Wheat:News July 2022

WHEAT:NEWS July 2022  Volume 13, Number 7

(And three more things you can do about it)


Last month, we talked about The Rapidly Disappearing Broadcast Engineer and what the big broadcast groups are doing about it. This month, we go all the way to the Cayman Islands to find out what the average broadcaster needs to know as the pool of broadcast engineers continues to get smaller. Here’s what we learned. 

“It’s not like you can pick up the phone and press extension two and an engineer will show up,” commented Mark Lee, the operations manager for Compass Media in the Cayman Islands, which operates Gold Cayman 94.9, Island FM 98.9, Rooster 101.9 and Z99.9 there. 

As many of you will recall, Mark built out an entire four-station WheatNet-IP audio networked facility during the height of the pandemic (read Project in the Cayman Islands). He had remote help from Wheatstone technical support and his contract engineer Bob Smith (RM Smith Associates), who remoted in from Texas while under strict COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

mark leeShown right, Mark Lee shortly before he moved four stations into an all-WheatNet-IP facility with the help of a handful of employees and remote support by his engineer and Wheatstone from the mainland. 

If anyone could understand the unique challenges of the technically unattended broadcast facility in the radio heartland today, we were certain Lee could. 

We talked to Lee a few weeks after a major transmitter outage that couldn’t have happened at a more inconvenient time. When the power modules and exciter went south on the group’s older transmitter, Bob Smith, who flies to the island from the mainland a few times a year, happened to be on the West Coast for another transmitter project. To make matters worse, getting their hands on a new broadcast transmitter was complicated due to supply chain issues. Smith eventually made it to the island along with a new solid state Nautel, but the incident was one more reminder of the specialized skillset of broadcast engineering and how far removed broadcasting is from other industries. 

“We truly are on a little island in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean,” lamented Lee, whose words easily describe how many broadcasters feel these days. 

In addition to our suggestions last month of standardizing on equipment, taking advantage of the latest apps, and developing your engineering “Tiger Team” (click to Broadcast Engineers Are Disappearing), below are three more suggestions we hope will be useful to broadcasters experiencing the engineering shortage today. 

Smart technology is made for this. IT can be your engineering eyes, ears and arms, as we mentioned last month. But we should have added one more thing to this list: IT can also be the brains behind your operation. 

Lee explained: “Small operators like us are just trying to eliminate problems and that’s where technology comes in.” AoIP systems have gotten smarter and more connected for monitoring, automating, and remoting into facilities. He said that transmitter issues will always be a little more difficult to solve remotely, but if you can roll programming over to the backup transmitter at the first hint of trouble (read SNMP. Because Networks Don’t Get Smaller), even if it’s at reduced power, that will buy you some time until your contract engineer can arrive.   

Networks are for transmitters, too. Codec manufacturers tell us that more and more broadcasters are adopting the European model of connecting transmitter sites, in large part because networking properties together gives them backup redundancy. We’re seeing more I/O Blades being repurposed and put at transmitter sites for this reason. In a recent Running Radio webcast hosted by Radio World, Jay Tyler cited Entravision as one example of why this is such a powerful move. “If they want to broadcast on a national platform from Los Angeles, they can literally dial up every transmitter site from Mississippi to California,” he said. 

For regional operators like Compass, linking transmitter properties together is a critical first step as engineering resources dwindle and help becomes farther reaching. “If something happened and we were a station down, we could literally send any programming to any transmitter because it’s all in the same WheatNet network,” explained Lee. 

Extending the studio AoIP out to all transmitter sites is about more than being able to reroute programming in an emergency. It’s also about being able to avert an engineering emergency in the first place, as Lee pointed out to us. Read on. 

Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points. We touched on the significance of extending AoIP intelligence for remoting into the studio AoIP, and by extension the transmitter site, but we cannot overstate the importance of simplicity. Recently, Compass Media extended the WheatNet-IP studio Blades over fiber optic link to several of its transmitter sites on the island. (For details, see Getting There from Here: AoIP Over Fiber below). “That’s taken away a massive area of complication. We don’t have STL antennas that can be ripped off the tower in a tropical storm or hurricane,” said Lee, who also added two new R.V.R. Elettronica transmitters as backups as another precaution to eliminate downtime.   

All of these are more recent developments at Compass Media, because, as Lee pointed out, they can’t easily pick up the phone, punch in an extension and expect an engineer to appear at the first hint of trouble. We should mention that there are many ways the industry is addressing the engineering shortage today, including mentorships and programs such as the SBE’s Technical Professional Training Program bundling over 100 on-demand webinars for training new entrants to the field of broadcast technology. 



Have a remote team in different locations and need a back channel or a quick audio feed for a live show? Scott Fybush explains the art and science of FaceTiming into the WheatNet-IP audio network.

Opening up a FaceTime session through a TeamViewer instance on the WheatNet-IP audio network is fairly straightforward. 

“This is so simple, and the quality isn’t bad,” said Scott Fybush, the CE for WDKX-FM who credits station owner Andre Langston with the idea. 

He’s using the 3.5 mm headphone jack on the studio iMac computer for the iPhone and the Blade I/O to bring FaceTime into the WheatNet-IP audio network. He set this up for a remote three-person morning show at WDKX-FM, a third-generation owned station in Rochester, New York. 

FaceTime handles all the mix-minus and levels. 

Before the morning show team returned to the studios earlier this year, one host remotely controlled the LX-24 Glass console that sits on a laptop in the engineering room through TeamViewer. Another TeamViewer instance gives her control of programming in the WideOrbit and yet another TeamViewer instance to the VoxPro audio recorder/editor is used for phone-ins. 

Yet another TeamViewer instance opens up a virtual hybrid phone session. “Again, it’s analog in and out of that Mac mini that goes to another set of analog ins and outs on the Blade, so there’s no actual phone hybrid anymore in the studio,” explained Fybush.

The 8x2 stereo utility mixers in the I/O Blades provide the crossover routing and sourcing for VoxPro, FaceTime and the phone hybrid. “It’s taking whatever is on the OLED outputs on the LX-24 in the air studio and we have that running through the utility mixer, along with the output of the main iMac that has the phone on it,” he said.

And, for WDKX-FM listeners, Langston had another brilliant idea: set up a mic app that records messages from listeners to the DJs. The Futurity app dumps listener voice messages into the WideOrbit and/or VoxPro if editing is needed. 

The hacks continue. “I’ll probably play with ScreenBuilder for the new studio at some point,” Fybush commented, referring to our build-your-own touchscreen app for WheatNet-IP audio networks. (When he’s ready, we hope he joins our Scripters Forum, where he will have access to tools, tips and a community of screen builders.)

Fybush is also a reporter/host for WXXI public station in Rochester, New York, and is a podcaster and publisher of NorthEast Radio Watch newsletter and annual Top of the Tower calendar.


Q: I have been hearing a lot about cloud and although the idea of being able to offload everything to a cloud provider sounds good some days, that’s not really practical for us now, if ever. But this idea of being able to put some of our operation on a regular server that we control… that sounds far more appealing. What’s that all about?

A: The idea is to essentially move many of those studio functions onto a commodity server, which means you can then replace racks of hardware and readily serve up functions to any point in the AoIP studio. In the case of our Layers software suite, for example, one Dell or HP server can run multiple mixing instances for several consoles located throughout the studio facility, plus serve FM/HD audio processing with full MPX out to the transmitter as well as provisioning and metadata for multiple streams out to the CDN provider. All these resources and apps can reside on one server run by one Linux OS. You can place that server in your rack room, so you don’t have to give up control to a third party, and you can add Layer software and apps a little at a time or all at once. This can also be a very affordable way to add on redundancy. It’s one server basically, and some software, for a fully redundant studio you can seamlessly switch to in the event of a failure.


Eventually, as cloud technology becomes more prevalent and interconnect links become more reliable, you can move all or some of these applications or resources offsite to be managed by a cloud provider, if that’s the direction you want to go. We see this as a way to get most of the benefits of cloud without having to actually hand over the keys to a third party. For more detailed information, read Servers as the Gateway to Cloud


fiber optic

Compass Media recently extended its studio WheatNet-IP to a transmitter site in the Cayman Islands using a fiber optic drop. “We’re running straight WheatNet at 44.1 kHz into two strands of fiber from the switch at the studio, and literally out the other end at the transmitter is 44.1 kHz WheatNet straight into the FM-55 audio processor and into the transmitter,” explained Mark Lee, Compass Media operations manager.

A simple SFP fiber interface into the Cisco switch runs native AoIP across broadband fiber optic cable between the studio and transmitter site. The bidirectional hop carries programming across six miles, where it makes the drop at Compass Media’s transmitter site for Gold Cayman 94.9 and Island FM 98.9 and where Rooster 101.9 taps off the line for a short program run to its transmitter nearby. Latency across the link is virtually nonexistent, according to Lee. 

The fiber link was the result of a partnership formed between Compass Media and internet service provider C3 Pure Fibre, which is expanding internet across the island and found Compass’ remote transmitter site to be ideal for its fiber distribution headend reaching a remote part of the island. 



A bigger-than-life on-air presence. It’s the dream of virtually everyone who sits in front of a microphone. How can you get that big sound? Here’s the plan and the product.

Start with a good mic processor with a high base sample rate. This is so audio quality can come through despite heavy-handed compression settings, especially at the higher end of the vocal range. Here’s why: A higher sample rate puts the Nyquist, the frequency at half the sample rate where there is zero frequency response, well outside the audio band where it can’t interfere with dynamics, compression and most especially EQ. Conversely, a lower base sample rate of, say, 48 kHz puts the Nyquist at 24 kHz where it can interfere with the audible band. But by running the base processing at 96 kHz sample rate (and then stepping down to 48 kHz), for example, our M1 single channel and M4IP-USB four channel mic processors effectively blow right past any problems because the Nyquist is at 48 kHz, well beyond the audio band. “At 96 kHz sample rate, EQ and compression can be more freely applied without incurring the wrath of Mr. Harry Nyquist, which means you’ll get more open and airy highs,” explained Jeff Keith, Senior Product Development Engineer for Wheatstone processing products. 

Get rid of sibilance, not the good stuff. For this, you’ll need a de-esser that can attenuate only the offending frequencies. The de-esser in Wheatstone mic processors has a full range of control, including threshold (where it decides enough 'ess' is enough), center frequency and recovery time for this reason. Any slightly sibilant voice won’t get past this de-esser. Its action is targeted, unlike the wholesale broadband attenuation typical of earlier mic processors.


For the screamers in the studio, you’ll need a good protection limiter. Running up the compression to achieve levels as close to 0 dBfs as possible has the danger of overload distortion at the output, and a good peak limiter can avoid that problem entirely. Our mic processors have protection limiters with more than enough headroom to keep the peaks limited and to control the dynamics for a smooth, consistent output. Also underlying the mic processor’s compressor itself is a slow-rate AGC, which allows both level correction and more rapid compression effects simultaneously.  The sidechain is subtly filtered to avoid bass build-up, pumping, and other sonic undesirables.

Get some headroom. To do all the above requires tremendous headroom. For this reason, each of the four mic processors in the Wheatstone M4IP-USB has 32 dB of input headroom  comparable with the best recording consoles and more than enough for any processing you need to do, and then some. It’s worth noting that this AoIP networked, four channel mic processor has very quiet preamps (you can confidently feed a ribbon microphone into the M4IP-USB, it’s that quiet). 

For more tips on processing voice, read Oh, the Voices (Part 1) and Oh, the Voices (Part II)


Oh, the places they go and the things that they do!

I/O Blades are the access units that form the WheatNet-IP audio network. With audio mixing, processing, logic control and IP networking all in one rack unit, Blades can also be used for a number of interesting applications. Here are just a few:

Sideboard Arena

Audio in the Outfield: Quickly set up a small studio at any sports venue. All you need is a BLADE at the press box as your audio interface into your mixing board and mics, and an Internet or other link to the studio. The Blade gives you audio IP routing, processing, mixing and logic controls in one box.


IP Audio Snake: Transport audio between the production studio and a nearby performance studio using Blades at each end. Carry mic and instrument feeds from the stage area to the network over CAT6, wireless or optical fiber link. Do separate mixes live using the Blade’s 8x2 stereo utility mixers or capture multitrack recordings for future mixing. No transformer splits required!


STL: Continue IP audio from the studio to the transmitter with Blades on both ends of an IP wireless or other STL. IP radios connect to the switch on each end, which are connected to the Blade for managing audio and any devices hanging off the network. If the STL should lose connection, the Blade will not only detect silence, it can trigger the startup of playback audio that can be stored on some Blades.


Multi-stage venues. Place Blade I/O units in the van and on stages or throughout the field, and connect them together over fiber and CAT6 via the network switch for audio transport between them. Great for music festivals that require real-time communication between multiple stages.


IFB. Talk to talent over your IP network. Blades networked together provide the IFB pathway, whether it’s on location or in the studio. Simply change crosspoints using our NAVIGATOR software to create routable IFB throughout the facility.


What does the Leatherman tool and our biggest, toughest, most flexible audio console for TV production have in common? See for yourself.

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The Wheatstone online store is now open! You can purchase demo units, spare cards, subassemblies, modules and other discontinued or out-of-production components for Wheatstone, Audioarts, PR&E and VoxPro products online, or call Wheatstone customer support at 252-638-7000 or contact the Wheatstone technical support team online as usual. 

The store is another convenience at wheatstone.com, where you can access product manuals, white papers and tutorials as well as technical and discussion forums such as our AoIP Scripters Forum

Compare All of Wheatstone's Remote Solutions

REMIXWe've got remote solutions for virtually every networkable console we've built in the last 20 years or so. For basic volume, on/off, bus assign, logic, it's as easy as running an app either locally with a good VPN, or back at the studio, using a remote-access app such as Teambuilder to run.

Remote Solutions Video Demonstrations

Jay Tyler recently completed a series of videos demonstrating the various solutions Wheatstone offers for remote broadcasting.

Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions


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. 

Got feedback or questions? Click my name below to send us an e-mail. You can also use the links at the top or bottom of the page to follow us on popular social networking sites and the tabs will take you to our most often visited pages.

-- Uncle Wheat, Editor

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