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  • Step-by-step production of an ABB1

    We were busy at work this week cranking out several Audio Bit Buddy units this week, ready to go out into the field and be used by broadcasting engineers and servicing professionals. We have quite a few engineers and DIY enthusiasts following our blog, so we thought it would be good to give a step by-step breakdown of the pictures on hand!

    Below are the various and sundry parts needed for the making of the Audio Bit Buddy, in addition to the printed circuit board, which can be seen in the next photograph:

    These populated PCB have not had the wires or battery pack soldered on to them yet, but they have been populated with the connectors, jacks and ICs needed.

    Next, the wires will need to be soldered on to the populated PCB, each done up close and personal by our in-house production team. No mass production here, where something might get lost in the shuffle :)

    After the soldering has been done, the unit is ready for some preliminary testing by the technical team.

    A unit ready on the testing bench with the requisite testing equipment. Notice that the battery pack has not been put in yet.

    Next, we will burn the units in overnight, to ensure that the power adapter is working properly and that unit will not fail after extended periods of usage:

    Our custom battery packs for the Audio Bit Buddy have arrived, and we are ready to put them on and complete the testing of the unit.

    Once the testing is done and the unit is confirmed to be functional, it is now ready to be shipped out with the needed power supply and manuals, to find a good new home!

    Take good care of it, new owner! : )

  • Repairing an Audio Bit Buddy - The importance of using the right batteries in your products

    At Ward-Beck it is not uncommon for us to get repair orders for our products from time to time. Sure, the products we sell can be repaired outside, but it makes sense to send them to the factory that produced them, because we have all the production details to compare against, while doing the repair, in order to do an optimal job. In addition, if there have been software or hardware updates made to the project in the meanwhile, we can update those while we are repairing the unit.

    Another compelling reason is that we generally have access to the manuals and working files of the product, and considering we are dealing with fine electronics, we are mostly likely to know the nitty gritty about all the tiny components involved in the manufacture of one of our products. And that is what brings us to the Audio Bit Buddy that we recently repaired at our Toronto office. This ABB1 was quite old, dating all the way back from 2005, and had developed quite an odd problem.

    When in digital mode, it would not pass audio to the headphone jack or the meters until tapped on the side. Each time the unit was powered off and back on again, the procedure had to be repeated. The analog side worked fine, as did the status and error indicator, but in digital mode the issues lay.

    The initial thought of our technical team was there might be something wrong with the continuity of the power switch on the digital side, or a problem with an intermittent switch. Once the unit was received at our repair location, the ABB was taken apart, and a closer look revealed a different – if somewhat related- issue.

    Now, as mentioned before, this ABB1 was quite old, dating all the way back from 2005, which means the software and some of the hardware was outdated and replaced by newer components. However, the main problem was a more timeless: the wrong battery had been used.

    Our ABB units run on four 1.2V Ni-Cad batteries, which can be recharged with the charging adapter that is included with the ABB1. In the place of these batteries, someone has placed in a 9V Lithium battery, which is far too powerful, and is liable to damage components of the ABB1.

    If you notice the tape on the red wire, you will see that the original battery strap has been cut off and another one has been spliced in. There was also acid found on the metal battery bracket. Put together, these two things most likely mean that, at some point, the batteries leaked and damaged the connection to the original battery strap.

    Our technical team replaced the 9V batteries with four 1.2V Ni-Cad batteries, and repaired the broken connection to the battery strap. We also reprogrammed the ABB1 with the latest software, to ensure that the additional voltage had not corrupted the program.

    On the other hand, it is heartening to know that an ABB1 produced all the way back in 2005 (9 years ago!) has lasted this long, with only an odd little issue popping up. Ward-Beck products, truly made to last : )


  • 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!

  • 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!)

  • 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!

  • 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 ;)

  • First of our new and improved IMP-20 panels shipped out today

    Good news at Ward-Beck today! The first of our new and improved 20-unit baluns shipped out today to a lucky buyer! These high-density baluns now come in a sleeker package, and are designed with interchangeable front and back panels, to better fit the layout of your studio, and save you valuable space. We're excited to see the places this new IMP-20 line will go! Check out the below pictures for a sneak preview, and stay tuned for more information and specs!

    Contact a dealer and order yours today! (Order information: Ask for product code IMP-20.)

  • What's In the Vault?

    Before we kick off this week's edition of What's In the Vault, here's the answer to our quiz from the previous week. We asked you what the schematic was, which was forerunner to our POD-2 switcher. Well, voilà!

    (The M478A, an 8x1 switcher from 1976.)

    Alright, moving on to this week! Below you can see the M8203, a 400/1000 Hz Oscillator Module that is offered as part of our 8200 series of cards:
    Pretty sweet looking card. And below, schematics from 1975 for the M604A, a 25 Hz oscillator.

    And going way back to 1971, schematics for another ancient oscillator.

    Holding these schematics in your hand is a strange experience, because the things are handdrawn and you can really see the age in the paper.

    And now, another impromptu quiz, that is perhaps not so impromptu at this point ; )

    Below you can see our POD6 Headphone Amplifier and nestled underneath it, a schematic for a product serving a similar purpose from way back. Guess what year the schematic is from! No hints this time! : )

    We’ll reveal the answer at the end of the week, so tune in Friday for the answer, and for the next installation of What’s In The Vault!

  • 75 to 110 in 1.75 inches: Introducing our new series of high density impedance panels

    Our IMP balun series (75 to 110 or 110 to 75 Ohm converters) are upgraded and are now offered at higher densities for the XLR to BNC models. Priced at only $37.50 per slot, these panels offer incredible value for broadcast installations and systems integrators.

    If you previously used our IMP lineup, you will notice that we have introduced the higher density IMP16M, IMP-16F and IMP-8M/8 to replace the IMP12, IMP12A and IMP12B models. The new IMP16 lineup will give you the same high quality performance while allowing you to conserve much-needed rack space.

    Need a 10dB loss pad in the female XLR versions? These can be factory added at $7.50 per slot (check out IMP-1F/10, IMP-16F/10 and IMP-8M8F/10 for specs). Our in-line IMP-1M and IMP-1F are also available at $37.50 per unit with a similar charge of $7.50 to add the 10 dB loss pad to the IMP-1F.

    The highest density IMP-20 series comes complete with a full set of 3-pin pluggable screw terminals. Ease of installation and ability to use circuits as 75 to 110 or 110 to 75 Ohm converters makes the IMP-20 series an installers dream. No soldering of connectors needed; just strip and terminate in the rugged 3-pin screw terminals, plug them in and you're done!

    Our IMP panels are available from our distributors worldwide. Find a dealer near you or email

    Below is a chart to help you select the IMP product that best suits your application.

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