April 12, 2004

Wizard For Windows

Of all the TRN networks in New Zealand and regardless of format, one important part of the everyday running of their stations, is Wizard for Windows. (Channel Z and More FM Auckland still use it also).

This is using old 16-bit technology which runs on Windows 3.1 or a variant of it. TRN considered upgrading to NextGen, as Prophet Systems have been pushing all their Wizard clients to upgrade (Prophet do not even support the software anymore!) but TRN stayed with Wizard. They could have moved their platform to Dalet when they aquired the GWR stations back in 1997. Not only software, but I can only imagine what old hardware is still in use, like soundcards, hard-drives and modems!

So, what of the technology available in 2004?

RCS have been keeping a close eye on TRN as it could have been a huge contract for them. Master Control has proven its stability with the Radioworks stations. RCS already have great bragging rights include managing the automation requirements of one of the two biggest major networks in NZ, along with Mai/Niu/bFM and most of the independents around the country.

Dalet is still around too, with some great improvements and awesome functionality for network stations - although not many stations use it. Im only aware of GeorgeFM and UpFM using it.

Others still out there are Coda, StationPlaylist, Deltatrax, Simian/Wavestation, OtsJuke and DRS/DirEttore.

I listened to Classic Hits and (especially) Hauraki today and being an audio engineer, I heard the audio quality drop. Imagine a distortion, or certain rough 'graininess' on vocals and guitar-based music.

I have a theory. If you are familiar with the 'ACM' or 'ADPCM' audio codec for 'wav' files, it sounds like TRN are batch compressing station libraries. (If you are not sure what Im talking about, its like compressing an audio file like you would with an 'mp3' to save space - unfortunately, 'mp3' is about 10 years old and ADPCM/ACM is as old as DOS.)

Wizard plays 'wav' files, and can accept compressed 'wav' files. Could I speculate that with the added pressure of one new station on 105.4 in Auckland (or two if my sources are right), they need to create diskspace for their libraries?
Old software like Wizard can only accept so many hard-drives and drive-sizes (and I can only image how much space their stations take up), so would this theory explain what's happening to the audio quality on Classic Hits and Hauraki?

**update 13/4: I have been informed that some other TRN hubs have been using NextGen since 2002, however the main Auckland operation has just upgraded. The audio quality issue is apparently just 'teething' problems.

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