TOH time tones

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Shane
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TOH time tones

Post by Shane » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:54 pm

Any fans of the old Top of the Hour time tones out there? They kind of fell out of favor in the 80's but in the early 2000's, on a cross-country trip I noticed the CBS O&O news/talkers had all brought back their traditional 1960s time tones.

WTIC has the oddest time tone but it's the very same one they used on both radio AND tv in the wayback.

We started up a news/talk station in April and since we do network news every hour on the hour, I thought it would be cool to bring it back, more as a programming element rather than really expecting anybody to set their watches by it (7 second delay and all in some hours and we don't use it during sports play by play). When it works right, which is most of the time, it sure makes the transition into the news snappy.

I was going to use Touch Tone #1. WGBB on Long Island used that years ago, but I found it kind of abrasive 40 years later. A little experimentation with tone generation in Adobe Audition resulted in a multi-tone signal that seems to me to have a pleasing effect.

Our two AMs are on 660 and 1420 and the translator that relays 1420 is at 94.5. So I tried 660 Hz, 945 Hz, and 1420 Hz in a 1:1:1 ratio. A eureka moment.

Fast forward to October when some fellows from Finland and Sweden went up to their northern DX haunts and pulled us in, sent us recordings of the ID etc. One of the reporters was a little unsure whether he had KOTK or WHK because it was buried pretty badly in QRM and both stations are branded "The Answer."

I was able to verify his reception based on two things: 1) you could hear the VO say, "94-5 FM" before the rest of it and WHK has no translator or didn't then, and 2) the unique time tone punched a hole in the QRM!

I was regaling one of our 17-year-old board ops with these stories (he LOVES tubes, BTW) and he observed that there were probably more than a few older listeners who would know what that is and be laughing up their sleeves at all the Gen Xers, Millenials and even some Boomers who would have no clue.

He was also amused at the story of how WGBB used theirs at different times of day. During the day when they had to hit the TOH dead on it would be right where you would expect: immediately before the news sounder. But at night on hours they didn't do news they didn't bother trying to hit it and just swept over the TOH with music ... and the TOH time tone right in the mix with whatever was playing.

And I don't think anybody thought that was strange.

I should also mention that using three tones instead of two was suggested to me by an article about WGN's unique time tone which really is always accurate - ours wobbles a bit - even though I have never actually heard the WGN tones.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by TPT » Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:42 am

The WTIC top-of the hour tone is a custom from way back in World War II: It's Morse for "V", di-di-di-dah. The same four notes were used at the top of the hour by the BBC during the war, standing for "V' for "Victory."

Anyone exposed to classical music will recognize the motif as the opening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony--which premiered during the Napoleonic wars, particularly during the occupation of Vienna by French troops.

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Re: TOH time tones

Post by kcbooboo » Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:09 am

I was reading this post at 8:59:30am EST Saturday morning and quickly turned a radio to WTIC/1080 to hear it. Just as was said above, "dit-dit-dit-dah", Morse Code for "V". However it sounded a bit out of tune to me, like musical notes "A-A-A-F#" rather than "A-A-A-F". It punched through loud and clear, right along with the existing paid program that was just ending. I have a feeling this tone, rich in harmonics, is fed into the audio chain at the transmitter. Surprisingly, it was only one second late. WTIC is running IBOC so I would have expected the 7 second delay but they must have it set to go off 6 seconds early just so it comes out at the real top of the hour. I wonder if they adjust it for those times when IBOC is turned off.

WCBS/880 has a chime at the top of the hour, but as they also run IBOC but shut it off during local sports broadcasts (which they seem to be doing every night these days, something I'm really unhappy about as they're a "news" station), their chime is delayed appropriately. They used to have four clock "tick" sounds starting at 5 seconds before the top of the hour, but they got rid of the ticks many years ago.

Bob M.

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Re: TOH time tones

Post by Shane » Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:50 am

Yes 'TIC's have always sounded off to me. A Morse code "V" that sounds like it was produced by a cheap code practice oscillator. Plus that last note.

Bob, you must have "perfect pitch" In order to call out the notes like that. I would have to mess around on a piano or other keyboard to try and match the tones (which I CAN do!) to figure out the notes.

Concerning delay, it used to be common practice, prior to IBOC and ramping digital delays, to set studio clocks 7 seconds ahead to make timing come out right without brain damage.

Although we did have a ramping delay, when I was producing Nebraska football programming, we would start in a separate control room 10 seconds in advance (maximum delay) and deliver signal to the network and the local board op at the specified time. We didn't bother with setting the clocks ahead because a 10 sec delay was easily calculated mentally.

I also used to set the delay for 0.8 seconds for televised games to more closely match the TV action. I quit that after I accidentally set it to 8.0 seconds one time and a sharp affiliate board op called me to ask what was going on. Roops!

Anyway, with all the different digital delays we experience now it's almost pointless trying to match radio sound to TV pic. No two TVs are exactly alike anymore. I'm on the receiving end of a sports network today (Iowa) and we run them on delay (usu. 7 secs) so we can drop out inappropriate material, such as on the very first football game this season they played a bit too much of a Blake Shelton tune and we got the s-word loud and clear but it didn't make it to air.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by kcbooboo » Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:25 pm

Sometimes I get fed up with the constant jibber-jabber of the TV sports announcers, I mute the TV and turn on the radio to listen to the radio sports announcers. I will then try to synch the TV picture with the radio audio. This used to work, but the current DirecTV box I have won't let me delay the playback unless it's about 30 seconds or more; anything shorter and it gives up entirely. Between the radio station's 7-second profanity delay and 7-second IBOC delay, the radio is usually a few seconds behind the TV signal, but this just isn't enough.

I do have perfect pitch, or at least I used to, but the notes were just guesses. Could have been off by a note or two, but the relationship between the notes is what's important. Every once in a while I attend an SBE14 meeting where someone from WTIC is present; I'll have to inquire about where they insert that tone.

Bob M.

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Re: TOH time tones

Post by Bill DeFelice » Sat Jan 07, 2017 2:11 pm

I seem to recall, either in a written piece in one of the broadcast publications or on a video, Larry Titus built the custom tone generator for WTIC. I recall a rack mounted device, possibly with a display screen but it was many, many years ago I remember the video or article.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by iowegian3 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 12:06 am

Shane wrote:
He was also amused at the story of how WGBB used theirs at different times of day. During the day when they had to hit the TOH dead on it would be right where you would expect: immediately before the news sounder. But at night on hours they didn't do news they didn't bother trying to hit it and just swept over the TOH with music ... and the TOH time tone right in the mix with whatever was playing.

And I don't think anybody thought that was strange.

I should also mention that using three tones instead of two was suggested to me by an article about WGN's unique time tone which really is always accurate - ours wobbles a bit - even though I have never actually heard the WGN tones.
ReelRadio has an aircheck of 1961 WDGY Minneapolis, and they fired the TOH tone right over the song, and this was in morning drive.

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Re: TOH time tones

Post by w9wi » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:32 am

kcbooboo wrote:Between the radio station's 7-second profanity delay and 7-second IBOC delay, the radio is usually a few seconds behind the TV signal, but this just isn't enough.
I'm amazed radio is behind TV.

I've seen delays, between what our station sends out & what comes back from Direct (and Dish) that well exceed 15 seconds. That doesn't even count what it takes to get the signal from the stadium to our facility. (and I sure hope there's a profanity delay on the TV side as well!)

What TV channels are you watching? (are they local stations, or is it something like ESPN?)
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by NECRAT » Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:41 am

The "WTIC" tone is done at the studio. They took great pride in making sure the "DAH" ( - ) was at the 0 mark at the top of the hour.
The system became GPS locked, and since the IBOC came online, it is now pre-triggered pre-delay, so to keep that DAH at 0 accurate.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by kcbooboo » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:38 am

Regarding radio vs TV audio delays, these are NY Yankees broadcasts on YES network as well as Ch5 (FOX) in NYC, and a local that picks up MY9 broadcasts sometimes, which I can't watch because their DirecTV signal is too wide to watch on a standard def TV. The radio station is local with profanity delay and IBOC delay. When WCBS/880 used to air Yankees games, they'd turn off all delays during the games so their audio matched real-time action at the stadium, but now that WFAN/660 is doing Yankees games and broadcasting from the same tower, I just can't get them nearly as good as WCBS/880.

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Re: TOH time tones

Post by Shane » Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:27 am

Oh boy, we could go down another bunny trail with WCBS's signal vs. WFAN's which are diplexed on the same tower. 660 has always had the inferior signal to 880 on this tower.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by Deep Thought » Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:08 pm

There's a reason for that...even though small the efficiency differences do matter. WFAN: 379.81 mV/m/km/kw. WCBS: 426.48 mV/m/km/kw. All else being equal WCBS is "radiating" 26% more "power".
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by NECRAT » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:45 pm

kcbooboo wrote:Regarding radio vs TV audio delays, these are NY Yankees broadcasts on YES network as well as Ch5 (FOX) in NYC, and a local that picks up MY9 broadcasts sometimes, which I can't watch because their DirecTV signal is too wide to watch on a standard def TV. The radio station is local with profanity delay and IBOC delay. When WCBS/880 used to air Yankees games, they'd turn off all delays during the games so their audio matched real-time action at the stadium, but now that WFAN/660 is doing Yankees games and broadcasting from the same tower, I just can't get them nearly as good as WCBS/880.

Bob M.
And they don't do the delay on 101.9 WFAN-FM during the game.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by Shane » Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:35 pm

Deep Thought wrote:All else being equal WCBS is "radiating" 26% more "power".
Yup.
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Re: TOH time tones

Post by kcbooboo » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:17 am

I can't get any of the NYC FM stations where I live due to a 450ft rock about 3000 ft SW of me in-line with NYC. It also doesn't help that WCBS-FM/101.1+IBOC is one channel away from WKCI-FM/101.3+IBOC right here in my town, so I haven't a chance of getting WCBS-FM OTA.

I'm close to buying a wifi internet radio to pick up WCBS that way. No interference and at least they have news on-line when theyre broadcasting a game (I still don't know how that's "news") over the air.

Even though the field intensities are relatively close, there's still a big difference in reception in both my car and home radios.

Bob M.

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