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CallMe Supports Shift From Dedicated Hardware

Vortex Communications offers both cloud and hardware/server solutions

In Radio World’s Aug. 3 issue, the Buyer’s Guide section focuses on audio transport, including codecs and STLs.

Vortex Communications Ltd. makes and supplies audio and video equipment to broadcasters and system builders worldwide from its base in Ealing, London in the United Kingdom. Ian Prowse is director.

Radio World: What’s the most important trend in the design or use of audio codecs?

Ian Prowse: Over the last year, we have seen broadcasters moving away from dedicated hardware codecs towards server-based solutions running as Windows services.

Ian Prowse

CallMe-TX uses our CallMe codec engine to provide the equivalent of multiple CallMe IP audio codecs on a single MS Windows platform. Each channel has 20 kHz broadcast-quality Opus plus G.722 and G.711 audio coding algorithms, along with SIP connectivity and ASIO/MME support for hardware and virtual soundcards allowing integration with AES67, Dante and analog systems. 

CallMe-TX provides a single back-end solution for program and VoIP/PSTN sources, with user-configurable numbers of channels for different applications, just like having a bank of hardware codecs that can be linked or split as needed. 

By replacing individual dedicated hardware, CallMe-TX enhances broadcasters’ green credentials by reducing their carbon footprint in both initial purchase and end-of-life recycling, whilst consuming less energy than individual units, requiring less cooling and rack space.

RW: The line includes several iterations of codecs. 

Prowse: We have both cloud and hardware/server solutions. 

CallMe Click-&-Connect is our browser-to-hardware solution that lets broadcasters put guest contributors, and indeed reporters, live on-air with 20 kHz audio by connecting them to existing studio hardware codecs without them needing to have their own device or download codec software. 

Using Click-&-Connect, journalists can report live and play out pre-recorded files, removing the need for them to be uploaded to the studio to manage for the segment, handing over live and back again.

CallMe-diRECt is our browser-to-browser add-on that additionally provides lossless recording of both sides of the interview in case of connection issues during live streaming.

Our hardware codec CallMe-T (as in ET Phone Home) was originally developed as a low-cost back end for Click-&-Connect for those who could not afford even the lowest-cost full-blown codec. It has since found its place not only with smaller stations on a budget but with larger broadcast groups such as the BBC, Global Radio and IMG, where it has proved itself as a robust simple-to-operate hardware solution for program and comms. 

CallMe Click & Connect is used by the BBC under an enterprise license. Here, journalist Stuart Clarkson was being interviewed by BBC Radio Solent.

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RW: You announced a partnership with Mike Dosch and Angry Audio in 2020 with the idea of expanding your presence in North America. Can you update on that?

Prowse: The partnership is one of those serendipitous happenings that rarely comes along. We were put in touch by a mutual customer. Catfish’s knowledge, experience and vision complements our commitment to the North American market, and his input prompting fairly small changes to suit market requirements has led to solid increases in sales, where we fit into a number of niches including cost-effective codec solutions. 

It was his contact that led to the relationship with SoundStack / EmpireStreaming, who provide enterprise digital audio solutions and were one of the first audio CDNs to virtualize studios to radio stations around the world. 

To incorporate remote broadcasts and real-time news updates into the virtualized radio studio, SoundStack has been using the CallMe-TX software codec with much success as an integrated live contribution system with low latency and high-fidelity sound, with CallMe Click-&-Connect with its file replay capability, acting as the reporter client. 

RW: What else should we know?

Prowse: We have another unexpected success, again driven by the desire of broadcasters not to replace but to upgrade. Another British company, Glensound, has sold more than 10,000 GSGC5 Commentator-Operated ISDN Outside Broadcast mixers, known as a COOBE, and we had requests from Sky, the BBC and others to fit our CallMe-T inside the mixer. So we developed CallMe-G, a fully integrated IP upgrade that has given a new lease of life to the huge installed base of equipment that was fast becoming obsolete as ISDN goes away.