Field Report: Orban Optimod-FM 8600


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Discussions of processing appear regularly, as it is the final product of a radio station. Every year new products come out and each has good and bad points. Today I am given the opportunity to look at one of the better products on the market - one based on history and progress of technology.

Orban Optimod-FM 8600

Like many products today, the physical installation of the equipment is straightforward. If you own an 8500 processor, drop this in its place and run. Standard XLR-type connectors for analog and AES audio, along with other connections, are clearly marked. An AES11 Sync input is available if you provide a house clock. Subcarrier (SCA) inputs are available as expected. Two composite baseband outputs come standard, too. The shopping list of interfacing does not stop there with two serial ports for connecting with legacy equipment via modem or a quick computer hookup, a remote interface in a DB25 form, and an Ethernet RJ-45 port to connect with a network.

Operation

If you are familiar with the Orban line, then the operation of the 8600 will not surprise you. I prefer working with the PC remote software to make changes, but the front panel display and user interface are intuitive. Because Orban maintains a consistent structure among its products, it does not take long to learn and to start tweaking the sound. The option to modify presets using the basic modify, intermediate modify, and advanced modify gives users starting points based on their levels of experience. Orban recommends making basic adjustments before moving to more advanced levels. Once the desired sound is achieved, use the front panel for minor changes.

Performance at a glance
• Large active-matrix display
• Two-band AGC, multiband compressor
• Analog and digital I/O
• Internal delay for HD Radio
• MX peak limiter

For more advanced settings, especially via remote VPN, use the software application to connect. Anything you do on the front of the unit can be done via a network connection. Here, the GUI gives you more information at once, making changes quicker and easier. In addition, switching between presets for comparison is much more convenient. The convenience factor goes up if you manage more than one unit. An added benefit is using the software to save, backup and transfer presets between processors. In my case, I can create the preset for our main station and upload a copy of the preset to the simulcast station's processor, cutting the time it takes to tweak the sound. If running an 8600HD, the FM analog processing and digital (IBOC) processing can be performed independently. When the analog and digital are unlinked, a second set of processing adjustments becomes available for the digital channel.

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