GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Local radio is a lifeline for central Montana citizens who typically drive considerable distances to reach the nearest town. Along with country music, light rock and top 40 programming, our Montana radio stations air local and national news, conduct call-in shows and morning drive contests, and alert listeners to severe weather events and public safety emergencies.
The author with the KMON GatesAir Oasis console. Great Falls is a farming community two hours north of Butte. Cherry Creek Radio’s listeners count on us for local “ag” market reports, and local businesses advertise to gain the visibility they need to compete. That’s what small-market radio is all about. However, it’s challenging to keep up with the technological advances that larger-market stations can afford more easily. When upgrading equipment, we consider many factors, including space efficiency, user-friendliness, scalability, ease of operation, and most of all, cost.
With most of our audio consoles reaching end of life, we decided to enter the digital age by buying seven new GatesAir Oasis digital 12-channel on-air and production audio consoles. The first console was purchased two years ago for our “hot country” music station, KMON(FM),which is branded Max Country. Very shortly, all seven consoles will be operating from the brand-new facility that we’ll be moving to across town, powering five on-air studios, one production and studio and one newsroom.
The Oasis’ compact footprint was essential to maximizing our on-air studios, which double as additional production and office space for our six DJs. We chose the Oasis because the console is ergonomic, feature-rich and easy for our DJs to learn, thanks to a design in which operational controls are laid out similarly to those on analog consoles. In addition it offers dual meters that are big, bright and easy to read.
Since the faders control every input, they’re used all the time to bring in a variety of audio sources, including Shure SM7B and Heil Sound PR40 multipurpose dynamic microphones, Symetrix voice processors for the hosts, and audio from our Broadcast Electronics AudioVault asset management and playlist automation system. ABC News feeds also input to the console, along with a DSTB that lets us broadcast the audio portion of certain TV news shows.
Our consoles have a dedicated output to our Telos hybrids, which enables us to do mix-minus functions. The mix-minus is its own dedicated output that removes the caller audio or input audio from the phone line interface. This mix-minus output, which is assigned to a specific fader, goes out to the caller so they aren’t hearing themselves in a feedback loop. The mix-minus fader is programmable via the USB connection.
The Program 2 output on the console feeds our production studio, and the cue output is strictly for monitoring with headphones. We also use the console’s two external inputs to provide off-air monitoring of our AM and FM signals using tuners.
One particularly useful feature is the USB input to the board that allows us to bring in high-quality audio streaming in real-time from a desktop computer, as well as output audio from the console to our production computer. While the USB I/O consumes one of the 12 inputs, without it, we’d need to buy an external D/A converter. This saves us a considerable amount of money. When we do broadcast “remotes,” we transport our live signal via internet, or via Marti RPU transmitters. This incoming live signal is routed to the console by our Ramko 16 x 16 routing switcher.
The dedicated production studio, which is a scaled-down version of the on-air studios, connects a CD player, phone and microphone to our Oasis, as well access to the AudioVault system.
In the future, we plan to connect our seven Oasis consoles together digitally as our budget allows, using GatesAir’s Flexiva VistaMax networking system. This will provide the signal routing and control backbone we need to run and expand more efficiently, and to share our audio and production resources around the new facility on the fly.
KMON’s console has been on the air and running reliably since installation. This high level of reliability is advantageous since people count on us to deliver valuable, local weather and public safety advisories, especially when severe Montana blizzards and windstorms impact our region. And Oasis is helping us lay the groundwork for future expansion into internet broadcasting and other new digital directions, while staying current at a price and pace that’s right for us.
For more information, contact Keith Adams at GatesAir in Ohio at (513) 459-3447, or visit www.gatesair.com.