WheatNews July 2021

WHEAT:NEWS JULY 2021  Volume 12, Number 7



Click here for a gallery of the Cayman installation

Let’s say you are alone on an island and given 45 days to install an entirely new four-station studio facility, for which you haven’t ordered new equipment or even so much as laid out the studios. 

Never mind when to sleep. What would you choose for your AoIP system?

We’re happy to report that Mark Lee chose WheatNet-IP audio network for Compass Media’s new studios in the Cayman Islands. And for the record, he wasn’t completely alone, although, as the stations’ operations manager with limited engineering experience, he might as well have been.

The stations’ engineer Bob Smith (RM Smith Associates) was in Texas, where he remained for the duration of the project due to COVID-19 travel restrictions into the Cayman Islands. 

That left Mark alone in a large rectangular industrial space with just weeks to plan, install and transition four very popular stations into a new studio buildout.

“It came down to me, Jay (Tyler) in North Carolina, and Bob our engineer in Texas to work out the technical aspects of how we were going to do this. It was quite daunting because although I am a radio nerd and use studio gear all the time, I’ve never installed a studio alone before,” he commented. 

He had worked in broadcasting for more than two decades and for stations in the U.K. and Middle East, but always on the programming side and never in an advanced chief engineering capacity. This project was a first for him. 


It was late November 2020 when they started the project, at the height of the pandemic and just 45 days before new renters were moving into the stations’ existing studios that had been their home for more than half a decade. The clock was ticking on a mid-January move-in date when the four would go live from the sprawling Compass Centre, home of popular island newspaper the Cayman Compass. The four stations had been purchased by Compass Media and were being moved to the Compass Centre where it made sense to consolidate all media properties. 

Gold 94.9, Island FM 98.9, Rooster 101.9 and especially Z99.9 have a fiercely loyal listener base; islanders had grown up with Z99.9, a heritage CHR that was the first commercial station on the air in the Cayman Islands 28 years ago. Interrupting programming for a move was entirely out of the question. 

The plan was to pre-wire four new on-air studios and an air talent suite and then to drop in the existing furniture, which had years of life still left, along with a preconfigured WheatNet-IP audio networked studio complete with AoIP consoles, talent stations, I/O units and Cisco switches. Jay Tyler and the Wheatstone support team worked online and over the phone with Mark in the Cayman Islands and Bob Smith in Texas to map out elements and routing paths for the new space. An IT company on the island prewired all the Cat6 runs from the studio walls to the rack room, while inland in New Bern, North Carolina, the Wheatstone factory began turning raw materials into a pre-configured, pre-programmed, fully functional studio system consisting of four L-16 consoles, ten talent stations, and a half-dozen I/O and mic processing Blades and Cisco switches. 

A pallet containing the entire Wheatstone system arrived on the island within 30 days, an accomplishment in the best of times and even more so during a pandemic when getting cargo in and out of ports took determination and a lot of luck. 


“I had never even seen a Blade before,” said Mark. Fortunately, the Blades knew what to do and they were labeled for cable inputs and other details of pre-configuration that would make installation smooth sailing. “I just plugged them in and the Blades woke up as if they knew where they were.”   

While Mark was plugging in Blades, Bob Smith was riding shotgun in Texas on WheatNet-IP Configurator. Mark and the head of IT Ben Taylor had set up a computer in the rack room that had dual NIC cards, one for WheatNet-IP access and another for Internet access. “That allowed Bob to access the software for WheatNet-IP remotely while I was plugging things in. That’s pretty much how we configured all four studios,” he explained. 

Meanwhile, inland in New Bern, Wheatstone’s support team was standing by, although the installation went so smoothly they weren’t needed except for a few activation keys. 

It took less than nine hours to move all four stations. 

As for sleep? “I didn’t sleep very much leading up to the move. It all was a bit of a blur,” commented Mark. 


SMPTE June 2021 v6


June’s SMPTE New York chapter meeting sparked an interesting discussion on the realities of smaller tech budgets, the current state of studios, and what new standards like ATSC 3.0 mean for smaller market TV operators.

DeChant James2Among the voices was Jim DeChant, the V.P. of Technology for News-Press & Gazette Broadcasting (NPG), who helped craft the ATSC 3.0 standard and whose family-owned company was one of the first to recognize the operational benefits of putting multiple news brands under one roof.

It was NPG and systems integrator Eric Utter, in fact, who introduced us to the concept of combining multiple concurrent newscasts into one operation years ago. Instead of having separate news production facilities for its three separately branded news franchises, NPG is combining them into one news technical operation with shared resources and saving operating expenses.

At the time, it was the first we had heard of broadcasters using our WheatNet-IP audio networked consoles to routinely switch between network newscasts in a shared studio. We were surprised at the fast turnaround between sets - newscasts running separate network branding can be less than two minutes apart. That’s not much time to change out the anchors, the set and the graphics, plus route the correct IFB and mix-minus to the right talent.

NPG is using WheatNet-IP consoles to send the correct throw from one talent to the next.

Today, we know of many smaller market broadcasters who are using our WheatNet-IP networked consoles to manage the audio for multipurpose newsrooms. The rising popularity of AoIP consoles like our Strata 32 make it possible to immediately switch between newscasts and remotes. Studio operators have only to press a button to route the correct IFB and mix-minus to the right talent at the right time. All the routing, mixing, channel assigns and other parameters are easily changeable using AoIP control and routing. (For details, click to Creating A Modern News Operation. IP Required.)

SMPTE New York’s June meeting was a reminder of the resourcefulness of small-market TV operators.

Our Million-Dollar Investment In Manufacturing! 



Check out these new toys in our metal shop. It’s all part of our million-dollar investment in high-tech manufacturing, which will significantly increase our capacity at the Wheatstone factory.

All our products are American made right here in New Bern, North Carolina. We do just about everything in the factory, from machining, fabrication, and screening to printed circuit board surface mount. Raw materials arrive in the back door and wind through the factory to be pressed, molded, wired and tested, retested, and tested again before making their way out into the world as Wheatstone products. 

Manufacturing in house lets us respond quicker to changes and gives us much better control over a volatile supply chain.


GreatEastern image002

by Chris Verdi, CTO, Great Eastern Radio 

What a difference a year makes. Before COVID-19, the ideal console was one that could fit every conceivable studio permutation from here to the next decade. In fact, that’s what we got when we purchased the Wheatstone D75 consoles and TDM router system for Great Eastern Radio’s regional studios in West Lebanon, New Hampshire.

That worked until last March, when we sent our staff home and discovered that we didn’t need all the studio space we thought we did. We decided to rent out half of our three-story facility to a bank and consolidate studios for eight stations into a little over a floor.  

I had 30 days to move six studios into half the space. Those big, capable D75s had to go, along with miles and hundreds of pounds of wiring, which would be replaced by individual Cat5 cables. 

I have been buying WheatNet-IP I/O Blades one or two at a time over the years to manage HD Radio audio, figuring the TDM router would eventually be replaced by WheatNet-IP audio networking. I already had one foot firmly in the IP world so it was a simple matter of adding to that world with an IP-12 console for the main studio. The IP-12 is a nice entry-level IP audio console that takes up a lot less space than the D75, but because it is entirely self-contained, it has a similar feel as the D75. I ordered the IP-12, plugged it into my existing Blades, and an AoIP studio was born! For talent, the change was minimal, which was great, because I had some big changes in store for the rest of the move.

WHISPER BOOTHS GreatEastern image001GreatEasternWhisperBoothDue to COVID it had become increasingly evident that talent could do a lot from home, but at times they still needed to be able to voicetrack or produce a show in an acoustically treated room with all the right mixing and processing tools.

So we purchased 4 x 8-foot Whisper Rooms with a small drop down table where our talent could park their laptops or tablets, plug into the WheatNet-IP through an Ethernet connection and call up sources and route audio and processing from a virtual mixer on their laptops that I created using ScreenBuilder, the app for building your own interfaces into WheatNet-IP.  

The idea of setting up “glass” consoles in Whisper Rooms was partially borne out of the necessity to save space and partly because these could serve a real need. Making a custom “glass” console with a touchscreen interface was fast and easy using ScreenBuilder. I was able to drop and drag metering, faders and buttons onto a screen and script them to tie into the elements in the studio. For example, I tied in virtual tallies to the Comrex Opal codec gateways in the main studio/rack room so that when a guest joins a show remotely, our talent will be able to see that he’s connected. Most of the scripting was done using ScreenBuilder’s Wizard although I did create a few lines of code myself and “borrow” a few lines from a Wheatstone integrator (thanks, Danny Teunissen) for a few minor customizations. 

The above article was reprinted from a recent issue of Radio World.  



MPX Outputs

So, you’re planning to try the latest audio processor everyone’s talking about (like, our new MP-532 FM/AM/HD/Stream multiprocessor). In anticipation of the big day, you’ve made sure input levels on your studio gear are set for adequate headroom (see Wheat News, May issue) and you’ve gone over your STL path for any obvious issues (see Wheat News, June issue). 

Next, a quick audio sweep will tell you a lot about frequency response and distortion lurking in the air chain. Check for channel imbalances, overdriven DAs, and redundant gear. The cleaner the air chain, the better the performance you’ll get through that new processor. It could be as simple as removing one or two older devices that are no longer needed in the air chain but no one took the time to remove or bypass. Jeff Keith wrote Audio Performance Testing on the Cheap a few years ago and it’s a good overview. 

Finally, as we suggested last month, as you begin to experiment with your new audio processor use a good reference radio you’re familiar with and start with a conservative preset. We are finding that with our new MP-532 in particular, broadcasters are getting that magic sound with the suggested preset right out of the box. 

Video: Wheatstone Segment from Radio World Fall Preview

Wheatstone's Jay Tyler and Radio World's Paul McLane discuss Wheatstone's latest advancements, including the BLADE-4.

The Wheatstone online store is now open! You can purchase demo units, spare cards, subassemblies, modules and other discontinued or out-of-production components for Wheatstone, Audioarts, PR&E and VoxPro products online, or call Wheatstone customer support at 252-638-7000 or contact the Wheatstone technical support team online as usual. 

The store is another convenience at wheatstone.com, where you can access product manuals, white papers and tutorials as well as technical and discussion forums such as our AoIP Scripters Forum

Compare All of Wheatstone's Remote Solutions

REMIXWe've got remote solutions for virtually every networkable console we've built in the last 20 years or so. For basic volume, on/off, bus assign, logic, it's as easy as running an app either locally with a good VPN, or back at the studio, using a remote-access app such as Teambuilder to run.

Check out the chart below, and/or click here to learn more on our Remote Solutions web page.

Remote Solutions Video Demonstrations

Jay Tyler recently completed a series of videos demonstrating the various solutions Wheatstone offers for remote broadcasting.

Click for a Comparison Chart of All Wheatstone Remote Software Solutions


Curious about how the modern studio has evolved in an IP world? Virtualization of the studio is WAY more than tossing a control surface on a touch screen. With today's tools, you can virtualize control over almost ANYTHING you want to do with your audio network. This free e-book illustrates what real-world engineers and radio studios are doing. Pretty amazing stuff.

AdvancingAOIP E BookCoverAdvancing AOIP for Broadcast

Putting together a new studio? Updating an existing studio? This collection of articles, white papers, and brand new material can help you get the most out of your venture. Best of all, it's FREE to download!


IP Audio for TV Production and Beyond


For this FREE e-book download, we've put together this e-book with fresh info and some of the articles that we've authored for our website, white papers, and news that dives into some of the cool stuff you can do with a modern AoIP network like Wheatstone's WheatNet-IP. 

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