In my daily job, I have the opportunity to meet lots of people, visit many stations and see first-hand a variety of situations. I visit large and small markets, and I talk to seasoned veterans and freshmen engineers. In most cases I learn or see something new.
While touring a station recently, the chief engineer (he's one of the seasoned veterans) took a moment to share his concern about some recent experiences with broadcast equipment. He shared the information, not sure about what could be done about it. I told him I would share his concerns without mentioning the specific manufacturers — yet. There are two sides to every story, and while I'm only telling his side, it's his experience that sets the message. Because of my connection to Radio magazine, if I were to call these manufacturers I would not be surprised to get a different story.
So for now, the names will be protected in fairness to the manufacturers. Perhaps they will recognize the story and take steps to correct these problems.
The first situation concerns a certain type of popular mic processor that another contract engineer installs at many of his stations. Five of these processors — not all in the same facility — have experienced the same failure. The veteran engineer has worked with the contract engineer to repair all the units himself. The challenge was in repairing the unit without a schematic, as the owner's manual does not include one. When he called the manufacturer to get a schematic, he was told that company will not release a schematic to the field for a product that is currently in production.
There are two problems here. One, a current product has the same field failure that has yet to be corrected, and two, the manufacturer will not provide a schematic to help in field repairs.
I can appreciate a manufacturer protecting some intellectual property, but even a basic schematic doesn't give away all the secrets. The veteran engineer knows exactly how to fix the problem, but his initial diagnostic work took some time. Also, the manufacturer now knows about the problem because of this engineer's calls. Hopefully, future units will not have the same weakness.
The second situation deals with a certain model of AM transmitters. There are three of these transmitters installed in this market, and two of them, again at different facilities, have both had problems. The third one has just been installed, and the veteran engineer is concerned that his new transmitter will suffer the same fate.
He says all the transmitters are properly installed. The two earlier transmitters both caught fire and suffered severe damage. Neither suffered any unusual fate, such as lightning or severe weather, but both experienced some power supply problem that caused the fire. In the case of one station, the manufacturer offered to send two field engineers to rebuild the transmitter at a cost of several thousand dollars. Instead of rebuilding the molten transmitter, the station used the insurance money to buy a transmitter from another manufacturer.
The third situation he described involved needing a connector for a flexible coaxial cable. The cable is currently in production and in wide use. When a new connector was needed to replace one that overheated, the cable manufacturer said the connector was not available and would be back ordered for several months.
Stocking large quantities of parts is not practical for a manufacturer, but having to wait several months could be a problem in many situations.
I understand the engineer's concern. There is an expectation for a professional product to provide reliable service. He is not expecting unrealistic support, but he is expecting the product to work. What can you do? Talk to the manufacturer when you experience a problem. Also, post a note to the helpline at forums.radiomagonline.com. We can do this to improve the broadcast products we use every day.
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