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WHEAT:NEWS Volume 6, No. 7

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It's August, and at Wheatstone the gears are turning as we get ready for IBC, prepare several customers' systems for shipment, and prepare for some great surprises we've got in store.

This month in WHEAT:NEWS, the pitfalls of new studio construction. Ever get the feeling you might have forgotten something? We'll examine the spreading influence of AES67 on AoIP. And we've got news on both the LPFM and AM fronts.

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New Studio?

Heaven Forbid You Forget the Elevator.

StudioE2 2000It’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.

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.

AES67. Hear, There and Everywhere.

5 things you need to know about this audio standard.

AES67 INSIDE_BADGE_2560AES67 is everywhere. It’s in every major audio network, including our WheatNet-IP, which means that you’ll be able to transport audio between all these systems and other devices and peripheral gear that are connected to them. This IP audio transport standard was ratified in 2013 by the AES X-192 task force, of which Wheatstone was a member.

But, AES67 is by no means a complete interoperability standard. It doesn’t provide for discovery and control, both of which are needed for any kind of inter-functionality to take place. These standards are in the works, but in the meantime, turning devices on and off, controlling peripheral gear from the console, signaling when a source is ready for air play, and controlling the playout system with a fader – these are all functions of WheatNet-IP and similar audio networks. In the case of WheatNet-IP, for example, a single Ethernet cable carries the real-time audio stream as well as network and device control messages and other metadata. AES67 covers the audio streams only.

With all this in mind, here are straightforward answers to the more common questions our engineers receive on AES67.

Why do we need AES67?

IP networking is easily one of the most ubiquitous technologies found in the world today. IP audio network manufacturers are able to take advantage of, and share in, many, many proven standards as a result.

So, why do we need one more standard?

Because the rules of IP packet distribution are not friendly to real-time audio. Synchronizing large amounts of data is the biggest problem. In the IP network, packets aren’t necessarily routed based on which packets were created first. That works fine for a typical office network, but without some sort of deterministic routing for the heavy traffic loads of the audio network, packets can become jumbled and delayed. This can cause jitter and packet loss or dropout. Audio network makers have had to work around this problem with tools like buffering and QoS to assure continuous audio transport. No two manufacturers solve this problem the same way, which has made it difficult for them to exchange audio between them.

What does AES67 do?

Almost all audio networks use a standard IP protocol called RTP (Real-Time Protocol) to create the proper packet order. RTP provides identification in the packets about their creation time and order but, for all the reasons stated above, it has been up to the IP audio network manufacturer to extract this information and to recreate the audio data and timing. Each differs in the specific packet loading, timing and synchronization mechanisms within the protocol.

AES67 has come along to provide the common synchronization, clock identification, session description and other interoperability recommendations we can all share. AES67 adapted the PTPv2 (Precision Time Protocol - IEEE 1588-2008) standard as the master clock reference, so we can more easily transport audio between our various systems without jitter, delay and data dropout. Check out this AES link for a full description. 

Does AES67 provide for discovery?

No. AES67 does not provide for a standard way to find and add devices to a network. Discovery is left up to each individual manufacturer, although most of the major players take a similar approach to finding and labeling components in the network. Most designate extra packets on the network to communicate discovery data and display it seamlessly to all users with signal names and other information easily created and recognizable to broadcasters.

Does AES67 provide for control?

No. AES67 is an audio transport standard only. Another standard or other standards are needed for full interoperability of the control features of various audio networks. The AES-X210 task group, of which Wheatstone is a part, was formed for this reason. We recognize that gaining access to hundreds of channels of audio on a network is useless if you can’t route them, turn them on or off, fire their playback, or turn an ON AIR light on when needed. Currently, to accomplish this, IP audio network manufacturers use packets to communicate command and control. Each system is different, and sometimes an ancillary PC is used for this and sometimes the intelligence is built right into the network devices, as is the case for our WheatNet-IP system.

Control is built into each WheatNet-IP connection point that is shared with other IP connection points across the network, giving you access to all sources at once as well as the presets and any associated logic that go along with each feed for controlling mic ON/OFF, changing remote mic settings for IFB, and processing and other parameters. (There we go again!)

Does AES67 pay it forward?

Yes. AES67 is extensible, meaning that you will be able to add to it as situations change. Any standard that results from AES-X210 or a similar group will add on to, not replace, AES67.

Dan Slentz Sayz ‘Thanks’

LPFM advocate predicts new 100W will rank in ratings.

Dan-Slentz-Sayz-DNP102-3 2000We received this email from Dan Slentz, an engineering consultant who has become a tireless advocate and industry friend to LPFM. He recently flipped the on-air switch to new WDPE low-power, non-commercial, educational FM radio station licensed to Dover - New Philadelphia, Ohio. He had this to say about the Air-4 console and other gear he’s installed at the station.

“When engineering this little LPFM, I wanted it every single bit as competitive and feature laced as any commercial station ... just with a whole LOT less power and a far, far smaller budget!

WDPE is fully legal with limited peaks at 105% modulation. When dialing in the local commercial FM's, we're typically seeing 109% to 125+% modulation, yet (the LPFM) is perceived louder and far superior in audio quality.

I truly believe we can credit an incredibly solid air chain from all wave digital audio files (no compression at all… true PCM) in BSI's Simian, through an Audioarts Air-4 console, and into a Nautel VS300LP (via a DASDEC EAS system) with nothing in that line to trash up the audio quality (including any form of STL... since it's only a 30' run to the transmitter). And due to changes in technology, all analog audio is actually run over Cat6 cable with one end being an RJ45 from the output of the Air-4.

The Air-4 has a strong design and is transparently clean (as you've come to expect from Wheatstone).

Though a tiny little 100 watt LPFM station and on a single bay circular, plus at a height which is actually BELOW average terrain (in a valley), that signal BOOMS a solid 6 miles with very good reception up to 8 miles (even UP and over some of the hills)!

I wouldn't exaggerate again to say that this station has quickly garnered a ton of listeners very quickly. And though the station can't afford to pay for ratings, I would honestly predict the station will rank highly in the Nielsen book when it eventually comes out (there are 20+ rated stations in Tuscarawas County, Ohio).

Over and over we get Facebook posts, newspaper comments, and phone calls saying ‘the audio quality is phenomenal and the music incredible.’ Here's a typical post (from an hour ago on Facebook):

i listened to wdnp 102.3 in my van this morning and i was thrilled by the sound quality. jody, dan, steve or whoever else was involved,...HOT DAMN, ..great job…

So, thanks to each of you in manufacturing: Wheatstone, Inovonics, and Nautel, and thanks to BSW our dealer, thanks to my friends at BSI, and thanks to RW for all the info that helped us make the RIGHT decisions!”

Dan Slentz
Broadcast Consultant
740-334-3437

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.”

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.

Video: Creating a Salvo with WNIP Navigator

SalvoThumb
If you've never worked with salvos, you're missing out! They're a great way to automate repetitive multiple audio routings in your WheatNet-IP system. This video, part of a new series of Navigator tutorials, shows you how easy it is to create your own salvos.

WhosBuyingWheat668

Wheatstone

  • Soundfusion (Johannesburg, South Africa) purchased an E-1 control surface for a project there.
  • Beijing Ding Dee Technology (Beijing, China) purchased a Dimension Three TV audio console. iHeartMedia (Omaha, NE) purchased 19 BLADEs, including a high-density LIO-48 logic BLADE, and NAVIGATOR software for a new WheatNet-IP audio network.
  • The Systems Group (Hoboken, NJ) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console and M1 mic processor for a new BBC News Bureau.
  • Newsweb (Chicago, IL) added another I/O BLADE to an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
  • Sinclair’s WJAR-TV (Providence, RI) purchased a Series Four IP-based console.
  • Moody College of Communication (Austin, TX) purchased an E-6 control surface with networking.
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) purchased a new EDGE unit for an IP distribution system as well as an IP-12 digital audio console.
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.
  • WRCB-TV (Chattanooga, TN) purchased a Dimension Three TV audio console for a new production room.
  • Georgia Public Broadcast (Atlanta, GA) added a MADI interface for an existing BRIDGE TDM routing system.
  • Bayshore Broadcasting (Shelburne, ON) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console, a SideBoard control surface, an M4-IP four channel mic processor BLADE, an M2 dual channel mic processor and NAVIGATOR software as part of a WheatNet-IP audio network.
  • Powell Broadcasting (Sioux City, IA) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console and WheatNet-IP audio network BLADE.
  • Leighton Broadcasting (St. Cloud, MN) purchased an IP-12 digital audio console, two M4-IP four channel mic processor BLADEs, and two SideBoard control surfaces.
  • Evanov Radio (Montreal, QC) purchased NAVIGATOR software upgrade and XYE router controller for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
  • CBC (Fredericton, NB) purchased a GP turret, BLADEs and E-6 control surface for an existing WheatNet-IP audio network.
  • WestStar TalkRadio (Phoenix, AZ) purchased an L-12 control surface.
  • Radio DNA (Grand Forks, ND) purchased a SideBoard control surface. Hubbard Radio (Phoenix, AZ) purchased a complete WheatNet-IP audio network with five LX-24 control surfaces, five L-12 control surfaces, four L-8 control surfaces, Aura8-IP processing, TS-4 talent stations and Screen Builder app.
  • Lotus Communications (Reno, NV) purchased an EDGE unit for an IP audio distribution system.
  • KEXP-FM (Seattle, WA) purchased a WheatNet-IP audio network with two LX-24 control surfaces, an L-8 control surface, two SideBoard control surfaces and several TS-4 talent stations plus Glass E virtual mixer.
  • Family Stations (Oakland, CA) purchased two IP-12 digital audio consoles with WheatNet-IP audio network BLADEs, NAVIGATOR software and M4-IP four channel mic processing BLADEs.

Audioarts Engineering

  • WNBY-FM (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) purchased an R-55e console.
  • Horizon Broadcast (New Delhi, India) purchased a D-76 console.
  • Audio Design Company (Hong Kong) purchased an Air-4 console and I/O BLADEs.
  • Hillsborough Community College (Hillsborough, NC) purchased an Air-4 console for its new LPFM.
  • Robins Air Force Base (Warner Robins, GA) purchased an Air-1 console and IP-12 digital audio console (installation by ITI).

Wheatstone Audio Processing

  • Horizon Broadcast (New Delhi, India) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.
  • CBC (Sudbury, ON) purchased an M4-IP four channel mic processor BLADE.
  • Hubbard Radio (Phoenix, AZ) purchased AirAura spectral audio processors and M4-IP four channel mic processor BLADEs.
  • Radio DNA (Minneapolis, MN) purchased a VP-8IP multi-function processor.
  • Bayshore Broadcasting (Shelburne, ON) purchased an FM-55 audio processor.
  • Univision (New York, NY) purchased an M4-IP four channel mic processor BLADE through The Systems Group.
  • Mel Wheeler Radio (Roanoke, VA) purchased an M4-IP four-channel mic processor BLADE.
  • KBIA-FM (Columbia, MO) purchased an FM-55 audio processor and WheatNet-IP audio network BLADE.

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