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Spring Show Sets Tone for the Year

A few things that struck me during the NAB Show this year

Alex Roy, left, of Broadcast Software International demos the Simian iPhone remote for Jacques Jean Canot, a consultant with Audio Video Solutions.Photo by Kovacs/DawleyThoughts and impressions from the NAB Show, complementing our coverage in the current and coming issues of Radio World:

Will AM radio go all-digital anytime soon? That question seemed to take a big step forward, though it has always been part of the HD Radio model; Glynn Walden talked with me about this a decade or more ago. But his remarks at this convention about an analog sunset were notable because industry leadership is asking for big ideas right now. Dramatic change seems more plausible than in the past.

I think the all-digital option is worth at least serious debate — we need to ask ourselves where AM will be in 10 or even five years, and how to get there — but one leading director of engineering told me over breakfast that the costs of an all-digital transition make such a change highly unlikely. “That’s not what owners are focused on.”

Nevertheless, the mood for AM action of some kind was evident in the session room where Commissioner Ajit Pai led discussion (and cemented his standing as radio’s favorite commissioner since James Quello).

As usual the engineering team at the NAB put together an outstanding series of sessions. I wish more engineers could get to this show. I commend companies that support staff in attending. Unfortunately not all do (for a recent blog post about an extreme example, visit and type “kidding me” into the search field). …

I enjoy seeing good manufacturers do well; a vibrant equipment marketplace is important for all of us. Numerous examples jumped out on the exhibit floor.

Inovonics has been perky lately, introducing four new products including an Internet radio monitor. Nautel has given off a strong vibe for several years now and made news with a new TV line as well as a partnership with Omnia to create a digital composite interface from Omnia processors to Nautel transmitters.

RCS impressed me with its focus on mobile, putting more control of its music selection and automation products into hands of managers with smartphones. Omnirax has an intriguing new idea for maximizing office space with its eDesktop furniture series. Tieline keeps pushing the codec envelope.

Elenos is fired up about the improvements in its transmitter designs and had one of the more clever displays, playing on the name of its Icefet technology. Yellowtec keeps reimagining on-air lights. Sturdy and reliable Moseley keeps cranking out fine “station backbone” hardware. Audion Labs was in the spotlight again showing a beta of the next VoxPro in the Wheatstone booth.

Speaking of which, Wheatstone launched a big TV board but also impressed with a half dozen new radio products include a new L-8 console (“Mini Wheat”) and the niftiest talent turrets I’ve ever seen. …

I can’t help but wonder about the health of the antenna manufacturing marketplace, given that Dielectric Communications will shutter. That news emerged after the show, announced by its parent SPX Corp. Dielectric is by no means the only antenna game in town; but this seems a notable loss to the U.S. antenna building sector. I suppose this development could be read as a reflection of the shift in emphasis in our business from big established infrastructure to newer online, streaming and mobile offerings, but I want to hear what others have to say on that. We’ll have more on this story and its implications in RW. …

A positive energy was evident at Harris Broadcast, where I sensed general relief and excitement among the radio staff that the sale of the company from Harris Corp. is behind them and they can focus more on their actual business again.

I also am struck each year by the growth in product offerings that can help radio stations create good video. Companies like Rushworks, Orad, Comrex and NewTek are among those you should pay attention to if you are ramping up your video content online.

We’ll tell you about “Cool Stuff” winners in our next issue, and we will feature many more new products from Las Vegas in our special “Summer of Products” coverage over ensuing issues. …

We’ve reported on Frank Foti’s Excellence in Engineering Award, which he accepted from NAB on the show Wednesday. Out of the spotlight that evening, the Telos Alliance held a touching remembrance for the late Steve Church, giving employees and industry colleagues a chance to swap Steve stories. They recalled a man who was curious, passionate and driven. There were a few misty eyes but mostly it was laughs and warm appreciations — along with some killer Church impersonations (winner: Cornelius Gould). The party was well done. “Indeed.” …

A member of Radio World’s editorial circle received a notable honor in Las Vegas. The Association of Public Radio Engineers saluted Michael LeClair, chief engineer of WBUR(FM) in Boston and technical editor of Radio World Engineering Extra.

He received the APRE Engineering Achievement Award, given for “outstanding contributions” to the art and science of radio engineering that have made a significant impact on, or improvement in the state of the public radio industry.

I’ve had the fortune to work closely with Michael on numerous stories and projects. He’s a smart, open-minded, responsible engineer and leader — and a good friend to me and to Radio World.

Other contributors who have received recognition include Cris Alexander, a past recipient of the Broadcast Engineer of the Year Award from the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and John Bisset and Buc Fitch, who have each been saluted in the past as SBE Educator of the Year. Of course these honors are for work far beyond just their contributions in RW. I’m proud of them just the same.

Michael LeClair is among the presenters in our upcoming webinar “25 Things You Might Have Missed at NAB” on May 15; register for free at It’s one of the best things we do each year.

If you attended the show and saw a product, session or trend worth noting, write to me at [email protected].