Many broadcasters monitor their Internet streams with consumer-grade Internet radios lashed to unbalanced-to-balanced audio and silence sensor boxes, or rely on their ISPs to let them know when a stream is down. With the Inovonics 610 Internet Radio Monitor, these measures are no longer necessary. Winner of a Radio World “Cool Stuff” award, the 610 offers a boatload of professional features in a compact half-rack format.
The front panel contains a bright OLED display of all stream metadata including artist and title or program name, quality (streaming rate, encoding format, mono or stereo and original sampling rate) and time/date. There is also a level meter indicating 0 dBFS as peak level, useful in setting up encoders.
Audio outputs are available as balanced left and right analog and an AES digital, all through XLR connectors.
There’s also a headphone jack on the front panel. Headphones are a welcome option for tuning up Internet audio processors in a noisy rack room. When headphones are plugged in, the front screen automatically will go to the headphone volume screen, and the jog wheel will adjust volume.
Most impressive are the alarm options on the 610. Front-panel LEDs indicate Internet, audio and stream loss. On the back, the same functions are presented as the collectors of NPN transistors. These three external alarms can work with voltages up to 24 VDC. This breakout should be useful, because at most stations, various things need to happen, and different people may need to be notified depending on the nature of the failure.
The half-rack 610 Internet Radio Monitor may live on a desktop or be mounted in the optional rack adapter. One unit can be installed with a blank panel, or two 610s can be mounted side-by-side.
Interfacing with the unit can be accomplished via the front-panel OLED display and jog wheel. The setup/operate tree is easy enough to use, but you’ll probably want to complete the bulk of the setup via a Web browser and laptop or mobile device once the initial IP parameters have been entered.
Once you are done setting up the 610, you may save all settings to a PC as a hardware profile, useful as a backup, or for cloning multiple 610s.
A peek under the cover reveals that the quality of construction for the 610 is up to Inovonics’ usual high standards. It is also a testament to the advancements made in VLSI technology. A half-dozen ICs and a handful of other components is all that you need for the 610 to work its magic.
The surface-mount construction also means the unit is not user-serviceable. Since Inovonics recently upped its warranty to three years, that should not be a concern.
While the 610 can switch among 10 preset stations, only one at a time can be monitored. This could be an issue for stations with high-, medium- and low-bitrate streams, or clusters with streams for several stations. While the $990 suggested price for the 610 seems reasonable, the cost of monitoring several stations could add up quickly.
Another useful feature of the 610 is the alarm log,which tracks outages. Tracked data includes the type of alarm (Internet/stream/audio), the station, time and date. Alarms are sent when there is an outage, and when the issue is corrected, allowing users to track the duration. This information is available on the browser and also may be downloaded as a CSV file.
There are many hacker opportunities here, so you may want to pull data from the CSV files and place it into a statistical computing program like RStudio, and into graphing environments like ggplot2 or Gephi,and generate your own informatics. With a bit of work and creativity, you may be able to develop better stats for your stream than those that are provided by your Internet service provider.
The bad news here is that this information must be polled manually. At present, there is no way for the 610 to send alarm logs automatically.
Another limitation of the 610’s firmware is that there is only one email list, which receives notification for audio, stream or Internet loss. This can be a problem at college radio stations, for example, such as WDCV(FM) where the 610 was evaluated. If a stream gets lost, the IT staff and station engineer should be notified. If there is an audio outage, that is probably an issue within the station, and there would be no reason to bother the IT department.
According to an Inovonics spokesperson, the company hopes to tackle any issues like these in future firmware updates.
Additionally, there are only three fields for email addresses on the 610. Not to worry though, each of them can hold up to 64 characters, so if you separate addresses with a comma, you can squeeze several of them into the space that is provided.
The front display is useful in tracking your metadata, but its implementation can be annoying. To prevent the OLED display from burning in, it goes dark with no use after a couple minutes. If you have your 610 password protected, you need to enter the password every time you want to get back in.
Although not their intended purpose, the 10 station presets on the 610 enable you to compare your stream quickly with the competition. Get ready to be surprised. Even well-known brands have streams with levels all over the map. Most display call signs, but not all. Audio quality also is quite variable. Product Capsule
Internet Radio Monitor
– Alarms for audio, stream and Internet loss
– Analog L/R and AES outputs
– Bright OLED display
– Supports MP3, Ogg, Vorbis and AAC formats
– Metadata display
– Can only monitor one stream
– 1/8-inch jack for headphone monitoring
– Only one email list for three alarms
– Alarm logs can only be accessed manually
– No way for the display to be on continuously
For information, contact Lukas Hurwitz at Inovonics in California at (831) 458-0552 or visit www.inovonicsbroadcast.com.
Using the 610 to monitor other stations, however, is not always easy. The address that the ISP delivers the stream on is what must be entered, which is probably not the address you see on your browser. You may be able to look at the code for the Web page and figure it out, but not always.
The 610 is also a valuable tool for setting up your Web audio processing. It decodes MP3 (32 kbps–320 kbps), Ogg Vorbis (32 kbps–500 kbps) and AAC (32 kbps–384 kbps) streams. To tune your stream accurately for the best sound, you need to listen to a decoded sample. Plugging headphones into the front of the Web processor and making tweaks can get you into trouble. We were able to make substantial improvements in the sound of our stream by monitoring the headphone output of the 610.
Sadly, the headphone jack on the 610 is 1/8-inch. This is a bit puzzling, since all the other jacks and features are professional quality. A standard 1/4-inch TRS jack would seem to be more appropriate.
Internet radio is transforming quickly from a loss leader at many stations to a serious revenue source. Getting your Web stream to the next level means having a reliable way to evaluate sound quality and metadata, and be notified of stream problems when they happen.
The Inovonics 610 Internet Radio Monitor is the first professional product to address all of these needs. With a few hacker tweaks, the information that it provides can also be used to generate informatics, which will enable users to evaluate long-term trends in their stream’s quality.