Equipment and Station Design FAQ
Here is a list of things to consider when choosing the right equipment for your radio station:
How far do you want to broadcast?
The further you wish to reach, the more powerful the equipment you will need and the more powerful the equipment, the more expensive it is to buy and to run (the more power it consumes).
So think carefully about your target audience and where they are, and focus your radio station on reaching them.
But you can also reach further by raising your antennas higher up. So if you can build a tall tower, or find an existing one within 20km of your studio, it might be worth putting your antennas on it to get your signal to go further. We say within 20km of the studio, because you can use an STL (studio to transmitter link) to send your signal from the studio to the transmitter site if they are less than 20km apart.
FM signal range is limited by:
- How far the transmitting antenna can effectively see. If you stand where the antenna is mounted and look out with a pair of binoculars, wherever you can see it is possible to transmit to. This can sometimes be up to 20, 30 even 40 miles if you are looking out from a mountain top. If there are buildings or hills blocking your view, they will block your FM signal as well.
- Other sources of interference or other stations operating on the same frequency. For example the antenna may be able to see 20 miles, but if another station is on the same frequency 20 miles away, it will block/interfere with the signal.
- Transmission power. If the antenna can see 20 miles, but say 1 Watt ERP of power used, it’s very likely that about 1 mile of range will result. This is quite simply because there is not enough power to propagate the signal 20 miles. If 50 Watt ERP is used, it’s very likely that 20 miles of range will be achieved. This is because 50 Watt ERP is ample power to propagate a strong signal 20 miles. If 1 Million Watts of power is used, it is very likely that signal will only propagate just over 20 miles. This because the range is limited as described in point a) above.
ERP ( Effective radiated power ) is the power radiated from the antenna. All antenna systems have a degree of power gain. When calculating the gain of an antenna system the main factors are the amount of gain ( dBi ) and the amount of loss ( dB ) through coax.
Assuming the antenna has a clear view, the frequency is clear and an average quality portable receiver is used, typical transmission power range figures are as follows:
How far does your licence allow you to broadcast?
You may be limited to a specific transmitter power or broadcast distance by the broadcast authorities. Please contact your national authorities to find out what limits they may give you before ordering / requesting a quotation.
Do you need an STL (studio to transmitter link)?
This depends on how far your studio is from your antenna site.
If they are in the same location, or less than 200m apart, you can use a balanced audio cable to send the signal from the studio to the antenna site.
If they are between 200m and 10km and there is line of sight between the two, you can use a 5.2 GHz audio over ip link with two small dishes facing each other.
If they are 10 – 20km apart, or more than 200m apart without line of sight, then you will need to use a VHF link, which does not require line of sight, but is more expensive. Some VHF links will work over longer distances, up to 80km, depending on what is in the way and what frequency you use.
You could also use an internet link, if you can get high speed internet in both locations.
How many studios do want?
We would recommend a minimum of two, but you can get by with one.
Some stations operate with a single studio, some operate with two or even three. Big stations have multiple studios for different purposes.
It is useful to have at least two separate studios, so that one presenter can prepare to go on air while another is live. You can also use your second studio to record interviews, adverts and programmes while your other studio is on the air.
What level of quality do you want for your equipment?
We work with clients with all different budgets to help them choose the equipment that is right for them. This will depend on your aims and your budget. We split equipment into five broad categories:
- Barebones – The most basic, low cost equipment available, which may not last long, but will get you on the air to start with.
- Basic – Similar to barebones, but a little bit higher quality, more durable and therefore a bit more expensive.
- Midrange – Good quality, good value, semi-professional equipment, often used in community radio stations.
- Deluxe – Professional broadcast quality, durable equipment with great sound, used in professional commercial and high end community radio stations, but not the most expensive equipment available.
- Double Deluxe – The ultimate choice in terms of capability, sound quality, durability and look. No expenses spared.
How many mics do you want in each studio?
How many guests do you intend to have in the studio at any one time? Generally we recommend 3 or 4 microphones to allow you some flexibility in the studio. Or if you prefer, you can always add more.
Do you want back up equipment?
In a radio station, it is important to keep broadcasting when things break down. So having a spare mixer, spare PC, spare mics, spare cables and a spare transmitter can be very useful, especially if your station isn’t too close to the nearest equipment shop.