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Money Pit Says ‘Bye, Bye, ISDN’

User Report: Comrex IP codecs deliver on sound with simple setup for syndicated show

OAKHURST, N.J. — Over 10 years, my nationally syndicated home improvement radio show, “The Money Pit,” has grown significantly and now is carried on approximately 275 stations as well as XM Sirius Satellite Radio.

Tom Kraeutler

We’ve done this despite some geographical challenges. I am based in New Jersey while my radio partner, Leslie Segrete, is a few hours away in Long Island, and the show is produced in Ohio.

Like many radio broadcasters, over the years we’ve depended on the availability of ISDN to connect our three locations and provide a means of high-quality audio transmission.

ISDN challenges

Lately we’ve had increasingly frequent ISDN challenges. As Radio World readers may know, when ISDN goes down, an enormous effort may be required to get the phone company to identify and fix the problem.

First there’s the required call to “customer service,” where — after you’ve spent 30 minutes on hold — the person who answers can’t even spell ISDN, let alone has any clue how to fix it.

Next there’s the equally ill-equipped tech sent to try to fix your problem, with of course no tool that vaguely fits the diagnostic requirements.

Finally the call gets ramped up to a point where you might find somebody who has been at the phone company long enough to remember this technology.

In fact, after Leslie’s lines went down, she ultimately reached somebody who handles ISDN lines for the military. Besides broadcasters, the army is apparently the only regular ISDN customer anymore.

Broadcasting from our home studios is challenging enough. Heading out for a remote broadcast from a trade show or other big event further amps up the ISDN challenges.

It has become increasingly difficult to secure service at locations such as convention centers, where once it was commonplace. Sometimes I’d even plan an extra day to make absolutely sure the ISDN was installed and working correctly.

Comrex Access units can ‘see’ each other once they are connected to an IP connection.

Nevertheless, having depended on ISDN for so long, I was a bit reluctant to go the IP route, given the reach of the show and my investment in ISDN hardware over the years. But after some recent significant service failures by ISDN service providers, I was very much ready to put ISDN technology in my rearview mirror.

Live from K.C.

While I’m certainly no stranger to Comrex, having used their POTS and ISDN codecs over the years and owning several of each, the promise of IP seemed a bit too good to be true. But after following the development of this technology, it was clear Comrex had emerged as the dominant leader in this area.

As a broadcaster specializing in home improvement and not IT, I needed a solution that provided an easy way for our studio, Leslie and me to connect from our various locations without complicated setup or configuration. I found that and more in the latest improvement to the Comrex Access IP codec system.

Access provides that level of simplicity while taking advantage of the new 4G wireless technology that is rolling out across the U.S.

By using the Comrex BRIC Traversal Server (or BRIC-TS), Comrex Access units can “see” each other once they are connected to an IP connection. This meant that Leslie could plug her Access into her home studio Internet connection, and I could do the same from my studio. A green star icon would appear on the screen of our Access portable units, which we would select and connect. Very simple.

Even more impressive is that Access codecs now support 4G modems from several providers in the United States, making it easy to connect in locations where ISDN was not possible.

We purchased our Access codecs just in time for a remote from the Kansas City convention center. Within seconds of booting the unit, it found the wireless signal and connected to the studio with a touch of the screen. Using the optional mixer, we were able to connect and produce up to a six-mic show flawlessly.

Overall, our experience has been relatively painless. The sound is just as good as what we had with ISDN. The biggest improvement is not having to deal with the tremendous hassle of ISDN and the simplicity of connecting from just about anywhere over IP.

Tom Kraeutler is host of “The Money Pit.”

For information, contact Chris Crump at Comrex in Massachusetts at (978) 784-1776 or visit