Facility Facelift

June 1, 2007


Sabrina, mid-day host, is in the WNCL-FM air control room.

Rebuilding radio studios in today's demanding world can be challenging. Delmarva Broadcasting's Milford, DE, operation was no exception. With six new studios and offices, everything had to be coordinated to work in harmony and keep the station flowing. In the middle of the project was an HD Radio conversion, which also had to be handled accordingly.

WTHD, the first radio station in Milford, DE, was built in 1954 as a 500W, two-tower, daytime-only directional AM. The original building is still part of the studio/ transmitter facility today. Since 1954, the complex has seen three additions attached to the original building. With the second addition completed in 1989, time had taken its toll on the old paneled walls. With an FM added in the 1970s and another in 2003, the need for additional space was vital. Delmarva Broadcasting purchased the Prettyman broadcasting stations in 1997 and had been planning the renovation ever since. In 2003, WXPZ (now WNCL) was purchased and moved into the old reel storage room in the already full building. This temporary studio existed for three years. In 2005, Delmarva Broadcasting finalized the plans for construction on addition number three, but local permits delayed the project for some time. In the fall of 2006, the addition was completed and ready for studio construction to begin.

Design philosophy

Station management requested the studios to be one of the first things seen when a visitor walked in the entrance to reception. Let's face it, most people who listen to the radio want to see the person behind the microphone, not those of us behind the scenes. This meant that sound proofing the studios was critical. This also required that the installation of the windows looking into the studios be precise. Sound dampening drywall and wall isolation were incorporated into the design. Lightner Electronics helped get the studio wiring off the ground by assembling all the preliminary audio, network and telephone wiring. When it came to equipment needs, Jim Peck of SCMS provided assistance. He offered equipment research and all the last-minute needs that arose during the project.

Cristian Tijerino in the WYUS-AM control room.

Careful consideration went into the planning of the HVAC systems used for the studios, which incorporate electronic air filters and humidity controls. This helps reduce static and dust. The ducts and air velocity for the system were all designed with sound proofing in mind.

My biggest challenge was keeping all aspects of the stations in operation during this entire process. This meant building the studios and moving existing operating equipment into them. The majority of the equipment installed was new, but a portion of the equipment had to be recycled. This meant some carefully planned pre-wiring and testing to keep down time to a minimum during the transition. Some existing consoles had to be refurbished by the manufacturer. One such console was for WYUS-AM, which was upgrading from an older rotary-fader console to a Radio Systems Millenium console. The use of current equipment required a new studio to be built so a previous studio's console could be sent back to the factory. A new audio server was purchased and set up in the new wing to help with the move. The first studio began broadcasting in January, and the work continued until all the studios were complete.

During the installation, proper grounding and lightning prevention measures were installed. A halo ground system was incorporated around the entire studio facility. This consisted of four-inch copper strap to bring everything together. All equipment was properly bonded to this system ground. Henry Power Clamps were used on incoming power lines. Polyphasor suppressors were used on incoming transmission lines. A Powerware system UPS was used to stabilize the power to all sensitive equipment. Sandman telephone suppressors were used on all phone lines.

Furniture was an important part of the new studios. We wanted a custom look with oak trim throughout. Management also wanted to stay away from the traditional battleship gray wherever possible. From the studios, to reception, to the jock office, Vince Fiola of Studio Technologies helped create the look we had been seeking. His eye for detail was a huge help.

Gary John in the WAFL-FM control room.

An important part of the project was to move the Milford stations into an all-digital audio domain, or at least in part for WAFL-FM and WNCL-FM. I wanted to use as few — if any — digital to analog converters as possible. All wiring in the infrastructure was designed to carry digital audio so that was not a concern.

Audio Science 5044 digital audio cards were required in the Imediatouch on-air automation computers. These cards mated to the Audioarts D75 digital inputs well. From there, the audio path passes through a Broadcast Tools ADMS DAS 8.4 Plus audio switcher. This switcher combined with ADCS-III converters allowed us to integrate the analog EAS and studio sources. It also had digital outputs so it fit our need to keep the path digital unless an EAS source or another analog studio was needed for an emergency. From there it went to the digital inputs to the Optimods and then to the digital inputs of he BE HD Radio transmitter.



Audio distribution

Production and voice tracking room.

The Milford facility needed a better way to distribute audio throughout the building. The new studio build was a good opportunity to integrate a new type of system, such as the Audioarts IOC center and AE-Net Router. Conveniently, it also was a direct interface to the D75N consoles we were using. The benefit of the audio router system is that it simplifies the wiring and keeps everything in a centralized location.

One challenge during a complete renovation is what to do with the business staff during the office renovation. After the studios were built and the studio equipment was moved, the original portion of the building and its two former additions desperately needed an overhaul. But this would require removing all interior walls. Luckily, when Delmarva Broadcasting purchased WNCL in 2003, it used the transmitter site as studios and offices. This building is only five miles south of the main building and still houses the WNCL-FM transmitter. With a large amount of unused space available at this site, it seemed obvious to move sales and management there. With some paint and new carpet, it was as good as new. The one problem that had to be resolved was high-speed Internet and intranet service to this facility. With the use of a networked traffic and billing system, a stable system was a must. Neither cable nor DSL service was available in this area. A satellite service was tested but was not stable enough for our needs. What we had was a stable STL system in place between the buildings. With the addition of a Moseley Lanlink to our existing STL, we were able to get a reliable 1MB, bi-directional network system between the buildings. This had no reoccurring monthly charges and installation costs were low. This allowed us to keep everything networked.

We used custom-built guest turrets for the studios. We left these on rubber feet so they could be moved where they were needed most. These incorporated a network jack for any guest or co-host to access the Internet via a laptop, which is a welcome addition in today's studios. This was accomplished with a Neutrik RJ-45 insert into the XLR receptacle of the Broadcast Tools HR-1/AHR-2 mounting panel. This interface also includes the jock's choice of ¼” or ⅛” headphone jack. This eliminated the age-old question to the engineering staff, “Do you have an adapter for my headphones? I lost mine.”

Bill Blatz in the soon-to-be-expanded RF rack room with Broadcast Electronics FMI 301 FM+HD transmitter. Adjusting one of several new Orban audio processors.

The studio speakers are ceiling-mounted, and Steve Koehle of Lightner Electronics ran the wires inside the mounting pipes and connected them internally. At first glance people ask “where are the speaker wires?”

Rebuilding the facility allowed us to take advantage of the most current technology, but it also allowed us to plan and apply an overall design philosophy to the entire facility. Thanks to the partners who provided their expertise, we were able to accomplish this goal.

WAFL currently broadcasts an HD Radio signal with an HD-2 installation scheduled for fall of 2007. WNCL and WYUS are scheduled for an HD Radio conversion in 2008.




Online Extra

Twilley is director of engineering for Delmarva Broadcasting, Wilmington, DE.


Meet the stations

WAFL-FM - Eagle 977 - Hot AC
WNCL-FM - Cool 101.3 - Oldies
WYUS-AM - La Exitosa - Spanish

Equipment List

Acoustics First sound panels
Art SLA1
Audemat-Aztec FMB80, Golden Eagle HD
Audioarts AE-Net, IOC, audio router, D75N consoles
Audion Labs Vox Pro
Audioscience 5044
Brady ID Expert labeler
Broadcast Electronics FMI 301, IDI 20
Broadcast Tools 8.4 Plus, HR-1, SS 8.2
Comrex Access, Matrix
Day Sequerra M4.2R
DBX 1066
Dell servers, clients, LCD monitors
Denon DN 635
Digigram VX222v2
Electro Voice RE-20
ELO Touchscreens
ETA PD8 power conditioners
Gepco digital audio cable
Imediatouch
JBL Control 5
Krone punch blocks
Lightner Electronics integration services
Mackie 32.8
Middle Atlantic racks
Moseley Lanlink HD, SL9003Q
Neutrik connectors
OC White microphone booms
Orban 6300, 8200, 8500
Powerware UPS system
Radio Systems Millenium
Rane HC-6
SCMS/Jim Peck equipment vendor
Sage Endec
Sandman telephone surge suppressors
Spirit ES
Stellar Communications ground system
Studio Technology studio/office furniture
Symetrix 528, 581E
Tannoy Reveal 6P
Telos 1×6, Zephyr
TFT EAS 911



Additional photos

Dan Mammone (front), Bill Blatz (middle) and Jeff Twilley (rear) decommission one of the oldest control rooms in the Milford cluster. Photo by Jim Peck

In-furniture punch blocks and a consistent look room-to-room make future equipment and format changes easier to implement. Photo by Dave Vallée

Removable hook-and-loop cable ties and a Brady printer that creates overlay-protected cable labels are used to accomodate changes. Photo by Dave Vallée

The coax entrance and polyphaser and ground bus interconnect. Photo by Jim Peck

The bus bar and ground system halo interconnect in the audio/server room. Photo by Jim Peck



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