Lawo Supplies New Equipment for Radio Stations in United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Nepal
Lawo handled mixing routing, and control for Sharjah’s new Pulse 95 Radio, the first English-language station in the United Arab Emirates. Also, the German broadcast company helped Kuala Lumpur’s Astro Radio standardize their virtual studio technology. In addition, HITS FM 91.2, Nepal’s no. 1 radio station, has installed a Lawo crystal radio broadcast console — the first placement of a Lawo system in Nepal.
Lawo Has Fingers on the Pulse of New UAE Radio Station
Billed as “The Heart of Sharjah”, Pulse 95 promises a focus on news of the latest business and commercial developments from within the Emirate, accompanied by exclusive interviews, features, morning talks, evening segments, and a blend of music. The voice of Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council was among the first to be heard on station, when he took questions about the venture on-air.
“The launch of Pulse 95 is an exciting venture into a new market for Sharjah Media Corporation. We have seen a real need to fill the gap in English language output, particularly when so many of the emirate’s residents use English in their day-to-day lives and increasingly conduct business in English,” he says. “Pulse 95 is also bringing listeners top-of-the- charts music in an acoustic format, in-line with the brand of the station and its talk radio style. We have ensured that every aspect of the content is consistent and the introduction of the acoustic music element follows that perfectly, being complementary rather than intrusive.”
SMC has equipped the station with a pair of Lawo systems comprising ruby control surfaces with accompanying Power Core mixing engines and VisTool user interfaces. The installation is an extension of an existing NOVA17 Mk.II router already operated by SMC.
Supporting from four to 60 faders and being fully AES67-compliant, ruby consoles offer AutoMix smart mixing and a context sensitive GUI through VisTool. While the physical mixing surface carries faders, source selectors, monitor controls, less frequently accessed features such as routing selections are available via context-sensitive multi-touch displays.
The Power Core engine supports hundreds of AES67 and MADI I/O channels, and can be expanded with plug-in cards to accommodate further digital and analog sources. It natively offers 96 DSP channels, multiple AutoMix groups, and a 1920 x 1920 internal routing matrix.
Pulse 95 Radio presents itself as a feel-good station that showcases Sharjah’s rich cultural heritage — without limiting itself to an exclusively English-speaking audience.
Although Pulse 95 is the first English station in Sharjah, it is not aiming purely at listeners who are native English speakers. Pulse 95 is an option for people who understand English and still enjoy the format and content of the shows even though it may not be their first language. The station’s goal is to be “a totally inclusive, fun, trusted, feel-good station, bringing the listeners positive, upbeat stories of real people.”
Astro Radio Makes “High Stakes” Commitment to Lawo Virtual Mixing
Astro began operation in 1996 using a cutting-edge audio routing system and digital broadcast consoles custom manufactured to meet its specific technical requirements. By 2006, greater functionality was required to simplify studio workflows and to allow on-air talent to focus on content.
“We took the best features of our first console, analyzed common operator mistakes and asked for improvement suggestions, then we condensed this data into a comprehensive document and presented it as our mandate to Lawo — whose response was the Zirkon-2s modular broadcast console,” says Bala Murali Subramaney, Astro Raido Chief Technology Officer. “The Zirkon-2s was simplicity personified in both form and function. For example, a press of a macro button could simultaneously record telephone calls, edit talksets and run an outside broadcast.”
This success has now taken Astro Radio to its third generation of console for new studios in Kuala Lumpur as, in 2017, the operation acquired two new radio stations and needed space for new on-air studios, producer workstations, and equipment room — on top of its existing 13 on-air studios, seven news studios, three voice booths, eight audio production studios and edit suites, and six equipment rooms. Plans for the consoles and routing system were already in hand, when the station relocated to share premises with other Astro company divisions in order to accommodate its expanded studio requirements.
“In mid-2016, we had begun sketching out plans for a virtual console, which would challenge the industry perception of a broadcast console,” Subramaney recalls. “We wanted to radically re-imagine what an on-air studio would look like, including what to fit inside the studio and what to leave out. The studio environment would impact how the on-air talent uses the technology inside the studio with the new virtual console as its focal point.
“Our mandate to the interior designer was to create designs for three on-air studios that were minimalistic, stunning, functional, and meet Noise Criteria (NC) rating 20. We wanted designs that would inspire our on-air talent to deliver compelling content on-air and on-line for today’s radio.”
The mixing requirements were all met by Lawo’s Virtual Console, whose control surface is software, driven by a multi-touch interface on a high-resolution computer display, and which had been successfully the trialed in Astro Radio’s news room. Without the limitations of physical knobs, buttons, and faders, the screen presents users with only relevant controls and information, hiding anything not needed for the task at hand.
Along with screen brightness and reliability — which the Virtual Console comfortably addressed — operational flexibility and cost had ranked high among Astro Radio’s concerns. “A great advantage of the Virtual Console is the cost-savings over physical consoles — there is no need to stock-up on console spare parts and accessories. It is also aesthetically more pleasing to the eyes, and gentle on the hands,” Subramaney says.
Astro Radio’s on-air talent is drawn from established online personalities with huge followings, allowing it to grow its radio listenership through online streaming and on social media platforms, as well as FM broadcasts. Presenters are not necessarily conversant with broadcast technology, however.
Use of the Virtual Console also offers a faster software development cycle: “We are able to develop new features and functionality both for default and user-specific snapshots. We can easily customize the console layout — or skins — re-design and re-size fader and button shapes and colors, incorporate macros, and GPIO signaling. This flexibility gives us the freedom to explore new possibilities in console design paradigm. For example, we added more channel faders per screen and moved monitoring controls to a pop-up screen.
“We took a huge risk by implementing fully touchscreen Virtual Consoles, but from the faces of our on-air talent and their content managers, our ‘high-stakes’ gamble has paid off handsomely,” Subramaney concludes.
Lawo Crystal on the Roof of the World for Nepal’s HITS FM 91.2
After thoroughly researching the market and scrutinizing several manufacturers’ products, Lawo most impressed the technical team with the quality, flexibility, and ease-of-use of its consoles. A key consideration in HITS FM’s choice was Lawo’s constantly growing popularity and reputation for solid German engineering combined with high-quality and innovative solutions for radio broadcast. The decision process included discussions via phone between the station’s technical and management team, and Lawo Sales Director for Southeast Asia, Tan Boon Siong, who answered the team’s questions with detailed information about the crystal console, its technical integration and the workflow options it offers. Also in focus was the support Lawo could give to customers.
After a few months of debate, Lawo was awarded the order and delivered a 12-fader split version crystal with countersunk kit and analog extension IO.
The radio broadcast mixing system was delivered with pre-configured settings. After two phone calls between HITS FM’s independent Technical Consultant and Siong to understand the basic setup, the team was able to modify and fine-tune the system — a clear indication that the crystal with the powerful VisTool is easy to set up and adapt to the requirements and to provide full functionality for different operational needs.
Crystal is the cost-effective entry point to Lawo world of mixing, offering all of the flexibility and customizability for which Lawo is renowned, along with a future-proof investment for both commercial and public broadcasters. With crystal, RAVENNA/AES67 compatibility is available — smart technology, ready to use. The latest generation of crystal mixing consoles comes with VisTool, powerful touchscreen-optimized PC software for extended visualization and control of crystal installations. In its basic version, VisTool is designed for clear visualization, while the unlimited version of VisTool can be customized to meet any requirements, displaying all parameters or only those essential to operators’ needs.