Inovonics 703 INOmini RDS Encoder
It is hard in the independent non-profit radio spear to keep current with technology. Even staying current with technology that has been around for a while. RDS is one of those technologies that many of those stations do without due to cost and the ability to afford the technical expertise to deploy it. Inovonics has made things a little easier for broadcasters on a budget. You can now purchase their 703 INOmini RDS Encoder for less than $500. Inovonics list the 703 INOmini at around $590. However you can find it at broadcast supply outlets like BSW for around $489 with free shipping.
When our Inovonics 703 INOmini RDS Encoder arrived at the station it didn’t come with much. Essentially just the unit, power supply, basic instruction manual, and the PC software. I loaded the software and USB driver on a pc and plugged in the USB cable to the 703 and powered it on. It was very easy to program. Everything is laid out in a clear straight forward manner that leaves no question in your mind as to what is what. This inexpensive RDS encoder also supports the Alternative Frequencies function of the RDS format. I was able to select our translator frequencies without any issue what so ever. It can actually support as many as 25 alternative frequencies. This unit does not support input from automation systems. It is designed to identify your station by format, display the “street name” or “imaging name” of the station, and with the radio text it will transmit whatever marketing or promo message you want.
Live view of the RDS software.
Not all RDS enabled radios are created equal. Some will just show the scrolling-PS message. Some will show the PS and the radio text. You have to keep that in mind when programming it. That way you can get the most information out there that all radios with RDS can see. It took a little experimentation on my part to get it just right so the message displayed was complete and coherent regardless of the configuration of the RDS enabled receiver. All RDS enabled radios display the scrolling-PS message. You have up to 128 charters to use there. If you use the 128th character space that will scroll right into the 1st character space and may distort your message. Sometimes with radio text the RDS enabled radio may just show the first part of the 64 characters or it may scroll the whole message. You will need to keep that in mind when you are laying out your text.
(Sample Results Using Gif Files. Click on the image thumbnail to see the active gif. )
JVC Aftermarket Radio w/RDS (PS-Scrolling Text Only)
Gif of the 703 Showing the text going out.
Ford Fusion Factory Radio w/RDS (PS-Scrolling Text and Radio Text)
Often with small stations the engineer is not always available because he/she is a contractor more than likely. However, installing the unit is fairly easy. If you are not comfortable doing it without an engineer present I would recommend you get your engineer involved. If you have the expertise to do it then you are good to go and it will take no time to get it deployed. You can’t put this unit in line with your exciter or stereo generator. It does not pass the 19kHZ SYNC or MPX sample through the unit to the RDS output. However you can get a sample from a secondary output on your OPTIMOD or similar unit. You can also pull it from the sample output on most transmitters. That is what I had to do in my installation. The unit itself uses standard BNC connections.
The station I deployed this unit on uses a QEI Quantum E Series FM Transmitter. I was able to get a sample for the RDS unit by splitting the J2 audio output on the back of the transmitter. I returned the RDS output to the J3 SCA input on the transmitter. I then used my Grundig G3 radio to check the RDS output and see if it was making its way out of the transmitter. And I was glad to see that it was. At that point I was sitting maybe 40 feet below the transmitting antenna. (The tower sits atop a six story building and the transmitter is on the sixth floor in a secured area of the building.) At this point I had made no adjustments to the RDS injection levels. And with the current configuration I did not have a way to get an accurate read of them.
QEI Quantum E Series Transmitter
Sample Split to RDS Encoder
RDS output to the Transmitter
I then traveled down to the parking lot and got in my car. The radio in the car was showing the PS-Scrolling Text and the first portion of the Radio Text. I began to travel away from the station and transmitter. When I got about ½ mile away I started losing the RDS. I increased the injection level. I was able to receive the RDS for a few miles from the transmitter and then lost it. I adjusted it some more and was able to get it to match the contour of the station for the most part. So near the edge of the contour of the stations pattern at the point where you lose stereo lock is about the same point you lose RDS. Essentially it should work within the same range as a station’s HD sub carrier would. I still need to borrow a frequency analyzer and check my work. However, the RDS is performing as if it is properly configured but still it is best to check it out.
For a station on a budget RDS is a good thing to have. RDS helps get your message out there. RDS is great especially for a listener with a short attention span. If they see the RDS text on their radio during a break they are more likely to stick around and listen to the music because they have a better understanding about where they landed. In the market I am in we have a high influx of tourists during the summer. We have our website as part of the PS-scrolling text and the Radio Text. We have picked up many web listeners from their summer visits. It is our hope that visitors will see our website on the RDS and steer their smart phones and home PC’s to our stream as well. Every listener counts.
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