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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on February 04, 2014

A customer was asking me today about our warranty. Well, on the back of our Bill of Sale (which covers everything) it says 10 years. But there are a lot of other products with a 25 year warranty, especially in our data line. We even have some products, like Belden 1872A "MediaTwist", with a lifetime warranty. "You mean FOREVER ???" said an incredulous European Belden salesperson. Well, sure. That warranty says we made the cable the way we agree to make it. And if it turns out that we made it wrong and it fails, we'll replace it for free. It's definitely something that motivates us to make it right the first time. Of course, sometimes we make it even better than that, or a customer just assumes that our cables are the best (thank you very much) but then does things that the cable was never designed for. And this leads to my story.

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on January 28, 2014

"There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking."

This quote from Sir Joshua Reynolds was Thomas Edison’s favorite quote. And it is true of everyone, including you and me. We go through life expecting things to stay the same, expecting things to be predictable. That way we don't have to think, we don't have to have "Plan B". And this was never presented to me in such a blatant way as a list of the top ten shows on tour that appeared in a recent magazine. All of them were major names: country artists, pop stars, rock groups, Latin artists. These shows were designed by the top names in the roadshow industry. And each company included an extensive list of what they used; microphones, mixers, amplifiers, and speakers, pretty much everything.

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on January 13, 2014

The FCC (the US government bureau that controls radio and television) has issued thousands of new licenses for low-power FM (LPFM) radio broadcasting. Many of these LPFM's are schools, colleges, and universities. Still, others are small communities with little or no true local broadcasting. A lot of these are non-profit. The whole point is that there are thousands of new customers to the broadcasting brotherhood. Welcome! So now what do you do? I would bet a lot of these new broadcasters are new in every sense of the word. And this means there's a whole lot to learn about broadcasting.

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on January 07, 2014

P. T. Barnum, of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, was also the king of the "Sideshow" with strange and amazing things to see (many of which were fabricated). He's the one who said "There's a sucker born every minute!" At the end of the sideshow was a sign which read, "This Way to the Egress" which sounded like some exotic bird. Instead, the crowd found themselves outside, and had to pay another 25 cents to get back in. We talk about egress too, but instead of the crowd leaving the sideshow, we're talking about signals leaving the cable. I'll bet this is something you simply accept, that signals from one cable can interfere with things around it. And I mean a lot more than just interfere with other cables. I remember driving by one large windowless building in San Francisco during the 1970's. This was the computer center of a large bank. My AM radio would not work for a block in any direction from that monolith. Talk about egress!

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on December 31, 2013

One of my favorite jokes is about Belden 1800F. This cable is our top-of-the-line for microphone cable. The reason is simple. With analog cable, the key parameter is capacitance. The lower, the better. And Belden 1800F is 13 picofarads per foot (pF/ft.). That's even lower than Category 5e or 6 or 6a (15 pF/ft.).

However, Belden 1800F is also 110 ohms impedance for use with digital audio. In fact, this cable started life as digital audio patch cable. It was a high quality cable that is very flexible, and came in many pretty colors. It says right on the cable, "digital audio". If your customer says, "I can't use this on my analog mics because it says 'digital audio’," there's no problem. I will personally send you a bottle of rubbing alcohol. With that you can rub off the word "digital" and the cable works PERFECTLY after that.

It's not what it says on the cable, it's what is required to run that signal. The table below shows various parameters for different kinds of signals.

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on December 17, 2013

A week does not go by without a customer asking for a combination of power and signal, such as power + audio, or power + video, or power + data (or some combination of these). Now, as you can imagine, there's almost nothing that Belden can't make. We could easily make such a cable. The problem is not how to make it. The problem is liability. If this is 120VAC with any other kind of signal cable next to it, it is illegal in the USA. And by illegal, I mean the UL (Underwriter's Laboratory) and NEC (National Electrical Code) won't allow such a combination. The reason is simple. If a forklift runs over the cable, and mashes it all together, then you have (or could have) 120VAC on the audio, video or data cable as well. I'm sure you have read all those stories of someone picking up a mic cable only to get electrocuted. Well, this is one way it could happen.

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Tags: Power, DC Power

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on December 10, 2013

One of my mentors passed away a few days ago, Roy Trumbull. For many years he worked at KRON-TV Channel 4 here in San Francisco. When I first joined the Audio Engineering Society in 1969, he was a member and helped me along. When I joined the SBE in 1979, he gave me my certification exam. He was also a man with a thousand funny stories about broadcasting. In his memory, I would like to share one with you. The names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Television came early to San Francisco. One of the early broadcasters put their new transmitter at the top of one of our fanciest hotels, on one of our famous San Francisco hills. I'm sure it was line-of-sight to most of the Bay Area from there. The transmitter was of the water-cooled variety, where water dissipates the heat from the tubes. Cool water would be pumped in, it would pick up the heat and be pumped back out to a holding tank where it would cool and the process repeated. If you were a maintenance engineer, one of your jobs was to check the water level. Of course, a little always evaporated, and the hot water evaporated even more quickly. So you would pour a small amount of water to bring up the level. After only a few months, opening up the reserve tank was a nasty experience. All sorts of airborne things would love the warm water and would grow in the tank.

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Blog Category: Broadcast AV

Posted by: Steve Lampen on December 03, 2013

I was talking to a friend of Belden's at a recent trade show. We were discussing using Category cable for audio, something we have discussed at great length in this blog. "I never use that cable for audio," said the customer.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Well, all the install Cat 5e or 6 or 6a is solid conductor," he replied. "And we all know that solid conductors break."

He was especially insistent that those solid conductors, when soldered into an XLR, often break. This is called 'work hardening'. Do you believe that? If you do, it probably means that you've been using some very cheap cable, because wires that break are not annealed correctly. One of the things you get with good quality cable and good quality manufacturing is annealing. Annealing is a process where the conductor is put into a hot oven to let the molecules come in contact with each other after the drawing process (big wire drawn into smaller wire), but not hot enough to melt the copper. Cheaply made cable sometimes rushes this process or does not anneal at all, creating a brittle wire that will break with just a few flexes. Everyone remembers bell wire from the hardware store. Probably not annealed at all.

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