At Quinnipiac University, they take radio pretty seriously. In 1996, the university purchased a 1 KW AM directional station in Hamden, Connecticut. Following a 1-year renovation, WQUN signed on with a diverse format that includes local news, interviews, national news, and live coverage of Quinnipiac sports. Chief Engineer Ryan Krupa is tasked with upgrading the facilities to beyond state of the art. A major part of the overhaul was the purchase and installation of four Axia Element consoles.
WQUN is a unique operation, being a commercial AM station owned by a university. It receives funding both from the university and via advertising. Full-time staff include the general manager, news director, sales and marketing director and sports director. All other staff are part-time, including the 20-odd student interns.
Quinnipiac is a private, coeducational university with 6,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students, located 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston. Campuses are located in Mount Carmel, York Hill and North Haven. There are 58 undergraduate and 28 graduate degree programs, including mass communications.
"We liked AoIP because it is cutting edge, and represents the future of broadcast audio," recalls Krupa. "We brought in several manufacturers to demonstrate their gear to the station's staff and university IT department." After everyone had shown their stuff, a decision was made to go with the Telos Alliance.
IP audio represents a quantum shift away from an analog infrastructure, and for Krupa, pre-planning was key to a smooth transition. "I created an Excel spreadsheet to track IP assignments for different pieces of equipment, and mapped out equipment and signal flow with Microsoft Visio."
An Element console and PowerStation were set up in a conference room, and the staff was invited to play with it as Krupa familiarized himself with its operation. "I learned a lot from the first installation," recalls Krupa. "After that, the other two went quite smoothly." At the same time he was removing the old multi-pair cable and punch blocks, Krupa was pulling Cat-6 cable for the Livewire infrastructure. With the pre-planning and pre-fabrication, it only took one day per console to complete the other two studios.
It's not just the physical infrastructure that is different, most of the magic of an IP install is in the software. "Axia's Pathfinder software eliminates much of the hardware used in an analog system, such as routers," explains Krupa. "And it gives added benefits such as built-in silence sensors." WQUN uses the profiles in its Element consoles to provide different settings for its news, home games, away games, live shows and automation which all originate from the same studios. Each console also has 10-button LCD SmartSwitch modules, with a button configured for instant live operation.
Shortly after the Element consoles were installed, the station upgraded its phone system. "We had been using Telos ONE-x-Sixes," adds Krupa, "and they were replaced with the Telos VX VoIP talkshow system." One of the big improvements that came with the upgrade is the ability to see the status of all the lines from a computer screen. Since some lines are common to multiple studios, 'collisions' sometimes occurred with the old system, when operators accidently picked up a line already being used in another studio; that doesn't happen with VX. An improvement in sound quality has also been noticed. He adds that WQUN uses phones intensively for all aspects of their programming – sports remotes, interviews and recording weather.
Plans are also underway to install an Axia DESQ console in the Operations Manager's office. With it, he will be able to access audio files and program content without tying up a studio.
"Our programming is all about the community," explains Krupa. The 1 KW AM signal blankets six surrounding communities in the daytime, while the 300-watt night time pattern covers the Hamden/North Haven markets. This community-centered approach was particularly important during hurricane Sandy.
"Three of the five AM stations in this market were off the air," recalls Krupa. "But we stayed on, providing round-the-clock news and emergency information." WQUN teamed up with the local CBS-TV affiliate, who provided weather and meteorological information.
Technology has changed since Quinnipiac purchased the station in 1996, and that is reflected in how the message is delivered. In addition to the 1220 KHz AM signal, WQUN is available on mobile devices and streaming media. "We try to be on as many platforms as possible," adds Krupa. Telos and Axia gear are present in their streaming operations as well – WQUN uses the Telos ProStream streaming hardware encoder to send station audio to the 'Net, connected to their Axia network via – you guessed it – a Livewire connection.
In fact, when it comes down to it, that kind of works-like-one-system integration was what made the difference in WQUN's choice of systems "What really sold us is the seamless integration between Axia consoles and Telos phone systems, since they're both part of the same company," says Krupa.