Mark Voris has been Chief Engineer for the Spirit Catholic Radio Network since 2009. Prior to this he was the Studio/Transmitter Engineer for the Nebraska Rural Radio Network for 12 years.
Mark Voris, Chief Engineer of Spirit Catholic
The Spirit Catholic Radio Network (KVSS 102.7 FM) airs a religious talk format, with predominantly Catholic programming. We provide 40 hours a week of local content and the rest of the time we rebroadcast network programming from EWTN and Ave Maria.
Our network covers the States of Nebraska, parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota, and we also have an affiliate in Wisconsin. In total this includes approximately 1.4 million listeners.
When I started, the station was using a POTS codec and phone hybrids for remote sports broadcasts. We wanted to utilize IP and mobile data, so we purchased two Tieline i-Mix G3 codecs. These were commissioned as a temporary STL when we moved to a new frequency in 2009. Once a permanent radio STL was in place, the codecs were used for remote sports broadcasts; one unit at the studio and the other out in the field.
A Network of STL Codecs
The distance from studios to transmitters and remote sites is always a challenge. Doing microwave shots isn’t very cost-effective, or physically practical. After many years of experience I no longer have doubts about sending IP audio via the internet – it’s the predominant way we transport audio. IP technology is always evolving as well and getting better all the time.
We have purchased 21 Bridge-IT codecs and a Commander G3. 19 Bridge-ITs are used for STLs and the Commander is used at the studio for remote broadcasts, with both channels configured for IP and POTS connections. Two other Bridge-ITs are installed at the studio to allow broadcasts on the fly from our remote studio locations.
Map of the Spirit Catholic Radio Network
The Bridge-IT codecs have definitely improved our workflow and they are reliable and self-sufficient. Eight are used for point-to-point STLs. We recently added 9 affiliates to our network, mostly across Nebraska and one in Wisconsin. Two Bridge-IT codecs operate in multi-unicast mode, to affordably distribute studio program audio to nine units at these affiliates. I also have the capacity to add three more connections, so there is room to expand if required.
Configuring Bridge-IT is easy with the Toolbox web-GUI control. Just yesterday while at a transmitter site I needed to make some adjustments to a codec at one of the remote studios. I was able to log in and make the change. I have all configurations backed up on a PC, so I can just connect a codec to the LAN here at the studio, or a laptop in the field, and easily configure them on the fly.
I have configured static public IP addresses for the studio codecs and have a cable connection with a 20×5 for all my STL audio streaming. The other sites have at least a 3×1 connection and all are wired except one that is wireless. As we are mostly a talk format network, I use Music Mono encoding at a bit rate of 28.8 kbps to reduce bandwidth and data usage. I also like that the STL units in the field can be configured with backup SD cards to keep audio on the air if a connection is lost.
Our affiliate stations have small LPFM racks that two Bridge-IT codecs could fit in perfectly, so the compact size of the unit is helpful.
Our i-Mix G3s don’t use ISDN due to the cost, but we will use a POTS line when one is available onsite. More and more with high schools we find that a POTS line just isn’t an option, so we rely on IP and cellular data a lot for transporting audio. The i-Mix address books are configured with both POTS phone numbers and IP addresses, so whatever is available we will use it.
We have also purchased 10 Report-IT Enterprise user accounts and we have a few regular folks on our morning show that use Report-IT instead of a low bandwidth phone feed. We also use Report-IT for some of our sports broadcasts by interfacing the phone with a mixer, which gives us the ability to broadcast via IP, Wi-Fi or 4G/LTE. Report-IT Enterprise is simple to configure and our announcers find it simple to use.
Overall the Tieline codecs have great sound quality, flexibility and reliability and our announcers like their ease of operation. I also like Bridge-IT’s front panel controls that other low cost codecs don’t have.
Latency is not really an issue for the STLs and with the remote connections we have made adjustments to minimize network delay. In future I foresee more remote applications, such as the ability to go live with mass from churches throughout our listening area.
When you evaluate the price of Bridge-IT versus features, the cost is worth it. We are a non-profit group and for us the cost is a big factor. We depend on a product that is reliable and trouble free. Tieline’s support is also excellent! Bill Miller is top notch in this field and has helped me whenever I have a question.
For more information about Report-IT, Bridge-IT and other Tieline products visit http://www.tieline.com.