Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

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Fran3
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Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

Post by Fran3 » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:08 am

Just wondering it there is a software tool that will do real-time audio processing for a small AM station.

Two questions really...

1 - Stand alone audio processing (to replace an Optimod or whatever)

2 - Audio Processor built into a virtual main studio console DAW Digital Audio Workstation with Surface Controller.

In this case the station has a lot of PC's available to substitute for the hardware Audio Processor... and/or is interested in making the switch to a virtual main studio console... thus the questions.

Thanks for any help.

RodeoJack
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Re: Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

Post by RodeoJack » Sat Aug 08, 2015 12:04 pm

As to your first question, the answer is a qualified "yes... but".

(Note: After writing this, I realized it looked like I might work for these guys. I don't. I have 12 copies of this stuff, running in the smallest translators up to two major market stations. It's a pretty good commercial, though :mrgreen: ).

To go way back, the program that Inovonics used in its "Omega" processor started as software you could get online. You can still find it here and there, but I wouldn't use it for anything but streaming... and maybe not even that, given how much better the new stuff is. It's something to look for though, if you have the interest. They were released under the names "MBL-2", "MBL-4" and "Sonos".

Presently, there are two software programs that have adjustable asymmetry for AM transmitters.

The first of these to come out was the "Breakaway Broadcast Processor" http://www.claessonedwards.com/

The developer of this processor is the person behind the "Omnia 9". Basically, he took a lot of input from early users of the software to help refine what would eventually be put into the hardware box. Breakaway hasn't been updated in some time and support is nonexistent, but it's still a fine piece of work and pretty much bulletproof. Advantages are its fixed presets and small number of adjustable parameters. The main disadvantages (for the technically savvy) are its fixed presets and small number of adjustable parameters.

If you understand what processors do and how they should properly feed a transmitter... and you're brave and not easily intimidated by a plethora of adjustable parameters, then "Stereo Tool" is for you ( http://stereotool.com/ )

This software is not for the faint of heart, but you can do just about anything imaginable with it. It has plenty of presets from which to start, and you're free to write your own.

The developer of this program has recently joined the Telos Alliance and collaborates with the developer of Breakaway, so there seems to be plenty of mental horsepower at work.

Both programs provide analog (for AM / FM) and composite outputs. I'm pretty sure you could use a USB-to-AES adapter for a digital output, though I haven't tried that yet. Get a decent PC, an audio card (192kHz for composite), load the software and you have the makings of a processor. I prefer to replace the hard drive with a SSD, though neither program makes use of the drive, once the software is fully loaded. It's also important to delete all bloatware from an off-the-shelf computer, and I don't let any of mine do automatic updates on anything. If you want to administer the processor remotely, put something like Team Viewer on it and you can control & update from anywhere.

You can make a station sound extremely competitive with this stuff. The only real resistance to a software processor, at least in my area, is that the idea of placing a Windows-based PC in the audio chain is something that some engineers are reluctant to consider, even given how PCs have basically taken over everything else. The notion tends to get a few noses out of joint, especially from those who work with large capital budgets. If that doesn't matter to you, you understand what you're doing and have a good ear, your station can sound like you have a $15,000 processor for around $2,000 worth of computer, sound card and software.

Oh... one other thing. If you convert to a software processor, you are pretty much done with off-air monitoring in your headphones, and maybe even in the studio. Audio quality is partially affected by the latency you allow it. If you're already using audio-over-IP to get to your transmitter, this won't matter, because you've already had to deal with latency. However, if you're using a phone line or analog STL, this will be an additional consideration for you.

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Deep Thought
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Re: Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

Post by Deep Thought » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:13 pm

RodeoJack wrote:The only real resistance to a software processor, at least in my area, is that the idea of placing a Windows-based PC in the audio chain is something that some engineers are reluctant to consider, even given how PCs have basically taken over everything else.
StereoTool has a stand-alone Linux option (both 32 and 64 bit).

It's about the best option (although the Windows version is certainly servicable), and it will run on modest hardware as long as there is nothing else going on. I have it on a Core2Duo T9600 (2.8 GHz) laptop and it'll run OK. However, Quad-core i7 PCs can be had for under $500 and that's what I would use if I were building one today. For AM you don't even need a fancy soundcard...the built-in variety will work fine. Just make sure your unbalanced-to-balanced conversion is solid, and you have enough output to drive the transmitter, which usually expects +10 dBm for 100% modulation.
Mark Mueller • Mueller Broadcast Design • La Grange, IL • http://www.muellerbroadcastdesign.com

HadYourPhil
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Re: Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

Post by HadYourPhil » Mon Sep 07, 2015 3:20 pm

Stereo Tool can be made to sound awesome. I'm a big fan!
We improve things by making them worse...

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Chris Arnesen
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Re: Software replacement for Audio Processor ???

Post by Chris Arnesen » Wed Sep 09, 2015 5:04 pm

+1 for Stereo Tool!
Sincerely,
Chris Arnesen, CBNT, CRO

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