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WZIP-FM is on the Right Track
WZIP-FM started life as WAUP in 1962 at the University of Akron campus, and was run primarily as a student club for the next 17 years. In 1979 a new general manager, Tom Beck, was hired and proceeded to make major changes at the station. One of which was to hire additional engineering help, and in 1980 I was added to the staff. The changes started moving even faster after that; the focus changed to become a professional broadcast training program. I was named chief engineer in 1982 just as we were beginning to look for more power and height. We began with a move from 80' on campus to 800' on a new tower built by the public TV consortium for Northeast Ohio. We originally transmitted at 330W, but soon upgraded to a directional antenna system and an increase in power to 3.3kW ERP in 1985. This really kick started the program as we could now be heard over most of the area from which the University draws students. We had one more upgrade in 1997 as other stations changed frequency so we could increase to 7.5kW ERP.
We are a different kind of college station than most. There are three full-time employees: the GM, the secretary and me. Everything else is done by the students, all underwriting sales, promotions, music directors, news, sports, and of course the announcers. Tom Beck is a tremendous motivational speaker and teacher; it is his leadership and drive that has made WZIP the highest-rated student-run station in the country. The administration sees the promotional value of the work the student announcers talking to our 120,000 plus weekly listeners about the great opportunities at the University of Akron during every shift, so much so that they found $175,000 for infrastructure upgrades for WZIP and the companion Z-TV program. To accomplish all we wanted to do we also used money raised from underwriting. The idea was to replace most of the big equipment installed in our last major upgrade when we moved to our current 3,100-square-foot space in 1997/1998.
Start in the studios
First up came the Axia iQ consoles to replace the analog Airwaves that, while still working well, are looking all of their 14 years old. I wanted an audio-over-IP system, and with my proximity to Cleveland and seeing the Axia consoles evolve at various SBE meetings and conferences over the years they were an easy choice. If you're planning an installation such as this, take time ensure you have the StudioHub adapters and ancillary outboard equipment to get the job done.
I was able to run the initial setup through the Axia Web control quite quickly with the only challenge being the hybrid/codec foldback and Livewire settings. One of the big advantages of all the IP consoles are the Profiles, which allow different settings based on which show is going on. We use all four profiles in the iQ: one for the standard broadcast with mics, phones, and the Enco automation system we've been working with since 1995. Then we have a sports profile for the games and talk shows we run. We also have a profile for our weekend Polka show. (Don't laugh - it has the highest AQH shares of any show we broadcast.) That uses two CD players, a feed from a laptop and the occasional track from vinyl. My fourth profile is set up with carts and CDs as sources with only the main automation output, just in case we have Windows issues.
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