Kids, Grandmas, and the E-1


When we sent off a new WheatNet-IP system with E-1 control surfaces to Casey Radio near Melbourne late last year, we knew the system was headed into rough territory.

Casey Radio 97.7 is a community station on the outskirts of Melbourne run by 80 volunteers. Some are retirees who spin their favorite Frank Sinatra records on Technics turntables. Others are high schoolers who like to push the subs all the way down to the basement.

All shared the same studios and consoles, but had very different views of what to expect when the station transitioned from old analog consoles with punch-block routing to newer Wheatstone digital consoles with WheatNet-IP intelligent routing.

“I was especially concerned about one of our older volunteers and thought that going digital could very well be the end of broadcasting for her. But she’s doing quite well. She can actually see more clearly if a channel is on or off, and it’s a lot easier for her to put together a program,” says Stuart Merrick, the technician for Casey Radio. Merrick worked with local Wheatstone rep Ian Thomson, now with Agile Broadcast, to set up simple presets in the E-1 consoles so that volunteers can change the surface to their style of programming with the touch of a button.

A volunteer presenting a talk program requiring several microphones and a telephone interface can hit one of four programmable buttons on the E-1 and all the channels change to that setup. Another volunteer presenting a music format requiring access to several CD players and only one mic can press another programmable button on the E-1 for that particular setup.

“I had initial doubts that all our volunteers could make the transition, but digital gives us so much more flexibility,” says Merrick, who also had doubts that the community station, which is funded mainly by the city council, could afford to move up to audio-over-IP technology.

Casey Radio purchased the WheatNet-IP system with two E-1 consoles, six BLADE access units and three WheatNet-PC Software BLADEs for not much more than an analog equivalent would have cost. “I didn’t realize at first that IP technology was within our reach,” adds Merrick.

Merrick tells us that the Wheatstone consoles and IP network are holding up to the workload and the variety of operator styles. With the studio project on the books, he is now on to his next IT project. Recently, he ordered our Glass-E virtual mixer interface for his laptop and is using this with his Tieline codec to get complete control of the consoles from any offsite location with wireless access.

He sent us an update recently telling us he’s used the setup to remotely control one of the E-1 control surfaces from the sidelines of a football game, and again to remotely recover settings on an E-1 for one volunteer – while sitting in his parked car.

With 80 station volunteers running the controls, one never knows when one might need to make a remote emergency console adjustment from time to time.


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