WheatNews Dec 2019

WHEAT:NEWS DECEMBER 2019  Volume 10, Number 12

The CE Who Could

RadioOne 2

By Dee McVicker

It was a classic broadcast engineer moment.

Kent Kramer, CE for Radio One’s cluster in Washington, D.C., had just picked up the company vehicle from the repair shop and was heading into the studios when I called to talk about the new addition for WTEM-AM and the Redskins radio network. 

KenKramerIn one breath, he is talking shop with a mechanic, and in the next, he’s telling me about designing and installing new studios for Radio One’s latest sports acquisition.

So it goes, a typical day in the life of Kramer and the other 14 Radio One CEs who man regional clusters. 

Not only do these engineers manage the day-to-day, from the studio plumbing to the antenna array, they’re continually pushing up against the future with increasingly complex facilities that have gone from a few studios to more than a dozen, with the occasional sports network added in, as was the case for the Radio One D.C. group.

“Right now, we’re a GatesAir house with their router and PR&E consoles. No way can I replace all 14 studios overnight so whatever we do here (in the WTEM/Redskins studio) is the future,” commented Kramer of the WheatNet-IP audio networked control room and talk studio recently installed for WTEM-AM (The Team 980) and the Washington Redskins Radio Network. A WheatNet-IP audio BLADE supplies I/O to the two GatesAir routers in order to exchange Redskins highlights and other content between the sports studio and the rest of the stations in the facility. 

Although the new sports addition occupies just two of the 14 studios in the facility, it represents a huge investment in the cluster’s future as well as that of one busy engineer who would be responsible for the project in its entirety.

The AoIP system would end up changing Kramer’s day considerably, saving him time and money on the implementation side and far more on the daily operation side. Replacing soundcards with WheatNet-IP audio drivers alone gave him up to 24 channels of audio with no dedicated hardware attached. More important, audio drivers combined with routable logic in the I/O BLADEs meant he could connect the cluster’s WideOrbit automation to the network for streaming audio and any associated control logic, which could be useful at some point for turning channels on or off or for triggering satellite network cues. 

RadioOne 3The WheatNet-IP audio network touches everything, even something as simple as getting a light to flash when the phone rings. “Used to be you’d put a flasher on the phone line. Now, everything talks IP and if I really want to go full in on it, I just add some scripting between the WheatNet and the WideOrbit and I can also bring the caller info in as well,” explained Kramer.

For this veteran engineer with 35+ years in broadcasting, the WheatNet-IP audio networked studio no doubt adds a few more minutes of screen time to his day. But it also eliminates a much longer list of outdated tasks. “While WheatNet is less to hook up, there’s more programming because of the number of things it can do. In the old days, it took a couple of days to wire an audio console but there was very little control wiring. Maybe just a few remote starts and light tally back to the console,” he said. 

Changes that used to come up against hardware limitations, for example, are now simply scripted into the network in the form of screens and virtual control panels using WheatNet-IP’s development application ScreenBuilder. “I like that talent can say, ‘Hey we’d like to be able to select source X and listen to it during the games coming back from the stadium.’ And that I can just open the ScreenBuilder screen, script another button on to it, and assign that source and it’s done,” he commented. 

RadioOne 4Those kinds of soft adjustments have even spilled over into the main console, a reconfigurable LXE control surface that is in The Team 980 control room. Kramer hasn’t had time to get his hands on the soft features of the LXE, but he said he likes that he can reprogram any function on any button or switch on the console from here to eternity.

It’s still a long day for this engineer managing seven stations and a sports network, but it’s our goal and hope at Wheatstone that the systems we develop can bring a little more balance back to his engineering role.

Machine Learning

Mediaworks 4

Click on the above photo for a gallery

You've got to love Rube Goldberg machines. The kind where a cat nibbles on a piece of cheese, which triggers a marble to roll onto a spoon, and so on and so on. 

Of course, no one actually builds a complicated, deliberately overengineered system to perform a perfectly simple task unless it’s for fun or a school project. 

But it happens anyway, after years and layers of studio infrastructure. 

Meet Mediaworks, which is slowly but surely replacing layers of multi-generational technology with AoIP technology.

“It has gotten unbelievably complex. We’re the largest private network in New Zealand and we’ve been around since the 80s when radio was deregulated here. Some of our infrastructure is that old,” said Rob Stewart, Senior Tech Engineer for Mediaworks Radio, which operates nine 24/7 fulltime radio formats on 190 frequencies throughout New Zealand. 

Mediaworks began digitizing the backend of regional and local studios by replacing relay boxes and archaic routing with I/O BLADEs, which are the building blocks of the WheatNet-IP audio network and include audio mixing, processing, and logic control in addition to routing functions.

The radio operation spans almost 40 years of technology, some of it shared with Mediaworks’ television group, now in the process of being spun off. Dozens of local studios up and down New Zealand are fed music programming by the group’s main uplink center in Auckland, most breaking out into local shows and a few also feeding local programming back to Auckland for distribution through the network. 

“We pulled all that analog infrastructure out and put in BLADEs and that’s made a huge difference in the quality of the audio and adds longevity to the existing technology,” said Stewart. Each BLADE has two 8x2 utility mixers that can be configured in a variety of different ways and for different purposes, plus are full featured with panning, channel ON/OFF, fader levels, and access to any source signal in the system.

“It’s also future proofed us because when we’re ready, we can pull out the analog console and put in an IP-12 or an LXE or L-8,” he added. 

Several regional studios have already received new Wheatstone IP audio boards. There’s a new WheatNet-IP studio with IP-12 control surfaces in Queenstown, and Mediaworks replaced the entire legacy analog backend in Rotorua, a geothermal area where high levels of Sulphur dioxide have corroded existing studio equipment there. “We gutted the entire infrastructure and it was just plug-and-play from there with the Wheatstone,” commented Stewart. 

Meanwhile in Auckland, the group’s six main studios are currently on one WheatNet-IP audio networked campus along with the group’s distribution hub. Another similar but smaller studio is just down the road, and yet another is nearby and shared across separate radio and television groups using a MADI BLADE that makes it possible to interconnect WheatNet-IP audio networking with the television group’s IP network system. 

Piece by piece, Mediaworks Radio is making machines work faster, better, and more economically than before. 

Kid On VoxPro

This was recorded a while back, but we just had to show you again radio host Rick Party’s daughter Zion at the VoxPro controls. Amazing. 

Slacker BLADEs Not Allowed

MIX ENGINE ConsoleBladeFrontRear IP88 CBL

We have I/O BLADEs, MADI BLADEs, HD-SDI BLADEs and all sorts of BLADEs that make up the WheatNet-IP intelligent audio network. But we don’t make slacker BLADEs! Here are 16 of the hundreds of ways you can put a BLADE to work. 


Route and Control Audio

Route any audio input to any output or all outputs. Send one GPI to multiple GPOs or marry GPIOs to an audio source and have them follow that source through the system. All BLADEs in the network live on a simple crosspoint matrix.

Auto Mono Summing 350

Sum Mono Automatically

BLADEs have the onboard processing and intelligence to auto sum and level match a stereo output that is routed to a mono output or destination. If, for example, you want to feed a stereo console bus down a hybrid or codec, the audio will be available in both mono and stereo on the receiving end. If you route a mono source such as field recording device or remote interview through the router it will put that mono source on both channels.

Left: The above shows a mono source being routed to both stereo and mono destinations in a BLADE-3. (Two dots indicate a stereo or dual channel connection. A single dot indicates it's a mono to mono connection.)

Right: The above shows a stereo source being routed to mono destinations.

InputGainControl 350

Control input gain

Calibrate levels for each source or destination using bargraph metering. Shown, audio levels for the individual channels color coded over a 40dB range, with the highest level being “+20” VU, corresponding to +24dBu, 0dBFS, and the onset of clipping. These meters show the actual input signal level as modified by the input gain setting. The bouncing bar at the top shows the peak audio level while the solid column shows the short-term average audio level using VU time constants. Adjusting source levels ensures that they have enough volume to keep noise levels low in comparison, but not so high that they overload the equipment and cause distortion.

OutputGainControl 350

Control Output Gain

Destination gain adjustments are useful for output signals known to be too low or too hot, such as those feeding headphones or amplified speakers with no gain control of their own, to bring them to the correct listening level. As shown, the audio gain of individual output channels can be adjusted over a range of +/-18dB in .1dB steps. The nominal setting is 0, corresponding to an output level of +4dBu analog, or -20dBFS digital, providing for 20dB of headroom.

UtilityMixers1 350

Group Mics

Each I/O BLADE contains two stereo 8x2 internal mixers that become a source or input to the system. This can be useful for grouping several mics to a single output. You can use the output of each mixer as a talkback source.

UtilityMixers2 350

Pan Mic and Caller Feeds

The BLADE-3's two stereo 8x2 internal mixers are independent of each other, so they can feed audio to each other or another BLADE-3. The output of mixer #1 can be brought up on a fader in mixer #2, for example. With balance control on each fader, this can be useful for recording a telephone mix with the “callers” on the left channel and the “announcers” on the right channel. The output of the mixer feeds the recording device.

Utility-Mixers-3 350

Mix-Down Multiple Channels

The BLADE's stereo 8X2 internal mixers can be used to mix down multiple channels to a single output. Shown is a BLADE utility mixer being used to mix down multiple RCS automation channels to a stereo output, which can then be programmed as the automatic failover source in an emergency. This is also useful as a way to bypass the studio so, with the push of a button or a command from the automation system, this output can feed the transmitter and free up the on-air studio for production or voice tracking, for example.

Automation2 350

Integrate Your Automation System

One cable is all it takes to integrate your automation system with a network of BLADEs. WheatNet-IP audio drivers replace expensive sound cards, GPIO cards and external switches.

SalvosMacros 350

Group and Trigger Functions Using Salvos or Macros

Each I/O BLADE can store hundreds of customized salvos, which can be useful for assigning feeds to codecs or hybrids and switching between studios. Group any audio source, logic and destination together that can be triggered by event or time.

SourceAndDestinationControl 350

Make Quick Source and Destination Changes

Each BLADE can act as an X-Y controller sending any system source or input to any of its outputs. This comes in handy when changing feeds to monitors, codecs, hybrids or recording devices.


Control On-Air Lights, Mic Tallies, and Satellite Closures

Each I/O BLADE is equipped with 12 logic ports on RJ45 connectors, which can be individually designated during set up as inputs or outputs for interfacing to various external switches and indicators. Logic ports can output to closures for machine control, on-air lights, mic tallies, transmitter remote control and the like. They can also receive closures from external devices like satellite closures, remote mic panels or triggers from your automation system for channel ON/OFF.

SystemClock 350

Establish System Clock Rate

Automation PCs and other digital devices that require a specific sample rate are no problem. I/O BLADE-3s provide system clock rates selectable at 44.1kHz or 48kHz, External Reference or AES67. While all AES inputs in I/O BLADE-3s are equipped with sample rate converters, the master clock sets the sample rate of all of the system’s AES digital outputs.

SNMP 350

Monitor Devices with SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

BLADEs include SNMP agent software for centralized monitoring of all BLADEs in a large distributed network. You can configure alarms and set thresholds in order to be notified should a problem occur and therefore respond with quick corrective actions through e-mail, SMS, traps and executing custom scripts. SNMP is part of the internet protocol suite defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Network management systems use SNMP to monitor network-attached devices such as BLADEs for conditions that may require action by the end user.

AssociateConnections 350

Share Resources and Connections

Create a predetermined back haul, IFB feed or mix-minus for each device based on its location in the network or on a fader. For shared resources like a codec, I/O BLADE-3 software will ‘automagically’ give the proper return feed to the codec based on its destination. So, if you pull up the codec in Studio One, the mix-minus from Studio One will automatically be routed to the return feed. Later, when you call up the same codec on the console in Studio Two, the Studio Two mix-minus will be routed to that codec. This is useful for call-ins and live talk shows that require a separate mix-minus

OnBoardProcessing 350

Spot-Process Incoming and Outgoing Audio

I/O BLADE-3s include a multiband processor useful for processing incoming audio from callers, remotes, codecs, satellite feeds and microphones. You can also use it to process output audio for headphones, web streams, pre-processors, IFB, or for level protection for STL applications. This is a routable processor that includes 4-band parametric equalizer, 3-way crossover, 3 compressors, 3 limiters, and final look-ahead limiter.

SilenceDetectionAndFailover 350

Detect Silence and Automatically Trigger Failover

Every single audio output channel can be programmed with silence detection and automatic switchover function. Showing on the left is the console PGM channel being routed to the station transmitter during normal operation. On the right shows a failover state after silence was detected.

Happy Holidays from Wheatstone!

It's our annual tradition to present our holiday video, with the Wheatstone family offering their messages of cheer. This year, Brad Harrison captured all the video, and Bob Martin edited it, added the graphics, and performed the musical bed. From all of us at Wheatstone - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


Curious about how the modern studio has evolved in an IP world? Virtualization of the studio is WAY more than tossing a control surface on a touch screen. With today's tools, you can virtualize control over almost ANYTHING you want to do with your audio network. This free e-book illustrates what real-world engineers and radio studios are doing. Pretty amazing stuff.

AdvancingAOIP E BookCoverAdvancing AOIP for Broadcast

Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? This collection of articles, white papers, and brand new material can help you get the most out of your venture. Best of all, it's FREE to download!


IP Audio for TV Production and Beyond


For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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