WKQX-FM, Chicago

When WKQX, Chicago's Q101, looked at building a new facility, it didn't move very far. WKQX first moved into the Merchandise Mart more than 25 years ago and has been moving down ever since.

The station started on the 20th floor when it was owned by NBC. In 1979, the station was sold, and it moved into its own studio space on the 17th floor. It occupied the 9,000 square foot space until 2001, when a larger facility was required. The station moved to the 2nd floor.

The new studio complex occupies about 20,000 square feet. The space has more than doubled and allotted some of the new area to creating its syndicated morning show, Mancow's Morning Madhouse. Production of this morning show was one reason for the facility upgrade.

In addition to the space for the nationally syndicated show, some expansion space is available to allow Emmis to add another station to the facility. There is also some office space for Emmis Interactive.

Getting started

The six studios were completed in a three-month window. RAM Systems was the systems integrator on the project, and began the work by first running RAM 110V digital multipair cables between the studios and the rack room. For this project, RAM designed a digital cable with individual shields and an overall shield because of the potential RF interference. The cables were terminated on high-density, rack-mount QCP punch blocks.

While many facilities are making changes to be as completely digital as possible, Q101 decided to make a partial change. Many sources are digital, but mixing and routing is all analog. Digital-ready cable was installed throughout the facility, but all analog equipment and analog audio signals are used.

RAM furniture was used in all the studios. One design goal was to avoid cluttered workspaces. To achieve this, low-profile utility housings were used in the on-air studio, which was designed for stand-up operation. There are three production studios, one control room, one live performance studio, one news studio and the technical operations center. Computer flooring was used to make installation easier and faster.

The main production studio serves the bulk of the station's production needs. It is set up in a traditional radio studio layout, with additional space for extra equipment that may be needed on occasion. The secondary production studio is primarily used for the station's imaging needs with promos and liners. This studio is centered around a DAW with a Mackie 24•8 mixer to the side.

The Lava Lamp Love Lounge is a live performance space that measures 24 feet by 21 feet. The morning show regularly has performers as guests, and this space allows them to perform live on the air. The morning show production studio serves as the control room for the Lounge.

There are two consoles in this control room. The Mackie 24•8 is used for live performances. The Lounge has junction-box input panels, which feed the Mackie mixer through a patch bay.

A Wheatstone A-6000 in this room serves as the backup on-air console and production console for the morning show.

In control

When you enter the control room, you will likely first notice the great number of guest microphones; there are eight of them. The morning show routinely uses this many mics each day, sometime doubling up on their use.

All terminations from the console and rack room are made in a rack in the studio. All processing and phone system equipment was installed in a locked rack. This rack is near one corner of the air studio. In some production rooms, this rack is built into the furniture.

The morning show also has a syndicated TV show. The cameras placed in the air studio were placed in such a way as to maintain the radio feel.

Looking into the control room are the telephone screener room and the news room, a small studio with some basic editing and news preparation functions.

Scott Studios provided the audio storage and playback system. The station chose Scott because the system could be configured to the needs of the station and the Mancow Morning Madhouse show. In addition, Scott created special sets of Hot Keys with larger labels that can be read from a greater distance or without glasses for some of the operators.

In the photos you can see several cart machines have been installed in various studios. These typically see use only during or for the morning show. There are nearly 2,000 carts available for use on air. Like any method developed to handle a large number of audio files, converting this entire library to the hard storage and playback system would take some time, not to mention introduce a completely new way of filing and retrieval. Converting it all in one motion was not practical. It is slowly being converted.

With all the computer CPUs in the TOC, Cybex extenders were used to extend the monitor, keyboard and mouse controls. All the computers are industrial, rack-mount versions with hot-swappable power supplies.

The SAS router handles most of the facility's audio routing needs. Each studio has a demarc point in the rack where cables are terminated using QCP blocks.

The rack room houses the on-air operations equipment and the office computer network. Sensitive equipment is on a UPS, and a generator covers the technical centers, studios and computer networks.

There is a closed-circuit video system installed through the facility to smooth operations between studios. Each studio has a camera covering the studio. Each camera feeds a video modulator, which is then mixed into the in-house cable system. By changing the channel on any TV monitor, studio personnel can see what is happening in any other studio.

The main production room handles most of the station’s production needs.

The imaging production studio is centered around the DAW, not the console.

The live performance studio is formally known as the Lava Lamp Love Lounge.

The morning show production studio is also the control room for the live performance studio.

The Q101 control room, with room for eight guests, is also the home to the Mancow Morning Madhouse syndicated morning show.

The main lobby.

Photos: Large control room opening and lobby: ©2001 Anthony May. Courtesy of Ratio Architects. All other photos courtesy of RAM Broadcast Systems.

Equipment List
Wheatstone A-6000 consoles
Ward-Beck POD1
Telos Zephyr
Technics SLP-1200 turntable
Tascam 122MKIII cassette decks
Symetrix 528E mic processors
Shure SM-7A mics
Shure KSM32 mics
Scott Studios workstations
SAS64000 routing switcher
SAS32000 intercom/IFB system
RAM wire and cable
RAM studio furniture
RAM EM1930 Equipment racks
Panasonic SV4100 DATs
Mackie 24•8 mixer w/bridge
Mackie 24•4 mixer
JBL 4412 monitors
ITC Delta
Gentner TS612-12 phone systems
Eventide BD500 profanity delays
ESE master clock system
Denon DN-961FA CD players
Denon DN951-FA CD players
DBX1066 compressor/limiters
Crown D75 power amps
Conex AS-110 audio switchers
Burk LX-1 switcher
360 Systems ShortCuts

Scott system details
Air studio
108GB Hot Swap RAID 5+1 array plus parity and hot swap drives
Two 15" LCD flat panel touchscreens for the host and co-host
Phone recorder with waveform editing
Audio preview to cue speaker
Ten cart walls for instant requests
30 sets of 30 hot keys for instant play remote broadcast control
Diagnostics package by modem or over Internet

Production studios
Scott TLC CD Ripper
Sound Forge
9GB hard drive

Image production studio
Wet Voice Tracker

Morning Show production
full backup air studio with 54GB drives

NT file server with 144GB storage on two drives

Program director's office
Scott TLC CD ripper

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