Stations Go Livewire Route With Axia by Mark Smith

Stations Go Livewire Route With Axia by Mark Smith
The Newspaper for Radio Managers and Engineers
Stations Go Livewire Route With Axia
Denver Radio Co. Likes Easy Wiring, Lack of
Central Router and Livewire IP Audio Protocol
by Mark Smith
Director of Engineering
Denver Radio Co.
DENVER I have installed numerous consoles in several studios in the last 20+
years from just about every manufacturer.
I was used to installing audio consoles
with big bundles of good old reliable wire.
I ran across the Axia system at an
NAB show a few years ago, and at first I
was not sure about installing a console
that’s essentially a computer on an
Ethernet LAN. It took me a while to get
my head around an audio board that had
no wires running between the studio and
master control. But after a while I got
past this old-line kind of thinking — and
I am glad I did, because I got a chance to
do something that not everyone gets to
do: build two new radio stations from the
ground up.
The Denver Radio Co. purchased two
“move-in” stations, and we built the studio facility with all new equipment mostly from Axia and Telos. We had little time
to install the studios, less than 13 days
from the time the studio and master control areas were finished to the day we had
to go on the air.
Fortunately, I made the decision to go
with Axia. The system arrived about a
month before we had to start the installation.
I set up and pre-configured the system
in my house along with my IT manager,
Lee Damschroder, while we waited to
take possession of the new studio suite.
This saved us many hours when “crunch
time” came, requiring us to get the studios
built and on the air in a hurry. I cannot
imagine having gotten the first three of
our five studios installed in such short
the console outputs and audio nodes, and
developing an IP address scheme to
allow us to identify each Axia component and audio source through the
browser interface.
It only took a short time to learn how to
configure the consoles and audio nodes,
Smith, shown with the Axia system, likes that Axia networks
have no central router to fail: ‘Every console, audio node and router
is a stand-alone unit. This offers great risk distribution.’
order if we had decided to use a conventional system.
CAT-5 for audio?
The process of setting up the Axia system wasn’t hard, but it was different than
we were used to.
Lee and I worked out a good numbering scheme for all the sources, which are
unique to each studio and the master
control room. This included numbering
Copyright 2007 IMAS Publishing (USA), Inc. Reprinted with permission.
and after a few days we became pros at
setting up the system. After that, installation became “plug-and-play,” as every
console source, profile and input had been
I also spent several evenings fabricating XLR-to-RJ-45 connectors with Cat-5
so the wiring was the correct length and
ready to go when we mounted the equipment in the racks.
I know what you are thinking: Cat-5
computer cable for audio? I was used to
standard audio cable, but soon got past
that as well. Category cable is twisted so
it offers excellent rejection to noise, and
the audio is all balanced so we have had
no trouble with noise even though there is
an FM transmitter right next door (which
I had to filter out of speakers and several
other things). I have never heard it in the
Axia system, or on our air.
Additionally, the impedance of the
Cat-5 wire is close to the 110 ohms preferred for AES runs.
With Axia, every new audio node or
other equipment that is Axia-aware automatically shows up on the network whenever it is plugged in. As we fired up new
nodes, they would appear one-by-one and
we’d make routing assignments. I built
the KSYY(FM) studio in one afternoon,
and it was ready to go on the air. I can’t
Wiring is easy. I don’t have a single
DA or punch block in the building.
When I talked to Rod Graham at Arrakis,
which built my studio furniture, he wanted to know how big the hole for the wire
needed to be and how many punch
blocks I needed. He thought I was joking
when I said I just have one small cable
from the console and no blocks at all.
Sorry, Rod, there isn’t anything there
other than a few wires for monitors and
Axia’s newest console software provides EQ for all sources, and great audio
processing for each mic source, with
compression and de-essing capabilities
similar to the familiar Symetrix 528E.
Plus, the Axia microphone nodes can take
anything from microphone to line level,
and provide phantom power. There is
really no need for an outboard mic pro-
I was used to standard audio cable, but soon
got past that. Category cable is twisted so it
offers excellent rejection to noise.
say it would have been that easy had we
chosen another console manufacturer and
had to run wires to each channel.
Consider this
There are several great features the
Axia system offers. Here are a few things
to consider when you decide to build your
next studio.
Axia networks have no central router to
fail. Every console, audio node, router,
etc. is a stand-alone unit. This offers great
risk distribution. In the event that any one
of these devices should fail, it would be a
local failure and would not jeopardize the
system. It is easy to move program output
between studios, and you can configure
profiles for any scenario you might think
of, which can be loaded to make any console “on-air” ready in seconds.
There are no direct connections to the
console. Audio enters at 1 RU rack units
that have eight inputs and outputs, and
becomes a networked source that can be
made available to any console and
become part of any profile.
cessor anymore, which eliminates even
more wire and is another box in the line to
either fail or induce noise into your mic
Best of all, these settings can either be
permanently associated with the source or
loaded as part of a specific show profile.
This means you can make customized
console settings for any jock, which can
include individual microphone processing, board layout and source EQ.
The days of live off-the-air monitoring
have passed, but the Axia guys have a
solution for that too. You can select an
Omnia processing preset and additional
EQ for the headphone monitor channel,
so that on-air talent can still enjoy “super
stun” in their headphones while you process your station’s sound separately.
I also have noticed that audio throughout the system is super clean, likely due to
reducing or eliminating digital conversions and keeping everything in the same
Axia is built around the “Livewire”
standard, which is a protocol for trans-
Copyright 2007 IMAS Publishing (USA), Inc. Reprinted with permission.
porting audio over IP networks. A driver
can be installed in your on-air and production computers that eliminates the
need for expensive audio cards and drops
the audio directly into the network via
When the driver is loaded, it looks to
the computer just like any standard audio
card, so it works with any audio production software. Most automation companies are collaborating with Axia to provide Livewire output with their system.
The driver that comes from the automation companies gives the computer on
which it is loaded 16 stereo ins and outs,
but you can get a single-stream version
for audio workstations.
It is nice to see an audio computer with
no audio card, but it’s even nicer not to
have to use a 1/8 inch unbalanced audio
jack to feed your professional audio system.
Telos is now including Livewire on the
Zephyr Xstream, its latest phone systems
and Omnia audio processors. Other
equipment makers are catching on as
well. Some of these devices don’t even
need audio connections — just a power
cord and a 100Base-T Ethernet connection to your Axia network. You can configure them through your Internet browser without even having to visit the device
in person.
The days of having to go to the studio
and hook up wires, and saying “no” to
individual operator settings, is now over
— and the transition is virtually painless.
As more equipment manufacturers begin
to include Livewire connections, life will
get easier and easier.
From day one, the air talent just came
in and started playing the hits and I have
had exceptionally few questions or operator problems. It is an extremely powerful
system, but for the operator, exceptionally intuitive and easy to learn. Every
change is as easy as browsing the
Internet, and I can quickly change a profile for any reason.
After making the jump from installing
traditional audio systems to IP networks
with Livewire, I can’t imagine installing a
standard audio console again.
For more information, including pricing, contact Axia Audio in Cleveland
at (216) 241-7225 or visit www.
Reprinted from Radio World
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