BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — We received our Omnia.9 in mid-October of last year, after a decision to acquire one several months earlier based on several video presentations and panel discussions featuring its creator, Leif Claesson.
By the time the unit arrived, I felt I had a pretty good understanding of the concepts behind the Omnia.9. What I wasn’t prepared for was how those concepts, which I had researched thoroughly ahead of time, would be clearly explained — on the front-panel display of the Omnia.9 — as soon as I powered it up.
Out of the box
Starting from the input end, I was most curious about the function of the much-heralded “declipper” circuit.
I was aware of how many recordings get clipped at the recording studio, in a misguided effort by the record producers to add competitive loudness to their product.
Before installing the Omnia.9 at our transmitter site, I took some time to listen to the action of the declipper as well as to the AGC and multiband compressor, by connecting the unit in one of our studios. A unique feature of the Omnia.9 is the internal patch point system that allows monitoring of each successive stage of processing individually.
The Omnia.9’s built-in oscilloscope display confirmed what I was hearing by restoring the crest of severely clipped audio recordings. Amazing. Finally, the axiom “garbage in, garbage out” doesn’t necessarily hold true.
This is an effective tool to have at any radio station and I knew that in the CHR world this circuit alone would be worth the price.
Once at the transmitter site, I easily connected our microwave-delivered AES audio to the Omnia 9. At our plants we use a composite (MPX) signal between the stereo generator in the processor and the FM transmitter’s exciter input. The Omnia.9 has an RDS encoder, but we elected to continue to use our external WorldCast Systems FMB-80.
First, we fed the RDS encoder a reference pilot signal from the Omnia.9. Then the Omnia.9, in turn, fed the RDS-encoded subcarrier back into the processor. This closed-loop feature allows the Omnia.9 to “ride the gain” of the audio processing based upon where the RDS subcarrier modulation is at any instant.
One of the Omnia.9’s AES outputs was then connected to our HD transmitter. The diversity delay of the Omnia.9 makes blending the two signals a snap. The only other connection needed was the IP Ethernet cable to allow all aspects of the Omnia.9 to be controlled conveniently from my laptop wherever I may be.
Speaking of remote control, I was pleasantly surprised to see the many signal displays that are available on the front are also shown on the PC remote software. Not only are all the adjustments and displays duplicated, but those patch points I mentioned earlier are available via an IP audio stream on your laptop. No matter where you are, it is possible to make adjustments and hear the live results instantly.
Never have I been this excited about an audio processor. Words like “loud” and “open” might appear to be mutually exclusive, but the Omnia.9 achieves both splendidly. What a treat, being able to hear and indentify individual instruments and their location within the sound field.
The bass is tight and distinctively clear without having the “boominess” of an overstuffed low end. The higher frequencies are clean, clear and free of any apparent distortion or the “fuzz” you hear with a crazy amount of processing sometimes employed on a CHR station.
The amazing thing is, this finely tuned end result doesn’t mean any loss in volume.
Leif Claesson and his crew have done a wonderful job crafting the processing engine and GUI display. You will find a variety of good profiles loaded onto the box that will give any format a great sound signature or act as a starting point for further refinements within minutes of your unpacking the box.
The Omnia.9 is a distinctive processor and I am grateful for its help with our CHR format in Birmingham.
Bob Newberry is the market engineering manager for Clear Channel Birmingham.
For information about the Omnia.9, contact Omnia Audio in Ohio at (216) 241-7225 or visit www.omniaaudio.com.