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Did You Test ALL of It?

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Aug 8, 2015 3:43:00 PM

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TWiRT 268When it comes to testing your generator, don’t do what Kirk did; do what Chris says and does - test the entire generator system. Chris Tobin runs through a verbal checklist of steps to take now to prep for fall and winter weather. Plus SBE Ennes Workshops and a preview of automated site testing.




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Kirk Harnack: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 268, is brought to you by the Axia SoftSurface, Virtual Console software for Windows to remote control a Fusion or Element, or stand-alone control of an Axia Studio Mix Engine. By the Z/IPStream 9X/2 streaming software. Omnia.9 audio processing with Undo technology, plus reference-quality stream encoding. And by Lawo and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. CrystalCLEAR is the console with the multi-touch touchscreen interface.

Hey, when it comes to testing your generator, don't do what Kirk did. Do what Chris says and does, test the entire generator system. Chris Tobin runs through a verbal checklist of steps to take now to prep for fall and winter weather. Plus SBE Ennes Workshops and a preview of automated site testing.

Kirk: Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. Glad to be here, and I'm on vacation. That's where I'm coming to you from, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Yes, my wife loves to come here to Pigeon Forge, and so we got a cabin.

I just write the check, I just pay the bill, and she chose this cabin. It's called the Love Shack. So we're here in the Love Shack. There's the hot tub. Not a time machine, just a hot tub. But Chris Tobin is here, and together we're going to bring you another episode of This Week in Radio Tech. We're going to talk about everything from the microphone to the light bulb at the top of the tower.

We've got a couple of interesting topics for you today that have to do with the changing of the season. Hey, it's getting to be back-to-school time, football season, the weather's going to start getting cooler. I know for some of you it doesn't feel that way, but in the northern hemisphere, sure, it's going to start getting cooler. And so those are the kind of things we're going to talk about on This Week in Radio Tech.

Also, I've got some important information about SBE Ennes Workshops, and those can be really helpful to your career and to you professionally in other ways, too.

All right. Let's bring in our co-host. He is also live on remote, a bit like I am, but he's in a very interesting location. Once again, from Manhattan, it's Chris Tobin. Hey Chris, how are you?

Chris: I'm well, Kirk. And you have the Love Shack, the hot tub, and the B-52s. This is going to be a musical show. This is unbelievable.

Kirk: It could be, it could be. So you're in Manhattan. You told me you're about 200 feet above ground.

Chris: Yeah, it's, what is it, 18-1/2 stories? Yeah, it's about 10 feet per story, that's the way it usually goes, yeah. The elevation of the neighborhood is about just shy of 45 feet. So yeah, about 200 feet.

Kirk: And so often, the first floor is higher than 10 feet, what, 15 or 18 feet sometimes for the first floor.

Chris: This is true, this is true.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. So that pushes you up a bit. So is there obstruction lighting on a building like the one you're in?

Chris: No. Mine does not have it, but there are a couple in the neighborhood that do. We do have a heliport about nine blocks north of me, so that's part of the reason we're in the glide path of the heliport there, and then there's the United Nations down the way, so they have emergency aviation landing capabilities. So yeah, there's lights on a few buildings for those reasons, not because they're over 200 feet.

Kirk: So, hey more on my vacation in a few minutes, not that it's all that interesting, but sometimes it's good to share stuff. Especially about RF technology and also a big Internet problem that happened right here, well, in Tennessee, a couple of days ago. It caused a lot of issues. So we'll talk about that in a few minutes.

And on this episode of This Week in Radio Tech, I mentioned I've got some educational things to talk about, some Ennes Workshops coming up. I'm speaking, actually, at one next week in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. It's great when a state broadcast association gets together with SBE to put on an educational program.

This one was actually put together, not exactly at the last minute, but almost. TAB was going to do this themselves, and I put a bug in their ear. I said, "Hey, why don't you guys coordinate with SBE and make this an Ennes Workshop? That way, engineers who go to it will get official credit for re-certification for their SBE certificates."

So we'll talk about that in a few minutes and why it's important to go to these things, or even, hey, you as an engineer out there, you could present on a topic yourself. That would be really helpful to your own career and really helpful to your colleagues and friends who are fellow engineers as well.

Then Chris Tobin is going to be talking to us about things to think about for the changing of the seasons, besides just turning leaves, what you need to think about for transmitters and such. I've got an interesting story to talk about that has to do with automated testing at your transmitter sites. So all that's coming up.

Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Axia, and the Axia Fusion Console. And if it's ready to roll, I want you to pay attention for about three minutes to Clark Novak, my colleague, to tell you about the Axia Fusion Console.

Bryan Jones: Actually reflected on the soft surface of the screen. And I really have full Element control at this point. If I wanted to take a listen, let's turn my channel back on here for program 1. I'll select program 1 on my monitors. And so I can control the monitor volume. I can also control the individual fader volume of the events. If I want to switch my monitors, switch it to program 2.

Kirk: So actually what we're watching there is not Clark Novak. I forgot. I asked SunCast to play this video. This is Bryan Jones, who was actually one of our guests last week. He's explaining the Axia SmartSurface [sic] console, and he's running it on a Windows Surface tablet. So you can run it on a much bigger computer, of course. This is Windows software that mimics an Axia audio console.

You have full control, with actually not a lot of bandwidth. You don't have a Livewire connection to this laptop. You can do this over the Internet, you can do this over Wi-Fi, you can do this elsewhere on your business network or by VPN. Lots of ways to handle this.

And so Bryan is giving you this demonstration. If you want to see this full video of how the Axia SoftSurface works, you can go to the Axia YouTube channel. This is actually the Telos Alliance.

Just go to YouTube and search for Telos Alliance, and then scroll through and you'll see, under the Axia playlist, you'll see this video with Bryan Jones explaining all the features that are available here. And just how you can make a console that controls a full mix engine, gives you, really, full control of everything that you'd have with a hardware console sitting in front of you.

You know, there are quite a few broadcasters who are using this kind of software console, specifically the Axia SoftSurface, to give more people console control at a lower cost.

So let's say you've got two or three production studios where you really don't need what a hardware console has to offer. You can install the software on a few laptops or desktop machines or even, as you saw there, on a Microsoft Surface tablet, and make it work. That one was actually working over Wi-Fi, talking to an Axia mix engine.

There's a lot of ideas like this that Axia users put into effect to make their station operations better, and to assist those who are the content creators. The production people, the on-air talent, people who do imaging, to give them the tools that help them get their job done, even if they're out on remote, working from somewhere remotely, or working elsewhere in the building.

Maybe they've got a closet, or they need to do some work from their desk that's not in a studio. The Axia SoftSurface is just a great way to go about doing that. Check it out, two places to look at. Go to TelosAlliance.com, go to Axia, and then look for that software console.

Or go to the YouTube channel, where you can hear Bryan Jones explain how that works. A lot of great ideas like this and many more, from Axia. I use the stuff, it's terrific, my co-host Chris Tobin sure has at some radio stations, and we just think it's terrific, and we think you will, too. AxiaAudio.com or TelosAlliance.com. Thanks, Axia, for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, Chris Tobin, you with us? It's Episode 268. The weather's changing and why don't we talk about a few of your topics first. Here behind me there's a lot of green, but it's going to turn bright yellow and bright red soon, and the temperature's going to drop, and by December or January, there's probably going to be a lot of snow on the ground here.

What do I need to think about now so I'm not caught with my engineering pants down later on?

Chris: All right. Well, let's see. I'm thinking we're talking snowy conditions, ice, water in the air, and that kind of stuff. So the first thing I would do is when I get to my transmitter site in the next couple of weeks, while the weather permits, check your generator settings. Make sure the generator will start manually, without load, and then check your contract for generator maintenance, make sure it's current.

Find out when the last time you had a checkup done, PM check, and also have a load test done. Basically put the generator on line and let it run for about an hour or so, and monitor the parameters to make sure that the voltages are correct, the current, temperature of the chassis, water temperature, block temperature if it's diesel, a few other things you want to look for. Then use an oscilloscope with a power transformer of some sort, and look at the waveform coming out. Make sure it's somewhat of a sine wave. It should be. Look to see if there are variations. There might be a slight variation because it's a generator.

These are things you want to look for now, while it's under load, by the way. Don't be taken into the trap of, "Oh, the generator starts, it's fine. We should be great." If you don't run it under load, the magnets in the armature and everything will weaken. There are other components that will stress out under load and fail at the wrong time.

So do it now, the weather's good, if you've got to do outdoor work on the generator now, this is the time to do it. Not on that day in December when it's falling snow and it's already three inches on the ground. I can assure you, whoever you get out there to work with you, will be charging a premium. And hopefully it'll work, but you'll be in the dark while they're working on the generator.

Kirk: Yeah. Hey Chris, I've got a question about testing under load. So you just mentioned run it on the air for an hour or so. What's the difference between running a generator under load by actually using it to run your transmitter site versus running it under load with a dummy load test that a professional generator maintenance company might provide? Any difference there?

Chris: No, there's no real difference per se, because the load test that you're talking about with the generator company, which is a bank of resistors, is designed to meet the specifications of the manufacturer. So it should meet what you're going to give the generator as a load for your building. Both will work fine.

If you have the wherewithal and the ability to bring in a load test jig, depending on the size of the generator, it dictates the cost and when you can do it. By all means, do it. But with that kind of a setup, you're going to be taking the power lines off the switch. There's a few things that go on. When you do it under load with your transmitter building, everything stays in place. So you're really, truly doing a test end to end.

Kirk: Is it fair to say that, hey, I fell in the same trap that you talked about. I've tested generators not under load, "Okay, generator works." Although if it's just a weekly test to see if the engine starts, okay. But that shouldn't be your only test ever. Quarterly or before the seasons change or whatever, yeah, load testing is important. When you test a generator and it's not under load, what you're really testing is the engine. You're not testing the other half of the generator, which is the part that is the generator, the part that makes the electricity.

Chris: Right.

Kirk: So yeah, you're testing half of it, but not the other half.

Chris: Well, think of it as your car. Think of your car. You do a lot of city driving. So your city driving is maybe 20, 25 miles an hour, it's very short distances...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris:...you're not doing much. But then one day you decide to go on a long road trip and you're going now we're going to do some highway driving. Now what are you doing? You're driving at 65, 70 miles an hour, and depending on which state you're in, which country, maybe 85 miles an hour.

Now you're stressing the engine out and all of a sudden you get three-quarters of the way into your trip or maybe a quarter of the way in, and suddenly a light comes on in the dashboard. You've sprung a leak, either the radiator for coolant, possibly oil. Why is that? The car was running fine, just had it inspected or an oil change a month ago. Because you weren't stressing it to really push the limits of what it's designed for. Same thing, same principles with the generator.

Kirk: When you test it under load and actually use your transmitter site as a load, then you're also exercising the transfer switch...

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: ...and as you mentioned earlier, that gives you a chance to, perhaps through a transformer, but by some means, look at the waveform with an oscilloscope. And you could do that under the dummy load test, too, but hey, why not test it with the probably not perfect load that your transmitter site represents? There's going to be some, what's the factor called, when you...

Chris: Power factor.

Kirk: ...power factor, yes. Your power factor won't be 1.0 when you have your transmitter site under load. What about...I'm sorry, go ahead, go ahead.

Chris: You were talking about the transmitter switch, I was going to get to that. One thing to remember with transmitter switches, they sit idle in one position for a long time. One set of contacts are closed and current is passing through them. The other set is exposed to the air and the environment. That's why you want to run the switch. Because I have been in places where when we ran the switch, they chatted. At 100 amps, free phase, chattering transfer switches is not a pretty sight. They become arc welders, and they don't pass current after that. It's really bad. And I had it happen once on an overnight when we had to go on generator because we were doing work on the utility poles at the site.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: So the utility company said look, you guys can go on the generator, we'll do the work, it's starting at midnight, we'll finish in the morning and you'll be all set. And we switched over and hoo boy, was that a loud noise, and it wasn't the generator starting.

Kirk: Oh, geez. Okay.

Chris: These are the reasons why you do this exercise.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: It may sound like oh, it's annoying, what do you mean, I do it at night. Trust me, now is the time to do it, when things are normal. Otherwise, when the weather changes and you're panicked, that's not a time to do it.

Kirk: I guess I worked at a station that we didn't budget for proper maintenance, checking the hoses and the belts and the battery charger and all that kind of stuff. And in the end, we paid for it. It was partly my fault. I didn't argue hard enough with the management to budget money for preventive maintenance. It just looked like a big check that had to be written to a PM company. I did a little bit of maintenance myself, but not proper. Not what a real company would do.

Chris: I would suggest along those lines, and I know what it feels like to be in a situation where you're talking to the management of the radio station, trying to tell them that you've got to spend money on stuff they can't see. Out of sight, out of mind, well, what do you have to do that for. I always put it in terms of dollars. Here's what happens if we lose utility services because of a storm, or maybe a drunk driver hits a pole and takes out the utility service in the neighborhood, and your transmitter site happens to be part of the grid. For every minute you're off the air, this is the cost of advertising that's lost, this is the cost of perception. And nowadays, with PPM, this is the loss of listeners or possible PPM numbers.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: When you do the numbers and put the math together, then you say you take that number and put it next to the number of the cost of your quarterly or yearly maintenance to make sure you don't get to that other bad number. If you have a smart management company running the place, they'll look at it, do the math, and go, "Go ahead, schedule it, let's get a contract. You're right, this makes better sense."

I say this only because I did work for a radio station company who chose not to do the maintenance, who chose not to do all that, despite my efforts to show financially, and a business approach. I wasn't trying to be, "This is what you got to do, you don't be an idiot." I did the math, I did the presentation.

Both the owner and the general manager looked at me and said, "Well, that's nice, but we'll take our chances." In other words, risk assessment, that's part of being an MBA, I get it.

Well, guess what. We did have a drunk driver hit a pole, and if you've ever watched utility poles when they go down, because they're all under tension, 22 poles went down along the roadway. Our transmitter site was on the grid along with them. The generator didn't come on. It just sat there.

Kirk: Oh, geez.

Chris: Because why? Oh, that's right. They didn't want to do the PM work. It turns out that the starter solenoid was jammed or locked up for some reason, I'm not sure why. And I got a phone call at 11:00 at night, screaming, people screaming, "What's going on? What are you going to do about it?" I was like, "There's nothing I can do about it. I'm going to go back to bed. I'll see you in the morning." "What?" Walked into the office 8:00 with my folder and papers, went to the general manager's office and said, "You called me, you yelled at me, you berated me, you threatened to fire me, and everything else." She goes, "That's absolutely right. Your responsibility is to make sure this station stays on the air." I said, "You're right. I would agree with that statement. And your responsibility is to make sure the station stays on the air through the financial resources of the advertising and sales department." She goes, "That's correct."

"Well, then here's your document, your purchase order, capital request, with the words 'Denied' and the word 'No' on it for that repair that would have kept us on the air last night."

Needless to say, that afternoon, we had a generator service company and I got a contract and we got a brand new fuel tank for the facility, within three days. And things weren't questioned after that, but boy, I'll tell you, it was difficult walking through the hallway without getting somebody look at you like oh, there goes that guy.

Kirk: You know, when you told the story, it's so easy to gloat in that situation, and...

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: ...I'm assuming because I know you, that you really didn't gloat, at least not outwardly.

Chris: No.

Kirk: You may have made a firm point, but you didn't gloat.

Chris: No, I did not gloat. I kept it professional, the whole bit.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: But it was just one of those things. It's like "Guys, come on, it's a business."

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: It's like the famous saying that general managers always tell the engineer, "Well, we bought you that transmitter. You should be happy." And my response always has been, "Well, you did buy the transmitter. It wasn't for me. It was for the business. And but thank you very much for trusting me for purchasing the right one for the business."

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: And they look at you like well, yeah, that's what it is. What, did I say something wrong? That's when you know you're dealing with professionals or just people who like the idea of being in charge.

Kirk: That's a good point. I never thought about that, but I've had that said to me, too. "You ought to be happy."

Chris: Everybody has.

Kirk: "We bought you this, we bought you that." It's not for me, it's for you.

Chris: Absolutely.

Kirk: Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Well, okay. Hey, I've got a question about antennas, because I have some stations in Mississippi where we don't get ice storms very often, but when we do, oh my goodness. That ice hangs around for a week up there at 300 feet or 500 feet or 600 feet above the ground.

In Mississippi, it's a hard decision. Do we spend money on radomes or on heaters or not? And if you don't, you're going to be off the air at some point. And if you do, you're going to have all that either weight, wind load, or electrical apparatus up there, and it's not going to get used but maybe once every 4 to once every 8 to maybe even once every 10 years.

I don't want to go through the math of making that decision, but let's say that I have heaters or radomes. How can I be sure, before the weather gets bad, that they're doing their job?

Chris: Well, the best way, the proper way, would be hire a rigging company, tower crew, to go up and visually inspect them. As far as the heaters are concerned, depending on how you installed them and what method you used to measure the current draw, if you've made a record of that when you installed the system and maintained it, you can measure the current and see if it's changed.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: If the heaters are going bad, the current tends to, I believe, go up higher. So you don't want that, because it's probably shorting out to the element at some point.

But if you're in a situation where you don't have either radome or a heating element, and you have an opportunity, when you're putting in the antenna, some tricks have been to off-tune the antenna.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: So normally your antenna resonance, say, at 96.7 megahertz. A lot of companies can swing it a little bit one way or to the other, so that when it detunes from icing, it actually goes back on frequency. So you don't really lose all your power in your transmitters and see chaos. It actually will continue to function. You could reduce the power a bit, but stay on the air.

I actually worked at a station where we did that. It was off-tune just enough, and we measured it, the manufacturer made sure, they gave us a report, and said your frequency was 96.7, but we've tuned it to like 96.685 or something.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: And sure enough, during the winter months, when the ice would form, we'd go into a network analyzer on the antenna, and you'd see...

Kirk: Right.

Chris: ...the frequency shifting. We stayed on the air, though.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah, that's a pretty common practice now. I believe a couple of ours, our ERI antennas, were built that way.

Chris: That's how a lot of ERIs are, yes.

Kirk: Yeah. And the other brands, I'm sure, can do the same thing, too. But of course, different antennas behave differently with a given amount of ice. I know that probably, and I'm just going by anecdotal information here and what seems right, if it's a thin, spindly antenna that doesn't have a lot of beefiness to it, a little bit of ice is going to cause more detuning than if you have a big, honking, beefy antenna that's got big elements. Ice should affect it a little bit less, that is, that given the same amount of ice.

Now of course, when you detune antenna slightly so that ice will actually bring it in tune a little bit before more ice takes it out of tune, the amount of ice makes a difference on something like that. So if you get a typical amount of ice, whatever that may be... if it's an eighth-inch, a quarter-inch, three-eighths of an inch... fine.

But you can certainly get an amount of ice that would take it on beyond its tuning, and then it's going to get a lot of reflected power.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: It also surprised me that we actually owned a couple of transmitters that had no way of reducing their power automatically during an ice storm. All they could do was shut off when the VSWR got too high. So that was a bit of a pain. We were able to get exciters plugged into the antennas, and they had automatic VSWR reduction, so that kept us on the air in a couple cases.

Chris: Yeah, see, in that case, if you're in a part of the country or the world where icing occurs very randomly, as you mentioned, then probably what I would do, if I had a transmitter that didn't have the ability to foldback, I would probably keep an eye on the weather, like I normally do anyway. If there was a threat of icing or close to it, I probably would have preset lower power levels...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: ...on the transmitter or made arrangements to lower it.

Just say, "Guys, we're going to operate at 50% power for the next 24 hours. In case the ice forms, we may skirt the issue or we may get off the air, but maybe we'll... One way or the other, we'll have a chance."

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: But I've worked on some old transmitters, and foldback was not considered an option. I'm sure a lot of us, a lot of the audience has had many a transmitter was designed to be a blowtorch. It's either on or off. That's it.

Kirk: So let's talk for a second about... we've been talking mostly about FM. What about AM transmitters and towers? What prep is different for AM than for FM for winter weather?

Chris: Well, for AM for winter weather, you run into the issue of the doghouse or the tuning house not being properly maintained, environment-wise. That can cause detuning if you're direct... I should say, let me preface this.

If you're a directional AM station, you must pay close attention to your tuning houses, pay close attention to your sampling lines. If you don't have ice bridges, which is basically a form of covering over the coax or the heliax runs, where ice falling from the tower structure could actually puncture your lines, then I would say find a way to make sure they're protected, either in a wooden sheath or something to that effect. And just visually inspect, see where the weak points are.

If you're a four-tower array that's in a box formation, a square, you most likely have the heliax going out around the perimeter of the four towers. So what method did you use to get the coax out there? You'll make sure that's properly protected in some form or shape.

Your tuning houses, do they have a metal rooftop, when you get in the tower, within the tower structure itself, are they off to the side? Check for things of that type. In the winter months, do you have heaters in the doghouse to maintain a certain temperature, to keep the moisture to a minimum, or the cold? Because the coils will change, they'll detune. Those are things you look for in AM sites.

And then as far as the towers themselves, there's no such thing as a radome for a tower, so your AM antenna will most likely be fine. Detuning can happen with AM. Icing can form and shift it, depending on how critical your array is. Most AM sites have transmitters these days that do fold back, and if they don't, you probably have made provisions for alternate power settings for various measurements you have to make...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: ...for your AM side bands and whatnot, so you'll be okay. But that's a general rule. It's for the [inaudible 00:26:03].

Kirk: You know, a folded unipole, a design of antennas, are said to have a lot of advantages over series insulated radiators.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: And maybe they do, I've certainly had both. But I've also found that folded unipoles, in my experience, tended to be more susceptible to ice. In other words, ice would get on the skirt wires and that would affect the tuning more than just a plain series-fed radiator would be affected.

Chris: That's correct. That will happen because the folded unipole, there's the wire that the surface area is smaller, has a greater chance of getting colder and collecting the moisture. The tuning of a folded dipole, because I did install one, we had it at the station I worked at many, many years ago, back in the day when it was becoming vogue, hadn't started yet. The tuning methods are so strict, basically it's like collinear antenna or a J-Pole, where you're using the folded unipole as the tuning device.

So yes, any way of changing it electrically will cause the detuning immediately. And if you broadband them enough... and unipoles, I think you can get away with broadbanding a little better than the series-fed... you should be able to skirt most weather conditions. I know a station I worked at up in Connecticut, we got icing a lot, and the tuning didn't shift enough to cause the transmitter much grief. It seemed to work pretty well.

Kirk: Okay. One other thing to check...

Chris: [Inaudible 00:27:24]... because antennas, you always talk to the guys who designed them and ask for the possible black tricks to how to get around certain issues with bad weather.

Kirk: So the lightning static balls, what do you call them, we have, the lightning balls...

Chris: Static [inaudible 00:27:41].

Kirk: No, the lightning balls...

Chris: [Inaudible 00:27:42]

Kirk: ...at the bottom of the tower.

Chris: Oh, the Austin Rings.

Kirk: No, no, of course that's for power. But I'm speaking of the balls.

Chris: Oh, the spark gaps.

Kirk: Okay, spark gap. There you go. You know, in the South, we call them lightning balls.

Chris: That's fine.

Kirk: So those might be spaced fine for handling rain. So you've got a heavy rainfall and they're spaced just far enough apart where raindrops aren't affecting them, it's not a problem. Can ice accrete enough on a spark gap ball to cause it to arc over permanently, or would the power of the RF keep that from happening?

And of course it wouldn't keep that from happening if the tower is only used in day or night time and it's not used the rest of the time.

Chris: If the spark gap or the lightning balls are properly adjusted for their distance... now if you're a 50 kilowatt, the old saying was the width of the distance between the two balls is the width of a chief engineer's thumb. So 50 kilowatts.

Kirk: Okay.

Chris: That's the dielectric distance for those spark gaps.

Kirk: I never heard that.

Chris: I was taught that by a very, very old, longtime AM engineer who taught me a lot of good tricks. And he goes, "Trust me, kid. This works. I've tested it." Like I don't want to know how you did it, just thank you very much.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: Ice can form if it's really wet and the spark gaps are, the surface of them is kind of rough because it's from the arcing, if you've had a lot of arcing, it can form.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: My experience, the few places I've had where the ice did form and cross the gap, it didn't last very long. The transmitter did have the ability to foldback, so for a moment it would just shut off and come back.

If it sustains itself, odds are the gap may be too small, because most ice should just disintegrate. It's water, it's a short circuit, it should pop, you should hear it on the air with either a clicking, a static noise, or just off the air for a split second. And just make sure the surfaces are as smooth as possible, because that'll make it faster to arc and move on its way.

Kirk: Oh, yeah.

Chris: Rough surfaces tend to prolong things, make it worse.

Kirk: And those surfaces do tend to get rough because of arcing. So on most of those lightning balls, they're threaded, so you should be able to twist them a bit one way or other and get some more life out of them. By the way, where do you buy those things if they're worn out, rusted, had too much arcing going on? How do you replace those?

Chris: Good questions. I guess, if it was me, I'd probably be calling Tom King at Kintronics and ask him.

Kirk: Ah, yes, yeah.

Chris: Because my luck, I would be working at AM Directionals, so that's why I'd be calling him. But yeah. They're [inaudible 00:30:19] .

Kirk: Yep. I'm sure Kintronics would be able to do that. And by the way, here's a summertime lightning ball, arc gap trick. At WSM in Nashville, the Aircastle of the South, they're 50 kilowatts, and their tower is, if it's not five-eighths wave, it's close to it. So it has a very high voltage potential at the base of the tower. The insulators, they're two insulators stacked on top of each other, so they're six feet tall.

There's a spark gap at the bottom, the two big balls there. And during the summertime, they've had arcs that sustain because of gnats or other flying little bugs around the area. Or at least those would start the arc, as you said, by providing a rough surface, that they'd go land on the balls. So they have, of all things, an industrial-strength hair dryer that's blowing air through that gap all the time, at least during the summertime.

Chris: That's really cool.

Kirk: That has seemed to work.

Chris: It makes total sense. I get it. That's clever. Yes, you know what, if you're close to five-eighths wave, the current at the base of that tower must be, the field strength must be huge. That must be intense.

Kirk: And I thought five-eighths wave, actually it's a high impedance, so the current is actually lower but the voltage is very high.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: Have I got the math wrong?

Chris: No, I think you got that right. I think it's right. I've got to remember, five-eighths, because five-eighths, you got a nice signal out of that.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah. Well, okay. Hey, you're watching This Week in Radio Tech, it's Episode 268, it's the vacation edition, at least for Kirk. I'm coming to you live, if you're watching live, from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, just a little ways away from Gatlinburg. You probably can't see it now, but let's see if we can turn the camera around here for a second and give you a quick view. Is the cheap camera going to do this? Probably not. There are beautiful mountains right over there, just beyond the trees, gorgeous mountains, part of the Smoky Mountain mountain range, and it's just beautiful here.

And it feels like it's going to rain here any minute. We had a big thunderstorm yesterday afternoon about this time, a lot of lightning and heavy wind. Other than that, it's been pretty beautiful. We're on vacation here at the Love Shack in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. That's the hot tub right behind. I'm going to be jumping into that after the show sometime.

On the other hand, Chris Tobin is coming to us from a location in Manhattan, downtown, the best-dressed engineer in radio. Very fitting that he's coming to us from 200 feet above street level in the city that never sleeps. All right…

Chris: Yes. My mountains are a bunch of buildings.

Kirk: Yes, they are. So our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Omnia and this fantastic piece of software. For a few years, Omnia has made software... I say Omnia, it's been branded Omnia from the Telos Alliance, because it's got pieces and parts in there from different parts of the Telos Alliance... Has made software that does audio processing and stream encoding. This software runs on a Windows machine, a server, or a desktop machine, or just a good machine that you put in the rack. And I've got a little short video here to tell you about the Z/IPStream 9X/2. Let's have a look.

Kirk: Streaming audio? It's everywhere. Wi-Fi and connected cars mean easy access to your streams, or your competitors'. You need the right tool to grab the advantage. Z/IPStream 9X/2 streaming software from the Telos Alliance. Designed for stations who want their streaming audio to sound second to none. With Z/IPStream 9X/2, you get Leif Claesson's Omnia.9 audio processing with Undo and declipper technology. Undo corrects overprocessed source material, while the declipper actually restores clipped audio peaks. Next is a three-stage wideband AGC with adjustable sidechain EQ. Plus program-dependent multiband compression and look-ahead limiting.

After Omni.9 processing, the Z/IPStream 9X/2 encodes your streams in multiple formats, simultaneously, and can send them to multiple destinations or servers. Choose from MP3, AAC, and popular AAC family members like HE-AAC v2 and more. All coding algorithms are fully licensed reference code for a premium sound.

Z/IPStream 9X/2 is ready for adaptive streaming, another streaming feature separating you from everyone else. With multi-rate adaptive streaming, you and your listeners are freed from manually selecting the trade-off between connection stability and audio quality. Z/IPStream 9X/2 gives you control via HTML5 graphical web interface and REST API. It's Cloud-ready, and can be run entirely off-site at your data center. Plus SNMP is fully supported. Z/IPStream 9X/2. Professional streaming from the Telos Alliance.

Kirk: Some day we're going to get this figured out, and we're going to play you video that doesn't skip like that. If you want to see that video about the Z/IPStream 9X/2 or other members of the Z/IPStream family, the Z/IPStream X/2, which does not have Omnia.9 processing... uh-oh. Thank you.

I know it's tough to do it by remote control. If you want to see that video or others explaining how streaming works, how to stream, we actually have a video on how to stream. Go to YouTube and search for Telos Alliance, and you'll find the Telos Alliance channel there.

You can learn all about audio processing for streaming and stream encoding itself, how to stream in various different formats at the same time, how to stream to, say, different service providers. Maybe you've got a SHOUTcast server in one location and maybe you are contracted with a content-delivery network, a CDN, somewhere else, and maybe that CDN has a couple different locations that you can stream to for reliability's sake. Well, you can do all of that with Telos or actually Z/IPStream now branded products. And you'll find out about them either at TelosAlliance.com or on the YouTube channel for the Telos Alliance.

Thanks a lot to Z/IPStream and the Z/IPStream 9X/2 for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, Chris, I had a couple things I wanted to talk about. Do you have some more foul weather stuff before we move on to Ennes Workshops?

Chris: Two things to note for foul weather. If you're a radio station or TV facility that has radio links, I should say, between your studio and transmitter, this is a good time to check on the mounts, make sure they're secure. Because when the high winds come, they get knocked out of alignment, you're off the air. Just check your cabling along the... if you have small ROHN tower sections, but they're mounted, say, on the rooftop, say at the transmitter or at the studio, make sure the cables are securely fastened to the structure. Flapping in the wind, that also causes a problem for yourself.

The other thing to look for are the usual dry water stains at your transmitter site in the ceiling tiles or in the corners of the rooms that you may have overlooked, and you should look for them now just to make sure that they were there, maybe 10 years ago, they still are, or they're not new.

Also, it's a good time to look for those crazy critters like wasps and bees that like to make a home inside in your building, or other crawlies that go along the floor that shed their skin during different times of the year.

Now is the time to try and check in on that stuff before you find out at midnight when you're doing some work and get chased out of the place by bees.

Kirk: Bees or snakes, man. Snakes. I keep seeing pictures on the Facebook group. I take pictures of transmitter sites. People posting pictures of, you know, open the back of the transmitter, yah, there's a snake.

Chris: I worked at a station, it was a regular occurrence for snakes to be popping out of boxes and the base of the transmitters.

Kirk: You know, actually, I've developed a habit when opening the door to a transmitter site. Most of my transmitter sites are in Mississippi. I've got a couple in American Samoa, but I don't get there very often. But in Mississippi, plenty of snakes, plenty of mice, and lots of wasps. I've gotten this habit where when I go to open the door, and I think... well, it doesn't matter. Whether the door opens into the building or whether it opens out of the building, unlock the door, push the door in or pull it out, whichever it is, and stand back.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: Just open the door and stand back. Don't just walk right in. Just open the door, stand there and watch for a minute. If you've surprised a snake overhead, maybe he'll pop his head down. Maybe he'll move out of the way. If you've disturbed a whole nest of wasps that are maybe inside a hollow door... we have a hollow steel door that's apparently not sealed up on all ends... yeah, the wasps will start coming out. And guess what? You're already five feet away, so you've got a head start on them. That's been a great, I wouldn't say lifesaver, but I know it's saved me from getting hurt.

Chris: It's a pain-saving moment.

Kirk: Yes. Yeah. I've got a question about STL antennas. These typically are the Scala Kathrein or Mark brand. Any way to keep ice from forming on those, and really detuning, quickly, your STL system?

Chris: That's a toughie. I've actually played with some of those spray materials that act as deicers. They have the chemicals in them.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: I'm not going to use any brand names, but there are products on the market that you could probably use, like a marine products store probably has them, where you can coat the surface so it doesn't affect the RF, but it changes the characteristics of the surface of the antenna, the metal, so that it doesn't collect the moisture as easily. So if ice does form, the weight of the ice sort of makes it slide off. I've done it in a couple of places, it seemed to work okay, but I have not worked in environments where we have half-inch radial ice on a regular basis...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: ...so I'm sure at some point, it just doesn't work. That's why you have to have a backup of some form.

Kirk: About a year ago, and I haven't used it anywhere yet, but there was a display right in the front of a Home Depot, as I walked in the door, it was for a spray, hydrophobic coating. And this coating, it came in a two-can setup. It required both chemicals. And you sprayed one on first, you had to spray the correct one on first, I believe, because it was sticky and it would stick to whatever you were doing. And apparently, you could put this on boots, on your pants...

Chris: Right.

Kirk: ...on outdoor equipment. It was for any kind of... I'm not sure it would work on cloth very well, or you wouldn't like the way the cloth felt after that. But it worked on leather. They really suggested it on boots or anything that you didn't want something to stick to. And it was more than just hydrophobic, it actually, after you put this two coats of spray on, the one can, then the other, you really couldn't paint it after that. Nothing would stick to it. And I don't know if it lasted forever or very long, but since it was a two-chemical process that had to mix right there on the product, I think it might last a long time. I need to try that out and see if it works okay.

Chris: Yeah, if you contact the manufacturer and ask them what its environmental capabilities are, they may say yes, it could withstand the elements, or it has a certain shelf life in the elements, and then you know what to work with. There's a lot of stuff out there that can do that.

Kirk: Yeah, these two cans were about $15 or $19 or so. I guess the expensive part for getting it onto an STL antenna, if you found out that it was appropriate, would be getting the cans however many feet up in the air to spray on the STL.

Chris: Right.

Kirk: Get the tower crew to do that. So okay, that's something to check out, and people might want to mention that. You can contact, by the way, you can go to the TWiRT website, ThisWeekinRadioTech.com, and send us a message that way. Plenty of you know email addresses or you know how to reach me on Facebook or me on Twitter. TWiRTShow has its own Twitter account, too, @twirtshow. So I read messages coming from there. Anything else, Chris?

Chris: One thing to consider, when you have bad weather and the potential of your building going offline or you're having issues like that, put together a disaster plan or a broadcast continuity plan, to be more precise. When you do that, make sure the phone numbers you choose are the right ones. Make sure the instructions are kept to one sheet and not six pages.

When you put together this document, do not fall into the trap of saying we'll just put it so that you can read it on an iPad. Because when the power goes out, the iPad will not be a reasonable way to do things when you're in a rush or in a panic mode.

So stick to the traditional "pulp fiction" approach, which is paper, and you'll be safer that way. I only say this because I worked at a facility a couple of years ago where they decided to make everything electronic, because it's better that way. The lights went out. Guess what? Some of the people were so panic-stricken and sweating, their fingers on the surface didn't work very well to try and change pages. So...

Kirk: Wow. Wow.

Chris: Yeah, I stuck with my paper approach. I pulled out my little booklet. I was cool. But I'm only saying this from experience. Stick to some of the traditional, think of it in terms of if the lights go out, what resources do you have available at that moment in time? No visible-capable [sounds like 00:44:00] optics. Now how do you navigate? Information, how do you reach people?

Cell phone, well, let's hope the cell phones are working. If you still have hard-wired phone services, try to keep at least one or two of them. That'll probably come in handy. Things of that sort. Now is the time to think about these things. When it happens, you won't have time to gather people.

Kirk: Chris, I don't know if something changed in the studio or if you changed something, but your mic volume went down a pretty fair amount.

Chris: [Inaudible 00:44:27].

Kirk: A lot of background noise went away, too, so not sure. All right.

Chris: Oh.

Kirk: Oh, maybe it's back. Maybe it was just me. Okay. Hey, so great weather tips, and you know what? We'll probably do another show on this with a guest as we get right before bad weather season. But man, this is a great way to prepare for this, and to talk to your manager about things that might require spending money. Tower crews can be hard to get on short notice. Especially if there's been a lot of bad weather throughout your area. It's going to be hard to find a tower crew to come take care of you on the same day that everybody else is suffering a problem with ice or snow or power being out or something like that. So better take care of these things in advance.

All right, I wanted to touch on a subject of broadcast engineering education, because you know that's a favorite subject of mine. Next week, I'm very delighted to be speaking to engineers at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. That meeting is going on in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at, I think there's an Embassy Suites with a convention center attached. That's been the location for the TAB, Tennessee, not to be confused with the Texas Broadcasters Association, which is probably a larger meeting.

But that's going on next week on Tuesday and Wednesday, that would be August 11 and 12. The engineering sessions are on August 12.

It's not too late to register for those, so if you're in Tennessee or a surrounding state, it's a very pleasant drive, especially this time of year, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It's about 30 miles southeast of Nashville. The accommodations there are quite nice at the Embassy Suites, so it's a good place to have this convention.

I was there last year, and last year was a lot of fun. I got to be on a panel with a guy who's got a big name in the radio business, Jim Bohannon. He for years, well, he would fill in for the "The Larry King Show" overnights when Larry had a nighttime radio show on the Mutual Radio Network. And he also has been doing an early morning show. Is it "First Light"? Is that it? That...

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: ...that Jim's been doing for years and years. So it was good to be on a panel with Jim and hear his perspectives on news gathering and why that's important and how that works.

Well, Ennes Workshops, I want to tell you, Ennes, a lot of folks don't know how to pronounce that. I hope I'm doing it correctly. Ennes is named after... I don't know his first name... named after Mr. Ennes, who left a trust. It's through the Ennes Educational Foundation Trust, and the workshops were created in 1991 to create affordable educations to SBE members locally.

So the money from the Ennes Foundation helps go to defray the expenses of putting the programs on. The Ennes Educational Foundation Trust, through the Education Foundation Committee, offers periodic workshops and seminars around the U.S, one of which is coming up, as I said, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, next week.

They're, typically, programs are one day in length and very affordable. I'm sorry to say I don't know the cost of this program. They're usually on the order of $50, $60, $70, maybe $100, but I don't know for sure, and I apologize for not finding that out in advance. If you to the SBE website, you should be able to find information there and register there.

Some of the topics that are going on in Murfreesboro at the TAB, Steve Lampen, who's been on this show before, Steve is going to be talking about Adventures in 4K Television. So TV engineers, take note. Good thing to know about.

Also there's going to be some information on lighting systems from Dielectric and Drake Lighting. My good friend Tony Peterle, from Worldcast Systems, they make audio codecs, he's going to be talking about Advanced Concepts in Streaming, streaming through what he's calling the Audio Cloud. Pretty interesting presentation there.

Another TV program, Bob Caniglia from Blackmagic Design. What an interesting company, and making really interesting television tools, and tools that may be non-traditional television broadcasters can use as well.

Now the next topic is really interesting to me. I'm going to be sitting in on this one for sure. Jeff Holdenrid from a company called DoubleRadius is going to be speaking about bridging the gap between your all-IP studio and your transmitter site.

Now, we've talked about that, here on our show a couple of times, with my experience in putting in some very inexpensive Ubiquiti IP radio links and running IP audio over them. He'll be talking about, let's say, "doing it right," doing it in a very strong, industrial, commercial sense, using equipment that is high-end from DoubleRadius.

Then I'll be speaking also about AES67 and Audio over IP, and how AES67, that standard, how you can put that to use and how that standard itself, no matter which AoIP system you end up going with, that standard's presence helps future-proof what you're doing.

It helps guarantee that there's always a way to make your stuff work, even if the company that you happen to choose to do AoIP with goes out of business or no longer makes that kind of product. AES67, definitely here to stay, and people are building toward it.

So that's going on next week, August 12, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. There was another one earlier this year, in El Paso. That was back in May. Those are the two that I know of so far this year. If there's going to be another one, it has yet to be scheduled. So yeah, I'm a big believer in that kind of education.

Why? Well, it makes you more valuable. It makes me more valuable to know about these things, to know what's going on. And to be able to go to a station manager and, in my case, a co-owner with the stations that I'm part-owner of, it gives me confidence to go in and say, "Hey, we need to spend the money on this. No, we don't need to go with this way or this way because those have been shown not to work so well or there are certain pitfalls there. We need to go with this method, that's tried and true and proven."

Or there's backup, or there's resiliency, or whatever it may be. What transmitter am I going to pick? What antenna, not only brand, but what style of antenna am I going to pick? Hey, is it okay to use World War II war surplus inch-and-five-eighths coax that has an aluminum outer conductor? The answer's no. But is it okay to do that? Well, the answer's no. And we had to find out the hard way about doing that, because my partner bought some of that, and the answer's no. You don't want to use that.

So all kinds of things you can learn at Ennes Workshops with lots of like-minded engineers and experts, other experts besides yourself, and take that knowledge home, make yourself more valuable, and avoid mistakes.

Chris Tobin, I know you feel good about education as well, since you've been a speaker and wrote a few things yourself.

Chris: Oh yeah, absolutely. Every opportunity I get to read up and meet people and talk about things and learn stuff, I do it. Ennes Workshops are great for that, and the gentleman you're talking about, from DoubleRadius, I've met before and listened to him speak and I'm familiar with the company.

Some really good things will come out of that conversation. So pay close attention to what he has to say. As you pointed out, when you're doing stuff, make sure it's robust and you have a Plan B or Plan C, and just don't assume anything works, just make sure it's well thought out.

So DoubleRadius, they'll talk about a few things, using, what is it, Ubiquiti and a few other products that we've talked about in the past. And they'll actually tell you in a way that you start to think, you go, oh, I never thought of it like that. Same thing you would have normally done if you were building a transmitter site or installing an FM or an AM antenna system. They do that for the microwave wireless IP stuff for you.

Kirk: Ah, okay.

Chris: It's an area that all of us are learning. They'll get in some of the nitty gritty or they'll explain why you don't do things with that little four-foot dish or two-foot dish in this application, but you can in another. They're pretty cool.

Kirk: So plenty of information on that at SBE.org. Go to the education tab and look at Ennes Workshops. You can also go to the website of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters. Just Google that, you'll find it, and you can find out about the whole program on August 12, Wednesday, August 12, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Okay, last subject, and I want to jump on this real quick because we've just got a few minutes. We're going to explore this more in depth on an upcoming episode if we can get this guy to be on the show.

Dennis Sloatman. Now, I met Dennis when he was at Cox Radio. The article in RadioMagOnline.com, so this is Radio Magazine, indicates that Dennis is now Director of Engineering and IT at iHeartMedia in Los Angeles. Okay, if that's right, that's great, that's where we can find Dennis.

Dennis has written an article about using automated testing technology to monitor remote sites. Now, this is a really interesting concept, and you might want to go ahead and read the article. If you go to RadioMagOnline.com and scroll down to actually the bottom of the front page, and at the bottom left you'll see this article. Dennis Sloatman, "Use Automated Testing Technology to Monitor Remote Sites."

He walks you through this process of automated testing, and he also gives a terrific flow chart example of what automated testing might look like. So, for example, in a flow chart you would, for example, have it set up for the day and the time for the test. And the first question is is the aux transmitter on air? And if it is, if the aux transmitter's on air, well then you exit the test right away. We don't need to do anything else at that moment.

If the aux transmitter's not on air, what's the next thing we're going to do? Well, we're going to turn on the dummy load blower. Then we're going to email engineering that the test has begun. Then we're going to turn the transmitter on. I'm guessing this is the aux transmitter. We're going to delay 30 seconds. Then we're going to read the remote control. Is power output normal? If it is normal, then there's another branch of testing you would do. If the power output is not normal, turn the transmitter off and email engineering and say there's been a test failure.

So the whole idea here is to perform testing automatically, not just while the gear is on the air and it's got to work because you need it to, but test things when they're not on the air. By the way, some of the other branch that it went to, if the power output is normal, then look for other things. Like is PPM present on the backup transmitter? Is the audio output normal? Is the power output normal, and it goes back and tests that. It can increment this loop to test these things over and over again, as many times as you want to, and email to engineering if there's been a failure.

Or if they all pass, email engineering and say hey, everything passed, I tested all these things, and it all passed. This has long time been kind of a back burner dream of mine to be able to accomplish, and never really looked into it very far. So I'm going to ask Chris Tobin if you, Chris, have ever looked into automated testing that happens without you being there and emails you progress reports and that kind of thing. Is that something you've experienced?

Chris: I have not done it myself. I have read about it, talked to people who've done something similar, using some of the remote control systems out there that you can write different scripts for and make things happen. It's a great concept and it's something that should definitely be looked at and people should consider.

But for some sites, remember, human intelligence is still the best way to check on your site and see what's going on, because even with all the automated testing, there's a few things that that can't pick up, but the human ear and the eye sometimes do. So it's definitely handy for sites that you can't get to on a regular basis.

Kirk: Yeah, exactly. Well, Dennis writes, and part of his rationale here, he says, "To me, there's nothing more frustrating than learning of a problem with a backup transmitter, a generator, an audio processor, or a cooling system because it failed to work at the moment it was needed. And it's equally frustrating to know that the problem could have been discovered early and the outage avoided had there been more time for routine inspections."

Well, Dennis points out, look, I got 10 transmitter sites I take care of now. I can't go visit every one of them on a frequent enough basis and test everything that I would want to test while I'm there.

So he has begun to put into place automated testing. I think this is fascinating. You know that there are other technology companies, telephone companies and cable companies, for example, that do this kind of thing, that test circuits automatically or on demand.

Chris: Oh yeah.

Kirk: And so, hey, Dennis Sloatman, you're my hero, I'll be getting in touch, we'd like to have you as a guest on the show, if you're aware...

Chris: Absolutely.

Kirk: ...of us talking about you.

Chris: We'll track him down.

Kirk: We will, we will. Hey, we'll have a final thought here in just a moment. You've been watching This Week in Radio Tech, with Kirk Harnack, coming to you live from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains here. We're in a cabin. Also Chris Tobin, coming to you live from downtown Manhattan, and about 200 feet above ground level, so wow.

Our show is brought to you in part by my friends at Lawo. At Lawo.com. L-A-W-O, Lawo.com. And they're the makers of this extraordinarily cool technology called crystalCLEAR. Now, the crystal console line is a line of consoles from Lawo, and the crystal line, well, it's traditional... well, traditional nowadays, right? It's a surface, a hardware surface, that connects via Ethernet to a mixing engine that is located in a rack somewhere.

And all the audio ins and outs are on that mixing engine, and so is a network connection for RAVENNA or AES67 channels, audio streams, and it connects to the hard surface. Well, the crystalCLEAR takes that idea one step further. So instead of a hardware surface, you've got a software surface.

This is really pretty amazing, because they've designed it to run on a touchscreen, and in fact on a 10-touch touchscreen. Ten-touch multi-touch touchscreen. So that means you can very easily and reasonably move two faders and push a button. Push two or three faders up and down, as you need to. Have one partway down, be pushing another one up. You can do the things that you're accustomed to on a traditional console, but now you're doing it on a flat surface.

Now, they've made the graphics of this program, this crystalCLEAR software, they've made the graphics just look absolutely gorgeous, and be just super easy to lay your hands on in the right place, easily move it up and down. You barely have to see what's going on. In fact, after you've used it for a while, your fingers pretty well know just where to go.

Now I realize that's one of the benefits... that is, your fingers knowing where to go... of a hardware console. A lot of people depend on that. They reach over without even looking at the console, they'll grab a fader, they'll move it up and down, they'll push a button on and off. The idea of putting this onto a surface changes that a little bit, but I've got to tell you, they have designed this to be so good contrast, great views, it's easy to see in your peripheral vision.

You've usually got that on the console anyway, so you can just touch a button, touch a fader, go up and down, mix your show together.

The console on the screen has 8 faders. And you know, for most shows, 8 faders is actually enough, because those faders can be whatever you need them to be. You can change the profiles easily and at will. You can memorize profiles. You can make changes in, for example, you have a microphone that's too hot or not hot enough, you can easily touch one button and move that gain up or down on a microphone.

The console also has a feature that is an AutoGain. You can auto-set the gain. So let's say you've got a panel of people coming in or some musicians or some guests coming in the studio, and you're not really sure how loud they're going to be.

Well, before they get on the air, you can push a button on the console... that is, on the soft, crystalCLEAR console... and you can have that guest talk, or yell, or engage in a lively conversation before you go on the air. That button will set the gain trim automatically for that microphone.

You also have the ability to ride the gain on several mics automatically, automagically, so that the host can kind of have dominance and control the whole conversation. It's really an awesome system designed for the way we work on the air.

Dual power supply is available, RAVENNA and AES67 ins and outs, mic inputs, it's got line inputs and outputs, AES67 inputs and outputs, really cool. So if you're interested in this kind of technology, I'd encourage you to check it out, from Lawo. And there's a video there that Mike Dosch talks about how this console works. Go to Lawo, L-A-W-O.com, Lawo.com, and navigate yourself to the radio consoles, and then look at crystalCLEAR.

I just heard from a listener last week who said that their station had purchased some crystalCLEAR consoles because they heard us talking about it. So again, cool technology. If it interests you, check it out. Thanks to Lawo for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, Chris Tobin, high above Manhattan, beautiful perch. Kirk Harnack here in the Smoky Mountains. What a gorgeous thing to look at. And by the way, there is a radio tower just a few hundred yards away. Maybe that's why they planted these trees here, so ordinary people wouldn't have to look at an unsightly radio tower. I like it, but not everybody does. Do you have a final tip for us? Do you have a final tip, Mr. Tobin?

Chris: A final tip. You know what? The summer's coming to an end for some of us and starting for others. Just take advantage of the time you can now while the weather is good and take look at your site. One other tip, something I just discovered recently. Travel the marketplace that your stations are in, listen to them or watch them, and experience the same thing your listeners experience, and make sure everything is working right.

I only say this because a friend of mine recently got challenged by his programming folks for some issues with their PPM numbers, and they blamed it on the technical side of things, transmitter performance and whatnot. So we had to do a whole report on the fact that everything was fine during the period that they're claiming there was issues.

So he makes it a point to drive around and listen to the station, hears everything, listens to the callers, the jocks, the music, everything, the signal quality. And he's able to at least defend himself in those meetings when they do pop up. It's a good tip, I think people should consider that.

I know we're busy, always running around transmitter sites, don't have time to get to all of them, but you know what? You have time to drive the marketplace. Make sure your signal is working the way it should be, that your listeners are expecting.

Kirk: That is great advice, and you know what I just thought to add to that. You've got one of the best, let's call it simple documentation schemes available right here in your cell phone, right?

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: You've got a movie camera right here and let's say that your usual, the truck you drive or the car you drive... I realize the radio in it is not necessarily a signal-strength meter, but let's say that you drive out to a far place where you know you've got a little edgy reception. Drive there, make a movie of it, record the time of day and the location, look out the window where you are and the radio and how it sounds. And then you've got a record of okay, on this day, this sounds like this here, and if you know everything's working okay.

Well, then you come back later and either it's better or it's worse, well, you've got a point to compare. Man, there's so many times in the past when I was a contract engineer dealing with station owners who said, "We're not getting out like we used to."

Chris: Exactly.

Kirk: Well, but actually, yes you are. Here, "Oh, I'm sorry, let me go to the transmitter site and turn up the coverage knob. I must have bumped it on my way out last time." Document. That's a great idea, Chris. Thank you.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, I do it a lot. Friends of mine, I call them up and say, "Hey, did you know that you're having a problem with X,Y, and Z?" And they're like, "What?" And I'll get a call back, "Yeah, believe it or not, we are having a problem. How did you know that?" "It didn't sound like usually does when I drive around and listen to the station."

Kirk: Be a radio fanatic. Drive around and listen to your own stations. It doesn't hurt to hear to the competition, too, but. All right...

Chris: No, it's good, because you've got to keep tabs on the competition.

Kirk: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Chris. I appreciate you taking an hour of your time and blessing us with some great information, some ideas on transmitter sites and getting ready for winter here in the northern hemisphere.

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Topics: Broadcast Engineering