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Stoke Mandeville Hospital gets boost from Sonifex

UK broadcast manufacturer Sonifex has supplied Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio with its new Dante-connected transmission rack I/O and silence detection/switching technology, and has donated studio distribution, monitoring and switching equipment to help kick-start its new FM band broadcasts.

Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio has been on air since its first jingle was played out in 1978, and in 1997 it was one of two hospital radio stations to take part in an experimental AM transmission pilot scheme. It has operated in that band since then, until earlier this year when it started a new FM service.

Simon Daniels is the station engineer and chairman for the station, as well as the director of Sigma Broadcast, a UK broadcast services company. “Modernisation of the hospital site has meant that the propagation of that AM system reduced,” explained Daniels. “As we don’t have a hospital-wide bedside system we made inquiries about an FM licence, and we were very pleased to announce the new service at our station’s 40th anniversary party, late last year.”

This change meant that Daniels had to invest in a new transmission chain to replace the old mono RF link. He decided on a fibre-based extension to the station’s Ethernet network, which would allow him to position a transmission rack close to the aerial while still being able to monitor and control all of the equipment from any remote location. For audio transport, he chose Dante Audio-over-IP networking and Sonifex Dante I/O.

“I knew Sonifex had the new Dante boxes with Power over Ethernet (PoE),” said Daniels. “So we went for the AVN-AIO4 four-in/four-out version. It’s simplicity itself… You literally plug it into the network and Dante Controller finds it. You name your connections, make your cross-points, and that’s it.”

Daniels made sure that the power of IP was put to work in the rest of the rack too. As part of the back-up systems he installed a Sonifex Redbox RB-SD1IP Silence Detection Unit that includes USB drive and external player-based programme replacement, along with a browser-based GUI for remote monitoring, configuration, and control.

He also has IP monitoring and control of the rack’s UPS, power management, temperature status and transmitter unit. There’s even a RAID NAS drive in the rack so the station has off-site back-up of its server and associated data.

As a long-time supporter of Stoke Mandeville hospital, Sonifex donated additional equipment to the studio: Two Redbox RB-DA6 six-way audio distribution amplifiers, an RM-CA2 Confidence Monitor, and an RB-OA3 three-Studio on-air switcher.

“We’re very grateful to Sonifex for that,” said Daniels. “It’s been a big boost to our service.”

The new Stoke Mandeville Hospital Radio FM service started transmitting in May this year, with the new transmission rack and studio fibre network link working flawlessly since day one. “Dante is definitely the way to go,” said Daniels. “It’s so good, so stable, and the new Sonifex boxes are as easy as it gets. I’ve now even got a return from the silence detection unit in the rack that comes back to the studio via Dante so I can monitor that as well… Doing it with Dante Sonifex was a complete no-brainer.”