Wheat:News September 2022

WHEAT:NEWS September 2022 Volume 13, Number 9



You might have a WheatNet-IP audio network if your AoIP I/O unit is also a mic processor. Shown is a new studio installed by RadioDNA for The Station of the Cross Catholic Media Network in Buffalo, NY, the RE20 mic of which is connected to our M4 mic processor. 

The M4IP-USB mic processor is a staple in RadioDNA studio designs because it doubles as the I/O for audio routing and logic and as the mic processor for four mic positions. 

RadioDNA is a broadcast engineering firm specializing in new studio builds for broadcasters such as The Station of the Cross Catholic Media Network, which migrated its studio facilities from an entirely analog infrastructure to all-digital awhile back. 

Having the mic processor and I/O studio routing in one rack unit makes for fewer boxes and wires and has “made a significant improvement in the voices of our talent,” said Jim Wright, who founded nonprofit Holy Family Communications along with his wife Joanne and now oversees the network’s 16 terrestrial stations and iCatholicRadio streaming app. 

Like any I/O Blade in the WheatNet-IP audio network, the M4IP-USB has two 8x2 stereo utility mixers inside that can be used for audio summing, splitting, and level adjustment, or for crossfades and segues between sources, as well as custom mixes or intercom systems. Combining all that with a decent little mic processor in the same native AoIP environment – actually, the same unit – is why you’ll see a lot of these out in the field. 

That, and the fact that the M4IP-USB’s mic processing (filtering, EQ, de-esser, and expander) can pull a big sound out of the most difficult mics – for not just one but four mic positions – is why when RadioDNA starts a WheatNet-IP studio project, the M4IP-USB is one of the first items on the equipment list. 

Often, you’ll see our Wheatstream or Streamblade appliance on that list too because one of these units can do all the provisioning, audio processing, and metadata support for 8 input/32 output audio streams. Not coincidentally, these streaming appliances really know how to get a decent quality stream out of any internet link without triggering the codec to produce distortion. The Station of the Cross Catholic Media Network is feeding music programming from the WideOrbit automation into the Wheatstream appliance for eight streams for the iCatholicRadio app and the ministry’s website, effectively eliminating several computers and outboard audio processors to do the equivalent. 

The ministry is using LXE console surfaces in the studios and Glass LXE virtual mixers on laptops or tablets for remoting in from “virtual studios.” You can read about it in Radio World, The Station of the Cross Goes Digital in Buffalo



Here’s a short video by Markus Stocker showing Wheatstone gear in use at Radio Zurisee in Switzerland, along with some cool in-factory shots.



This is a Spartan-7 integrated circuit made by Xilinx. They’re hard to come by but we happen to have this one and several of its friends in inventory. This little slice of silicon is the latest in FPGAs and is a good example of how supply chain issues continue to cast a long shadow across our industry.

In the normal course of manufacturing, components like Spartan-7 slowly replace previous generations of the same chip as new products are engineered, fabricated, and tested. 

But in the crazy, winding course of manufacturing in 2021 and 2022, manufacturers were forced to adopt the Spartan-7 or another alternative much faster than they intended because its predecessor, the Spartan-6, was in short supply. That meant they had to respin printed circuit boards on top of all those other interruptions in the supply chain, which pushed product deadlines and deliveries back even further.

Fortunately, in the course of Wheatstone manufacturing, our engineering and development team had already moved to Spartan-7 FPGAs with the development of our new Blade 4, long before supply chain interruptions reared their ugly head. The Spartan-7 was part of the building blocks for our new, more powerful Blade, incorporating audio codecs, full AES67/NMOS, and a bottomless OS able to run specialized software, metering apps, and just about anything else you’d normally run on a computer. This FPGA is a critical component that carries out logic and other functions in all our Blade I/O units.

We keep plenty of these in our stock room along with a healthy inventory of components across the board. We can do this because we manufacture just about everything we sell right here in our New Bern, NC. factory (read When The Chips Are Down and Million-Dollar Investment in Manufacturing), and as a result, source components in volume from our vendor and distributor partners.

Having these and other critical components in stock is why we can keep the factory humming along with all the Blades, mixers and everything else needed for all those Wheatstone studios you hear about.



Q: Our lease ran out on our building and we’re going to be moving into a smaller space. The studios themselves can be downsized with no problem now that we’re going all-AoIP. But the big issue is our rack room. We don’t want to waste space on racks of gear. Any suggestions?

A: There are a couple of solutions, depending on the age of the gear in your racks and how much utility you need. For example, one Streamblade or Wheatstream appliance might be able to replace a large rack of computers for your program streams. Or, you might be able to use the OPUS or AAC codec software that comes with our Blade 4 I/O unit for basic audio transport and therefore retire an older codec that's taking up space in the rack room. Many of the elements that make up the WheatNet-IP audio network can perform more than one function, and often it’s just a matter of taking inventory of what you already have and repurposing those units for additional functions. You’re also a good candidate for our new Wheatstone Layers server software, which gives you the ability to put all your backend mixing, audio processing and streaming in a single Dell or Hewlett Packard server. In this case, mix engines are mere instances on the server, which saves 1RU for each mix engine that would otherwise sit in the rack room or studio burning up electricity and space. You can do the same with audio processing and streaming. You can run instances of FM/HD processing with AGC/limiting, RDS, stereo generator and MPX directly from the server into the transmitter. You can also run instances for stream provisioning, metadata and processing specifically for internet streams that are going to the CDN – all off the same server. AoIP will get you a much smaller, streamlined operation but if you then think about the various components that go into a system like WheatNet-IP, you’ll be able to add or repurpose the components that work for your situation. End result: a smaller rack room.


New York NAB

Wheatstone will be at the NAB Show in New York next month with all the latest in AoIP, streaming and audio processing. Look for the Wheatstone banner (booth 1518) and be sure to ask about our new Layers software suite for mixing, processing and streaming instances on a Dell or Hewlett Packard server. 



Here is how one broadcaster is doing it their way with Screenbuilder, our build-your-own app for creating custom screen interfaces into the WheatNet-IP audio network.

This user interface sits on a 24-inch touchscreen that hangs off a rack in the TOC and serves as control central for all communications between Reach Media in-studio producers, talent and staff and those remoting in from Anywhere, U.S.A. “It’s kind of like a little control center for us,” said Don Stevenson, CE for Reach Media/Radio One, Dallas.  

There are eleven shows and a 24-hour inspirational program in the Reach Media lineup, all of which have some aspect of remote production. Al Sharpton, for example, does his show from his office in New York, and Erica Campbell produces her show from Los Angeles while her co-host joins in from Dallas. 

From this interface, operators can easily do a sound check for any remote source coming in or route any of the studio feeds to the Westwood One XDS satellite platform (or in the case of the D.L. Hughely show, upload files to the Synchronicity media distribution service). Both Reach Media and Radio One in Dallas have four on-air and two production studios, one predominately WheatNet-IP audio networked and the other currently in transition from a Wheatstone TDM Bridge system, with a WheatNet-IP MADI Blade temporarily connecting the two networks. 

The above interface has been with Reach Media in one variation or another for a number of years and was one of the first screens Stevenson made using Screenbuilder. He has since made a few changes to the screen, which included adding a dropdown menu that lets operators quickly select a source that pops up on the screen along with its relevant talkback channel. 

If you’ve been making your own virtual mixers and interfaces using our Screenbuilder or Consolebuilder development toolkit, or are thinking about doing so but don’t know where to start, register and log onto our Scripters Forum. You’ll find documents, starter scripts and a whole knowledge base available to you for making customized screens like the above.



We recently checked in with fellow IP enthusiast Pete Sockett to discuss the latest developments in NextGen TV.  Pete is the DOE for Capitol Broadcasting Company in Raleigh, N.C., a long-time Wheatstone AoIP shop that began running an ATSC 3.0 channel under experimental license a little over six years ago. Here’s what we learned: 

WS: In 2016 WRAL-TV was the first station in the U.S. to run a full simulcast ATSC 3.0 channel. As we recall, you launched it with a simulcast of the documentary “Take Me Out to the Bulls Game,” which was produced in 4k/UHD and it was a first for being able to transmit that kind of quality. What can you tell us about ATSC 3.0 six years later? 

PS: There is so much to ATSC 3.0like UHD with high contrast, wide color gamut, immersive audio, interactivity, being able to broadcast on-demand and to mobile devicesall that. But the real magic of 3.0 is it doesn’t care what it’s carrying. For example, one of the challenges of ATSC 1.0 is that it’s locked us into MPEG-2, which in the ‘90s was revolutionary but today is a very inefficient video codec. Our ability to receive signal-to-noise is fixed as a result, so we need 15dB of signal-to-noise at the antenna receiver to make a picture. The difference with 3.0 is we can not only change codecs without changing the way we broadcast RF, we can also set up PLPs with different modulation coding schemes. We can say one part of our broadcast only needs 3dB of signal-to-noise, and that will get us 4 Mbps through it, while another part of our broadcast can get 21dB of signal-to-noise and we might get 25 or 26 Mbps through it which is 25 percent more than I’m getting today with 1.0. We can focus on being more robust with less throughput or having more throughput but being less robust, or any mix of that. It’s all just IP data; the world is just packets and we’re just sending them around. We’re starting out with the HEVC codec, but that doesn’t mean we have to use that codec for evermore. The next time we make a codec change we don’t have to change the way we broadcast RF. 

WS: You have been involved in so many aspects of the development of ATSC 3.0 and we’re curious about the latest one everyone’s talking about, the use of ATSC 3.0 for emergency information. What can you tell us about that? 

PS: This will give us the ability to get more information out, not just that there’s a hurricane coming, but here are the evacuation routes, here are the maps, here’s the radar loop. This is a part that’s always been missing from television emergency broadcasts. We’ve always been able to do the first part of alerting that there’s a hurricane coming and the last part, the story and the telling of the event where our anchors get involved. In between the alert and the meteorologist or news anchor, ATSC 3.0 now gives us the ability to give our viewers more information or what we call the Advanced Emergency Alerting and Information (AEA&I) of ATSC 3.0. 

WS: There seems to be a lot of interest by local emergency agencies, weather outlets, etc. in TV broadcasters being able to fill that information role, from what we can gather from the AWARN roundtable discussions taking place across the country. We’ll talk about that in a minute. But first, why broadcast, when they have cellular and internet to reach the public? 

PS: Simple. We’re not reliant on any form of cell/digital/internet infrastructure to keep our broadcasts going. The daisy-chain EAS radio-based system just works. While it’s an old system, it’s completely isolated from the internet. If the internet goes down, no one is getting any information. Meanwhile, I am broadcasting a million watts from 2000 feet. That one signal covers 4.2 million people within a 120-mile diameter circle, or 60-mile radius. I carry six days of fuel in the ground, I have a diesel generator sitting right beside it. And then on top of that there are seven other television broadcasters in the Raleigh market running ATSC 3.0, so there’s a robustness that the broadcasters bring to the table in an emergency. 

WS: Let’s talk about the AWARN (Advanced Warning and Response Network) roundtable discussions taking place in several U.S. markets, Raleigh being the next one to happen on October 6. I believe you’re hosting that one, correct? 

PS: Yes. AWARN is a coalition of like-minded broadcasters, manufacturers, vendors, and EMS agencies that was formed to create awareness of what 3.0 can do and to get the various communities together to understand how to get information out there. We’re having our first roundtable discussion in Raleigh on October 6 and the North Carolina emergency management community will be here along with people from NOAA as well as broadcasters. What we learn here will be important for other communities and stations, and that’s the purpose of doing a few of these this year in various locations around the country. (Note: In addition to Raleigh on October 6, AWARN roundtable discussions are planned for October 17 and 18 in New York, November 2 and 3 in New Orleans and December 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. )

WS: One final question. Did you think that ATSC 3.0 would be so far along six years later? There are now something like 70 NextGen TV set models available and stations in 68 U.S. markets broadcasting with ATSC 3.0, plus there’s interest in the standard for Jamaica, Canada, Brazil, India and Mexico. 

PS:  In some ways, it is surprising how far it’s come but in other ways, it’s what we need to do. If we don’t grow, we shrink and ATSC 3.0 gives us that chance to grow. 

WS: Thanks, Pete. As always, it’s great talking with you. 


Wheat Team

We managed to get them all together in the same room for a quick photo. Shown, the Wheat Team, left to right: Jay Tyler, Phil Owens, our newest Wheaty member Natasha Stalnaker, and Darrin Paley. If you are building a new studio, adding on to your existing studio or combining, remoting into, or making any changes to your facility, call the Wheat Team. We can plot it out to the smallest detail. One call can save you tons of time and money.

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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.

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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