UPDATE DEC.1, 2014: our demo unit of the BW Broadcast DSPXmini-FM SE audio processor arrived today. It's been installed on 88.1FM and initial tweaking is complete. The sound seems markedly improved. I'll be fiddling with it further to adjust it across different programs.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: About a week ago, your intrepid engineer made some changes to the airchain on our 88.1FM that should've, in theory, been wholly beneficial and with no potential for downside. However, around that same time I started getting reports of an odd whistle...or just high-pitched static...that would come and go with no apparently rhyme or reason.
These reports aren't widespread, but there's been enough that I'm no longer inclined to think it's just an odd run of people happening to have poor reception. The only commonality is that it seems to occur only when reception of 88.1 isn't very good to begin with. Not necessarily "poor" reception at all, just not "super-solid".
Friday night and mid-day Saturday (Nov.14 & 15) ended up being a bit of a saga for what was supposed to be a routine upgrade for our 102.7FM signal in South County. So first off, an apology to our RIPR listeners on 102.7FM, and to MVYradio's listeners to the 96.5FM signal in Newport. There were several dropouts, periods when RIPR was on backup transmitter (and thus 96.5 was off entirely), or when both transmitters were down.
Exactly what happened could be described as an avalanche of minutiae, but I'll lay it out as best I can.
Starting on Monday Nov.17th, the clocks for Morning Edition, All Things Considered (both weekdays and weekends) and Weekend Edition will be changing.
Today's Engineer's Corner is co-authored with our Operations & Production Manager, James Baumgartner. He and I are the ones directly responsible for organizing all the clock changes' impact on Rhode Island Public Radio, and we've put together this synopsis of what the changes mean for our listeners.
If you were listening to the 8pm newscast on Tuesday night (Sept.23) then you got to experience our new service that helps make sure your watch can be set to the most precise time possible!
Okay, that's not really what happened. The newscast started out with the USNO's "time guy" (you can hear the automated time announces by dialing (719)567-6742 in Colorado; the DC numbers don't seem to work).
Longtime Engineer's Corner readers know that we've had, well, "issues" with the STL or "Studio/Transmitter Link" for our 88.1FM signal in Providence. The STL is what carries the audio from our studios in downtown Providence to the transmitter/tower at the Wheeler Farm in Seekonk.
Now a couple weeks ago we revealed that half of a new wireless microwave STL was installed, and that the other half would be installed soon. Today, we fired it up for the first time and the results were gratifyingly positive!
UPDATE @ 1pm : 88.1FM is back at normal power! Pics are available on our Twitter feed here, here, here and here. By the way, many of these pics were taken with a stock iPhone 5S using this telephoto lens attachment. Pretty good for $45!
On Wednesday June 18th, beginning around 9:30 or 10am, 88.1FM will be running on the backup transmitter & antenna for a few hours to install new equipment on the top of the tower. We must run on the lower-power backup for the health & safety of our tower climber.
The backup operates using a one-bay vertically-polarized omnidirectional antenna and about one-tenth our normal power.
THIS WILL NOT IMPACT OUR 91.5 OR 102.7FM SIGNALS, NOR OUR WEBCAST.
In many ways, this is an even bigger deal; 102.7 had a hefty vent fan system that could move a lot of air. Sure, if the air outside was hot, it means the air inside was hot, too. Usually you can't cool a room using outside air below about +10F degrees above outside air temps. So if it's 90F outside, it's 100 to 105F inside...ugh!
And at 88.1, we didn't really have even that. The transmitter site is an 8x10ft shed with a single 12 inch desk fan blowing air out one of the wall vents, and no insulation whatsoever on the walls or ceiling. Temps routinely broke 120F inside, even when it was only 70 to 80F outside.
As promised, here are some pics of my six days and seven nights in Las Vegas for the 2014 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, one of the biggest conferences in the USA, with over 98,000 engineers, managers, vendors and content creators all crammed into the truly massive Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).
The morning of April 30th saw several odd "dropouts" in the audio on 88.1FM, usually lasting 5 to 8 seconds each, happening as often as 2 or 3 times a minute, but more commonly once every 10 to 15 minutes.
There was also an odd "repeating audio" effect some people noticed, when the audio came back.