Stephens Media Brings HD Radio To Southern Oregon


ARCATA, CALIF. — This station’s promotions may be a bit of a throwback, with “Trucker Hat Tuesday” something one may be quick to associate with a C.W. McCall hit from the 1970s and CB Radio.

But, don’t let that cheeky giveaway fool you. Phoenix, Ore.-licensed KAKT-FM, branded as “105.1 The Wolf” and serving all of the Medford-Ashland-Grants Pass region, is as modern as a radio can get.

In fact, it has become the first commercial broadcaster in Southern Oregon to embrace HD Radio.

KAKT, a Stephens Media Group Country station recently acquired in a 37-station deal with Mapleton Communications, made the shift to HD Radio with the help of GatesAir.

How so? The station is now delivering two HD Radio channels alongside its main FM program, using a GatesAir HD Radio Gen4 solution with high-efficiency transmission, embedded signal processing, and IP networking gear.

The Stephens/Medford engineering team worked closely with GatesAir channel partner Southern Coastal Marketing Services (SCMS) to identify a solution that would help launch an HD Radio service while also transitioning to solid-state transmission.

KAKT selected a GatesAir Flexiva FAX20 (20kW) air-cooled transmitter, retiring tube transmitters that had grown challenging to service. Klein-White Broadcast Engineering, a full-service design and engineering firm, added installation and commissioning services that brought the new solid-state system to air.

“Solid-state brings a great deal of new maintenance and efficiency benefits over tubes, and spare parts have become expensive and tougher to find,” said Dan Sullivan, Chief Engineer for the Medford cluster. “The Flexiva is half the size of our tubetransmitter, which reduces cooling requirements and returns a great deal of space in a rather small room. Our new transmitter is very accessible for maintenance, with a plug-and-play, hot-swappable design that will simplify our workload and ensure we can service the transmitter while on the air.”

The FAX20 accommodates the FM, HD1 and HD2 channels, with an HD3 channel to be added in the future. GatesAir’s Flexiva FMXi4g embedded HD Radio solution provides a single Importer/Exporter to manage the audio and data within Stephens Media Group of Medford’s IT infrastructure. This eliminates the need for separate systems with moving parts, and centralizes all related signal processing and multiplexing.

The FMXi 4g also time-aligns the analog and digital program audio without the need for a separate modulation monitor or other hardware unit that was required before GatesAir’s innovation. KAKT uses a traditional microwave STL system to transport its FM signal, and GatesAir Intraplex IP Link 200 codecs to network both HD Radio channels over IP. Sullivan adds that the IP Links operate reliably over what he calls “a slow network,” with no obvious signs of packet loss as the program audio moves from the studio to the transmitter site over IP.

“The automatic delay option in the FMXi 4g calculates the diversity delay for analog/digital time alignment, and sends the synchronized signals into our FAX exciter,” said Sullivan. “That alone has saved us a lot of money, and the built-in functionality removes another device from the infrastructure that I would have to manage. The ability to remotely tap into all of these systems has also been useful, and the GUIs on the FAX exciter and transmitter provide clear and important data around PA temperature and other performance parameters.”

GatesAir Radio Product Group VP/GM Ted Lantz said, “KAKT is an ideal example of how a community-oriented, smaller market radio station can cost-efficiently launch new digital services and transition to IP networking on a reasonable budget. With a third HD Radio channel on the way, Stephens Media Group of Medford can focus more on serving their listeners instead of servicing an older transmission system that would continue to escalate operational costs and maintenance. They can now look forward with a high-efficiency architecture that represents revenue growth over complex engineering requirements.”

— Reporting by Ciara Hunt in Arcata, Calif.; Brian Galante in Medford, Ore.; and Adam Jacobson in West Palm Beach