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Best of Show Up Close: The LookingGlass FM Monitoring Appliance

This yellow box monitors multiple stations all of the time.

2019 Future Best of Show

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

Optimized Media Group nominated LookingGlassa 10- to 30-station FM modulation and audio analyzer for over-the-air FM reception. It analyzes all 30 stations in parallel, at the same time, not “scanning” the band but listening to the entire FM band at once. The software was developed by Leif Claesson, with hardware designed and developed by Alex Hartman. It can stream the composite baseband to a user anywhere in the world. LookingGlass comes with bandscope, oscilloscope, RTA, RDS logging and a digital RF recorder for repeatable analysis.

We asked Alex Hartman for more info.

Radio World: What reactions did you get to the LookingGlass from booth visitors?

Alex Hartman: Usually “Wait, what? It does what?” followed quickly by “Oh, wow!” Of course the AM guys ignored it! But everyone who stopped by was blown away by the sheer amount of tools LookingGlass had to offer.

LookingGlass, Modulation Arts, Optimized Media Group

RWWhat is it and what sets it apart from similar offerings?

Hartman: LookingGlass is a new take on an old problem, how to monitor your signal’s integrity with high detail while “looking over your shoulder” at the competition’s signals as well, and everyone else for that matter. The idea is not new, but nobody to date has implemented the “Star Trek” tuner besides us. Everyone seems to now claim “We use SDR technology!” but implement the same old “scanning” style tuner or single-demodulator type of design, completely defeating the point of the advantage of the SDR. Our implementation to capture the entire band at once seemed a bit futuristic, but it really is not that outlandish with today’s technology.

[Read: Best of Show Up Close: Henry Engineering SportsCaster]

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

Hartman: It is available and shipping right now. The “kitchen sink” model with 30 demodulators and five copies of the remote RF player is $22,995 MSRP, and the 10 demod with one copy of the remote RF player software is $14,995 MSRP. Lead times are typically two weeks.

RW: It seems like a very powerful offering. Is it aimed at consultants and big groups, more than a typical radio station?

Hartman: It’s aimed at everyone, but in the business sense, it makes the most sense for large groups, clusters, consultants and regulators.

Imagine a PD in Seattle who programs a national format, sitting in a consulting meeting with his 18 local guys nationwide, being able to punch up Dallas and listen to the local competition, as if he was sitting there himself, about a promotion the competition is starting, then move over to the Baltimore cluster with a potential new national jock they hired. It can also trickle down to just keeping an eye on your local group, turning it around, as it were. Use the 10 demod model to look at nothing but yourself.

RDS sales is a thing being done today, but nobody can provide proof-of-performance of over-the-air capture; we can. The RDS logging feature is probably the most business-facing tool it has to offer. Having that data is pretty useful to the programmers. Engineers of course get a bunch of tools as well.

RW: What else should we know about the product or your company’s business these days?

Hartman: We’re only getting started. LookingGlass is a different view of the radio landscape. We care so much about what goes into our facilities and the quality control put forth to put out a good product; but very few pay attention to what the end user experience is. LookingGlass solves that confidence that the product you worked so hard to create makes that end user experience. Until now, you’ve needed a LOT of tools, expensive tools, to visualize the audio coming out of the antenna and what your listeners are hearing. ModulationArts products are born of the industry asking for things, but manufacturers are not listening or not seeing the market. Our future is as bright as LookingGlass itself. The radio landscape is changing, and we want to be right in the front of it as it does.

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, due out soon.