JENNiRADIO: For Kids, By Kids
Most labels are giving us AAC-encoded music now, and it doesn’t make sense to go from compressed to decompressed and back. It’s just too lossy, so we’ll look for AAC support in iMediaTouch and other automation systems when the time comes to upgrade. We’d also like to take advantage of auto-ducking, not just because Jennifer does a lot of voice tracks, but also because visiting kids’ voices can get lost when laid over a heavy song intro.
For a while we used the console that came with our Radio Disney purchase, but we quickly outgrew it and moved up to a 12-fader Audioarts Air-3 board. What we missed, however, were the inbound monitoring capabilities: the ability to monitor the production before the delay, after the delay, and the air feed. To accommodate the Air-3’s single monitor input, we added a switch for all the monitoring.
When we installed the Air-3, all the inputs were RJ-45. With my background in computer science and networking, I’m not always familiar with conventional audio routes and wiring, but I can Ethernet all day long. In fact, the evolution of broadcast standards to a foundation of CAT5 networking made the facility build fairly straightforward. The studio depends on CAT5 cable and RJ-45 connectors. As all the cables hub into the Air-3, rewiring is much easier.
We use an Eventide BD500 delay and a Digital Alert Systems EAS. Most of the equipment we got from Disney was in immaculate condition, even though some had been around a long time, but one thing we needed to upgrade was the EAS. We moved from an older unit, which had paper jams and illegible printouts, as well as incompatibility with changing government standards. We opted for a four-channel DASDEC-II radio encoder/decoder, which let us replace everything, including the external receivers, because it has integrated radios. Now, even if government requirements are a moving target, we can upgrade our EAS through a simple software update. That’s what really attracted us to Digital Alert Systems and the DASDEC system. The ability to log in from anywhere on my iPad or iPhone to see what messages we received and to send the weekly test has an amazing benefit, especially with travel taking us away from the station so often.
Outgoing signals are fed through an Orban Optimod-AM 9200 digital audio processor and delivered to a 1kW Nautel ND1 AM transmitter. Though Disney had installed a Jazz 1000 for HD Radio, we went analog-only because we just liked the sound better. We generate all of our own programming right now, so we really don’t use the dish and receiver we acquired from Disney. However, for a short time we carried nationally syndicated programming for overnights, and during that time we used an XDS receiver and our existing automation to control our satellite switching.
For our remote broadcasts, we tried one of the main IT transport companies and its inexpensive box, but we just could not get it to sound right for us. So, instead we bought two Mac mini systems, taking one with us and leaving the other (back in Albuquerque), set to auto-answer. We run the systems’ audio chat, the Mac minis negotiate the “call,” and the local system puts us on the air. This way we get better quality and more reliable operation than we achieved with other products that cost twice as much. We aren’t using it 24/7, so it meets our needs well. For regular remotes with one or two people, we did look at Skype and iPhone/iPad clients, but we have a small staff, and the Mac mini auto-answer solution is sufficient—and simple, once it’s set up the first time.
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