IP Link 200 at work at Crawford Broadcasting in Denver.
Harris Broadcast Intraplex IP Link 200 is, as its name implies, an
IP-based audio transport designed to provide broadcast-quality audio
delivery over a LAN, WAN or the Internet. I found it to be a
feature-packed unit, versatile for many applications including
studio-to-transmitter link, remote broadcast and even program
look of the unit is rather simple, featuring front-panel push buttons
to navigate the menu and select various elements; “enter” and
“cancel” buttons; and bar graph meters that indicate audio
levels. There are four meters total, showing ins and outs for
Channels 1 and 2. One annoying characteristic is that these meters
are extremely bright when lit and tend to bleed into the other
meters, making it somewhat difficult to tell what is actually
front also features an Ethernet port and an audio port to plug in a
set of headphones to monitor what the unit is doing.
back of the unit is busy, with AES in and out, analog left and right
in and out, a management port, two WAN ports, external I/O, a serial
port and the typical power connection.
initial set-up of the unit was easy. I plugged my laptop into the
management port and went to the default IP address, provided in the
documentation that came with the unit. I was able to change the IP
address quickly to one of my choosing, as well as create a user name
order to do anything else on the unit such as set up a stream or
change network settings, you cannot be logged in as the admin. I
created a different user name and logged in, and was given more menus
with which to do my work.
This unit has many
uses. The IP Link 200 allows for two bidirectional stereo audio
channels and has two WAN interfaces, automatic backup and
multicoding. The unit allows for encoding of both input channels with
different algorithms. This could be RTP (Real-time Transfer
Protocol), meaning live programming, or HTTP streams.
two WANs means if one fails, you still have a secondary. Or, if you
are set up for it, you can have the second WAN working
with a different network such as another IP service provider or a
microwave path. A second WAN could also provide service for a
separate station or corporate network that needs access to the
STL setup at Crawford Broadcasting in Denver is fairly simple. We
have an IP codec at the studio and one at the transmitter site, which
is connected to the studio via an 11 GHz microwave link providing 44
Mbps of bandwidth. We don’t do any HTTP streams, so all that was
needed to test the IP Link 200 in our facility was the RTP stream.
Our audio chain is all-digital (AES), so that made the initial hookup
simple: one AES cable per unit plus Ethernet and power.
hooking it up and leaving it running for several weeks, I found I had
no errors. Normally we’d get some sort of interruption during
storms, and through some pretty serious storms at the end of that
time period, everything was still running okay. This was rather
impressive to me. Stations need a good link, a link that is reliable
with great quality. In the several weeks the IP Link 200 was running,
not having any type of error was just plain surprising.
backup is a useful tool. A backup audio file can be selected and if
the primary (analog or AES) and secondary (analog or AES) audio
streams go down, that backup file will kick in. These features can be
set up with a few clicks using the Web interface.
is one of the system’s more appealing features. What happens when a
station goes silent? That is, besides losing money. How about losing
listeners? How often do listeners change a station when things get
quiet? I know I do it often. And how often do we change the station
back? Probably not as often as one would think. Most people change
the station and find something else to listen to; they might not tune
back for a while.
backup audio might not consist of the normally scheduled content; but
it is audio nonetheless, increasing your chances of keeping a
listener tuned in.
backup MP3 is just one file that is fairly small, 6 MB. Typically it
would be a loop saying something like “stay tuned for the next
program,” with some sort of station ID. If you want to play back
something bigger, such as a show that airs frequently on the station,
you could hook something like a CD player up to the unit at the
transmitter site to have it default over and playback.
those who have two or more transmitter sites for one station or a
second station (or more) airing a simulcast, the IP Link 200 will
allow you to connect one unit at the studio end to send to two or
more units via the Internet or a microwave link.
useful bonus is a built-in silence sensor, which is adjustable. This
alleviates having to maintain a separate unit. When the IP Link’s
sensor detects silence for a set amount of time, it will switch to
either a secondary audio source or backup audio source. Then, if the
unit is wired in to a remote control unit or something similar, an
alarm can be generated for an engineer or someone at the studio to
see to know something is wrong.
this, there is never a question about how soon someone will notice an
alarm light on the unit. Notifications happen sooner, therefore
getting the primary or secondary feeds back up sooner.
thing missing is some sort of simple, onboard email notification
system. In today’s economy, many stations do not have a full-time
engineer. Instead, some rely on contract engineers who come when
needed. With the option of backup audio sources when the primary
fails, how is one to know to check the unit for a failover if it
can’t send a notification out? A simple system that would send an
email or text to a specified address in the event of an alarm would
alert engineers to start digging into the issue to restore the
primary audio as soon as the switch has been detected or silence
Harris Broadcast Intraplex IP Link 200
Reliable uptime in our test, with no dropouts of any kind
Automatic backup audio in case of failure
Adjustable silence sense
Plenty of audio inputs and outputs
No internal email for sending notifications
Admin account cannot change certain things
Overly bright LEDs on front panel
For information, contact Brian Clifford at Harris Broadcast in Ohio at (513) 459-3714 or visit www.harrisbroadcast.com.
Unless a station
happens to have two completely different networks coming into its
building — be it via two Internet services providers or, say, a
dedicated microwave link and a secondary of a DSL — I do not see a
need for having two WANs (at least not for us in Denver). However, in
other markets, we could use the IP Link.
complaint I have is with the admin account. I like dealing
with a single account on a piece of equipment so it’s only
necessary to keep track of one user name/password set. However, the
IP Link’s admin account only creates user accounts. The user
account(s) then need to be accessed to make setting changes.
sum: With a retail price of $1,995 for the IP Link 100 and $3,495 for
the IP Link 200, this unit would be a great buy for any station that
needs IP connectivity for audio transport.
would recommend the IP Link 100 if the station’s operation isn’t
too big. The IP Link 100 offers one bidirectional stereo audio
channel. The front of the unit lacks the metering and use of the
little front-panel screen. And the back of the unit offers your audio
input and output without the use of an RJ-45 connector. It is a
much-slimmed-down version of the IP Link 200, but I have no doubt
would work just as well. The price is right for a smaller market with
a station that may not have multiple feeds.
the station is larger and has more paid programming, the IP Link 200
would be the one to get. When off-air time means money lost for a
station, this is the way to go.
Hopp, CBRE, is chief engineer for Crawford Broadcasting, Denver.