The May 2005 Meeting and Program
The May 2005 meeting of the Denver SMPTE-SBE48 chapters was held at Rocky Mountain PBS on Thursday the 19th. SBE chairman Jim Schoedler introduced the presenters and guests from Modulus Video, including Stephan Richard and Ian Macaulay.
Neil Brydon, Modulus Director of Product Marketing, delivered a half hour tutorial on MPEG-4 AVC technology. He stressed the new coding algorithms that build on MPEG-2 but with added processing that results in greatly reduced bitrate. Practical encoders use dedicated CPUs and FPGA technology operating on specific areas of the picture to provide parallel processing.
Following the tutorial Modulus provided a demonstration of MPEG-4 encoding side by side with MPEG-2. A lively Q&A session ensued. Over 25 members, visitors and guests were present for this interesting presentation.
Two Members Elected Fellows OF Society
The Board of Directors of the Society of Broadcast Engineers has elected two members to the rank of Fellow. James "Andy" Butler, CPBE of PBS in Alexandria, Virginia and Clay Freinwald, CPBE of Entercom in Seattle, Washington were elected during the Board's regular spring meeting held during the NAB convention in Las Vegas.
Andy Butler is a past president of the Society, having served in that position for two terms from 1999 through 2001. Prior to being elected President, he served on the Board beginning in 1995. Andy has been a member of chapters in St. Louis, New York, Baltimore, Springfield, IL and Washington, D.C. and was instrumental in the Society's first national conventions held in the mid -1980's. He has represented SBE with a number of industry groups.
Clay Freinwald, CPBE, is currently in his sixth year as a member of the SBE Board of Directors and chairs the national SBE EAS Committee. He also serves on the FCC Liaison and Frequency Coordination committees and the Executive Committee. Clay has been a member of SBE since 1968, holding member #714. He has been an active leader in SBE Chapter 16 in Seattle for many years and is currently a member of that chapter's board.
Both men will formally receive their recognition as SBE Fellows during the SBE National Meeting this October in Grapevine, Texas.
AM Directional Antenna Specialist Certification Now Available
The SBE has introduced its first Specialist Certification, covering the maintenance of AM directional antennas. Requirements for earning the designation of AM Directional Antenna Specialist include passing an exam and be currently SBE certified at the Broadcast Engineer level or higher. To register for any SBE certification exam, contact Linda Baun at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or LBaun@sbe.org.
Random Radio Thoughts
HD Radio News
And many of the larger groups are taking the lead and doing just that. We've all read in the trade press about the many groups that have made commitments to covert substantial numbers of their stations to HD Radio within the next few years. The groups taking the lead include Clear Channel, Infinity, Cox, Entercom, ABC/Disney, Citadel, Radio One and Jefferson-Pilot, among others.
Crawford Broadcasting has now joined these ranks, signing a commitment to convert 80% of its stations to HD Radio by the end of 2008. This brings to over 2,000 the number of radio stations guaranteed to be transmitting a digital signal in the next couple of years.
This sends a powerful message to receiver manufacturers: the signals will be there. And the receiver manufacturers seem to be listening. Currently, Kenwood, JVC and Panasonic offer HD Radio capable automobile receivers. Many more HD Radio automobile radios are coming, including Alpine, Fujitsu and Sanyo. HD Radio also seems to have the attention of OEMs. Delphi and Visteon will be producing HD Radio capable automobile radios for some 2006 models. Two companies, Radiosophy and Riveradio, plan to offer budget-priced tabletop/portable HD Radio receivers this summer.
Some of the loudest buzz around the convention was about multicasting, the capability of FM HD Radio to split its data bandwidth into multiple audio streams. A live, over-the-air demo was provided during the convention by a local Las Vegas non-comm, with two discrete program streams at 44 kHz each. Multicasting is not just vaporware, either. Many of the receivers currently available have multicast capability. Kenwood is even offering a $50 multicast retrofit for its older KTC-HR100 HD Radio tuners.
It has been interesting talking to other engineers around the country about HD Radio. Three distinct camps have emerged: pro-HD, anti-HD and wait-and-see. This isn't too surprising. What really bugs me, though, is that a lot of the "anti" and "wait-and-see" crowd seem to recognize the threat that satellite radio and other emerging media pose, but they're frozen in place like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights. "I don't know what's going to happen with this IBOC thing, but we're all going to be in big trouble if satellite keeps growing." To those people, I would offer some advice paraphrased from a C.C. Ryder book title: "Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way!" Don't talk down HD Radio unless you have a better idea that can be implemented in the short term. As we all learned from the AM Stereo debacle 20 years ago, timing is everything. We have a very short window of opportunity to offer something different and better.
We won't be using any of those orange cones, but there is going to be plenty of construction going on around Crawford's Denver-area sites this summer. We will break ground this month on a new four-tower DA for KLDC (now on 800 kHz, moving to 810) at the KLZ site at 82nd and York. This means plenty of antenna work for KLZ as well... new matching networks, new filters and a new ground system. GRB Construction is the contractor of record on the tower and ground system part of this project, with tower steel being provided by Utility Tower Company of Oklahoma City. A Nautel Jazz 1000 has been purchased for the new KLDC nighttime facility, with phasing/coupling/filter equipment provided by Kintronic Laboratories, all through RF Specialties of Texas.
Work has already begun at the KLDC daytime site at Brighton (U.S. 85 and Weld C.R. 6), where we just had a double steel door installed on the elevated transmitter building. Evidently, the existing phasor and the 1963-vintage RCA BC-500K were put into the building through an opening cut in the side of the building. That opening was repaired after installation, making it impossible to remove these items without again cutting a hole in the side of the building. Ed Dulaney decided that if he was going to have to cut a hole anyway, why not install a double-door in the opening, making it much easier to move large items in and out? By the way, if any of you want that BC-500K, it's yours for the taking. It would make a great 160 meter AM rig, and your wife will love the way it looks in your hamshack! Call Ed at (303) 433-5500 if you're interested.
I mentioned earlier that Crawford recently committed to convert 80% of its stations to HD Radio by the end of 2008. We're well on our way to meeting this commitment already, with most of our FM stations either transmitting HD Radio signals or in the process of converting. We plan to convert our first three AM stations right here in Denver - KLZ, KLDC and KLTT. Equipment has been ordered for these conversions, and it should all be on hand by the end of July. Ed and his crew have been busy making preparations.
While the KLZ and KLDC antennas will be HD Radio ready when we finish the antenna work later this year, we didn't really know what KLTT looked like beyond 10 kHz. That station signed on the air in 1996, and its phasing/coupling system was designed for AM Stereo with a 10 kHz passband. Last month, Ed and Keith made a common point sweep of both the day and night systems. The daytime came in at 1.31:1 at 15 kHz with a symmetrical 9 o'clock cusp. The nighttime came in at - get this - 1.07:1 at 15 kHz. The points on the nighttime are clustered so tight on the Smith chart that we can't tell where the cusp is, but with 1.05:1 on the lower sideband and 1.07 on the upper, who cares? It looks like that antenna will do just fine for HD Radio. Now, Keith has a whole lot of power amplifier modules to replace in the Nautel ND-50 transmitter to make it HD Radio ready!
KVOD signed on its digital carriers just before Memorial Day. KVOD is using Harris HD Radio generation equipment. I have a Kenwood HD tuner on order, and it should be here early this month. In next month's column, I'll give you a report on the HD Radio signals on the air in the Denver market.
If you have news you would like to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, email me at email@example.com.
The YXZ Report
By Kent Randles K7YXZ CBRE
LIFE WITH HD RADIO
As I write this newsletter, there are eight FM HD signals on the air in the Portland market. 90.7 KBOO Chief Engineer John Mackey says their two new mid-level combined Harris transmitters should be on the air in the next 2 weeks. It will be very interesting to see how it works through the seven-station combiner and Stonehenge Tower main antenna, a three-section Jampro spiral with no way to feed the "bays" separately. This is unlike the five FM stations with HD that are combined and fed separately into the Shively panel antenna at Skyline Tower.
Of the three Entercom stations with HD signals from the Stonehenge Tower, 92.3 KGON and 99.5 KWJJ are using their backup antennas because of their 38 and 19 kW total power output (TPO), respectively, and the current lack of input power headroom of the antenna. The third, 94.7 KNRK, is high-level combined into a separate, directional, one-bay antenna above the master antenna. The fourth Entercom station at Stonehenge, 97.1, now "Charlie FM," will also use its backup antenna due to its 38 kW TPO.
New since the printed version was written: KBPS-FM will be on from their new panel antenna on the Sylvan Tower on Tuesday, May 10th, at 2 PM. HD Radio a week or two later.
But now Oregon's first AM HD signal is on the air: 50 kW 1190 KEX. I haven't talked with any of the Clear Channel engineers about it, but the last time I visited the transmitter site, Erik Kuhlmann, Director of Engineering for Oregon, said KEX would be the easier station to add HD to because it's non-directional during the day and they only have to modify one antenna tuning unit and one 620 kHz reject filter (for KPOJ).
KENWOOD TO SHIP HD RADIO-READY MULTICAST TUNER MAY 1
(From Radio World Online, http://www.rwonline.com/dailynews/one.php?id=6997 . ©2005 IMAS Publishing Group)
Beginning May 1, Kenwood will ship to its dealers HD Radio tuners with the ability to decode several digital channels. The unit, which will sport an NPR Tomorrow Radio logo, is an upgrade of Kenwood's current HD Radio tuner, the KTC-HR100. The KTC-HR100 can be used with all HD Radio- Ready Kenwood in-dash receivers.
The radio will list for $500 and be available from Kenwood dealers. Kenwood USA VP/New Technologies Mike Berman said the company re-wrote the firmware for the radio, "giving it the ability to recognize the presence of supplemental channels tune to them and also display song title and artist."
Dealers can special order the units at a customer's request. Crutchfield will also carry the new product.
Kenwood is also offering upgrades of its HD Radio for those who wish to add the multicast capability. The upgrade offer is open to anyone, consumers or broadcasters. An individual can ship Kenwood's HR100 back to the company and obtain a firmware upgrade for $25. For information about how to ship the unit, call 1-800-Kenwood.
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
o Acting on the premise that the amateur bands must flexibly and comfortably accommodate present and future operating modes and technologies over the long haul, the American Radio Relay League's Executive Committee has reached consensus on recommendations to the ARRL Board of Directors for a regulation-by-bandwidth proposal. Meeting April 9 in Denver, the panel adopted recommendations that will form the basis of a draft ARRL petition to the FCC seeking to govern the usage of amateur spectrum by emission bandwidth rather than by mode. The proposals remain only committee recommendations at this point. ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, says a key principle underlying the League initiative is that the amateur community must shoulder the responsibility for resolving conflicts among potentially conflicting modes and not expect-or wait for-the FCC to impose its own solutions.
"We are in the early stages of a dramatic shift in amateur HF operating patterns, and it's impossible to predict where this shift may lead," Sumner said. "The FCC rules should not stand in the way of where technology takes us in our fulfillment of the bases and purposes of Amateur Radio." The initiative is aimed in part at encouraging new digital modes, but the primary emphasis is to avoid having to write a new rule every time a new mode bursts onto the scene. The proposals abandon the effort to have the FCC segregate digital and analog emissions by rule. As the ARRL's Executive Committee sees it, the FCC rules should simply set out band segments in which amateurs may employ bandwidths of up to 3 kHz, leaving any further subdivision up to the amateur band planning process. "Certainly there have to be mechanisms to minimize interference between analog and digital stations, since they cannot compatibly share the same frequency," Sumner explained. "However, using the FCC rules to subdivide the amateur HF bands is the wrong approach. The FCC rules are too static and too difficult to change."
o US Representative Michael Ross of Arkansas has introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives calling on the FCC to "conduct a full and complete analysis" of radio interference from broadband over power line (BPL). The resolution, H. Res 230, says the Commission should comprehensively evaluate BPL's interference potential incorporating "extensive public review and comment," and-in light of that analysis-to "reconsider and review" its new BPL rules. The FCC adopted rules to govern so-called Access BPL last October 14.
The resolution's prime focus is on BPL's potential to disrupt critical public safety radiocommunication. It cites National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) studies that harmful interference to low-band VHF public safety radio receivers at distances of up to 460 meters. It also notes that the same NTIA study determined that BPL interference to aeronautical and airline travel communications "could be expected at distances up to 40 kilometers from the center of the broadband over power line system, and that interference to outer marker beacons for airline instrument landing systems could be expected at great distances as well." The resolution also sites comments that the FCC has struggled for years to resolve widespread harmful interference to the radiocommunications of first responders on 800 MHz and "should not have proceeded with introduction of a technology which appears to have substantial potential to cause destructive interference to police, fire, emergency medical services, and other public safety radio systems" without first conducting a comprehensive evaluation.
The non-binding resolution which was introduced April 21 has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which Representative Ross serves. Ross is also an amateur radio operator, WD5DVR.
(Excerpts from the American Radio Relay League web site)
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
It's NAB Month. The time of the year when Broadcasters from all over congregate in the desert to see and talk about what's new. For me it will likely be my last year as a member of the SBE BOD. This fall I will reach my limit of 3 terms, for which I thank you all. One of the benefits of serving on the BOD is that you get a free registration to the April event.
Congratulations to Milford Smith (Smitty), winner of this year's Radio Engineering Achievement Award and to Oded Bendov on winning this year's TV Engineering award. The awards will be presented during the Engineering luncheon at NAB this year.
One thing is going to take some getting used to... a new NAB President. Eddie Fritts is stepping down from the post he has held since 1982.
As soon as I get through writing this column it's time to start packing for another trip to the East... to the land of snow and cold. How in the world do you explain to folks back there our recent experience with winter when they are all firmly convinced that it rains all the time here?
I recently attended the EAS Summit in WDC along with Don Miller (WaEMD) and Mark Allen of WSAB. Approx. 175 folks from all 50 states came together to talk about the state of EAS in our land. While there we learned that Washington is among a small number of states that have their EAS act 'together'. Interesting that the West Coast states are in that club. The Feds announced that the PEP (Primary Entry Point) program is finally going to get a long overdue upgrading. Here locally, KIRO is the PEP and that's why so many stations are assigned to monitor them. Another 'improvement' is the Haz-Collect program that will elevate the role of NOAA Weather Radio in the world of public warnings. Still nothing stated about the pending FCC-EAS NPRM... but reading between the lines has become easier.
This is the last column that I will be emailing to John Forbes who is retiring as Editor of our chapter's newsletter, the SBE Waveguide. What can I say other than: Thanks for all the memories John.... It's been great. The Chapter BOD is dealing with John's retirement in a way that you will all continue to receive this little publication; there will be some changes, but this is part of life.
There is certainly a lot of buzz in the world of Radio these days... and most of it has to do with HD Radio. It's interesting to note that it's not been Clear Channel, Infinity or Entercom who has been leading the HD march but rather NPR and Public Radio. Unlike HDTV, that has seen it's roll-out in major markets by major owners first, HD Radio has started at NCE facilities, thanks to 'Bucks from above.' It was not long after we figured out that HD Radio was a keeper that NPR started looking at splitting up the data stream into a couple of 40 K-Bit streams. They called it the 'Tomorrow' project. Well, tomorrow has become today with the mid-March FCC approval of the concept. Well, you can request an 'Experimental Authorization' at least. In this market this would mean that KPLU could run its popular Jazz format on one channel and news and NPR on the other. This concept is not new as HDTV offers the same concept by multiplexing its data stream. This has not gone unnoticed by commercial broadcasters who are now awakening to the idea that they too might have twice the number of channels to program. This might be a replacement for some of the FM SCAs that run other language programming. It might make it possible to air programming that does not generate sufficient 'numbers' to justify an 'entire' station. This is going to be interesting. Gee, does this mean that my vehicle's HD Radio is already dated? Here in our area we have at least four more HD Radio facilities underway. Clear Channel's 93.3 and 95.7 and Infinity's 94.1 and 102.5. Market totals: 9 on, 4 U.C.
Looking at other newzy things -
David Ziskin the author? We all know of his ElectroTechnics business, but perhaps what you do not know is that he has written a book about his 18 years with Seattle PD. Check out www.davidziskin.com. Hmmm.... Perhaps a program idea for a future meeting?
Speaking of program ideas: Due to resignations I found myself being appointed to the Chapter BOD just in time to be a part of the planning for the Chapter's fall show. With the retirement of those that have put on these events over the years the BOD is now handling the chore with the help of Al Harwood and others. This year's event will be one day and will be at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field. It's going to be quite different... and, from the sound of things, a lot of fun.... Stay tuned.
1210 is now officially not part of Entercom and is being operated by Busto's Media at KDDS - 'LaGran-D'. La Mas Mexicanna or More Mexican Music. The station ended up building studios next door to their transmitter facility in Auburn, Chief architect and installation PooBah was Nick Winter. (Did I tell you that Nick is getting married in July?)
I really want to mention something that arrives in my mailbox every month: Walt Lowery's 'Radio in the Hinterlands'. Nice job, Walt.
Another tragic event involving a remote truck. This time a young fellow (18) working for a Toledo (Ohio, not Wa) radio station was setting up for a remote and his mast contacted overhead current carriers. He was listed in fair condition at a local hospital. It's been some time since I have heard of a TV remote truck operator doing this, but I suspect that they are now getting trained in how to avoid getting shocked or killed. Radio, on the other hand, may be a bit behind in this aspect. It's a tragic reminder of the need for safety training, at all levels.
A few weeks ago I picked up a USA Today at an airport and found a story about Viacom.... The headline read 'Viacom cuts radio stations value by $11B'. Hmmm.... Reading down the column I found that Viacom's CEO is 'considering' the sale of some of its Radio stations, especially in markets below #20. That amounts to about 100 of its 184 stations. The impact of a potential sale like this in the PNW would be limited to Portland where Infinity owns five FMs and one AM.
The FCC has fined a fellow in California 10Grand for operating on the ham bands without a license. The guy argued that the Commission was trying to deprive him of his first amendment rights to criticize "the president and his obscene war." The FCC again stated that the right to free speech does not include provisions for operating radio facilities without a license. I wonder how many times the FCC has to say this?
Andy Skotdal was at the recent State EAS/SECC meeting the other day. Sounds like things are getting closer to resolution in his long fight to put up a new array for KRKO.... Andy, you need to write a book! It's amazing the lengths people will go to in their effort to block something that they don't wish to see.
Are we going to see the Feds set a new date for DTV transition? The answer is a definite Maybe... or perhaps. Congress will likely get involved, and who knows?
George Will certainly stirred the pot the other day in his March 3rd column where he stated, 'Let's stop wasting tax dollars on PBS.'
Our new Vice Chair, Stephen Lockwood, put on a very interesting program at the chapter meeting about international high powered stations and DRM. Even though the program ran long, no one left.
KBRO, Bremerton and KNTB, Lakewood have been sold to a firm called Seattle Streaming Radio for reportedly $900K.. This price for two of the area's smallest stations underscores the very high value of media properties.
The FCC recently issued an R&O that affirms the Commission's tentative conclusion not to impose a 'dual carriage' requirement on cable operators which would have required them to carry analog AND digital signals from a station. It also affirms the determination that a cable operator does not have to carry more than one digital programming stream from a given broadcaster. I am still puzzled that so many folks are amazed when I explain that they can get HDTV with an antenna and do not have to pay a monthly charge for it. Seems to me that traditional broadcasters have done a poor job of educating the public about over-the-air broadcasting, leaving the cable and satellite outfits to tell the public how it is.
Well folks. That's about it for this month... gotta get the bag packed.
Til next month
Clay, CPBE, K7CR
Keeping Up with the Technology
From Midlands Chapter 74
Once upon a time, back before the FCC did away with the requirement for licensed" operators to be part of every station's staff, the Chief Engineer held a position of authority and respect. But it wasn't too long ago when I heard one General Manager comment that his engineer was a "necessary evil.". But just let the station go off the air and see how that "necessary evil" is canonized as he or she brings the station back on line. They certainly wouldn't call Ghost Busters.
Having been a Chief Engineer at several stations, I have been fortunate enough to work with General Managers whose worst feeling about their engineers were "they spend money and don't bring any in." Well, I take exception to that. Keeping the station on the air so it can deliver eyes and/or ears to potential advertisers is equally as important as the sales staff and air talent.
The job of today's engineer, however, is much different than those of old. At one time, an engineer usually had only one radio or TV station to worry about (and certainly only one employer), and it usually kept him quite busy. With all the advances in technology, we've just about engineered ourselves out of a job. Today, it is not uncommon for an engineer to be responsible for a number of radio and/or television properties - and many times not all in the same market. Some stations do quite well with contract engineers, when they can get them.
If you are fortunate and have an engineering "staff," it could well be populated with the two kinds of engineers we see in our industry today; the one who's been at the station forever and the one who has been all over the place. Both bring to the table very complementary talents. The old timer knows when and where all the bodies are buried, and perhaps more importantly, where to find replacement parts for that old (transmitter, audio console, etc.) that should have been replaced some time ago. The engineer that has experience at a number of stations brings different and sometimes better ways of doing things that he or she's picked up along the way.
I believe that the engineer's job is to deliver the very best quality picture and/or sound possible with the equipment he or she's been given to work with. Engineers are often compared with magicians. There have been times when I've seen engineers make a silk purse out of a sow's ear; especially when the budget just isn't there to do much else.
For engineers to stay on top of things, they have to stay abreast of the ever-changing technology. Continuing education is fundamental to the success of both the engineer and the station he or she works for. This ongoing education is the responsibility of both the engineer and the management that employs him or her. If the engineer doesn't put forth the effort, he or she will, one day be looking at the call letters on the side of the building wondering why he or she was replaced with some one who did.
On the other side of the coin, management is shooting themselves in the foot when they don't foster the atmosphere which enables and encourages their engineers to take the time to take advantage of educational opportunities when they do come up. I need not point out the costs involved in sending away your engineers to classes or factory seminars, and that's not always necessary. There are local opportunities that present themselves when traveling technical road shows come to town and during the monthly Society of Broadcast Engineers presentations (SBE - a national organization).
These monthly SBE meetings afford engineers the opportunity to have lunch, exchange ideas and learn the latest technology in a near-classroom environment, along with their contemporaries. I've heard managers say that they don't want their engineers blabbing all their company secrets. My answer to that is; it may come as a big surprise, but we engineers all do the same things, technically, but each of us do it a little differently - the electrons that we chase around don't know the difference between a wire in one station or another. Most engineers I know are imbued with the spirit of cooperation because they know the "competing" engineer they help today may be the one that's got that extra "left handed frabbit" needed to get your or his station back on the air someday. Some managers see the value in these meetings and go so far as to cover the minimal (SBE) membership costs and expenses involved in attending these meeting. SBE chapters meet frequently across this great land of ours. To visit the national SBE website go to: http://www.sbe.org/ . Many SBE Chapters have websites and they can be found by selecting the "Chapters on the Web" heading in the same left-hand menu list further down.
Engineers aren't the only ones who are welcomed to attend SBE meetings- they're open to all interested parties. I know we should have a "bring your GM to an SBE meeting" some time and we will do that when we come up with a topic that won't put the GM to sleep.
The bottom line is: if you're not allowing the time and encouraging your engineers to attend SBE meetings, you're only hurting yourself. A critical part of your station's team won't be as well equipped to keep you informed, nor will he or she be as knowledgeable about what's going on in the rapidly changing world of broadcast technology. The whole station will be the loser. On the other hand, the return on this kind of investment is immeasurably positive!
Larry Bloomfield, KA6UTC
What Are You Doing With Your Knowledge?
By Steve Epstein, CPBE, CBNT
Anyone who has worked in a profession for some length of time has acquired knowledge. Some refer to that knowledge as "on-the-job training." Others refer to it as the "school of hard knocks." Regardless, experience can be an excellent teacher. When was the last time you took the time to pass your experience on to someone else?
There are always items that pile up in a facilities that are relatively easy to fix. In television, these items are often small black and white monitors or intercom headsets. Sometimes they aren't repaired because there are plenty of spares. Although they may not be needed, these items can serve as excellent teaching tools. I have found one of the best ways to learn how something works is to fix it. Repairing a half dozen B&W monitors might take an experienced tech four to eight hours (often less). However, for a junior staff member or an intern, repairing one of these could easily turn into an all-day job.
None of us really has that kind of time to spare, but taking a day and sharing your knowledge on repairs such as these can be rewarding for you and beneficial to your staff. Having multiple items that are similar and need repair allows a student to gain considerable experience in a short time and also improves his or her learning as he or she has the opportunity to immediately apply the knowledge.
Some might consider this a waste of time, as "no one does component-level repair any more," but I would argue that we all still do it. It is just that the size of the components has changed- where we used to replace a resistor or a transistor, now we replace an entire board. The skills needed to narrow the problem down to the component are the same, regardless of its size. Taking the time to teach someone how to repair a headset gives him an opportunity to learn much more, including troubleshooting skills, soldering, and the use of test instruments. This also provides him with the satisfaction of a job well done and builds his self-confidence. Take the time to be a mentor for someone in the industry, more than likely you will be glad you did - and so will he.
Steve Epstein is the past chairman of SBE Chapter 59, Kansas City.
PDX Radio Waves
by Michael D. Brown N7AXC CSRE
Surround Sound was indeed the talk of the NAB convention last month, with a variety of discreet and encoded methods on display, from the source to the final receiver. Among the impressive demos was a specially outfitted SUV with Neural Audio 5.1 surround sound, run through an HD radio transmission system. Neural claims that their "watermarked" system provides good 5.1, without using valuable bits for side information. And yes, the venerable center channel speaker was right there taking up much of the center console beneath the receiver. At least with their chosen audio cuts, it was impressive and just slightly "edgy", and did not sound faux or contrived. Seating position was not critical. As I recall, some Pink Floyd was among the cuts, which is wonderfully suited for surround. Neural also claims that their surround files can be stored, edited, processed, and delivered with existing stereo equipment. While discreet surround will always have an edge in separation specs, the compatibility of an encoded system with existing infrastructure is tempting. And surround, along with the second and even third programming channels on FM HD, could be a "killer" app that saves the system.
Another product we'll be seeing a lot of in the future, and also shown by Neural, are audio processing and conditioning units that aim to better utilize the available bits in HD radio. Using processes such as "image packing" and "irrelevancy reduction", these units seek to reduce the audible artifacts of low bit rate coding. In general, HD seems fine for most audio at rates down to 32 kbps, but can be metallic on female voices with wide-range source material. Just rolling off the extreme highs of such voices seems to help. To my ear, some of the worst artifacts seem to be when low-bit rate source material, which may already have been through two or three such iterations, is then broadcast on HD. I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more about such "dueling algorithms" in the future. Or then, maybe it's our analog-trained ears. My grandkids, raised on 96-, and 128 kbps mp3's seem to think they sound just fantastic. So little of today's pop music has unadulterated vocals, who can tell what's real, anyway?
Also turning heads was Continental's 816HD - probably the first high- power FM HD transmitter with a tube-type final. With a 4CX20,000 series tube, the transmitter will do about 17 kW of HD - with a somewhat higher efficiency than solid state designs. After a series of ownership changes and a lack of innovation for many years, many had considered Continental a dying company. It's good to see them back again.
The Potomac Instruments FIM 4100 also caught my eye. Here's an AM field intensity meter with digital readout, it's self-calibrating, has a SBAS corrected GPS, compass, flash memory, spectrum analyzer display, and it outputs directly to a spreadsheet. No pen, paper, separate GPS needed. Just aim and click. Makes doing endless AM proofs almost fun. Well, almost.
As expected, the National Radio Systems Committee met at the convention and officially approved IBOC for digital radio broadcasting in the U.S., hereupon to be known as "NRSC-5". The major groups who have an investment in the technology, such as Clear Channel and Entercom, are continuing their announced HD Radio rollouts. Non-Comm stations with federal matching grants are also among the early adopters. But my sense is that most of the others will continue to take a wait-and-see attitude, and that the number of HD stations will start to plateau. 2007 could be a make-or-break year for the technology.
Meanwhile, it's interesting to see what's happening on the TV side. The NAB is urging Congress not to force a "premature" end to analog broadcasting, while at the same time blasting the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) for seeking to eliminate the requirement that at least 50% of the TV sets shipped after July 1 of this year, have HDTV tuners. As has been mentioned in this space before, it's all about Content and Cost. We're clearly not there yet.
Locally, 107.5 KVMX Banks has been approved to crank up their 37 kW C1 signal, to a 100 kW CØ. What a long strange trip it has been for this signal, which began its life as an 80-90 Class A drop-in. Elsewhere, 89.9 KBPS-FM Portland is getting very close to their HD Radio sign-on date. Indeed, their CP expires May 16th. Using a new Shively panel antenna shared with KMHD, KBPS is dropping from 8.7 to 3.7 kW ERP, but getting out of the "forest" and up more than 500 feet higher off the ground (1736 ft. AMSL). They'll also gain circular polarization for the first time, and be the lowest power HD station in Oregon with just 37 watts of digital carrier.
Back at the convention, I found it quite amusing that the NAB was giving away iPod's as an inducement to vote for the Innovation in Media awards. Scott Cason of LaGrange Communications, writing in RBR, agreed. "The NAB is giving away one of the biggest competitors of radio as a door prize? What's next? Shares of XM and Sirius?"
Speaking of iPods, they were literally everywhere in my recent trip to D.C. I don't recall seeing one Walkman or other radio receiver of any kind, plugged into someone's ear. Not one.
Listeners in the L.A. area reported hearing a pirate radio station at 87.7 MHz. But it appears this was the aural carrier (87.74 MHz) of Channel-6 station KSFV-LP , which has added a 19 kHz pilot tone (legal?), and cranked up the modulation to simulate the operation of an FM station. The station plays music videos, so the confusion is understandable, and apparently deliberate. With no must-carry provisions, many LPTVs are struggling. Could this be a back door to FM broadcasting? (Thanks to CGC Communicator. See the whole article at http://www.bext.com/_CGC/2005/cgc683.htm) [With a height above sea level of 5510 feet, check out the coverage map at http://www.fcc.gov/fcc-bin/FMTV-service-area?x=CA623204.html ! - .ed]
New SBE CertPreview Now Available
The new SBE CertPreview sample certification test software is now available. It's Microsoft Windows-based and replaces the previous DOS-based software. New sample tests are available for Broadcast Technologist, Audio Engineer, Video Engineer, Broadcast Networking Technologist, Broadcast Engineer and Senior Broadcast Engineer in both radio and television. Sample tests include 50 to 100 questions and indicate when an incorrect answer has been given. It provides a list of resources from which to learn more about a subject. Cost for each SBE CERTpreview practice test is $27 plus $3 shipping. Contact the National Office to order a copy.
Knowing Where You Live
You know you live in Arizona when...
You know you live in California when...
You know you live in New York City when...
You know you live in Maine when...
You know you live in the Deep South when...
You know you live in Colorado when...
You know you live in the Midwest when...
You know you live in Florida when...
This week, our phones went dead and I had to contact the telephone repair people. They promised to be out between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. When asked if they could give me a smaller time window, the pleasant gentleman asked, "Would you like us to call you before we come?" I replied that I didn't see how he would be able to do that since our phones weren't working.
I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature I had just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared the signature to the one I had just signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched.
My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.
I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" She smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."
I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the life of her couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.
When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver's side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "it's open!" To which he replied, "I know - I already got that side."
Garneth M. Harris
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