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Digital Radio Update - May 3, 2006
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HD Radio Demo Rolls Into NAB2006
A stroll down the aisles at last week's NAB2006 event in Las Vegas left little room for doubt about which technology was generating maximum buzz among radio broadcasters: HD Radio exhibits dominated the audio/radio exhibit hall.
Beasley Broadcasting's Star 102.7 HD Radio van was a stand-out example. Basking in the warm sun of the outdoor exhibit area, its high powered audio system belted out a choice of three channels of HD Radio digital programming accompanied by two channels of synchronized program associated text--all live and off-air--courtesy of Beasley-owned KSTJ FM.
Visitors had a chance to experience Star's 80's music format via HD1 as well as "Star Party," a commercial-free club mix format, on HD2. To heighten the experience, a high-powered audio system was augmented by video displays that provided artist and title information for each format while a reduced bit-rate HD3 channel provided continuous weather information.
Beasley says it plans to use the van as a marketing tool in its drive to build consumer/client awareness of, and demand for, HD Radio.
CPB Seeks HD Radio Interference Study Participants
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from public radio stations that wish to commit themselves to studying interference generated by HD Radio hybrid broadcast signals. According to the RFP, the CPB wants to examine at least 50 of the largest public radio markets in the United States and 25 smaller markets where significant service is provided by public radio stations located outside or at the periphery of the market.
One project goal is to determine the extent of digital coverage issues experienced by public radio listeners on a nationwide basis, and to develop practical, technical solutions and techniques to extend digital coverage to the edge of current analog coverage areas.
A second aim is to calculate the potential impact of new HD Radio service environments on analog listeners. For example, how many existing public radio analog listeners will lose analog service because of interference caused by HD Radio? What markets and stations are most vulnerable? What is the long-term impact of continued urbanization on the HD Radio signal? And how does the problem differ between fixed and vehicular listening environments?
The project is expected to take about one year to complete. Eligible stations interested in participating can download a request for proposals sheet for more detailed information, including proposal requirements, at www.cpb.org/grants/radiointerferenceanalysis.
Continental, Nautel Collaborate on Sales Territories
Hackett's Cove, NS, and Dallas - Apr 24, 2006 - During the opening hours of NAB2006, Continental Electronics and Nautel announced that the companies have entered into an agreement to distribute each other's FM products in their respective home countries of the United States and Canada.
Continental will be able to sell Nautel's solid-state equipment in the United States, and Nautel will be able to sell Continental's high-power tube equipment in Canada. With the deal, Continental will also provide Nautel-made HD Radio exciters in the Continental 816HD tube-based HD Radio transmitters. The Nautel exciter will carry a Continental brand.
AAC Plus Now Available for Windows Media Player
Orban/Circuit Research Labs, in partnership with Coding Technologies, is offering a public beta version of its AAC/AAC Plus player plug-in for use with Microsoft's Windows Media Player. The partners describe the AAC/AAC Plus player Plug-in as "a free, full-featured Microsoft Direct Show component that enables MPEG-4 AAC Plus audio files and streams within Windows Media Player." AAC Plus (also known as HE-AAC) is an industry standard superset of the AAC codec that uses Coding Technologies' Spectral Band Replication (SBR) and Parametric Stereo (PS) audio compression technologies to provide CD-quality audio in a footprint four times smaller than content encoded with MP3 (MPEG Layer 3) technology.
Many digital TV, radio and Internet broadcasters now use AAC Plus codecs to deliver high-quality audio streams while reducing bandwidth. Coding Technologies claims the compact bit rates virtually eliminate content rebuffering, a process that can interrupt source playback and negatively affect a consumer's listening experience.
"Orban and Coding Technologies realized that Windows Media player users should be able to enjoy the outstanding efficiency and quality of AAC Plus," said Greg Ogonowski, Orban/CRL vice president of product development. "The AAC/AAC Plus plug-in moves MPEG4 standards-based streaming into a previously closed system. This is a good thing for consumers."
The AAC Plus player plug-in is said to be compatible with Microsoft Windows Media version nine or 10, and supports standard ID3 metadata tags for display of real-time stream data such as artist, album and song information. The plug-in component takes less than a minute to install and requires no authentication, registration, monitoring or tracking.
The plug-in can be downloaded without charge from www.orban.com.
IBOC Across America
Ibiquity has a list of stations that have licensed HD Radio technology and notes those that are on the air now. IBOC by state will look at various states and list the stations that are making the transition.
|KRSD-FM 88.1||Clscl/News||Sioux Falls||Minnesota Public Radio||No|
Eye on IBOC
A Bright Line on Radio's Horizon
For those who didn't make the trip to NAB2006 in Las Vegas last week, two primary themes seemed to be percolating among those attendees interested in the now-quaint notion of radio broadcasting.
One was a sense of near-total commitment to HD Radio's roll-out. If any serious doubts existed as to whether broadcasters are embracing the concept, they were likely eroded by a flood of innovative products being developed around the core technology. Well-chosen or not, there's little doubt that HD Radio is now an established path for broadcast radio delivery in the United States.
Second, and perhaps more telling, was an unambiguous recognition that it's an IP world out there. Products catering to the old model of radio are quickly disappearing. Clear Channel, a company that's far more heavily invested in traditional radio infrastructure than any corporate entity in history, went so far as saying it is now "agnostic" as to how it will deliver content.
Are broadcasters waking from the long siesta during which they became careless and complacent? Are they willing to accept that the days of easy money that flowed from their previously exclusive distribution franchises is over? Are they ready to answer the challenge of technology-enabled newcomers whose mantra seems to be "we will bury you" by refocusing on creating quality radio content that holds real value for listeners?
It's beginning to appear so.
Now, more than ever, is an exciting time to be in radio.
Day Sequerra Holds M2 Raffle at NAB2006
Day Sequerra raffled off a M2 HD Radio modulation monitor during the NAB convention in Las Vegas. The lucky recipient is Director of Engineering Steve Fluker of Cox Radio in Orlando, FL. Chriss Scherer, editor of Radio magazine, drew the winning ticket.
The M2 offers over-sampling 24-bit, 96kHz DAC combined with the proprietary Class A-biased audio output circuitry that provides transparent and dynamic audio from every broadcast source. The high resolution, peak and hold 50-segment LED meters indicate RF carrier modulation percent and audio modulation in decibels. The unit uses a multi-function display for tuning and other station information. The monitor also includes alarms for over-modulation, loss of audio and loss of carrier. All tuner functions can be monitored and controlled remotely via an optional PC interface.
Clear Channel Offers Multicast Content for HD and More
Clear Channel Radio is producing programming for 75 new radio channels, which will be made available to alternate media services that some broadcasters view as a threat to terrestrial radio. The original audio, video and text programming will provide a foundation for Internet channels, station websites, Ipods, satellite broadcasts, in-vehicle navigation systems and HD Radio multicasts. The elements, developed by the company's Content Research and Development Group, are the product of a previously secret initiative now called the Format Lab.
Created in 2004, the Format Lab is co-led by Clear Channel Radio's Executive Vice President for Content and longtime programming veteran Tom Owens and Online Music and Radio head Evan Harrison. Described as a virtual community of more than 200 programmers and production professionals, the lab develops quality audio and online content, regardless of distribution channel.
The new channels include programming elements for mainstream and hyper-niched programming. Live streams of the first 75 channels can be heard at clearchannelmusic.com/formatlab.
Specifically, radio broadcasters can use the programming as-is for subscription services or can choose to supplement the elements, which include continually refreshed playlists, imaging and spoken-word vignettes, with their own locally customized content to create fully localized radio channels.
WZLX to Begin 24-hour Surround Sound Broadcasting
Las Vegas - Apr 24, 2006 - CBS Radio's WZLX in Boston will become the first 24-hour surround radio broadcaster in the United States. Starting in about 90 days, the station will begin broadcasting using MPEG surround technology. The transmissions will be carried on WZLX's digital HD Radio channel, which simulcasts the normal FM program. The audio processing and surround studio upgrades will be provided by Telos and the MPEG Surround encoder will be provided by the Fraunhofer Institute.
"A single RJ-45 connects all the surround channels at once and low-cost Ethernet swtiches are perfectly capable surround audio routers," said Axia President Michael Dosch.
HD Radio Terminology
Primary Logical Channels: There are four primary logical channels that are used with the hybrid and all-digital modes of HD Radio. They are denoted as P1, P2, P3 and PIDS.
Secondary Logical Channels: There are six secondary logical channels that are used only with the all-digital mode of HD Radio. They are denoted as S1, S2, S3, S4, S5 and SIDS.
OMT Launches Multicast Programming Platform
OMT, developer of Imediatouch Automation and Imedialogger digital logger software, has introduced HD now, a programming and content service system for HD Radio multicasters.
HD Now provides multicast broadcasters with a one-workstation platform that allows a station to create multicast programming by accessing an extensive online music library with more than 150,000 individual music titles or 100 streamed program channels available in various music file formats. Multiple HD Radio channels can be managed remotely from a central location to include customizable music, liner and commercial content that is relevant to each market.
"For the last two years, we have been speaking with both small and large market stations about their needs and concerns when it comes to HD Multicasts," said Ron Paley, founder of OMT Technologies. "HD Now is the perfect fit to help stations launch their HD multicast without the substantial capital costs of traditional radio station equipment and operations."
Audio Streaming via Analog FM?
Among many interesting melds of technology on display at NAB2006 was Orban's Opticodec 1010 streaming module designed for direct use with the Digital Radio Express (DRE) FM Extra digital SCA encoder. According to the manufacturer, the software module permits direct streaming of encoded AAC Plus (MPEG4 HE AAC) audio from Orban Opticodec-compatible audio servers into the FM Extra encoder and over-the-air to FM Extra enabled receivers.
DRE's FM Extra is essentially a digital subcarrier encoder system that can be injected into a conventional FM transmitter's composite baseband signal. A specialized receiver is required to decode the signal. Orban and DRE claim the combination of platforms eliminates transcoding and provides a low cost, high fidelity digital system of audio distribution.
With the Opticodec software, DRE claims the FM Extra encoder can receive industry standard RTP/RTSP AAC Plus streams with Orban-optimized audio quality from any standard TCP connection and streaming server in the world. The company also says that Orban's software, now a standard feature with the FM Extra encoder, will be available as an update to existing FM Extra encoders at no charge.
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