Several weeks ago we purchased an RDS encoder from a most reputable manufacturer, believing this was certainly the ultimate (and pricey) standard for RDS. After battling with this unit for two weeks on my laptop just trying to program it I finally gave up and sent it back to the manufacturer. I began looking for other options.
Performance at a glance
RS-232, USB and Ethernet control
Dynamic messaging in block or safe scrolling modes
Transmits all service flags, including TA override
Screen-entry Windows software available
Supports European and U.S. standards
I purchased the Inovonics Model 713, which costs less than half the price of the previously tested RDS encoder. My previous difficulty was now eliminated. The 713 was a breeze to set up on my laptop. In about two minutes it was ready to go on the air. I plugged the unit in and it works great.
The first tested RDS device and Inovonics RDS encoders are both great products, but being a time-constrained engineer the Inovonics 713 easily fulfilled the needs of Yellowstone Public Radio's vast network for ease of programming, installation and results.
The 713 has a subcarrier injection pot on the front panel. This makes it easy to set the injection level with a greenie screwdriver. The injection level on the other RDS unit I tried must be set through software via the serial or Ethernet connection. This is just not handy for my purposes, as I must be extremely efficient in my technical duties, time-wise.
Front-panel LEDs provide immediate feedback as to its operational status, which is truly an engineer's dream because casual, immediate look-see feedback from any broadcast device speaks volumes. That's why there are meters on the front of a transmitter.
Like other RDS encoders, the 713 fully complies with the RDS standard. Static data (station, call sign, slogan) is programmed via USB, serial or Ethernet connection. At this moment Yellowstone Public Radio is not transmitting RDS dynamic messaging with composer/artist and song title, but will be in the next few months via TCP/IP.
Inovonics also manufacturers the Model 712 RDS encoder, which has all the same features except for the USB and Ethernet connectivity.
We use our unit in the composite loop-through mode from our analog exciter to feed the transmission chain, but it can also be connected via a side chain. We chose to loop through because we already run other subcarriers at 67kHz and 92kHz, so our STL transmitter was already at maximum capacity on the subcarrier inputs.
The rear panel of the 713.
The first unit I tried required it to be assigned an IP address before I could begin programming it. This is not so with the 713. The direct USB connection lets me connect right away.
As an accessory, I also wanted an off-air confidence monitor for the RDS encoder, and the Inovonics 510 decoder/reader fit the bill. It connects to the composite output of our modulation monitor. It also features a bright blue LED display to show the RDS parameters.
Finally, the 713 is supplied with a hard copy technical manual that for me, a time-constrained engineer, is most handy. Many products now supply the documentation on a CD, which is fine if I had the time to load and open the files. I'm sure there'll be a time when you can strap your computer onto your belt, but then how about all the required interface cables, CDRs and software? Shirt pocket? I take care of far too many transmitter/translator sites, and at this point hard-copy manuals fit my needs best to be most efficient in my technical endeavors. The manual is available as a PDF on the Inovonics website.
I wish you the best of luck with all your RDS/RBDS endeavors. It's an interesting technology that you must grasp or get left behind with your tail wagging in the wind.
Rocks is technical director of Yellowstone Public Radio at Montana State University, Billings, MT.
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.
The Radio Data System (RDS) was developed in Europe, however in the U.S. standard is slightly different, and technically is called Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS). For the most part, all systems in the United States have reconciled with the European RDS protocols. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, the more generic term of RDS is used here.