September 2009
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If it ain’t broke, break it

One thing that I find a little annoying is the continuing need to reboot everything at some interval.  Computers in the studio, audio vault servers and work stations, e-mail servers, files servers, network routers, and so on.  Got a problem, first thing to do is cycle the power off and on…

One of the most irritating pieces of equipment is the audio processors on one of our FM stations.  A few years ago, we purchased the whiz bang Omnia 6 processor.  Every 6 or 8 months the thing losses its mind and sounds terrible.  The station gets all bassy and the high end sounds distorted.  I have tried everything I can think of to prevent this, including installing an UPS, extra grounding, extra shielding, software updates, etc.  In the end, it just has to be rebooted, which of course, means several seconds of dead air.  Naturally, this processor is at the FM transmitter site, where it is difficult to get to.

Truth be told, when it is working, it does sound pretty good on the air, but is it $10,000 dollars better than the older Optimod 8100A?  No, it is not.

The old Orban Optimods sound pretty good as long as they are re-capped and aligned every so often.  If fact, our number one billing station has an AC format and uses an Optimod 8100A and nothing else.  Our other station in the same market uses an Optimod 8100A and a pair of Texar Audio Prisms. In the ten years I have been working for this group of radio stations, I have never had to reboot the Optimod or the Audio Prisms, they just seem to work continuously without problems. Imagine that.

I have seen this called a “retro audio chain” by some.  Nothing retro about it, a little care and feeding and I’d stack this equipment up against an Omnia 6 any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

This is a grainy video of an 8100A  in action:

That was taken in our rack room using off air audio on the rack room speakers and a cheap video camera. You get the idea.

So here is to Frank Foti and his marketing gurus that have sold all of the program directors in America on the need to “update” there air chain processors, because, you know, the Optimod, that is old skool.

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8 comments to If it ain’t broke, break it

  • J. Aegerter

    This must be a Canadian video because I couldn’t watch it! A message came on with the usual BS about copyright infringement and that I couldn’t watch it “in my country”! WOW, must be a “Conspiracy Theory” in order to watch a meter dancing to an audio signal! Sorry, Canada has drastically changed for the worse!

  • admin

    Yes, stupid youtube. I’ll have to shoot another one with a different song.

  • Phil Beckman

    The 8100A with the XT chassis is probably the best ‘audio chain’ made by Bob Orban. Even without the XT chassis, it’s a great box. And I’m a big fan of the corresponding AM version, the 9100. Excellent boxes that produce really great audio.
    (I also like the Max brothers for AM)

  • Mac

    The 8100A/1 and Texar Prism combination sounded great in the late 80s – and continues to sound just as good. Just because it’s a few years on doesn’t change anything. I agree that a properly set up system using these units can be every bit as compelling as the modern digital boxes, if not better.

  • marquitos

    Thanks you for showing this mythical peace of hardware, in this era.

  • Kent Teffeteller

    I still prefer the old Orban Optimod 8100 A on light settings with the Texar Audio Prisms to any new processor for most formats. Sounds much cleaner and vastly more reliable in real world radio use. A classic.

  • sPoTwArEz

    Correctly mantained Optimod 8100A + realigned TEXAR Prisms (with new Vactrols) + Compellor 320 or Orban Compellor and you still are UNBEATEBLE.
    Forget about all the plastic Omnia Digicrap, they may still sound a bit louder, but NEVER BETTER.
    Also, don’t forget loudness war is over.
    BOB is the master if the game 😉 such old tech, still sooooo awesome…..
    Do you think Omnias will also rock the boat in 30 years , like 8100 still do………..?
    Perhaps in your dreams!

  • JesseG

    You guys should still hear the new Omnia.9, created by Leif Claesson, with assistance from myself, Hans van Zutphen, and a few others.

    Anyways, it has a preset “1981A/O92” which I personally cleared with Bob Orban. One of the sounds to check out, if you get a demo in, or run across one with a spare processing path available to play around with.

    The clipper in the 9 is really what makes it blow away everything before it, in terms of openness and clarity, lack of distortion, etc. Easily twice as loud as an 8100 too, which *must* be taken into account in any fair comparison.

    Speaking of, if you guys want to actually compare on-air sounds fairly, removing the possibility for any cheating, check out MpxTool. (mpxtool d0t com) It’s basically a composite audio playback tool, with a complete mod monitor, spec, and ofc demodulator/deemphasizer. 🙂 Cheers, and keep these old machines HEALTHY. Our friends Bill & Kim are doing some great things for it still, and I hear they have a new PSU for it that’s mind blowingly good. I still wanna hear one with it. 🙂

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