New Life Radio is a Christian format station that plays a mixture of music and syndicated programming from different parts of the country. We have two non-profit non-commercial FM stations in Atlanta (90.7 and 91.7). As part of our nonprofit model, we also help build radio stations in other countries too. We’ve built nine stations in Papua New Guinea, and we helped build a station on the island of Bonaire with Trans World Radio that covers a lot of South and Central America.

Jim Stewart of New Life Radio showing the Comrex Opal user interface

Jim Stewart, Operations Director, with Opal in hand. ACCESS and Opal rackmounts can be seen in the rack behind Jim.

Because we do so much work internationally, we were very interested in Opal for overseas call-ins. Initially, we tested Opal in our studio for two weeks through Comrex’s demo program. We tested it locally, and it performed well enough that we decided to buy our own. We installed it right before I went on a trip to Israel, which provided a perfect opportunity to test it internationally. I tried it from the iPhone on a boat on the sea of Galilee. The network we had access to on the water was patchy, but we still managed to get some good quality audio. Then, from the hotel room near Tiberius, using the hotel’s wireless, the connection and audio was spot-on! Studio quality, with no perceptible delay whatsoever!

So far we’re very pleased. From hotel rooms and places with 4G services, the audio sounds excellent. We do a lot of interviews with authors and artists, and we hope to use Opal for those. All they have to do is click a link to get connected. Even if they use it on their smartphone, it’s going to be a much better connection than a standard telephone connection.

We’ve been using Comrex for a long time. We started out years ago with one of the early devices that came out, and then purchased an ACCESS. We have a broadcast trailer, which is effectively a fancy RV that lets us connect back to the studio. We take it out to county fairs and concerts and various events and set it up and use our ACCESS to broadcast live.

But the Opal gives us another option. We’ll be able to be on the air with the ACCESS unit from a county fair, and have two of our staff members somewhere else in the fairgrounds on Opal, all linked together back in the main studio. We can use Opal as a tool to let staff members report in from an event. This gives us the option to be able to have staff mingling with the crowd on their smartphone through Opal.

One of the other things we’re planning to do is to use it in studio. We host events from our studio, like our annual fund-raisers called Sharathons. We often have staff members who will be in the telephone room rather than in the primary studio, and we’ll want to check in with them live. Opal will let them do drop-ins without any fuss, live from our own office building!

We were very pleased to learn that when we set up our Opal, there’s a way to put our station logo into Opal. So when our guests click our link through their iPhone or computer, they see our logo on the Opal home page. It’s really helpful for artists and authors who are doing press tours and don’t know much about us – they can look at their screen while talking and the name of our radio station, which will make it easier for them to name drop us.

Opal fits right into our tight non-profit budget. We’re excited about it – it’s going to open up a lot of doors for our programming.

See Opal in action!

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This user report was originally published in Radio World.

Joe Emert is the president of Life Radio Ministries.