If It Ain’t Broke, Then Keep on Growing

It’s been 11 years since Wallace Radio Syndication first implemented Barix audio-over-IP devices as its primary method of live program distribution. March 22, 2017

It’s been 11 years since Wallace Radio Syndication first implemented Barix audio-over-IP devices as its primary method of live program distribution.

Barix Instreamers have been chugging away for Wallace Radio Syndication for over 10 years now.

Wallace Radio Syndication started off two years prior (in 2004) using satellite, but soon realized the expense was prohibitive. AoIP transport seemed to offer a solution to these cost barriers, as well as a providing a way forward to develop new business opportunities.

Our IP transition started with a simple web stream to get audio from A to B. We delivered our own live content: a 50-minute daily show (year-round) and a Friday night scoreboard show during football season. A total of 42 affiliates carried our shows.

While an impressive early example of AoIP for transport of syndicated program content, the point-to-point web stream created new work flow issues for each affiliate. Remember, AoIP was, at the time, an unfamiliar method of audio transport for most broadcasters. Affiliate operators struggled with instigating the web stream, and high latency affected both management of the signal at the station, as well as listenability. Few, if any, means of automating the process existed.

The challenge for Wallace Radio syndication was clear: How do we, as a broadcaster on the cutting-edge of a fledgling technology, reap the benefits that we identified, yet make it network-affiliate friendly?

WORD OF MOUTH

After exhaustive internet research produced only high-cost codecs, an engineer at a local small-market station turned us on to Barix.

In 2005, we first approached LineQ, which distributes Barix devices in the United States, with our idea of syndicating radio programming live using Barix. We were one of the first to use the boxes as an alternative to the usual satellite feeds that stations had been accustomed to.

LineQ understood this application, and we had a few different options and decisions to make. Our goal at Wallace Radio Syndication was to first implement the hardware and then to automate the delivery, just as the satellite systems had done before.

WHY THESE CODECS?

We chose the Barix Exstreamer 100 for our affiliate receivers for three critical reasons.

First, the price tag was far below competitive solutions.

Second, Barix understood and addressed the latency concerns of broadcasters under the hood of their hardware. This immediately improved listenability while eliminating affiliate labor headaches.

Third, and perhaps most surprising at the time, was audio quality. The knock on audio-over-IP at the time — and occasionally today, to a lesser degree — was that network transport cannot offer broadcast-quality audio. We disagree, as do our listeners and affiliates.

We also use the Instreamer 100s as our encoding platform from our studios. With some assistance from StreamGuys, a content-delivery network specializing in broadcast that acts as our bandwidth provider, we were, and still are, delivering audio to our affiliates here in the Midwest. At its highest point, Wallace Radio Syndication had 80 radio stations with Exstreamer 100 devices decoding and receiving our feed.

  Our 2006 transition to Barix also made it possible to cost-effectively syndicate third-party programming, including North Dakota State Bison football, with 23 affiliates in North Dakota and Minnesota. Our programming today ranges from daily talk shows to sporting events.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF AOIP ADVANCES

Finally, in our 10th year using Barix, we have decided to update the Barix firmware at all affiliates to reap the benefits of how AoIP, and Barix itself, has evolved in recent years. We had no reason to make the updates as things were moving along just fine, but admittedly we were in the stone age of firmware.

We finally took the plunge and updated all of firmware in 2016. We still use most of the same Exstreamer 100 devices installed one decade ago — a testament to their operational reliability. They remain durable and long-lasting, providing exceptional total cost of ownership.

The faster signal processing and monitoring benefits of the latest firmware has been a big step up. Our network hub is in constant motion, with programming moving through most of the day and into evening. On a daily basis, we rely on Instreamers to deliver our primary feed as well as our off-site, fully redundant, backup feed. It’s easy to know if something is amiss via alarm notification on our smart phones; or, by simply seeing anything other than a comforting, blinking, green light on the front of the device.

Over the last 10 years we’ve seen the bandwidth capabilities at radio stations skyrocket. We used to deliver a slightly lower quality audio feed to accommodate stations with less bandwidth; however, as bandwidth has become less and less of constraint, we can now deliver a CD-quality audio feed. The faster signal processing of Barix’s latest firmware playing a major role in the execution.

In our world, the small rural markets are as vital as the larger markets. The luxury of higher bandwidths — and a reliable audio over IP transport network — give us that large-market sound and presence.

Matt Wallace is the chief manager of Wallace Radio Syndication, LLC.

 

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