Profanity Delays Keep it Clean

April 1, 2010


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All broadcasters should be aware that nearly a year ago at the end of April 2009 the FCC effectively upheld its policy (from 2004) establishing heavy fines for TV and radio for the broadcasts of fleeting expletives. These fines are substantial -- up to $325,000 per instance -- and so it's clear this issue needs to be taken very seriously.

In response to the new fine structure, many audio equipment manufacturers introduced new delay units to their product lines, or updated versions of products already out there.

When delay units were first introduced, the audio quality through them was not that great and so for the most part, they were actually only inserted in the airchain when necessary (that is, for any show primarily based on spoken-word). The technology involved has come a long way in the last 20 years and so all the delay units I know of in use today are left on-line and in the airchain on a 24/7 basis.

The standard

Eventide BD960

Eventide BD960


Eventide has been making delay units as long as I can remember. They currently offer two different units, at different price points, and of course different levels of capability. The Eventide BD960 is a single rack unit device, analog in and analog out, with audio specs that allow you to insert it in the airchain on a full-time basis (two channels with +25dBm level capability, less than 0.008 percent THD and ±1dB flatness from 10Hz to 22kHz). It provides delay up to 8 seconds in length, with one-button control. A contact closure after the dump button is pressed can be used to play a filler -- audio that goes out while the delay rebuilds. Alternately, the unit has the capability to store, in non-volatile RAM, an audio cut that can play during the delay rebuild.

If you need even more capability than the BD960, you could consider the BD600. This 1RU delay features analog inputs and outputs in addition to AES inputs and outputs, and can be set for up to 80 seconds of delay (4-second increments, from 4 seconds up to 20 seconds, and thereafter 10-second increments up to 80 seconds total). The user can program the length of the dumped segment. The optional "extended" remote control capability allows the user to send serial data (RS-232) through the unit, with the data output being delayed. (This will be important if you are originating any kind of network show.)

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More options

Sonifex RB-PD2

Sonifex RB-PD2


Several other manufacturers have introduced highly capable delay units. Sonifex is one of them. Its RB-PD2 is a stereo profanity delay that builds between 2 and 55 seconds of delay (at 32kHz sample rate and 16-bit word length). It has both analog and digital ins and outs (up to 48kHz sample rate with 24-bit word length). The unit's remote control includes eight inputs and six outputs; six of the outputs can be assigned to follow six of the inputs by the assigned delay time. These same inputs are user-configurable to allow remote control of the delay-build command, dump and delay-exit. The RB-PD2 has a built-in compact flash memory card, which can record audio directly from inputs of the unit. This allows the unit to playback an audio file while delay is being built back up after the dump feature is activated.

Airtools 6100

Airtools 6100


The Airtools 6100 (by Symetrix) is another 1RU delay that will provide up to 40 seconds of delay with 20kHz of audio bandwidth. The unit features AES ins and outs, along with balanced analog ins (+28dBu) and analog outs (+28dBu in to a bridging load of 100kΩ). This unit provides two features targeted toward network origination. First is the serial data (RS-232) delay. The serial data will be delayed by the same amount as the audio going through the box. Second is the TC89 offset delay. This allows the user to run TC89 time code data through the unit, with a user-programmed delay (in 0.5-second increments) so the studio clock can have a time offset that accounts for delays inherent in ISDN or satellite transmission.

25-Seven Systems Program Delay Manager

25-Seven Systems Program Delay Manager


25-Seven Systems is a relatively new player in this field. Its entry is known as the Program Delay Manager (A 2008 Radio Pick Hits winner). Like all of the delays discussed so far, it's a 1RU device. The standard PDM comes with both analog inputs and outputs along with AES inputs and outputs. (Another option is the Axia/Livewire version, with the inputs and outputs making use of IP.) The PDM comes standard with 90 seconds of delay built in, and it's expandable to 5 minutes worth. The system is controlled via the front panel, via GP I/O, RS-232 or via a Web browser. Configuration of the unit is done via the Web browser. Another feature of the PDM is called PD-alert. When the dump function is used, the unit will e-mail time stamped audio files to the PD (or GM or whomever chosen). One file is of the audio that got dumped and the other is the audio that made it to the air. The same audio files are archived in the unit.

Bel Digital Audio 5110E

Bel Digital Audio 5110E


Bel Digital Audio is another new entrant into the field. Its delay unit is the 5110E. Single rack unit, with delay of 2.5 to 40 seconds (adjustable in 2.5-second increments). Analog inputs and outputs, along with AES3 inputs and outputs, are standard. Bel also has a unit-specific remote control with the edit (or dump), delay-in and delay-out controls. Alternatively, the user can roll his own, connecting to the unit via a 15-pin D connector on the rear apron.

The typical delay unit available today has performance characteristics far beyond what was available 10 (or even five) years ago. Due to the potential penalties associated with letting fleeting expletives go out over the air, you really need to have a profanity delay safely ensconced in your air chain nowadays. It's probably one of the best equipment investments you can make, with a huge potential ROI.


Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at doug@dougirwin.net



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