Category: Technical

Review: The Incredibly Good (and Affordable) Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic Mic

| January 7, 2014

By Michael W. Dean
The Freedom Feens
Genesis Communications Network
Co-Host

deanmichael2CASPER, WY — Remember that toy advertised on TV in the 1970s called “Mr. Microphone?”  It was a cheap plastic mic with a built-in low-power FM transmitter.  You could project a tinny rendition of your voice over any portable radio within oh…about 30 feet.

The Audio-Technica AT2005USB mic kind of reminds me of the Mr. Microphone except that the AT2005USB sounds incredibly good.  And instead of reaching every radio within 30 feet, it reaches every radio in America, or at least every radio in America that’s in a city where your show has an affiliate.

This would be a great mic for hosts who travel a lot, and don’t want to bring a mixer and a whole bag of gear or an engineer.  It’s a regular-sized dynamic mic that sounds fairly amazing.  It has a built-in USB interface, and comes with a nifty collapsible tripod table stand and a USB cable.  You could fit that all in a netbook case with a small laptop. Add a set of earphones or even ear buds and you could do your show from anywhere.  You could fit all that in a briefcase or purse.

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The Sad State of Broadcast Engineering – Part 2

| December 4, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

raytomNEW YORK — Around Labor Day, I wrote an article that asked, “Where have all the broadcast engineers gone?”  I was inundated with responses, which is why it has taken me so long to write a follow up article.  Obviously, I hit a nerve with everyone.  I have heard from Australia, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Ireland.  Obviously, this is a universal topic and I have been overwhelmed.  That, and I’ve been working on a large project with not much time to put electrons to the screen.

Additionally, I was both surprised and not surprised at the bitterness in many of the responses.  Broadcast engineers are a unique group.  It’s difficult, though not impossible, to find a more dedicated group of people in any business.  We take it personally.  The station becomes part of us and is what we do.  And once that is disrupted, even if the person is in a much better place, it is taken personally.  I can relate.

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Vintage Telefunken 12AX7 Tube Review

| November 19, 2013

Tubes? What Century Do You Think This Is?

By Michael W. Dean
The Freedom Feens
Genesis Communications Network
Co-Host

 

Figure 1 - TubesLeft: Tung-Sol 12AX7 tube.      Right: Telefunken 12AX7 tube

deanmichael2CASPER, WY — The transition in audio production from analog to digital over the past couple decades has been a boon for radio. No more splicing tape, and no more finding the right tape or piece of tape. And don’t get me started on those dreaded carts. I’m thankful they’ve been replaced by a click on the screen. Tape hiss is something I don’t miss either.

However, in some ways, digital audio production is too clean. So after ditching tubes and tapes for transistors, integrated circuits and hard drives, some people have gone back to analog for one phase of the audio chain: the pre-amp.

Tube pre-amps and compressors have sonic attributes that cannot yet be replicated with digital modeling. Tubes provide a warmth that comes from semi-random, subtle distortion on certain harmonics. That sounds like it would be a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing.

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Electro-Voice Mics Rock Talk Radio

| October 22, 2013

By Michael W. Dean
The Freedom Feens
Genesis Communications Network
Co-Host

1 - Peanut in repose with Electro-Voice RE-20 microphone

Peanut in repose with Electro-Voice RE-20 microphone

A Mic for the Ages

The venerated Electro-Voice RE-20 microphone is the premiere workhorse of the last four decades of broadcast radio. It’s the mic most frequently found in live radio studios for talk show hosts, and DJs on rock radio, going back to the late 1960s.

The RE-20 is such a staple of radio that, even though other mics are sometimes used in radio studios, the RE-20 is almost always used in Hollywood to indicate “radio.” Showing it on screen is automatic shorthand for “we’re in a radio station now.” Any time you see a scene in a movie or on TV where someone is talking on the radio, the prop mics are overwhelmingly going to be RE-20s. Showing an RE-20 on screen visually implies “this person is a pro, listen to them,” even to people who don’t know anything about radio or microphones.

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Just What the Heck Is a Codec?

| September 11, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Got a call recently from someone inquiring about IP codecs and looking for an explanation as to exactly what they are.  I was puzzled at first because to me, it’s an easy-to-understand topic.  But not everyone is as tech savvy as I am.

So first, let’s look at our old friend ISDN – you know, the thing that’s eventually going away (in New York at present, you cannot order an ISDN line from Verizon – they are no longer installing them).

We use the term ISDN to describe…an ISDN codec.  These are devices that have two main parts – the audio coding section and the transport section.

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DISTURBING TREND: Where are all the radio engineers?

| September 5, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Being that Labor Day has just passed, I was thinking about a disturbing conversation I had with a colleague last week.  He is an Engineer and had been looking for an assistant.  I noted recently that he was no longer running his ad and assumed he filled the position.

He and I had occasion to chat the other evening.  I asked how his new assistant was working out – and who he found.  His response?  “I pulled the ad because I could not find anyone!  There is no one out there!!”  He ended up hiring someone with IT skills who had an electronics background and is training him.

This tends to be a trend in the industry – a disturbing one.  If there are no engineers, who will be taking care of our broadcast facilities?

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Quick-and-Dirty Three-Minute
Sound Conditioning

| August 1, 2013

By Michael W. Dean
The Freedom Feens/Genesis Communications Network
Co-Host

CASPER — Large corporations and government bureaucrats will often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on soundproofing and sound conditioning for an audio studio. They’ll even spend tens of thousands of dollars simply on the consultants to tell them how to soundproof and sound condition a studio. That may make sense to you if you’ve got venture capital money to burn and don’t mind being out of business in a few years. It may also make sense if you’re working for the government because the money is someone else’s and you think you’ll never go out of business.

But the rest of us have to make do with what we have.

The advent of i.p. hardware codecs has allowed talk radio hosts to produce nationally syndicated shows from our homes. And people working for corporate radio are often called to do remotes in a variety of environments. You can buy portable devices that acoustically isolate a microphone, but using one is basically like sticking your head in a small box. That is not conducive to doing a good show, especially if you’re doing on-the-spot interviews with a variety of guests.

Today I’ll show you how to temporarily sound condition a room in three minutes at no cost. This will vastly improve the audio reaching your microphone, and thus, your audience.

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CASE STUDY: How to Launch an Independently Syndicated Talk Show

| July 24, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — I’ve been promising for a while the story of “The Little Engine That Could.”  As many know, I work with an independently syndicated radio program, Ron Ananian: The Car Doctor.  This is the story of how and why we took it into independent syndication.  You could do this, too.

Car Doctor logoThe Car Doctor was a program offered on the WOR Radio Network.  With the acquisition of WOR by Clear Channel on December 20, 2012, The Car Doctor program was bounced from the schedule and was immediately taken into 30 day reruns to fulfill contract obligations.

Ron Ananian, program host, called me on Christmas Eve.  Obviously, he was upset – as was I.  Ron runs R/A Automotive in Waldwick, New Jersey.  He has been on the air for over 20 years as The Car Doctor.  He wanted the program to continue, and asked how we would go about doing that – if I wanted to get involved.  Yeah, I did.

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Listen to Your Syndicated Show on an Affiliate and You’ll Learn Something

| June 21, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — As I have mentioned in this column previously, I am involved with an independently syndicated program, Ron Ananian: The Car Doctor.  The program airs live on an independent network on Saturdays from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, with some affiliates delaying the show until Sunday to broadcast.  The story of putting this together and making it work when The Car Doctor show was bounced from the WOR Radio Network lineup when Clear Channel purchased WOR is an article in itself.  And yes, that will be another article, because it is entirely possible to take a program into independent syndication and make it work.

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More on Alerts: Useful Weather Warning App

| June 20, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — You may remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about a set of PSAs released by FEMA that used the Emergency Alert System two tone attention signal.  I also stated that warnings on your cell phone were something I didn’t ask for and there is no way to get rid of this app.

Well, I just found an app that is a helluva lot more useful than what FEMA has mandated on your cell phone in regards to weather warnings.  And, it has great potential to be a tool for your broadcast operation, whether you’re on the street reporters, newsroom, or just the announcers and jocks are equipped with it.

The app is available for iPhones and Android devices, and is called Alert FM.

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My Professional Opinion: Do NOT Run the FEMA/Ad Council PSA!

| June 3, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

Ad CouncilFEMANEW YORK — You may have seen my warning in Friday’s edition regarding a PSA that was released by the Ad Council, under the auspices of FEMA, extolling the virtues of the emergency alerts the public can now receive on their cell phones.  A great idea.  Worthy of getting the word out.  Even if the PSA promotes a service available on cell phones.

Only one problem.  The PSAs (there are several, and they are also available for television) use the EAS two-tone alert tone as part of the message.

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WTOP Hacking – Why You Should Worry

| May 28, 2013

By Steven J.J. Weisman
TALKERS
Legal Editor

weismanBOSTON — As reported in Talkers earlier in May, Washington D.C. radio stations WTOP and Federal News Radio had their websites hacked resulting in the possible infection of anyone who accessed the two websites using the popular Internet Explorer web browser prior to the discovery and correction of the problem.

The hacking of these two websites is particularly insidious because unlike infections that occur when a computer user is lured to a phony infected website set up for the specific purpose of infecting unwary computer users — a technique called “phishing” — in this case, the computer users were infected when they went to legitimate websites that they believed were trustworthy.

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Crud and Other Stuff

| May 24, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

First the Crud

NEW YORK — So I was working on this transmitter today.  Seriously – I know this starts off like a joke.  Problem was actually a bad air switch.  All transmitters have a way to sense air flow.  If there is no air flow in the transmitter, if, for example, the blower motor quits, it will shut down.  In the case of a tube transmitter, this is to prevent the final amplifier deck from melting down and starting a fire.  In a solid state transmitter (which also uses temperature sensing in the final amplifier), it prevents the transistors from self destructing causing a fire and/or other severe damage to the amplifier.

Anyway, this isn’t related to the air switch, but it could be (the air switch in this case was 33 years old – it simply had enough).  The air filters on the transmitter were caked with crud.

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Lighting Up the Stick (and Painting it Too)

| May 10, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — This week, I was going to write about a computer program that stations could use to experiment with IP codec transmission.  And possibly actually use it on the air.  Problem is, I ran into a snag with it and haven’t been able to get it to work correctly.  Perhaps next week.

So I’ve decided, since it’s spring, to talk about tower painting and lighting.  The FCC has several “hot ticket” items they can get you on if your station is inspected.  Tower painting is one of them.  So is lighting.  As an ABIP inspector, I have a particular interest in these topics.

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Transmitter Site Maintenance: Time for Spring Cleaning

| May 2, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President   
TALKERS
Technical Editor 
NEW YORK — For most of us, spring has finally sprung, which is good news for that pesky groundhog.  I just came across an interesting recipe for groundhog stew.  Maybe next year.

But spring generally means spring cleaning.  I don’t know about where you are, but here in the northeast, the winter was a bear.  Snow, ice and wind can cause issues for your transmission facilities.  So it’s time to do a thorough inspection of your transmitter sites – both the main transmitter sites and anywhere you may have an STL transmitter or receiver.

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IP in Our Broadcast World:
Don’t Fear the Internet

| April 19, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — We have been discussing, on and off over the past couple of weeks, IP and IP codecs in our “broadcast” environments. This was a discussion that quickly escalated when Verizon quietly started telling customers in the northeast that ISDN was soon to be history.

At the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas, nearly everything I saw was IP based in some form or another. So the truth of the matter is, IP is here to stay and it’s up to us to make it work.

First and foremost, there was a comment by someone who stated, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Would you trust your high dollar sports remote to an IP connection over the public internet?” Apparently, CBS television has answered that question.

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2013 NAB: IP Codecs, Transmitters,
the Future of AM and other Cool Stuff

| April 11, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Greetings from 29,000 feet over Colorado.  I’m returning from the NAB Show in Vegas and there were some very interesting items to see this year.  I am going to wait until next week so I can put together a good article regarding IP codecs, so please stay tuned for that.  I moderated a session in the Broadcast Engineering Conference on Sunday, April 7, called “IP for Radio”.  A lot of good information came out of that session – I need to go back and review my notes.

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Comrex Access: Why Every Show
Needs One

| April 10, 2013

By Charles Karel Bouley
Host
The Karel Show

karelSAN FRANCISCO — Technology has changed every part of our lives and that is especially true for those in the arts, particularly broadcasting.  What it used to take a truck to do, now takes less than a briefcase and cost 1/100th the original price.

Radio today is changing; no longer is it just terrestrial.  It’s the stream, it’s the podcast, the Twitter, the YouTube — it’s moving at the speed of sound.  But many hosts are not.  They are stuck in their studios doing the same type of radio that worked 20 or more years ago.

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Stranger than Fiction!

| April 3, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — March was a bizarre month.  I don’t know if it was the full moon last week, the expectation of a spring that wasn’t quite here yet or what.  Here are two examples:

I would have asked that this be published on April 1, but too many people would think this was an April Fools gag.  I swear, I couldn’t make this one up!

Where’s the Proof?

I have a client station that I’m working for on a submission to the FCC.  It involves a directional AM antenna, and we need to submit the results of a Partial Proof of Performance on the antenna system – one done before a modification, one done after.  Only problem is, the station cannot locate the full Proof of Performance of record on the antenna system.

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Verizon: No Longer Taking Orders for ISDN Service in Northeast Starting May 18

| March 28, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — You may have noticed that my column is late this week.  I normally write it over the weekend.  Something told me to hold off.  And today there is something to talk about.

verizon logo 100It came out today that Verizon, at least in the Northeast, has been telling people that they will no longer be taking orders for ISDN service starting May 18.  That’s right.  ISDN is on the way out.

And I said this at least 5 years ago.

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ABIP: Being prepared for an FCC Inspection

| March 19, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — One of the things I am doing these days is administering the Alternative Broadcast Inspection Program for the New York State Broadcaster’s Association.  Huh?  You don’t know what ABIP is?  Allow me to explain.

Just about every State Broadcaster’s Association runs an ABIP program.  For a nominal fee, the Association will send an inspector in to run your station through an FCC type inspection.   The good news is, we’re not the FCC.  If we find something amiss, you have the opportunity to fix it.  If you can fix it while we’re there, great.  If not, you will normally have to pay a re-inspection charge so that the inspector can sign off on the fix.

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A Not So High-Tech Solution to a
High-Tech Headache

| March 11, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Some people tend to think I’m crazy – just ask my wife.  But there are times when you simply need a good old common every day item to get the job done.

I visited a transmitter facility recently to find the Engineer looking somewhat perplexed.  And the building smelling like a truck stop.  Visiting the generator room showed a puddle of diesel fuel on the floor.  Oops.

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More About IP Codecs

| March 4, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — Last week’s article on IP codecs generated numerous emails.  (In case you missed it, read that piece here.) The general gist of the emails is that these devices are not understood very well.  Granted, they are still a fairly new technology, but they are a mystery.  So, I’ll touch on several of the emails I received in hopes of clearing up some of the mystery.

The first note was from a station that is presently using an IP codec as an STL (Studio to Transmitter Link).   When they moved their facility several years ago, they found they would not be able to make a microwave shot to the transmitter site, and the local phone company fouled up the program line installation they requested (big surprise).  The station opted for the IP Codec route.

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Beyond ISDN: Welcome to the Age
of the IP Codec

| February 25, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — I made a Facebook posting last week regarding a radio program I am involved with – Ron Ananian, The Car Doctor.  A friend who has a voice over business posted that he’s heard the show through one of his clients and thought it was a good show and sounded really good.  I posted back that I bet he never would have guessed we deliver the audio to the satellite uplink via an IP codec.  Another voice over friend chimed in wanting to know what codec we were using.  My first friend then said, “what’s an IP codec?”  Uh, oh.

Back in the “good old days”, if you wanted to get audio from point A to point B you had basically two choices: a dedicated land line from good old Ma Bell (aka, the phone company) or you sent a tape.

Then, Ma Bell decided to get rid of dedicated equalized services – at least interstate.  These days, it’s very difficult if not impossible to get a dedicated broadcast service even in the same city.

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Winter Advice: Be Sure to Install Deicers
on your Antenna!

| February 18, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — I received a rather disturbing photo via text message from a friend of mine in a fairly small market.  Seems this station, as many small market stations do, had not had anyone do maintenance on their transmitter for quite some time.  My friend, an on air personality, not an engineer, was shown how to tune the transmitter.  And that’s fine.  But, there is more to tuning a transmitter than making sure the numbers fall where they should on the meters on the transmitter.

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EAS LESSON: Protect Your Station
from Hackers

| February 14, 2013

By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
President
TALKERS
Technical Editor

NEW YORK — By now, you have heard that there was an EAS hack at a TV station the other day.  An alert went out about a zombie attack.  Now, before anyone goes off about EAS, it should be noted that the CAP feed was not affected.  This appears to be strictly a case of computer network security.

And before we go deeper, it should be stated that when something like this happens, it is only natural that it becomes a news story.  And news stories require actualities.  If something goes awry with EAS, please keep in mind that it is OK to play the actual audio message that went out – but it CANNOT contain the EAS data bursts or the two-tone alert signal.  It is illegal to transmit those outside of an actual EAS activation or test, per FCC regulation 47 CFR 11.45.

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