PENSACOLA, FLA. — It took over 10 years but HD Radio is now on CatCountry 98.7 in Pensacola, Fla., at full power.
Some history. In 2003 WYCT (CatCountry 98.7) acquired an Armstrong tube-based test rig directly from iBiquity and drove it with Broadcast Electronics’ FSi-10/FXi-250 exciter. This was connected to a new Shively IAD 8/3 interleaved antenna, and so WYCT became the first Florida FM to broadcast in HD Radio.
With northwest Florida being basically flat, the Ð20 dB injection covered our area well for vehicles and station staff was impressed. However, management decided that HD Radio receiver penetration was not yet high enough, so we returned to analog-only broadcast.
The times and technology have changed. Going to NAB Shows over the past few years made it easy to see that FM transmitter technology is providing higher value and more reliability. HD Radio is a standard option in more vehicles, which made a full-power HD transmitter a must-buy.
So when I received the budget for a new transmitter, I got excited and started talking. I talked with manufacturers, with other broadcasters and with Xperi.
Our priorities: The system had to be running the latest Generation 4 HD software, have asymmetrical sideband implementation, utilize low-level combining, have a high level of built-in redundancy and require no air conditioning.
Rohde & Schwarz is committed to the HD Radio roadmap and it shows in their hardware, so the R&S THR9 became the transmitter of choice for us. The importer, exporter and Exgine are all running Generation 4 software on an embedded platform, providing a highly reliable system. This configuration allows use of the extended partition for a fourth audio channel and for the importer and exporter to reside on the same hardware, which reduces cost and complexity.
Other important features of the R&S THR9 are its ability to broadcast asymmetrical sidebands, and its liquid-cooled RF amps and power supplies. In fact, the R&S THR9 is nearly silent while operating as it “sends the heat out the hose” to a heat exchanger.
For those renting by the square foot, the R&S THR9 fits in the space of a single deep rack, even when fully populated at 40 kW.
Moving away from WYCT’s old Collins 831-G2 transmitter meant we no longer had to use air conditioning to cool the transmitter. Air-cooled transmitters typically require significant added air conditioning to be installed, a big expense for a block building in Florida with little insulation. Calculations showed that using a liquid-cooled Rohde & Schwarz transmitter had a lower overall system cost than installing and running an external air-cooled system. And for those wondering: No leaks!
The physical installation is simple and should be fine for those knowledgeable in installing large transmitters.
The built-in redundancy is great. We have dual exciters (so no downtime for software updates), dual Exgines, dual pumps for the cooling system, dual fans in the heat exchanger and even dual breaker switches. Electric feeds were run from separate breakers; this allows for the exciter, Exgine, and half the RF amps to stay on if one breaker trips. The exciters and Exgines can be set to automatically fail-over on alarm. I also opted for a 1U built-in UPS that the R&S THR9 controller communicates with.
Our biggest fear buying a new design transmitter was ready support and parts availability. While virtually 100 percent of the spare parts are now stocked at the Rohde & Schwarz headquarters in Columbia, Md. (near Baltimore-Washington International airport), the station bought a bunch of spare parts to keep on hand. Rohde & Schwarz radio field support is growing and is responsive. When I had issues with a new configuration the team was prompt in addressing it. If you aren’t utilizing the R&S team for the install, the configuration of initial settings may be a little confusing, but the documentation is very good.
The R&S THR9 is fully remote control-capable through a web GUI, can be remotely monitored through SNMP, and an optional GPIO unit can be added. While the importer/exporter is running on a Linux platform, at this time an external Windows computer is needed to run the JMSAC software for Artist Experience. The cooling system is monitored and controlled via the same integrated GUI.
Overall the R&S THR9 is a functional, compact and extremely efficient transmitter that should be considered for any system upgrade. Especially for those wanting to broadcast in HD at –10 dB. We love our R&S THR9.
For information, contact Don Backus at Rohde & Schwarz in Maryland at 1-616-206-0301 or visit www.rohde-schwarz.com.