Wheatstone

The World's Finest Audio for Broadcast

If it's audio broadcast, it's happening at Wheatstone. We manufacture broadcast audio products, from digital consoles, control surfaces and Audioarts mixers to fully integrated audio over IP (AoIP) and TDM routing systems as well as spectral audio processing for on air and over the internet, plus a wide variety of studio and broadcast wares for radio, television and commercial installations.

Read More...

WheatstoneNewRadio2015Brochure

Installed in more broadcast facilities than any other console brand, Wheatstone and Audioarts provide complete  program access and control for your broadcast facility. Mission Critical. Failsafe. Bulletproof – just some of the words people use to describe our studio products. Friendly. Knowledgeable. Exceptionally cool – just some of the words used to describe our people.

Click to download our NEW RADIO PRODUCTS FOR 2015 Brochure

AM Redux

Beyond FM translators

ProcessingLab Jeff_2560AM gets a bad rap. Fortunately, recent changes to FCC regulations are helping some AM operators turn things around with the use of FM translators.

We’re firm believers in translators to extend coverage, which explains why we’ve just come out with the FM-25 audio processor for this purpose (we also make a step-up version, the FM-55).

But we’re also firm believers in AM radio and began to wonder why so little in the way of new technology is available to adequately process the AM signal. So for our engineers Jeff Keith, Steve Dove and Mike Erickson, it was back to the drawing board --- and Mike’s large collection of AM radios. “We went beyond the usual thought process that every single AM radio made in the last 30 years is ‘bad’ and actually found some that were quite good,” says Mike, who got his start in AM radio and is now Wheatstone’s field engineer. “Yes, there are examples of bad AM radios out there today, and it may take some hunting to find a good one, but they are out there and not horribly expensive.”

Read More...

ProcessingLabWIthFolks 2000With this knowledge, the trio set out to build a modern AM audio processor that could make the best possible tradeoffs between radios with narrow bandwidths and radios that were more forgiving. “The multiband limiters and the entire backend are different from what we offered in our previous AM-10 audio processor and in our more recent VP8 processor,” says Lead Product Development Engineer Jeff Keith. “Those are great boxes, but we wanted to take our new offering to the next level.”

Included in the resulting AM-55 audio processor is what Mike Erickson calls “a real world” AGC/compressor/limiter that’s specifically tuned to the challenges of AM bandwidth. “We’ve seen what happens when you take an FM processor and slap AM filtering and limiting onto the back of it. That’s not where we wanted to go here. This was a complete rethinking of AM processing,” he says.

The new AM-55 is in production and expected to ship by next quarter.

MODERNIST BANNER

New Studio?

Heaven Forbid You Forget the Elevator!

StudioA 420It’s easy to lose track of the many details of a new studio project. Let us take a moment to remember Edificio Intempo, the 47-floor skyscraper built in Spain that was said to be missing one important detail. Elevators.

Heaven forbid you should forget the elevator.

Yet, we see it time and again, studios that are missing that very important something. It could be the way the facility is laid out or how it’s connected together. It could be the absence of some seemingly insignificant detail or a trend that has gone terribly wrong.

Read More...

The good thing about being in the audio network and console business is that we get to tour more than our share of broadcast studios from around the world. Our Director of Sales Jay Tyler has been in no less than 3,000 broadcast studios in his 20+ years at Wheatstone, and he has seen it all. Here are a few things Jay, along with Studio Technology’s Vince Fiola, who builds broadcast studio furniture, has noticed lately.

Camera automation. More and more on-air studios have a camera or two to run show video out to YouTube or other social media. Jay tells us that many of the larger studios have fulltime video editors onsite at the studio, while others are taking advantage of automation software to run those cameras. For example, multiCAM automation is being integrated with the WheatNet-IP audio network to switch the camera to the host or guest position in the studio whenever a mic is turned on. If the announcer’s mic is on, WheatNet-IP tells multiCAM to point the camera at the announcer position and then when a guest mic turns on, the WheatNet-IP tells multiCAM to switch to the guest position.

Downsized space. Technology is getting smaller and smaller, and that goes for devices as well as studios. It’s not unusual to see studio facilities scaled down, some by as much as half. Gone are the racks and racks of DAs and relays, thanks to IP audio routing and control.

Talent on the move. Who knew that talent had legs? They’re no longer confined to one studio, or even the studio facility. Mix-minus, bus minuses, mic presets and even video follows talent and shows no matter where they are located on the audio network.

Signs of the times. Signage in studios is one of the biggest trends this year, according to Jay. He’s seeing more and more clocks with metering on the wall, video feeds of talent shown in the lobby, and music playout schedules from the automation showing up on the studio wall or elsewhere in the studios. All this visualization is made possible because of the easy IP routing of media and data throughout the facility. Tight integration of AoIP systems like WheatNet-IP with virtual clocks such as VClock by Voceware helps, too.

Showcase looks. With so many morning shows now syndicating with the local TV station, there’s a lot more attention being paid to how the studio looks. There’s way less clutter, more open space and less wiring everywhere. Broadcasters are recessing monitors, lowering mic booms and adding polish with better lighting – at least in one studio. “More is being put into the main studio as the showcase, and the rest of the facility is getting much, much smaller and less expensive,” says Vince.

Soundcards are out. “That soundcard that fit your 10-year-old computer doesn’t fit the newer computers,” says Jay. Broadcasters are going with audio drivers instead, which can save a couple thousand dollars per studio.

Production in a workstation. The production studio has seen the most changes. “Here, you’re likely to see a creative guy that sits at the computer all day,” says Vince. Production studios have become more computer workstation centric with more compact, more capable IP consoles or control surfaces. Our E-6 control surface, for example, has become more computer friendly by providing console control and programming on a display monitor, and newer Audioarts consoles like the Air-5 come with USB connectivity and/or Bluetooth compatibility for smaller production studios.

More control. The modern studio gives you far more control. One Ethernet cable is all it takes to bring up any source along with control commands. Jay says there is a lot of interest in our IP networked TS-22 talent station because in one small talent station sitting, you can control mic on/off, talkback, muting, source selection and headphone amp all through an Ethernet cable with POE.

Better workflow. IP audio network integration with editing systems such as VoxPro makes it so much easier to do live telephone editing, on the fly, all on one cable – audio and control. Plus AoIP integration with things like codecs means you don’t need analog inputs and outputs.

Software flexibility. Virtual console control and other software apps are making studios much more flexible. For example, says Jay, “With our new Screen Builder app, and a terminal, I can replace a whole intercom panel with a soft panel. I can build intercoms and talkbacks and mix minuses and on the fly mixes with a software application where I used to pay thousands of dollars in hardware.”

Energy efficiency. According to Jay, “You can plug in an electric space heater and it’s going to use more juice than a big pile of Wheaty gear.”

Really, really, really cool break rooms. We’re taking hammocks and bubble chairs, beer on tap, a wine rack maybe, and don’t forget the putting green, air hockey table and gaming workstation – all the necessities for improving productivity. Okay, so this isn’t exactly a trend we’ve seen in our travels, but we’ll keep looking.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://wheatstone.com/#sigProGalleria3625f3878c

Clocking In with ACI

WheatstoneVClock BIGOur Kelly Parker ran across VClock made by Voceware recently, and thought it was pure genius. There are plenty of virtual clocks that are merely numbers on a wall, or virtual clocks that are designed specifically for one broadcast group only. This virtual clock is different. VClock is flexible like a certain audio network we know, so it can transform from just a single clock to a network of clocks taking in information from different sites. Everything on it is configurable, complete with up to 32 lamps that are changeable and can be turned on / off or made to flash with external triggers (such as a "mic live" signal from a mixing console or a phone call). This clock also has an embedded web browser, which allows you to show any content that you like on VClock, simply by creating a web page.

Read More...

Of course, one thing led to another, and VClock is now one of our third-party add-ons that communicate to the WheatNet-IP audio network through the ACI protocol. That is, from any control panel, workstation or control surface in the WheatNet-IP network, you can trigger salvos within VClock that change its features. VClock interfaces directly into the port of an I/O BLADE access unit through ACI for IP connectivity to our SLIOs.

ACI is our control interface used by automation companies like ENCO, OMT Technologies, RCS and WideOrbit to tightly integrate WheatNet-IP audio networking with automation functions.

Wheatstone has more than 50 technology partners.

For more information about VClock, visit http://www.voceware.com .

Video: FM-55/FM-25 Quick Start with Mike Erickson

E-man
In this ten minute video, Wheatstone engineer Mike Erickson takes you through the initial setup of the FM-55 processor from out of the box to on-the-air. These instructions also apply to the FM-55's little sister, the FM-25.

A Stroll Through Club Wheat

ClubWheat 6 300Raw materials arrive in the back door and wind through the factory to be pressed, molded, wired and tested, retested, and tested again before becoming Wheatstone or Audioarts products. We do just about everything here in our New Bern, North Carolina factory, including machining, fabrication, screening and surface mounting to printed circuit boards. This is why we’re able to keep the quality high and the cost reasonable, plus build-to-order and develop new products faster than the other guys.

Jay Tyler took a stroll through Club Wheat recently with camera in hand.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://wheatstone.com/#sigProGalleriafdee6ea5ff

No BS Guide to Radio Podcasting

PODCAST ARTICLE_IMAGE_1500Amateur podcasters can call them what they want, but between us broadcasters, we know those so-called subscribers are really listeners with earbuds and a cellphone.

And that means we can reach them like we usually do -- through their ears.

No one knows those ears better than broadcasters. We know about good content and good sound. What’s new to us are the codecs and the listening environments and devices used for podcasts. To explain what it all means, we asked our audio pros Jeff Keith and Mike Erickson to give us a quick sound check on podcasting.

Oh, the places they go, the things they do

The iPhone, Android and other smartphones are skewed to the vocal range for obvious reasons. Subtract from this equation the codec bit-rate reduction needed to get that sound to those earbuds, not to mention all that background noise your listeners are subjected to while listening on the move, and there’s no way you should hand them a full dynamic range of sound.

Removing program content that can’t be heard by these devices will improve the subjective quality of your audio. Jeff suggests that anything below 100Hz and above 12kHz won’t be missed. In fact, he says, “Removing those frequencies might actually help your sound, due to reduced or removed ‘codec teasers’ such as hiss or hum.”

Read More...

For all those other unwanted frequencies that happen during pauses in programming or when the AC kicks on during a recording, you’ll need a noise gate same as any other program production. Any good mic processor (such as our M1, M2 or M4-IP mic processors) should have a noise gate to keep the noise floor from rising during pauses in vocal content. This, too, will give the codec less nonsense to work with and turn into noise.

Processing to the codec

Unlike processing your on-air signal in which modulation control is the goal, processing for podcasting is all about controlling what the codec sees. This is why it’s important to give the codec consistent levels and a balanced left and right, especially at lower codec bitrates. Jeff recommends switching from stereo to mono for podcasts at bitrates less than 48kbps in order to preserve audio quality. The ideal is to maintain consistency going in, although often some audio processing can be helpful to smooth out level variations than can cause the codec to overwork. Avoid overly boosted highs, any noticeable hiss or hum, and distortion due to badly clipped audio, all of which adds to the codec’s work (and bit) load.

Adding a trace of AGC or compression can add a measure of “presence” to a podcast, but careful. Keep in mind that many of your podcast listeners will be listening in on headphones, and too much compression this close to the ear could cause fatigue. Others will be listening to longer form podcasts through their sound system in the car, all the more reason why processing that isn’t fatiguing is important.

How aggressive should you set the processing for podcasting? Mike says just enough to raise the audio above any ambient noise for listeners who don't have noise cancelling headphones, but not so much that you remove all trace of quality for those who are downloading low bitrate podcasts.

Most any audio processor that you have in the chain will work. But if you have a choice, use a processor like our Aura8-IP processing BLADE (which has eight separate multiband processors, one of which you can use for podcasting). It lets you selectively add AGC, compression or limiting by bypassing the other sections, rather than require all three functions to operate interdependently. This selectivity makes it a little less tricky to get the right amount and type of processing needed.

For more information on processing for the Internet, download Jeff Keith’s white paper, "Audio Transfer Through the Internet." Wheatstone also introduced a new Audioarts console (our new Audioarts 08 has USB and balanced or unbalanced stereo mixing bus) made for podcasting that is worth checking out if you plan to set up a separate sound booth or studio for podcasts.

Tips for a Smooth IP Transition

IP Transition_2560The transition to IP may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.

You could always start with a camera with IP output and an IP audio network, two simple additions that would join both video and audio in the IP realm so you’ll never have to step into the edit room again to embed AES audio into the video.

Those cameras are available today, as are audio over IP systems like WheatNet-IP. Simple changes like this can impact workflow now, and set you up for all the benefits of a total IP infrastructure later.

The transition to IP will take time, of course. And some thought. Here are four things that your friends at Wheatstone would like you to think about:

Read More...

1. Think hybrid. The ideal is a fully interoperable studio, where disparate systems and peripheral gear can talk to one another. Broadcast equipment manufacturers are working toward that goal, Wheatstone included, which is why our WheatNet-IP audio network is AES67 compatible. But until this and other interoperable standards are widely adopted, it’s important to be able to work with existing gear and systems. For many, this includes some MADI gear, some AES/EBU, some analog and some custom control interfacing to critical systems now used in the studio. For this reason, we’ve made it a priority to be able to ingest into our WheatNet-IP system virtually every audio format out there, including native analog, microphone, AES/EBU, SPDIF, IP audio, MADI and SDI.

2. Think beyond access. Think control. IP connectivity isn’t just about access. It’s about control. The more logic you can put on the network, the more control you’ll have over change. For example, WheatNet-IP has an integrated control layer that carries all the logic functions for audio. This makes a world of difference when it comes to being able to handle the unexpected or to repurpose a news set for multiple productions. Control is built into each WheatNet-IP connection point that is shared with other IP connection points across the network, giving you access to not only all sources at once, but also the presets and any associated logic that go along with each feed for controlling such things as mic ON/OFF, or changing remote mic settings for IFB, processing and other parameters.

3. Think distributed network intelligence. Centralized network management is a single-point-of-failure waiting to happen. Distributing network intelligence throughout to every IP point in the network is the smarter approach, because distributed networks like WheatNet-IP automatically build in redundancy - if one part of the network fails for any reason, the rest can keep on functioning. Each IP connection point – or BLADE – stores the entire configuration of the network onboard, which means that failover is immediate. And because WheatNet-IP BLADEs talk to each other, adding onto the network is plug-and-play for easy system expansion -- which in turn adds more control resources, audio mixing and processing tools, and more intelligence for whatever new services come along.

4. Think routable tools. Having the right tools for the job is important. That’s why we place audio tools at all IP connection points in the WheatNet-IP audio network. For example, having two stereo 8x2 utility mixers at the point of I/O makes it practical to do online mixing of sounds, segue remotely between feeds, virtually overdub and pan, you name it. Just recently, we added audio processing to our I/O BLADEs as yet another routable tool in our audio toolkit. Adding new tools is possible because each of our I/O BLADEs has a CPU with operating system inside, which we can add to, change, and make to fit just about any scenario that’s needed.

twitterfacebook