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For Mobile-Savvy Broadcasters, High-Quality Audio Encoding is No Longer An Option

By Tom Vernon on Jul 23, 2012 9:42:00 AM

In an effort to retain their customers, the five leading cable companies have collaborated to give them the best possible wi-fi experience. Bright House Networks, Optimum, Xfinity, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable have banded together under the brand name CableWiFi to share this access in metropolitan areas. The move will give customers access to over 50,000 hotspots across the country. Each of the companies will now be adding CableWifi to their existing branded Wi-Fi hotspots so that users know which are participating in the program.

At the same time, International Data Corporation (IDC) has just published some amazing growth figures for the tablet, smartphone and PC markets. In short, IDC says total shipments will pass one billion for 2012, and we'll see closer to two billion in the year 2016!

This means that a lot more listeners will be accessing broadcast content via mobile media. How does your web stream sound? Many broadcasters launched their streaming service with processing equipment tossed aside in the HD upgrade. Streaming audio has made quantum leaps in quality over the past decade, and if you don't have an encoder-processor designed for streaming audio, you won't have a competitive sound.

At Telos, our research has always focused on the intersection of audio and networks. Stations all over the world depend on us for their signature sound. Z/IPStream puts all of that expertise into a single, integrated streaming appliance; a rack-mounted, multi-DSP unit dedicated to making your Web presence sound its absolute best.

Why a hardware solution? Up until now, producing streaming audio involved multiple PCs running multiple programs, sometimes with multiple operating systems and multiple licenses to maintain. One box to pre-process audio; feeds to a second box for actual encoding, and finally to a content delivery network for distribution.

Z/IPStream simplifies streaming by placing all three processes in a single, hardened, rack-mount device. A single point of control for every aspect of streaming  – all accessible by remote control via LAN or WAN.

Z/IPStream is neatly self-contained in a 1RU box — just slide it into a rack and it's ready to go – no running  mission-critical audio over crash-prone PC hardware and operating systems. Adjust the audio input levels, define a metadata source, select a processing preset, codec, and bitrate. Then, select a target media server. The front panel even has a built-in headphone amp with a jack and volume control for monitoring input or output audio.

Z/IPStream's intuitive Web interface provides remote control of all functions, including creation and editing of processing presets with an easy-to-use preset editor. You can access the streaming configuration from any browser-equipped computer on the network. Of course, there are convenient front-panel controls too, so the most-frequently needed functions can be managed right from the rack.

Top-notch audio processing is as essential on the web as it is on traditional formats. Z/IPStream has a built-in processing section that works together with the streaming encoder, optimizing your audio for stunning sound — even after bit-reduction. This isn't just some cheap leveler – it's real processing by Omnia, with wideband AGC, a 3-band combined compressor/limiter, high-frequency EQ, an adjustable-bandwidth low-pass filter, and an anti-aliasing final Look-Ahead limiter. There is a also selection of presets, tailored to specific formats and bit rates, to help get up and running quickly.

The ability to pass high quality digital audio over a network hings on professional encoding technology. The quality of the encoder directly affects the quality of the output. Telos was one of the early adopters of Germany's Fraunhofer Gesellschaft Laboratory's MP3 Z/IPStream uses genuine MP3 and MPEG-AAC encoding algorithms to ensure the most artifact-free sound quality at any bit rate you choose, from 16 kbps all the way to 320 kbps. No other encoder has this pedigree, or achieves this level of quality and performance. Generic "mp3" encoders can't come close.

Once the processing and encoding is set up and a metadata source is selected, the stream can be fed to any SHOUTcast or SHOUTcast v2-compatible media server, or a Wowza server for streaming to Flash clients. Z/IPStream works with ICECast and Adobe Flash Media servers too. Z/IPStream can feed directly to a streaming server or take processed audio from the rear-panel XLR outputs or Livewire connection to outboard encoding. 

Radio is no longer just sound coming out of speakers. It's also text, information – metadata. Z/IPStream can handle audio which has been "tagged" with "now-playing" information received from automation systems, with scheduled content or from web downloads. A big list of default
templates is included with Z/IPStream, and they are already formatted.

Broadcasters who want to thrive in the coming decade need to give careful consideration of how their content is presented on mobile media. An audio processor designed specifically for streaming media is essential, as is use of the best-quality encoding schemes. Z/IPStream puts the audio processing, coding and delivery in a one RU box to deliver a compact, user-friendly solution to your streaming needs with outstanding sound.

Topics: Wireless Technology


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