Redefining a heritage

July 1, 2005

WOR in New York City is a heritage radio station. Signing on Feb. 21, 1922, it was one of the first stations in the United States. Since that time, WOR has broadcast programming to New Yorkers and to national audiences via its syndicated network programming. It is a legacy that its owner, Buckley Broadcasting, takes seriously.

Since 1926 WOR had been broadcasting from its 23rd floor Times Square location. It was a premium office space with premium lease prices (not to mention the ever-present traffic issues in that intensely congested part of midtown New York City). A complete studio rebuild was impossible to achieve at the old location. To take one studio or master control off line for weeks at a time would have compromised both local broadcasting and WOR's two national radio networks. After 79 years, it was time to move the operations.

Dr. Joy Browne (left) originates her show from one of the three talk studios in the new WOR facility.

The facility is built around the Axia audio network. This is one of the control rooms.

Each talk studio can comfortably seat a host and three guests.

The technical operations center and master control room is the central point of the studio installation.

Tom Ray, Buckley Broadcasting corporate director of engineering, and his team began the search for a new broadcast location in May 2004. After numerous site visits, Ray settled on a location less than two blocks from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. The site was chosen because, as Ray explains, "that part of town is really starting to awaken with new businesses and housing. It's a much nicer part of the city, and it met our broadcast and financial requirements. It's really a perfect location for our new facility."

The new location was not without challenges. The building, called the Trinity Place building, is a city landmark. It was one of the first multistory business buildings in Manhattan. While historically interesting, any changes to the infrastructure had to meet exceptionally strict standards. What might be a simple process, such as putting a generator on the roof, became more complex because of the building's landmark designation.

Give and take

To remain on the air throughout the move, Ray constructed an STL relay link at the Times Square location because the new location does not have a clear sightline to the transmitter. In addition, Ray decided to continue to use WOR's existing Enco digital audio system. The entire system would have to be relocated to the new facility while broadcast operations continued without interruption.

With the location chosen, Ray then had to begin designing and engineering a facility that would meet the requirements of WOR's local and network programming. There were several basic needs established for the new studios. The facility needed to stand up to the rigorous uses of the station and provide a durability that would stand the test of time. Because broadcast technology is constantly evolving, the new studios had to allow for change in the future. This included the ability to route data in addition to audio, because WOR sends cues to the satellite uplink for network feeds. The facility needed redundant backup systems that would prevent any single point of failure. Finally, the console and routing system would need to be tightly integrated.

It was obvious that state-of-the-art technology was essential. With these criteria in place, it was time to make decisions.

Each on-air studio/control room combination had to be identical. Each studio has the same equipment complement, the same number of microphones and the same capabilities. In this way, no one talent can own a studio, as was the case at the previous location.

To handle the systems integration, WOR chose Creative Studio Solutions of Colorado. Ray was familiar with CSS' work for major broadcast organizations around the country and wanted a team with the experience and technical acumen required for this significant transition.

WOR already had an existing new technology infrastructure in place. The station has transmitted an HD Radio signal since 2002, and added AM stereo at the beginning of 2004. The station streams its programming online.

According to Ray, the most significant new technology that was integrated into the new studios was the Axia Smartsurface and Livewire System. This was the first large-scale implementation of the new system. At WOR's old facility, the router controls were located outside the studios. Now, routing functions are not only within the studio, but within the console surface.

"With the ability for a user to load his own settings into the consoles, and with each studio being identical, there is no problem moving a show into a different room," said Ray.

The Axia system uses standard Ethernet switches to connect the control surfaces and utility products.

Design decisions

WOR's new facility, while in a nice part of New York, is located near a high school. The studios face an alley frequented by teenagers going to and from school. Because of the noise emanating from the alley below, additional sound isolation was needed so that Dr. Joy Browne's program would not include a detailed background discussion of how bad today's school lunch was. Ray says the station took a page right out of the Lucas Sound THX manual. The building's historical status prevented any exterior work to be done to the existing single-pane windows. Instead of replacing the windows, a duplicate window frame was made and then installed on the inside. This preserved the historical look and added a second pane of glass. While Ray concedes that the technology isn't cutting edge, "it is a system that works very well."

WOR chose Studio Technology for studio furniture. Studio Technology worked with the station to create a custom studio furniture design that provided each studio with the needed functional and aesthetic requirements of the facility.

The new studios went live On May 4 without a hitch. Dr. Joy Browne was on the air giving advice across the country, WOR delivered news and weather, commercials were played and the production studios were in use. It was by all standards an extremely successful move.

Added benefits

The result has been better than Ray had hoped.

"The cleanliness of the audio makes the IBOC signal sound fantastic," said Ray. There is no more IM distortion and audio coloration or masked ground loop hums to deal with. Plus, with the ability to route data, we should be able to start taking advantage of Program Associated Data in the near future."

The heritage of excellence continues at WOR. With 83 years of broadcast history and counting, Tom Ray is aware of that history. While moving the station forward to the future, the station was mindful of the past. With its long history with New York, the station wanted to do its history proud. Ray notes, "I think that we have done that."

Sheahan is communications manager with Creative Studio Solutions, Wheat Ridge, CO.

Equipment list

Primary dealer: Broadcasters General Store
Adobe Audition 1.5
Air Tools 6200
Aphex Compellor
Audioarts R-60
Axia Livewire and Smartsurface
Belar modulation monitor system
Belden wire and cable, CAT-6
Comrex Vector
Crown D-75
Denon DCM-280P
Denon DN-920
Electro-Voice RE-20
Electro-Voice RE-27
Enco DADpro32
ESE clock system
ESE GPS master clock
Eventide Harmonizer
HP Procurve Ethernet switches
JBL 4408A
Kenwood HD Radio receiver
Neutrik connectors
O.C.White mic booms
Omnia 6
OMT Quickpix
Orban 8200ST
RCS call screener
Studio Technology furniture
Telos 2x12
Telos Profiler
Telos Zephyr Xstream
Titus on-air lights

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