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Field Report: Broadcast Tools ACS 4.1
Once in a while, small and simple is better. My engineering space includes several audio switchers with matrix functions, numerous inputs and outputs and all kinds of control features. Oddly enough, the big-boy switchers are sometimes unnecessary overkill. Such is the case with some network playout switching needs I recently came across. There was one tool I found that solved the problem. Despite its diminutive size and simple operation, the ACS 4.1 Matrix Audio Switcher from Broadcast Tools was the fix!
|Performance at a glance|
| ■ Rugged RFI proof design
■ Four inputs, assignable by front panel control, RS-232 of PIP triggers
■ Eight GPI inputs
■ Setup via internal dipswitches and RS-232 text string commands
■ Three switching modes: overlap, interlock and mix
Matrix switching means any or all of the inputs can be assigned to any or all of the outputs. In the case of the ACS 4.1, there are four inputs and one output so it’s fairly straight-forward. The front panel is home to four input assignment buttons, mute button, recessed level adjustment trimpots and LED status indicators. Setup features are configured via dipswitches inside or via the RS-232 serial port using a text string interface such as HyperTerminal. The ACS 4.1 is controlled by eight GPI inputs, RS-232 and PIP triggers. USB or Ethernet control can be added with RS-232 adapters. Akin to its Broadcast Tools family members, Euroblock screw terminals are situated on the back for easy audio and trigger installation. Inputs are electronically balanced and a silence sensor is onboard in the event of a source audio failure. The output can be configured as stereo or mono. The unit boasts three audio switching modes: overlap, interlock and mix for smooth switching in diverse situations. Four open collector outputs are available as channel selection indicators. This is handy for remote monitoring of active or non-active inputs. The familiar and rugged blue chassis make the ACS 4.1 a tough 1RU machine (three units can fit in one rack space). The metal construction makes it highly RFI proof as well. Additionally, the unit can be used in “EAS mode,” which switches audio to a specified input for the duration of a latched closure. This feature was critical for my installation.
I feed specific spot inventory and legal IDs to different outlets across our network and we use a proprietary playout system to do so. The network master control sends triggers to the playout systems, but at each network outlet, the trunk feed must be switched to the local playout feed. The ACS 4.1 is the only matrix switcher in the Broadcast Tools family that will hold an input open for the duration of a latched closure. This is accomplished by setting up the unit in “EAS mode.” ACS 4.1 was designed with EAS interruption in mind, but the feature works just as well for my network playout needs. Our playout systems are designed to provide a latched closure during playout. Just as if the local breaks were EAS messages, the ACS 4.1 switches to the specified playout input. When the local break is finished and the playout closure is opened, the ACS 4.1 automatically defaults back to input “one,” which is network program audio. An “EAS” closure input is designated on the back of the ACS 4.1 The compact size and quick installation and setup features of the ACS 4.1 make it perfect for easy deployment in the field.
Holding true to the long list of solid products that make radio engineering easier, Broadcast Tools has created a nifty tool in the ACS 4.1. While it boasts few bells and whistles, it has all it needs to play a critical role in the broadcast audio chain. By the time the project is completed, nearly ten of these units will be deployed across our network, and I will sleep well at night knowing that audio switching is working well via the ACS 4.1.
Wygal is the programmer and engineer for Victory FM at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA.
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