Audio Processing

FM, AM, Mic & Internet Audio

WheatstoneNAB BANNER

WheatstoneNewRadio2015Brochure

Wheatstone Audio Processing: Deliver sound so good, you can feel it. Bring it on with Wheatstone's ultra high resolution Vorsis processors for voice, AM, FM on-air or streaming. Sound that's loud, yet detailed. Only Wheatstone offers processors with the surgical precision of 31-band processing for audio detail that sings! It’s the Vorsis advantage and it's all inside: brilliant highs, articulate vocals, bold bass…ambience. If you need sound shaping for FM, AM, HD, television, webcasting, podcasting, mastering or live audio, this is the place. 

Click to download our NEW RADIO PRODUCTS FOR 2015 Brochure

 

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Vorsis ultra-high resolution proessing technology is embedded in every Wheatstone processor to create the cleanest sound possible for the most decibels.

We've actually arrived at a whole new benchmark for on-air programming that severely lessens the tradeoff between loudness and quality. With Vorsis, you can have the best of both worlds.

Getting there required a completely fresh approach to spectral audio processing. Like dynamic compression and multiband AGC circuitries that work together, not against each other, to give that consistent spectral balance Vorsis processors are known for. We also add some oomph to the bass with our Vorsis Bass Management System (VBMS), which means you can deliver pristine, deep, distortion-free bass over the air. No other processor delivers bass this bold and clean. Then there's our superior stereo enhancement feature, which creates a smear-free perception of a wider sound field in the cleanest possible way. Our limiting and clipping are, bar none, the finest you’ll ever use.

Did we mention that our AirAura and FM-531HD are the first and only processors with 31-band spectral shaping for the cleanest, loudest signal on the dial?

You're going to feel good about your Wheatstone Vorsis sound!

Super Duper Mic Processing

96K VOICE_PROCESSORS_2560In the M1, M2 and M4-IP mic processors, the A/D converters and all the processing run at 96kHz (or 88.2kHz in a 44.1kHz context). This is done for three reasons:

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  1. Reduced latency. This is the time delay through the processor, end-to-end. An unfortunate aspect of digital systems is that such delays are endemic and cumulative, so any opportunity to reduce them must be seized. It is particularly crucial where presenters are involved: any significant delay can be seriously disturbing to them, and even short delays can produce comb-filter coloration when the talent's own voice, heard via bone-conduction, mixes with the headphone audio. This colors their perception of what they sound like. Mess with an artist's self-perception at your peril. In short, running at a super-rate halves the conversion times - the major source of latency in a processor - shaving a big chunk off the delay.
  2. Improved high-frequency EQ. Not generally appreciated outside the lab is that the top octave (say from 10kHz on up) in a 48kHz system is dominated by the tyranny of inevitable “zeroes” (notches) at 24kHz, half the sample rate. These zeroes affect the calculation for and accuracy of digital filters in this upper range, taking some questionable heroics to beat them into acceptable sonic shape. Alternatively, running the EQ at 96kHz blows right past the problem (the nettlesome top-octave is now in inaudible-land). Subsequent reduction to 48kHz does not meaningfully affect the now wholly accurate EQ characteristics.
  3. Accurate dynamics behavior. Certain spot frequencies (sub-multiples of the sample rate) can suffer serious detection inaccuracies, particularly with peak-sensing detectors found in limiters or fast compressors. In some cases, such as a protection limiter, these can even render the device useless. Running these dynamics at super-rate forces the worst of these “black holes” an octave up and generally out of harm's way, with any remaining stragglers far easier to contain.

These three results of high-rate processing confer obvious operational benefits and superior sonic performance. An adjective commonly used about the M1 or M4-IP's sound is “sweet.” High-rate processing is a large part of the reason.

Here’s some other stuff you probably didn’t know about Wheatstone M-1, M-2 and M4-IP mic processors.

Banish the PC from the Studio. Virtualize IT.

Enco / WheatstoneWhich one of these doesn’t belong? Microphone. Console. Monitor. Or, that noisy, lump-of-a-box that is the PC workstation in your on-air studio?

The PC workstation obviously needs to go, and we don’t mean to the equipment room where all the other noisy things end up. “KVMing” it from the TOC to the on-air studio just adds cabling and complexity that can mess up touchscreen controls.

The point is, you don’t need it, as Greg Armstrong, the DOE for RadiOhio, will tell you. He recently installed thin client replacements no bigger than a laptop that snap onto the back of the studio monitor, doing away with all PCs for his group’s six WheatNet-IP studios and four edit booths in Columbus, Ohio.  

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EDGE Network Interface to Wireless IP Links

Edge-Flowchart v3 420You know those inexpensive wifi IP radios everyone’s talking about for short studio-transmitter hops or for getting the signal back to the studio from the ballpark?

We have something for that, and it even won a Best of Show award from Radio World and Radio magazine.

We call it the Network EDGE, a cost-effective solution for interfacing between high-quality, low-latency studio networks such as WheatNet-IP and low-bandwidth STL connectivity options such as IP wireless radios.

This single rackspace unit can come in handy for any Part 15 wifi link, or any half-duplex system. In fact, our own Jay Tyler has found the Network EDGE to be quite useful for running audio from his covered boatlift to the gazebo at his house.

Click here for the Network EDGE product page

Getting the Right HD Radio Blend

BelarHail to time alignment!

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Belar’s ADC algorithm, a new feature of its FMHD-1 modulation monitor, makes live, off-air measurements of the timing differences between the HD Radio and analog signal. By combining Belar's ADC algorithm with the intelligence built into every Wheatstone on-air processor, the nagging problem of that not-so-graceful HD-blend-to-analog is finally solved.

How can that new algorithm be put to work without inserting another expensive, complicated, or failure-prone box in the air chain?

Simple. Our Automation Control Interface (ACI), a standard feature built into every Wheatstone on-air processor, can deliver Belar's precision time correction messages directly to the processor's HD diversity delay algorithm, regardless of where in the signal chain the processor is located. HD/analog time alignment can now be kept in perfect, sample-accurate sync – forever – and without having to run program audio through yet another device in the air chain.

No more skipping audio. No more listener tune-outs.

Network EDGE wins TWO NAB Best of Show Awards!

RadioAward 420

RW Award 420

We are EXCEPTIONALLY excited to have won BEST OF SHOW awards from both Radio Magazine AND Radio World Magazine for our brand new NETWORK EDGE!

Network EDGE is a designed specifically as a translator between high-quality, low-latency studio networks such as WheatNet-IP and low-bandwidth STL connectivity options such as IP wireless radios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheatstone-Eventide Handshaking

IMG 2634smallerIn celebration of Wheatstone's partnership with Eventide, Richard Factor, (left) Chairman of Eventide, and Gary Snow, (right) President of Wheatstone Corporation, did a bit of handshaking of their own at booth C755 at NAB 2015 in Las Vegas.

What are these two up to? WheatNet-IP integration into Eventide products, that's what. Eliminating one more network box in the studio chain, Eventide’s BD600W delay unit is now available with an optional WheatNet-IP network card for easy and seamless integration of profanity delay into the WheatNet-IP audio network. You can see this integration in action, live and up-close, at Eventide's booth #C2848.


 

 

JeffKeith NAB 420Wheatstone At NAB

Jeff Keith delivered his presentation session on  FM Receivers at NAB. He knocked it outta the park!
We also managed to win FOUR Best of Show awards!

Here are a few  images of our first day on the show floor:

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://www.wheatstone-processing.com/#sigProGalleria5b7091bd62

Want to see more? The full photo galleries are here, updated as the show goes on: NAB 2015 Photos

Checking in with iHeartMedia Portland

iHeartRadio A_2560-MC
We dropped in on iHeartMedia in Portland recently to revisit a WheatNet-IP audio network that has been in operation since the seven-station cluster moved to Tigard, Oregon, in September 2012. Director of Engineering Chris Weiss showed us around the 17-studio, 25,000-square-foot facility and talked about life with audio over IP.

He recalled a recent remote at the Rose Quarter stadium for the Portland Trail Blazers (basketball sportscast) that involved all seven stations at the same time – an impossible feat before IP audio networking. “It was more a staffing issue; could we have enough promotion and programming staff to handle all this? But from an equipment standpoint, it was easy,” he said.

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At the center of the operation are the audio network’s core Cisco switches, which are bonded together on a backplane in the TOC, with gigabit/second connections to every other switch and element in the network. “Everything works better at a gig, especially NexGen (automation),” commented Weiss, who monitors network traffic on a regular basis. Normal NexGen traffic hovers around the 100 Mbps mark, whereas on the fiber connection to the hub point for all the cluster’s transmitter sites, Weiss routinely sees steady traffic at about 150 Mbps. “150 megabits. That freaked me out at first because you never see that kind of bandwidth solid on a circuit. But that’s what it takes because it’s running all this AoIP back and forth, and we run a video feed for the Trail Blazers over that,” he said.

The operation includes 56 WheatNet-IP I/O BLADEs, 49 audio drivers, 23 Wheatstone M2 dual-channel mic processors to handle 46 microphones, and 13 control surfaces all connected through a WheatNet-IP audio network.

Look for details in the recent issue of Radio magazine, which features the iHeartMedia Portland facility as its cover story in the February issue.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://www.wheatstone-processing.com/#sigProGalleria3d99162483

Gigabit Ethernet. Just the Facts.

Gigabit LargeNumbers don’t lie. That’s what your friendly police officer will tell you when he clocks you going 70 in a 35 mph zone. But, this isn’t entirely true when it comes to the speed of Gigabit Ethernet networks.

Most of us assume that Gigabit Ethernet links transfer data at one gigabit/second, or 10 times faster than 100Mbps Fast Ethernet.

But, in fact, a Gigabit Ethernet cable contains four twisted pairs of wires that are each clocked at 125 Mbps. What the "Gigabit" actually means is that a gigabit of information (data payload plus overhead) can travel across the cable in one second. Because of the efficiency of the modulation scheme and the use of all four pairs in both directions, instead of a pair each way as is the case for Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet is effectively 10 times faster than 100BaseT (Fast Ethernet).

At an order of magnitude improvement over Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet allows the audio network to deliver many more packets that much faster and therefore mitigate some issues.

 

The Gig on Latency

Take latency. Latency in an IP audio network is the delay between when audio enters the system and when it comes out. Every audio network has some latency because it takes a small but measureable amount of time to take analog audio in, convert it to digital, construct the AoIP packets, transmit them across the network and then reverse the process at the other end. In any IP system, the transit time across the network of an individual piece of data is not guaranteed or predictable. Ethernet networks are designed to avoid data collisions (which happens when different bits of information try to occupy a wire at exactly the same time) by squeezing out packets in between other packets in a multiplexing process controlled by the network switches. You just don't know when "your" packet is going to get there. The IP audio network deals with this by using temporary storage in buffers on each end. It fills up a pool of information on the transmit side so there is a ready source of data whenever the switch is ready to send a packet. Likewise, it fills up a pool of data on the receive side so there is enough data to carry you over the breaks when the network is busy sending someone else's packets.

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As long as the transmit and receive buffers fill and drain at the same rate there is no interruption in final data delivery. The buffers absorb the variance in packet delivery. The catch is that for this scheme to work, the buffers are designed to be half full of data on average, so as to be deep enough that the data in the buffer never runs out or overflows during the worst-case variance in packet timing. This means that the receive data can't start playing out until its buffer is half full or the scheme won't work. The length of time it takes to fill the initial buffer half full is a main part of latency.

What does this have to do with Gigabit Ethernet, you might ask? Just about everything, actually.

Because a gigabit link is 10 times faster with 10 times the throughput of Fast Ethernet, packets can get to their destinations faster. Furthermore, the large capacity of the link allows for many more packets to traverse the network without risk of congestion and collisions and delays by the switches trying to find an opening on the wire for a packet. Because there is less concern with congestion, packets can be made smaller and more of them can be sent more frequently. Thus, buffers can be smaller and therefore, latency can be decreased. On the flip side, less link capacity often means larger data payloads, which can be necessary to ease congestion in lower bandwidth environments but at the unfortunate expense of increased latency.

Big Capacity

From the system perspective, the capacity of a link is all-important. As advertised, Gigabit Ethernet can reasonably handle 10 times the capacity of Fast Ethernet. For example, whereas you might push the upper limit of your Fast Ethernet link at 16 stereo audio channels, a Gigabit Ethernet link will be able to easily do 160 stereo audio channels.

One hundred sixty audio channels might seem like overkill in your studio, however it doesn’t take long for signals to add up. The more you ask of your audio network, the more it will need capacity to handle busses and foldbacks, backup sources, mixes, and headphone streams -- not to mention control and monitoring signals. If you want to automatically switch between live assist and dayparts, for example, that takes something like a utility mixer (which is part of our WheatNet-IP BLADEs) to switch them at the right time and level – plus the capacity to handle that switching. Put a few I/O devices in a studio and pipe their audio over a link to your rack room and the channel count goes up quickly.

It’s a given that you will probably need to run more than 16 audio channels through a link at one time. Any time you add more capability onto the system beyond a basic input or output channel, that’s when you need capacity. It’s also nice to have enough of it available for when you want to add something like an audio clip player or multiband audio processing to a network I/0 unit (which we did recently with the introduction of our new BLADE-3 I/O units). Having the available channel capacity allows us to add in the new features and functions that enhance the power and flexibility of the system without running out of network resources.

There’s also the flip side of capacity, or what happens when you run out.

As you add more channels to a link, the possibility of dropouts is increased until they are commonplace and you hear them routinely. It’s a logarithmic function up to the final cliff, not linear.

In fact, there’s a lot at play in the audio network that affects the quality of the end result. IP audio networks are highly stressed, running much more traffic than initially expected. That’s why it makes sense to use a topology (Gigabit Ethernet) that is more tolerant of the workload IP audio puts on it.

For example, the bigger the switch capacity, or what is referred to as switch fabric, the more packets it’ll be able to move. Just as on the Ethernet link itself, IP audio network switches should be sized and configured to handle the amount of traffic you're going to throw at them -- both today and five to 10 years from now when you'll ask your system to handle the new features we haven't even dreamed about yet.

By using Gigabit Ethernet links and switches you'll have the highest capacity, lowest latency, most future-proofed system available today.

The Curious Behavior of Radios

CarRadio LargeLouder is better! Crank it up! Well, not so fast...

Ever wonder what your listeners' FM radios sound like when your station is knee deep in the loudness race and the modulation monitor is always pegged? Our audio processing development guru, Jeff Keith, wondered about that too.

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So, during one quiet week at the Wheat processing lab, he decided to find out. He selected 15 radio receivers that most represented the majority of radios out there in use, and got out his trusty modulation analyzers, signal generators and other assorted test gear. He ran audio sweeps of de-modulated and de-emphasized FM audio and plotted SMPTE IM distortion of the receiver’s audio output as modulation was raised, among other tests. His main goal was to discover distortion trends in radios during 110% or more modulation. Here are a few of his findings, the details of which will be presented during the upcoming NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference (BEC).

  • The more recent the radio model, the more intolerant of high modulation it is likely to be.
  • Newer AM/FM/HD radio IC chips detect high deviation (over-modulation) and often, in an attempt to fix the problem, create unpleasant audio effects.
  • Many consumer receivers have restrictive intermediate frequency (IF) bandwidths, which can mean perceptibly distorted audio even when tuned to a normally modulated station. The IF bandwidth of one radio measured was barely 100kHz wide at the 3dB point.
  • Half of the receivers tested added significant IM distortion at modulation levels as low as 120%.

Jeff Keith’s paper “The Curious Behavior of Consumer FM Receivers During Hyper-modulation” will be published in the 2015 NAB Broadcast Engineering Conference (BEC) Proceedings and presented during the NAB Engineering Conference, Sunday, April 12.

A Look at Leighton

Leighton-1-420Our Darrin Paley says he couldn’t recall a moment when someone wasn’t sitting in front of a microphone as he snapped these shots of the Leighton Broadcasting studios during his recent visit to St. Cloud. Designed by Rob Goldberg, who is well-known in the area for his signature studios, the control rooms and newsroom for four Leighton stations (KCLD-FM, WILD-FM, KCML-FM and KNSI-AM) are networked and controlled through the WheatNet-IP audio network.

Leighton Broadcasting also has stations in Detroit Lakes and Grand Forks. The group’s Director of Engineering, Tony Abfalter, says he has just about every one of our BLADE I/O access units, and a good many of our control surfaces, including E-1s, L-12s, IP-12s, LX-24s and SideBoards. The group was also one of the first to receive our new FM-55 audio processor, in addition to owning AirAura X3 and AM-10HD audio processors.

Wheatstone BLADEFEST

Enhancing System Performance

September 2014: Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP Engineers get together to try and break a huge system assembled to be representative of all our control surfaces, many, many BLADES and processors, as they'd be used in a very large installation. In the process, they make the products faster, better, and stronger. We called it BLADEFEST. And the engineers who took part were our BLADE RUNNERS...

The above video documents the process. The article below (expanded here) appears in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of Radio Guide Magazine. 

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