JOPLIN, Mo. — The blueprint for transmitter design is changing for the better. While transitioning from tubes to solid-state has long provided operational and maintenance advantages, in recent years the cost, size and efficiency benefits of solid-state transmitters have escalated quickly.
As our previous solid-state transmitter at KXDG(FM) in Joplin, Mo., started failing, we knew it was time to look at the latest offerings from other manufacturers. Upon surveying the landscape, it became clear that GatesAir’s Flexiva FAX air-cooled range encompassed all of the aforementioned benefits we sought in a 10 kW transmitter.
It’s never a given until the transmitter lands at your feet, but we liked the FAX10’s compact design right away. This is significant given that KXDG shares a transmitter site with other stations, which limits our real estate in an already space-constrained building. The FAX10 takes up approximately a third the floor space of our previous transmitter. It’s so small in fact that we positioned it at the end of our designated area, leaving plenty of space to operate our existing transmitter as a full-power backup.
Installation and setup were simple. Beyond the light weight that comes with its smaller footprint, the process was basically twofold: Run power to the transmitter, and run coax from the transmitter switch. Adequate grounding with strap and surge protection on incoming power provides extra on-air and operational safeguards.
We connected a few basic remote control channels, but we’re finding that the FAX10 offers such a clean and intuitive web interface that we rarely use the remote control. We pull all pertinent readings without needing to dial in remotely, and can look at every parameter down to how each fan is running. The FAX10 automatically fires off emails or text messages if the transmitter were to fall out of tolerance.
Speaking of fans, cooling requirements have decreased considerably. We previously required two continuously running, 7.5-ton air conditioners to cool the building. If one failed, the building temperature grew worrisome since the previous transmitter cranked out a far greater amount of heat. The FAX10 requires only a single air conditioner to maintain a comfortable building temperature.
That efficiency extends to long-term cost-savings. While we don’t yet have figures to compare, there is little doubt that the efficiency figures of the FAX operating at 7.1 kW versus the previous transmitter at the same power level are far different. Beyond cost, that power and energy efficiency offers a greener solution to minimize our carbon footprint.
Opening up the transmitter makes clear how well thought-out the design is from a maintenance standpoint. Modules are easy to reach and replace. Repairs, should they be needed, will be quick and painless. Whereas our previous transmitter ate up half a day to replace a failed power supply, the modular design of the FAX10 will allow replacement within minutes. Given we are 30 minutes each way between the studio and transmitter site, reducing out on-site labor time is a valuable ROI in terms of engineering resources.
We find the FAX exciter to be stable and easy to configure, and working in tandem with the FAX10 our signal is as clear and powerful as ever market-wide. Our program director commented that the station sounds better and the coverage is broader.
We recently had to turn off our HD Radio signal due to the older transmitter being unable to make full analog TPO with the HD sideband operating at –14 dB. Our plan is to turn that signal back on in the future, and the FAX10 will be able to accommodate these requirements.
When we started looking at transmitters, we decided to talk to other engineers in the field. When we spoke to GatesAir FAX customers, they claimed to not know much about the transmitter — because it never breaks down. We considered this high praise, as engineers typically learn the most about a transmitter when it fails. Since turning on the transmitter, we have had no performance issues whatsoever. Support has been excellent when needed, and we’ve been pleased to the point where we recently decided to install a GatesAir Flexiva FAX 1 kW translator system. We look forward to installing more.
For information, contact Keith Adams at GatesAir in Ohio at (513) 459-3447 or visit www.gatesair.com.