NPR Goes 5.1 for New Year's Eve Broadcast

NPR aired its first ever surround sound broadcast of its New Year's Eve program Toast of the Nation. Radio World exclusively was on the scene to watch it unfold.
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NPR aired its first ever surround sound broadcast of its New Year's Eve program Toast of the Nation. Radio World exclusively was on the scene to watch it unfold.

More than 200 member stations aired the broadcast, which was lengthened considerably to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program, originally begun to showcase NPR's interconnected satellite system.

During the evening, jazz from New York City, Washington, Boston, Clarksdale, Miss. Denver and Oakland ushered in the New Year in each time zone, all in 5.1 surround sound via the Harris NeuStar 5225 5.1 surround sound mix-edit transcoder and a Harris NeuStar UltraLink digital radio audio conditioner at each venue. Another UltraLink at NPR headquarters fed the satellite uplink. The broadcast kicked off in Paris, which broadcast in stereo.

(click thumbnail)NPR Director of Music Ben Roe, left, in the control room for Studio 4A during the 13-hour New Year's Eve broadcast.
(click thumbnail)NPR Director of Music Ben Roe, left, in the control room for Studio 4A during the 13-hour New Year's Eve broadcast.
At NPR, Radio World monitored the audio off a Harris DexStar exciter feeding an HD Radio car headunit. Those in the room listened to the 5.1 broadcast through a Neural SEEDS decoder connected to the HD Radio receiver. HD Radios from three manufacturers were used in the listening room: Kenwood, JVC and Panasonic.

The broadcast began at 5 p.m. and continued live until 3:30 a.m. when the network used rollovers until 6 a.m. on the 1st.

WBGO(FM), Newark, N.J. co-hosted the broadcast with NPR. Gary Walker and Bonnie Grice of WLIU(FM), Southampton, N.Y. were the program hosts.

For the surround portion of the broadcast, four stations - WBGO, WGBH(FM), Boston, KUVO(FM), Denver, and KCSM(FM), San Mateo, Calif. - recorded source programming in 5.1 audio, and transmitted it via bonded ISDN lines to NPR. The feed was then uplinked to the Public Radio Satellite System. NPR interspersed this material with its own 5.1 pre-recorded concerts for a total of seven 5.1 concerts. Vendors who lent stations and NPR equipment for the broadcast are: Harris, Neural Audio, DK-Technologies America, Blue Sky and Neumann.

For more on the broadcast, see the story from the Dec. 15 issue of Radio World.

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