This article originally appeared in Pro Sound News as part of its “Innovations” series
The rise of streaming services and increased competition for the attention of listeners is forcing the radio market to look for innovative ways to engage with their audiences. Modern radio stations are finding that they need to operate in a multitude of ways to connect with different target audiences. The flexibility to dynamically interact with listeners’ presents opportunities for both radio stations, their advertisers and stakeholders.
For both traditional and streaming stations to effectively compete in this evolving marketplace a product is needed that allows not only the broadcaster, but the individual presenter to present the show how they want to. With over 50 years of broadcast experience, that’s where Calrec Audio comes into play. Calrec has always worked closely with customers and end-users to define their exact needs. During the development of Type R in 2016, we visited numerous radio stations and spoke to many engineers and radio specialists to study their workflows.
The result of our research and development is a new range of customizable, expandable and flexible radio systems. The desk marks our return to the radio market, which has not been addressed since the late 1990s, most notably with the X series and X2 consoles that were designed for the BBC English regions.
With Type R, we’re entering the market with a fully developed product designed for any radio station, anywhere across the globe. The conditions are perfect to re-enter the radio market as technology is catching up with prevailing market demands. Calrec is ideally positioned to use its knowledge of broadcasting infrastructures to design a console that meets these demands.
This is especially true with the market push towards IP-based systems as radio has embraced IP quicker than other broadcast sectors. This shifting technological landscape is very exciting to us and we feel it is the perfect time to re-emerge into the radio market. The widespread acceptance of open IP standards provides the opportunity to create a very stable and flexible backbone that can be used across multiple radio sites.
This industry shift has been instrumental in the design of Type R, which is based entirely on this ethos, with AES67 compatible audio transport and panel connectivity utilizing power over COTS POE+ switches. Type R is equipped to meet the future demands of the AoIP environment, including industry standard NMOS discovery and control as well as utilizing a facility’s existing IP infrastructure to accelerate the move towards interoperability.
The main challenge was to create a product that could be moulded into a solution that would work for many workflows – from small simple solutions to large complex networks. It became apparent that in radio, like television, every station works in a different way. On top of that, things can be very different from show to show. We wanted to design something that could work in a variety of hugely complex environments yet be simple and easy to use.
We overcame that by designing a product that is highly configurable and modular, so it can be tailored to the requirements of the station and the talent. Once the soft panels and user-definable elements have been configured and locked down by the technical engineer, the simple GUI means that operating Type R is very easy. Different set-ups can be loaded quickly between shows, so everyone can feel comfortable operating it. This is a key difference between Type R and its competitors. The soft panels can be laid out to present just what the operator wants to see down to the individual control level.
Type R is capable of presenting the operators with a very simple user interface or for complex applications all the controls needed for a full production console. This radio system is a modern and customer focused radio broadcast console that adapts to a station’s needs as its requirements evolve, and provides simple customization across networks, control protocols and surface personalization. Type R guarantees stations are not only able to keep pace with changing demands but provides the opportunity to ignite their audiences with new and innovative programming.
The key challenge for radio stations is to connect in a more personalized way with their audiences. Dynamic interaction with their listeners through social media, call-ins and visual radio are enabling radio stations to compete with the growth of streaming services. Radio presenters are a big attraction for audiences and the ability to configure and tailor the workplace environment to allow them to focus on what makes their show unique is becoming more valuable.
Type R has been designed to be adaptable and expandable for both hardware and software elements, and development will continue in the future. The initial response from the industry has been extremely positive. It has reinvigorated Calrec’s current network of distributors and has attracted new prospective customers and distributors. We are very excited about entering the radio market again, and based on the feedback we have received so far, Type R is going to be a highly competitive radio solution.