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32 l November 2012


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the nitty-gritty bits the audience is probably unaware of but the listeners are more than aware of IP as another way to get their favourite stations, either through a computer, smartphone or tablet. Heffernan comments that the Sonifex Pro Audio Streamer is being used to send streams to IP radio transmission servers, including Icecast and Shoutcast. “People have been doing IP streaming on PCs but with a dedicated box they don’t have to re-boot it once it is set up. It can accept digital or balanced and unbalanced analogue signals so there is more choice for people.” In the studio itself IP is the


Broadcast Bionics’ PhoneBOX has


been upgraded since PhoneBOX1 was used in London’s old LBC studios


The radio studio goes social


Kevin Hilton rounds up some of the main areas of change for steam wireless


THE RADIO studio has been through its share of technological changes over the years – CD players, automation, digital mixing desks, file-based working – and it shows no sign of slowing up in this evolution. While new installations have enough familiarity to keep most people happy – even turntables have made a come-back, although that’s usually for late night club music programmes – new technologies are making themselves felt in this venerable medium. Let’s take a look at some of them.


‘IP’


Internet Protocol in radio divides into three neat groups: contributions and distribution, web streaming for the new breed of listener, and studio interconnectivity. In the first case there is a definite shift in favour of IP, driven partly by the fact


that getting ISDN lines will become difficult in the future. Shima Varsani, sales and


marketing director of codec manufacturer Systembase, comments that while ISDN and X.21 lines are still the main choice for live audio transmissions, IP is becoming “more widely accepted as broadcasters get to grips with the challenges of audio streaming, such as increased delays”. She adds: “The use of IP circuits also require a much greater understanding of IT systems to enable users to configure and optimise the network for a broadcasting application.” Dedicated IP streamer boxes


are now challenging more expensive codecs as radio stations look for budget- conscious ways to get programme signals from the studio to the transmitter. Among the manufacturers


Sonifex’s Pro Audio Streamer range


producing IP distribution products is Sonifex with the Pro Audio Streamer range. This comprises three IP-to-audio and audio-to-IP streamers with professional analogue and digital inputs and outputs. Sonifex’s Eamonn Heffernan


says these can provide up to six concurrent streams from a single unit and, because they do not


contain cooling fans, can be installed in the studio as well as the racks room. “One box can feed multiple transmission sites, which is a benefit for networks,” he explains. “Distribution can now be done from a box that isn’t a codec. They’re proving reliable and people are moving away from codecs because of the expense.” Contribs and distribution are


new contender for connecting equipment. The recent partnership between Axia Audio and Lawo, creating an interface between the LiveWire and Ravenna protocols for IP (see p14), has put the focus on consoles but this interconnectivity extends from there to all equipment in the studio. Daniel Dedisse, product


director of automation specialist Netia, observes that IP audio “seems to be the future”. He explains that equipment can be integrated without the need for specialised audio boards or cards: “Audio software must be IP compatible to be controlled by the console. At one time this was done using hardware interfaces but now it’s all software.” This shift is confirmed by Phil


Myers, joint owner of broadcast equipment manufacturer Audionics. “More is being done on the PC platform today,” he says, “and we’re looking at units that can be controlled by IP.” These include intelligent mains distributors and transmission routers, meaning many basic functions of the station can be run from anywhere using a computer.


VISUALISATION Lovers of radio have always seen it as superior to television because it relies on sounds and voices to create images in the imagination. When digital radio was being promoted in the 1990s it was claimed that people would be able to “see radio” because new receivers would have screens. This approach was soon


dropped as executives shied away from making “cheap TV”. Today webcams have been installed in many radio studios but people are realising there is more to a visual element in radio than just


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