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NAB Show 2016 Recap

Ever been so busy that you cannot dig out?  Well, I’m finally digging out!  I will start out saying that I need more time on the floor and will have to look for ways to weasel more time, but last week it would not have mattered since as the day I returned to work we had a station launch.  Welcome the new Sunny 98.1!  I could start writing on all the things I didn’t get done from my list, but that would be boring, so let’s dive in and see what I did see physically, and what I feel is the number one trend by many.  First the products that stood out to me.

Tieline Technology (www.tieline.com) introduced the ViA.  A compact codec with an new improved user interface.  Designed around the world of IP connectivity the unit has built-in WiFi, a physical network interface, and USB ports for a customer provided USB modem.  If you are familiar with the Report-IT app, then the use of the codec will be intuitive.  The codec comes with 3 XLR type inputs and 3 headphone outputs.  Location of the headphone jacks are next to their respective inputs making it very convenient for all cable runs.  I do see room for improvement, and rest assure I will be in contact with them.  I hope to be able to spend a bit more time with this device when they roll them out.  It is no secret that I’m a Tieline supporter and have tested and evaluated a number of their devices.

Wheatstone (www.wheatstone.com) has acquired Audion Labs VoxPro.  Did you know that?  Yeah, I did.  VoxPro is a very strong and well used phone editor and I am glad someone picked up the product, and they appear to be very serious about it.  They retained the developer, Rick Bidlack, who seems to be getting the support he needs to move the product forward.  VoxPro 5 was released a while back with some improvements, and 5.1 came out just a month or so ago to address some very important issues.  As you can tell, with the release of VoxPro 6, they are standing behind the product.  The physical controller now has a new paint scheme, but enough of cosmetics, the new UI which came out with 5 is looking good in 6.  The ability to detach the hotkeys will make some morning show folks quite happy along with the capabilities to record while playing back.  I have not tried that, but we’ll see how the hardware (PC) handles that work load.  Finally a little multi-track editing capabilities are there for those who want to get more complex in their work.  I have experienced some issues with Windows 8 and 10, and they appear to be OS issues.  I feel for software developers that have to deal with such headaches as Microsoft isn’t making it easy for them!  I am continuing to watch here as I feel there will be more coming soon.

DEVA Broadcast (www.devabroadcast.com) continues to impress me.  Each year at the show I see something new and I just want to try it.  Maybe this year I will be able to get my hands on a couple of their devices.  I could list a whole slew of devices that are new or upcoming and that would be space consuming, so I will give a mini list of what I liked.
Confidence monitoring, both HD and FM in the DB3011 (HD) and the DB3010 (FM).  Both are radio monitors with IP audio streams, so you set them at a site and stream the audio back.  Listing what you can do with these devices will take many pages, so hit their website.  Noteable is you do it at your computer.  You can monitor nearly everything and then some.  They think of almost everything.
Audio processors.  Did you know DEVA does processing?  I did not.  On the floor I spent some time listening, via headphones, and I was quite impressed what a single rack unit box can do.  Look for the DB6400(4-band) and the DB6000(6-band).  Again you can access these via IP and front panel.  The details you can get into is amazing.
Finally the DB7007 Re-Broadcast receiver.  If you are in need of a receiver for a translator site or even a booster, this may be your choice.  It is feature packed and has fail-over to many options like IP stream or even MP3 with a built in SD card slot.  In addition, and an issue some stations have, is RDS re-encoding.  You can get the proper station calls on that station and even the slogans.  Now if we can get one that can re-encode PPM, eh?  Again, this unit can be accessed via web interface to monitor and control.
All the devices come at a very good price point.  If budget is a concern, you may wish to look at these.

Inovonics (www.inovonicsbroadcast.com) is my go to for the space saving INO series of tuners.  Their new 638 is the HD Radio SiteStreamer which is the HD evolution of the 635 FM/RDS SiteStreamer.  All accessible via IP and web interface you now know what is happening at the site with all the data.  A nice feature is polling.  One box will poll your HD, HD2, HD3 in a time frame set by the user all with silence monitoring and alarm notification.  Get that, one box.  I also like their 650 Arron FM Rebroadcast Receiver.  This one introduced the re-encoding of RDS information, and an improved tuner to really pickup that main station if you are way out there or in an area of marginal reception.  I acquired an 808 Justin for diveristy delay on one station.  The box works well.  I have had little time to research on of the other devices out there, but I know they exist.  I feel more enhancements are coming to the 638 than what I saw at the show, so place this on the watch list.

While poking around the booths, the one trend that I picked up was monitoring and control.  IP accessibility at sites have improved with better land and microwave connectivity.  Manufacturers are embracing this.  WorldCast (www.worldcastsystems.com) introduced the WorldCast Manager.  Burk Technology (www.burk.com) introduced SNMP monitoring in their ARC Plus Touch remote control.  Both systems are delving deeper into the SNMP data gathering.  Those with an ARC Plus Touch can upgrade to this capability, those with the ARC Plus only can look into their upgrade package deal.  What is make the life better for Burk users is the SNMP monitoring is now at the local site and you have channel assignment capabilities.  Those of us with the older ARC Plus rely on the AutoPilot software for SNMP monitoring which may be at one location thus requiring an always up data connection.  This upgrade now gives local options and redundancy.

Look for more monitoring and control solutions out there.  I know there are others doing it, I just did not have a chance to visit them.  As operators cut staff and the fact that technology allows for more granular monitoring embracing this will help minimize off-air situations and help with troubleshooting.  Know where a system fails based on status points will quickly show where an issue lies.  Boxes that can communicate with each other will help expedite switching to alternate audio feeds.  If you have not begun to build such a system, you may wish to consider it.

Two days on the floor was not enough for me this year, but I made the best of it.  I enjoy catching up with colleagues year after year.  I like to see what is new, or in reality, what has improved.  New is lacking, but improvements abound, and you can see who is embracing the improvements and incorporating them into their systems.  And, if anyone can find a better, rack mounted, HD radio that displays Artist Experience other than the cheap desktop thing, I sure would like to know about it.  Now get back to work, y’all!

 

Cheers!

NAB 2016

It’s that time of year again. I’m headed to the NAB convention. It will be quite a quick trip as I’m lined up to see a bunch of folks, but I do not know when! Also learning the nuances of the new company is interesting. Key points for me is some AoIP stuff which I already have, just needing supplemental items, staring down transmitters with HD (Nautel), and getting a look a Tieline’s new Via. Wonder where they got some ideas from?

I will say I’m not impressed by the credential world. I signed up in December. Decided to check and make a minor update and discovered they want so much more personal information now then when they first had me sign up! So after signing my 1st born away, I have the “proper” email confirmation as they have a new system to pick up badges. As the saying goes, Oh, boy, this is gonna be great! I understand they have had abuse of badges, but at least be consistent and don’t change registration in the middle of the window, or at least notify those that did register they need to “update” some information. Here’s the kicker: A colleague went to update his information and he was charged $25! Bad customer service, IMHO.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to seeing folks I have not seen since last year, and to meet new people, some who actually work for the company. I’ll be posting during my short stay, so check in and get my field reports!

Cheers!

Categories: Equipment, IT, Management Tags: , ,

Forward: What’s Next for Radio?

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I read the trades and hear the talk of the future of radio.  The competition between Internet radio and broadcast radio.  Many years now we have had this radio stigma that we are the best.  Best at what?  All of it to me is a moot point.  Looks like we in radio are better at content providing than leading the charge to innovate and improve technology.  The future will soon see a paradigm change that will split radio as a whole into Content Providers and Content Delivery (technology).

I have talked with some colleagues and manufacturer reps about the future of radio.  I get asked the question all the time.  Many focus on the immediate future, but I think about the real future as I see it.  We are at the beginning with HD radio and I watch closely as other countries move to digital.  I watch the trends of our own digital development.  I see we keep putting a band aid on old technology like the new RDS2, granted is really cool, and we keep adding to the HD sidebands.  This is not enough.  I see the trends of where and how content is consumed.  I see a change.  As we move to all digital, we are looking at the analog carrier going away and becoming one large digital carrier.  We can split digital sidebands into multiple channels.  Look what we can do with a single digital carrier.

We take a digital carrier and we can split it into a number of channels.  For the sake of argument, we choose 100 channels.  Yes, that may be too many for a single carrier and it may take a wider bandwidth, consuming the adjacent radio channels as we saw in the Nautel presentation at the NAB show earlier this year.  Open you mind and let this sink it.  100 channels.  What does that mean?  100 streams of content.  Place 10 FM stations on the air with 100 channels each.  1000 streams of content.  We see a change.  One facility as we know it no longer can handle 100 channels.  Content providers must split from the content delivery mechanism, or hardware provider.  A large radio group becomes a large content provider group.  Look at iHeartMedia.  They have an app for that.  Content being pushed across all mediums.  They are unloading transmitter sites no longer wanting to be the landlord.  What next?  The transmission systems themselves?

Yes.  The transmission systems.  The delivery systems.  A new business model emerges.  Content providers will lease from the “delivery” providers, or Content Delivery companies.  The delivery folks will offer bandwidth for a price.  No more maintaining a technical department, the providers now can concentrate on content, advertising, business.  The deliverers, or whomever you want to call them, maintain the delivery systems.  This splits open a whole new world for the providers.  They can concentrate on what they do best.  The content delivery companies do what they do best.  They provide a means to get that content to the masses.  They do it now.  They just do not have the mass delivery capabilities, but they will.

Who are these delivery companies?  Look at your mobile device, and you have found the new content delivery company.  AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, even Sirious/XM  You name it, the game is, or will be, in their hands.  The paradigm shift; these companies will hold the licenses to the “big sticks”.  This will give them the means to get the mass, one direction, streams off their standard network, and put it out there on their “broadcast” network.  It will be the same data we see today, but it is now totally wireless.  New “radios” will be capable of picking up and “tuning” into any stream a user/consumer wants, seamlessly between the off-air network and the Internet network, as they will become one and the same.  These same companies own their wireless cell networks.  They have 4G LTE, 5G, or whatever.  These cell sites fill in the gaps and supplement the broadcast signal.  The radio hardware will be capable of switching between the two or three delivery paths.  The hardware will allow the consumer to provide feedback, or interact, with the content because there will be a return path, the cellular network.  The two, broadcast and cellular, will work side-by-side, hand in hand, seamlessly.  Look at the connected vehicle.  A single point to receive content.  A single point to respond and have an input.  The mobile phone, or smart phone is the other.  The device becomes the center of interaction, and the content provider will now have a direct connection to their “audience”.

This may be difficult to digest for some.  This is a paradigm change.  Many little changes will take place.  The obvious is the physical hardware of the transmission facilities.  All digital transmitters will most likely mean lower transmitter power output (TPO), so a currently licensed 50kW ERP facility may be now become 20kW ERP or less.  The licenses will transfer from traditional owners to the new content delivery companies.  Imagine an AT&T or Verizon owning a broadcast license.  Difficult to imagine, but it will happen in this shift.  The very heart of regulation will change, too.  The Federal Communications Commission media bureau will have to change.  The rules will have to change.  The way emergency information is spread will change.  Go back to our original 100 channel block.  A low bandwidth channel may be set aside for emergency information only.  The “receiver” will automatically change to that channel if an alert is issued.  Alerts can be issued to specific geographical areas.  It can be done. The old ways will change, and that will leave a bad taste for many, but it will have to happen if radio will survive, and it is human nature to detest change.  Change is painful, but constant.

This change will not happen tomorrow, or even 5 years from now.  It will be slow, but it will happen. It is very exciting to think about this paradigm shift.  Consumers will be happy getting, and interacting, with what they consume.  No more ambiguity for advertisers on how and where their audience is.  Content providers will get the metrics they need directly from the devices in cars, in pockets, on belts.  It is all data.  The delivery companies are already in place doing what they do, delivering content to their network subscribers.  A win all around. These are some of the thoughts I have.  Maybe I have too much time to think, and maybe now that my thoughts and concepts are out there I can get credit for this paradigm changing concept of the future.  (That’s my ego talking.)

Stay connected and I will pursue posting more thoughts on this as it develops.

Cheers!

 

Step Forward, Then Back

Another week has gone by and wouldn’t you know it, that exciter of last week made me take a step back.  That Superciter was working just dandy on the bench when I shut down on Friday of last.  I had it up to 30 watts running happy as a clam (wherever that phrase came from) into a load.  All afternoon it ran until I pulled the plug for the weekend.  Come Monday of this week, Mr. Murphy struck.

As usual with these things, I felt I should run another bench test before calling this exciter good.  Plugged it in and let it run.  It started out just fine at 30 watts.  I’m happy that nothing changed while it sat doing nothing for a weekend.  We all need time off.  I wander through the shop while doing other things.  I walk right by the bench late morning and stop.  Take a couple steps back and look at the forward power.  16 watts!  Huh?  Fan is working and I pop the top open.  Not heat.  Shoot, it’s even sitting under an air conditioning vent.  Time to pull it apart and take the test point readings.  I start to see a couple of anomalies, though for the most part all readings were good.

I sit down with the schematic and refresh my brains on the previous week pointers on what drives what and who and where.  Take a couple more readings as I watch the power drop down below 10 watts.  Something is failing and failing slowly.  No faults, just no power.  OK, if those don’t get enough drive what happens?  I’m starting to get the feeling there is a drive issue.  Why it didn’t show last week is interesting.  I have a brief email exchange with GatesAir.  I describe the situation and how it changed from last week.  The same conclusion that something is not giving enough drive.  We are going t concentrate on the RF drive produced by the FM Synthesizer board.  I have a couple of parts ordered, so we wait until they arrive.  Let’s see if this takes care of it.

In the meantime, we had our annual fire inspection.  Meetings.  A last minute invite to Al Salci’s (of SAS fame) presentation of AVB (Audio Video Bridging) was a highlight.  Great presentation if you get a chance to witness it.  At least I had time off from wrestling with that exciter!  Every week is a learning experience, so take advantage when you can.  Next week more meets and greets.  Let’s see what I learn and maybe even get an exciter repaired.

Cheers!

Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: , , ,

Interesting Read/Refresher from EEP

When given the time I will click through my Links column and see what may be new or of interest.  Also, to check and see if they are still valid.  This morning I ran across EEP, Electrical Engineering Portal, as they always have something interesting power related.  We all need and use power.  Without power we have nothing to do.  Today’s feature article is 5 Types of Equipment Which Generates the Most Harmonics.  Head on over and get a refresher on what they find.  We all know most of these and how they interfere with RF, especially AM radio.

What is very nice about this article is it doesn’t just brush by the topic.  There is some good detail in there.  For example I was able to refresh my understanding between on-line, off-line, and line-interactive UPS’s.  It may be obvious, but a little refresher keeps them brain cells up to date.  All in all, a good read.

 

Marantz PMD Thoughts

Seems there are still many users of the old Marantz PMD 570 recorder. This surprises me a lot as the technology has improved so much it is not really worth maintaining these old machines. I admit, we still have a couple in use. Not used much, but still in use.

1. They are obsolete.
2. Even though the update expands your choice on CF card size, the machine will develop issues. One we have is card corruption; randomly at that.
3. Our smartphones have better technology in them.

Let me get to the requests and please be patient. I have a bunch of catching up to do now that trips, NAB, and meetings are complete.

Cheers!

Remote, Live Broadcast, or Tech Fun?

November 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I should start by saying it has been way too long since a post.  Truth be told, it has not been the most exciting, eventful few months for me in the biz.  A lot of little things, but nothing to write home about!  OK, that was pretty bad.  There is one area that received some attention and that was remote broadcast delivery and call ins.  The main equipment are iPads with built-in wireless 4G and docks along with the Tieline Report-IT app.  We deployed three new road cases, each with its own challenge.

As posted in July, the first case built utilized the Alesis I/O Dock.  Designed, or should I say intended, to be used as a personal I/O (input/output) device for the home recording artist using an iPad.  After setup and testing we discovered that the inputs, mic and mic/guitar, were channel independent, i.e. one fed the left channel, the other the right channel.  This is all fine and well if recording on the iPad, but the Report-IT app only recognized the left channel.  Not a big surprise as it was designed to accept a single input, a microphone, which is a mono source.  In development I bet no one said, “No “blank” is going to need anything else.”  To correct this issue, I modified the Alesis, oh no warranty busted, such that the second channel fed the first channel right before the A/D converter that feeds the iPad.  Problem solved and it did not affect the headphone or monitoring feeds.

With the success of number one, the search continued for other alternatives within reason, or lack of budget.  Lo and behold the discovery of the Behringer iStudio iPad dock.  This puppy is less expensive that the Alesis, so what do we have to lose, or gain?  Testing it out I discovered the same problem as the Alesis, only one channel fed the Report-IT app.  Indeed, the Behringer is designed the same way as the Alesis; home recording of two sources to feed independent tracks in a recording app.  Normally vocal and guitar.  Warranty busting again to discover that they use the same A/D chip as Alesis!  I know what to do, and one jumper later, we had another case ready for action.

We were intrigued by the Mackie DL806, so with a little shoveling into the budget, we purchased one.  The Mackie is designed to be a live sound mixer and takes after their VLZ series mixers.  It also requires a bit more configuring for your setup.  If you are familiar with using a Mackie for broadcasts, you will find it is not much different.  Everything gets configured on the iPad, and once configured the hardware will remember the settings.  The added bonus, but adds complexity, is each channel has a gate and compressor setting.  I am still working out the details of how these settings are saved for different shows and environments, so a more in-depth write-up will follow.  Overall it has worked well for us.

The culmination of all this is the installation of two Teline Merlin Plus codecs.  With these we are now capable of handling up to 12 IP broadcasts.  We already had one day which all our stations were out at various times with overlaps.  We are now looking into hardening the IP streams.

All of this was not all without some humps in the road.  I have had a Merlin Plus get into a state where it rejected any connections, yet I was able to connect with the Toolbox and reboot it remotely.  My last use of the Mackie had a hiccup where noise poured out of the headphones and monitor on site.  This looked to be the dock connection with the iPad or the iPad itself.  This is currently under investigation.  In another situation the iPad is setup to use either the wireless or the WiFi connection at the venue.  Apparently something changed something there making the iPad want to connect to the WiFi, but not passing the stream.  The talent was instructed to turn off the WiFi on the iPad.  Well, it looks like training on how to use tablets may be necessary.

Overall we have been quite happy with our arsenal of remote gear.  From traditional codecs to running apps only we have the bases covered.  More training and fine tuning is necessary, but in the long run the PDs are happy as are the air talent.  Now if I can get my hands on a DL1608 or DL32R…..

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