Music is Everywhere at WTMD

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WTMD-FM/HD, owned by Towson University in Towson, MD, recently commenced operations from a new 8,000 square-foot studio and co-located transmitter facility. Having moved literally from the basement to a high rise, this was a big deal for everyone involved — from staff to vendors, administrators, listeners (of course), and the visiting bands. Bands are a big part of WTMD: There is a daily effort to showcase up-and-coming musical talent. The design enables music production everywhere, with a 5.1 surround sound live performance studio as the centerpiece and a clean slate of modern equipment. Only a Minidisc player and the incidentals for live bands were kept from the basement.

WTMD now has a state-of-the-art facility, using audio-over-IP (AoIP) and structured wiring. Consoles, computers and satellite receivers are all networked using AoIP. The facility sample rate is 48kHz, rate converted to 44.1kHz at the output of an Optimod 8500 and then conveyed via an Intraplex NetXpress Multiplexer at an E-1 rate (2Mb/s) over single-mode fiber to the transmitter facility. The Intraplex, Harris Z12 HD+ transmission system and Orban were provided in a 2008 project with the knowledge that the facility might move.

Photo by Jack Dana

Photo by Jack Dana

Facilities include a performance studio with dedicated control room, two production rooms and an on-air studio A. The on-air studio has a dedicated secondary control room that can also be used for production and as a control room for shows on the Baltimore Channel, which is carried on HD2. The performance studio fixes one end of the 200-person SRO lobby, but can be closed off with a folding glass wall and acoustical drape. The remaining studios are arranged down one long hallway with a common glass wall looking out toward the Towson Circle.

Fully networked

All the operational areas are networked through a technical operations center (TOC) that sits between the performance studio and the other rooms. This TOC was built as an audio data center, complete with 45kVA UPS, secondary ac power source in each rack, computer room air conditioning and monitoring. The room has its own ground pulled to a sub-basement termination in a ground ring. The audio network uses the Axia LiveWire AoIP technology.

Each production room and the air studio have a 16-mic level in by 8-line level out patch panel to permit the production of multiple musical events. These patch panels feed PreSonus DigiMax 8 preamps, which then feed inputs of two Axia X-nodes. The X-node outputs feed the line level return jacks. In this manner, studios can be used as isolation booths, independent of the rest of the room. Each of the six rooms and the technical center has a Henry Engineering Multiport analog/AES interface panel as well. Any source, anywhere, anytime, including sources generated by the network, was a mantra in the design.

Except studio B, each room has an Axia Element 20-fader control surface and Power Station engine. There are CAT-6 patch panels, but there are no punch-blocks in the facility. From the engine, network cabling extends power and data to X-nodes in a studio as necessary. This facility has 48+ X-nodes, about half of which are in the TOC. Each studio is built as an island (except band patch panel nodes that are direct to TOC). The engine connects on a 1GB port to a Cisco 3750 managed switch. (Fiber is an option). Of course we have to build for redundancy and maintaining uptime, so each studio has analog and AES patch points between the engine and TOC. Each studio has a local PC equipped with the Axia single-channel driver. The studios have Denon CD players and flash recorders, Genelec monitors and two KVM workstations that allow sharing of computer assets including the Wide Orbit automation system. The Wide Orbit computers and NPR receivers connect to the network via Livewire.

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