LEXINGTON, Ky. — Because I’ve been in radio since shortly after Noah and the flood, LM Communications owner Lynn Martin calls on me for all things radio, including technical, for the 12-station chain.
After a couple of processor failures, Martin and I had a few conversations with Frank Foti, president of Omnia Audio, about processors. The next thing I knew, Frank and his comrade-in-arms Cornelius “Corny” Gould hopped in their car and drove down to Lexington from Cleveland.
Ironically, a favorite stop in the merry circus I call my life was my time in Cleveland at the Buzzard, WMMS(FM). It so happens that Omnia’s Frank Foti is a Buzzard too. We Buzzards are a close-knit group. Just as there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine, there are no ex-Buzzards.
Goes to 11
We all know that the last Omnia processor was the Omnia-6, so how did we get to “11”? Frank quoted the line out of “Spinal Tap”: It was going to be the Omnia 10 but they decided that it needed to go to 11.
The Omnia.11 is a game-changer. This is a full polevault over the competition — and it doesn’t take weeks of tweaking to get it there.
Let’s start with the fact that the thing has fold-back handles. I’ve carried processors, from a giant Gates tube limiter at WROX in 1964 to the Volumax at Eddie Fritts’ WNLA(FM), through all the Cutting Edge, Orban and early Omnia models; not one of them had a handle. When it comes to transporting anything to and from a rack or sliding it in and out of one, it’s nice to have a handle. Today, most often this is accomplished by one person and so a handle is a good thing.
It has a really big touch screen that is easy to read — and OMG! — an intuitive GUI.
The user interface on the Omnia.11 is the size iPad. No more putting on my reading glasses and getting out the magnifying glass to read a two-line display. I can read the Omnia.11 from across the room; and it’s laid out so intuitively that you instantly know what’s going on with your audio. The rear panel has every kind of input, output, optical and Internet connection you could ask for. And the Omnia.11 is priced competitively with other high-end processors.
We ran a demo unit on four stations with wildly differing formats. At each it took only a few minutes to drop in and customize the sound.
We started with our hot AC station, WCDA(FM) in Lexington. I have never been able to get a clean, “spatial” sound out of the old processor, and loudness has always been a problem even when we’re pumping at the legal limit.
We plugged the Omnia.11 in on the stock hot AC setting and it was immediately the cleanest, loudest, biggest-sounding station in town. I put on the headphones; listened to the car stereo; listened on the men’s room little mono speaker. It was the absolute best the station had ever sounded.
The last place we put it was on WLXO(FM), a classic country station for which LM Communications recently began providing programming consultation to its owner. Since it is older country music, quite a few of the songs are just plain mono and many of the “stereo” don’t have a lot of stereo spread. Now, with Omnia.11 in the mix, the music wraps around you like a blanket. There is absolute sonic clarity throughout the spectrum and this little Class A sounds louder than the full Class C, with no square wave or pumping or artifacts of any kind.
When you have source material this diverse and don’t realize it’s a ’50s song until you’re a few bars in, that tells me that this box is doing something very different. The true beauty of the Omnia.11 is that it really doesn’t have any “sound” of its own. It just makes everything sound better. I am not an engineer and I cannot tell you how the Omnia.11 does what it does. I can only tell you that I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and this is the best processor I’ve ever heard. With this unit there is no longer any reason to sacrifice any level of fidelity for loudness.
Oh, and that demo unit is still in the rack and on the air (I wouldn’t give it back). The rest of the ones I want are on order and I won’t be happy until they are in all of our stations. The Omnia.11 is a “10.”
The author is chief programming officer for LM Communications.
For information, contact Omnia Audio in Ohio at (216) 241-7225 or visit www.omnia-audio.com.