A fisheye view of 538’s new on-air studio, where a DHD console plays a prominent role. Credit 538 Group. HILVERSUM, Netherlands — In December of last year, Dutch commercial radio station 538 relocated to new studios, joining fellow 538Group broadcasters in a huge 4,400 square-meter building. The new headquarters features three double (with backup) on-air and 12 production studios.
“Since we took over SLAM!FM, and with the growing popularity of TV stations 538 TV and SLAM!TV, the five buildings in the center of town had become too small,” said Jan-Willem Brüggenwirth, director of the 538Group.
Situated in the outskirts of Hilversum, the new building is now also the home for classic hits station Radio 10 Gold, dance station SLAM!FM and CHR formatted 538, plus TV stations 538 TV and SLAM!TV. Talpa Media is the owner of the 538Group, which comprises the three radio and two TV stations.
The Edwin Evers band featuring “Voice of Holland” winner Leona performs in the LIVE38 auditorium. Credit: 538 Group. The completely refurbished new headquarters offers room for some 150 employees on four floors. The three on-air studios are built one above the other, offering a spectacular view at night for passers-by.
Alexander Josiassen, technical and operations manager for the 538Group, managed the entire technical upgrade. “We had to strip the complete office configuration and build new radio studios — all of the engineering, design and planning was done in-house,” he said.
“Everything in the building is brand-new — each of the on-air studios is based on an identical concept and tailor-made to fit the needs of the respective stations and on-air staff. The building has large windows to allow all employees to benefit from as much natural light as possible.”
The advantage of clustering three radio stations in one structure is both technical and logistical. Radio 10 Gold, SLAM!FM and 538 all work with the same standard equipment. Take for instance the digital consoles. “We have been working with German firm DHD for many years — we upgraded to the DHD 52 series, and the complete system is probably the biggest DHD platform in the world,” said Josiassen.
“The entire configuration consists of six DHD 52/RX consoles in the on air studios, seven production studios based on DHD 52/SX systems and five production studios with DHD 5200 consoles, which are equipped with DHD 42 series fader modules and upgraded 52 series hardware. We have Pro Tools HDX in every studio, and the complete equipment park is connected with fiber.”
Radio 10 Gold was the first 538Group station to broadcast from the new building. Credit 538 Group. All of the on-air studios are also equipped with Telos Nx12 talkshow systems, a Dalet 5.1 playout system, Pioneer DJ booth, Genelec 6010A and 8050A monitors plus Genelec 70 series subwoofers.
Each radio station is fitted with an on-air studio and a backup studio, and has access to 12 production studios, a video mixing and editing suite plus five voice places on their respective floor. 538, the group’s flagship station, uses an additional production department.
“The big advantage of grouping together three radio stations is the fact that we are able to make use of one huge database, Isilon Media Storage for audio and video, a Dynamic Drive Pool Pro Tools, and Dalet and VidiGo playout systems,” said Radio 10 Gold DJ Dennis Verheugd.
SLAM!FM, which targets a younger audience than 538Group’s other stations, required a more specific studio configuration: the on-air studio features a small stage with a Roland V400 mixing console for unplugged concerts and an additional external DJ set for guest DJs who regularly get a spot on SLAM’s broadcasts.
With the growing impact of visual radio, SLAM!FM, alongside the self-op presenter, makes use of a separate operator for video during the station’s drive time programs.
The 538Group employs extra staff, in addition to the on-air hosts, to deal with interactivity, such as social media and text messages. Alongside the 538 on-air and backup studios, the broacaster installed two extra production workplaces with a Soundcraft Vi4 mixing desk, Pro Tools workstation, Neve, UREI and Focusrite equipment, all configured around the central DHD platform.
Michael Blijven combines SLAM!FM and SLAM!TV, where he hosts the program “After School.” Credit: 538Group. It also put in place a separate studio for the “538 Dance Department” dance music radio program, while two other rooms serve for video purposes. “We have a TV post-production studio for 538 TV, plus an extra editing suite with color-scaling facilities,” said Josiassen. “It all started with radio, but TV and streaming have become part of the business.”
The video facilities are used both by 538 TV and other stations, which rent the studios for production purposes, explains Josiassen. “We put two additional studios in place for 538Concepts, which handles the production of 538Group’s corporate audio imaging and radio commercials.
“The big novelty here is LIVE38 a fully fledged auditorium next to the studio,” Josiassen said. Controlled through a separate audio and video editing room, with a Soundcraft Vi4 console for the mixing and multitrack recording of artists, 538Group now boasts a complete concert venue, with a theater setting, offering space for an audience of 35 people.
“The station is keeping close pace with new talent, both domestic and international, and we welcome up to three artists per week in this exclusive concert environment — we’re the only commercial radio station here offering this infrastructure,” he said.
The group transmits all radio and TV signals via fiber to its media-gateway, which channels the audio to the cable network, Webstream and the FM transmitters located in Hilversum’s Mediapark. The three stations use similar Orban Optimod audio processing.
The new 538Group building also comprises a cinema, game rooms and a fitness area, plus spacious lounges and a staff restaurant.
Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Netherlands.