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CBS Radio Sacramento Shifts Away From Analog

CBS Radio owns and operates five stations in Sacramento, Calif.

The author is director of engineering for CBS Radio Sacramento.

KNCI control room signage fits the country music format.

CBS Radio owns and operates five stations in Sacramento, Calif.: KSFM(FM), KZZO(FM) and KYMX(FM) reside in one facility, while KHTK(AM) and KNCI(FM) are based in another facility roughly 10 miles away.

The KHTK(AM) and KNCI(FM) facility was built over 20 years ago and consisted of seven total studios, four for production, a talk studio and two on-air studios. 105.1 KNCI is a heritage country station that features live dayparts. Down the hall is Sports 1140 KHTK, a CBS Sports Radio affiliate that runs live programming during the morning, middays and afternoons. In addition, KHTK is the flagship station of the Sacramento Kings and home of the Oakland As, Oakland Raiders and San Jose Sharks.


After 20 years, the facility for these two stations needed updating. Considering where to take the KNCI and KHTK facility required a lot of planning. There was a complete shift from a facility with layers of undocumented analog wiring to a complete AES broadcast plant, from the microphones all the way through each air chain into the transmitters.

All audio inside the facility is now carried via 48 kHz sample rate, 24 bit-word length AES data streams with analog backups.

This rebuilding process was taken on over three separate phases: Phase one was expanding the TOC, installing the SAS 32KD Mainframe and rebuilding the KNCI control room. Phase two was renovating the KHTK talk studio and control room, as well as the Sports Update studio. Phase three was done to wrap up the remodel of the programming side of the building and to build out three identical production studios, which also serve as emergency studios for KSFM, KZZO and KYMX.

From left to right: SAS Vice President Al Salci, Director of Engineering Jason Ornellas, IT Director Mark McConnell and Chief Engineer Joe Foft.


The CBS Radio Sacramento team created the design of the renovation. We adapted aspects and concepts from previous facility designs and buildouts in the new layout. The goal of the renovation was to open up the studios and to be ready for HD video, while not losing the radio studio atmosphere.

CBS Radio Sacramento continued the tradition of standup furniture, and the design was carefully planned with respect to colors, aesthetics and ease of access around the room.

Local HVAC, electricians and flooring contractors played key roles in completing each phase efficiently.

The engineering team worked together to decommission and rebuilding each studio without interrupting the air signals. Every wire in each studio and in the TOC has a heat shrink label stating what it is and where it goes.

Polished black SAS iSL 20.3 console.

Inheriting a facility where documentation was next to nonexistent was a turning point in the remodel plans, while the need to update the infrastructure was a key point in the design.

The technical operations center got an overhaul, and we wanted to show off the air chains and the 32KD mainframe as a centerpiece in the programming hallway. The rest of the TOC was rewired and redesigned with new electrical infrastructure, cable trays and wire management. Each studio already had multiple conduit runs from the TOC, which were reused. As we replaced a majority of the analog wiring, we left analog trunk cabling for backup to and from the studios and TOC.

A Sierra Automated Systems 32KD mainframe is the backbone of the facility. SAS provides synchronous, linear, low-latency performance with the flexibility to adapt as the facility evolves. The 32KD mainframe has 21 slots for modules that carry out various functions, such as support for up to 512 inputs and outputs; audio switching, distribution, mixing, level control, silence detection, signal processing, intercom, IFB and mix-minus generation, all within a 6RU space. The 21 slots are truly universal, and any module type can plug into any slot. Each 32KD mainframe contains dual power supplies for redundancy.

Hallway racks provide a great means for the engineering department to show off just what they can do. Don�t limit quality to this spot though; build the whole place as if everyone will see it.Sunset over the Sacramento metro, as seen from the KNCI transmitter site.

CBS Radio Sacramento dedicated the first seven slots for KRL-16 cards, which are used to connect each studio�s RIOLink to the mainframe over a single Cat5e cable (or fiber). The RIOLink performs like an �extension cord� to the 32KD, linking 32 channels of audio in and out, 16 serial RS485 control ports, 16 GPI optos and 16 GPO solid-state relays within a two RU chassis. RIOLink�s audio inputs and outputs can be all digital, all analog, or half of each. The facility has multiple digital input and output modules (KDI-16 and KDO-16) and each module provides 16 AES/EDU digital inputs or output channels with DSP, and analog input and output modules (KAI-16 and KAO-16) which allow 32 input/output channels (16 stereo or 32 mono or any combination).

A DRC-16, a remote control module that provides extensive remote control capability throughout the system was also added and can be controlled from the TOC.

Lastly, an MCU-32e frame controller module, which is the primary control interface to the mainframe, generates main and standby clocks and stores all operating parameters and custom configurations of the network.


CBS Radio Sacramento created a first for SAS: a web GUI interface to use in addition to the XY Soft Panel and router control software called Moxy. Initially, Moxy was a simple project designed to provide a way to view and connect SAS sources and destinations together using an alphabetically-ordered list in the web browser.

However, it has grown into an obsession for IT Director Mark McConnell, who built and designed it, and is now a multi-purpose tool for our entire broadcast staff.

Moxy can now stream any source in the system to the browser in under 50 milliseconds, allowing the user to monitor loudness and phase; control all consoles; and create visual krone/punchdown maps.

It still allows users to connect sources to destinations together,� based upon a map of permissions that the engineering staff can manage for each individual user or group. Moxy has become the go-to platform for the engineering department for any router changes or cross point mapping.

Moxy has also now been offered to every CBS Radio market with an SAS System.


As mentioned earlier, each studio is equipped with a RIOLink and dual power supplies for redundancy. Both control rooms are running iSL 28.3 consoles; the Sports Update studio and three production rooms use iSL 20.3 consoles; and the talk studio has an eight-channel Rubi-T turret.

KHTK Talk studio with view into control room

CBS Radio Sacramento has serial number one of the iSL console and worked closely with SAS to build three custom, polished-black iSL consoles for the production studios. Guest turret panels and headphone amps are also supplied by SAS.

Each studio also features Telos phone hybrid gear (Hx6, Hx1, VSet6 headsets) and Wheatstone M1 and M4 microphone processors, which are on their own VLAN network for web GUI accessibility across networks; each studio runs on a separate VLAN switch for security and network flexibility.

R�de Broadcaster and Electro-Voice RE-27 microphones and Denon USB players/recorders are found in the studios, as well. Automation is handled by Audio Vault.

A renovation can affect the quality of your work, lower maintenance costs and may also boost team morale. It is exciting to walk into a facility knowing its dependability and quality are true to the standards of CBS Radio.

The Sacramento team has now shifted its focus to the KYMX, KSFM and KZZO facility.