NAB Show 2017

Posted on Posted in Musings, Radio

After several years of saying I wanted to go to Las Vegas for NAB, this year I finally did it. And what a fantastic time it was!

I arrived in Las Vegas Saturday evening… just enough time to check into the hotel (MGM Grand, in case you care) and lose $40 in the slot machines. Wasn’t out too late as I had to be at it early on Sunday.

Sunday morning it was go-time bright and early for the Nautel User Group (NUG) session at Paris Las Vegas. If you have several Nautel transmitters like I do, then NUG is totally worth your time. A lot of great stories on other stations that used their Nautel transmitter to save money, do something cool, etc., and a lot of tips and tricks I definitely plan to implement at my sites. They also made three product announcements (which would of course be unveiled at the main show), the biggest of which is a new HD Radio Importer/Exporter in one box. Looks like a very cool design! And they also previewed the AUI Companion, so you can see your Nautel’s AUI from your phone.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all spent walking the floor of the show. As someone who doesn’t always (read: never!) get out to the trade shows, and is in a smaller market that doesn’t see all the toys, it was really great to see what every vendor has to offer and try out all the gear that you keep seeing in the trades. I won’t go into everything I saw, but here are the highlights:

Me at the Inovonics booth with InoMini Man.

Inovonics: They have really gone crazy (in a good way!) with their InoMini line. There are now over a dozen InoMini devices that do a multitude of tasks: AM and FM/HD tuners, FM processors, audio monitors, etc. They also showed off their new AM Modulation Monitor with network connectivity, and the FM Mod Monitor with network connectivity that they showed off last year. I consider their products to be budget friendly; they aren’t top of the line, but for the price they are pretty darn good. I have lots of their boxes and am pleased with them. Plus I got to meet InoMini Man (or a cardboard facsimile).

Orban: They are fresh off their merger with DaySequerra, and have some new products to show for that. One that caught my eye is their new TimeLock, that monitors the output of your FM and HD1 and lines them up for you. While HD drift is becoming less and less of a problem, it is still a problem nonetheless, and great to see they have a box to cure that. They also showed off the Optimod 8700i. Okay box… it sounds like an Optimod. I’ll let you judge if that’s good or bad.

Outside the Telos booth at NAB 2017.

Telos/Omnia/Axia: Telos had probably the busiest booth of all the radio vendors, and its pretty clear to see why. On display was the Omnia SST, their software based PC audio processor that has all the bells and whistles of the Omnia 9 and 11, plus MicroMPX. Also was their new Omnia Volt. Cornelius Gould, the main developer of the Volt, gave me a full demo and it looks (and sounds) amazing. They took a lot of what they learned with their venerable Omnia 11, and put in the Volt. Its a lot of great sound for the price point! On the Axia side, they showed off their new Axia IP tablet software that will remote control their Fusion and Element consoles… it allows you to control every aspect of the console (and even multiple consoles at once!) with their Windows tablet based program. Very sweet. They also showed off their 25-Seven TVC-15 which will analyze watermarking in real time. I don’t do watermarking on my stations, so I really didn’t spend any time with that product. Overall, a great showing by Telos.

Wheatstone: The Wheaty folks were also on their game this year. They just a few months ago acquired the PR&E line from Harris GatesAir and already have a new PR&E console out that speaks Wheatnet. They also showed off their new VoxPro 7, which isn’t out for release yet but has a lot of great features. Clearly they are really backing that product after acquiring that two years ago. Their show stopper this year was their new audio processor, the AirAura X4. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Wheatstone/Vorsis processors, but the X4 sounds fantastic. Not sure if it beats out the Omnia 9’s and Omnia 11’s that I use, but its a very close second (or third as the case may be). They did a great job with it, and are really going after Omnia in the processing world. Which is great, because more competition means better and newer processors from both vendors (and both companies will tell you they like going after each other).

Comrex: I felt like Comrex got excluded from the show because they were in the Central Hall instead of the North Hall with all the radio vendors. But they do a lot of video stuff too, so who knows. Two items that caught my eye were their new Access NX, which is a new/updated version of the venerable Access which has really become ubiquitous in radio for remote broadcasts. In the update is a new user interface and a little better hardware and mixer. They also showed off the Opal, which is a web-based IP audio gateway for guests. Essentially, instead of a talk show guest calling in via the phone, they log into a station’s Opal through the web, and with a decent USB microphone can have full studio quality. Looks like an amazing concept that I think will take off.

A few folks from the “I Take Pictures of Transmitter Sites” Facebook group. From L to R: Me, Scottie Rice, Chris Hall, and Paul Walker. Photo credit: Paul Walker.

Those are just the highlights. There are SO many vendors at the show that its really hard to spend a lot of time with everyone.

The other big thing that really stuck out to me as a first-timer at NAB was getting to meet everyone. Not just the sales reps, or engineers from other stations you talk to on the Listserves or on Facebook. But in many cases I met the people that actually designed the product. Like Cornelius Gould who designed the Omnia 11 and the Omnia Volt. I got to briefly meet Frank Foti who is not only in charge at Telos but was the engineer for Z100 (yes, that Z100) when they launched the CHR format in 1983 and went from worst to first in one ratings book. And then there were people who had nothing to do with the products but are radio celebrities in their own right. Like Shotgun Tom Kelly and Jhani Kaye (of K-Earth 101 fame) who were roaming the radio hall.

And then there’s just the vibe of the show. There was a palpable sense of pride at the show; everyone there was proud and passionate about what they do in the industry. Even the video production folks came off that way. Broadcasting is one of those industries where you really have to be into what you do to have some success in it, and I could tell everyone there was very much into what they do. And as someone who has only been in the industry a few years (well, almost 8 years now. So more than a few. Lol), I just fed off that vibe.

It was truly an amazing 4 days in Vegas at the show. If you’ve ever contemplated going to NAB it’s totally worth it, even if its on your own dime like I did. If not to represent the company you work for, its a great way to better yourself as an engineer. I very much want to go again next year!

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