Your Digital Reality Check

DigitalRealityCheckDigital, like certain politicians, needs a reality check every now and then. As an industry, we tend to expect more out of digital than it can possibly deliver. It's easy to do because digital signal processing has been a good friend to us.

But let's be clear here. The all-digital air chain can't solve all our problems any more than our politicians can. It can't add frequencies where there aren't any and nor can it make up for crummy source material. You need to know that replacing the composite analog interface between your processor and a modern exciter with a digital equivalent probably won't magically improve the sound. Digital for the sake of digital doesn't buy you much here, although replacing your AES3 left/right interface with a new composite AES3 interface will give you some added audio processing benefits that can make a huge difference, and we'll tell you how in a moment.

Admittedly, this is awkward coming from Wheatstone, the company that brought you the all-digital air chain now on the air at several FM stations. We're fully aware that while digital can bring incredible portability, capability, and quality to radio – we know, we've done our share of amazing things with digital – it also can be overhyped if you're not paying attention.

The Reality

So, about that reality check. Our esteemed audio engineers Jeff Keith, Steve Dove and Mike Erickson will be the first to tell you that the all-digital air chain is now an easily attainable goal for most radio stations. Wheatstone and other manufacturers are now able to pass a full AES3 composite signal between the processor and exciter, long considered the last hurdle to an all-digital air chain.

Digital multiplex interfaces such as Wheatstone's baseband192 for our AirAura, FM-531HD and VP-8IP processors now interface to certain Nautel, BE and other exciters and can hand off the entire multiplex spectrum, including subcarriers, which includes any peak control -- and hence loudness gains contributed by the FM processor's composite clipper.

But don't be fooled by the digital reference. The truth? If you are currently using a composite analog interface between the processor and a modern transmitter, you probably won't realize a significant sonic improvement when you replace it with a digital composite interface – not even our baseband192 can do that! Even so, we are making our baseband192 AES3 composite interface available for AirAura, FM-531HD and VP-8IP audio processors because it is more robust, more reliable and a much better interface overall.

Which, actually, is the point if you're currently running left and right AES3 from your processor to the exciter. Here, our baseband192 composite digital interface can make a huge difference because it moves all the processing functions – pre-emphasis, stereo generation, final clipping -- back to the processor, where they are far more effective. In fact, based on field experience by our engineer Mike Erickson, most stations can probably back down on the main clipper because the baseband192 interface makes it possible to share its loudness duties with the composite clipper. That isn't the case in a left/right AES setup, which places the final clipper in the exciter – along with stereo generation. The main advantage to baseband192 is that you don't have to drive the main clipper as hard, which means better overall sound.

That's something real that you can sink your teeth into, and we hope that you take advantage of the baseband192 for this and all the other reasons we mentioned above.

The baseband192 is available now for our AirAura X3, FM-531HD and six-mode VP-8IP processors, all of which come standard with this new digital composite interface. For broadcasters who already have these processors in the field and operating now, adding the baseband192 interface is a software matter that is simple and free to download.

As a final note, we hope you will let us know your experiences using our digital composite interface and let us know if we can answer any of your questions.

Site Navigations