Off-air monitors?

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Qs23
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Off-air monitors?

Post by Qs23 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 9:30 pm

Hey,

I'm not sure what you call them... Off-air monitors, confidence monitors, silence monitors. And I'm not sure if this should be a post in this area or the AM radio area. But what I'm wondering about is what radios are you guys using for monitoring the air signals back at the studio. I ask, because right now, I've got 14 stations in 5 different markets. Some are AM, some are FM and some are AM w/ FM translators. And they are all setup completely different. And I'm on a standards kick right now, so I want to make them all the same.

So what do you guys use?

TPT
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by TPT » Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:42 am

Everyone used to use the output of mod monitors--until studios got complicated. Besides, most mod monitors are only happy if fed off an RF sample..at the studio for two of my stations I'm picking up the off-air signal of a Class A 25 miles away.

I just use ordinary tuners--although at my third station I have a Dayton composite receiver as an air monitor. On the other two stations I use a Tascam rack mount tuner and a Carver tuner (off -E-Bay). Advantage with the Dayton is that I don't need a battery back-up--the digital tuners do. Avoid HD tuners--they have a delay even on analog signals.

Just spent the weekend putting in a couple of DA's for air monitoring at the main studio. Allows me to balance levels into the consoles--my two Auditronics 2500's want +4 on the monitor inputs, while the R-55E wants -10.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by ChuckG » Tue Apr 05, 2016 6:48 pm

TPT wrote:Everyone used to use the output of mod monitors--until studios got complicated. Besides, most mod monitors are only happy if fed off an RF sample..at the studio for two of my stations I'm picking up the off-air signal of a Class A 25 miles away.

I just use ordinary tuners--although at my third station I have a Dayton composite receiver as an air monitor. On the other two stations I use a Tascam rack mount tuner and a Carver tuner (off -E-Bay). Advantage with the Dayton is that I don't need a battery back-up--the digital tuners do. Avoid HD tuners--they have a delay even on analog signals.

Just spent the weekend putting in a couple of DA's for air monitoring at the main studio. Allows me to balance levels into the consoles--my two Auditronics 2500's want +4 on the monitor inputs, while the R-55E wants -10.

Much the same over here. Still a few Mod Monitors in service, fed by RF amps. The rest use various brands of tuners. I'm not sure how I'd standardize that as what works in one location won't in another.
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TPT
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by TPT » Tue Apr 05, 2016 8:40 pm

One simple idea: buy 4 or 5 (whatever) of the same brand tuners. Always some coloration of the audio with a consumer tuner, but if you standardize on the same brand/model then sudden weirdness in the off-air signal of one station is more likely to not be the tuner but some other factor.

Granted--quick look on line reveals the selection of tuners at a reasonable price is not very good. The Tascam TU-690 I have appears to be out of production. Leaving such dubious choices as Rolls or Pyle. I have the little half-rack sized Rolls ($150) in use as an EAS receiver--monitored station is some 60 miles away so sensitivity isn't bad--but I don't pay much attention to the audio quality. As long as the Sage decodes it I'm happy.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by ChuckG » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:15 pm

After opening one of those Rolls tuners up and taking a look inside, I won't be buying another. It's possibly the worst commercial construction I've ever seen. :lol:
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Chuck Gennaro
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jakebechtold
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by jakebechtold » Wed Apr 06, 2016 5:52 pm

For a while we were using Denon 280s and 1500s, and in fact still have a few in use at the tower sites. Both have since been discontinued. They sound pretty good but only offer unbalanced outputs. If you don't care about balanced outputs I'd honestly try and find some of these used on eBay.

I tried to "standardize" on Rolls RS-80 tuners... until we had a power surge and two of them died. As ChuckG mentioned the build quality is very poor. They have since discontinued the RS-80 and replaced it with the RS-81 which I think is a piece of junk. It sounds okay and maybe will fit your application, but the big killer for me is that the RS-81 does not show current RDS, the one thing I did like about the RS-80. It does at least have balanced outputs.

In the last year or so I've been slowly switching over to the Inovonics 632 tuners, they do FM and HD. If you need AM they offer the 634. Both are 1/3 width 1RU tall and fit in a rack kit they'll sell you. They're not cheap... $650(!) a piece, but they sound very good and have balanced outputs and AES. And if you need to monitor HD like do, they're pretty much your only choice short of a $1600 tuner from DaySequerra. The main selling point for me though is it has closures on the back for Audio and Signal loss. I have them tied to a remote control, but you easily tie it to a relay that turns on a strobe in the studio. Very handy feature.
Jake Bechtold, CBT, CBNT
Assistant Engineer, Radio FM Media
Fargo, ND
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Shane
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Shane » Wed Apr 06, 2016 8:23 pm

Thanks for that info, Jake. I have 3 RS80s (spec'd by someone else) that were originally supposed to be the air monitors for each of the three stations here. The big FM is still using its RS80. The FM translator for one of our AMs is received well by the 2nd one. None of them will receive AM very well if at all.

So for awhile (pre-translator) 2 of the 3 were relegated to EAS reception. They couldn't pick up the State Relay reliably, but we had a Sage unit that handled that job well. The other Rolls does an OK job of picking up the LP1.

The Sage rack handles NWS and we have used the AM section for air monitoring one of the AMs, which works ok with a fair-to-middlin outdoor antenna.

But to get back to the RS80s the sound off of them is pretty terrible, especially the one used for the main FM air monitor. In the background you can hear fuzz which is the modulation of the next station 800 kc down the band! So I'd say their selectivity and front ends are pretty awful.

Perhaps we can get our hands on one of those Inovonics units some day. And we definitely need the RDS monitoring.

Again, thanks.
Mike Shane, CBRE
---Omaha---

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Qs23
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Qs23 » Fri Apr 22, 2016 1:39 pm

So, from what I'm gathering from the responses, is that there really isn't a good option right now outside of slowing building up a collection of old equipment from eBay.

FYI, I bought a $50 Pyle off of Amazon and that was crap out of the box. So I returned it. I then moved up to a Rockwill RDJT6700. It didn't sound too bad. But two issues with it. #1. If it's not tuned to a station, it doesn't squelch the audio, so it won't trip our silence alarm. #2. I put it on our big loop antenna to test it on the AM, and we got the local christian station on the other end of the dial bleeding through.

I'm honestly leaning towards an Inovonics 638. That would get me 6 FM stations for around $800. But what to do about the AM stations.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by TPT » Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:13 pm

Junkyard--car radio. I know--desperate solution.

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Deep Thought
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Deep Thought » Sat Apr 23, 2016 8:49 am

Qs23 wrote:I'm honestly leaning towards an Inovonics 638. That would get me 6 FM stations for around $800. But what to do about the AM stations.
Inovonics showed some nifty new stuff at NAB, one of which is the 637 AM SiteStreamer (the AM equivalent of the 638). It's spendy (list is $850) but is remote tunable and has both audio and RF loss alarms, and if you have IP connectivity at the tx can stream the off-air signal back to the studio from the tx site and have it text or email you if an alarm condition exists. They do 2-6 KHz demod bandwidth (adjustable) and have an aux input to monitor whatever other audio source you might need. I'm getting a couple of them to evaluate.
http://www.inovonicsbroadcast.com/model/637
Mark Mueller • Mueller Broadcast Design • La Grange, IL • http://www.muellerbroadcastdesign.com

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Qs23
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Qs23 » Wed Jun 22, 2016 7:08 am

TPT wrote:Junkyard--car radio. I know--desperate solution.
This is actually what I'm trying to replace.

Current test subject is a C.Crane CCRadio-EP. It's small, AM & FM, under $100, external antenna connections, can handle power outages.

Now I just need to figure out how to build a band pass filter or a notch filter, so I can remove the religious station that I can pick up over 100kHz away on the dial.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Deep Thought » Wed Jun 22, 2016 7:39 am

Qs23 wrote:Now I just need to figure out how to build a band pass filter or a notch filter
Send me the pass and reject frequencies and I'll send you the parts values to try. It's pretty simple.
Mark Mueller • Mueller Broadcast Design • La Grange, IL • http://www.muellerbroadcastdesign.com

W2XJ
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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by W2XJ » Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:33 am

I agree with deep thought. Inovonics is the way to go.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by Slab Bulkhead » Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:52 am

I made the mistake of getting one of those RS80 tuners for an air monitor at an LPFM station. Bad move. The reception was noisy more often than not, and I have a feeling it was either lack of sensitivity (the tower was about 2.5 miles away) and lack of adjacent channel rejection as the LP was on a 2nd adjacent to a Class A. I wound up replacing it with a Denon 1500 from eBay and an unbalanced->balanced interface box and the results are much, much better.

As far as the SiteStreamer goes, I was able to put together something similar using a Raspberry Pi and a RadioShark tuner (out of production but available super cheap on eBay). It was a cast iron <bleep> to find and build some of the software involved but the net result is an equivalent functionality for about $75 or so. I ended up using AAC/AAC+ instead of the mp3 encoding of the SiteStreamer. The RadioShark is deaf as a post but works OK as a confidence monitor when placed at a tower site with internet.

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Re: Off-air monitors?

Post by lewiscallaway » Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:34 pm

Could you give me some tips on how you did that Slab Bulkhead? That sounds awesome!

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