Mark Thompson is shown taking calls that his producer/call screener Jordan had prepared using the pre-talk function. CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Mark Thompson and partner Brian Phelps of KLOS(AM)’s “Mark and Brian Show” retired, ending a 25-year span at the top of Los Angeles market ratings, Mark realized a new opportunity had presented itself. He could continue his passion for talking to and building an already loyal and sizable ever-growing listening audience.
In his new endeavor, he would continue taking listener calls, stating opinions and discussing topical views much as he did from the KLOS success that he was leaving. He recruited his entire family as host participants and with his wife Lynda as his co-host launched a daily family issues podcast presentation.
Mark’s studio near Charlotte, N.C., was built to provide a connection with co-host Brian at KLOS’ Los Angeles facility. From Mark’s home studio he had control of switching and mixing functions and effects, all of which were located remotely in L.A. When the decision was made to convert the studio into a full-functioned recording and distribution center, a plethora of new hardware and services was needed.
One of the first and most concerning questions Mark had was, “How will I be able to take phone calls from my listeners?”
Before answering that question, Mark tried to provide satisfying answers to more questions that immediately followed, such as, “How many callers can be on at the same time?” “Will the callers be able to hear each other?” “Are you sure can I see the screeners comments?” “Can I put the callers on-air myself?” and “Do we need to buy a PBX now?”
It was already determined that AVT’s Magic telephone hybrid line of products included a model suitably sized and priced for this application.
Mark had been reassured that AVT had a product that would not require the expense or complexity needed to install a PBX or typical proprietary phone instruments, and that they would deliver a solution for each of the other strategic needs he requested.
I suggested we use AVT’s Magic TH6 telephone hybrid system.
The Magic TH6 accommodates up to six caller lines and can be optioned from POTS, ISDN or VoIP services and was the perfect size for Mark’s needs. With any of the phone service configurations you choose to use the Magic TH6 does not require a PBX or proprietary and specially configured extension telephones.
The system can be configured to operate without a single phone instrument. All of the telephone interconnects for answering, screening and processing a call — be it on air, on hold, gathering caller data or forwarding to another line — can be accomplished with nothing more than a few simple connections to your mixing console or mixer router engine and an IP connection to your computer.
If you want a private handset or operator’s headset the TH6 has jacks already there for you to plug into. Additionally your call-screener handles callers through the call-screening computer and with the “pre-talk” streaming option no audio wiring is needed at the call screening location on the LAN.
The single-rack-space system arrives with individual hybrids, digital echo cancellers, AGC and audio expander stages on every caller line. This processing produces superb and consistent audio even when all lines are conferenced together and every caller can hear the in-studio hosts and all other callers with great clarity.
AVT’s software-defined mixing and switching matrix allows the TH6 system to service two independent studios simultaneously. Each studio can be assigned two faders and with a separate caller screening audio channel for each program. Or, if you want, each caller line can be assigned its own audio output into your console.
The TH6 provides plenty of audio interface, with four digital and two analog I/Os in addition to two wired handset/headset connections. Optionally, up to four pre-talk streaming clients can be used without additional audio cabling.
While we did not use the Magic TH6 as a true two-studio system, we made use of the second studio connections allowing us to configure these I/Os so that the identity of selected caller voices could be disguised by altering them with an external effects generator. Now, we can do this also without external equipment since AVT has added a “Voice Disguise” function, which changes the voice of the caller so that the listeners cannot recognize who it is.
The system can be configured to auto-answer calls and move those callers to hold so they are able hear the main program, an external hold signal or a prerecorded message stored in the system. Also standard are GPI/GPO connections.
The TH6 arrives with a full-featured call screening software package. Ideal for use with a touch screen, the display is clear and bold for the presenter to easily select a caller on-air and then return to hold, or to drop at the end of the conversation. There is no need to go to another vendor for screening software that does the job you need to accomplish. As many as four workplaces can be optioned for on-air and screening control.
Other available software options include a “game show” DTMF analyzer that can determine which caller has responded first with the correct a DTMF button push.
The optioned VoIP system can further be upgraded to include HD Voice that allows 7 kHz bandwidth to be received and transmitted on calls to and from telephones that are HD Voice-compatible.
We have to admit, our expectations in regard to this product were high — and still the AVT Magic TH6 has exceeded these expectations. We can only recommend the product as well as AVT’s fast and competent support before, during and after the installation. If you want quality and sophisticated simplicity, you should go and get some Magic.
For information, contact Ulrike Lauterbach at AVT in Germany at 011-49-911-5271-0 or visitwww.avt-nbg.de.