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Best of Show Up Close: Inovonics Sofia 568 FM HD Radio SiteStreamer+

Keeping tabs on operations from afar

“Best of Show Up Close” is a series about participants in Radio World’s annual Best of Show at NAB Awards program.

Inovonics received a Best of Show Award for its Sofia 568 FM/HD Radio SiteStreamer+, a web-based remote signal monitor. We asked Gary Luhrman, sales and marketing manager for Inovonics, about the Sofia 568 and more.

Radio World: The Sofia 568 FM/HD Radio SiteStreamer+ was featured at spring NAB and took home a “Best of Show” Award there. You said the 568 is the first in a series; so to begin with, what are SiteStreamers?

Gary Luhrman: SiteStreamers are web-enabled receivers for remote signal monitoring. They are installed at a broadcast transmitter site, or any remote location with an internet connection. Streamed audio is accessible from any web-enabled device.

The new Sofia 568 is a SiteStreamer+ — meaning that has everything our SiteStreamers have but with much more processing power for more streaming options along with outputs — such as analog L/R, AES3 digital and AoIP streaming audio outputs. There’s a unique web-based user interface for visualizing in real time the HD Radio album artwork, station logos and similar visuals. Multiple stations can be sequentially monitored using the programmable StationRotation feature.

[Read: Best of Show Up Close: Broadcast Partners Smart Processing]

RW: You describe 568 as having several firsts. What are they and what else sets the product apart from other offerings in its class?

Luhrman: The Sofia 568 is the first FM/HD Radio receiver in the market to support AES67 AoIP, allowing broadcasters using Axia or Wheatstone equipment to incorporate the Sofia 568 into their AoIP network.

It collects histograms of signal parameters and displays HD Radio album artwork, station logos and similar visuals via the web interface. Multiple stations can be sequentially monitored using the programmable StationRotation feature.

The Sofia 568  includes a built-in band scanner, a real-time clock and full SNMP functionality. It also delivers important RF and audio signal measurements and dispatches email or text-message alarms for out-of-limits conditions and other reception errors.

Here are some of the unique features of the Sofia 568:

  • Remotely monitor full-time off-air FM and HD Radio signals;
  • Displays HD Radio graphics and related text data on web interface;
  • Adjustable off-air output levels for L/R analog, AES3 digital and Dante/AES67 AoIP;
  • Internet-listening stream for up to 10 listeners at once;
  • Monitor multiple transmissions sequentially with StationRotation;
  • Alarms and notifications sent via email or SMS messaging;
  • Enhanced alarm logging with no limit to the number of alarms that can be logged;
  • Easy set-up and operation; full SNMP support.

RW: What does it cost? Is it available now?

Luhrman: List price is $2,400. And, yes, it is available. We are shipping from stock for a quick turnaround of orders.

RW: More generally, what do you see as the most important trends or changes happening in how broadcasters use remote signal monitors?

Gary Luhrman, Inovonics

Luhrman: The ability to use a smart phone to remotely monitor stations is a great help to radio engineers who are always on the move and strapped for time. It allows them to avoid needless trips to transmitter sites and have a better understanding of problems when they occur. IP connectivity and support for SNMP are becoming obligatory for products.

The streaming capabilities for remote listening along with alarms and notifications allow engineers to know when there is a problem and to listen remotely in real-time to analyze and confirm a problem.

Surprisingly, the Sofia 568 is also being used as a sales tool to help sell advertising on HD Radio channels. The unique web interface on the Sofia 568 allows station sales reps to visually demonstrate the value of combining the advertising message with visual images that appear on listener´s radios.

RW: You recently noted an anniversary for your InoMINI line. Tell us about that.

Luhrman: Inovonics is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the INOmini. After 10 years the INOmini family of products has grown to 20 distinct models and continues to grow year after year with unique problem solving solutions for radio broadcasters.

It started at NAB 2009 with our INOmini 703 RDS Encoder. The success of the 703 confirmed a market for the small INOmini concept and new products were added each year to the family.

The economically-sized INOmini occupies just 1/3-rack space allowing broadcasters to optimize their rack space with unique INOmini solutions for audio processing, RDS encoding, and monitoring for AM/FM/RDS/HD Radio/ DAB+. Three units can be racked together in the optional 1 RU shelf to provide a customized solution specific to the broadcasters´ needs.

RW: What else should we know?

Luhrman: Inovonics continues to innovate with new products each year — six new products in 2019. All of our products are designed, manufactured, and assembled at our factory in Felton, Calif. Be on the lookout for more in 2020.

The Future Best of Show Awards program honors and helps promote outstanding new products exhibited at industry conventions like the spring NAB Show. Exhibitors pay a fee to enter; not all entries win. Watch for more coverage of participating products soon. To learn about all of the nominees and winners, read the 2019 Best of Show Program Guide.