Matt Lightner is president of contract engineering and integration company Lightner Electronics Inc., and owner of six radio stations. This interview appeared in the ebook “Trends in Consoles.”
Radio World: What’s the most important trend in recently introduced models or that you anticipate coming soon?
Matt Lightner: I would have to say that consoles are moving away from a traditional audio-control-only device, and by adding scripting are quickly moving into the “control surface” for the complete operation of the station. This provides a much cleaner studio with everything right in front of you, and the flexibility to do just about anything.
The virtual control of the console is also a major plus, as talent could run remote broadcasts themselves from the field with the virtual console app. I can’t tell you how many dead air alarms over the years were from someone forgetting to “pot up” the automation on the board. Now a quick login from remote, and that is fixed with a click.
RW: Your company does onsite installation work but also has two bench techs who work mostly on broadcast equipment, fixing or refurbishing a lot of it. How has that influenced your thinking about the state of consoles and the role they play?
Lightner: Well. We have worked on just about every console out there over the years … some that are 30+ years old and still working great with a minor rebuild. We’ve learned announcers just love the layout of a good console, and don’t want to let it go.
So I think it is still very important not to forget about the quality and feel of the console. Yes, maybe some of the younger talent will be OK with a big touchscreen virtual console, but I do not think the traditional look and feel of a console with faders, switches, etc. is going away anytime soon.
Adding to the traditional console feel and look, with scripting, LCDs on each channel, etc. is the best of both worlds. It’s all about adding in the functionality needed for today’s broadcast environment, and keeping the feel of a traditional console. At least for us who have been in the industry for a while, LOL!
RW: How vibrant is the marketplace for analog consoles?
Lightner: For smaller, simple standalone stations, there is nothing wrong with a good analog console. They are simple and just work! So I do not seem them disappearing anytime in the near future. For any multi-station/studio environments, or when you need the benefits of added control, AOIP is the way to go.
RW: What options are available in the market to support brands that are no longer manufactured?
Lightner: Companies like ours try to support as many as we can that are no longer manufactured. It all depends on parts availability. Most of the ICs in analog consoles are commonly available parts. Any custom parts no longer available, then that might be the end of the line.
RW: Other suggestions for console buyers?
Lightner: Do your research. Find a manufacturer that has a reliable track record in the AoIP world. That is both with hardware reliability, and software. The last thing you want to be is a beta tester when you have multiple stations all on one platform than could fail at once. Also do not skimp on the network switches, category cabling, etc. That is the heart any AoIP system.