Cumulus Media - Tucson broadcasts a ton of remotes a year. Our issue lately has been the ability to get ISDN lines as well as reliable POTS lines. Using the Marti has its own issues, having to deal with noise issues because our receive site is on top of the Tucson Mountains. Not only do we get local interference, but we also have an elevated noise floor because of our neighbors to the south in Mexico.
With the upgrades to LTE by the various cell carriers in Tucson and the coverage getting better day-by-day, IP remotes have become a far better option. Our only issue with IP remotes was only being able to handle one station at a time. We also could not do back-to-back remotes via IP.
The Tieline Merlin Plus changed that. As soon as I saw the first notes about the Merlin Plus, I reached out to Mary Ann Seidler at Tieline to see if we could test drive one. Shortly after the 2013 NAB Show, the Merlin Plus arrived on my doorstep.
As a preliminary test, I set up the Merlin Plus to replace the Commander G3 in the rack and make sure that everything was still working properly with our i-Mix G3 mixer/field unit. All was well so I quickly moved on to modify my firewall settings to allow connections for the other five channels that the Merlin Plus can handle. We use a completely isolated network for remote broadcast equipment so we do not have bandwidth issues affecting our remotes and more importantly, we do not expose our office network. Having completed that, all I needed to do was set up each user's Report-IT app account to connect him to his individual station as the primary connection.
| ||Performance at a glance || |
| || ■ Includes SmartStream technology|
■ Up to six simultaneous connections
■ Configurations can be recalled
■ Multiple audio encoding algorithms
■ Bidirectional stereo and full duplex communications
This would be my only sticking issue with the setup of the Merlin Plus, but luckily Tieline already had a fix in the works and released a new version of the Report-IT app. The issue with the Report-IT app was the inability to connect to anything other than the first port on the Merlin Plus. You could connect to the other ports if you were using the i-Mix G3. The new release of the Report-IT app fixed that issue and we have never looked back since.
Set up for action
We have five stations here in Tucson, and we are the flagship station for the University of Arizona Sports. Because the Merlin Plus has six channels available, it was an obvious decision to connect each station to a channel and use the sixth channel for the U of A, in case they switch to IP remotes in the future. In the meantime, this gives KCUB-AM the ability to do a pregame show at one location and a remote from another location on game day.
For the stations that are not using the i-Mix G3 field unit, our jocks simply use their iPhone or Android device and the Report-IT app. I purchased some adapter cables to allow the jocks to use broadcast quality mics, their own headphones and their phones and the quality has been outstanding. The great thing about using the Report-IT app is we can set a last minute remote with a fair degree of certainty that it will work. We are all over the area and pretty much know where there may be cell site issues. So far, so good.
I particularly like the Web interface for the Merlin Plus. It gives me the ability to make changes on the fly or troubleshoot an issue, if there is one. The ability to verify that we are sending audio to a remote site is a valuable tool. That along with the ability to administer Report-IT app accounts via my iPhone, the stations are well set for the future remote broadcasts we may have. Both have been very easy to setup and administer.
I have given Tieline a few suggestions on ways to improve this already great product even more and I know they will do their best to make them into reality.
Simpson is regional engineer - southwest and director of engineering and IT for the Cumulus Media stations in Tucson, AZ.