Field Report: Enco Systems DADpro32
When the decision was made for WJR, WDVD and WDRQ, Detroit, to move into new facilities in 2000, perhaps the single largest decision to be made was the choice of a digital delivery system. Our needs were unique; three stations, more than 40 workstations, linear-stereo storage for all stations, dual-touch screens in all control rooms and enough redundancy so that we would never go off the air. After much consideration and deliberation, the choice was made: Enco's DADpro32 platform.
The array panels can be set up with drag-and-drop mouse clicks.
The DADpro32 application is modular. These modules include record machines, basic playback machines and a collection of more advanced playback devices to help bridge the gap between live-assist and full automation. Because our three stations have individual needs and personalities, this allowed us to purchase only those features that would meet the specific needs of a specific location. In fact, each station's method of using the application is almost unrecognizable to the others.
The DAD application may not be the prettiest or flashiest on the screen, however, Enco Systems has more than made up for this in its performance, reliability and functionality. The on-screen functions are reminiscent of cart machines. The playback machine includes buttons for start, stop and pause. The large, easy-to-understand buttons facilitate the use of touch screens, and are self-explanatory. The DAD's array panels are even easier to use. The arrays are a grid of programmable buttons for manual playback. Using common drag-and-drop techniques, these panels are great for morning show drops and music beds.
While appearing plain to the eye, DAD's flexibility is large. This became evident during our extensive on-site training when the system was installed. We had to learn not to ask, “What can it do?” Rather, we had to have the jocks and operators provide the scenarios. Then the instructors would provide different ways the DAD could accomplish a task, and then let the operator choose which method worked best for him. Simply, showing people everything DAD can do would be lengthy and confusing.
|Performance at a glance|
Advanced users, such as producers and engineers, will appreciate DAD performance the most. The DAD application includes features such as a CD-ripper, a timed record scheduler for recording network feeds, a two-track editor, voice tracking and serial communications for routing switchers.
DAD's performance and functionality would not be possible unless the software had a reliable hardware platform to run on. This is where the other half of Enco's attention to detail is demonstrated. While the DADpro32 application is available as software only, purchasing it in tandem with Enco's workstations or servers is highly recommended. At the time of installation, I was less than impressed with having two large Netware servers, because my knowledge was entirely WinNT. (Enco has since begun building servers on a Win2K platform.) I could not have been more wrong. Once installed and running, our servers ran for more than 495 days before the first reboot was necessary. It is now two and a half years later and my knowledge of Netware is still limited, simply because the servers are so reliable. Advanced Netware knowledge still is not necessary. The servers just run. This is too bad, really, considering the layers of redundancy that are incorporated into the design. In total we have two primary servers and 10 backups. All of these are RAID arrays, with the exception of a few of the backup machines. Through the inherent design of RAID arrays and the use of hot standby drives, drive replacement is a simple procedure without the risk of lost data. Not a common occurrence, but with nearly 70 SCSI drives on the network, premature drive failure does occur on a small scale.
After more than two years of hard use, we've found that there is almost nothing that the DAD can't do. This is no small compliment considering our facility. Our AM station is a 50kW news/talk station. It is one of the largest in the Midwest and the primary EAS station for southeast Michigan. At the time of installation, WJR was the flagship station for Tiger baseball, Red Wing hockey and University of Michigan football and basketball. Additionally, WJR produces a daily, nationally syndicated talk show. At times we were producing three live shows simultaneously, in addition to multiple workstations running in sports, news and production. All of this was occurring while our FM stations were running two full music formats and as many as four active production studios. Another testament to the server and workstation design is that the control rooms have six to nine individual stereo outputs and the ability to play multiple cuts from the same channel. Playing as many as eight to 10 cuts at the same time, while not commonplace, is certainly possible without worry.
It wasn't until we had begun installation that we realized just how versatile DAD could be when integrating it into an existing facility. Integrating with routing switchers, console logic, GPS master clocks and third-party applications such as Newsboss, Protools, Audicy, Cool Edit and SAW Plus were easily overcome. We have used three different traffic/continuity software platforms and RCS's Selector, all of which input logs into DAD. Through the use of custom input filters, the station has the ability to transform logs into playlists with the push of a button. We can even merge music and a commercial log into a single playlist, for non-attended operation, through one of Enco's external utilities. These utilities are many in number and address any possible situation you may be faced with. These range from importing audio files into the system or converting the audio format and sample rate of a file to a powerful application (Gateway) that can manage server backup operations to assure full redundancy.Satisfying customer service
Few radio stations will install a system without needing to call technical support at least once in a while, whether for operational questions or to address a potential hardware issue. Enco's attention to support is among the best I have ever seen, from helping calibrate a touch screen over the phone, to calls that last well over an hour or two for catastrophic issues like a RAID controller failure. In addition to the phone support, the company offers a responsive e-mail support system. This list server, available to all DAD users, is an uncensored forum for users to share ideas and collectively help solve problems.
Because most DAD installations use the application in a way unique to their operation, this system is a constantly evolving platform that necessitates the need for periodic revision releases. Not only do these revisions address the inevitable bug that comes up in software development, but they also provide the latest features as well. Many a time has an idea been discussed on the list-server only to see a few weeks later that idea has been developed into a new feature. In fact, of the dozen times I inquired about the possibility of a new feature, within reason they all have made their way into production.
In this world you get what you pay for. Yes, on the surface, Enco's product line may appear to be a little pricier than some of its competitors. However, those few extra dollars are earned back many times over when considering everything else that comes with it. From support to quality of construction to servers that run rock solid, I sleep well at night knowing that we have a DADpro32 platform back at the studios.
Arnaut is an engineer supporting broadcast IT operations for WJR, WDVD and WDRQ, Detriot.
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.
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