HOUSTON — About six years ago, Radio One Houston was looking for a way to improve remotes. It seemed that the process of getting ISDN or POTS lines was becoming nearly impossible and costs were certainly a factor as well.
Our primary FM stations, KBXX(FM), 97.9 The Boxx and KMJQ(FM), Majic 102.1, were constantly out on the street covering community events and doing revenue-generating remotes and we needed a more effective way of getting a remote setup on short notice. Two or three weeks of lead time to get a circuit installed just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
IP codecs were making a strong case of ease of operation so we took a careful look at what was out there and Comrex stood out as the best choice for us. We started out with four Comrex Access rack units and four Comrex Access Portables mainly using (at the time) Verizon 3G Air cards or Cat-5 hardline Internet connections where available.
There were certainly challenges in the beginning to get air staff and promotions up to speed but after several successful remotes, doing an event without an Access was not even an option.
On a few occasions, we have used Access codecs for what we considered to be rather challenging remotes. We were asked by Radio One corporate to provide support for the broadcasts of two nationally-syndicated shows aboard a cruise ship while out to sea.
I would have to say the most challenging seemed to be the cruise ship broadcasts of the syndicated four-hour “Yolanda Adams Morning Show” and the CoCo Brother syndicated evening show. Each day of the cruise we were broadcasting live for eight hours with hundreds of people at the live shows on the ship listening to the return audio/music and not one hiccup. The thing that initially made me nervous about the broadcasts was the fact that the IP-connectivity being provided by the cruise line was coming from a connection via the ship’s satellite communications system.
Talking with Comrex before the remotes about my concerns, I learned that the devices had been optimized to work over several types of data circuits and satellite was one of those. Since then, Access has been used on five other Radio One syndicated live broadcasts from cruise ships with 128 kbps dedicated bandwidth without one hiccup in either direction.
Using the Access portable on the ship was great due to the built-in battery backup and the optional mixer that we could plug into the main unit giving us five additional mic/line-level inputs and headphone inputs (for a total of six each). It really simplified the setup onboard and reduced the amount of gear we had to take with us.
We now have a news station, KROI(FM), News 92FM, and purchased five more Access Rack units and five more Access Portables for field reporters to go live from the scene. The addition of Verizon 4G LTE modems, which are plug-and-play, into one of the two USB ports of the Access has improved the performance, reliability and mobility for our reporters.
The 4G service in the Houston area is robust and we seldom have issues. We tend to use the AAC-ELD mono codec that comes included on Access for remotes because it offers high quality (about 15 kHz) for voice with about on 50 ms of encode delay at a low bitrate around 48 kbps.
We also utilize 16 iPads with the Luci Live Lite soft codec app to go live on the air. Comrex has built-in support for this inexpensive app and our reporters find it easy to use. Without the use of these tools our field reporting and remote broadcasts would be much more cumbersome and much less reliable. We have grown to rely and trust the consistent quality and user friendliness of the Comrex Access family and associated products.
The ease of setup, ruggedness and flawless performance allow us as engineers to not worry about the on-air quality or performance that will be delivered from the Access.
As I write, I’m about to buy a pair of Access Racks to be my codec for the KMJQ STL. As an aside, Radio One also uses Comrex BRIC-Links (which replace satellite delivery) for syndication distribution to a dozen affiliates across the U.S. on a daily basis, without one issue.
For information, contact Chris Crump at Comrex in Massachusetts at (800) 237-1776 or visit www.comrex.com.