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The Pick Hits of NAB2004

The Pick Hits of NAB2004

Jun 1, 2004 12:00 PM, Reported by Kari Taylor, associate editor

This year’s Pick Hit Award winners have more to celebrate than ever before because 2004 marks the 20th year that the Pick Hit Awards have been presented. The Pick Hits are the original technology award from the convention and still the most respected.

The award winners’ products, the rules, the judges’ comments and a list of the judges are provided on the following pages. The Pick Hits are the only awards that disclose our rules and our judges’ names. Note that there is one new addition to the Pick Hits Awards this year. The Pick Hits judges decided, during their selection meeting, that there were some emerging technologies that were implemented in various products that deserved recognition. While the Pick Hit Awards recognize specific product introductions, the panel also wanted to recognize three emerging technologies, which are called the Technology Honors, and recognize the achievements in applying new technology in a broad range of products.

So put on your party hat, eat two pieces of birthday cake and help these winners and Radio magazine celebrate the achievements of 2004.

IBOC monitor

HD Radio Monitor: This 2RU monitor is designed to decode and analyze AM and FM IBOC signals. The frequency-agile front end can accept signals off the air or through a high-level input for use at the transmitter site. The graphic display provides measured results of the signal and includes basic spectrum analysis. Level metering is displayed as horizontal bargraphs in percent with a user-selectable dBFS level used as the reference. Capability to display SIS data, quality of service information, MPS data and bit-error data are standard. An RS-232 serial and RJ-45 Ethernet connection are included. Belar plans to include firmware update capability.

What the judges had to say:
“A long-awaited device for HD Radio stations.”
“A must-have for any IBOC installation.”

fax 610-687-2686
[email protected]

15kHz POTS stereo codec
Tieline America

I-mix G3: With the I-mix G3, left and right audio channels can be phase locked over two telephone lines to deliver 15kHz stereo programming. Also available is the provision for dual 15kHz mono transmission from a single POTS codec enabling the use of one 15kHz mono channel for program audio and the other 15kHz channel for a range of communications including production/engineering talkback, telephone coupler for live on-air callers and simultaneous 9.6kb/s control data and 7kHz voice. This third-generation design incorporates an expansion slot allowing broadcasters to select from a range of new hardware modules to suit individual remote applications. The modules include GSM to landline wireless, stereo/mono ISDN, stereo or dual-mono POTS plus new IFB and telephone talkback caller facilities.

What the judges had to say:
“The stereo capability is impressive.”
“Its ability to communicate with other brands of POTS codecs adds to its versatility.”

fax 317-913-9615
[email protected]

Rotating rack system
Middle Atlantic Products

WR series: This series consists of a detachable rack frame that is housed in its own protective host enclosure. Installers can roll the rack out and rotate it 60 degrees for easy access to rear equipment connections. Off-site integration and testing of A/V equipment in the detachable rack frame reduces labor and simplifies the installation. The roll out, rotating design of the series saves a minimum of six square feet of space per bay. In addition, the rack system is gangable, allowing installers to maximize room space. Ample laser knockouts on the side of the rack allow ganging of multiple racks and cable pass-through between each. Slots in the upper rack frame accommodate Velcro ties and the rack frame features pre-punched rackrail brackets for built-in cable management.

What the judges had to say:
“A perfect idea for tight installations.”
“This could provide new-found rack space in an existing installation.”

fax 973-839-1976
[email protected]

Spectrum analyzer
Rohde and Schwarz

FSH3: This spectrum analyzer provides signal measurements from 100kHz to 3GHz. The available measurement functions are suited for mobile radio base stations, on-site fault location in RF cables, IBOC measurements or lab applications. It can operate for four hours on battery power, or can operate on an ac supply. As many as 100 traces and setups can be stored in the unit. The analyzer includes software to store, review and compare data.

What the judges had to say:
“A powerful instrument in a small size.”
“The portability and accessories make this stand out.”

fax 301-459-2810

Ultra-compact mixer
Henry Engineering

Studiodrive: This stereo audio mixer fits in the drive bay area of any PC. It features six inputs (one mic and five line), and has on-air and sound card outputs. Sources can be mixed for a live broadcast or recorded and edited on the PC. There is also a built-in telephone coupler, a mix-minus output and provision for remote mic control. The monitor system features automatic muting when the mic is on, plus control of on-air warning lights.

What the judges had to say:
“A good set of mixer functions in a tiny space.”
“The logic functions and phone coupler make it suitable for use even outside a PC case.”

fax 626-355-0077
[email protected]

Web-based remote control
Broadcast Tools

WRC-4: Providing remote control, this system offers a built-in Web server with non-volatile memory, 10/100baseT Ethernet port, four channels of 10-bit analog inputs with a large monitoring range, TTL-compatible digital inputs, SPST relays, open collector outputs, front-panel status indicators and a single front panel temperature sensor. The product is supplied with removable screw terminals for connections and loaded with a generic Web page that may be edited by the end user. The remote control works with dynamic or static IP addresses. Multiple units may be used with a user-provided Ethernet hub.

What the judges had to say:
“A new and convenient way to access a remote site.”
“Another clever solution to a common need.”

fax 360-854-9479
[email protected]

Automated profanity elimination
Enco Systems

Guardien: This automated profanity elimination and spoken word logging system for radio broadcasters is a two rack-unit device with stereo balanced analog and AES/EBU inputs and outputs. It features contact closures for control of external devices or alert mechanisms. The unit delays and monitors the air signal, looking for objectionable words, and when it finds them, mutes or bleeps them automatically. Then the Guardien logs the event, along with an audio clip, for future reference. The list of objectionable words can be edited and modified manually or through automatic means.

What the judges had to say:
“Its ability to update its own dictionary is amazing.”
“A highly practical application with the current attention to indecency.”

fax 248-827-4441
[email protected]

RF safety analyzer
Narda Safety Test Solutions

Selective Radiation Meter SRM-3000: A hand-held selective measuring device for safety analysis of RF and microwave electromagnetic fields, the unit measures the field exposure that is produced by individual services and assesses the results in accordance with the applicable standards. The SRM consists of a basic unit and a measurement probe, which evaluates the results on site. The basic unit contains a spectrum analyzer for the frequency range 100kHz to 3GHz. It can be operated using a triaxial probe from Narda or in combination with measurement antennas. The triaxial probe allows isotropic measurements in the range from 80MHz to 3GHz, covering FM radio up to the W-CDMA and UMTS services. The unit and probe are battery-operated and portable. The unit can also be used as a conventional RF spectrum analyzer for general field strength measurements.

What the judges had to say:
“An affordable way to verify signal levels.”
“The various functions enhance its usefulness.”

+49 7121-9732-25
fax +49 7121-9732-90
[email protected]

Digital broadcast monitor
Dovetail Sciences

DBM-300: All setup and local operation of this monitor is performed using the LCD display with an integrated touch screen. The unit is tuned to the desired center frequency and displays the spectrum at the selected frequency span. Audio demodulation of the center frequency is also provided. Spectrum capture of a single channel bandwidth or a wider frequency span to include adjacent signals. The detected audio can also be saved in digital format. Spectral and audio captures may be programmed at user-defined start, stop and interval times. Data is stored in a large internal memory, providing for long periods of unattended operation. The unit also features the ability to display captured data.

What the judges had to say:
“A digital replacement of the traditional analog meter and more.”
“The added capabilities greatly enhance its usefulness.”

fax 6102648901

Digital STL transmitter/receiver

460/467: A new addition to the STL product family, this unit offers six uncompressed program channels and a data channel to meet the requirements of consolidated operations. The digital STL consists of a transmitter and receiver pair that accommodates as many as three AES/EBU inputs or as many as six discrete audio channels. The transmitter provides a 2W output and delivers them uncompressed in a configurable digital method to the receiver. Sample rates of 32-, 44.1- and 48kHz are supported. The RF system is frequency agile and set by software in the transmitter and receiver. The transmitter and receiver can be remotely controlled over an Internet or LAN connection. The 460 transmitter features six channels uncompressed, analog I/Os and 3.125kHz step size. The receiver offers a threshold sensitivity of 84dBm for 256 QAM, analog output levels at -10 to +8dBm and analog audio outputs at 600ohms balanced.

What the judges had to say:
“This makes sense with shared studio and transmitter facilities.”
“Six uncompressed channels is a great way to go.”

fax 408-432-9219
[email protected]

On-air phone system

STAC6 and STAC12: These Studio Telephone Access Centers (STAC) for listener lines, talk shows and call-in segments incorporate two digital hybrids handling up to four callers. It is offered in six and 12 phone line versions with the ability to upgrade in the field. The control surface supports unique producer and screener configurations. IP-based call screening and control is embedded, enabling operation from virtually anywhere. It includes an auto-attendant with message, built-in call screener hosting and support of as many as four control surfaces.

What the judges had to say:
“The built-in screener ability makes this stand out.”
“Easy to learn to operate, with obvious attention to the end-user’s needs.”

fax 978-784-1717
[email protected]

Digital STL
Broadcast Electronics

Big Pipe: This scalable, bidirectional studio-to-transmitter link can transport up to 45Mb/s of data as analog and digital audio, HD Radio data, Ethernet, serial data and telephony. Data formats can be interchanged via a wireless or wireline path. Key product features include hot-pluggable modules for upgrades or repair; 45Mb/s bidirectional point-to-point radios for wireless applications and network access units available in DS3, OC-3C or OC-12C.

What the judges had to say:
“This is one heck of a piece of equipment.”
“It costs less than other systems for the same functions.”

fax 217-224-9607
[email protected]

FM broadcast analyzer
Microgen Systems

TS9000: This analyzer provides broadcast measurements through a USB interface that allows for on-site and mobile monitoring. The unit samples the multiplex signal at 240kHz at 12-bit precision, with all measurements and calculations performed by Windows software. Modulation power is calculated with 32-bit floating-point precision. It covers the FM band from 87.5MHz to 108MHz in 10kHz steps. The unit includes a baseband FFT spectrum analyzer covering 10Hz to 100kHz. With a dynamic range of 90dB and a resolution of 10Hz, the unit can analyze the multiplex signal or be used as a stand-alone audio analyzer using the external BNC input.

What the judges had to say:
“A ton of features and capabilities in a tiny package.”
“The versatile measurements really make this unique.”

+44 208 5409992
fax +44 208 5409994
[email protected]

IBOC signal generator
Broadcast Electronics

XPI 10: This HD Radio signal generator is installed at the studio, rather than the transmitter, to reduce STL bandwidth and repurpose more of the existing equipment when implementing HD Radio. Key product features include integrated Ethernet connectivity; an integrated GPS receiver; graphical touch-screen interface; interface connections for main program audio, secondary audio, program-associated data for main and secondary channels and advanced data application; and integrated audio synchronization and automated bypass functions.

What the judges had to say:
“Creating the IBOC signal at the studio simplifies the path to accommodate audio audio processing, PAD and other features.”
“This keeps the first step of the IBOC chain at the studio where it belongs.”

fax 217-224-9607
[email protected]

Digital audio splitter
Aphex Systems

148: The 1/2 rack unit can split eight channels (four pairs) of digital audio into 32 channels (16 pair) through the 15-pin D connectors. It can be mounted in a rack alone or in pairs with the Aphex 44-008SA rack kit. The splitter incorporates 20dB of saturated gain to better square the input signal and can be internally configured for 110o balanced or 75O unbalanced operation. Connections are made via DB15 connectors. It supports sample rates up to 192kHz and has an internal power supply.

What the judges had to say:
“Quality specs at an incredibly affordable price.”
“Utilitarian function in a compact size.”

fax 818-767-2641
[email protected]

Technology Honor

Multi-channel IBOC Audio

The continued search for the killer app of IBOC appears to be emerging. While there are audio improvements in the digital transmission over the analog system, it is still considered by many to be a replacement technology and not an enhancement. Multi-channel sound enhances the aural experience for the listener.

Three demonstrations of multi-channel audio for FM IBOC were displayed at the convention. Two were examples of 5.1 surround sound. Neural Audio and Harris showed one system in the Harris booth, while Omnia Audio provided demonstrations of a Fraunhofer encoder in a private suite. In addition, Harris demonstrated the Tomorrow Radio project, which was a partnered effort between Harris, NPR and Kenwood.

These technology applications show the potential flexibility that the IBOC data stream can provide and have been recognized for a Technology Honor from the Radio magazine Pick Hits judges.

Dual-feed IBOC Antennas

Long-term operating efficiency along with ideal compatibility performance is the reason the Pick Hits judges honored this new technology. Ideal compatibility within a receiver (digital signal back into a stations’ own analog signal) is achieved when both signals have identical radiation patterns from the transmitter site. Dual-feed FM antennas, like those from ERI, Dielectric and Shively, bring an opportunity for efficient digital operation while ensuring matched coverage between a stations’ existing analog and the digital addition. An additional, separate low-power digital feed excites the same or interwoven bays of a dual-feed antenna without the large power losses of high-level combining. While the cost of the new antenna may offset the initial capital savings for a much smaller digital transmitter, the cost of operation will be greatly reduced when compared to the high-level method. Dual-feed antennas have the disadvantage of additional wind load, so stations must apply the technology judiciously.

RBDS Applications

A class of products that serve a purpose almost forgotten in radio, the re-emergence of RDS/RBDS products has been gratifying to those in the industry who believed in its potential and toiled to make the technology viable since its U.S. introduction in 1994. Admittedly, satellite radio’s recent promotion of an artist and title display was an instigating force. There are new potential applications that are now driving the further deployment and development of this existing data broadcasting technology. One factor that has consistently hampered RBDS was the small number manufacturers of equipment and the dearth of experts who knew how to implement it. New companies, such as Broadcast Warehouse, are releasing RBDS products (the RDS2), and companies that never stopped producing RDS equipment have released new and exciting RBDS products: the Audemat/Aztec FMX480 and 410, the Inovonics Model 510 and 712 encoders for example. Dedicated leaders at companies like The New Radio Experience, Stratos Audio and others have been promoting the exciting and potentially revenue-generating uses and are offering expertise and guidance in the use of this data. It is through teaching the industry how to maximize this relatively slow data stream that the Pick Hits judges have awarded this Technology Honor to these efforts. The experiences gained here will help develop applications for the higher-speed data services available with IBOC.

NAB2004 Pick Hits Rules

  1. Products must be new and not shown at a previous NAB Spring Convention. In some cases, distinguishing a new product from a modified older one is difficult. For “Pick Hits” purposes, a new product is one with a new model number or designation.
  2. Products must have some positive effect on the intended user’s everyday work. Judges search for equipment intended for use on a regular basis. Products should provide new solutions to common problems.
  3. Products must offer substantial improvement over previous technology. Unique circuit architecture need not be included, but some new approach or application must be involved in the product’s design.
  4. The price of the product must be within reach of its intended users. The judges seek products appropriate to a wide range of facilities.
  5. The products must be available for purchase within the 2004 calendar year. Equipment must be on display on the show floor, currently (or imminently) in production, and some type of product literature must be available. Judges take the exhibitor’s word on availability dates. Products demonstrated in private showings do not qualify.
  6. The Pick Hits Judges operate independently from one another and remain anonymous to everyone including other judges until the selection meeting. This ensures that the products chosen are truly representative of the industry, that the judges were not persuaded in any way, and that the entire selection process is as fair as possible. The judge’s identities are published in the June 2004 issue.
  7. The editorial staff of Radio magazine serves only as a moderator during the final selection process and has no influence or decision in determining the winners.

NAB2004 Pick Hits Judges

Bud Aiello, CBNT
Director of Engineering Technology
Washington, DC

Mike Cooney, CBRE
Director of Engineering/IT
Entercom Kansas City
Kansas City

Bill Croghan, CPBE
Chief Engineer
Lotus Broadcasting Las Vegas
Las Vegas

Steve Fluker
Director of Engineering
Cox Orlando

Mark Humphrey, CPBE CBNT
Chief Engineer
Radio One Philadelphia

Gary Kline, CSRE CBNT
Corporate Director of Engineering
Cumulus Broadcasting
Lafayette, IN

Kent Kramer, CBRE
Director of Engineering
Sherman Oaks, CA

Andy Laird, CPBE
VP Radio Engineering
Journal Broadcast Group

Milford Smith
Vice President/Radio Engineering
Greater Media
East Brunswick, NJ

Barry Thomas, CPBE, CBNT
Vice President of Engineering
Westwood One Radio Networks
New York