College radio stations are known for eclectic programming, inexperienced air talent and cappuccino spills on the equipment. And while most control consoles can't do anything about bizarre programming and cappuccino spills, there is a console that's easy to operate and accommodating to green broadcasters: the Audioarts R55E.
In July 2005, Liberty University was ready to revamp the master control room and news room at 90.9 The Light, the student-operated FM facility. The goal was to create two identical control rooms that could go live to air or be used for training. The station trains more than 50 students per semester, so the traffic in and out of each control room is considerably heavy. Within three to four weeks of enrolling, students have their hands on the controls in practice or on the air. Because of the training nature of the facility, the heavy on-air schedule, the need for a low learning curve and the budget consciousness of administrators, a solid small- to medium- market console was in order. When the GM asked what type of control console would best meet the needs of the station, without hesitation I pointed him to the R55E.
The R55E follows a traditional modular layout that is familiar to seasoned broadcasters and easy for new broadcasters to understand. Assigned buses on each channel include program, audition, mono and pre (a pre-fader output bus). Each channel can be cued to a built-in speaker in the meter bridge. The green LED timer on the bridge aids in keeping stop sets brief, and is triggered by turning the mic channels on. The meter bridge also contains two traditional backlit meter sets. One is dedicated to program, and the other is switchable between the external input and the assign buses. This is a great teaching tool. As soon as the R55E was installed, I had the switched meter on external and the students could see the difference between the raw program output and the processed air feed. When they actually saw what on-air processing looks like I could see lights coming on in several heads.
Performance at a glance
Illuminated LED switches
Logic programming dipswitches
Two stereo, two mono program buses
Optional telephone caller input
I happened to be at the studio when the first student started his air shift on the R55E. I was amazed at how quickly he assigned each channel to program for phone calls or for recording. He plugged in his headset, and quickly found the external monitoring assignment and chose to monitor his show off-air. In short, the R55E is intuitive. The student had experience on the facility's old console, but within minutes was ready for his show on the R55E. The clean, modular design offers plenty of assign and monitoring options, but it doesn't overwhelm a board operator.
From an installation perspective, I was pleased with the termination and hook-up process. Each input module is connected through supplied DB-25 connectors, which house A and B audio inputs and logic connections. The DB-25 connectors come with pins and a crimp tool. I measured and pigtailed all the DB-25s before installation and finished 12 input modules, two output modules and a line selector module in about four hours. The use of DB-25 connectors makes the entire process fast and easy, plus the modules are simply unplugged if one ever needs to be moved or replaced.
Each module features left and right trimpots just under the meter bridge, so level tweaking is done quickly and easily. Near the trimpots is a set of dipswitches that allow for easy muting, talkback, tally and logic assignment changes. There is no need to dismantle the R55E. All changes are completed by simply lifting the hinged meter bridge. The modules pop out of the mother board easily. If, for example, you want to move the main mic module simply pop it out and move it (of course, powering down the console first is suggested).
I installed an optionally ordered line selector module for the R55E and hardwired it to the B side of channel 12. Using the selector spares several channels. The station has direct feeds from several facilities around the campus for sports and church broadcasts. These feeds all come into the line selector module. The students just punch up “Vines Center” on the line selector module and the basketball game comes up on channel 12B. Essentially, with the line selector the R55E becomes a 29-input console.
The R55E 12-module chassis takes up less space than the previous console so the students are happy with the added desk space. Instructors are able to familiarize students with the operation of the console in a little less than an hour. Since the installation, I have not received any phone calls about how the console operates, so it's easy to assume that the students have mastered the R55E in a brief amount of time. In addition to the easy learning curve, the console improved the overall sound of the station.
The console has more than met the needs of 90.9 in that the installation was seamless, the students quickly learned how to use it and the administration liked the price. With several available options, the console is customizable, and any medium-market radio station will fall in love with the design concept and service they'll get from the R55E.
Wygal is the programmer, engineer and Web designer for WRVL in Lynchburg, VA.
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