New Nautel V 7.5 FM transmitter

Behold, I do not work for Clear Channel.  I do not work for Cumulus, or Citadel.  The company I work for is not about to go bankrupt, in fact, we have purchased a brand new FM transmitter for the wretched mountain top transmitter site featured here.

Nautel V 7.5 FM transmitter
Nautel V 7.5 FM transmitter

Am I happy?  Oh yes I am. New transmitter = fewer midnight phone calls thus better quality of life for me and my family.  A solid state Nautel transmitter means fewer unscheduled trips to the transmitter site and better reliability.

As a result of consolidation and smaller engineering departments, almost my entire work day is now scheduled weeks in advance.  One little hiccup in the schedule can throw things off for days, resulting in many apologies, phone calls to reschedule, and general wasted time.

This is a V 7.5 FM transmitter, very likely the last V series transmitter Nautel ever makes.  They have moved on to the NV series.

It is replacing the Broadcast Electronics FM5A, which is 24 years old.  The BE has been a good transmitter, we lost a few rectifier stacks due to lightning over the years, but over all, it has been reliable and easy to repair when problems did arise.  This transmitter will be going into standby service.

The new transmitter, it sounds awesome.

Nautel V-40 FM transmitter

Yesterday, I threw out a transmitter.  I know there is probably some radio station out there that may have been able to use a 5 KW FM transmitter, but believe me, not that one.  There are limits to how much you can help out a fellow broadcaster.  Donating an FM transmitter that never really worked right in the first place is counter productive.

Anyway, to demostrate that I am not a total heel, here is my favorite brand of transmitter, Nautel:

Nautel V-40 transmitter (4 V-10 transmitters combined)
Nautel V-40 transmitter (4 V-10 transmitters combined)

I like Nautel because they are rugged, reliable and good looking.  Okay, good looking is low on the list of transmitter attributes, however, you have to admit, it is good looking.  It is also good sounding.  The night we switched over from the long in the tooth BE FM30A to the Nautel V-40 I noticed a marked improvement in the station’s sound.  It was like somebody switched off the background noise generator.

As the caption states, this is 4 V-10 transmitters combined with a ERI magic T combiner.  It is set up so that if any one transmitter fails or reduces power, the magic T combiner automatically adjusts for minimum rejected power, then the SC-1 controller turns up the other three transmitters to maintain the stations Transmitter Power Output (TPO).

TPO 28 KW
TPO 28 KW

In this case the TPO  is 28 KW, which is getting into the semi serious range for an FM station.   Nautel has updated their transmitter line, which now consists of the NV series transmitter.  The differences mainly have to do with the IPA module/PA module interchangeability (not interchangeable in the V series, fully interchangeable in the NV series) and the “Advanced User Interface.”  I don’t know, fancy touch screens are optional on FM transmitters as far as I am concerned.  It’s the underlying RF generating sections that I am most concerned about.

Nautel V-40 transmitter
Nautel V-40 transmitter

Another view.  Just for the useless trivia that is in it, the “V” in these transmitter names stands for “Virtuoso.”

Gates FM5G transmitter

Takes its rightful place in the world today, the scrap heap:

Gates FM5G carcass
Gates FM5G carcass

As EDWARD I of ENGLAND once said, “A man does good business to rid himself of a turd.”

Of course, he was speaking about Scottsman John Balliol and not some old cranky FM transmitter, but I understand that feeling.  The Gates and later Harris transmitters always seemed to be somewhat less than top notch. The 5G was no exception to this rule.  The final step for tuning the transmitter was to turn off the lights in the room and look down through the screen on top to make sure there were no little arcs in the PA tuning section.  It also had a way of self oscillating, which could make for some exciting tuning.

Gates FM-5G transmitter prior to disassembly
Gates FM-5G transmitter prior to disassembly

Good bye, I will not miss you.

In one of my past jobs, I worked in a RCA town.  I worked there long after the broadcast arm of that company went out of business, however, all of the broadcast transmitters, AM, FM, TV were made by RCA.   I had an RCA FM-20ES1 which was 22 years old, built like a tank and just kept going along.  I think that transmitter was finally destroyed in a fire, caused by it’s replacement transmitter.

Old Collins, Contenental, RCA and even Broadcast Electronics transmitters had some heft to them.  Of course, not every RCA transmitter was well thought out, the amplifuze series of AM transmitters were a maintenance nightmare.

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.