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Since opening its doors in 1995, radio stations around the world have been drawn to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's radio studio as a location for originating remote broadcasts. It's hard not to feel the excitement of the Rock Hall when you're physically there, but for the visiting stations, delivering that intensity to their listeners was always somewhat challenging, due in large part to the original studio's design.

That has all changed, however, with the recently completed redesign of the newly named Alan Freed Radio Studio, allowing visiting stations to broadcast while feeling a part of the Rock Hall and conveying a "you are there" experience.

Alan Freed was a pioneering disk jockey who began his notoriety in the Cleveland area. He is often credited with coining the term "rock and roll."

Photo by Louis Anderson. Courtesy of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland.

Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Looking into the radio studio from the fifth floor landing.
Welcome to the Alan Freed Radio Studio.
Looking out the window to the fifth floor landing.
The studio layout has six mic positions. The museum hall is visible through the glass behind the operator.
The fully-equipped studio now provides the versatility to handle any on-air need.

The original studio was built in the early 90s, which was a fairly dubious period to be buying radio equipment, because at the time digital standards were just coming to the forefront. Also, because there had never before been a Rock Hall, the original designers weren't quite sure how the radio studio was supposed to function. In one sense, it was almost as if someone had selected equipment at random from a catalog to build the room. As a result, the original studio was less than functional.

In the ensuing years, as the Rock Hall staff learned more about the hardware and the technology necessary to effectively carry out live radio programming, the radio studio evolved into its present form: a remote location capable of meeting the needs of any visiting radio station or artist.

The redesign was a cooperative effort between the technical staff at the Rock Hall and Broadcasters General Store, which specified and installed the equipment, all donated from manufacturers throughout the broadcast industry.

The design goals for the new studio included upgrading the technology to current-day standards; equipping the studio with appropriate recording, edit, storage and playback equipment that it didn't have in the past; and equipping it with a sufficient quantity of appropriate microphones and mixing equipment to support visiting remotes as well as impromptu live performances.

A temporary home

Some tourist attractions will invite a radio station to broadcast live from the venue and then provide a folding table somewhere near the front door with a telephone jack.

At the Rock Hall, the goal is to put the visiting stations in an environment in which they're comfortable. What's more, the fifth-floor radio studio is also actually a working exhibit. Located behind a double-glass wall, visitors can look in, see what's going on and, on occasion, listen to the broadcasts. The Alan Freed Radio Studio is made available at no charge to visiting broadcasters from around the world that want to come to the Rock Hall and broadcast live.

Not only do visiting stations benefit from the panache of originating a distinctive remote broadcast from the Rock Hall, they also feel as though they are a part of the exhibit, which adds value to their visit.

These are all benefits of the new studio's design, and the changes are evident from the smallest detail, starting with the furniture and layout of the room. Many stations will bring listeners or contest winners with them for a remote, and while there's no audience section in the studio, there are five guest positions opposite the console. The studio can comfortably hold 10 people.

The studio is set up for spoken word principally, however, with sufficient advance notice the studio can be configured to host live, small-scale musical performances.

That's quite different from the original studio, where if an artist wanted to bring instruments for a live set, it was often like a three-act play to mic the studio for the performance. The previously installed equipment was just not right for that task. In the new studio, everything is in place.

For example, the studio is now outfitted with more than one codec, including two Telos Systems Zephyr Xstream codecs and a Comrex Matrix codec. This provides the ability to go from point to multi-point, as well as to schedule shows back to back. When more than one station is visiting, one can connect through Zephyr #1 and another on Zephyr #2. At the top of the hour, the players switch places and go. In the old studio with just one codec, it was a challenge to change shifts. It's almost seamless now, with shifts changing in two minutes instead of 10.

The studio is outfitted with ISDN and POTS codecs, which provide greater flexibility for visiting stations. Because it is never known what kind of equipment will exist at the far end, the goal was to have enough interface equipment at the Rock Hall so stations won't need to bring any hardware with them. They can just plug in and sit down.

The improved codec capacity also facilitates interviews with musicians located off-site in their personal studios, or if artists want to use the studio for live interviews with stations around the country, to promote a new album or tour, for example.

Step inside

The approximate room size of 300-square-feet stayed the same during the redesign, and the only original products kept were turntables. Other than that, everything is brand new.

The key to any studio is building an environment that is conducive to creativity, comfort and workflow, and that starts with the furniture. Provided by Studio Technology, the furniture was custom-designed to suit the studio's more contemporary needs.

The furniture was elevated to stand-up height and the new furniture also has more rack space, allowing it to hold more equipment. The orientation of the furniture was also changed so the board operator does not have his back to the glass wall, ultimately contributing to a more user-friendly workflow.

At the center of the studio is a Logitek Audio Numix digital console, chosen for its ability to handle multiple types of signals. One challenging aspect of the redesign was that the new studio needed to be able to accommodate a wide variety of formats. If visiting stations were only going to talk, there wouldn't be a need for much of the equipment that is currently installed. But different stations come with different expectations and different needs, so the studio had to have a console that offered significant input and output versatility.

For example, every radio station has a need for a mix-minus feed, and this console allows operators to give stations what they want with the push of a couple of buttons.

Perhaps the real heart of the studio is the Enco Systems DADpro32 digital audio storage, editing and play-out system, which provides the Rock Hall staff and visiting stations with a simple and flexible platform, especially if the stations have a different type of storage system back at their home studios.

Connecting all this equipment together is a variety of cable from Gepco, which worked with Broadcasters General Store and Logitek to determine pin-outs and cable lengths to produce prewired cables. This created significant time saving for the project because the engineers were able to take the cables out of the boxes, attach them and within a matter of hours have the entire facility wired and running.

Gepco supplied 100-feet of cable, including the 5596M digital audio microphone cable; D61801EZ dual pair analog audio cable; GA61804GFC 4-pair, 22-gage, analog audio multi pair cable; and RGBSC260TS-5 conductor plenum coax.

Neutrik contributed a variety of cable connectors, phone plugs and receptacles, including its models NC3FP1B, NC3FXB, NC3MXB, NP2C and NP3C.

One of the objectives was that visiting stations or artists would never have to open a rack to accommodate a broadcast, because the studio would be populated with any type of equipment that could be needed.

The studio is in the process of creating an I/0 panel that will be installed near the console to accommodate any special needs, such as an MP3 player or keyboard. There is also a wireless microphone system and a microphone outside the studio's glass wall, so the on-air teams and spectators can talk back and forth. There's also Shure wireless equipment for the announcers so they can go outside the studio and walk around the museum, and they can use a wireless IFB to hear what's going on in the studio.

The new Alan Freed Radio Studio at Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum provides a showcase facility for visiting stations that not only looks good, but provides exceptional flexibility for the needs of the various visiting stations.

Equipment List
Broadcasters General Store - dealer, organizer
AKG 240M headphones
Auralex Acoustic treatment
CBT on-air light
Comrex Matrix codec
Denon DN-C635 CD/MP3
Dorrough 40-A2
Enco Systems DADpro32
Eventide BD500-010
Gepco cable (5596M, D61801EZ, GA61804GFC, RGBSC260TS-5)
Hafler P3000 and P1000
Henry Patchbox, Superelay
JBL Control 1
Liebert GxT2-1500RT120 UPS
Logitek Audio Numix
LPB Silent Mic Boom
Mackie 1604
Marantz PMD510 cassette
Middle Atlantic drawers and panels
Neutrik NC3FP1B, NC3FXB, NC3MXB, NP2C, and NP3C
Omnimount 30.0WB speaker mounts
Radio Systems CT2002 clock, pushbutton panels
Rane HC6 headphone amp
Rane VP12 voice processor
RDL STPH1 phono preamp
SBS MatchIt interface
Shure SM7b mic
Shure U2/Beta87 wireless mic
Shure P7T/P7R in-ear monitors
SKB rack
Studio Technology furniture
Tannoy System 800
Tascam CD-RW2000
Tascam MD-301MKII
Technics SL1200MKII turntable
Telos desktop director
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Telos Twox12
Ward-Beck POD6B headphone amp
Whirlwind mic cable

Grayson is corporate donor relations manager for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

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