DUBUQUE, Iowa — “You are kidding! That’s a 3 kW FM transmitter?”
That’s what I thought when I saw my first Ecreso at an FM station about 100 miles northwest of Dubuque, Iowa. It had recently hired me for some contract engineering work. To a guy who just returned to broadcast engineering after an 18-year absence, it was a wakeup call. This Ecreso unit, built by WorldCast Systems, is known as its FM 3kW. It recently replaced the station’s older main transmitter.
While I cannot take credit for the purchasing decision or its installation, I can tell you that they made a great choice. It comes as a complete, compact, 3U by 19-inch rack mount unit. Modular by design, this unit boasts an efficiency of up to 76%. It is powered by a 20 A single-phase breaker (184 VAC or higher), and can also be wired for operation on three-phase power.
When I mentioned complete, you will not only have direct-to-channel digital modulation, you can license (free testing included for 30 days) a flame-throwing five-band sound processor with your choice of audio presets to match your station’s format. Experimenting with the CHR and urban format settings, I was impressed how loud and competitive this baby was, all while automatically keeping the modulation peaking at 97%.
You can use direct AES or left/right analog in, with the optional five-band processing, or if you like your current audio processing, use the MPX input. Other features you will like are digital MPX over AES, the dynamic RDS encoder, and audio backup from an internal micro SD card player. Remote control and monitoring can be accessed via an easy to use web interface, or hard-wired to your current remote control via the standard (in the United States) GPIO board. SNMP is supported. Local control is menu driven from the front-panel screen and button keys.
What about reliability? With Ecreso’s FM 3 kW you have a standard version with two, hot-swappable, power supply unit modules with a load-sharing design. In the event of a DC power supply malfunction, the other PSU keeps the FM 3 kW on the air at about 1,900 W.
If you opt for the “+1” version, you will get an extra, or third PSU and if one is lost, you can still operate at 3,000 W RF output. RF amplification is also redundant and is capable of operating even in the event of a fault. You could lose a MOSFET and still be on air at a little over half power. In fact, Ecreso is very open about these scenarios. Go to the company’s website and download its tech guide titled “What Happens If?”
As rugged as this unit is, it’s nice to know help is just around the corner. I have worked with Ecreso/WorldCast’s Tony Peterle on a PSU software setting that needed changing. Tony said he could remotely change it, all he needed was IP access to the unit.
But this transmitter site has no network access. Tony’s solution was to lend the station a 4G modem and a switch, and with a remote terminal access program on my lap top, he was able to remotely log in and change the setting. I really appreciate his help, creativity and patience.
Warranty-wise, three years; but for a small charge you can extend your warranty to 10 years. To me, with a warranty that long, Ecreso must be very confident of the equipment it is building.
The unit I am familiar with has been installed and running for about six months trouble-free. As for that older transmitter, the station’s owner has new tubes for it and would like me to go through and get it ready for standby use. As reliable as the new Ecreso FM 3 kW is, I’m just not sure it will ever be needed.