Rebuilding radio studios in today's demanding world can be challenging. Delmarva Broadcasting's Milford, DE, operation was no exception. With six new studios and offices, everything had to be coordinated to work in harmony and keep the station flowing. In the middle of the project was an HD Radio conversion, which also had to be handled accordingly.
WTHD, the first radio station in Milford, DE, was built in 1954 as a 500W, two-tower, daytime-only directional AM. The original building is still part of the studio/ transmitter facility today. Since 1954, the complex has seen three additions attached to the original building. With the second addition completed in 1989, time had taken its toll on the old paneled walls. With an FM added in the 1970s and another in 2003, the need for additional space was vital. Delmarva Broadcasting purchased the Prettyman broadcasting stations in 1997 and had been planning the renovation ever since. In 2003, WXPZ (now WNCL) was purchased and moved into the old reel storage room in the already full building. This temporary studio existed for three years. In 2005, Delmarva Broadcasting finalized the plans for construction on addition number three, but local permits delayed the project for some time. In the fall of 2006, the addition was completed and ready for studio construction to begin.
Station management requested the studios to be one of the first things seen when a visitor walked in the entrance to reception. Let's face it, most people who listen to the radio want to see the person behind the microphone, not those of us behind the scenes. This meant that sound proofing the studios was critical. This also required that the installation of the windows looking into the studios be precise. Sound dampening drywall and wall isolation were incorporated into the design. Lightner Electronics helped get the studio wiring off the ground by assembling all the preliminary audio, network and telephone wiring. When it came to equipment needs, Jim Peck of SCMS provided assistance. He offered equipment research and all the last-minute needs that arose during the project.
Careful consideration went into the planning of the HVAC systems used for the studios, which incorporate electronic air filters and humidity controls. This helps reduce static and dust. The ducts and air velocity for the system were all designed with sound proofing in mind.
My biggest challenge was keeping all aspects of the stations in operation during this entire process. This meant building the studios and moving existing operating equipment into them. The majority of the equipment installed was new, but a portion of the equipment had to be recycled. This meant some carefully planned pre-wiring and testing to keep down time to a minimum during the transition. Some existing consoles had to be refurbished by the manufacturer. One such console was for WYUS-AM, which was upgrading from an older rotary-fader console to a Radio Systems Millenium console. The use of current equipment required a new studio to be built so a previous studio's console could be sent back to the factory. A new audio server was purchased and set up in the new wing to help with the move. The first studio began broadcasting in January, and the work continued until all the studios were complete.
During the installation, proper grounding and lightning prevention measures were installed. A halo ground system was incorporated around the entire studio facility. This consisted of four-inch copper strap to bring everything together. All equipment was properly bonded to this system ground. Henry Power Clamps were used on incoming power lines. Polyphasor suppressors were used on incoming transmission lines. A Powerware system UPS was used to stabilize the power to all sensitive equipment. Sandman telephone suppressors were used on all phone lines.
Furniture was an important part of the new studios. We wanted a custom look with oak trim throughout. Management also wanted to stay away from the traditional battleship gray wherever possible. From the studios, to reception, to the jock office, Vince Fiola of Studio Technologies helped create the look we had been seeking. His eye for detail was a huge help.
An important part of the project was to move the Milford stations into an all-digital audio domain, or at least in part for WAFL-FM and WNCL-FM. I wanted to use as few — if any — digital to analog converters as possible. All wiring in the infrastructure was designed to carry digital audio so that was not a concern.
Audio Science 5044 digital audio cards were required in the Imediatouch on-air automation computers. These cards mated to the Audioarts D75 digital inputs well. From there, the audio path passes through a Broadcast Tools ADMS DAS 8.4 Plus audio switcher. This switcher combined with ADCS-III converters allowed us to integrate the analog EAS and studio sources. It also had digital outputs so it fit our need to keep the path digital unless an EAS source or another analog studio was needed for an emergency. From there it went to the digital inputs to the Optimods and then to the digital inputs of he BE HD Radio transmitter.
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