Breakaway Broadcast

I am a strong proponent of non-computer based air chain processors.  Something about listening to dead air while the computer reboots is annoying and every computer needs to be rebooted every now and again.

All of that being said, I recently had a chance to play around with Breakaway Broadcast audio processing software.  I have to say, as a low cost, very versatile platform, it can not be beat.  I would put it up against any of the high end FM audio processing, provided one uses a high quality sound card with an adequate sample rate.

Claesson Edwards Audio has developed several software based audio processors for a variety of end uses.   They make several recommendations for hardware and operating systems, Pentium 4 3.2 GHz or better, dual core preferred.  If one is interested in used the sound card to generate composite audio, then any sound card capable of true 192 KHz sample rate will work.  They list several that have been successfully tested on their web site.

For approximately $1,200 dollars or so, one could buy a decent computer, the Breakaway Broadcast software and the Airomate RDS generator software.  For a Mom and Pop, LP or community radio station that is looking to do some high end audio processing and or RDS, that is a good deal.  I would add a UPS to the computer and keep back up copies of the software installed on an emergency computer just in case.  One can never be too safe when it comes to computers, viruses, hackers and other malicious persons.

Things that I like

  1. Inexpensive, the fully licensed version is $200.00.  The demo version is free but there is a 30 second promo every thirty minutes.
  2. There are several factory presets, but everything is fully configurable, changes can be named and saved allowing some experimentation.
  3. Audio cards with 192 KHz sample rate or greater can be used to generate composite audio, eliminating the need for a separate stereo generator
  4. RDS capable with additional software (Airomate2, approximate cost $35.00)
  5. The same processing computer can be used for streaming audio and or AM audio processing simultaneously.
  6. Full set of audio calibration tools for AM and FM transmitters, allows correction for tilt, overshoot and linerity.  Can add pre-emphasis at any user selectable rate.
  7. Fully adjustable phase rotators.

Things that I don’t generally like:

  1. Computer based system using Windoze operating system

WXPK in White Plains, NY has been using this software to process their streaming audio for about 2 years now.  The software itself is extremely stable running on a stand alone Windows box with XP service pack 2.

How expensive is online radio these days?

iphone 3GSI read a very good and interesting post on James Critland’s blog.  He is somewhat concerned about the trend for mobile wireless providers to no longer offer unlimited data service for a flat fee.  I find it interesting that all of these companies seemed to have reached the same conclusions at the same time.  But anyway…

The general surmise of James’ post is that the average person will not be able to afford online radio through a 3 or 4G device because of the limited minutes available and the additional charges incurred.  (35 quid is about $50.00) To make that meaningful to a US audience, I decided to redo some of James’ math.

Iphones are primarily serviced through ATT.  ATT has two different data plans that are coupled with voice plans in a bundle.  For example, a 450 minute voice plan and a 200 Mb data plan will cost $55.00.  At 900 minute voice plan with a 2 Gb data plan will run $85.00.

Here are a few interesting tid bits and some good math:

  • A 64 kbps stream runs 7.68 kb per second, or 460 kb per minute (1 kilo bit per second = 0.12 kilo bytes)
  • 1 hour of online listening equals 27,640 k bytes of data transfered
  • The 200 Mb plan cost $15.00 with voice plan, the 2 Gb plan cost $25.00 with voice plan
  • The 200 Mb plan would allow for 7 hours of listen time if no other data use occurred
  • The 2 Gb plan would allow for 72 hours of listen time if no other data use occurred
  • Beyond those data transfer amounts, extra charges are incurred

Almost 50% of the time spent listening to all radio source (terrestrial, satellite, online) is in the car.   The average person in the US listens to radio about 3 hours per day, or 90 hours per month.  Half of that time would be 45 hours or so.

Clearly, anyone who is more than a casual listener of online radio will need the 2 Gb plan.  However, given the paucity of entertainment available from traditional radio sources, this is not an outlandish amount to pay.  I remember in the 70’s when folks were saying cable TV would never catch on.