2009 Pick Hits

June 1, 2009

Pick Hits

The Radio magazine Pick Hits are the top 15 new products shown at the 2009 NAB Show as selected by our panel of radio engineer judges. The winners are listed in alphabetical order.

The list of judges and the official rules are listed on the last pages.

Axia Powerstation

IP audio console system
Axia Audio
Powerstation: This all-in-one IP-audio console system combines analog, digital and microphone I/O, a console power supply, DSP mixing engine and network switch into one package. To set up Powerstation, connect the studio equipment with standard CAT-5 cables, connect an Element console with just one cable, name the sources with a browser, and it's ready for air. Powerstation can be the heart of a standalone studio or part of a larger Axia network. Powerstation simple networking can daisy-chain up to four Powerstations for a multi-studio installation without a separate core switch.

What the Judges had to say:

  • This eliminates many separate boxes and puts them into a single package.
  • It brings the Axia system into a single-studio, cohesive system.


    Bird Signalhawk

    Spectrum analyzer
    Bird Technologies Group
    Signal Hawk SH-36S-PC: The Signal Hawk SH-36S-PC analyzes the radio frequency spectrum, measures intended and interfering signals, and allows setup of parameters such as frequency and amplitude markers. It displays signal amplitude versus frequency and saves traces on a PC. It is fast, accurate and sensitive (-135dBm noise floor) with the same spectrum analyzer functionality as the Signal Hawk handheld and rack-mount units. It is built in FCC compliance masks, has a waterfall display and a sophisticated spectrum analysis software package is included with the product.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • It's an even more portable spectrum analyzer with a long battery life.
  • The price is very affordable for all its functions.


    Burk Plus-X 300

    I/O interface
    Burk Technology
    Plus-X 300: The Plus-X 300 I/O interface simplifies distribution of monitoring and control to all areas of a facility by using Ethernet-based connectivity to the ARC Plus or ARC Plus SL. In addition to traditional transmitter site applications, the Plus-X 300 is well suited for use in studios, control rooms, IT spaces because wiring paths back to the remote control rack are no longer required. Each of eight input channels can be configured as either metering or status, allowing users to adapt the Plus-X 300 to the monitoring requirements of each installation. Relay outputs may be used in any combination of individual relays (momentary or latching) or in mutually exclusive raise/lower pairs.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • It's much easier to connect this variation of the relay panel to the remote control.
  • Communications via Ethernet simplifies installation.


  • Burk PPM Assurance

    Automatic PPM recovery
    Burk Technology
    PPM Assurance: The PPM Assurance protects ratings and reduces overhead by constantly monitoring all PPM encoders and providing automatic encoder toggling. E-mail alerts and exception reporting keep stakeholders up to date. It is a complete automatic recovery system. In addition to providing reliable backup encoder activation, the PPM Assurance monitor establishes direct data connectivity to the Arbitron equipment to verify code accuracy. And because loss of audio means lost PPM credit, built-in silence sensing enables swift program recovery.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • There's nothing else like it.
  • It's cheap insurance for PPM encoding.


    Comrex Bric-Link

    Audio-over-IP transmission
    Bric-Link: Bric-Link transmits audio over IP networks and is suited for point-to-point "nailed up" audio links over a wide variety of data circuits including ISM band IP radios, T1/E1s, satellite data channels, WANs and LANs. Contained in a small, desktop package, two Bric-Links can be mounted in a 1RU rack space. Balanced analog 1/4" I/O, as well as switchable AES I/O, four contact closures, ancillary data and consumer level front panel I/O for monitoring are provided on BRIC-Link's compact and rugged chassis.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • Offering multiple conversion formats — including AAC — is very flexible.
  • I like the fine-tuned GUI.


    Day Sequerra M4DDM

    Digital signal processor
    Day Sequerra
    M4DDM: This diversity delay monitor is the first Day Sequerra product to incorporate the company's newly developed Timelock DSP algorithm to automatically maintain alignment of the HD Radio main program signal (MPS) analog and HD-1 digital audio. Using its selective off-air tuner, the M4DDM measures the MPS analog and HD-1 digital audio diversity and generates a continuous stream of correction vectors to keep the analog and digital audio time and level aligned. These correction vectors can be processed internally by the M4DDM to delay the digital program audio or can be sent via Ethernet to an HD Radio Embedded Exporter to provide the necessary delay. Additionally, the unit has digital audio outputs for confidence monitoring and alarm outputs for loss of program audio and OFDM sidebands as well as HD Radio data and RBDS data payloads. The algorithm used in the M4DDM is based on a new digital audio correlation methodology developed jointly by Harris and Day Sequerra.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • It works for up to five stations/streams. Fantastic.
  • I like the options to run audio through it or link it to a processor or link it to an Exporter.


  • Harris HPX Series

    Radio broadcast transmitters
    HPX Series: HPX transmitters are available in analog FM-only or common amplification HD Radio versions, and incorporate an advanced transmitter control system. The compact design of the HPX transmitter utilizes matching amplifier and power supply cabinets to minimize the footprint at the transmission facility. Its common architecture at all power levels simplifies the upgrade path for stations who wish to migrate from analog-only to an HD Radio common-amplification system or increase HD Radio broadcasting power to the proposed -10dB when needed.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • High power with a rather small footprint for analog and digital.
  • Everything inside is very accessible.


    Harris Intraplex HD Link

    950MHz STL
    Intraplex HD Link: This 950MHz STL was built around an integrated IP gateway. HD Link supports multiple channels of audio along with IP transport for HD Radio, and can take advantage of any available IP return path for TCP support with plug-and-play operation. The integrated IP channel for HD Radio program transport provides a link from Importer-to-Exporter or Exporter-to-Exciter for both audio and data carriage, with a separate low-priority Ethernet port included for other LAN and control traffic. Advanced coding and error correction mechanisms provide resistance to bit errors that can cause glitches in HD Radio performance. The unit also offers powerful, reliable RF performance (up to 5W), high-quality multichannel audio performance, plus convenient set-up and reliable operation including full metering, monitoring, and command and control capabilities.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • The linked backhaul capability provides the missing link for the return path.
  • With all its features it also has a higher channel capacity and output power than other units.


    Henry Engineering Powerswitch

    Automatic ac power controller
    Henry Engineering
    Powerswitch: Powerswitch is an automatic failsafe ac power controller that switches ac power to backup equipment if main equipment fails. Powerswitch was developed for use with Arbitron PPM encoders. If a PPM Monitor is used, the Powerswitch will automatically switch to the backup PPM encoder if the main encoder fails. This redundancy with automatic backup ensures that radio stations never lose ratings data in the event of a fault with their main PPM encoder. Powerswitch can also be used as a remote rebooter, to reboot a PC at a transmitter site or other remote location. It can also be used in any application where ac power needs to be remotely turned on or off.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • A simpler method of switching PPM encoders in case of a failure.
  • An inexpensive solution, and there are applications beyond PPM.


  • Henry Engineering USB Matchbox II

    USB audio interface
    Henry Engineering
    USB Matchbox II: The USB Matchbox II is a USB audio interface used instead of common PC sound cards. It eliminates typical PC interface problems of buzz, noise, insufficient headroom and incorrect levels. It also includes the most useful features of the USB Matchbox products, providing both analog and digital interfaces. There is stereo analog I/O on XLRs at professional levels, as well as an AES/EBU digital output, plus a headphone output for critical monitoring. The USB Matchbox II features Burr-Brown's new generation phase coherent ADC/DAC, in addition to advanced audio circuitry. The unit supports 32, 44.1, and 48kHz sample rates and is plug-and-play compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. It also features a built-in ac power supply to ensure operation at professional audio levels with available headroom.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • This consolidates a few devices into a single package.
  • It doesn't get its power from the USB connector, so it can be used for longer distances.


    Litepanels 1x1

    1x1 Low-Profile: The Litepanels 1x1 Low-Profile fixtures protrude three inches from the ceiling or wall surface where they are mounted. This results in practically no loss of headroom or room space. Because the LED lamps on the Low-Profile are tilted at 40 degrees off axis, light is projected forward from the fixture to softly light the subject. Like all Litepanels LED lighting fixtures, the Low-Profile draws little power, and can be operated from 12Vdc. The fixtures are cool to the touch, even when operating, so they add no heat to a cramped space. And like other Litepanels 1x1 fixtures, it is dimmable via DMX or a control on the fixture itself, with no noticeable shift in color temperature.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • More stations are streaming video from the control room; this is ideal for low ceilings.
  • The LED lighting stays cool, and they are very bright.


    Nautel NV Series

    Solid-state FM transmitter line
    NV Series: Building on the NV40, Nautel now offers FM output power ranging from 3.5kW to 44kW with the NV3.5, NV5, NV7.5, NV10, NV15, NV20, NV30 and the flagship NV40. The NV Series of products offer several unique capabilities. An Advanced User Interface (AUI) provides more control with access from virtually anywhere, and the AUI increases station efficiency by making it easy to monitor and control. Nautel provides a control system with a 17" touch screen interface that manages the whole transmitter and multiple exciters. Real-time instrument-grade spectral analysis allows a station to quickly ensure that the signal is optimized for digital broadcast. All NV Series transmitters are digital-ready, allowing a plug-in Exgine upgrade to HD Radio broadcasting. Adaptive pre-correction provides linearity and IBOC transmission with no need for additional filters. Common modules across the product line are a plus for customers with multiple transmission sites.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • This completes the family with a broad power range.
  • It has it all: good interface, processing built-in, spectrum analyzer functions...


  • Shure X2U

    XLR to USB adapter
    X2U: The Shure X2U XLR-to-USB signal adapter is slim, portable and simple to connect. Making it easy to record whenever you want, anywhere you take your computer, it is useful for multi-track recording and features built-in headphone monitoring with zero latency. It also features easy controls to balance microphone and playback audio.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • A mic to USB convertor is a good idea, but this adds headphone monitoring.
  • It's an easy way to create a production setup on the go.

    Sierra Automated Systems TP-USB

    USB turret panel
    Sierra Automated Systems
    TP-USB: This turret panel provides an easy way for talent or guests to connect a laptop to the SAS audio network. Typically, guests must feed the unbalanced line or headphone output to the audio network, which can lead to audio problems from ground loops and poor audio quality from the laptop's internal sound card. The card puts a USB B connector receptacle in easy reach to provide a bidirectional stereo connection. The panel fits in a 6" x 1.6" space. It connects to the SAS network via a CAT-5 cable. It is also available in a rack-mount version.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • It's a pretty simple idea, but this eliminates the hassle I've had to deal with laptops being brought into the studio for playback.
  • Clean and straight-forward.


    Tieline Bridge-It

    IP codec
    Tieline Technology
    Bridge-It: Bridge-It allows users to tailor the codec to suit individual requirements. Encode-only or decode-only versions or both are available. Bridge-It has an SD card slot for failover playback of prerecorded audio, and the unit's menus can be fully programmed using comprehensive front-panel hardware that includes a keypad and LCD display, or by using a Web interface. It is designed for desktop use, or two units can be installed side-by-side in a purpose-built 1RU mounting bracket. Bridge-It comes with a range of high performance broadcast algorithms plus optional AAC LC and AAC HE. Standard algorithms include 16-bit 22kHz linear audio at less than 12ms encode delay for uncompromised audio, G.711 G.722, MPEG Layer 2 and Tieline Music. The Tieline Music Plus algorithm also provides 22kHz mono, dual mono and stereo with 20ms encode delay at under 100kb/s. Bridge-It has all the expected broadcast input connectors. Simultaneous analog and digital AES/EBU audio outputs are provided on XLR connectors and it includes a 1/4" stereo headphone output.

    What the Judges had to say:

  • The SD card slot gives extra peace of mind for audio backup.
  • Very flexible unit for IP audio applications, with all the necessary codecs.


  • Pick Hits Judges

    Bud Aiello, CBNT
    Director of Engineering Technology
    Washington, DC

    Tom Atkins
    VP, Director of Engineering
    Backyard Broadcasting
    Buffalo, NY

    Mike Cooney, CBRE
    VP and CTO
    Beasley Broadcast Group
    Naples, FL

    Bill Croghan, CPBE
    Chief Engineer
    Lotus, Las Vegas
    Las Vegas, NV

    Steve Fluker
    Director of Engineering
    Cox Radio
    Orlando, FL

    Scott Mason, CPBE
    Director of Engineering, West Coast
    Los Angeles, CA

    Marshall Rice
    Engineering Director
    Bonneville International
    St. Louis, MO

    Jeff Smith, CEA CBNT
    Supervisor Studio Engineer
    Clear Channel - NYC
    New York, NY

    Martin Stabbert, CPBE
    Director of Engineering
    Citadel Broadcasting
    Reno, NV

    2009 NAB Show Pick Hits Rules

    Pick Hits

  • Products must be new and not shown at a previous NAB spring convention. In some cases, distinguishing a new product from a modified older one is difficult. For “Pick Hits” purposes, a new product is one with a new model number or designation. Software, firmware and operating system updates are eligible, but the new revision must carry an obvious designation (1.0 to 2.0 for example) and the feature set must provide clearly identifiable changes or updates.
  • Products must have some positive impact on the intended user's everyday work. Judges search for equipment intended for use on a regular basis. Products should provide new solutions to common problems.
  • Products must offer substantial improvement over previous technology. Unique circuit architecture need not be included, but some new approach or application must be involved in the product's design.
  • The price of the product must be within reach of its intended users. The judges seek products appropriate to a wide range of facilities.
  • The products must be available for purchase within the 2009 calendar year. Equipment must be on display on the show floor, currently (or imminently) in production, and some type of product literature must be available. Judges take the exhibitor's word on availability dates. Products demonstrated in private showings do not qualify.
  • The Pick Hits Judges operate independently from one another and remain anonymous to everyone including other judges until the selection meeting. This ensures that the products chosen are truly representative of the industry, that the judges were not persuaded in any way, and that the entire selection process is as fair as possible. The judge's identities are published in the June 2009 issue.
  • The editorial staff of Radio magazine serves only as a moderator during the final selection process and has no influence or decision in determining the winners.

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