Broadcasting from studios in Milan, R101 covers all of Italy with its adult contemporary format through a number of FM transmitters, as well as streaming audio and podcasts. Its facilities include two on-air studios and three production rooms. Also in the R101 studios is one of the newest members of the Omnia product line, the Omnia.S4 X 8 sound card. The x8’s streaming engine can provide 6 streams per channel, for a total of 48 streams. It can independently process 8 audio streams on a single PCI express card.
As he was searching for a solution to improve the sound quality of the six web streams and the FM, Attilio made a connection with local Axia/Omnia representative Fiore Confuorto. A demo confirmed that the S4 met all of R101's multiple processing needs — and did so with only a single PCI card! The x8 offers 8 inputs and 8 outputs through Audio Driver (WDM/Direct Sound) and/or Livewire. Product engineers confirm that RAVENNA compatibility is on the way, too.
All that and a bag of chips
If this impressive throughput isn't enough, the X 8 includes audio processing as well. This was another important feature for R101, which sends the processed audio to a variety of devices. The S4 processing toolbox includes: AGC, tone FX, stereo FX, 3-band process, 4-band limiter, and a brickwall limiter. The Omnia.S4 X 8 also has a “Predictive HQ Sound” algorithm; its function is to optimize codec performance and reduce compression-induced sound artifacts, which Attilio confirms it does very well.
Another important consideration for R101, since the station uses the card for FM, webstreams and mobile devices, was the fact that the X 8 comes with a huge variety of coding options. It is the first processor that includes a sound optimizer for very low encoding rates such as16, 24 and 32kbps.
Value Added with Adaptive Processing
Denny Sanders, Brand Manager for Omnia Audio and a veteran programmer himself, says that a key innovation of Omnia.S4 is the Adaptive Processing feature, which can correct each stream independently to compensate for the sonic differences produced by different encoding algorithms.
“You know the difference you hear when switching between, say MP3 and AAC-coded streams?” asks Sanders. “Well, the X 8 compensates for that, to make sure that every stream it outputs is sonically consistent. So stations can easily generate purpose-driven streams: low rate for mobile phones, high rate for streaming, and most importantly, get consistent sound from one device to the next.”
Denny also notes that the Omnia.S4 X 8 is ready for whatever comes down the pike next. “It adapts to most of the standards used for streaming delivery systems, such as Flash, Darwin, Helix, Wowza, Icecast 2, Shoutcast v1 and v2, and it’s compatible with all standard metadata formats.” An XML-based gateway accepts data from most broadcast automation software, including A2I, BE, BSI, Enco, Jazler, Netia, NextGen, RCS and Winmedia.
Of course, the acid test is how R101 sounds. Check out their webstream to hear for yourself, and for those who speak Italian, watch this short interview with Attilio, proclaiming the virtues of the Omnia.S4 X 8.