REHOBOTH BEACH, DEL. — When I became the chief engineer at WGMD(FM), a Class A station in this coastal resort community, the station employed one of the original versions of ENCO Systems Digital Audio Delivery system.
Broadcasting a news-talk format, the DAD was straining due to a combination of live and syndicated satellite delivery utilizing 8-plus-year-old computers with hard drives topping out at 85 percent capacity. Former program directors had filled the drives with hundreds of hours of mistimed commercial loads, which caused DAD to ask the processors to work overtime, resulting in extended and nerve-wracking on-screen “Please Wait” notices and caused numerous nagging minor errors.
When signs of impending hardware failures began raising their heads, it was time to begin seriously researching a new automation system.
The search included four major software systems, including updating our ENCO DAD. Part of the bidding process included hardware. I could have purchased hardware from others but elected to have the ultimate winner provide computers, therefore eliminating unwanted variables should there be a support issue.
After several months of research, I elected to upgrade to a new ENCO DAD system. Several reasons guided me to my decision: ENCO software features; customization to meet our station needs and flexibility; robust hardware system backed up with manufacturer warranty; superior ENCO customer support; staff familiarity of the software; cost; and installation schedule.
A few weeks after placing my purchase order with ENCO, the DAD equipment arrived and was set up for testing and burn time. My initial test installation was completed over the phone remotely with ENCO support. The workstations were loaded with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OS, 8 GB RAM, dual 1TB SATA drives for the audio/data, ENCO DAD v14.0c and AudioScience soundcards. My basic installation utilizes two workstations: on-air and production.
Shortly thereafter, ENCO tech Shawn MacDonnell arrived to provide first-class assistance to install and change over from old to new. The new installation took place during business hours, on-air with minimal disruption, but most importantly, without commercial loss. After his completion of on-site installation, the system was on the air. I have since added two additional workstations to ease workload.
ENCO allows DAD the capability to be customized for any size market station. It is powerful enough to handle the most complex down to the most simple station environments. With that in mind, there are challenges that can be faced when replacing the infrastructure of the station and configuring DAD to execute exactly what the station needs.
Along with ENCO’s robust operating system, it features many utilities to assist in the automation process and remove human error out of the picture.
I couldn’t live without the Enconveyor utility. It allows the software to fetch files, such as weather, traffic, third-party audio, etc., from FTP or website and ingest the cut directly into DAD through ENCO’s Dropbox utility. It saves time and manpower. DAD also uses the flexibility for “Priority Play” buttons allowing the DAD to be remotely fired from multiple locations, such as news or production studios.
Some of the challenges that I faced were details with building “events” and “clocks,” allowing for specific cuts to have active hours during the “active and “kill” date range, creating onscreen notifications before “branch events” and time calculations to the fraction of the second rather than whole.
A feature I love about ENCO is their extraordinary customer service and support. One phone call resolves most issues. Off-hours emergency support is superior. By having ENCO provide hardware and install the system, if there is an issue, the ENCO techs know what they are dealing with, so there is no finger-pointing between hardware and software vendors.
ENCO also offers both onsite installation and remote installation. When changing your current automation system to ENCO or performing a major hardware and software upgrade, I would recommend including this in your package. ENCO’s development team is constantly working to upgrade and improve their products to meet and exceed the changing demands of this industry. With the ease of having an experienced ENCO tech at your side to assist in customizing DAD to your station, it helps to tie up loose ends and make your station sound great.
Last, ENCO openly accepts ideas and suggestions for feature requests. They listen to the needs of the client and adapt their software accordingly with program updates throughout the year. I feel that this important because it creates a long-lasting partnership with the company and that we are working together to achieve the same result.
On a side note, I did take the liberty of adding one luxurious pleasure to my new installation, a 42-inch plasma monitor, HDMI-fed; those of us who are visually challenged can now read the screen from the parking lot.
For information, contact Aaron Johnson at ENCO Systems in Michigan at (248) 827-4440 or visit www.enco.com.