Posts Tagged ‘radio’

Troubleshooting Annoying Problems

April 11, 2021 Comments off

You would think that when purchasing pre-made, or manufactured, cable they are built properly. Millions of XLR mic cables are made and you would think the process would be flawless. When it comes to troubleshooting annoying issues, trust your skills and your instinct. You may be surprised what you find.

My annoying problem was a noise complaint within our road system for play-by-play. This system was built 5 years ago, but only this Spring did it become a problem, but only locally in the booth. The talent and producer complained about a noise that came and went, got louder, then soft, and did not seem to go away when equipment was connected, moved, or changed out. Granted, there was always a low level background noise, but never one that created any nuisance. After Spring Training was done, I had the gear dropped off for further evaluation and troubleshooting.

My first approach to troubleshooting is to recreate the issue if I was not there to witness first hand what was going on. Maybe how I set something up a bit differently than the end user, and we all know when something goes out in the field, the users do not always do what they were instructed, and once out the door, controlled environment can and will change, causing the field person to make changes. In this case, I setup just as I would if I was “out there”. As I had a few discussion with the producer already, I was initially looking, and listening, for a ground loop type noise and issue. In addition I was looking for a bad ground connection in general as this noise grew louder at times. It also changed at different venues. I hear noise. I also knew it was in the monitoring side of life as this noise never made it to air.

After a few minutes of wiggling and checking if all connections were good, the background noise we grew accustomed to was there, but louder, so I understood their complaint. As I checked all cabling for the monitoring or local, return, and talkback audio, I was not able to isolate it. At this stage it was time to methodically check each and every connection for each talent. Starting with channel 1 on the mixer I stepped through and compared listening for any nuance between positions. I also expanded my search to outside the monitoring. I soon discovered that if I unplugged a mic cable the noise went away. Interesting to say the least as I mentioned this noise never made it to air. I moved the cable to another input, and discovered the noise continued. As I also know the equipment gets jostled around a bit while traveling I decided to check for any loose mixer components. My method: Treat it like it is used in the wild. So, I gave it a solid, but not destructive pound with my fist. With said mic cable plugged in, the noise got loud, then dropped again. I repeated without the mic cable in. Silent. Mixer good.

I have not isolated the issue to a mic cable. Remember, this noise was only in the talent and producer headphones and not on air, yet the mic cable was definitely an issue. I swapped with a known good cable, and no noise. Always use a known good at the point of localizing the potential culprit. In some cases use more than one known good to test and be sure. Out comes the cable tester to verify my findings.

Here you see an “X” pattern on the tester. Bad Boy This is definitely not normal, and this is a pre-made, or manufactured cable. This mic cable was made this way. Look closely at the pattern and notice that this cable was made unbalanced. This was not a “failed” cable as I stretched and twisted and kinked the cable throughout the length to induce an intermittent. It never wavered.

Now this is the cable test of the known good cable which I eventually used as a replacement. Good Boy As you can see here, there is a nice one-to-one pin match between the two ends.

After the mic cable was replaced, I tested the whole system again. This, my friends, is a very important step. Though at this time I found the issue, I want to make sure there are no others. In this case all was good, so I put everything back together. Once secured, I did one last check.

Why the noise from this cable? A good question. As the picture showed, this cable was made unbalanced, and since the low, pin 3 side, was connected to ground, pin 1, all would work just with reduced level. For a mic input on a mixer that is electronically balanced, with a transformer, the common mode rejection was thrown out the door. In addition, the cable itself was now susceptible to noise and could act as an antenna, allowing this noise into the system. As headphones are wired unbalanced this noise can carry through to the headphones. Since the output of the mixer is balanced and wired to the balanced input of the codec, the noise is rejected as it appears on both the high and low signal leads which are out of phase feeds, and no noise on the air.

All this was quickly fixed by just using common troubleshooting practices. Throw a little instinct in there, like the rap with the fist, and we move on to repair or replace. This setup is currently in use this weekend and no annoying noise. Talent and producer are happy. Hope this information helps, and don’t rule out pre-made cables, they could bite you later.


Categories: Equipment Tags: ,

Forward: What’s Next for Radio?

September 11, 2015 Comments off

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.



NAB Show 2014 Recap

May 1, 2014 Comments off

Coming up on a month out and I have not even done a recap of the NAB Show! Well, that’s because most of the wanderings I did had to do with actual business this year. Odd, but true. I really could have used a third day this year as I did not even make it to the South Hall!!! Nor did I visit my friends at GoPro or DJi. Now that is what I call busy.

What I did see was the cool stuff that you probably already know about through trades or hearsay. I like the new Nautel GV series transmitters. Harris is also looking good and stepping up a bit. This time I was actually talking STL equipment with them. The Alliance had their share of stuff, and all they need to do now is make transmitters since they seem to do everything else. As you can tell if you have read this far, nothing really jumped out at me at this point. I did have a nice demonstration of the Tieline offering: the Codec Lounge. A very good concept and we discussed possible ways of making it even better. Maybe I’ll get a demo/beta version to try out. I also heard about the SAS Virtual Console of which I will get to see shortly. I have some ideas for this.

Of course on the Radio side of life is talk of HD Radio. HD this, HD that. As we progress with this technology I see more and more use of it as a data transport more so than audio. Traffic, weather, album art, artist and title. Wonder what else we can squeeze into 96kb, or 128kB? Did I get to see any demos? No. I saw a couple of cars out front, though. The one thing that stood out to me is that different manufacturers are offering different radios that do different things. My new Mazda6 has HD, but it does not do album art; it does everything else. A hand full of aftermarket have displays for everything, but there are many that do not. Will there ever be a “standard?”

Along the lines of STL’s (that’s Studio to Transmitter Links for the acronym challenged) I’m seeing more in the IP transport arena. We are actually researching upgrading our aural STLs to an IP based system for two reasons, flexibility and flexibility. Audio over IP on a private network is just fine these days and for a backup to anything else it is great. With all the data we push around with IP based remote controls and addressable transmitter equipment, the added flexibility of IP makes life much more simple. For audio I was looking a the Tieline and Worldcast gear. As for a system we are looking into the licensed 8, 11, etc. Gig radios and broadband data. Let’s see how that pans out over the year.

As we move forward what did you see that excited you at the show? Overall, not too much jumped out at me. Yet, on the face-to-face time, it was a very good show. Maybe next year I can get an extra day to see the other world of cool stuff in the South Hall.

Forward: Part I

December 6, 2013 Comments off

Are we losing our vision?  Are we not looking forward?  Forward: Part I.

All we hear is “do not spend money.”  All we hear is “can we doing it cheaper?”  We make due to keep our stations on the air.  That is all we do.  A live broadcast here, a broken button there, and the spilled coffee.  All parts of our daily lives, but how many of us take the opportunity to move forward? Even though we do not have the money, do we take the time to look on how to improve our systems we currently have and when the time does come, are we prepared?  It seems I run out of time to make my lists to submit for another budget.  I must improve on this so I can move forward.  How do you move forward?

I discovered recently that our Lanlink (Moseley) is “outdated”.  Purchased by my predecessor only 3 years ago, it was never implemented to its fullest due to bandwidth limitations.  It was never used for telemetry.  It sat there, stagnant.  A simple call and a question and I find out the bandwidth can be doubled by purchasing an upgraded radio.  If I knew this, it would be in the budget, but it is not.  Will I drop it?  No.  I can use it.  Is it the best system for what we do today?  No.  Until we can make the case we need to use what we have, so in this case a backup segment.  Slow, but useful.  There is always room to improve.

Audio over IP is everywhere today.  Some systems use it as their main backbone and others use it as an extension of their existing, proven systems.  Bandwidth is the limitation.  How much can we squeeze through this pipe?  How much are we willing to give up in quality to make it happen today because we are the first?  There are webcasts on audio over IP (AoIP).  Hit This Week in Radio Tech as Kirk Harnack  talks with engineers who live this stuff every day, and learn what we do.  Almost all of these fall during times I cannot “attend” and what do we do, AoIP!  We do it successfully, everyday.  (Good thing they all have sites for replaying and reviewing.)  I am now testing and evaluating a new AoIP box.  Will this be the next STL?  Can it be used in conjunction with existing STLs?

Do you keep looking for room to improve?  Do you give suggestions to manufacturers on what you would like to see or use?  Do you look or do you wait?  How does the NAB convention help or hinder your decisions?  Where do you think this industry is going.  My thoughts are coming….


Coming soon:
Forward: Part II
A different line on a similar topic.

The Future

September 25, 2013 4 comments

I just wanted to solicit any thoughts on the the future of Radio.  Television is OK, too, but I work radio.  I want to know what you think about hardware, programming, and how they will interact in the future.  Send email or reply to this blog. 

Email:  bill at eisenhamerengineering dot com.

Over the last few months I’ve been thinking about this subject.  Seeing some of the recent moves by companies like Cumulus makes me more sure of what I see. 

Clear your mind.  Think outside the world as you know it.  If you want to discuss and/or collaborate, contact me.  This should be quite the exercise.  Traditionalist need not apply. 

Categories: Equipment, IT, Management Tags: ,

Radio and the Future IMHO

September 20, 2012 Comments off

All this talk about secret meetings and radio’s future at the NAB Radio show really bothers me.  The future of radio is divergent between programming and technology.  The big radio companies of today, and little ones, will have to decide are they in the programming business or the transmission, or delivery business.  Here is my take from the technical point of view.  (Drop government regulations for a moment and open your mind.)

We already see a divergence between programming and transmission of programming with this thing call HD Radio.  Many programmers find this a waste of time and money.  Even engineers find it a waste as I believe they see the potential of digital, all digital, in the future.  Radio needs to grow up.  My take is to get rid of this duality of HD and Analog transmission.  This is the 21st century, so why not push for all digital.  Drop this analog and transform.  Once a signal is all digital and the right minds build it well, it becomes a digital carrier capable of, say, 50 or 100 independent channels for an example.  This could be more or less depending on the brains behind it and can it be split based on required bandwidth.  The divergence is clear at this point, what radio station owner has the ability to program 50 channels, they cannot even program a single channel.

As the two diverge, I see the physical radio plant becoming a technical operation center for the distribution of content, not the origination, and I see programmers becoming content providers.  I see radio station owners eyeing the money at becoming content providers.  Great!  Concentrate on programming something well.  The technical side now splits off and companies that know how to distribute, technically, start looking at owning the actual signal.  The plant becomes a technical operating center (TOC) or a network operating center (NOC).  Now the programmer leases a channel or more from the distributor. Sound familiar?  Cable, satellite television, satellite radio, the Internet?

Who buys the technical side?  Who is already capable of wireless transmission?  The wireless companies are!  The licenses of the radio stations will be purchased by the likes of Verizon and AT&T.  The “big” signals become the focal point of pushing data to the wireless world.  The cellular system becomes the receiving end of the system and a fill for the areas that do not get covered by the broadcast signal.  You now have your bi-directional communications.  It is all about pushing data and this is a good medium for doing such.

At this point, yes, radio as we know it needs to change.  The FCC would have to treat the licenses of radio stations similar to cellular wireless.  The purpose of radio stations needs to be redefined.  Name a radio station that actually serves the public interest.  Do not give me music stations.  Public safety notifications or whatever propaganda the government wants to feed must be dealt with in a new way.  I foresee an allocation of a channel or two for such services based on the geographical area.  I also see them pushing a means, like EAS, that the TOC or NOC owners will need to be able to insert.  The burden moves from the programmer to these owners.  Programmers will not have a choice if an alert or emergency that meets a certain criteria occurs, it gets pushed on all channels.

At the same time the choices of programming become more.  Again, depending on how this digital carrier is built and how much can get squeezed in will determine the number of channels available.  The whole argument of an FM chip on a cell phone will go away as regulations would change and most likely these channels will be available on other data feeds, read Internet, that the point it moot.  If not, this could actually go the opposite way and cellular devices, smartphones, will get FM, or even AM, chips as this medium becomes the backbone to pushing data for wireless carriers.

All in all there will be a paradigm shift in the radio and broadcasting world.  It is a matter of when.  All this half-assed business with HD and iBiquity is just a start.  A learning experience.  Eventually someone will suggest an alternate future like this.  The picture will become clear.  The divergence of programming and distribution will occur.  How that is handled is up to us in the industry.  What side are you on?  I am an engineer.  I am on the distribution side.  You?


PS:  As my thoughts congeal, I may post more on this.  Please openly send comments and smack me down or add your thoughts!  I, for one, would like to know how you really feel about this subject.

Impatient Futurist: Forget 3D Screens—We Need 3D Audio, Like in Real Life

July 30, 2011 Comments off

Impatient Futurist: Forget 3D Screens—We Need 3D Audio, Like in Real Life –

I agree with this person. Audio quality has slipped since the advent of digital music everywhere. I am asked constantly why I care so much about my on-air quality while others don’t. My answer is because I care.

Do you care? 

Posted from WordPress on NookColor

Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: ,

Phone or Office-mate?

April 2, 2011 1 comment

The two year plan was up. Wow, I have had the Blackberry Bold that long?  Usually I will break a phone within a year. I went through 3 Blackberry’s in 6 months once. This time we decided to jump to 4G.  The decision was to try the new HTC Thunderbolt.

The bottom line is I like it. Nice screen size. Quick. Touch screen is one of the best I’ve user.  The list of applications on the Android Market keeps getting better. At this time I can do pretty much all my work on this device. Will I is the other question.  Oh, did I mention the 32GB microSD card that comes with it? 

After a week of poking around I still like it. I just downloaded a Mind Mapping app to try. I started using a desktop app and this one is claims compatibility. This post is being typed on my device. This gives me the feel of the keyboard and I can check the auto correct feature. So far I like it better than the Apple key pad.

Technically speaking it is fast. 4G wireless and WiFi keeps you connected. It does drop to 3G when 4G is unavailable. It uses WiFi over wireless when available. We did discover, and Verizon is checking it, is what I call wireless confusion. I have gone to a place where both WiFi and wireless are available and the device indicates all good, but I receive a “no data service” available. The trick we use to break this confusion is to with to “Airplane Mode” and the back. As I said Verizon is working on that.

We are experimenting with the WiFi hotspot. We have used tablets, computers, and an iPADs for testing. Surfing and basic stuff works well, but we did find an issue:  VPN connections through the hotspot.
A VPN tunnel is created, but we cannot do anything across it!  No VNC. No telnet. No ping. Needless to say, Verizon is working on that.  I believe they are quite surprised at that finding.
The other thing that bugs me is the VPN client that is on the device. It does not connect to Cisco VPN concentrators!  What is up with that Android folks?  Apple can do it, so what’s your problem?  In either case I still need native Flash capabilities. Apple won’t do it. Android claims it can, but I cannot get to the device I wish to control to test it!  Crazy.

Overall I really like the Thunderbolt. It should make Apple a bit squeamish. As I learn more I will pass along my findings.


July 28, 2010 Comments off

It is not everyday one gets called by a headhunter. It makes you feel good. It also means that there are those out there looking, and in particular, they are looking at you. For what, you are not sure until they dig. I received three calls on this one. What I did discover is the limitations of what us Chief Engineers in radio face: People Management.

That is correct. Due to the size of most engineering staffs, we do not get to manage people that often. I spin it as managing people that even remotely touch the equipment we service and whom we deal with everyday. Even so, this does not rate to well. Here, I have one assistant. One. How does this help get you to that level of five? Ten? I would like to hear from you on that one. If you are lucky and work for a bit larger company there is that chance of a market DOE or region; maybe even company wide. It could be a long wait. In any case, it is tough to gain such experience, but we keep trying.

Being in such a position I wonder how does one gain this ability to manage others. Most of my career I have either been a department of one or had one assistant. I have some training under my belt from those career resources provided by the company, though now-a-days few and far between. I have read books like the very popular 7 Habits… and even Ken Blanchard of which the latest I have read is Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager. This one is great for improving your self image and ability to self lead, a necessary “skill” in today’s workforce. Yet, again, book learning does not gain much.

The only area left is how you work with others at your facility. I do not wish to elaborate the strange culture that sprouted here, but let me just say that if anyone asks who the chief engineer is, they will answer with a different name, and from my observation this stems from the technical structure created due to the last GM and CE. In any case, most of us get along quite well with the staff. but it is agreed that we are all not the Type-A people person that some employers seek. Keep up the staff relations, though. It will keep you around.

When it came to project management, I scored high. Extremely high considering the “client” of said headhunter is NOT radio. Also IT or networking skills. Actually it was not the skills as I just mentioned that was the block. Many of us have the skills. Also prized is the ability to keep up and show that you are able to implement new technologies. Even though most stories in the trades makes me roll my eyes, it pays off to glance over them. There are some technologies that we must live with even though they may not be the best. I find that browsing across trades of different, but similar industries helps with innovative thought processes. Definitely keep that up.

In addition, a plus, is writing ability. Whether it be documentation or writing that proposal, it is good to keep up on writing skills. I have written documentation, I have written manuals, and I have written training materials, not because I had to, but because I knew it was important. I have made an easy to access engineering website for us with necessary online forms and some other information; it is getting the staff to read it and use it that is difficult. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”

I hope this personal experience helps light some bulbs in your head. You never know, you may get that call. If you do, good luck!

What’s Happening

January 1, 2009 Comments off

I’ve done a number of posts on the Nautel NV20. What else is going on? Well, we are rebuilding our AM tower that “broke” in half 4 years ago. It is now at 445 feet. We intend to move the diplexed AM stations to the new tower this coming Tuesday. Hopefully we will match well. We are using the existing ATUs for this move. Insurance would not pay for the complete replacement. Go figure.

As you know we install our PPM equipment. This is a completed project included our Internet streams. We are using the Roku Soundbridge for our monitoring source to the PPM monitor. It works well. I have also given each station a selection on the console to monitor this feed, too. Nice what I can do quickly with the SAS system.

One morning show talent has moved out of state, again. Still part of the show we create a studio for her. Our feed back to the station is using a Tieline iMixG3 using IP. We’ve done it before and will do it again. I make sure we are ready for Monday tomorrow.

Hope you all have a Happy New Year. I hope we make it fine during this slow economic times. I will have some comments on the FCC and their weak backbones and the liberals that will try to ruin the industry. I still have thoughts on how greed has attempted to ruin the industry, too. We’ll see how it all pans out!

Categories: Equipment, Management Tags: , , ,
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