When I first got the idea for starting my Internet radio station, "Capital Radio.us," I pretty much had everything planned in my mind's eye.
My format of deep oldies would be based loosely on the now-defunct AM daytimer that I once had fun engineering.
Product CapsuleThumbs up
Built-in music scheduler
Automatic backup of audio files
Multi-cut record and timed recording for unattended recording
Requires Antex audio hardware
Current version still DOS-based
Price: Software-only option: $1,299, two-machine turnkey system: $5,999
For more information contact Digital Jukebox in Ohio at (740) 346-0303, e-mail email@example.com or visit digitaljukebox.com.
The one thing I was determined to do was to create a studio more along the lines of a traditional broadcast facility instead of a sterile computer data center environment. I came across the majority of my studio gear from the liquidations of several failed dot-coms, close friends and chance eBay purchases.
Things were beginning to fall into place until I came across one major stumbling block. Because my station would be unmanned the majority of the time, I needed a way to have the programming run without my intervention.
I could have considered consumer solutions such as MP3 playback software, but they had their drawbacks. Most required manual creation of playlists and could not be left unattended for extended periods of time, not to mention they were difficult to use in a "live-assist" mode.
I decided to call upon Dennis Jackson, a consummate broadcaster who owns a group of four FM stations here in the Northeast.
When we first met in the mid-'70s, I was student chief engineer of community broadcaster WMNR(FM) in Monroe, Conn., while Dennis was on-air talent for the local easy-listening FM outlet.
After I explained my situation he offered a solution, the same one he uses to keep his stations running smoothly: a versatile broadcast automation system called the Digital Jukebox.
The software runs on standard Windows-compatible hardware. Dennis operates his systems under MS-DOS for increased reliability, while operating under Windows 98 affords one such convenience of built-in networking and the ability to use large hard disks.
The Digital Jukebox uses the Antex audio cards commonly found in other automation systems. This ensures compatibility as well as outstanding audio quality.
The software allows you to select audio compression settings to accommodate any particular situation. With the addition of an optional relay card, satellite-delivered programming can be accommodated through a variety of commercial receivers.
The man behind the box
Dennis introduced me to Jim Barcus, the man behind the Digital Jukebox. Barcus was helpful in setting me up with the automation system.
Among the program's many features is the multiple cut recording capability. With more than 300 CDs in my music library, I needed an easy way to get them into the system. This task was accomplished with nothing more than my 100-disk carousel player and an audio interconnect cable.
Once the multi-cut settings were adjusted, I left this system alone until the carousel had finished playing the disks. The system detects the silence between tracks and automatically creates each new audio file. This is performed unattended.
You can enter the basic artist/title information while in the multi-cut record mode. Once you transfer your audio to the main audio cuts database, you can enter in details such as category, tempo and daypart preferences as well as set the intro and segue times.
The multi-cut cart system allows the operator to select 40 audio cuts to appear on a virtual cart. These cuts rotate automatically and each can have its own expiration date.
There is no need to reprogram the cart, as expired cuts drop out automatically. This gives greater flexibility than any cart machine could offer.
I really appreciate having a built-in music scheduler in an automation system.
Features include support for daylight savings time ("spring ahead/fall back"), 26 music categories, artist and gender protection and the ability to import data from a variety of traffic systems.
One keystroke toggles the system between automated and jock-assist modes. The on-air screen is informative and laid out clearly. The current on-air event as well as the upcoming event appear in a colored info box which details intro and segue times, song year and notes added to the "memo" field in the audio cuts database.
You can view the last relay command issued by the system - indispensable when troubleshooting difficulties with satellite programming.
Browsing the log can be performed with the page up/page down keys while a tap of the space bar brings the system back to the next event. Last-minute changes and song requests are easy to do regardless of operating mode.
Using the Digital Jukebox with networked computers will allow you to perform production tasks, such as voice tracking or music scheduling, without being in the on-air studio. A separate production system gives you the added benefit of providing you with an automatic backup of your on-air system.
Should you have a hard-drive failure in the on-air system it's a simple matter of bringing the production system online to stay on the air. Once the drive is replaced in the on-air computer, one command is all it takes to restore the data from the production system.
My systems have been reliable, having only suffered from problems unrelated to the Digital Jukebox software: a defective hard drive and a faulty cooling fan in a mobile hard drive rack. Even when a power failure occurs, the system resumes operation at the point where it left off once power is restored and the computer reboots.
I initially had a small problem when I started testing my system. While the program has certain safeguards to prevent tight overlapping of songs that start off "cold," I wanted some segues to be much tighter than the internal logic would allow. I called Barcus regarding my issue and in less than two days he had revised the program to allow the internal segue logic to be defeated. He told me that many of the improvements in the Digital Jukebox have been the result of user requests.
My wish list of improvements includes the ability to use standard sound hardware, longer database field lengths and a panic stop command while in the on-air mode. Barcus is working on a true 32-bit Windows version for release late this year.
The great thing is you never reach a salesperson when you call for support. You reach the person most knowledgeable about the program - the programmer.
There are many more features I haven't touched upon that make this system unique. I have to say that the software has done a remarkable job for my station. I have received many compliments on how consistent my sound is. For this I have the Digital Jukebox to thank.