CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “The Ace & TJ Show” is a morning-drive syndicated radio show with 12 affiliates in seven states. Based in Charlotte, N.C., the program has been distributed over satellite since its inception in the late 1990s.
We started looking into alternatives last year. Satellite fees are expensive and the costs had risen to the tune of $4,000 a month between ISDN lines and satellite services. The time had come to explore new and effective ways to distribute the show and reduce costs. It is a common theme today across the radio broadcast industry.
I had evaluated and experimented with many pieces of equipment without gaining much comfort. I had been working toward testing Barix equipment and moved it up the ladder based on the recommendation of another morning show producer. It wasn’t long before we launched an all-IP distribution network based on the Barix Exstreamer 500.
I’m not easily impressed, but I am beyond impressed with the capabilities of this box. From a cost perspective, we have saved approximately $4,000 a month. We also have added four affiliates since switching to Barix based on the lower insertion cost for the show. This reduced cost favors the affiliate since the shared satellite fees amongst the affiliates are eliminated.
The Exstreamer 500 encodes the live feed at the flagship station direct from the on-air console, distributing them to multiple affiliates. The receiving devices decode the signals for live broadcast. The Exstreamer 500 also delivers contact closures over the same stream to trigger ad breaks at the stations, by way of relays and closures built into the devices. The closures are activated through a push of the button at the flagship station.
Device configuration is simple. We set the encoding frequency to MPEG I at 48 kHz, at a bit rate of 192 kbps. It’s my belief that the audio quality is as good, if not better, than the quality we received using satellite distribution. The open nature of the Barix software provides an added value, providing us the freedom to program our own unique twists to customize the service.
The setup process is simple. I configure the devices at my office, assigning IP addresses and programming the various settings, and run them in test mode for 48 hours by connecting to the primary Exstreamer 500. The devices are shipped to the affiliate stations once the quality and stability of the device are confirmed. Most of the affiliate engineers are able to activate the device without issue.
We occasionally hear from an engineer who is resistant to change. That tune typically changes once the Barix device is implemented successfully. Typical feedback is that the audio quality is higher quality than expected, and the bitrate stream runs higher than it had on satellite.
We are mapping out next-generation plans with the 500. This is a flexible device with a full set of professional features for broadcast. The size of the device, at one-half rack unit, makes it simple to rackmount professionally.
Overall, this is an affordable device that hovers near the price of a satellite receiver, while offering a quick and easy setup process.
We have had exceptional technical support from Andrew Thomson, our service manager. It is rare to receive such a level of strong and dedicated support.
Rick Roberts is a digital engineer, IT systems and web developer for “The Ace & TJ Show.”
For information, contact Andy Stadheim at Barix in Minnesota at (866) 815-0866 or visit www.barix.com.