Mark Manolio, Chief Radio Engineer at Cleveland State University (and a member of the Customer Support group at Telos Systems), took time to chat with us about installing an Axia system at student-run WCSB-FM.
Axia: Mark, we'd like to thank you for choosing the Axia SmartSurface and Audio Adapter nodes for your radio station. Tell us a bit about your radio station and how the Axia products are being used.
Mark: My pleasure! WCSB is a student-run 1000 watt FM station at 89.3, located on the campus of Cleveland State University in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The station is live 24/7 (no automation) and is programmed entirely by volunteers who each have a 1 to 3 hour show once per week. Programmers are a mix of students, faculty and community members. Programming is an eclectic blend that ranges from Rock, Metal and Hip-Hop to Folk, Jazz, Classical, Talk and Ethnic. If you'd like to check us out you can find our program schedule and audio streams on the Web at www.wcsb.org.
Axia: How did you come to make this decision?
Mark: We badly needed a new production studio console and our analog air console, while still performing well, is now 12 years old. I got to see early prototypes of the system, and was very enthusiastic about the products. I convinced my colleagues at the University to go with SmartSurface.
Axia: How was the installation?
Mark: Installation was great! We had only one glitch; when we went to drop the SmartSurface into the cutout, we had to modify the cabinet slightly to accommodate the connections.
Axia: How long did the installation take?
Mark: It was much shorter than it would have been with traditional equipment and wiring! Perhaps 12 hours start to finish, including those furniture modifications. We also prepared all our own Ethernet and audio cabling. Radio Systems is an Axia partner, and their StudioHub wiring system is plug-and-play compatible with Axia.
Axia: Did the Axia products meet your expectations?
Mark: Yes, everything worked great right out of the box.
Axia: How have the operators responded to the new equipment?
Mark: WCSB has upwards of 50 different programmers operating the equipment each week! We held short training classes to indoctrinate them. No complaints at all so far. The programmers like the look and feel of the control surface. It is intuitive and easy to use.
Axia: Have you had any problems?
Mark: We had a power supply fail in the processing engine, but it was promptly replaced under warranty and it's since been fine. We also had a couple of static-related problems, but there was no hardware damage and and we realized we had not properly grounded the chassis.
Axia: What are your future plans?
Mark: Next, I will be connecting GPIO logic between the controller and my source equipment (for remote starts). Once this is complete, we will use this production room system for on-air use while we install a second, identical Axia system in our main on-air studio. We will also be getting the Router Selector node and PathfinderPC router control software. With those we will be able to instantly switch studios when needed and route audio sources to destinations directly without having to run through the console surface. This "virtual patchbay" will allow recording and dubbing to take place while the control surface is on the air or being used for something else. All without any kind of traditional patchbay or its associated wiring.
Once we have our air studio system complete we will have two identical studio systems that can be re-configured at the touch of a button in either room for air or production use.
Axia: Anything you wish to say to other broadcasters?
Mark: Installation is a tremendous time and material saver over conventional studio wiring. This system is is incredibly flexible and will scale from small to large facilities with a minimum of wiring. And it sounds great! All audio routing is linear with no data compression.
Axia: Any advice for those who might be resistant to new (networking) technology?
Mark: We used un-shielded CAT-5e cable for both the network and audio wiring. It's truly amazing that there are literally only two cables coming out of the console: A CAT-5e for the Livewire connection to the Ethernet switch and the power supply cable! For analog audio a single CAT-5e cable carries stereo audio. The Radio Systems adapters make it very convenient to connect the RJ-45 plugs to external equipment. I was a little bit concerned about running analog audio over CAT-5, but it turns out my concerns were unnecessary. The system is very quiet with excellent audio quality. We have experienced no buzzes, no clicks and no dropouts. There is nothing to be afraid of. The only stipulation is one that applies to traditional studio wiring too: un-balanced audio connections are a no-no. All audio connections must be balanced.
Axia: Thanks for your time, Mark.
Mark: Thanks for a great product!