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A New Home for KPCW(FM)

Utah Station Gets a New Facility That Is Spectacular in More Ways Than One

KPCW host Randy Barton, right, interviews a guest in the on-air studio. Swede Alley can be seen through the window. PARK CITY, Utah KPCW(FM) is a community, nonprofit radio station in Park City, Utah, broadcasting at 91.9 MHz on the dial. Famous for its world-class ski areas and the annual Sundance Film Festival, Park City is a resort community on the east side of the Wasatch Mountain range.

The station has been on the air for about 30 years, most of it in the historic Marsac Building in downtown Park City. Housing KPCW as well as city hall, the Marsac Building was slated for remodeling and seismic upgrade beginning in the summer of 2008.

As for many 30-year-old children, it was time for KPCW to leave the nest and find its way in the world.

Host Randy Barton works at the finished racks. New nest

KPCW can be described as a “full-service” station, with NPR programming, local news, music and an eclectic variety of other programming. The staff ranges from radio professionals with more than 20 years of experience to “green” volunteer DJs. The facility needed to be sophisticated enough so that it could support NPR coverage of the Sundance Film Festival and simple enough for the local high-school radio show.

I was hired by KPCW to design and project manage the buildout. First, I met with Eric Thompson of FFKR Architects in Salt Lake City. Eric was designing a new two-story building for the city just down the hill from Marsac. The first floor was reserved for a state-owned liquor store, but the second floor was available, so the building was “condominimized” and the second floor became the new home for KPCW.

I gave Eric and his consulting engineers a crash course in radio studio design, including noise ratings, console layouts, window placement, power/grounding peculiarities, on-air signs, wall and floor treatments, etc. The new space was about 30 percent larger than the existing studios, but the old space didn’t have restrooms, a kitchenette, an engineering shop, a mechanical room, and it was pre-ADA. The extra space went quickly!

Racks are seen under assembly.
The new facility comprises mirror-image air and production rooms, a news/edit room and a multipurpose pledge/underwriting space used for production, conferences and as a green room. A combination engineering shop/equipment room rounded out the facility.

The prominent feature of the air studio is floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls of the cantilevered room; the studio seems to float over Swede Alley, the street out front. The windows provide a spectacular view of the mountains.

Eric gave me his building design in AutoCAD LT, a design software suite. I added a few layers and designed my racks, cabinets and cable trays to his walls. The racks and many other accessories are from Middle Atlantic Products.

Electrical and mechanical systems were added to accommodate the design. Studio power was hospital-grade, isolated ground with ground and neutral home-runs to the power panel. The facility has three separate HVAC units: one for the office area, one for the studios and the third for the equipment room. Inner-wall conduits ran from the studio cabinets to the cable trays. I like to give the on-air person control of their environment, so they have their own light dimmers, thermostat and adjustable LCD monitor arms.

This is the exterior of the nearly completed facility; the air studio windows are visible upper floor center. Over the years I’ve grown weary of ripped carpeting and broken carpet protectors (you know those plastic things your office chair rolls around on), so for this studio, the floor under the “air-chairs” was a rugged rubber tile.

I also used AutoCAD LT to create “one-line” drawings. Every cable in the plant was shown on one of these drawings, and each had a unique cable number. Documentation also included wire run spreadsheets that specified cable type, sources, destinations and connectors for each cable.

One advantage of planning a system this way was that I “built” the system twice, the first build being on paper. Another was that I hired Adam Stoddart, a talented systems installer, who could build from my design documentation with little supervision. Then the same drawings were used systematically to test every wire in the facility.


How to Outfit a Radio Production Room Building a studio facility from scratch or completely renovating one is a lot of fun … and work. It also requires considerable forethought. Here are some details to keep in mind for the planning stages.

SIZE: Is the room large enough for people and equipment? Is it ADA-compliant?

DOORS: Do the doors have adequate sound isolation? Do they have sweeps on the bottoms?

WINDOWS: Do the windows have good sound isolation? Are they tinted? Do they have blinds?

FLOOR: Will the floor treatment hold up to constant use?

ACOUSTIC TREATMENT: How will the room “sound”? What sort of wall, ceiling, and floor acoustic treatment will be used?

EXTERNAL NOISE: What is the noise rating goal?

LIGHTING: What sort of light fixtures will be used? Will they be on dimmers? Could they cause audio problems?

HVAC: Is it sufficient to cool the equipment and room occupants? Does it meet the noise rating?

CABLING: Can cable be run to other parts of the plant? Will it be run through air plenums?

POWER: Is the electrical power isolated from other circuits? Are grounds and neutrals home-run to the panel? Is there an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) available? How is grounding achieved?

OTHER: On-air lights, TV monitor, phones, network, security, etc.

CONSOLE: What type of audio console is used? Analog, digital, networked? Does it have microphone preamps?

ROUTER: Is there an audio routing system? Are there control panels?

CABINETRY: Is it prefabricated or is it being custom built?

RACKMOUNTING: Is it deep enough? Is there enough for gear and any future add-ins? Is the equipment adequately ventilated?

MONITOR SPEAKERS: What type are they, powered or passive? Where will they be placed? What are the cabling requirements?

MISC: Telco monitors, headphone amps, etc.

MICROPHONES: How many microphones and microphone stands are there? Where are they located?

MICROPHONE PROCESSING: Are microphone processors needed? Do you have them.

TELCO: Where is the hybrid? Are there audio monitors for it?

OTHER AUDIO: Are there CD players, DAT, etc. to be considered?

I/O: Is there an input/output interface to the room? Is it balanced, unbalanced, AES/EBU, etc?

EQUIPMENT CABLING: How are cables managed in the room? To other rooms if necessary?

COMPUTER MONITORS: Where are they located? Are they remoted to the servers? How are they mounted?

POWER: How is power distributed within the cabinets. Are there light fixtures inside of the cabinets?

MISC HARDWARE: Shelves, drawers, panels, blanks, etc.

Mario HiebBecause of a tight timeline, we only had about a month to install and test everything. This was a nearly impossible timeline; we did manage though by doing as much prewiring as we could off-site. A friend of KPCW owned an abandoned lumber yard where we assembled the Middle Atlantic racks, shelves, drawers, etc. A large amount of intrarack wiring was done. We also assembled from scratch 14 identical PCs, with AudioScience audio cards, for use as audio servers. Once the building was ready, professional movers moved the racks to the new location.

The old studio had PC tower cases sitting on the studio floors where they were often kicked or tripped over; I was determined to avoid this, so I built the new PCs in 4 RU rackmount cases on sliders, mounted in the engineering racks. Keyboards, monitors and mice reside in the studios, so KVM remotes were used. Because they use Cat-5 cable, the KVM remotes were routed through RJ-45 patch bays that were hard-normalled using short RJ-45 jumpers. This patch bay has come in handy for configuration and troubleshooting of the individual PCs.

The NPR satellite dish was left in its existing location, so about 600 feet of fiber-optic cable was buried underground from the dish to the new studios. ATCi (Antenna Technology Communications Inc.) fiber transmitters and receivers are used to convert the RF to light. In addition, KPCW sends multichannel satellite audio feeds to former sister-station KCPW in Salt Lake City via a Musicam USA TEAM T1-E1 multiplex unit.

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Equipment List
The air and production room were designed around a Harris RMX console; the news/edit and “pledge+” room around an eight-channel NetWave board. The engineering racks housed dual Harris Envoy frames; one for AES/EBU digital audio, the other for balanced analog audio. The Harris system was chosen because the consoles could operate in both standalone or networked modes. The standalone mode is useful if the networked mode should fail; analog audio from the console could still be routed. In the networked mode, any source from any frame or console in the network can be routed to any other. The RMX consoles have a one router per fader configuration which makes for infinite flexibility. The NetWave consoles in the smaller studios have two routers as options. Each console feeds an Aphex 230 Compellor for gain riding before router re-entry.

The resulting audio quality is quite good; in fact many signal paths are AES/EBU exclusive. As a result, station audio has more detail which has revealed that some music dubbed to hard drive at the old studio contains noise and distortion never detected before.

The studios are rounded out with Denon DN-C640 and DN-S550R CD players. Microphones are standardized to EV RE20s with the announcer mic fed through an Aphex 320 mic processor. Monitor speakers are Tannoy Reveal R6 speakers fed by Crown D-75A amplifiers, a very nice pairing. Each studio has a Comrex STAC telephone system with dual hybrids. Fostex RM-1 monitors are used at announcer and guest positions. All console clocks are synchronized with an ESE ES-102U GPS master clock. A WIT easi-8 remote control is configured as a silence sensor that sends text messages, and also as an outdoor thermometer that puts the temperature at Swede Alley on the KPCW Web site.

RW welcomes first-person accounts of technical installations. Write to[email protected]with your idea.