MINNEAPOLIS — Smaller-market radio stations tend to go into new studio buildouts with limited budgets and high expectations. In Gabriel Media’s case, we were working with a set budget that needed to cover a lot of ground — from wiring, furniture and sound reinforcement to studio routing and consoles for a new space in downtown St. Cloud, Minn. RadioDNA came in as the integrator to provide a turnkey facility that took into account two working studios with more than your average number of satellite feeds being tossed back and forth.
Gabriel Media is a nonprofit that airs AM talk station KYES 1180 as well as Christian music KKJM(FM)/Spirit 92.9, both of which are active in the community. They needed to be able to switch between automation and live without issue, along with being able to send talent out on a remote without having to send along a technician.
With this move into a facility that once was a real estate office, they also wanted to move from 25+-year-old consoles and punchblock routing into the latest in control surfaces with IP audio networking that would let them automate more of what was critical to their operation.
I recall Deb Huschle, the GM for Gabriel Media, stating, “The most important thing is we have to trust that it will keep us on the air. Second to that is that we have to be able to get back on the air if something does fail, and that’s a big issue because we don’t have an engineer on-site.”
We started with Wheatstone’s WheatNet-IP audio network framework. We built a rack room with two racks of WheatNet-IP I/O Blades and other gear that everything would interface with. We ran 12 Cat-6 cables to two almost identical on-air studios, both of which double as production studios, giving them plenty of patch points in and out of the studios to carry everything from telco and sources to logic. We ran cabling through a wire basket in the ceiling, bypassing the need to run cable trunks, which shaved some cost off the budget. For each studio, we went with Wheatstone’s IP-12 control surfaces. This 12-fader console is adaptable as either an on-air or production board, which made it ideal for Gabriel Media’s new studio; that and its affordability.
We then added several TS-4 talent stations for guest positions. Each TS-4 connects into the network and has headphone jacks, cough button, plus USB jacks so guests can plug in their laptops or other devices during interviews; the studios can get very busy on the air and off during the stations’ two pledge drives every year.
There was enough budget left over to bring in curved-screen monitors in one of the main studios, which gave it a cockpit feel that the talent likes.
Because both studios are almost identical, talent can move easily from one to the other — along with their specific console presets. Networking makes it possible to run the studios live or to send automated programming directly to air with the simple push of a button regardless of which studio they’re in.
We also integrated the stations’ AudioVault automation and codecs into the WheatNet-IP (through Wheatstone’s ACI protocol). This means that remote talent is able to control everything — laptop, iPhone, whatever device they use in the field — through the network without an additional board op or technician at the other end. A fully integrated system also means my team of engineers can dial into the network to make routine maintenance changes from a secure laptop, or to troubleshoot a problem if necessary.
As with all our projects, we color-coded and mapped out signal paths so that changes can be made easily at any time. Recently, we were just informed that Gabriel Media will be adding an FM translator, which we expect to be able to integrate into their operation easily.
For information, contact Jay Tyler at Wheatstone in North Carolina at 1-252-638-7000 or visit www.wheatstone.com.