Radio & TV Audio > Brands > Products
Related Market News
Related Company News
Parsons Music Ltd 柏斯琴行
Telephone: 2506 1383, 2365 7078
Hong Kong’s Metro Broadcasting Corp is using audio-over-IP

Hong Kong’s Metro Broadcasting Corp is using audio-over-IP to future-proof its systems as radio broadcasting evolves at an ever-increasing rate. Richard Lawn reports

Metro Broadcast Corp in Hong Kong has been on the air for 24 hours a day for almost 20 years, broadcasting Metro Finance (FM 104), MetroInfo (FM 99.7) and Metro Plus (AM 1044) to its regular listeners. The radio station was the third in Hong Kong to receive a commercial licence but today offers more than just on-air programming, having also launched customised iPhone and smart-phone apps to offer a multimedia broadcasting service through mobile phones. Its website also offers – apart from live audio and video streaming – an online platform for much more diversified information.

The broadcaster set up its headquarters at Whampoa Gardens in Hunghom, Kowloon in 1991, moving to the current basement site owing to expansion in 1997. In 2000, Metro Radio set up another broadcasting station in Central’s The Centre on Hong Kong Island.

Senior engineering manager Tim Chan has been part of the fixtures and fittings in the basement overseeing all the programming needs since the radio station first went on air. The self-taught engineer has learned well over two decades, and the management team has largely given him a free licence to adopt new technologies as and when required, so long as it remains within a strict financial budget.

‘Our technical engineers were mainly educated by US technical experts and so they have adopted a more US style of setup,’ he asserts. ‘Compared to other stations in Hong Kong, we are more willing to experiment and pioneer new technologies. The audio technology being implemented today is becoming more IT-centric.’ In addition, the seven engineers who report to him increasingly have to receive more IT training. ‘There was a time when an engineer needed a toolbox with screwdrivers to fix a problem, but now he needs a laptop. Therefore we start to hire IT engineers working specifically for the broadcast system.’

In light of these changes, Mr Chan opted to start installing an IP-audio network in 2008, allowing Metro to decentralise the distribution of audio around the complex. Having researched what was available on the market, he called upon Digital Media Technologies (DMT) to supply and help design an Axia Livewire IP-audio network. This has not only allowed them to run the Livewire systems in both of their studios as a standalone on-air and production system, but it has also given Metro the opportunity to take advantage of Axia’s standards-based IP design. It has thus allowed the remote studios to interconnect for resource sharing and programme signal feeds.

The Livewire system allows broadcasters to build audio networks of any size using standard switched Ethernet to connect a few rooms or an entire facility. Axia networks have a total system capacity of more than 10,000 audio streams, and can carry hundreds of digital stereo channels plus machine logic over a single Cat-6 cable, eliminating much of the cost normally associated with wiring labour and infrastructure. Needless to say, both sites have witnessed great quantities of old analogue cabling and rack-mounted equipment to be removed from their space restricted facilities.

Metro’s new Livewire system includes an Element 2.0 modular console system, line nodes, digital audio nodes, microphone nodes, NX12 phone hybrids and iProbe network management software. Element works with the Axia studio mix engine and comes with four programme buses in addition to four auxiliary buses. Frames are available from four to 28 positions, with support for up to 40 faders in multiple linked frames. The Metro operators are allowed to save unique profiles for their different preferences, layouts and defaults for the various shows, whilst audio resources can be shared across the multiple studios. At the heart of the system, the 4RU height PowerStation combines audio I/O, the console power supply, mixing engine and network switch. In total, one PowerStation provides four analogue inputs and six analogue outputs, two AES/EBU inputs and two AES/EBU outputs, two microphone inputs, four GPIO machine-control logic ports and an integrated network switch with ten 100Base-T Ethernet ports, four 100Base-T ports with power over Ethernet, and two 1000Base-T (Gigabit) ports.

‘Axia is excellent IP audio technology,’ explains Mr Chan. ‘There’s nothing similar on the market. I initially bought a system in 2005 as a trial run, but was hesitant to rely on IP based technologies in such a critical application. Having tested the routing functions between the studios and the rooms, we discovered that the audio-over-IP was stable and so I gradually expanded the network. Prior to integrating Axia, I had been looking to migrate to an AES solution, but that has totally been bypassed now. To update one studio, it took an entire weekend replacing the old analogue cabling and patch panels with Cat-6 cabling.’

The radio operators also stipulated ease of use in the new equipment and the Axia solution has provided just that. ‘It’s simple and straightforward,’ furthers Mr Chan. ‘The Elements Control Surface follows the best practice of an on-air console by minimising the number of knobs and faders while maintaining all the features and ease of control required for on air operation, and doesn’t require a technical operator to run the board. The infrastructure is modular, scalable and flexible and can therefore be expanded quite easily by simply adding more nodes, and they are immediately available to all devices on the Axia network. It’s like a plug ‘n’ play system, and was surprisingly easy to set up. It’s also a budget conscious system. The newer technologies allow you to do more with decreasing budgets.’

Radio may never change to the ears of the listener, but Mr Chan is adamant that the engineering technology is changing at a more rapid rate now than ever before because of IT-based solutions. However, some parts of the studios seemed destined to be preserved. The EV RE20 microphones and JBL 4412 monitors originally installed in 1991 are still in use today and will continue to be serviced and maintained.


Copyright ©2017 Digital Media Technology Co. Ltd. All right reserved