Field Report: Arrakis Systems Digilink-Xtreme

July 1, 2010


Arrakis Systems Digilink-Xtreme

Radio has been a passion of mine since I got hooked in high school. One thing I have learned since then is that quality equipment can make a big difference.

I started looking for colleges where I could get a degree in video editing after taking a class on the subject. I realized that all of the schools had at least a quarter of radio and I wasn't sure if I would enjoy that, so I decided to take an internship at a local radio station, KOLY in Mobridge, SD. That turned into a part-time job and ever since, for the most part, I've been on the radio. I went to Brown College, and then did stints at KGRN-AM in Grinnell, IA, and at KBIZ-AM and KTWA-FM in Ottumwa, IA, before coming to Winona Radio in 2004. Throughout my career I worked with different equipment and different systems, each with their own personalities.

When I came to Winona the station had old DL-3s and DL-4s from Arrakis. They worked well for what they did, but as with all technology there comes a point when we needed something new. The stations were pleased with the Arrakis automation systems, so in 2005 we began looking at the Digilink-Xtreme. From what we could tell, the Xtreme was very affordable and still provided the features we needed.

Performance at a glance

300-cut cart wall
Includes music scheduler and production editor
Imports logs from other schedulers
Free telephone training
No file server required

With 10 stations, a big part of the decision process was based on the fact that we needed something easy to network and with all the features required for our several different formats. It had to do satellite, hard disk music and ball games reliably without a headache. Winona has five stations, two music on hard drive, one of them AC and the other HAC. Another station is a satellite FM country station, the fourth a live daytime AM country station and the last a news talk AM that is a mix of satellite and live programming. KWNO-AM our news talk is a Twins, T-Wolves, Wild, ESPN and Gophers affiliate. We also have local games from the two high schools in town. Our satellite FM is a Vikings affiliate and we have live local games on that as well. As you can see, we needed an automation system that does it all, short of making coffee and doing our laundry.

Having spoken to the staff at Arrakis, and from our experience with the DL-3s and -4s, we felt we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting into with the Digilink-Xtreme. The nice part is that we only spend $100 a month per station, and there is no contract. That meant we didn't have to drop thousands of dollars up front and wonder if it would work out. We went ahead and purchased five systems in January 2006 for the stations at Winona.

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Making it work

It was obvious from the start that Arrakis was very interested in making it work for us. Customer support and phone training is included. What really impressed us was how easy and effective different features worked. Voice tracking can be time consuming and sometimes painful, but with the Xtreme it is as simple as a couple clicks. Being an on-air personality, it makes a difference to voice track an entire week in a matter of hours. You can also schedule recordings for the entire week. Once it is set up, it automatically records and re-records over news feeds (any satellite source) so that we can play it back at a later time. When I am live, I love to use the jingle (hot key) wall. Anyone who has used a hot-key feature knows how important it is for live shows.

The phoner recorder is also very easy to use and great for when you're live. With a couple clicks you can record, trim and save a recording. Instantly it goes to the library, which makes it easy to throw into the on-air playlist at the last second. The Digilink-Xtreme had evolved quite a bit from the DL-3 and -4 and has perfected a lot of what I like about automation.

Another thing that impressed me from the start was its stability. Automation systems can certainly struggle at times, but we found the Digilink-Xtreme to be a step ahead. When you have 10 stations, stability of an automation system can either be a nightmare or a relief, and we found the Digilink-Xtreme to make our lives easier.

After a year and a half of seeing the benefits of the Digilink-Xtreme for Winona, we decided to purchase the Xtreme for the five other stations at Lakes Radio. Again, this decision was a lot easier since it was only $100 per station. We also liked having uniformity between stations.

Both Winona and Lakes Radio have five stations and each are linked by a simple network. Networking with the Digilink-Xtreme is easy and 100 percent necessary with this many stations. Instead of creating multiple cuts for multiple stations, we are able to drop a spot into multiple stations quickly. The on-air personality can start a track on the on-air machine while traffic can be reconciled on a computer next door; all the while scheduling/programming is done in a room on the other side of the building. The software for the production and traffic computers all came included at no additional charge.

Arrakis Systems
P
W
E
970-461-0730
www.arrakis-systems.com
arrakis@arrakis-systems.com

In a time when the economy can shift in a day, the Xtreme has been a real asset; one less expenditure to stress about. It has given us flexibility when we needed it and it makes a difference. It is refreshing when your automation works for you, instead of you working for the automation.

We also get updates for our stations every year included with the Xtreme at no charge. The 2010 update has a great new look and it seems like the look and feel of the system has really come together. We've looked at other systems over the years and never found anything that would work this well for the price. As I said before, quality equipment can really make a difference, and the Digilink-Xtreme has been a pleasure.


Lundquist is program director and morning host on KHME-FM, Winona, MN.


Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.

These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.

It is the responsibility of
Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.



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