Sydney’s first station to broadcast stereo FM in Australia will soon install LAWO technology for their new purpose built facility. Roger Doyle – Board member of 2MBS explains why: “After many years and much detailed planning we are soon to move into our new, purpose-built studios under construction at St Leonards. As with others, 2MBS is addressing multi-streaming - FM, the internet and now, DAB+, so out with the old and in with the latest digital system. Our new studio facility will have two on-air studios, two production/edit booths a media transfer booth and a music performance studio. The on-air and performance studios are fully carried on floating floor slabs to maximise isolation from external noise and vibration. All include contemporary acoustic treatments, with particular emphasis directed to the performance studio which awaits our new full-grand piano. This will be suitable for recording and live broadcasts of a wide range of music, although the emphasis is primarily toward acoustic instruments and the classical repertoire. This necessitated a very complex air-conditioning system to further ensure the residual noise levels would not intrude on the quieter passages so often a component of classical music.
To address our on-air requirements, it was determined that a fully digital system would best suit our mode of operation, now and in the future. Accordingly members of the 2MBS Technical Committee drafted a User Requirements Schedule and sought proposals from a short-list of equipment suppliers. Key elements included the ability of each studio to operate stand-alone and without dependency on central equipment, simplicity of operation and resilience within the inter-connecting and switching (routing) system. Simple installation with a minimum of inter-studio and master control cabling was also a requirement.
Comparing systems from European and American manufacturers proved very interesting. MADI as widely deployed in Europe has migrated from coax to fibre, while the American offerings all functioned via IP over multiple Cat5 cables. Given that the future clearly favours fibre for its expandability and that our cabling design included multi-core fibre to each studio and the booths back to the central equipment room as well as multiple Cat6 lines anyway, this left us open to select the best operational and technical fit, equipment-wise.
Given that we are currently operating from leased temporary facilities, the timeframe to commissioning our new studios needs to be not only as short as possible, installation simplicity was identified as crucial, with the cabling installed by a electrical contractor unfamiliar with broadcast systems. Dependency on our technical volunteers to not only assist with the installation but maintain it afterwards (many having limited time availability) was also a factor in determining our preferred equipment manufacturer and supplier.
The short-listed potential suppliers were invited to demonstrate their offerings in two-part sessions - our on-air presenters followed by the technocrats. The on-air presenters very quickly came to a decision that either of two offerings would satisfy their requirements for the studio consoles. That left final determination to the technical aspects.
Detailed review of the equipment suggested that while either featured stand-alone capability, only one offered truly high-level redundancy in the centralised system router along with auto-switching should either of the output modules fail. That it also interconnected primarily via fibre offered the simplest and fastest installation. What did we choose? LAWO, based on their Crystal consoles and Nova 17 router. The equipment was ordered and with usual German efficiency was delivered to Australia well within our contractual timeframe.”
Split 12 fader LAWO crystal consoles and frames were chosen for the two main on-air studios, with 2 x 8 fader consoles and crystal frames for the production and dubbing studios and a 4 fader crystal console for the transfer booth. At the heart of the MCR a fully redundant LAWO NOVA17 router ties all studios together via fibre and is responsible for all on-air delegation, switching and also a sophisticated talkback system. The talkback system includes 4 x TB-12 talkback panels and 5 x T-20 panels, one for each studio. The T-20 panels in the studios are not only for the talkback system but have also been configured to facilitate on-air delegation of the studios.
Mr Doyle continues, “The first console was installed and is already operating in the largely analog environment of our temporary facilities. This was initiated so as to provide opportunities for all presenters to familiarise themselves with the new consoles well prior to the move.
To ensure rapid final in-situ commissioning, the system was setup at the premises of Professional Audio Technology P/L, the Australian agent for Lawo. This has already provided valuable learning experiences and in particular, the PC touch-screen based Vistool control software and the complexities of networked studio switching and output streaming paths.”
It is planned that the new LAWO system will be installed in 2MBS’s new facility early in 2012.
(Photo: Left to right – Peter Bailey – Station Engineer 2MBS and Alan Liddelow – Technology Specialist PAT during the system commissioning at Professional Audio Technology)