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Ward-Beck Systems Blog

  • The intricacies of building a POD2, from making the circuit board to shipping it out!

    Talk about coming back from the weekend raring to go! We have been busy at Ward-Beck this afternoon, shipping out a whole bunch of sales orders, including some POD2 Stereo Audio Switches. In honor of the occasion, we are doing a walkthrough of how a POD 2 is built, right from the circuit board stencil to shipping the finished product.

    To give you a bit of context and background, the POD2 6 x 1 Stereo Audio Switcher is from POD lineup of products, and functions as a unity gain six by one stereo audio switcher. Inside the Pod-Package, which is the factory standard packaging the POD2 comes in, there is a printed circuit board for the pushbutton control, as well as the main circuit board. The main circuit board is, of course, the core of the POD2 Audio Switcher. Made of numerous resistors, capacitors and other tiny components, the assembly of ths circuit board is crucial to the functionality of the POD2.

    (PCB without any SMD soldered on)

    Above, you see the plain printed circuit board (PCB), before any surface mount devices (SMDs) have been soldered onto it. These SMDs included devices such as resistors, capacitors and integrated circuit chips, and the final circuit board would have to be mounted with these SMDs in order to be functional.

    (Metal Stencil of the PCB)

    The first step in the circuit board assembly is the PCB stencil for the POD2, shown above, which will be used to accurately apply solder paste to the circuit board’s solder pad. Rather than apply solder paste to the solder pad painstakingly by hand, potentially leading to inaccuracies or too much solder paste applied, a stencil assures more accurate and professional application of the solder, in addition to saving time when many units of the same PCB are being produced (as is the case here.)

    The PCB stencil is placed into the stencil printer above, over the soon-to-be circuit board’s solder pad. Then the solder paste is brushed over the stencil, leading to application of the solder to the solder pad below. The tools below are used to apply the solder.

    Once the solder is applied, the solder pads are then fed through pick and place machines (one featured below), which are used to place the surface mount devices (SMDs) like capacitors, resistors and ICs onto the circuit board.

    For the curious, below is what the internal rear of a pick and place machine looks like.


    (Baby got back)

    After the pick-and-place machine has attached the various SMDs to the solder pad, the solder pad will be fed through a reflow oven. Under controlled heat, this oven will melt the solder, permanently attaching the SMDs to the solder pad. This process is known as reflow soldering, hence the name reflow oven. During this process, it is important to control the heat, so as not to overheat and damage the components of the circuit board.

    Once the circuit board is finished being made, it is partially placed into the Pod-Package, the factory standard packaging that the POD2 will be shipped out in.

    Note that the top has not been screwed on yet, as the board has not been tested yet.

    Now it is time for the technical team to test all the POD2 board and see that they work properly.

     (Wai-Keung at his testing station)

    Once the testing is done, the top can be screwed on, leaving a completed POD2.

     (Sia from the Production Department screwing together a POD2)

    Completed POD2s lying on the rack waiting to be packaged and shipped out.

    Packaged and shipped POD2s waiting for the pick up truck, off to a new studio or station where they will hopefully have a good and loving home!

  • From the vault - L2042 - shipping crate

    While digging around I came across these gems. Internal documents for shipping our mixing L-series consoles.

    Ward-Beck Systems - L2484 - shipping crates

    Ward-Beck Systems - L2042 - shipping crates

  • What's going on at Ward-Beck!

    It might still be summer – the season for vacation – but we have been busy at Ward-Beck, redesigning old products, introducing new ones, and putting more effort into R & D than ever. To keep you up to date on what is new at the office, here are a few things we have been working on in the past few months.

     Introducing the IMP-4 lineup of Impedance Transformer Panels

    Our IMP family of Impedance converters now has a new addition! The all-new IMP-4 series allow 75 Ohm coaxial transmission of AES/EBU digital audio signal. Each IMP-4 panel is made of four baluns, which are conveniently packaged in compact 1RU high units, making them very portable and flexible in installations.

    To read more about the IMP-4 lineup, please go here: Read more about there here: IMP-4F, IMP-4M, IMP-2M2F, IMP-4/10 and IMP-2M2F/10.

    For order information, please refer to this handy-dandy chart, that has information on all the Impedance Conversion products that we have to offer.

    Old really is gold

    As our year-end approaches, we have been taking stock of our inventory and cleaning up some loose ends. Look what we found it out store of old products! some interesting old modules from old consoles today, while doing inventory cleanup in our stockroom. The M905A, M905B, M922, M908 modules - used in consoles such as the mid 90's Renaissance MK III consoles!

    MADI-fications!

    We have also been hard at work making modifications to our 32ME-MADI High Density Audio Monitors, at the request of client. Got an audio problem that you would like to see a solution for? Ask us, maybe we can help you find a product that fits your needs!

    Calibration Party: APK out on a demo of a WBS SLM at HHB Canada!

    With the help of Anthony Kuzub of APK Audio, we have sent out a demo of our Ward-Beck SLM loudness meters to HHB Canada. An all-out calibration festival ensued!

    A blast from the past!

    An old friend visited us last month: a genuine vintage Ward-Beck Stereo Noise Suppressor designed in 1968 for a local talk radio station! This is the oldest piece of gear in the building, and was designed one year into Ward-Beck's beginnings. The ongoing history of Ward-Beck continues proud and strong!

    Secret projects!

    Our R&D team have been working on various top secret products, soon to be unveiled. Stay tuned for more news! We won’t say anything more, except that we are very amped to be able to reveal more information on these recent developments!

    http://warriorfitness.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/top-secret-300x218.gif

  • Lies my digital video engineer told me.

    (Eugene Johnson joins us today with a great column on "Lies my digital video engineer told me.")

    1) Once the audio signal is digitized, it is perfect, impervious to noise and degradation, much better than an analog signal.

    2) After your digital audio signals are embedded in the video stream, a robust transmission system, it arrives at its destination perfectly. You save on cabling and installation costs; what could be better?

    3) Audio is not as complicated as video, and we are experts at manipulating the video signal and transmitting it. Audio basically just comes along for a free ride.

    This is just a sampling of the comments you run into in the field. So, who needs an audio specialist? Only those with money to burn, or those freakish "golden ears".

    The example scenario to refute these perceptions is to look at the great "unwashed masses" of television or video signal consumers. This group easily outnumbers the TV professional literati a thousand fold. Give them marginal video with pristine audio, and they will by and large continue watching the program. Switch to perfect video and poor audio and ten to one they will switch. The human ear is more discerning than the eye. Audio does not matter? Of course, it does.

    The theatre of the mind works better with good audio and poor or no video, than it does with good video and poor or no audio.

    All audio starts as an analog signal, and at the consumer's ears ends up as an analog signal. Care must be taken at both ends of the conversion, to and from the digital domain, to make these processes transparent. Do not introduce audio artifacts, pick up audible digital sync signals, and do not hit the digital cliff where all audio just stops and disappears. Be mindful that although the signal is digital, basically a squarewave of ones and zeroes, headroom, dynamic range, noise and total harmonic distortion still matter.

    Of course, proper levels must still be maintained. Regulatory bodies worldwide have introduced legislation that dictate that levels shifting program to program, program to advertisements (especially) are not acceptable or desirable to the consuming masses. So, here is another area where our digital audio signals have to be corralled to be considered perfect.

    The tools to control our signals have long existed in the analog domain and one can still easily use these tools by extracting a digitized embedded audio signal from the video steam converting it to analog, processing it in the analog domain, then converting it back to digital before re-embedding it into the video stream. Even typing this is exhausting, and it is not a practical solution. So the audio specialists have had to come up with carefully designed solutions to do all this processing, while remaining in the digital domain.

    With multiple audio signals being embedded in the video stream, currently sixteen channels, it is crucial that the signals are "packaged" properly before embedding. One expects a 5.1 surround sound signal to arrive in the proscribed sequence of L, R, C, Lfe, Ls and Rs so that the surround audio complements the video. If L and R are reversed you lose the spatial context of the video. More alarmingly, if C and Lfe are reversed (a common error) you lose the centre channel, which is generally the dialogue or voice track, and it will not take the consumer very long to switch to another program. All the pristine video in the world will not save the program if this happens.

    So we have audio products designed by audio experts to lead our video brothers out of this morrass.   A to D and D to A converters, processors that control of levels automatically or through operator intervention, channel shuffling or swapping, channel substitution to allow voice tracks to be replaced by another language or to replace a corrupted audio track and more...

    (Simplified journey of some of the steps an audio signal must go through before reaching it's destination.)

    And through it all we need world class audio monitoring to guide the program creators, program distributors and program delivery services, and give them real time analog access to the digital audio programs every step of the way. Yes, we know that it is not as glitzy or glamorous as high quality video. But, without good clean audio, the video is just a silent movie. And even those needed the piano player and captions to engage the viewing public.

     (Thank you for taking the time to explain all this to us, Eugene!)

  • Tool of the Day: Bending Machine (A short journey into the metalwork behind Ward-Beck product packaging)

    In contrast to our last tool of the day, this one is quite large.

    Many of our hall mark Ward-Beck products are encased within metal packaging. The lightweight aluminum we use for this purpose is a lot easier to carry than heavier metal like steel, and affords a degree of protection and durability that plastic casing often cannot.

    However, as is the nature of the beast, the raw metal has to go through a lot of steps before becoming the final packaging that you see in products such as our PODs and AMS monitors.

    Before anything can happen, of course, the packaging design has to be finalized by R & D, and sent off to get cast. Once the metal pieces that make up the packaging arrive, in the various shapes and sizes needed, it is time to get to work. One of the initial processes involves using a bending machine to get these metal pieces into the right shape.

    The tool you see below is a bending machine. Dave, the manager of the Ward-Beck metal shop, was kind enough to take us around the various machines in the metal shop, and show us how this one in particular worked.

    The pieces of metal are fed through the bending machine, and various bending tools are used to twist the metal into the desired shape. For this machine, there is a top tool and a bottom tool inserted into the machine. When the machine is at work, these two tools press together on the metal to bend it. Below, you can two bending tools already inserted into the machine, ready to work their magic. Inset, you can also see some of the different varieties of top and bottom tools we have available for use.

    Here is an animation of the bending machine at work, demonstrated once again by Dave Adams.

    Continue reading

  • RTO-214 - ReTrO support for legacy Ward-Beck Systems console modules

    Ward-Beck Systems has gain control as a reputation.  For over 40 years, WBS has been turning on, off, up, and down audio signals for the television and radio industry.  We have produced thousands of large format mixing consoles and modules, from 1967 up until just last month.  Many of the legacy console modules, have made their way into the music industry.  In 2002, an internet following of the modules and consoles, the Ward-Beck Systems Preservation Societywas created to offer support and documentation to users.  Anthony P. Kuzub, the student behind it all, recently accepted an internship in our design department.  With him around, much of the WBS legacy, documentation, parts and knowledge of the legacy consoles is maintained.   The first product off of his bench is one that offers owners of legacy modules a solution to a common problem: "How do I rack mount these loose modules?" Ward-Beck Systems is excited to announce a new lineup of retro products! Starting with a 2RU rack enclosure for (2) 14" legacy WBS modules. RTO214 - 2ru Rack mount with Ward-Beck Systems M460 microphone pre-amps The RTO-214 Rack Mount Chassis and connector kit for TWO 14" Ward-Beck Systems M46O*, M470*, M521 or similar 14" footprint. 276_29 With studios shrinking in size, and gear filling up the expensive rack space, there has been a pronounced need for a 2RU enclosure. This was originally designed by veteran WBS fabricator Erwin S. for the current lineup of WBS AMS-8 products. The design updates and fabrication are carried forward by Shop Manager and Mechanical Designer Dave Adams. Dave is a master metal smith utilizing the tools that built the modules that WBSps users want to have rack mounted. Dave has been working together with APK to create a stable platform in a 2RU enclosure.  Sold as a DIY flat pack kit with all the pieces you need. The BUM (Back Unit Mount) will be pre-punched for however you decide to wire it. Power options and i/o varieties make for easy design and hookup. 

    Along with a full chassis, the kit also includes:
    (2) 5 pin panel mount Neutrik XLR Female
    (1) 5 pin panel mount Neutrik XLR Male
    (2) 3 Pin Neutrik XLRM chassis mount
    (2) 3 Pin Neutrik XLRF chassis mount
    (2) 3 pin / TRS Combi Jacks chassis mount
    (4) Reclaimed EDAC mating connectors - (New stock Available) Internal hookup wire
    (6) Numbered 2' pieces of Mogami hookup wire
    (4) Cheesehead Module screws
    (1) Set of vinyl labels with related words and numbers for your project 

    RTO214 - Ward-Beck Systems Back Unit Mount - BUM - for rack mounting legacy vintage console Modules*note: unit above is shown with (2) 5 pin female connectors as a mockup.  Recommended wiring is XLRF for power input and XLRM for power output

    To make interconnection easier, a power cable kit is included:
    (1) 5 Pin Neutrik XLR Male
    (1) 5 Pin Neutrik XLR Female
    Wire to build power cable
    Expando for Power cable

    RTO214 - 2ru Rack mount Ward-Beck Systems cable kit We are offering this flat packed kit at AudioAholics.com,  and encouraging support for customers through the WBSps.ca forum.

    Upcoming products that are Bananas: (not ripe for market) - External Power supply - DB25 pre-wired breakouts - DB25 to EDAC connectors for the modules of your choice - RTO-114 (1) 14" L series modules in 1RU - RTO-47 (4) 7" L series modules in 2RU - RTO-27 (2) 7" L series modules in 1RU - RTO-26.5 (2) 6.5" retro 400 series modules in 1RU Pre-orders can be taken, and custom ideas are always welcomed.  Submit your designs today.

  • Throwback Tuesday: Something old, Something new

    The Ward-Beck display room is, in many ways, an extension of our commitment to honoring our history of making world-class products, while continuing to forge ahead with new innovations that offer industry-standard performance to institutional and independent broadcasters alike. Side by side with our newest additions to our POD and Impedance line products are old school Audio/Video monitors and broadcasting consoles. On this week’s edition of Throwback Tuesday, we thought we could take a short look around some of the vintage Ward-Beck products on display here.

    This console was commissioned for CKVR TV in 1972, featuring a VU meter and classic P&G faders. Like many of the older WBS consoles, it is custom work that was designed to the specifications of the station. Decommissioned in 1992, it has found a new home in our display room, snuggled in comfortably between the WBS 460 series of channels strips and the WBS VidBuddy Audio/Video Monitor.

    ^Look pretty cozy all lined up together, don’t they?

    Below you can see the 460 series channel strips in greater detail. They start out with alternating Limiter/compresses and noise gate/meters, with some 4d parametric equalizers clustered in the second third row.

    The WBS 460 series is one of the most long-standing of Ward-Beck products. Still widely lauded for the 4 band parametric equalizer, these units are still sought after today for audio recording/production and are in use in sound studios worldwide.

    The VidBuddy Audio/Video you can see below has a tiny little silver hand of the top that can actually be extended to carry this monitor around like a lunch-tote or handbag. Well, if one were inclined to carrying around expensive audio equipment as fashion accessories, anyways…

    Some other vintage WBS products around our display room:

    Custom level control

    Radio Studio Control Turret

    Our POD2 Stereo Audio Switcher has been redesigned into a sleek and user-friendly package, while offering the same great performance, and with the same specifications.

    Our impedance converter baluns are now offered in a whole new package, with the same great performance. We also recently introduced our highest density Impedance Converter Panels, now with a sleeker design, but offering the same great performance, with the Phoenix and BNC connector rack ears now removable so that they can be oriented to best suit the installation requirements.

    We are always continuing to come up with new innovations to better serve the broadcast industry. We have got some exciting new developments going on at Ward-Beck. Stay tuned for more exciting products that Ward-Beck is working on introducing!

  • Throwback Thursday: One Last Hurrah for the R2K Radio Console Series

    As some of you might have seen on our Facebook, the last of our R221 input modules were shipped out today. These were custom designed as input modules for the WBS Renaissance R2K Radio Console Series.

    IMG_3305

    In the spirit of one last hurrah for the last of these being shipped out, this Throwback Tuesday, we take a look at theR2K console.

    R2K console pic

    Sleek, lightweight and modular, the R2K console was designed with easy installation and maintenance in mind. Having been introduced in 1999, this console was appropriately named after Y2K (although the release of the R2K was, of course, not viewed with as much trepidation as the approach of Year 2000.)

    Although we have moved beyond this series, they are beloved by Ward-Beck aficionados everywhere, and from all the repair and maintenance requests we get from time to time, they still seem to be going strong at our local radio stations, despite the product being 15 years old at this point. Bell Media has many in their radio stations, as do Durham Radio, Halifax Broadcasting and Newcap Radio, to name just a few. For example, an R2K was installed at CILQ-FM, the radio studio in downtown Toronto’s Hard Rock Café, now owned by Corus entertainment and broadcasting from the Corus Quay building.

    As you can see below from the chart of the R2K module family, the modules making up the console had specific functions, the modular approach to design making them easy to troubleshoot, repair or replace.

    R2K Module Family

    The modular concept that made the R2K such a successful and functional model has also carried through into Ward-Beck's newer products. For example, our POD series of products work well with each other to hold the broadcasters' hand through every step of an audio signal's journey: such as the POD 4 Dual Mic Preamp, POD14A Analog to Digital Converter, and POD13A Digital to Analog Converter, to name a few.

    And well, if nothing else, at least now you’re one step closer to winning any trivia game featuring the question “Which radio console of Canadian origin was named after the frenzy surrounding the year 2000?” :P

  • Building a MP4(VU) Quad VU Meter + belated Throwback Tuesday

    We're back from our long weekend in Canada and back to business as usual! Hope all the Canadian folks enjoyed a relaxing Victoria Day weekend. One of the first things we did on the Tuesday back was ship out one of the MP4(VU) meter panels that our production team has been working on, so let's you give a brief look at the production of this shipment, and also look back at some vintage WBS products for a late Throwback Tuesday.

    Before the official production can begin, it is time to print out a production report, and use it to assemble the materials needed for production.

    Below, we can see the circuitry, power supply and steels housing plates that form the backbone of all our MP4 meter panels. However, you must be wondering, where are the meters???

    Our MP4 meter panels actually come in any combination of VU meters and PPM meters desired by the customer. In this case, the order was for a MP4 meter panel with four VU meters, so we will be gathering four VU meters to complete our production assembly.

    So now, we have all the materials needed. All that is needed is some time for our production team to do their magic.

    And we come back to the finished product: one fully assembled MP4(VU) meter panel.


    MP4(VU) Quad VU Meter

    As aforementioned, our MP4 meter panels also come in other combinations of the VU meters and PPM meters, as fits your needs. The meters are housed in a steel construction rack panel, affording them maximum protection which conserving rack space. In addition to the MP4(VU) meter shown above, we also offer the following models: MP4(PPM) with Quad PPM Meters, and MP4(2P2V) with Dual PPMs + Dual VU Meter.


    MP4(2P2V)  Dual PPMs + Dual VU Meter

    Now, we mentioned in our post from last week about building a POD29, that our VU Meters have been used in WBS module from way back. They have proven their worth time and time again. Let's take a look at some vintage WBS products that make use of the VU meter.


    Special edition Gold M405P Extended Range VU Meter

    You might have seen this M405P meter kicking around on our facebook page. It is a special gold edition build to commemorate the end of the line of our M405P Extended Range VU Meter.


    M405P Extended Range VU Meter

    The M450P was part of the M405 series of WBS extended range test meters designed specifically for broadcasters.

    The WBS T1202 console also makes use of two VU meters. If you'll remember from a previous post, these consoles were modified from of the M1002 portable consoled custom built for CBC.

    wbsps - console - t1202-19
    WBS T1202 Console - Photo courtesy of WBSPS

    Hope that was entertaining for those of you who are interested in the production or history of broadcast equipment. Check back with us to see more inside looks at production or more impromptu history lessons. Whatever floats your boat ; )

  • Making a POD29: The Importance of Clean Wiring and Design

    Here’s a little gift from our production team to you: steps in the process of making a POD29, and why clean wiring and design is essential for the making of a great and functional product. For reference, the POD29 is 40W utility power supply from our POD lineup of products for broadcast professionals. Let's take a short look at what goes into designing one of these.

    As you can see in the image below, some of the the essentials have already been assembled, but the product is far from done. The POD-package that this product is housed in still needs to be build, terminations still need to be inserted into the POD-Package and the wiring remains to be taken care of. Lots of things still to do here, but I’m sure our production team can handle it ; )

    Another picture with a little more work done. If you look closely at the top left wires, you can see they have been sleeved off to protect them and prevent short circuiting, something we expanded on in an earlier post. You can also spot that the green heavy-duty pluggable connectors have now been set in at the back. Although it is not fully there yet, you can even see a little of the the rectangular POD-Package coming together around the assembly.

    Here we can see the product nearing completion, with just about everything where it should be. As you can see here, now the wires are neatly cleaned up and tucked away into their respective terminations, instead of a jungle of wires all around the product.

    Clean wiring might take more effort initially, but it is a good long-term investment. Neat wiring and design makes it a lot easier to test the product, and facilitates any replacement of parts that might be needed. It also ensures that a tangle of wires does not prevent the minute components that make up the product from working properly, or jostle them out of place in the product assembly.Additionally, if a customer has to send a unit in for repair, this sort of clean build allows us to troubleshoot and repair the product more efficiently, and get it back to the customer quicker. A win-win for everyone involved : )

    Now, here the product is waiting for testing by the technical team. As you can see, the packaging is almost done save for the top covering panel.

    Once the product has been tested and found to be working in tip top shape, the finishing touches can be put to make the final product come together...

    ...and then it can be shipped out to one lucky customer!

    If you're interested in getting your hands on one of these, head on our to the POD29 product page. The POD 29 is part of Ward-Beck's POD series of rack-mountable products, and is a 40W utility power supply with four outputs. POD29A provides a universal input, +15V and -15V DC outputs with ground. For information get in touch with us, or contact a dealer near you!

    And now for a little hint at what we’ll be tackling next…

    You might recognize the VU meters above from some of our modules from way back. Can you telling what product we’re going to be making out of these? Hint hint, it’s an active product and needs four of these to build it ;)

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Address: 945 Middlefield Road, Unit 9, Toronto, ON, M1V 5E1, Canada.

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