WheatNews April 2021

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WHEAT:NEWS APRIL 2021  Volume 12, Number 4

The Word on Christian Radio

WAER

Worship24 7

Pictured above is David Harms, one of the Worship 24/7 hosts. Scott Michaels is pictured below

Scott Michaels was just heading out to save the world when we called. He does a fundraiser about once a month on Salem Media’s Portland station, KFIS “The Fish”, for the Africa New Life Ministries that raises money for starving children in Rwanda. 

Scott Michaels Worship 247.jpeg portraitOn the way there, he told us that the fundraising business has been brisk for the nonprofits he consults for and for the Christian radio stations that sell them airtime to raise those funds. “The nonprofit ministries are actually a little competitive now. We sometimes struggle to find stations to place buys,” he said. 

He is both a consultant for the fundraising agency i5810 Media and a program director for Worship 24/7, which streams as well as broadcasts on 93.7 KURT near Portland, 104.9 KTDD near Seattle and more recently, 100.9 KJOQ in Duluth, Minnesota. One of those stations was picked up by Worship 24/7 for well less than a quarter of what it was on the market for a year ago. 

Intrigued, we asked him to tell us more about Christian radio.

ON FUNDRAISING IN THE YEAR OF THE PANDEMIC: “Our company works with eight to 10 nonprofit ministries, and as I said earlier, it’s a little competitive right now. It’s amazing, really, that we have more money coming in from third parties, to the point where we sometimes struggle to find stations to place our buys. It helps that some of the small to medium sized stations are looking for a new source of revenue, but even with that, the demand from nonprofit ministries is massive and they want more and more station time.” 

ON THE “HAVES” AND THE “HAVE NOT SO MUCH” IN CHRISTIAN RADIO: “Just like in mainstream, you have stations that ‘have’ and stations that ‘have not’ from a financial standpoint. I worked for one group that has 12 different markets and had AoIP in all the plants. Worship 24/7 is just starting out but I expect in the next year or year-and-a-half, we’ll add another studio.” 

Editor’s note: Speaking of haves, Worship 24/7 has a Wheatstone Lightning analog/digital hybrid console for its new studio in Wilsonville, Oregon. We had stations like this in mind when we designed the Lightning. Not every station needs a full blown AoIP networked console but just about every station can benefit from being able to access editing software and other sources through USB or Bluetooth. Also, in the photo above, you can see that the Lightning console is resting on a Wheatstone Quickline desk. 

LightningAngled

ON THE STATION BUY OF THE CENTURY: “We looked at the station initially and they wanted 2 million at the time. It was more than we had available. I was talking to the same broker a year later, and he said they came down on the price. I was thinking they dropped it to a million, and then he said they were letting it go at $320,000. We thought for sure someone would write out a check before we could get the financing in order, but the financing went quickly, and it all worked out!”

ON WHEELING AND DEALING: “We just added our broadcast to the Duluth station (100.9 FM) a week ago. This is an AM with an FM translator, and it was the third sports talk station in the market. I called the owner up on a whim and told him we are doing decent with a listener supported ministry and listener donations. I asked him to give our program a try and we’ll split the revenue, and he agreed, so here we are.” 

ON THE FUNDING MODELS FOR CHRISTIAN RADIO: “There are two main types of religious stations. There are the talk stations that are supported by large ministries, which buy airtime. They might have a few local churches that buy airtime on the weekend, but most are funded by shows like Focus on the Family, which in turn get supporters to pay for that airtime. Sometimes the same show will run on two stations in a market. 

“Then there are the Christian music stations, which typically run music most of the day with maybe a talk show in the evenings. I would say that the majority of these – maybe 60 to 70 percent – are listener supported. They are getting their dollars from listeners giving $30 to $40 a month, although they might also get some underwriting dollars if they’re nonprofit especially. That revenue has not decreased this last year and we know several that have done their best year ever. I’d say local Christian stations are doing very well.”

ON CHURCH SHUTDOWNS AND LISTENERSHIP: “From a fundraising standpoint, before 2020, it was as you’d expect: morning drive was good, afternoon drive was really good, middays were lower and not a lot happening in the evenings.  Since the pandemic, middays became better. Mornings and afternoons weren’t horrible, but there seemed to be a lot more listening in the middays. Now, in looking at PPM data in the last month, we’re just starting to come out of that. We are seeing that the afternoons and mornings are just getting back to normal.” 

Metadata, Madness and Lua Filters 

Metadata isn’t making our lives any easier. 

It seems like such an insignificant part of streaming but woe be to those who try to get metadata out of the automation system and into a format that is suitable to the CDN. 

That’s because there are no standards, or rather, no standards we can count on as of yet. 

CDNs each take similar but slightly different metadata formats, as do automation systems. Song and artist readouts, local commercial inserts, station IDs and promos, not to mention song royalties and listener stats – all that metadata requires those two systems to sync up. 

How we get around this problem is by using Lua transformation filters to adapt metadata input from any automation system into any required output format for transmission to the CDN server. “There are certain format commonalities, but the details don’t always match up so it requires a little bit of coding,” explained Wheatstone Senior Development Engineer Rick Bidlack, who has been working with broadcasters on formatting metadata specifically for individual CDNs. 

Lua filters are a big part of what makes it possible for streaming appliances like our Streamblade and Wheatstream to put out accurate metadata along with program streams. 

XML

Shown is an example of a typical metadata XML file coming out of the automation system indicating time, length and type of metadata formatted for AAC and MP3 streams.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Wheatstone has new dealer pricing effective April 1, 2021. 

If you are a dealer, you should have received updated links. But if we missed you, please reach out to Amy for an updated copy at Amy@Wheatstone.com

New Multipurpose Processor. Hear All About It!

By Tony Abfalter
Director of Engineering, Leighton Broadcasting, St. Cloud, Minnesota

TonyMP532 B

I’ll be the first in line for new audio processing if I think it can give us an edge, but only if it’s truly a step up and not just the same ole tech in new packaging. 

We serve a predominantly young population here in the college town of St. Cloud, Minn. With 70 other stations competing for those ears, our six stations will take every advantage they can get. 

I’d heard about the MP-532 AM/FM/HD multipurpose processor before it was officially released. The inside scoop was that Wheatstone’s Jeff Keith had designed into it a new five-band “windowed” AGC (he called Windy). As different program material comes in, it adapts to make sure that the multiband section and the five-band limiter later on are always fed consistent audio. This, I was told, was one of the reasons why the MP-532 could deliver those “airy” highs and deeper lows we’re all hoping for in the business. 

TonyMP532 AIt was worth a listen.  

I got one of the first MP-532s and put it on our classic rock station, KZPK, K277BS- ZRock (HD2) 103.3. The installation experience was typical Wheatstone. Super intuitive, with presets that immediately gave us a much-improved sound right out of the box. 

I’ll get to the sound in a minute, but first I’d like to pause for a moment and give you a busy engineer’s perspective on audio processing. Yes, most of us like to tweak processing. But we also have a huge appreciation for a smooth installation experience. I need to get it on the air, make minor adjustments and move on in life. That’s one very strong suit of this processor, its ease of installation. 

To be fair though, I know my way around Wheatstone processors, having owned X1s, AM-55s, FM-55s, X3s and X5s.  

As easy as the setup was, this alone is not a good enough reason to invest in an audio processor. It has to sound good; that’s the core mission for processing, and for radio. 

So how did the MP-532 do? Impressive. Very impressive. They weren’t kidding when they said the highs would be airy and detailed and the lows would be deep. The MP-532 has the most articulation and clarity of any audio processor I’ve ever heard. It can hold its own next to Wheatstone’s flagship processor, the X5 FM/HD processor, but with a few less features and a lot less dollars. 

One nice bonus is that it is a multipurpose processor (that’s what the MP is for), which means it would make an excellent backup for both my AM as well as FM stations. But, it’s really too good to be a backup processor, so I have it running continuous programming on ZRock.

This article appeared in Radio World’s recent Buyer’s Guide on audio processing. Shown, Tony with his new MP-532 and his 2020 MVP award. (Again, Congrats Tony on a well-deserved recognition!) 

AoIP in Transition, from SDI to SMPTE 2110

MADIBLADE Front Rear

“AoIP is becoming standard for new builds going in, particularly when the rest of the infrastructure at the television station is being rebuilt at the same time. But there are also stations adding AoIP to existing infrastructure. For example, the AES67 interface becomes useful if a station has an analog or older generation of networked audio console and now they need to be able to generate an AES67 stream to work with their SMPTE-2110 infrastructure. The station might also have a house router, like a Grass Valley router, and AES67 is a good way to talk to those systems as well. That’s when you’ll see some hybrid activity, like a Wheatstone Blade (with AES67 compliance) talking to a house router. There are plenty of television stations that are still relying on their SDI infrastructure too, and they’ll need to continue using that for some time and that’s where something like our HD-SDI Blade is relevant for de-embedding audio from the signal or something like our MADI Blade can be useful as a portal between the AoIP and an older TDM system. It’s not an all or nothing thing either; it’s adding AoIP functionality to an existing system and that’s where protocols like MADI and standards like AES67 come into play.”

Phil Owens, Wheatstone Sales Engineer

SDI BLADE Front Rear 

Going from Analog to AoIP, One Device at a Time

By Richard Maddox, Wheatstone, Field Service Engineer 

MaddoxStoryDiagram2v2

Moving from analog routing to AoIP doesn’t have to take place all at once. Converting to category cabling one device at a time will slowly set you up for AoIP so that when you’re ready, you can make the switch from an analog to an IP audio routed facility. 

Almost all new between-equipment wiring is using unshielded CAT5e or CAT6 cables. These two CAT cables, which have identical specs for our uses, can be used interchangeably to connect analog audio, AES-3 audio, AoIP audio streams, ethernet for KVMs and VoIP/SIP phones, and, of course, your facility’s LAN connections. Many broadcasters have standardized on using UTP (unshielded twisted pair) CAT5e as their interconnection cable of choice. CAT6 has a thicker sheathing and tighter twists in its four wire pairs than CAT5e, which makes it more resistant to crosstalk but also slightly harder to handle. 

When moving to category cables, you can either buy pre-made “patch cables” in various common lengths like 6-foot, 15-foot, 25-foot, etc., or you can buy reels of raw CAT5e cable and boxes of RJ45 plugs to create your own custom-length cables. It really boils down to how much time you have and how much you like crimping RJ45 plugs onto cables.

Since the IT industry uses CAT5e and CAT6 cables by the truckload, the price for category cabling and plugs means your cabling cost for an entire facility (whether making custom length cables yourself or using off-the-shelf “bagged” cables) is a fraction of what it would cost to run shielded balanced audio cables.

Adapting Cable for Broadcast

For audio and broadcast equipment that does not have RJ45 jacks, you’ll still need XLR or TRS plugs on your cables, which means you’ll need to terminate your CAT5e cabling at one end to something other than RJ45. You could solder the plugs directly to the category cable wire pairs, but that’s messy and time-consuming. An easier solution, which will run a few dollars, is to use RJ45-to-XLR and RJ45-to-TRS adapters to connect new equipment using CAT5e without having to solder anything.

RJ45 adapters are available for just about every connector type, with the exception of MOD IV. No one makes an RJ45-to-MOD IV adapter that I know of, but there are RJ45-to-pigtail adapters, so with a bit of hand crimping of the MOD IV terminals onto the pigtails, you can roll your own MOD IV-to-RJ45 adapters. 

By the way, any custom MOD IV adapter you make can be repurposed later on as an RJ45 adapter for a satellite receiver or other equipment using D-sub and other non-standard jacks.

Converting to category cabling one device at a time will set you up for AoIP and for IP audio routed consoles, which will give you features not available on your older analog consoles, like source selection, bus-minus, and audio processing on every fader.  You might be surprised at how much console you can get for the money. For example, an 8-channel AoIP console like the Audioarts DMX can be had for under $8,000, which is fairly competitive with analog consoles these days. 

Video Spotlight: New Wheat for 2021

Jay Tyler and Jeff Keith discuss what’s new in audio processing for FM as well as streaming during a recent Pro Audio Radio Tech Summit. 

The Wheatstone online store is now open! You can purchase demo units, spare cards, subassemblies, modules and other discontinued or out-of-production components for Wheatstone, Audioarts, PR&E and VoxPro products online, or call Wheatstone customer support at 252-638-7000 or contact the Wheatstone technical support team online as usual. 

The store is another convenience at wheatstone.com, where you can access product manuals, white papers and tutorials as well as technical and discussion forums such as its AoIP Scripters Forum

Compare All of Wheatstone's Remote Solutions

REMIXWe've got remote solutions for virtually every networkable console we've built in the last 20 years or so. For basic volume, on/off, bus assign, logic, it's as easy as running an app either locally with a good VPN, or back at the studio, using a remote-access app such as Teambuilder to run.

Check out the chart below, and/or click here to learn more on our Remote Solutions web page.

Remote Solutions Video Demonstrations

Jay Tyler recently completed a series of videos demonstrating the various solutions Wheatstone offers for remote broadcasting.

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Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions

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Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? This collection of articles, white papers, and brand new material can help you get the most out of your venture. Best of all, it's FREE to download!

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MANAGING MORE CHANNELS, MORE MIXES, AND MORE REMOTE VENUES

For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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