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HD Radio = Headache

January 27, 2021

What is up with HD Radio? Why is it so complex when normal networking protocols have been in place for years? Ever asked yourself these questions? The end user does care how it is received, but if you have to install and configure such a beast you could go bald pulling your hair out. (Assuming you started with hair.)

Since the inception, we have managed to run the E2X, Exporter to Exgine, stream over our MPLS network. We have all the equipment at the studio end for simplicity. More on this in a bit. My 3 stations were humming along without issue until it was time to replace old, aging, or even failed equipment. Now all of a sudden where this stuff is located becomes an issue.

Manufacturers tend to do things differently. This is to be expected. Each radio facility is expected to do things differently. Again, expected. My issue is that those who design and provide this stuff think that radio facilities do everything the same. Guess what, folks. Each facility is build with some basics “standard”, but customized to fit the need of the format, personality, and mentality of those that build it. For my installation I look toward simplicity. I like to keep things simple, so why cannot I install my Exporter or now combo box at my studio location? I’ve done so in the past, but now your new box won’t work this way? Does it not make more sense to install this at the studio especially if it is a combination Importer & Exporter?

Let’s evaluate this. If a combination unit is installed at the studio, then I can have my metadata, my other HD channel audio, and my control locally with a SINGLE data stream to the transmitter site. If this unit is installed at the transmitter site, then I must send a data stream with metadata AND multiple audio streams to the transmitter site. Bandwidth becomes a real issue, especially since we, here, are a full IP based STL distribution system. It is just more convenient and efficient if this is located locally at the studio end. All I need to send to the transmitter is a single data stream for HD and my main audio.

Right now Nautel makes this happen just fine even with their new HDMC+. As I write I have discovered that Gates requires the E2X to be on its own subnet. Nautel I just drop the data on the network at it goes. To make the Gates work on one station an extra box is required, called the IPLink. This encapsulates the E2X on the pipe that connects to the site. Why do I need another box? Save money they say. How? You have to buy another box or redesign your whole audio chain. Seems crazy.

Whatever happened to standard networking protocols? Why does HD data have to be so special? How different does it have to really be? We can squeeze Zoom meetings with video and audio on fairly conservative network, but we cannot send a simple, supposedly, UDP data stream from point A to point B on a different subnet? A private one at that?

If we did everything the same, then we may as well have automatons do our work. Thanks radio for spending so much time eliminating the people that make the medium unique.

Cheers!

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