base station, the modules and order thereof within the role must match the modules that are physically in the unit. Otherwise the unit will display the following icon in the 4th display.
This icon is actually the universal error icon for the Helixnet system, and is not specific to base station role discrepancies. When this light comes on the reason can be found in the diagnostics menu on the unit’s face. I encounter it on a regular basis when my base station role does not adhere to the modules in the unit.
If I’ve done what I set out to do, you now have the tools to do this yourself! The browser interface takes a lot of time out of programming and allows for setting changes to be made from the comfort of your chair. Roles can admittedly be cumbersome at times but once you have a workflow, they too can be handy.