Radio One Dallas Builds for the Future

New studios and a TOC for KBFB(FM) & KSOC(FM) are 13,000-square-foot located on one half of the 11th floor May 15, 2015

“Director of First Impressions” Sheronda Blanton greets visitors at Radio One Dallas.
Photo by Steve Walker
The Technical Operations Center is the heart of Radio One Dallas. The central UPS system, all servers, remote codecs and VistaMax systems can be controlled from here.
Photo by Steve Walker
The slow death of the indoor shopping mall is an unfortunate reality, with properties nationwide losing tenants or going fully dark as American shopping habits change. Sadly, our longtime home at the Valley View Mall in north Dallas is among those on the decline. As our lease advanced toward expiration, we faced the difficult question that many broadcasters eventually address: Do we stay put or transition to a new space where we can build for the future?

The dilemma was quick to resolve in the case of Radio One Dallas. Reach Media, our syndication partner, populated the first and seventh floors of a spacious, modern office building two blocks away. The property owner was keen on increasing Reach Media’s footprint, and within weeks, the signatures were dry. Radio One Dallas had a new 13,000-square-foot home on one half of the 11th floor, and began the process of building out studios and a technical operations center for KBFB(FM) and KSOC(FM).

Naturally, the space was not move-in ready. With architectural guidance from Merriman & Associates and a set of CAD drawings from GatesAir, the process of raising walls and running wires began.

The studio core sports an open cable tray, Industrial Acoustics doors and a straightforward layout, with control rooms and mixing studios on the left, production rooms on the right.
Photo by Steve Walker
TAKING SHAPE

The biggest challenge was the unusual shape of the building, which significantly narrows near the center. After rifling through several floor plan variations, Merriman & Associates handed the project off to the general contractor to build out the separate studio and office spaces. Initial electrical work ensured a robust connection to an existing Reach Media-owned Onan 150 KVA generator. With plenty of headroom to support two stations, we eliminated the costs of installing a new ground-level generator with 11 floors of conduit and wiring.

Radio One has traditionally avoided “turnkey” systems as a matter of preference. However, the quick turnaround requirement and unusual space presented an opportunity to explore that route. Upon choosing GatesAir, the team fired up the AutoCAD program for studio design, and began measuring cable runs lengths for the various studios. Soon, their integration team was onsite running 25-pair CAT5-rated cable with appropriate connectors between the various studio spaces.

The initial wiring job was completed within a few hours. The transition to networking cable accelerated the process compared to the tedious, labor-intensive integration of shielded audio pairs, where we’d spend days working with heat shrink tubing and terminating hundreds-to-thousands of cables across multiple spaces. With connectivity to Krone punchblocks, the overall result is no exposed wiring as with older 66 blocks — and no risk of shorting out. The CAT5 infrastructure additionally has been kind to audio quality, with no evidence of crosstalk or dropouts that are often a concern for broadcasters.

On the cover: A GatesAir RMX console in Radio One Dallas’ studio.
Photo by Steve Walker
Our announcers love the look and feel of the RMX consoles. Everything is exactly where they want it to be.
Photo by Steve Walker
IN THE TOC

The technical operations center is the heart of our operation, as with most radio networks. However, the TOC design continues to evolve due to improved networking platforms. While the option remains, there is increasingly less of a need for that enormous “traffic cop” router, with huge cable bundles coming out of the back panel for termination. Our design favors a more modern distributed architecture, which reduces both the footprint and complexity of the overall system design.

The TOC features eight equipment racks, with the majority built by GatesAir; and two specialized Middle Atlantic racks with greater depth (42 inches). These racks allowed us to cleanly integrate deeper units related to network interconnections, network switching and cable management, while comfortably leaving the rear doors intact. Overall, this made for a much cleaner installation. Additionally, we installed three redundant 12KVA Eaton Blade UPS systems in these racks, all wired to a bypass panel and operating in parallel to ensure we’re always on the air.

Moving away from the traditional core router, we opted for the GatesAir VMConnect audio management frame as our hub. With a base management of 192 bidirectional stereo audio and associated logic channels that can be scaled for higher capacity, the VMConnect offered the ideal solution as a compact hub for networking across two on-air studios, four production studios and two mixing studios.

The VMConnect is configured for a distributed architecture as referenced above, feeding six VMXpress audio and logic interface devices for edge routing. All studio consoles connect to VMConnect and the VMXpress units via CAT5. Separately, program audio from each console connects to a Broadcast Tools switcher, providing an additional redundancy layer as we are installing firmware upgrades or switching cables on the VM systems. These switchers feed directly to GatesAir Intraplex IP Link codecs for transport to the main transmitter site.

Yellowtec Mika series mounting arns make setting up multiple mics and monitors a breeze.
Photo by Steve Walker
The remaining GatesAir racks are chiefly populated with WideOrbit automation PCs and an array of IT servers and common computers. All racks are well ventilated, with two 7.5-ton Liebert air conditioning systems consistently cooling the equipment in a main/alternate configuration.

In a more unusual twist, we installed the IP Link codecs not only for STL transport but also to backhaul audio from our Pico Digital XDS and Wegener satellite receivers which are located at our main transmitter site. Upon moving into the facility, we were informed of the property owner’s preference for no rooftop satellite dishes. With no available ground space to install a satellite dish, our best option was to move the dish and receivers to the main transmitter site.

In conjunction with IP microwave systems, the satellite receivers deliver program audio for FM, HD1 and HD2 channels to GatesAir Intraplex IP Link 200 codecs for backhaul to the TOC, with streams triggered via built-in contact closures. The IP Link 200s were selected for the main transmitter site to accommodate dual FM and HD streams coming from the satellite receivers, and deliver that audio to the TOC. IP Link 100s — the single-channel version — provide an STL connection for the single FM feed to the backup transmitter site.

Melvin Keller of “The Big Baby Show” uses a GatesAir RMX console and the Yellowtec M¡ka series mounting arm system.
Photo by Steve Walker
CONNECTED STUDIOS

Radio One opted for GatesAir NetWave digital consoles for the four production studios. However, we decided to go bigger for the on-air studios, selecting GatesAir’s RMXdigital 20 consoles. They add a bit of horsepower to the broadcast operation.

The two on-air rooms are approximately 15x15, a bit smaller than our old ones and driven purely by the space we had at our disposal. Using custom GatesAir furniture, the overall atmosphere is upscale, with unusual shapes from the countertop to the equipment turret outfitted with Wheatstone M2 microphone processors, Sage EnDec EAS units and a GatesAir World Feed Panel for universal I/O connections. Each on-air desk has one host and three guest positions, with 3x6 headphone controls and jacks built into the surface. Yellowtec mic arms support Heil PR40 microphones at each position, and the main guest position has a Telos VX phone system for request lines.

Control rooms have Mackie HR824 studio monitors, clocks and timers from ESE, Telos VX phones, 360 Systems Instant Replays and a WideOrbit digital media playback system.
Photo by Steve Walker
The host position features WideOrbit automation for media playout (music, spots, promos), a VoxPro editing system and the console. The WideOrbit system is extremely solid and reliable, and does an excellent job feeding song title and artist information to our transmitters. One of the cooler features of the RMXdigital is a built-in delay dump button, one of several programmable buttons on the console. This button lights up green if in the “safe zone” of the delay, turns yellow if time is dwindling, and red if there is not enough capacity to dump audio.

The RMXdigital is a programmable console and is routable to any networked location. While we are still learning some of the programming options, like saving and recalling sessions, we have put the mix-minus capabilities to good use. The jocks were able to grasp how to feed audio down to the phone, record and mix it into the live broadcast. It’s intuitive and has helped to enliven the broadcast with guest callers.

The production rooms are similar, with GatesAir Quickline furniture and NetWave consoles anchoring the room. Like the RMXdigital consoles, the NetWaves feed into the networked architecture for source sharing and audio/logic routing to any connected studio. Three of the production rooms have one host and one guest position, while the fourth includes three guest positions to accommodate traveling shows and guest broadcasters. For example, the “Ricky Smiley Morning Show” often broadcasts from this studio.

The in-studio racks have studio and Audion Labs VoxPro PCs, Wheatstone M2 mic processors, Denon DN-700C networkable CD/Media players, a GatesAir World Feed Panel and dual redundant power supplies, as well as some additional needed gear.
Photo by Steve Walker
The final two studios are outfitted with nightclub-style DJ mixing equipment, which are used often, given the hip-hop format of both stations. Each room has a Rane Sixty-Two DJ mixer and Pioneer CDJ-1000 turntables. These rooms can function as satellite studios for the on-air and production rooms, each of which can take a live feed via VMXpress.

With the move complete and both stations live from the new studios, the overall system can simply be described as clean, manageable and smartly integrated. The amount of pre-planning that went into the project, along with the skilled on-site engineering, accelerated the entire process to get us on the air quickly. With a distributed architecture that offers plenty of capacity for future changes and additions, Radio One Dallas is well positioned for a long and bright future.

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