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.


NAB 2015

That was quick! NAB 2015 for me is over. The last few days flew by! The other thing that made it a little a foggy was this bug I picked up. That said I was mixed about the what I saw. Did I see some cool equipment? I did. Did I see the same old things? I did. You might say I had a neutral experience this year.

The tease is the cool items I saw I cannot talk about! What? Am I joking? Not at all. One of these was on display but I am still figuring out how it really works and if it justifies a $15k price tag. And that it is not a secret, is the 25-Seven Voltaire. I am quite curious on how that box works. Bet Nielsen is too. The second item I cannot disclose. Sorry. I’m sure we will be hearing about it soon.

Deva Broadcast now has an HD monitor. I talked with them last year and they had issues with iniquity being slow to approve. Glad to see they have it now. My first reaction was it is not as robust as their analog, but as it sank in, it is still a very good unit.

Gates-Air was showing a liquid cooled FM. I know purple with space consideration will like that. R&S had one to, BTW. Elenos continue to pack power in a small space with a 4 RU 10kW rig. If I was analog only, I would consider this. Nautel continues with improvements to their lines. I did enjoy their future forward thinking with 15 audio streams.

In the tiny arena of microphones, I looked the Shure that plus directly into an iPhone or iPad. The line is called the MOTIV. It uses a lightning connector and plugs right in. For monitoring you can use the mini jack, but use headphones only add a built-in mic there is active too. They also added the MVL lavalier mics with the 3.5mm connector for Android devices. No use of headphones with those, though. Still a cool idea and quite useful for news gathering.

And I can’t finish without mentioning the drones. Quadcopters everywhere! Well, 4, 6, and 8 blades. Fingers hackers galore! I dig these things. For use in radio they seem limiting, but for promotions, web content, and other content gathering there is potential. I still like the idea of quick tower inspections. The done fest has decent talks on the myriad of uses. Two man teams, one flying, one controlling the camera, really does the flexibility of these things. Let’s see how these proliferate as the FAA slowly approves and regulates these. I know lawyers are waiting in the wings, too.

That’s my quick rundown of the NAB Show. Deeper thoughts to come as I settle down an my mind clears from this cold bug.


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Mager Kizziah

February 16, 2015 3 comments

Three years ago I posted the following regarding Mager being back in business.  He was excited to be back as the economy for his services began to improve.  We chatted and planned new things.  As recently as this year, we were planning to improve the broadcast booth at Petco Park.   It is with great sorrow to post that Mager passed away last week of lung cancer.

If I receive any details, I will pass them along.  For now, Mager, rest in peace my friend.

Post from 3 years ago:

Under the name of Mager Concepts, LLC, Mager Kizziah is back building studio furniture.  I’ve used Mager for a number of projects ranging from truly custom to the bare necessities.  He does it all.  He works with you.  He does it right.  And, it doesn’t cost a lot.

Visit his website, Mager Concepts.  You can also find it in my list of links.  You can see from my website’s homepage a picture with a studio we created.  Yes, he is known for his solid surface custom builds, but he does wood laminate, too.  I had to modify a room with wood laminate which required a return on the backside.  I gave him the specs, the laminate color/style, and molding requirements.  I had the item quickly and it matched perfectly.

And, yes, I consider him a friend, so you guys get the cheap plug!


A Little Harris (GatesAir) HTHD+ Repair

February 13, 2015 1 comment

Not to focus on anything like this, but, damn, I have not posted in a while.  Let’s start flooding you with some real boring stuff!  A few weeks back I had the un-welcomed 12:30am phone call from the remote control.  How we love those calls.  The basics were there:  No forward power, off air alarm, etc.  I do the normal, let’s try and turn it back on.  Nothing.  I tried to switch to the Auxiliary transmitter, but that did not happen.  My first thought was “great there goes a UPS” which would explain lack of control, but my remote control was working.  Up on the Aux site I went.  Mind you all this took place quick enough the person in building was never aware of the condition.

Off to the site I go ready to find some melted metal.  First lesson of the evening: Make sure all connections are tight and good even on the remote control!  A wire backed out of the Phoenix connector on my command for the coax switch.  Doh, no wonder it didn’t switch.  Fixed that and put the Aux transmitter on the air and turned off the Aux site.  (Nice to have an actual auxiliary site.)  Crazy how that switch ALWAYS remotely switched until this night.  Now on to the main transmitter.

The HTHD+, as all HT series transmitters, has the mimic panel. I see red LEDs for the Plate and a Fault indicators.  Well, isn’t that nice.  I did just replace the tube a month prior.  Let’s see what happens if I shut everything down and start it up again.  This usually clears a strange fault or situation especially with a power fluctuation.  Wham and Bam.  Nope.  Immediate slam, in your face, time to troubleshoot sound.  I checked the obvious PA cavity and tube.  Always check that plate blocker.  No obvious signs and no arcing.  Jeez, it was clean.  Give the tube a shake.  Not rattle.  Good.  Let’s give it another chance, so I turn on the filament, then plate.  Same result.  Nothing.  At this time I take a step back and glance at the big picture.  Plate and Fault indicators on the mimic panel.  I glance at the High Voltage Power Supply (HVPS) cabinet and there I see it, a MAG OVLD indicator.

How I didn’t notice it when I first walked in I cannot say.  Tired or just fixated on the mimic panel.  Time to focus on the HVPS.  First step is I verified the fault through the multimeter overload faults.  Code 21.  A cross check corresponded with the MAG OVLD which indicates either relays being open or control voltage was not there.  I did all the basic checks:  Input line volage, cabinet connections, and interlocks.  All good.  So, I either had a bad relay or, worst case, a shorted transformer, though I did not smell any magic smoke.  I messaged GatesAir via the customer portal, and then studied the schematic.  As all line voltages were good I was beginning to suspect a set of relays, and after a nice chat with GatesAir, we determined to focus on magnetic relays 3K1 & 3K2.  I set out to do just that.  There happens to be contacts on those relays that are exposed.  I gave them a little burnshing.  I did a quick test into the load.  Everything came up flawless.  As I had the aux transmitter on the air, I decided to proceed with a cleaning of the HVPS cabinet.

After cleaning up I placed the HTHD+ back on the air.  I still find it odd that this failure occurred in the middle of the night.  I also find it all that something got in between the contacts on either or both relay contacts while they are normally closed.  I did go through a cleaning while I did the tube replacement earlier, but it never occurred to me to burnish these contacts.  In addition all was running fine up to that point.  As power at the site can be somewhat inconsistent, I wonder if a phase dropped briefly and upon an automatic restart an arc or some dust affected the relay contacts.  I have an HT-25, I’ve installed and maintained an HT-30 in the past.  I have never had this situation, and they were in environments worse that this.

I love this job as there is always something to learn even if it is a minor, and somewhat obvious item.  We do not “know it all” and I love to learn.  Pack it in your data bank of a brain so next time the repair is a no-brainer.


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…..

Our New Remote Broadcast Case

Having worked many live broadcasts for radio I have seen many setups. Our setups have ranged from the complex to the most simple. A wide range for sure. We have broadcasts which require four or more mics down to simple “call-in” type hits using the Tieline Report-IT application. Now we put together something for the simple end such that any air talent can set it up.

What does this remote broadcast case contain?  Here’s the list:

Apple iPad running Tieline Report-IT Enterprise equipped with Verizon 4G LTE wireless
Alesis I/O Dock
Fostex amplified speaker
Presonus headphone amplifier
2 Shure SM58 mics
2 headphones
associated cables and 25′ extension cord.

Remote Setup

Report-IT application running on iPad install in Alesis I/O Dock

The speaker and headphone amp are items we had in house that were either spare or used in other applications that are no longer necessary.  Mr. Bill was along to assist in the setup and make sure everything ran smoothly.  The headphone amp is used just in case of a two person setup, and noted later as an interface to mono the audio feed.  We have found in many cases if the environment is not too noisy a guest does not use, or need, headphones.  It adds additional gain for the deaf air talent, too.  If the air talent does not need the amp, just plug into the headphone output of the I/O Dock.

We did find in another broadcast test that the iPad will smoothly transition between 4G LTE  wireless and WiFi connections.  This was discovered when checking out a new site.  A little added bonus.

After doing an initial broadcast and testing, we discovered that the Alesis I/O Dock is designed around two independent channels.  Input 1 is the left channel and Input 2 is the right channel.  These channels are independent throughout the system with no mixing or mono-button capability.  The Tieline Report-IT application, being a mono or one channel application, only “saw” Channel 1, so a mic plugged into Channel 2 did not feed audio to it.  I voided the warranty.  Since the device only cost us $177, I decided to open it up and modified the I/O Dock.  This first modification, and I have others planned, was to make sure two mics fed the application.  No schematic was available, but I was able to research the chip-sets used and found the AD-DA (Analog to Digital/Digital to Analog) converter chip.  Armed with the pin-outs I used my oscilloscope to trace the signal at that point with the goal of making sure the summing occurred after the pre-amplifiers for the inputs.  I located a convenient locations, soldered in a jumper, and all was good.  An instant mono, or summed, source for the iPad.  This modification does not affect the headphone or main out feed of the I/O Dock, just the feed to the iPad, so each channel is in separate ears of the headphones if plugged directly into the headphone outputs.  The Presonus headphone amp has a mono button on it, so the device acts as a nice interface for the picky talent.  Return audio from the Report-IT application is not affected and feeds both output channels.  I do plan on modifying the modification to included a switch so at a push of a button a mono signal is produced and feeds all outputs.  Where and how to implement this switch is the tricky part as there is not a lot of space to add it to the I/O Dock, but I will find a way.

Another added benefit of this setup is to allow recording on the iPad using either a third party application like WavePad or even the Tieline application for feeds later.  Using WavePad the talent can record and do basic editing, and once complete, email the audio clip back to the studio.  If using Report-IT the talent can record a report and either feed it down the connection or, if FTP is setup, upload to the studio.  We are currently researching ways to incorporate the FTP feature in Report-IT such that we can upload clips with specific file/cart numbers and have them automatically import them into a RCS NexGen log.

Why not just use a mic adapter and Report-IT on a phone or iPad directly?  We do that, too.  In this setup the ease of incorporating two microphones was ideal.  In addition the comfort level of the air talent increases as they have that physical something in front of them.  Some of our staff has embraced this new technology, but others seem to be less forgiving.  As we easy them into it, we make it simple and functional for them.  Soon they will be able to run out with a setup on their own and not think twice of it.  Getting things done.  That ‘s what it is all about.

Alesis makes a product called the I/O Mix which is a 4 channel mixer.  We are looking into that, but this is taking things backwards.  There may be a use for such a setup in the near future.  For a more complex setup, Mackie makes the the DL608 and the DL1608, 8 and 16 channel, mixers for iPad.  These are sweet as they incorporate the features of the Mackie VLZ series of mixers.  I know of a station that uses this setup for their NFL broadcasts.

As the technology and connectivity continues to improve, applications like Tieline’s Report-IT simplifies the ability to provide for quick, live broadcasts, and news gathering.  We are always looking to simplify and utilize emerging tech to our advantage.  The package seen here does not cost that much and the flexibility makes it more desirable.  The elimination of bulky and confusing mixers appeals to air talent and promotions alike.  Improved audio quality for “call-ins” over a standard cell phone call makes us stand out over the competition.


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