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Oyster Radio with Bill Eaton

By Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Apr 28, 2015 10:58:00 AM

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TWiRT 255Imagine you’re the engineer for a radio station that you really enjoy listen to. Imagine that station has a terrific reputation, with the respect of listeners, businesses, and local officials. Now add a million listeners worldwide on the Internet.  Finally, realize that this radio station is in an idyllic vacation paradise with tropical beaches and a low-key lifestyle. We’re talking about Oyster Radio and Chief Engineer Bill Eaton - in Apalachicola, Florida.




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Kirk: This Week in Radio Tech, Episode 255, is brought to you by Lawo, and the crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. CrystalCLEAR is the console with the multi-touch interface. By the Telos Z/IP ONE, the world's most advanced IP audio codec, and by the full range of small Axia AoIP audio consoles, including the RAQ, DESQ, Radius, and iQ.

Hey, imagine you're the engineer for a radio station that you really enjoy listening to, a station that has a terrific reputation with the respect of listeners, businesses, and local officials. Now, add a million listeners worldwide. Finally, put this radio station in an idyllic vacation paradise, with tropical beaches and a low-key lifestyle. We're talking about it, Oyster Radio and Chief Engineer Bill Eaton, in Apalachicola, Florida, on this week's TWiRT.

Hey, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. I'm delighted that you're with us, and this is the show where we talk about audio and RF technology, everything to do with delivering audio signals to masses of listeners. We've got a great example of that on today's show.

Well, we're finally back from NAB, and I guess we're finally breathing easy from that. Boy, that is just a huge, huge interruption in life, right? But at least we get to meet folks and have a good time and win some prizes and stuff like that.

Our show is brought to you by the folks at Lawo, and the crystalCLEAR console. Also Telos, and the Telos's Z/IP ONE IP audio codec, and Axia, and the Axia RAQ, DESQ, Radius, and iQ, small audio consoles that fit into your radio station with no problem.

Our cohost is with us. He always magically finds a place to connect. Chris Tobin, the best-dressed engineer in radio is with us, from somewhere between Philly and New York. Hey, Chris, how are you doing?

Chris: I'm doing well, Kirk. Yes, despite my technical difficulties in getting this together, yeah, I do find a place. It's important. I get to get on with the show. It's fun.

Kirk: Chris is experiencing the Skype mime option, where voice and audio are not related to each other. I mean, where video and audio are not really related.

Chris: Yeah, I'm doing that thing that HD video folks always love, which is lip-sync issues. That's what I'm experiencing. It's because Skype is a consumer product being used in a professional environment and that's what you get for trying to do things like that. And once in a while, you try to change the rules of physics, you get hurt, so we'll see how things progress.

Kirk: Chris, as is usually the case with me, the best way to enjoy you on this show is to listen to you and not look at you.

Chris: Fair enough, so I'm going to break out my Harris Gates book. And...

Kirk: Yeah, show us this thing, yeah.

Chris: So here you go. Look, come on now, there's a reel-to-reel machine you haven't seen in some time. Check it out.

Kirk: Oh my goodness. Oh, wow.

Chris: Yeah, look at that. That's Scully. Hey, how about that. Yeah, if you're wondering what this is, this is the Radio Broadcast Communications Equipment Harris Gates Division hardcover catalog. If you haven't received one yet, well, it's been some time.

Kirk: You probably missed it in the mailbox.

Chris: Yeah, you have may have missed it. You know what? If you look on the back of the book, you can contact their offices. There's a cable number, not cable TV.

Kirk: Oh, they're in Quincy, Los Angeles, New York, Washington.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: And they have service centers in New York and Houston, and Canadian sales centers, too, in Montreal and in Toronto. Who would have thought?

Chris: Unfortunately, they're not active anymore either. But you know, you can send them a telex. The telex number is here, 127397.

Kirk: Wow.

Chris: Yeah. People are like telex? Telex what? No, no, no, it's not Telos, it's telex.

Kirk: You know, when I first started working for Telos, we had a telex number.

Chris: Yes, yes.

Kirk: Fifteen... I [inaudible 00:03:47] top that, but...

Chris: And you know what? And what's even more fun is the fact that folded in here is the price list, 1979.

Kirk: What, really?

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: Wow, wow. So give me a price of something that you might have something comparable today. Do they have a transmitter price, or kilowatt [inaudible 00:04:07]... ?

Chris: Let's see. You get the Harris FM 20K, 20 kilowatt FM broadcast transmitter...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris:... with an MS 156 wideband exciter for $34,900.

Kirk: That's a lot of money back then.

Chris: Yes. And there's also, let's see, the stereo generator for a TE1. That was $1,200 back then. And you can get a, let's see, audio driver for your MW5, 5 kilowatt AM transmitter, $400. Very nice. Visual exciters.

Kirk: Wow.

Chris: Oh this is for TV. For $212. Yeah, I doubt that'll happen.

Kirk: Hey Chris, let's [inaudible 00: 04:40].

Bill: I started in an office and they gave me a telefax.

Kirk: Yeah, we've got a guest I need to introduce. He's been in the background here. Now let's bring him in the foreground.

Chris: Please do. Sorry about that, I just got so excited...

Kirk: And a guest on the show, our guest is an engineer from Florida, Bill Eaton. Bill, welcome in to This Week in Radio Tech.

Bill: Oh, thank you. Why you asked me, I don't know.

Kirk: You've got some interesting stories to tell, and we're going to hear from those stories, but Bill, we typically start the show just chatting about what's going on either where we're sitting or the weather or what's happened lately in engineering news. And I'll give you a quick introduction and then I've got to do a commercial and then we'll jump right into the show. And I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about the catalog that Chris has, and Bill, maybe some of your recollections of equipment availability and purchases from the late '70s. I'm not sure you're that old. Reminisce.

Bill: Telex.

Kirk: So Bill Eaton is with us. He is the engineer for a number of stations, but an interesting outfit is Oyster Radio. It's available on TuneIn as well as that... they have a transmitter there, too... in St. George's Island, Florida. I had heard of but never knew where St. George's Island, Florida, was until today. Bill and I talked a couple of hours ago before the show. And what a beautiful place. It's a little spendy, but it's a beautiful place to have a vacation. Bill, welcome in...

Bill: Well, you say it's expensive. The houses are very large, and we're actually a destination for family vacations. You can get five families to rent a house at $5,000 a week, and that's a grand apiece.

Kirk: Okay, well that's...

Bill: There's nowhere to spend your money. We don't have any McDonald's. We don't have any Walmarts. We don't have a Mouse. So you bring all your own food, give the kids a few bicycles, and that's about it. So the cheapest family vacation you'll ever take.

Kirk: Well, okay. I thought that the houses were up in the $20,000 range. But they do have more affordable housing for a week of family. But you've got to gather your friends and family together, and I'm not sure I have that much family that likes me.

Bill: Well, a lot of these families with a couple kids apiece, and they go to a house that sleeps 20. They bring all their own food and cook, because frankly, there's not anywhere to spend your money.

Kirk: That's right. A couple of beer joints, I guess. Some bars and... you have some restaurants there on the island, don't you?

Bill: Well, there's one restaurant on the beach in 100 miles. It's the best restaurant and the worst restaurant.

Kirk: For a hundred miles.

Bill: We have a lot of oyster houses and a home brewery, so that's good. But this is kind of an area that is forgotten. It has not changed since the '80s, since I was a kid, even. It's mostly surrounded... we're an eco-tourism destination.

Kirk: Ah, okay.

Bill: No high-rises and a different lifestyle. The only problem...

Kirk: Bill, we're going to get into all that. I want to hear the story of how you even got into engineering, and I want to hear of course about Oyster Radio. We promoted that, and I want to hear about just exactly how you get Jimmy Buffet to walk into your station and record liners. Because for me, that never has worked yet. So hang on.

Bill Eaton is our guest and Chris Tobin is with us. He's got some more show-and-tell from the Harris catalog, Harris and Gates. That's going to be interesting.

Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo. L-A-W-O, pronounced "Lavo." The website is lawo.com, and Lawo has been known for decades for manufacturing and designing beautiful, huge audio consoles. But they also have a line of consoles that are smaller for radio broadcasters. And the line is called the Crystal line of consoles, and they have some others as well, but Crystal is one of their lines. And they have a console that, yeah, I guess I can't say any more that it's new, we've been calling it new for almost a year now. They introduced it at last year's NAB, so it was back at this NAB.

It's the crystalCLEAR console. And this is I guess what you'd call a virtual radio console, kind of virtual. There's hardware, certainly, that you plug all your sources into, and your network, because it does speak RAVENNA and AES67, so it's an AoIP-capable console. But it also has input ports on it for analog, stereo analog audio, AES digital audio, ins and outs there.

It's got some mic connectors on it so you can connect a couple of mics directly to it. Of course, you can use external mic pre-amps as well. And you plug your stuff into the console, you have your audio outputs from it or, again, AoIP via RAVENNA or AES67, and so that's the DSP engine. That's the part that goes in the rack.

The other part of it, though, the part that you touch, the part that the disc jockeys are worried about, that they want to be using, is a multi-touch touch screen monitor. It's actually an application designed to run reliably in a Windows environment, they ship it with a Windows 8 environment, and it's full screen. You don't even really realize that you're in a Windows environment. And it's a full-screen app with faders and buttons and just a beautiful design. The engineers at Lawo have a terrific design sense. And it's a multi-touch touch screen monitor. So you can push up and down two faders and a button at the same time.

When you design a console to be all-in software, you have a really interesting advantage, and that is you can make everything completely contextual. And you can actually write the software such that it's hard to make a mistake. You can set it up where you can't overdrive something. You can automatically preset the mic levels.

So if you've got a roomful of guests and maybe you've got a guest that's particularly loud and bellows into the microphone, or you've got other guests that are a little shy, and they're farther back. You can preset the mics with an automatic preset to get their level in the right range to when you push the fader up to your normal position of the fader, they're at the right level. You've got mic processing built in. You've got a talk-over feature where you can set one of the mics, let's say the announcer or the host, to be able to talk over the other people. If they just won't shut up you can talk over them, even without touching the faders. So many cool little conveniences like that are built in.

You can have presets for different shows. If you mess up, if you're, "Hell, oh my goodness, I'm not sure what button I pushed," you can get back to your preset with one easy button push.

Check it out online if you would, because it's an amazing console and a very cool idea. If this idea of a virtual multi-touch touch screen appeals to you, you're going to want to check out the Lawo crystalCLEAR radio console. Go to Lawo, lawo.com, and look for radio products and radio consoles, and there will be the crystalCLEAR. On that webpage, there's a video of Mike Dosch demonstrating the Lawo crystalCLEAR console. So you're going to want to take a look at that and get a better idea of how it works. Thanks, Lawo, for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

All right, gentlemen, full steam ahead. Chris Tobin, you were showing us the Harris Gates catalog from 1979. I've got one of these somewhere in the house. I haven't pulled it out in forever. What did you find interesting in there besides what you've already shown us, Chris?

Chris: I just came across a couple of transmitters, some of the familiar ones people know. Let's see if I can find something else that's fun to look at.

Bill: I'm looking for something in a tube transmitter there, Chris. I like tube technology.

Chris: You want tubes, oh, excuse me. Oh look, there's single-sided communications transmitters, so it's outside of broadcast. Single sided, oh. HF, yes. Come on, now, you want a nice thousand-watt HF for the overseas stuff?

Kirk: Oh, ISBHF, thousand-watt ISBHF.

Chris: Yeah. All right, so you want tubes. Let me go back the other way. Oh, look at this. Transmitters.

Kirk: So yeah, I'm wondering if there's any... are there transmitters in that catalog that are probably still in operation today. Maybe Bill's taking care of a 1979 Gates transmitter at this point, or have you replaced them all, Bill?

Bill: Actually, no 1979 Gates. A few Collins back then, but no Gates. Wasn't there a Gates Harris?

Kirk: Well, yeah. The Harris Corporation bought Gates, and that's the period of time that this catalog is from, so it says "Gates Division of Harris Corporation." Because Harris, you know, is a huge company conglomerate that does military industrial complex work and communications satellites and all that stuff. Gates...

Bill: I worked on a flight simulator with one of their mainframes. But I heard a story, they had a transmitter that Gates and Collins couldn't decide whose company or whose name was going to go first, so the nameplate on the front said "Harris Gates" and the one on the back said, "Gates Harris."

Kirk: Okay.

Bill: Is that...

Kirk: I don't know. And then there was that...

Chris: It's probably true. Well, looking at these pictures, it says the word "Harris" in small letters and then the word "Gates" in large.

Kirk: Yeah, show us a picture there. Yeah, kilowatt... yeah, a little higher. Kilowatt FM Transmitter... a little higher, up, up, up, up, up, up, up.

Bill: Oh, there you go.

Kirk: It does have forced-air cooling and it features stability and efficiency. No, wait a minute, wait a minute. They're using "stability" on the same page as the TE-3 Exciter? Really?

Chris: It's a Gates product. We'll send you a technical update to fix that problem.

Kirk: I had a TE-3 Exciter at a community station in Memphis, Tennessee. WEVL, W-E-V-L. Boy, that's a blast. That was 20 years ago. The TE-3 was sold.

Chris: Educational FM. Here's an educational FM horizontal antenna.

Kirk: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, a little ring.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: Not even a ring stub, just a horizontal-only FM antenna.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: That'd make a good backup on your roof.

Chris: That's probably where they were.

Kirk: Well, yeah.

Chris: This is classic stuff.

Kirk: Any audio [inaudible 00:15:17] in there?

Bill: [Inaudible 00:15:18] .

Chris: Oh, here you go. I bet you never saw...

Bill: Back then I was in the gaming industry.

Kirk: Ah.

Chris: I don't know if I have it up right. Okay, here we are.

Kirk: Pressurization gear. Okay.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: Coaxial switching.

Chris: Notice...

Bill: A dry hand pump.

Kirk: A hand pump!

Chris: Here you go.

Kirk: It's a bicycle pump.

Chris: Here. Never thought you'd have another place for that bicycle pump now, did you.

Kirk: We've got 4,000 feet of 9-inch line. Here. Here's the pump.

Bill: A dry pump.

Chris: It just goes to show you how technology has changed over time, and the thought of using a dry hand pump for pressurization is just classic.

Kirk: Oh my goodness.

Chris: Because you had to be practical. That was practical.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah. Wow. Chris, feel free to, while we're all talking, if you pick up the catalog, if you see something really interesting that you haven't already shown us, please... I want to see the consoles, if there's a section on consoles. The President and maybe the Yard console, and the Solid Statesman.

Chris: You mean like this one?

Kirk: See if we can... oh, what's that one? Five Channel Stereo, the Stereo Statesman, yeah.

Chris: [Inaudible 00:16:35] .

Kirk: That was a cute little one. Not many stations had...

Chris: How many would you like?

Kirk: Not many stations had that little one.

Chris: A lot. I know the two FM stations I worked for many years ago had them and I had to fix them and...

Kirk: Oh, did they? Okay.

Chris: Oh yeah. And then who was the company? There was a company that was making replacement modules for them. I think it was Bob Tossio [SP] at BDI. And then somebody else. So you could actually get these upgraded modules that were high quality and improved the performance of the console. It's pretty cool.

Kirk: Wow. Wow.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: Cool. Bill, are you taking care of anything from that era at this time, or has it all been replaced in your rounds?

Bill: Well, actually I spent a number of years in the military, and when I got back into the broadcast industry, I was actually in the communications business, and Oyster Radio was built by a pioneer in the industry. Dick Plessinger was an RCA fellow, retired down here, built the first station. And it was bulletproof. The first employee that he had in 1989 now bought the station. So we saved it. It's a local station. And it's become very famous for unusual reasons.

So when Michael Allen bought and asked me to come back, there were some pretty big shoes to fill. But we are actually in a retro mode now. We're all analog, we're all old school, we're just a bunch of hippies on the beach. I've got a Gates console down here on the floor I'm redoing right now. The only thing that we have moved into that's not analog is our stream processing.

Kirk: Okay, okay.

Bill: But as far as our station goes, our studio is 100 yards from the tower. We're wired SCL. And we've never been off the air during a hurricane since we came on the air.

Kirk: Now, I'm looking you guys up on Wikipedia, there's other places to look it up. You guys are a Class C3. It says you're 11,500 watts, that's the ERP?

Bill: Yeah, that's about right. We went down a little bit when we built the new tower. We have three tenants in our building. They all used to be part of the Oyster family, and then Michael kept 1055. It has a very interesting format of day parts. During the daytime, we play, well, you look at 850 Magazine, we play the music that the locals want to hear, and every half hour is the weather. We have news on our blog going back 30 years, very local news. And then we have a beach blast at 5:30, about two hours in the evening. We play all local artists because Michael and I feel like people come in here, and they record a song, and we report everything. We do hand reporting. So we want the guy gets his first $2 check from BMI for performance royalty, we want him to get it from Oyster Radio.

Kirk: That sounds great.

Bill: Because we might have the next Jimmy Buffett out there, and with that $2 check framed on his wall. We actually win the "trop rock" music award every year. We don't really play that much trop rock except for those couple hours. But then at night, what has happened is that for 20 years, Michael is a news director and he'd worked here. And he always wanted to buy the night. He wanted to play songs that had never been played on the radio, classic rock and blues, all long versions.

And at 8:00 at night and 5:00 in the morning, Oyster Radio After Dark is all classic rock and blues, stuff you've never heard before played on the radio. And we have 1.3 million listeners all over the world. And you can watch the time zone change with the After Dark programming.

Kirk: Yeah.

Bill: Yeah. It has become the most popular classic rock and blues show on the planet. Most of our day is spent, with emails from around the world, and Michael programs that individually. So that has become very interesting. But we're the number one souvenir that you take with you when you come visit the first time. Because if you come down here on vacation, we know you're going to be living here in a couple of years. That's all there is to it.

Kirk: Yeah.

Bill: Yeah. It happens with Nashville people. Hank Williams Jr. moved here, Tom C. Hall moved here. We've got a Nashville recording studio up in the woods. I'm singing on Redneck Riviera at the... Anyway, so George Clinton's down here, Pat Higdon at MCA. So we've got all the Nashville crowd, all the Atlanta crowd. It's just insanity. Once you show up, you don't want to leave.

Kirk: I was looking at your coverage map at Radio-Locator. We've been talking, earlier in the show we were talking about St. George Island, which is such a vacation spot. It's this narrow strip of land. It's southeast of Panama City, Florida, and southwest of Tallahassee. I've never been to that island before, but your license looks like to Apalachicola. Did I say that right?

Bill: Yes. We're licensed in Apalachicola, home of the world-famous Apalachicola oyster, and soon to be famous for Oyster City brew. We make beer. Apalachicola is right across the bridge, and our facility and our transmitter is actually located in Eastpoint. It's about five miles from the island, five miles from Apalachicola. And so we are a local station.

There's a few other stations that come and go. And nowadays, radio's not serving the local community. And there's no money in it for a lot of people. But we find out that if you are part of your community, and your community... this is their station. We believe that the radio spectrum is owned by the public, and Michael fulfills those obligations, protecting the community, enhancing the economic development of the community, and so that brings us a very loyal following.

We've gone above and beyond over the years, especially when Dick was running it, Plessinger. In fact, I had a citation here. We had Hurricane Opal. And Michael had a citation from the... I think I put it on Facebook... the county commission. We lost all power and he was cited for running the transmitter on jumper cables and sitting in his Suzuki and keeping the community involved. Because we don't have any escape routes. Our escape routes here for a hurricane will shut down within hours.

And so when we're down here and we have 20,000 tourists... our population goes from 2,000 people in the winter to 25,000 or 30,000 in the summer. So when we evacuate, the only place you're going to find how to get out of here is with us. Once they're roused...

Kirk: Wow. Hey, I think you told me the schools were not sure if they were open or closed and the principal called your radio station to find out if the schools were closed.

Bill: Oh yeah, yeah, oh, I know. We had a tropical storm. They had shut down the schools. We had ice on the bridge. It was craziness. And of course, when the county doesn't get the information out to people, it doesn't really matter. Nobody calls the county for anything, and they call here.

Kirk: [Inaudible 00:26:50] .

Bill: They assume that we've got the answers, and I picked up the phone and it was the principal of the school, and I said, "Well just a minute, Michael's on the phone with somebody, I'll get him on there to give a message." "No, no, no," he said, "I don't know [audio skips 00:27:06] anything if we have school tomorrow." And I said, "What are you calling me for, Al? You're the principal!" So yeah, we get some very unusual calls.

In fact, Michael's shining moment during Earl or Opal was when NPR called him up in that Suzuki when he was running the transmitter off the batteries, and wanted to know how things were going. And in between rain bands, people were bringing him gasoline and food, and you know, it was like... So after that, we've spent a lot of time and investment in making sure we were as bulletproof as we could be.

Kirk: Hey Bill, if you would, I'm really curious and I know Chris was, too, about what kind of equipment do you have. You're in a small town. Parts of it are kind of a wealthy town, but it's a small town and a small town radio. What do you use for an audio console? How many mics do you have in the studio? What do you use for a... you said the STL was just wired, as you're close with... your transmitter, your antenna? Tell us about the facility.

Bill: Okay. Well, we're actually not that wealthy of a town. Most of our homes on the island are second homes for people who don't live here. Eastpoint is a fishing village, and it's a very simple lifestyle. People are very happy, they work on the water, we hand-harvest oysters. The Apalachicola oyster is... it's a tough life. We're a fishing community that enjoys alcohol.

But what we use... you're going to laugh... what we use is an AIR-1. I'm talking to you now on an AIR-1. We've got [audio skips 00:29:07] phone, we've got a Heil reproduction. Michael produces with a W Audition [SP] and we have a little production closet with microphones in it. And we're running Simian and we run our own stream server that I built back with an open-source frame of EdgeCast years ago, years ago.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah.

Bill: I have my own stream cloud. I was in the Internet business at one time. I built the first DOCSIS beta platform on St. George Island as cable-over-Internet. And then I had a large communications doing paging and stuff. We shut all that down, and then when Michael bought Oyster three years ago, I had promised him 20 years ago, I said that, "If you ever owned it, I'll help you out." Well, now I'm stuck helping him out. Well, I love it. Big shoes to fill.

We use a Harris Z7 Z Series transmitter because it runs so well on batteries and generator. And then I have a wired studio link about a hundred yards balance-paired back to the transmitter. And I use Behringer fuses back there to protect the processor. And actually, I have an Orban 8100 for backup and an Omnia Turbo FM for the on-air.

Kirk: Oh, okay, yeah.

Bill: But our on-air sound, we worked a long time on our air sound. We don't play the loudest game, we don't play the noise game. Michael has been doing this 25 years, and I've been around a long time, and we both agree that people will like to listen to the dial and have quality music.

Kirk: Yeah.

Bill: And you can only listen to the processing and the loudness stuff. You keep flipping it and putting more noise up under your signal, and frankly your ears get wore out and you sound like everybody else. We don't sound like everybody else. You can sit in your car at night and crank it up on the beach and listen to the 27-minute version of Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon" and you'll hear everything move from one channel to the other and the image is perfect. And we like that. That's what we try and do. And that's what we're kind of working on our stream right now.

Leif Clausen [SP] convinced me to play around with some processing. Golly. I was hoping to have it going tonight, so nobody would think we were idiots, but I'll have it. But anyway, but we're real simple. I'm not an engineer that fixes anything by replacement. And I hate to say this, but this industry, from when I was in it when I was 16, 17, and then I touched it back and forth. I worked, like I said, at a communications company. I used to work for Mark Fowler, former chairman of the FCC...

Kirk: Oh, yeah.

Bill:... and yeah, we were in mitigation [audio skips 00: 33:05] , engineering mitigation firm. And I was very surprised to see how little the industry had changed technically. Kind of like the communications industry. You know you had to find... even medical equipment... you have to find computers that run DOS because new computers are too fast to run some of the older remotes or the older programming software. These types of things.

But we're really low tech. We're trying to keep it simple, keep it bulletproof. And if I need something, Michael and I, if we're going to do something we really look at it and we [audio skips 00:34:06] save. We will kind of decide if we spend the $2,000 on a processor, is it going to help us enough to where that's going to be worth the $2,000, or is it going to take us backwards. Does that make sense?

Kirk: Sure.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Kirk: Money doesn't grow on trees, you've got to evaluate everything about it, is it going to help your listeners, help you sell more ads, is it going to make you more reliable? Sure, understood. Hey, Bill, great description of the equipment that you've got there. I want to remind our viewers and listeners who are watching or listening to This Week in Radio Tech. It's our 255th episode. Chris Tobin's with us here. Chris, you still there?

Chris: I'm still here, yes.

Kirk: All right. Hey, we're going to real quick hear from one of our sponsors. When we come back to Bill and to Chris, I'd like to talk about any troubleshooting techniques, Bill, that you've come across, and interesting things that you've had to repair. We'll do that in just a minute.

Our show, This Week in Radio Tech, is brought to you in part by my friends at Telos and a very cool product called the Telos Z/IP ONE. The Z/IP ONE is an IP audio codec, and I know there's a bunch of IP audio codecs on the market now. Work on the Z/IP ONE actually started about 10 years ago. Gosh, no, maybe about 12 years ago. And the first product that came out of that work was the Zephyr IP, the original Telos Zephyr IP. And then the Zephyr IP was recast into a much smaller box, one-rack unit size, and it's the Z/IP ONE.

You may not need all the features the Z/IP ONE has, but it's really a Swiss Army knife of features for getting audio from one place to another via IP. Now that can be the public Internet, in fact it's got features inside the Z/IP ONE designed specifically to help it work with the public Internet. It can work over a T1 circuit, over any IP link... IP radios... anything that can get packets from here to there, the Z/IP ONE can work over. It works with a huge variety of audio bit rates from different codecs.

If you've got a challenging connection and you need to get audio from one place to another with a codec that's running at, say, 24 kilobits per second, dial-up speed, you can do that. It's got AAC-enhanced slow delay, which goes way down in bit rate if you need that. But it also does very high bit rates. It'll do AAC at 320 kilobits per second. It'll do MPEG layer 2, I believe it's 384 kilobits per second. And if you want to get the apt-X codec, that's available, it's an extra-cost option. And that has several bit rates that are higher, it gets up in the 500 and 600 kilobits-per-second range.

And if you have the ability to handle linear audio over IP, in other words if your IP is good enough, you can do linear audio. We did that as an experiment here at Telos. I streamed audio from Vancouver, Washington state, here in the U.S., to my office here in Nashville, for about six weeks at two-and-a-half megabits per second linear audio. Just perfect. There may have been a couple of lost packets here and there, but it was just beautiful audio over the public Internet. So if your Internet connections are good, if you're managing them correctly, you're going to get really great performance out of the Z/IP ONE.

And if you're in a challenging situation, well here's where the Z/IP ONE really shines. Because the Z/IP ONE has the ability to behave dynamically. When two Z/IP ONEs are connected to each other, besides sending audio back and forth, they're also talking on a side channel. They're saying, "How are you doing? Are you getting all the audio that you need? Did you drop any packets between me and you?"

And the two Z/IP ONEs talk to each other and a receiving Z/IP ONE can change its buffer size, so if it's dropping some packets here and there, maybe it wants to increase the buffer size to see if they're just arriving late. It can also, if things get bad, the receiving Z/IP ONE can tell the sending Z/IP ONE, "Hey, slow down. Choose a lower bit rate, because not all the packets are making it here reliably." So the sending Z/IP ONE will reduce its bit rate. And they're also testing to see can we go back up in bit rate. If you need that functionality, it's there. If you want to turn that functionality off, all that automatic stuff, you can turn it off.

One more cool thing about the Z/IP ONE is the ease of which operators can use it. You can take one out on remote. You don't have to know IP addresses or port numbers. You can save studio names and the names of other Z/IP ONEs in a friendly phone book, in a buddy list, if you will, in the Z/IP ONE. You just highlight the buddy that you want, press the button, and bam, it connects.

You can connect also using the assistance of the ZIP server. It's a server that Telos operates that does NAT traversal, and it also does presence tracking, so you can keep track of which of your units are online or offline and easily call them just by highlighting and pressing the button.

I highly recommend the Z/IP ONE. Plenty, lots, hundreds, literally, maybe a couple thousand satisfied users, engineers, of the Z/IP ONE. I've got one of them right here in my office, another one in the server room, and one at my radio station in Mississippi. And we use it all the time to get audio from here to there. Check it out on the Web at TelosAlliance.com. Look for the Telos division and the Z/IP ONE IP audio codec. Thank to Telos for sponsoring this portion of This Week in Radio Tech.

Okay, it's Episode 255, we have Chris Tobin in a studio. I don't know, did you ever disclose your location, Chris, or is it going to remain a secret?

Chris: Ah, no, it needs to remain anonymous at the moment.

Kirk: Okay.

Chris: But you were talking about the Gates book. I have been thumbing through it.

Kirk: Yes.

Chris: And if you can see this picture... let me see if I've got this right...

Kirk: Sales and Service Facilities.

Chris: That's New York City's service facility.

Kirk: Yeah. On East 34th Street.

Chris: Yeah.

Kirk: Isn't that where Santa Claus visited Macy's or something?

Chris: Yeah, if I did the map check correctly in looking at it, 130 East 34th Street puts you very close to Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, and I can assure you it doesn't look like that today. Matter of fact, I think that when I get back to the city, I might just look for 130 East 34th and take a picture.

Kirk: And see what it is. Maybe it's a high-rise, maybe it's a big office building.

Chris: It probably is. But you know, I was reading through... there's an introduction to the book, too, you know. The catalog has an introduction.

Kirk: Okay. Who wrote that? Or what... let's talk about it.

Chris: Yeah, it's written by the Gates division. "If you're in need for any type of radio or television broadcasting equipment, we wholeheartedly invite your patronage. Each member of the Gates organization will do his very best to justify your confidence." If written today, it probably would say "they" would do their very best.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah.

Chris: Yeah, it's such a shame. But you know what, though, the Gates New York and Houston service centers carry thousands of sundry items just for the broadcaster. Fast and efficient service, so if you have those miscellaneous items you might need, there was a time when the service centers could help you out.

Kirk: Wouldn't that be great.

Chris: Sundry items.

Kirk: Yes, sundry items, yes. And for a couple of decades, we got those sundry items at Radio Shack.

Chris: Yes, that's true.

Kirk: Now that's gone, too.

Chris: Now that's gone, too.

Kirk: And so now it's the Internet and Digi-Key or Mouser Electronics or MCM or wherever you may find things. I had to modify a 12 kilowatt FM transmitter recently... actually, I had another engineer do it because he was there. But the filament voltage was too high, and we couldn't get it any lower. And so we had to install, I calculated what value, it was a 4 ohm, 100 watt resistor that went in the A/C side, on the primary side of the filament transformer.

And I bought a heat-dissipating, 100 watt resistor. I bought it from eBay, that's where I connected with the seller, and it got shipped from China. And it was here in, I don't know, 10 days or so. Came in a little baggie and shipped from China. I don't know if that's good or bad, but it was convenient. Went on eBay, 4 watt, 100 ohm resistor, there's one right there, it's $8.99. I tell you what, I'll buy two of them just so I can have an extra one in case that one fails or if for some reason we need two in series, or two in parallel, maybe I chose the wrong value. And ordered it and it showed up and bam, now it's in the transmitter.

Chris: Nice.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: And you know what's missing, you know what's missing today? Is the ability for people to look up transmission line pressurization and what's involved and how to do it, and there's the hand pump in there again.

Kirk: Hand pump.

Chris: You know, it gives you an idea of what you're expected to do. It's just amazing. The stuff, the information in this book, this catalog, it's great.

Kirk: Oh, it's good stuff, and it's...

Chris: Volume 100.

Kirk: And it may be some individual nuggets of information are out of date, but the concepts are all valid and in-date, right?

Chris: Well, oddly enough, on this other page, what's not out of date is the Horn Gap or the Feed-Through Bowl for hanging transmission lines.

Kirk: Sure.

Chris: It's still in use.

Kirk: Wow. Wow.

Chris: Yes, yes. This is fascinating. It's great to see how things have changed. Sadly, for a do-it-yourself society, we've lost all of these things.

Kirk: Hey Bill, Bill do you have a favorite book or a reference that you've gone to? How have you learned about some things you need to know about to get engineering done?

Bill: Well, actually, my favorite stuff is, oh God, for years I had all the Electronics Handbook, a few of these... the old Radio Shack catalogs, Mims.

Chris: Mims.

Bill: I've been doing this since I was 12. So I spent a lot of time in the Navy... I was the last traverman [SP] in the U.S. Navy. We worked on flight simulators we were training. I've done just about anything you could do in electronics or communications. I built amusement games for a while, for years. Microcontroller stuff. I worked with the Wise [SP], I worked with Nolan Bushnell out in Silicon Valley. So I've been all over the map with these. My biggest issue now is crazy engineering stuff, like the air-flow sensor on the Harris's E Series [SP]. Come on, man. The guy must have been a Toyota mechanic.

Kirk: Is it complicated?

Bill: What's that? It's so over-engineered, and you buy the part and I called up and he said, "Ninety-nine cents apiece," and I said, "Great, send me 20 of them." He said, "How quick do you want them?" "Ah, just put them in the mail." And it was $79 for express shipping.

So right now I buy a lot of my parts through my various junk buyers [SP]. I don't buy a lot, and I do the Mouser, I do the Digi-Key. And my favorite engineering books, though, are the old data manuals, the old TI books, the old National Semiconductor books, the Maxim books.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah.

Chris: Sure.

Bill: And the application notes. And like I said, if we need something to do something, what's happened now, and it's happened since... and I blame Fowler for this. This consolidation back in the Reagan years so that local communities would not lose their stations.

So they let the [mega-mouths] in. And those are good people now. That's what's going to move Telos Alliance forward. That's just what's going to keep you guys going. But frankly, a lot of the equipment, I don't see it effective in the mom-and-pop facility. It's hard to explain. There's not a lot of engineers out any more. The ones that are out and about... What's that? You there?

Kirk: Yeah, we here, we here.

Bill: Oh, okay. But I find that the guys that are out there are contractors and they run around and they are doing repairs by sales. Does that make sense? I tell you, my worst nightmare is this little box. I'm not going to mention any names. But these intercoms they use for elevator music. And everybody's selling them everywhere. And it's the kind of thing... [audio skips 00:47:39] .

Kirk: Uh-oh. Have we lost him?

Chris: Uh-oh. Are we still there? I don't know. He's gone into a stuttering effect.

Kirk: Sounds like our crack producer in New York City will be calling him back. In the meantime, I love that catalog. Because it did have this information that... if you were going to order some coax, and maybe you've never put an FM antenna up before, or maybe you haven't built an AM system before, well, they presented you, hey, here's the basic stuff you've got to know.

You're going to need a balun sleeve, you're going to need to hang this coax, and you need a hanger every so many feet. You're going to need a grounding kit. For first-timers, it was great information to have, and even to remind old-timers here is the way that you're supposed to do it.

I had... I don't know if I bought this, I guess I bought it. It didn't come with just renewing with AWRL. But this big tome right here, this AWRL Handbook.

Chris: Oh yeah, yeah. I used to do the SAMS Photofacts and other stuff. But here, what you were talking about? Can you see it?

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: There you go.

Kirk: Oh, I can't quite see it. What is it?

Chris: Transmission line.

Kirk: Fishing line? What?

Chris: Transmission, transmission.

Kirk: Oh, transmission line, okay.

Chris: But look, you can see the isocoupler.

Kirk: Oh yeah.

Chris: And then there's the transmitter.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Gives you pictures and tells you the size of the transmission line, inch and five-eighths, or what do you have at the top, an FM antenna.

Kirk: Great drawings to tell you what to order, do you need a gas pass or a gas block there.

Chris: Exactly.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah. Because I always have to think about that. The salesman would say, "Now you want gas pass or gas block?" Let me think, where's it going to go? Yeah, it needs to pass gas there. Something else that they were showing there. They had a diagram showing an isocoupler or the same transmission line without an isocoupler.

Chris: That's right.

Kirk: Back when FM stations were coming on in the '60s and '70s, many stations, maybe even most stations, were simply side-mounting an FM antenna on their AM tower. Now it may not have been ideal, but hey, "Hey, the FCC got us this license, we're going to put FM on, and we don't care if we're covering anything. Nobody listens to FM anyway." Right? That was the attitude back then.

Chris: That's true.

Kirk: And so people wanted to put FMs on. The cheapest way they could, even if coverage was compromised, and you had a choice. If you had a hot AM tower, and most AM towers were series-fed, which means they were "hot," there was a base insulator, and you had to get the FM coax to go up the tower, but you couldn't just ground it to the tower end of the ground, because that would short out the AM. So you used either an isocoupler or you did what they call a bazooka feed. What's another name for that... the quarter-wave stub, right?

Chris: Oh, you did a coaxial coil, that would give you the isolation.

Kirk: That was another isolation method was a coaxial coil.

Chris: And the quarter-wave stub also. A lot of it depended on the tuning of tower...

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris:... the impedance of the base, also the power level. There's a few things. But you know what? If someone was to ask you to illustrate the requirements of standard lighting of antenna towers and supporting structures in accordance with the FCC and FAA, would you know what to do or where the color bars go and what the overall height and where you should be? You probably wouldn't offhand, I wouldn't expect you to. But if you had your Gates catalog, you would be able to.

Kirk: Oh yeah, yeah! Now, I must say, we used to have an SBE session from a guy who sells lighting systems. And that information you're holding up right there was accurate and simple back then.

Chris: Yes.

Kirk: It is no longer simple. It is no longer simple at all. There's so many requirements and they change. And so nowadays, you really couldn't go by a catalog, you have to go by the information that's in your license. What's your authorization say about your lighting system? And it will probably refer you to a circular or some other document that you may have to go read. But it could be different than what you thought it was.

Chris: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, what's happened is, and our guest made it clear that back in the days of consolidation, basically we took away the disciplines of the industry. In 1979, as that catalog points out... we'll use that as a time reference... there was a certain discipline in the business, both in sales, marketing, even in engineering. And you understood where you needed to be, how to get there, and how to have a level playing field and make things happen.

Then over time, as people started realizing that maybe there's other ways we can do it and make money and get away with a lot, that's when consolidation came along and just made it worse. And now you have basically a small number of people doing a lot of things, but they have to do it on the cheap. Why? Because they've got to pay back the debt service. And that's what's basically happened.

So catalogs like these can't be used anymore because you now have government operations that have created such a muck-up of stuff because lobbyists have pushed it, that none of us in the business can get anything done right, at a cost-effective means. Where back in the day, it was required for you to be profitable and cost-effective and do the business right.

But today, it's not the case. So it's a free-for-all. That's why stations like Oyster Radio and others are clamoring to try and figure out how to survive in this mess, because the big guys can't get their act together and they keep losing out and they're the ones dictating policy. That's really what it's coming down to.

Kirk: It is interesting how occurrences, how special interests... and I'm not saying special interests in a bad way...

Chris: No, no. In a good way.

Kirk:... but special interests end up changing rules. For example, now we've got rules changing about... you showed that graphic of towers. And it used to be pretty cut-and-dried what your tower lighting and painting requirements were. Well, then along came strobe lights and lower power consumption, maybe less maintenance... in actuality, probably not... and the ability to not have to paint your tower.

So there's an exception to the old red-white tower. How many bands do I need? Well, none if your tower's not painted. But then there were daytime strobe systems and nighttime strobe systems and there were some strobes that would change color. They'd be red at night and white during the day, because maybe some neighborhoods didn't want flashing white lights in their backyard, so they'd go to a system that used a strobe that looked like a red light at night, and during the day it was this bright, bright strobe.

And then we had the bird problem, right? We had some people, and I don't doubt that they believed this... I personally have a little hard time believing how this happened... but all the bird kills. All the birds that would run into towers in certain meteorological conditions. What was attracting birds to the tower to fly around and around the tower until they hit guy wires or hit the tower? And after a lot of research, they thought well, you know what? It's steady burning red lights that are attractive to migrating birds in certain weather conditions when their flight path is constrained to the height of the tower, low clouds.

And so now we find the ability, the authorization is possible, to turn off your obstruction lights, the steady-burning smaller lights on a tower. And I think for my station, my business partner has applied to let us do that, to turn off obstruction lights where we can. So many, all these little rule changes that come into effect. And then to harmonize with the FAA, the FCC tries to harmonize their height requirements. So it used to be that something under 500 feet, well now it's under 501 feet can do this. And then you have all the rules governing appurtenances. Did you ever use that word before broadcasting? Appurtenances.

Chris: No. No.

Kirk: So you have appurtenances that go above the top of the tower. We're talking about a lightning rod or a two-way radio antenna or something at the top of the tower. And how those affect where you put a light on the tower and what that light has to be. So now we have a complicated mess of how you light your tower. Where before it was as easy as what you saw in Harris [inaudible 00:55:57] .

Chris: Well, yeah, and nobody does anything to correct it, they just let it go. And then the best part was, I worked at a station where we were on top of a building. We were on top of a residential building, which was 600-something feet tall. And we had a two-bay antenna on top of the penthouse. It was a nice structure, about 30, 40 feet above the structure.

And we discovered the hard way that apparently the flashing beacons on the building, because it was tall enough it had to be lighted, apparently our antenna structure was not in compliance. We had to put a light on the top of the pole. We were trying to find out from the FCC, it's a 35-foot pole above the light. How does that... You don't understand, it's very important that the light be at the very top of the structure that needs to be protected from aviation.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: And me, being the flippant person that I am when I'm coming from New York, I sat there in this room with these people and these attorneys and everybody because we're trying to figure out how to avoid this violation, I said, "So let me get this straight. Prior to hitting the building, our light could have possibly saved that plane that was coming for a collision." The room goes quiet.

And like, "Just trying to figure out where we stand here because you've got a $10,000 ticket on our heads and we're trying to figure out what we did wrong." And I said, "By the way, this is a pre-existing structure. We have documents to prove it's been here for the last 15 years." So somebody in the room goes, "Pre-existing? Fifteen years? Why are we here? That's ridiculous. Leave it be. It's fine."

Kirk: Why are we here.

Chris: And I'm like, "I don't believe this." This is all during the height of consolidation in the '80s. This is when everything was going amok as people just running crazy trying to find new ways of making money.

Kirk: It also sounds like what happens when rules and bureaucracy meets reality. [Inaudible 00:57:49] common sense, yeah.

Chris: Yes, yes. Well, that's exactly it. It was just like, come on, guys, common sense. I mean, 30 feet, 40 feet is not going to make a difference.

Kirk: Hey, Bill Eaton is back with us and unfortunately, Bill, we're just about to the end of the show. So what I'm going to ask you to do, Bill and Chris, both of you... we've got one more sponsor to talk about briefly to help pay for the show and thank them for their patronage... but let's get a tip, an engineering tip from you, Bill, and an engineering tip from Chris Tobin, and we'll close out the show with that.

Our show is brought to you in part by our friends at Axia. And I want to tell you, I've been to more and more stations now that have these smaller Axia consoles. And the small consoles in the Axia line, the smallest one is the RAQ, R-A-Q, the RAQ console, and it is, as the name implies, it's a rack-mounted console. It has six rotary faders, two buses, and it plugs right into the rest of a Livewire AoIP system.

Now, I have one of these RAQ consoles in the newsroom at our radio station in American Samoa. And this is used by our news director, Monica Miller, and I've got to tell you, before we had that, we had a couple of different analog consoles. And you know how newsrooms can be. Messy, lots of papers. They need a little jack to plug into their portable recorder, whatever that may be... it used to be a cassette machine, now they're typically digital.

And it just seemed like always had little hums and buzzes and look, I'm a decent engineer. I can track this stuff down, but every time I go back to Samoa, there'd be some new hum or buzz going on or somebody kicked a wire underneath or something I didn't clean up right. And it was always a little problem. And, of course, being just an analog console, there weren't good facilities to talk back and forth. There weren't intercom facilities, Monica had to make hand signals to the guys in the control room.

Well, putting in Axia consoles, including a RAQ console, in the newsroom, solved these problems. We don't have hums or buzzes or clicks. The stuff just works. So Monica has her own console. It's the little RAQ console. In the control room right across her window, we have got a Radius console just like the one that this show is being done on right now at the GFQ network studios in New York, a Radius console. And in our other FM control, we have another Radius console. And these consoles all talk to each other. You can intercom each other using the standard Livewire network over audio over IP.

Other consoles that Axia has for your pleasure and enjoyment, the DESQ, D-E-S-Q. It's just like the RAQ, except it has linear faders on it. But it's small. It's diminutive. It'll fit on your desk. And you don't have a bunch of wires there. The audio inputs and outputs aren't creating a big mess on your desk, because those audio inputs and outputs go to the little engine, the QOR, the Q-O-R, the QOR 16 or the QOR 32.

And so those are off, under a cabinet somewhere, in a rack somewhere. You don't have the mass of wires like you would with some little off-the-shelf mixer... I'll use the example, a Mackie or a Behringer mixer... you're always going to have that mass of wires there, whereas with the RAQ or the DESQ, any of the Axia consoles, you just have one cable going to the surface itself for mixing.

And then we have the Radius console we talked about a moment ago, which is what we're using at the GFQ network and at my radio stations in Samoa. And then there is also iQ console. Now the Radius and the iQ are very similar-looking, but the iQ has the OLED meters, the high-precision, high-brightness OLED meters, whereas the Radius console has more traditional-looking LED meters. Other than that, the consoles are very, very similar.

So check them out, if you would. I really appreciate Axia sponsoring this part of This Week in Radio Tech. And I'm a big believer in audio over IP. I've guess I've been preaching this for about 15 years now... no, I guess it's probably more like 12 years now... and have just delighted in building studios with audio over IP and I've gotten to put in each one of the consoles that Axia offers. AxiaAudio.com, or to take you to the same place, go to TelosAlliance.com and click on the Axia division. You can take a look at all their consoles there.

All right, real quickly, Bill Eaton. Got a little engineering tip, something you'd like to pass along to your fellow engineers for us.

Bill: I have three.

Chris: Oh, gosh.

Bill: First of all, fundamentals. When you go to fix something, you have to have the confidence in yourself, and just remember one thing. Before it broke, it worked. And if you find yourself chasing yourself in circles, sit back and sit down and just remember the fundamentals. Start over again and think, did I measure it, did I do this. You can't walk in, saying, "I've seen this before, I know what it is." And then even if somebody else has worked on it before, just go along and remember the fundamentals and you'll be able to figure out what they did and fix it.

The second thing I was going to mention is don't forget your resources. I have walked into situations where people have been working on something for... 25 guys have looked at it and nobody's been able to fix it, and not one of them ever bothered to call the factory to find out if they had any information. So always remember that you have other resources that are credible to look at something.

And then the third thing that I can say is over the years, you develop if you know what you're doing and you like what you're doing and you understand how things work, that they work. Don't underestimate yourself. When I do my weekly inspections, I don't have big problems. The reason I don't have big problems is because I know what I'm looking for, and if something's different or something's not right, then to me, that's a problem. That's not something that I just write down in a notebook and say, well, I'll look at it next week. And then eventually it'll blow a hole in a pressurized line.

If I have a discrepancy or I have something that gives me a gut feeling that something's changed, then I'll pursue that because that's a good prediction of doom and gloom down the road. It's called preventive maintenance. And the problem is not a lot of stations will pay anybody to do inspections. We just had a 100,000 watt transmitter burn to the ground because the only time they called the guy was to come and fix it. Come on, man, it's a power beam tube, it's got filters, they need attention. You don't give them attention, you're going to be putting a new transmitter in.

Them days, the way that radio's changed, a solid-state transmitter, $100,000, is putting an engineer on salary. That's about all I can offer is just to trust what you do, if you do what you do, and you can fix it. And if I can fix it, it's not broken. I know a few other guys like that.

But when I walk in to look at something, I have the confidence to know that I'm going to find it, and if I find myself chasing my tail... my own worst enemy is yourself. I sit down and I start from scratch, because obviously something is not right. And I usually find it to be something stupid. So all I can say is remember one thing. It was working yesterday and it's not working today, so it's not like it was delivered and never worked.

Kirk: Bill, you make a great point, and actually I had a similar mantra, I do have a similar mantra, and that is that my biggest goal is to get this piece of equipment back to working like it came from the factory. Because it worked on that day that it was delivered. I just got to make it work again like that.

Now once in a while we find a piece of equipment that we can make work better than it came from the factory, but that's pretty few and far between. Get it back to how the factory had it, to how somebody designed it, is probably going to work fine. Hey, we're almost out of time. Let's check in with Chris Tobin. Chris, you got a tip for us this week?

Chris: Well yeah, I'll quickly go through the several tips. First of all, I've been doing a lot of work on digital stuff lately, so it's handy to have one of these little guys with you for AES measurements, it gives you analog out so you can tell what's going on. That's one of the things.

The other thing is along the lines of tips is this. These days everything is computerized, automation systems, even transmitters and whatnot. If you run into a problem, the first thing you have to ask yourself is, "What was the last thing that was done to that computer system or automation before it failed?" That's one tip. Second, as Mr. Eaton pointed out, sounds in a room.

Now, those of us who've managed transmitter sites for most of our careers know that a transmitter site has a certain sound, a certain vibe, a certain aura about it. And we all know that you can't explain exactly what it is, but you know that when you walk into a transmitter building you can tell if it's an FM 25, or it's a BC 5, MW 5, or an FM 20. You know exactly what you're listening to. You can tell when an FM 25 contactor turns on the power supply. Everybody else in the room jumps, you just stand there and go "Oop! We're on the air."

So these are things you need to understand or listen for when you walk into a room. Your air conditioning system has a sound to it if it suddenly changes. Stop, listen. Best thing to do is just close your eyes. Let your other senses pick up what's going on, because your eyes will deceive you. Those are the things you need to look at and understand.

And once you do that, as Mr. Eaton pointed out, it's just a matter of fixing it and moving on with your day. And preventive maintenance is definitely the best way to go. But that's what I would recommend. Because recently, with a friend of mine, walked into a site... where were you... Empire State Building. And I've worked there for so many years on and off so I know certain sounds in certain rooms with transmitters and stuff.

And we walked in, and I said, "You know, there's something missing in this room." And he goes, "Yes, we're here because one of the filter fans, cooling fans is not working." I was like, "Oh wow. It added to the sound of the room."

Kirk: Ahh. Use all your senses. That's a great, great point.

Chris: Right, right. So I'm talking about if you're at a site that you're regularly at. If you're not regularly at the site and you now picked up a new job, a new gig, and you're doing part-time contract, learn the site. Take the extra few minutes to sit there, just sit back, close your eyes, and listen. Trust me. You will not pay dearly for it, because you'll be like oh. You'll walk in and know, and people will look at you like, what are you, a guru? You know what's going on? Yes. There is something, there is a science to it.

Bill: The harmonic Zen is out of balance.

Chris: Yeah. Exactly.

Bill: My harmonic Zen.

Kirk: I have a feeling that three of us could have about a five more hours of discussion over one of those Jimmy Buffett beers or an Apalachicola beer or something on St. George's Island. That would be wonderful, but we're out of time. Guys, unfortunately, we've got to go. Bill, I appreciate you being here, thank you for taking an hour, hour-and-a-half out of your day to come join us for This Week in Radio Tech.

Bill: Well, thank you. It's been an honor.

Kirk: And Chris Tobin, thank you for once again, sleuthing a place to go and find a studio. How you can find studios, it's amazing.

Chris: I help people out, I offer suggestions, they work, they're like, "Wow, this is really good. If I can ever return the favor." Okay. So I call in a few favors and it works out. I enjoy it.

Kirk: Hey, I'm speaking to other engineers and station owners right now. If you want to be one of those guys who knows Chris Tobin, and you're going to be able to put his expertise to use someday, especially in broadcast engineering or in the field of IP codecs, both for audio and for video, Chris, how can people find you to get your expertise?

Chris: Folks so far have been able to find me at support@ipcodecs.com, and I just received a couple emails the other day so it's working out very well, thank you.

Kirk: Good deal. Support@ipcodecs.com, that is the home that you'll find Chris Tobin at. And thank you for watching This Week in Radio Tech. I appreciate Andrew Zarian, producing the show back in New York City. Be sure you subscribe to the show. It's really easy to do. There are subscribe links for whatever your favorite podcast catcher or software is or iTunes, whatever you like.

Check it out either at ThisWeekinRadioTech.com, that's our website we've had for years, or you can go to gfqnetwork.com and subscribe there. And check out all the other really cool podcast offerings that the GFQ Network has. You'll find some tech podcasts, comic books, professional wrestling, it covers the gamut. Even if you're a [inaudible 01:11:46] , you'll find a podcast for you.

Thanks again. We're going to see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering


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