SEATTLE In 1994 Marv Mickley and I attended the NAB convention in Las Vegas. Marv managed our sister station KWPZ in Lynden, Wash., near the Canadian border, and did the afternoon drive shift. Our goal was to find a digital audio delivery system for Crista Broadcasting’s three radio stations, KCMS(FM) and KCIS(AM) in Seattle and KWPZ(FM) in Lynden.
At that time there were 25 systems to choose from, all working on different platforms like Windows 3.1. We kept coming back to ENCO, where they addressed our many concerns including serving audio real-time over a 10baseT network and having a central storage system as well as backups.
We were able to buy off-the-shelf Dell personal computers, servers and Antex audio cards along with ENCO’s DAD software with no licensing or proprietary hardware. It’s an affordable, reliable audio storage and playback system.
Now it’s 15 years later and ENCO is still completely meeting the needs of our three radio stations in two locations with 12 workstations.
Our ENCO system can use audio cards with audio over IP but our stations are still running analog with analog consoles including 66-style block wiring.
We use the ENCO Gateway utility to move music and commercials back and forth between studio locations, using specific cut ranges to identify what audio files to move back and forth.
We receive much of our program content as MP3s. ENCO’s Dropbox utility imports and converts audio from different sources, converting sample rates, changing levels and adding compression. Still, much of the content of our AM station is background recorded with more than 85 events a day. ENCO’s DAD controls the Wegener Unity 4000 satellite receiver, switching the satellite channels and controlling our Broadcast Tools audio router, selecting different audio sources.
The new Amb-OS satellite system, developed by Focus on the Family and Ambassador Inspirational Radio, sends us audio files rather than continuous audio. The Amb-OS AMR-100 receiver/FTP server receives a program file, stores it and transfers it automatically to ENCO’s storage server, a Snap Server NAS.
Streaming the stations presents the challenge of replacing the over-the-air spots with streaming spots. Using different audio outputs on the DAD-fed Digigram audio cards allows us to split the audio feeding the stream at the beginning of a spot set and send a different set of commercials to the Web. We use Ando Media to manage the audio buffering for seamless rejoining of over-the-air audio. Switching and buffering of audio is accomplished with DAD command cuts.
Addressing the Now Playing information was a bit challenging.
ENCO’s PADapult would have certainly handled our needs for sending the correctly formatted “Now Playing” content to the Web page, HD and RDS, but several years back my college-aged assistant, Christopher, wrote a program he calls RadioPlus that essentially does the same thing. I think we’re on version 12 version of his program.
For a long time incoming EAS alerts simply interrupted the audio over the air, playing the message as it came in. When the spot rates went from $50 to $300 a spot after our ratings climbed to put us in the top 10 in the Seattle market it became important to not interrupt them.
Tim, my other genius assistant, designed a circuit that interfaces with DAD. The circuit handshakes the GPI/GPO card with the TFT EAS unit, switching DAD to manual, playing the alert, then putting DAD back into auto mode and resuming programming. A live announcer always gets surprised watching DAD switching back and forth and it takes a bit of training to get them to leave it alone until the process is complete.
I like the ENCO support staff. I like their knowledgeable sales staff, and I love never losing spots. I love systems that run consistently without constantly rebooting them. I love how it interfaces with RCS and WideOrbit and reconciles logs. Mostly, I appreciate Tim Vik, my assistant who has made this whole complicated computer “conglomeration” so reliable. Any system is only as good as the engineer who puts all the pieces together.
Bryan Hubert is chief engineer for Crista Broadcasting.
For information, contact ENCO Systems at (248) 827-4440 or visitwww.enco.com.