User Report: Mix FM'S VS300 Still Going Strong
Africa — Mix
93.8 FM is a licensed community radio station broadcasting
from Midrand, South Africa, serving the
local area and northwestern parts of Johannesburg.
View of the master transmission
rack, which houses (from top) the Nautel VS300, Broadcast Solutions Electronics
250W FM backup transmitter, and ancillary equipment as used in the audio chain.
In an effort to minimize costs and keep things
simple, the station's transmitter is co-located at the studio premises.
Prior to upgrading to a Nautel VS300,
the station had been broadcasting using a traditional, analog transmitter but
had no RDS capability and lacked the capacity to fully monitor the transmitter
conveniently via a GUI.
Station management opted to install
the Orban Inside audio processing option when purchasing
the Nautel and since installation in late July 2011 the station has
been happily on air. (Needless to say, the old transmitter has been relegated
to the “backup” unit). The Orban Inside works for all audio input — analog, AES, USB and even Shoutcast
streaming audio — configurations.
While the infrastructure in 2011 was basic at
best, the transmitter has been running at high output power without hassles.
The exciter audio quality has been excellent and even though a diverse range of
music and talk (with varying source quality) gets aired, the chain has been
tweaked to try and be forgiving to the various musical genres and presenter
competencies. The GUI has been a great way to control the transmitter and the
logs and email alerts have been extremely useful, as well as being pretty cool
When the transmitter suffered with a minor LCD
problem (but remained on air), this was resolved promptly with assistance
from Nautel and the local distributor. Vaughan Taylor of
LS Telcom, based in South Africa, has always been on hand to support and
assist when necessary but even while operating under less than favorable
circumstances (including the occasional power outage due to a lack of stable
backup power), the transmitter has just kept going and going.
With a new studio having just been recently
built, the old infrastructure has gone through a serious upgrade. A new master
control/transmission room now houses the IT, audio and transmission
infrastructure, and a recently acquired AEQ Arena
digital console controls a BC2000 TDM audio router, which feeds the VS300 with
AES digital audio directly.
Taylor served to coordinate the
design of the AEQ digital audio router install, along with the rest of the feed
infrastructure. A mix of analog and digital inputs and outputs were configured
to allow for greater flexibility. Sources for the router include not only the
new studio's mics and playout systems but also an IP audio device for OBs,
satellite receiver feeds, and an FM receiver for confidence monitoring.
A momentous occasion for the station — presenters Olive (R) and Chelsea (L) with Steve
Milosevich (behind control desk) go on-air from the new studio. The Nautel
VS300 advanced user interface is seen on the studio monitor pictured left.
MULTIPLE AUDIO INPUTS
Mix FM has in fact decided to take good
advantage of the VS300's ability to accept and switch between multiple audio
input sources — using the GUI or an
assigned GPI — and, by simply having
the main and backup studios available on different presets, planned studio
maintenance or failure will be extremely easy to deal with — a basic redundancy was implemented by using the VS300 balanced
analog inputs for audio feed from the old studio. Having the capacity for
USB playout makes total audio loss a highly unlikely event.
A recent VS300 upgrade to version 4 software
was painless and has now unlocked even more features for the station to use.
The previously annoying clock drift seems to have been ironed out with the use
of NTP and the redesigned preset loading process is now a breeze.
All in all, the VS300 has proved to be a
compact, all-in-one solution which has fit the bill nicely and hasn't required
any serious head-scratching or overly technical
setup to get running smoothly.
Mix FM is proud to be flying
the Nautel flag high.
Hayden Koch is station engineer at Mix 93.8 FM in Midrand,