When Processors Attack

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The trusty Aphex 2020MkIII broadcast processor in Studio1A.

No — the title isn’t about a new cable television series.

It’s amazing how little things can cause big problems. There are always small things going wrong in a studio, but when one of our main audio conduits started making noise, I knew it would be a long night.

The Aphex 2020MkIII is a broadcast processor that I’ve come to rely on. It would usually be the last (or one of the last) lines of processing in radio. The 2020 gives me 4 split bands of compression, a limiter, leveler and a host of other modules that go unused, such as FM radio pilot tone injection and radio data service (or RDS).

Yesterday afternoon, I heard a small clicking noise and narrowed it down to the 2020. My first thought was; this can’t be good. After quickly clicking over to a bypass chain, I turned the unit off and pulled it out of the rack. From the telltale sound, I was almost certain of the problem source. Taking it to the bench quickly confirmed the 2020 cooling fan bearing ran out of life, like a tired hamster on the wheel, but I also needed to dust off the equipment air intakes more often.

WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REPAIR YOUR OWN GEAR. DO NOT EVEN TAKE THE COVER OFF! The following paragraphs describe my choice, as an engineer, to pull the hood on a very expensive piece of gear and replace something that is not meant to be user replaceable.

I’m no stranger to data centers where this is an almost daily problem. Fans are needed for airflow and they just call it quits after being in service (continuously) for years. I figured this fan lasted almost exactly 5 years, running 24/7, 365 days a year. No complaints.

After taking the hood off the 2020, I found it was easy to access the high quality Panasonic fan. The most common ‘muffin’ fan in this equipment uses a sleeve lubricated bearing. I happened to find an exact voltage/current/size ball-bearing replacement. A quick solder job with some heat shrink and it was ready to go …almost. After about 30 well placed screws were back in the cabinet, I was ready to re-rack and re-route the cabling. Then, it was time to re-calibrate, even though the global variables were still in tact. Hopefully, the CMOS backup battery for front panel logic will hold on for another few years!

So, this is very likely the most boring post I have ever made. It really just goes to show how a trivial (but important) component can cost a lot of time. Even more if you had to send it back for service. I also had a backup plan for bypassing the 2020, but didn’t have a spare sitting around to do its job. Dust or not, these little fans only last so long at 100% duty cycle.

However, I already put a repeating reminder in Google Calendar to “clean processing rack” every 6 months with compressed air.

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Drop me a line with comments, thoughts and suggestions:
mark at newmediagear dot com
Sig

Blue Microphones – The Spark

Sponsored by BSW. Voiceover, Broadcast Recording, Pro-Audio and New Media Gear is here…



New from Blue! The small and affordable Spark.

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Blue microphones are always a surprise. They stand out in a crowd, but I really enjoy the variety and quality of their product.

A relative newcomer, the Spark is an affordable and great sounding microphone. The Spark is a smaller ‘bottle’ with a capsule to match, making it a medium diaphragm condenser. So – here’s this (street price at publishing) sub-$200USD mic, with a catchy name in a long lineage of quality.

People were saying great things about the Spark, so I just had to try it out. First; it comes in a nicely padded cherry-type wooden box, complete with shock mount and blast filter. The shock mount is not the typical spider type and is very low profile. The best surprise in the box is this nicely branded blast filter. With a single thumb screw, it becomes part of the microphone.

The sound is right in the middle – excellent for voice and general purpose while feeling very solid. If you want a condenser microphone that isn’t too sensitive, but does well with speech the Spark works just fine. Instead of a low-cut filter, there is a ‘focus’ switch. This basically is a very aggressive high-pass filter. The focus button skirts or emphasizes enough low end that the Spark can sound moderately sharp or take on a pronounced bump on the low end. It certainly increases the utility of this microphone.

I could type for days, but lets listen in and hear the Spark at work!

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Studio1A is Powered by Panamax…
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Studio1A BlueMax Lighting by full spectrum solutions…
full spectrum lighting solutions

Drop me a line with comments, thoughts and suggestions:
mark at newmediagear dot com
Sig