We spoke with John Riccio, Director of Engineering at Clear Channel's Ashtabula, Ohio station cluster about his installation of an Axia digital audio snake.
Axia: John, thanks for choosing Axia for your radio stations. How many stations do you have here?
John: We have four stations. Our three FMs are Star 97.1 (WREO-FM), 102 Zoo (WZOO-FM) and Fox 107.5 (WFXJ-FM), plus AM news/talker WFUN. We serve the greater Cleveland area.
Tell us a bit about what you were looking for when you found Axia.
Well, our stations are in different, adjacent buildings, which means we must have a way to get audio from one place to the next. We have several stereo signals to carry, and for a while we did it with hard-wired analog cables. The problem with that approach was the lack of flexibility - we couldn't just add a new pair at will when we ran out of capacity. Also, there was the problem of line loss affecting sound quality. We wanted to replace the copper with a more modern solution, and we had actually looked at a few other choices when we found Axia.
Why did you choose Axia instead of one of those other solutions?
We kept bumping into the cost. There are plenty of systems out there that would have done what we needed, but they were too expensive. Axia did the job we needed to do for about half what the other guys wanted. That was a big plus!
The more we found out about Axia, the plainer it became that we could accomplish what we wanted very simply and keep our costs reasonable.
Tell us about your Axia system.
Like I said, we have a group of signals running from one building to the next. We feed them into an Axia audio node and they're turned into IP audio. From there, the Axia gear connects to a Transition Networks media converter, which converts the Ethernet streams to a fiber-optic link. Fiber runs between the two buildings, and the process gets reversed on the receiving end. It really couldn't be much simpler.
Now that you've had your system in place for a while, how do you like it?
I like it a lot! It's very good; very stable. We actually started out running the system on CAT-5e cable, but found we needed a little more length than wire could give us; the Axia folks were very helpful and helped us pick out the media converter boxes and the fiber link.
How was set-up and configuration?
Pretty darn simple. When I got the Axia audio nodes, they were already pre-configured; we just basically hooked them up and they worked. We plugged in our sources, adjusted the input level, and off it went! The system has been in operation since October of 2003 and I haven't touched it once.
Well, that's not entirely true. I did unplug it one day by accident… but I just plugged it back in, and it came right back up.
Do you have any suggestions for future Axia products?
Well, the DB-9 connectors on my equipment were a bit of a hassle; I'd prefer plugs to be laid out in a different way so that they're not so tightly spaced. But I've been told that the Axia engineers have already addressed this by revising the gear to use RJ-45 jacks instead of the DB-9, so my point may be moot.
Overall, is Axia something you'd feel comfortable recommending to a friend or colleague?
Yes. It's a great product, and in fact I have already recommended it to our company's regional engineer.
Thanks for your time, John.