Clear Channel Chicago Upgrades Audio Network

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Specialty studios

Voice track studios add an important element to the station programming. These smaller studios have a limited amount of equipment, with Harris PR&E StereoMixer digital consoles providing seven linear faders, four analog inputs, three digital inputs and mix-minus capabilities.

The rack room houses the Vistamax routing frames.

The rack room houses the Vistamax routing frames.

Adobe Audition provides editing capability. Computers were added to the rack room and converted to Audition machines, with the program wired to the second channel on each StereoMixer. Three channels of NexGen automation and a microphone processor serve as additional StereoMixer sources. In all, these consoles offer three more channels than the previous voice tracking consoles.

The two additional on-air studios provide homes for certain shows. "Brotha Fred's Morning Mayhem", heard locally on WKSC, broadcasts from one of these studios. The layout is slightly different from the other on-air control rooms, with an additional microphone and guest seat added to the sit-down furniture design.

The final on-air control room, dubbed "The Pivot Room," serves as an auxiliary/backup studio, outfitted the same as the main seven. The Reverend Jesse Jackson exclusively uses this studio for his Sunday morning "Keep Hope Alive" program heard locally on WVON. Similarly, any of the fully equipped productions studios can quickly be converted to on-air studios if necessary.

Neat and orderly wiring: the wall of punchblocks behind the racks.

Neat and orderly wiring: the wall of punchblocks behind the racks.

The most unique studio is the "Beat Mix Studio," essentially an unused talk studio where jocks can add live mixes to the on-air programs. This studio features VistaMax network sources, six microphones and an Odyssey Battle Coffin for live mixes. The Battle Coffin includes two turntables in battle position, one mixer and a laptop. This studio also occasionally hosts live musical guests and other specialty programs, including a recent political candidate debate.

Upstairs, the 20x15 Coca-Cola Lounge features a 6x9 stage for scaled-down musical performances and artist meet-and-greets. The converted storage area is a carpeted studio outfitted with VistaMax sources and a Battle Coffin. The Battle Coffin units are popular here, as the urban stations all do live on-air mixing to some extent. WGCI broadcasts three live mixes per day: morning drive, Mix at 5 and Mix at 8.

Communication is key

The north hall wing, home of the urban format stations, features three pods of four studios each, while the south wing features four pods of four. Soundsoak acoustical wall panels and IEC-specified doors and windows provide acoustical treatments and noise-proofing as necessary.

Rather than rely solely on visual cueing through the glass windows, Harris added intercom functionality to the VistaMax systems. Personalities can now speak to each other via a simple pushbutton system -- an important feature that the previous networking system lacked.

Harris also sent representatives to the facility to make the audio and logic wiring connections as part of its studio design services. This included the layout, harnessing and integration of wiring into the furniture design. We watched as Paul Barzizza, business development manager for Harris, crawled around the floor making all the necessary connections. Once arranged, we simply plugged everything in.

Simple connectivity is the central theme to this project. From the main VistaMax frame wiring in the TOC to the simple I/O connections at the networked consoles, onto the sensible studio furniture harnesses, the entire project showcased a clean migration from an antiquated methodology to a modernized networked audio system.

Equipment list
Adobe Audition
AirTools 6200
Audion Labs VoxPro
Avid ProTools
Electro-Voice RE-20, RE-27
Harris Intraplex STL HD, PR&E NetWave, PR&E RMXdigital, PR&E StereoMixer, VistaMax, World Feed Panel
Odyssey FZBM10W Universal Fit
Battle Mix DJ Coffin
Omnia-5eXi, 6eXi
RCS NexGen
Sage Digital Endec
Symetrix 528A
Tascam CD players
Telos 2101

Fukuda is market director of engineering, Clear Channel Chicago. Photos by John Boehm.

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