WDDH: The Big Dog Gets a Facelift

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Denny Heindl is an interesting man. Born and raised in the small north-central Pennsylvania town of Ridgway, he has spent his entire life there. After his first radio job, a sales position working for the legendary Cary Simpson at WKBI in the early '60s, he left the industry and spent many years building a successful powdered metals company. Shortly thereafter, he purchased his own station and gave it the call sign WLMI - named after his business, Laurel Manufacturing Inc. He eventually sold WLMI to concentrate on his other business ventures. But, proving that once radio gets into your blood, it never leaves, he couldn't resist an opportunity to purchase the station near his home, WDDH - The Hound - a flamethrower serving 18 counties in Pennsylvania and Southern New York.

The WDDH control room

The WDDH control room

This is Heindl's second stint at ownership of this particular facility. His company, Laurel Media, had owned the station from 2001 to 2004. Itching to get back into the business, Heindl made a play for the station once again and is now running the show at WDDH. He is a minority owner of a Major League Baseball team and a local philanthropist. He is active in the day-to-day operation of the facility and hosts a Sunday public affairs program, the award-winning "Talk of the Town" show.

Aging Facilities

WDDH (95-7 The Hound) is a Class-B FM, licensed to St. Marys, PA. Originally built in 1986 as WKYN, the facility was wheezing along with aging analog consoles that needed constant repair and dated handmade chipboard and plywood furniture. The ceilings were full of hundreds of feet of unlabeled cabling of all types, and some of the building's electrical wiring was outdated and overly complex.

Another physical plant problem was lightning damage. The WDDH STL antenna is co-located with a cellular carrier on a tower across an empty field approximately 200 yards behind the studio building. Using a Modulation Sciences Composite Line Driver set, composite audio was fed to the studio to transmitter link through twinaxial cable encased in buried PVC conduit. The C-band satellite dish was at the base of this tower, with a long run of RG-6 though this same conduit back to the studio. This setup proved to be rather troublesome during thunderstorm season. Something needed to change; the long cable runs across the field needed to be replaced with something wireless.

To solve this problem, Laurel Media employed unlicensed wireless 2.4GHz point-to-point radios to extend a LAN to the STL building. Stereo audio is fed via APT Worldcast Horizon codecs running in uncompressed mode to the Omnia audio processor and STL transmitter in the building at the base of the STL tower. Also, the satellite dish has been moved to a location directly adjacent to the studio building, thus eliminating all of the cross-field copper connections. Since these changes were made last year, no lightning damage has occurred.

The grand plan

The production studio

The production studio

Ownership wanted to completely gut both the production room and the WDDH control room and outfit them both with new custom-built studio furniture. The all-analog facility would be replaced with a digital audio network, providing flexibility and scalability for the future.

Laurel Media decided to use Axia Element control surfaces with PowerStation chassis in both control rooms. The PowerStation units integrate both analog and AES I/O, power supply, GPIO and a network switch into a 4RU chassis. The Axia Livewire network allows for simple, fast installation. Very little downtime was tolerable for this upgrade, so expediency was a necessity for this buildout. Each room was to be taken offline in the morning with the goal of a completely wired studio being available the same evening.

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