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The LiON Brings Big-Market Sound to FM Translators

Leighton Broadcasting is running two, with more to come

Radio World Buyer’s Guide articles are intended to help readers understand why their colleagues chose particular products to solve various technical situations. This month’s articles focus on audio processing.

FM broadcasters often consider translators to be the orphan living under the staircase. Not Leighton Broadcasting, which has 13 FM translators in addition to its 32 main FM and AM stations throughout the state of Minnesota and parts of North Dakota. 

“All of our translators are treated as if they are full 100 kW FMs, which is to say we want that big-market sound on our translators too,” said Tony Abfalter, DOE/IT for Leighton Broadcasting, headquartered in St. Cloud, Minn.

Leighton is now running Wheatstone’s new Audioarts LiON FM/HD audio processor on two of those translators, with more to come. 

Two LiON processors occupy one rack space.

Introduced last year, LiON has the features of a big-box audio processor like stereo enhance and multipath mitigation, but in a small, half-rack footprint. 

“When it comes to our translators, we want results first and we’re not willing to sacrifice quality. What the LiON does is allow us to get that big-market sound at an extremely reasonable cost and keeps that budgetary spending in line,” said Abfalter.

The LiON user interface.

He likes that LiON has AES67 and RDS built in, reducing the number of units he needs to rack up or add to the budget. He appreciates that LiON can be controlled remotely or accessed from any Leighton studio as a WheatNet IP audio networked audio processor. Leighton is standardized on WheatNet IP console surfaces, routing and control in seven markets in the Midwest.

Abfalter likes the sound that comes out of Wheatstone processors and has installed various models on Leighton air chains, including the X5 HD/FM, X1 FM/HD and the MP-532 multipurpose audio processors.

Leighton is standardized on WheatNet IP surfaces, routing and control in seven markets in the Midwest.

In fact, Leighton’s FM translator for its Z-Rock 103.3 station in St. Cloud is running an X5 FM/HD audio processor, Wheatstone’s premier audio processor. “I think we’re probably the first to put a top-of-the-line audio processor on a translator,” Abfalter said.

“A lot of our markets have very strong P1 stations, and we have to think about the product we’re putting out. The large number of P1 listeners that are tuned in and locked into our stations, and the different formats we carry … we can get the big-market sound from all of those formats with this processing.”

He said the LiON is a sensible buy to begin with, but it becomes extremely so for translator applications or anyone who wants to bring their audio up a notch without spending a lot.

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