BY KEN BURNS
Christian Family Radio is a contemporary Christian station in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We broadcast 24 hours per day, with a mix of contemporary Christian music, and syndicated Christian talk radio. Our signal is heard in nearly 25 counties in Kentucky, and nearly 11 in northern Tennessee.
In addition to our Bowling Green station, we have a repeater station in Owensville, and an 800-watt station in Glasgow. Our transmitter site is 75 miles away from the main station, and we had been sending our signal with a microwave hop, but as the spectrum is becoming more crowded, it no longer works well for us anymore. So we had to come up with another solution.
The internet signal in our area is inherently unreliable. We have our STL connected to a 10 Mbps fiber connection, and it will drop out fairly frequently – sometimes once or twice a day, occasionally even once or twice an hour. Most people, other than radio stations who need a constant stream, wouldn’t notice. But we definitely do. Our previous IP STL equipment was regularly failing, and listeners were noticing the gaps in our programming.
But since installing the BRIC-Link II, we haven’t experienced any of the audio loss that plagued us before. I can see the connection falter when I’m monitoring the media statistics, so I know the internet is no more reliable than it was before. However, when the connection stutters, the audio does not drop out. In testing, the unit has been able to handle network dropouts as long as three or four seconds, which our previous solution couldn’t do.
CrossLock mode has made all the difference. We have a secondary network connected, and when CrossLock is enabled, our BRIC-Link II sends an identical stream as a redundancy. CrossLock intelligently monitors the connections, and if our primary network falters, it seamlessly transitions to the second audio path. The dropout is inaudible, and the transmission stays completely smooth. The robustness of CrossLock connections has taken care of the faultiness in our transmissions, which has fixed the majority of the problems we were having with our old IP solution.
Setting up CrossLock was simple for us. We made a Switchboard account, and then were able to get everything connected easily. All of our settings and router information is saved in our account, so we don’t need to re-enter anything when making adjustments. During installation, I experienced a little bit of a learning curve, because the BRIC-Link II has so many features and capabilities. But once I’d played with it for a day or two, I had learned my way around it, and felt completely comfortable using the unit.
Because the majority of our programming is music, sound quality is very important to us. We use BRIC-Link II’s HE-AAC codecs, to ensure we’re not overloading our already limited bandwidth. They supply excellent audio, and I’ve been able to adjust the settings to make them sound the way we need them to. We’ve also been able to set the buffer to five seconds, which is appropriate for our programming purposes, and this has helped us manage our faulty connection.
The reliability of BRIC-Link II has made it worth the upfront cost. BRIC-Link II with CrossLock has eliminated the uncertainty in our STL, and restored our confidence in our audio path.
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Ken Burns is the operations manager for Christian Family Radio.