Video: Omnia VOLT Audio Processing Brings "Clarity and Punch" to Livewire Ecosystem
By Justin Gelske on Aug 10, 2021 2:41:34 PM
In our recent Behind The Sound interview, we got a chance to speak with Tom Van Gorkom. Tom has been in his role as broadcast engineer for Radio Esperanza (Hope Radio) for the last 8 years. He was recently tasked with upgrading all the equipment. After reviewing options and talking to users, he chose Axia for their mixing consoles. He continued to remodel their studios, one at a time. Eventually, for their webplayer and phone app, they went with Z/IPStream R/1 so they could feed it with Livewire and have control over the audio routing to it.
More recently, their audio processors were randomly locking up at the transmitter sites, so they decided to try out Omnia VOLT. Tom was impressed with the interface, flexibility, and clarity. Tom then implemented Omnia MPX Nodes to clear up STL distortion and overshoots, which allowed them to install the VOLT at the studio. Sure enough, it worked well, allowing them to send the processed audio to two FM stations from one VOLT fed by Livewire. Hear all about Tom's projects and decision-making in this interview.
You can view the Behind the Sound - Omnia VOLT Audio Processing Brings "Clarity and Punch" to Livewire Ecosystem interview and read a transcription of the interview below.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to our Behind the Sound interview series. Today, we're joined by Tom Van Gorkom, who is the broadcast engineer for KRIO AM FM and KRIO-FM. Hey Tom, thanks for joining us.
Hey, thank you, Justin, for having me.
Absolutely. So while the interview today is mainly going to focus on your recent implementations of our Omnia VOLT and MPX Nodes, you've been dealing with other Telos Alliance gear for quite some time. Can you tell us a little bit about your background experience with Telos Alliance and just how that relationship all started for you?
So when I came into this job, the outgoing engineer, who was battling cancer, told me one of the projects I was going to have to work on was replacing our consoles. And he said, you're going to have to make a decision if you're going to go digital or not. And this was back in 2013. Well, I worked my way through a lot of the upgrade projects we had around the plant and I came up to the console systems. I had some summer interns, I believe that was in 2016, and I asked one of them to research what our options were and get me some price quotes.
And so he studied it, narrowed it down to two companies, which you can imagine, and presented it to me. And I did some checking and thinking. When we looked at our automation system, it was able to use a Livewire driver and there was no other drivers for the other digital systems. That was a pretty big selling point.
The quality of Telos Alliance equipment, recommendations from others, including Moody Radio that has a lot of stations all over, convinced me it would be a good option and I could eliminate sound cards, which was a big advantage for me.
So we decided to go ahead with Telos Alliance. We purchased our first Axia Fusion console and xNodes, probably the end of 2016, and installed them in 2017. And that got me started down a road. And once you start down a decision like that, you kind of want to be consistent as you can and keep things as compatible as possible.
So that got me down that road and I had a plan of remodeling every one of our studios as I was able to make time and we had money. So I've now remodeled three studios and we've got two Fusions and an iQx. But then I needed a solution for streaming that would not involve Windows. I just got tired of Windows reboots and updates and everything else. I wanted to use Linux if possible. And the Z/IP R/1 looked like a good solution because it's a Linux box, basically. It just runs and I can feed it with Livewire. Just so many good options when you're working with Livewire in the plant. And so I went that direction with that. Then we wanted to have better routing. So I added the Pathfinder Appliance PRO in January, 2020, and then eventually got to the audio processors and MPX Nodes.
So it sounds like you've kind of had a lot of experience using a little bit of everything from our Axia and Telos gear. But more recently, you ran into some issues with your audio processors and you needed a new solution on that front, too. So what sort of problems were you experiencing there? And then what ultimately led you to Omnia?
Well, I had had some processors for some time and about two years ago, one of them locked up every few weeks. And the manufacturer had never heard of it, couldn't figure anything out. I finally decided to get a backup and I replaced it. After about a year, it started locking up, but only at the transmitter sites. It was a strange one. And the manufacturer finally asked me to send the two I had that were locking up at the transmitter sites. And they have not been able to get them to fail. And when I have them in the studio, they don't fail. Was it RF? What was it? We could not figure it out, but I can't have that happening.
"And sometimes the differences are subtle in how you set them, but there's something about the VOLT compared to what I was doing that had more clarity and punch. It just sounded better. And I liked the interface."
And so I started looking around and I contacted my buddy, John Bisset, from Axia, who had helped us with the sales on the other Axia equipment. And he recommended I talk to Paul Kriegler. And, well, if any of you have talked to him, he can be pretty convincing. He's pretty knowledgeable. I think he's kind of the guru of Omnia audio processors. And he offered to send me some demos. So I said, okay, I'll try them out. And I have to say, and I haven't played with all the latest of everybody's processors, like one of the major competitors. But because we're Livewire, of course I'm influenced towards Omnia. And when I opened it up, the whole thing just felt like quality. The interface felt like quality. I got an Omnia VOLT to try, and it's the same engine I believe they use in the Omnia.11, without all the extra bells and whistles, which is pretty high powered.
And sometimes the differences are subtle in how you set them, but there's something about the VOLT compared to what I was doing that had more clarity and punch. It just sounded better. And I liked the interface. I liked that I could interface it with Livewire, if I had Livewire where I wanted to feed it.
Well before long, Paul told me, "Hey, why don't you consider getting the MPX Node?" I go, "Oh yeah, I've been kind of interested in those." So he sent me a demo set, and I installed those. And he had told me you can get rid of your STL overshoots, and I guess a little bit of a distortion that happens in, I think, some out of the phasing that happens in the composite that the STL radio link send. I had not even noticed that before. I played around with it. I studied up on it and I go, huh, he's right. There is something to that.
He said, besides that, then you can put your Omnia VOLT right there in the studio and just transmit your composite over the IP, and drive your transmitter direct. And that sounded like a good idea. And I tried it and I love it. I started sending to two transmitter sites from one MPX Node, with one processor in the studio, no overshoots. And it's hard to tell for sure, but I think I can hear a difference. And on the modulation monitor, I can see a little difference.
I was sold. So I went in that direction. And so now I can drive direct Livewire with my routing system doing any failovers, anything I need to do, right in the studio. And on the transmitter side, and some people would say a purist like Paul might not like this, but I went ahead and got a Broadcast Tools composite switch so that I can use a rebroadcast receiver as a backup audio source from one of my other FMS. And so, if I lose the connection of the composite, the MPX Node, it'll automatically switch over to the rebroadcast. Or in the case of another one, it'll switch over to the STL radios.
"But with the MPX Node, you don't even hear it when it switches back and forth. And I am impressed."
So I wanted to have redundance everywhere I could. And I've got redundant internet as well. I use dual one bonding at my routers at the transmitters so that I can feed two internet sources from two different ISPs into the same router, and there's no loss of the packets. They're synchronized. If I want to have them paralleled, it uses more data. It depends on your situation. In the case, my backup is Verizon. So I've got them tiered as priority one and two. But with the MPX Node, you don't even hear it when it switches back and forth. And I am impressed.
Moving forward into March of this year, you replaced a 30-year-old AM transmitter, as well. You decided to give VOLT a try here, too. So how is that station sounding? And have you noticed any differences there?
Yeah. The problem is that I can't distinguish because we changed both the transmitter and the processor almost at the same time. I can't tell you for sure. But I can tell you some good things. First of all, the new transmitter, which is, I'm just going to say it's a Nautel NX10, really made a difference on performance with the antenna system. It's a four tower directional antenna system. And so I know how that tuned up was part of the improvement in reach. But when I changed the processor out, I can now crank it all the way to the maximum modulation without any issues. And people tell me that they've been able to, instead of having to turn their radios to get rid of static and things, now their AM reception stays clean the whole time.
And I just believe that I have more clear audio. And I'm going to throw in something I just learned from one of the premier gurus of AM antenna systems, Tom King, from Kintronic Labs. He told me this last week at a conference that he knows someone who's been playing with how you set your processing, eliminating or lowering the low end for AM, so you get more of the power in the mid range, lower mid, and upper mid. And he says it looks like the reach increases even more.
You waste a lot of power in the low end when people's radios don't tend to let much of that through the receivers.
And so that was interesting. But anyway, I love having the uniformity of processors and interfaces and I think it just works better. So I'm pleased with it.
Finally, most recently you started the process of purchasing another station, which is really exciting. Now I know you haven't completely taken possession of the new station yet, but can you tell us about any new plans or purchases coming up for that station?
So it's got some fairly old gear in it. We are only leasing programming time on it, paying for their operational costs in them while we're waiting for a closing on the sale. Because this is a licensing year for Texas, we have to wait until the FCC issues the renewed licenses before we can close the sale. So we're hanging in limbo there. But I've already purchased another VOLT and set of MPX Nodes that will allow us to separate out our audio programming or bring it together, depending on how I route things, and give us redundancy if we have any issues here at the studio. So that's the plan. And we just haven't taken possession yet. I can't do that. I'm just running a codec audio over IP on a very thin Verizon internet source right now.
Well, that's awesome, Tom. Thank you so much for your insight and sharing a little bit about all of your projects that you've been working on over the past year or so. I'm sure this will help out a lot of other people who might be in similar situations. It's always nice to hear from a real customer how the process went for them. So again, we really appreciate that. Thanks for taking the time, and we'll talk to you soon.
All right. See you later.
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