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Were you born in a barn? Actually, yes.

Were you born in a barn? Actually, yes.

May 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Jeff Smith, CEA CBNT

When most people think of a radio station in suburban Frederick, MD, the last thing they think of is a barn. But a barn is exactly what Nassau Broadcasting Partners inherited when it purchased Key 103.1 WAFY in April 2005. This facility had been a working farm until it was converted into an industrial area in the mid-1980s, and the barn became a radio facility in 1995. When Nassau first acquired Key, the barn was a basic stand-alone FM facility. There was a control room, a production room and a small news booth; in addition there was a sales area, conference room and several offices. It wasn’t too long after the purchase of this facility that the engineering department was asked to develop a plan to modernize the facility and to make it the IT hub for Nassau’s Maryland and Reading, PA, properties.

One of the first things to do was find a place to create a rack room in the barn. We opted to convert the existing conference room into the rack room for several reasons. The first was its size; it was large enough to accommodate the several racks necessary for this project. Second, the room was located next to the original silo that was being used for the WAFY’s STL antennas.

The conference room was gutted and two Panasonic Ductless Mini Split ac units were added to the room to provide the cooling needed for the soon-to-be-installed servers and broadcast gear. We installed five Middle Atlantic 40RU 32″ deep racks. Three of these were dedicated to server equipment and the other two to broadcast equipment, and each rack had an APC 2200 rackmount UPS installed for power protection and backup.

The next hurdle to overcome was how to run cable to this room. It was difficult due to the timber-frame construction of the building; some beams were as much as 10″ thick. We opted to use Radio Systems Studio Hub equipment to interconnect the studios to the rack room. This allowed us to use far less cable to each room and still have plenty of connectivity. We have used Studio Hub in the past with great success and it again worked perfectly for us here. We ran three runs of 50-pair CAT-5e cable to each room, which in turn gave us the ability to connect a Studio Hub 16-channel hub in each room.

With the rack room progressing nicely, it allowed the staff to turn some attention to the studios. The facility had been built around an older DOS-based Scott Studios system and the production rooms still were using some circa 1974 Gates consoles. This would no longer meet the needs of the programming department so we began by installing a new Scott Studios SS32 system. This is the standard automation system for Nassau and has always provided us with great reliability and flexibility. The Scott Studios install was a breeze using the Studio Hub version of the audio card break-out box. This allowed us to quickly and easily interconnect audio from the rack room, where the Scott computers were located. We were able to run all the Scott audio channels as well as the Avocent KVM extender cable over the Studio Hub. In addition to the new automation, we also installed new Radio Systems Millenium consoles in the production rooms. The consoles that we chose to use were the R-6 and R-12 with some options and upgrades. We took advantage of the Line Selector module to allow for an eight-channel remote line selector on each console. We have also developed, with significant help from Radio Systems, a new type of phone mix-minus on the Millenium consoles. This option allows an operator to use an offline mix to feed the phone hybrid, which in our case is the Comrex Stac system. The user can simply put the phone channel in cue and send any channel pre-fader to the hybrid by simply pressing the �TEL� bus button on the channel. Once again, we made short work of the studio equipment wiring thanks to the Studio Hub connectors, pre-wire kits and interconnect hubs.

In addition to upgrading the studios, the STL system was also upgraded. With all the digital and IP-enabled devices used at transmitter sites today, Nassau opted to use a Moseley 9003Q four-channel STL with the Moseley Lanlink 900 option. The Lanlink allows for bidirectional IP connectivity over a standard one-way STL link. It allowed us to use IP-enabled equipment from Bird and Burk at the transmitter site without the expense and headaches of trying to get DSL or a cable modem on top of a mountain.

With the studios and STL taking shape, Nassau’s IT team began to focus on the office network and company WAN to Frederick, MD. This facility was going to be an IT hub for Hagerstown, MD, and Reading so they began by ordering multiple T1s for the location. The T1 lines would be bonded together to allow for the bandwidth needed. This facility holds the Visual Traffic and Exchange servers for the entire Nassau Maryland/Pennsylvania region so another major concern was redundancy in connectivity and power. The IT engineers for Nassau use Dell and Cisco products and Frederick was no exception. Cisco 1760 modular router and Cisco 515UL PIX firewalls were used for the connectivity infrastructure. Dell servers and Dell Gigabit switches were used to provide the entire back office network. This setup allows Nassau maximum network security, as well as maximum flexibility within the ever-changing company.

In addition to all the studio and network construction, the building was also being repainted and recarpeted. If that was not enough, a new roof was attached, the entire sales area was gutted and new modular furniture was installed. Once the sales office was completed, all new Dell workstation computers were installed for each sales person. Each sales person also has access to Dell color and Dell black and white printers.

The entire project was completed over the course of about six months. In that time the entire facility needed to continue broadcasting so that the listeners and clients would have no idea of the chaos. The entire project was managed by Nassau Broadcasting’s Director of Engineering for Maryland Mick Rapeer, with the assistance of Senior VP of Engineering and Technology Tony Gervasi. Also involved with the project were myself, Director of Information Technology Jeff Horvath and Maryland Staff Engineer Bill McCarrey.

Since the completion of this facility the staff has truly come to enjoy it. The radio and IT infrastructures that were provided have helped everyone to better do their jobs and have helped WAFY become the number one station in the market in all of its key demographics.

The grain silo isn’t used to store grain anymore, but the natural height of the structure has another practical use for the station.

The interior space wasn’t remodeled, but much of the equipment was replaced when Nassau took over the station.

The air studio fits a great deal of functionality into a small space.

The Frederick facility also serves as the Nassau IT hub for this station and the Reading, PA, station.

The furniture was not part of the facility upgrade this time around. While it shows signs of use, it is still structurally sound.

Equipment list

APC 2200 rackmount UPS
Avocent KVM extender
Burk ARC-16
Comrex Stac
Middle Atlantic 40RU 32″ deep racks
Moseley 9003Q
Moseley Lanlink 900
Radio Systems Millenium consoles, R-6 and R-12
Radio Systems Studio Hub BOB
Radio Systems Studio Hub
Scott Studios SS32

Smith is director of broadcast systems, Nassau Broadcasting, Princeton, NJ.