Ghosts of Studios Past
Jan 1, 2012 2:00 AM, By Chriss Scherer, editor
This month's Facility Showcase brought back lots of memories. I interviewed Dave Supplee to prepare the article, but it's not the first time Dave and I spoke about WEBE. He and I talked about the station when Cumulus was in the process of buying it. I was the chief engineer of WEBE 108 from 1988 to 1990.
When Dave told me about the plans to rebuild the stations in the existing space, we talked about what he was replacing and I realized the underlying foundation of the studios was what Ed Butler, Kevin Plumb and I installed at the end of 1989.
I have always enjoyed building studios. If you have built them, you know the sense of pride and accomplishment you feel once the project is finished.
While looking at photos of the renovated WEBE/WICC, I thought about some of the other studios I built or rebuilt during my career. My first station build was at WVCG-AM, Coral Gables, FL, in 1987. I was hired there as a board op, but I had asked to be a part of the studio build. I learned a great deal during this studio project. As the work was about to begin and equipment was being delivered, the chief engineer resigned. Station management came to me and asked if I could keep the project rolling while the search for a new chief began.
Being fresh out of college I considered the opportunity and decided I had nothing to lose. If the project fails, how can I be blamed? I was just a kid. If it succeeds, I'm a hero! As the project progressed, other engineers from the licensee's (Evergreen Media) other stations were brought in to assist. It was something of an ego to have people with 30+ years of radio engineering experience asking me what to do next. That studio build wound up being a success.
A few months later, while working as an announcer at WTMI-FM, Miami, I got involved with that station build. Contract engineer Dave Camp was in charge, but he relied on me to be on-site during much of the project, and again, I had the general contractor coming to me to make decisions.
Working with Dave Camp led to additional contract work in South Florida, and I got to know lots of great engineers, including Howard Quinton (who taught me a great deal), Roy Pressman, Mitch Wein and Jim Leifer.
The next studio project for me was WEBE/WICC. Later on, I finished building the studios for WZJM-AM and WJMO-AM in Cleveland, and rebuilt the WHK-AM air studio and the WMMS-FM/WHK-AM production studios in Cleveland. By then, studio builds were like riding a bike. But it was still an exciting experience.
I joined Radio magazine full-time in 1997, and I thought my studio-building days were behind me. I was given a little taste in 2007 when Entercom built new studios in Kansas City. I provided some contract services, mostly punching cables and making wire assemblies.
The excitement of building studios was still there, although crawling around, banging my head and scraping my knuckles has lost its luster.
I think that WEBE and WICC were the last existing studios that I had a leadership role in building. I guess their 20-year run is a good sign.
When I'm asked what I like about being a broadcast engineer, I note the variety of the daily routine. It's rare that a single day is just like any other. Everyone has his favorite part of the job, but there's usually one aspect that stands out as a personal favorite. Revisiting WEBE brought back lot of memories of studios past.
After 20 years, the analog infrastructure and equipment, as well as years and years of layering new systems on top, meant it was time to upgrade....
The advantages of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level technology, a tour of WEBE-108/WICC, understanding tee networks, Field Reports on the Deva Broadcast DB44 and Nagra SD, and a comparison of compact mixers....