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November Last revision Jan 6, 2020

Next Meeting: Next Meeting We meet in Manhattan at Dole Hall on KSU's campus. January 14 at 7:30 PM, hosted by John Langer who will also give our program for the evening. He will talk about the Syncology Diskstation Server, an affordable server, and its many applications at work, such as data storage, media distribution, streaming, or even for multimedia uses at home. John says it is so versatile he calls it his "Swiss Army Knife". No organized meal, but some of us will eat at the Pizza Ranch.

Last Meeting: A crowd of 21 or so members and guests met in Salina on November 12, first at the Iron Skillet for dinner, then drove to Quality Record Pressing for our tour followed by a very brief business meeting. The Iron Skillet is a truck stop, and specializes in food served quickly. However, they serve both salads and entrees on an aluminum skillet! Less weight and cost I suppose, but durable enough to do the job, and the food is good.

The business meeting was held following the tour, but will be presented at this point in the newsletter. Robert Nelson moved acceptance of the last meeting minutes as published in the newsletter, seconded by Ron Jones, and approved on vote of members present. The Treasurer's Report was postponed until the next meeting. We stood adjourned, and left for our various home destinations.

Looking one way and then the other, while the crew ate supper at the Iron Skillet Family Restaurant in Salina.

The program for the evening was arranged by Rod Rogers, and our host/tour guide was David Clouston. QPR is a subsidiary of Acoustic Sound, and is one of three in the world for high quality pressers. The main part of their business is to press records for other parties, and they can do custom jobs for those who wish their album processed in a certain manner such as having it pressed on white vinyl. QPR has about 100 employees world wide, 30 of those being located at the Salina plant.

They currently run two shifts in the hours between 7 AM and 11 PM five days a week, most times pressing about 7500 records per day. Some of their customers over the years include the Jimmy Hendryx Band, Pink Floyd, and Bob Dylan The process flow usually takes any source of audio to be pressed and sends it to a mastering engineer who listens to it and determines the spacing and number of tracks needed. Since the needle must move laterally as well as vertically, the dynamic range will usually determine the spacing needed between grooves.

The audio is then cut into a black lacquer base and sent back to QRP.

The lacquer is then sprayed with silver, then nickel plated, which is peeled off the lacquer. This is the mother layer.

 

(Left) The plating process, where the lacquer copy is plated to form a "mother", or where the plated mother is replated and beefed up to form a "stamper", from which the vinyl is pressed.

 

The mother then goes back in the plating tank, creating a stamper. Each stamper can press 600 to 800 vinyls. QPR often has orders to press as many as 60K vinyls for distribution to sellers. I asked if QRP was doing any remastering of old classics. While they are evaluating this, they have not committed to it as being feasible at the present time, and are sticking with what they do well - pressing good quality vinyls for others who supply the audio.

The vinyl is delivered in one ton cartons as a fine ground product from Thailand. QRP uses about 25 cartons every three weeks. That vinyl is mixed with onsite scrap that is re-ground then loaded in the press bins, moved along with a screw auger, and heated to 282 F. This is deposited as a blob about the size of a hockey puck into the press and over a pre-deposited label.

The press squeezes the label and puck at 12 tons for about 38 seconds against the stamper which is heated by live steam, then chilled water cools it to 100 F, firming and setting the groove in the vinyl. Vinyl can be overcooked, and if so causes snaps or cracks in the finished product.

The pressing is then trimmed to its 12" final size, removed for a time of cooling, then stacked with other like pressings and cooled further to room temperature in the shipping room where they are then sleeved and readied for shipping to the vendor. The outside trimmings are recycled and reground to be mixed with new vinyl pellets so nothing is wasted. The newest presses at QRP are about four years old, but they are constantly on the lookout for surplus units they can refurbish. The vinyl used today is purer and a better quality than that used years ago, all of which contributes to the high quality of the product QRP is able to manufacture. It can be measured in the reduced noise floor in the final product. QRP has QC personnel that roam the floor sampling at random from production, then analyzing in soundproof testing rooms.

Our thanks to QRP and to Dave Clouston for allowing us to tour their plant. A good program, evidenced by the large turnout.

Our tour guide at QRP, David Clouston

My apology to Rod Rogers. In the last newsletter, I credited him with being fully retired. He says semi-retired maybe, but more likely its just a matter of him being a bit more selective in the jobs he takes on now. Sorry about that, Rod. Hang in there, you will make it someday.

While riding with Martin Heffner to Salina for our last meeting, we were admiring a beautiful Kansas sunset, when we noticed about 190 away, a huge orange moonrise! You know you are on very flat ground to be able to do that, but also the timing has to be just so. I can't remember seeing another instance such as that. Unfortunately, to get a good picture of either event, we would have had to stop the vehicle to have any hope of a decent shot, but the scene was spectacular - one not soon to be forgotten.

Bob Locke tells me that Maize High School, northwest of Wichita, and southwest of Maize, has installed enough solar voltaic panels to be considered energy sufficient. That would make for a very large facility, and may well be worth investigating for a future program.

Ron Jones tells me he has now installed a new energy efficient water heater that uses a small air-conditioning system which has its condensing coils in the water tank. Ron says it operates on less than 1500 Watts, and he gets some cooling for the house as a side benefit, along with plenty of hot water anytime he wants it from the 50 gallon tank.

Richard Ochoa former Chief Engineer of KPTS, has moved on, leaving a big void at that station. The Director of Engineering hired to replace Dave McClintock does not have a television background. The result is beginning to show on air, but not only at that station. Today, operating a broadcast station, whether TV or radio, has become much more complicated than in the past. In the same way flying a large commercial aircraft has become a very complex issue, and the problem with both, is that automated control, when it fails from improper programming, or from equipment failure, is not easy to wrest control away, or, the person who may have knowledge to do so (in the case of TV), may not be close enough to the server access point to remedy the problem in a timely fashion, since the are often busy elsewhere. At least in the case of US aircraft, knowledgeable and experienced pilots are at hand to do their best to take control, but TV Engineers have been stretched so thin that they are often tasked with other duties and not always available in time to prevent an embarrassing lapse in continuity of programming.

I've been noticing an interesting effect or artifact on TV as I watched recently and it amuses me. A fine herringbone jacket or salt & pepper hair shows it worst, as edges are sharpened in the video of slow or non moving objects. The faster the object moves, the greater is the reduction of higher resolution. Talking heads with short straight hair show it most, alternating from sharply defined individual hairs to a moving mass of the same color. So then, if the talking head wags his head at the same time he is talking, you get this roller coaster between HD and what ever the other is. Of course more bandwidth would help. We will see what ATSC-3.0 brings.

Weather predicting has certainly come a long way in the last 60 years, but I'm not sure the application of common sense has advanced at the same rate. On the occasion of the approach of a weather front and storm, my weather radio went off at 02:45 AM, warning of high winds, especially for high profile vehicles. Pretty good, right? My problem with the warning was that the warning was for 2:00 PM the following afternoon. I had been awakened from a sound sleep by the alert that would have served just as well if the a had it been sounded at 8:00 or 9:00 o'clock the following morning. While it may have been important to Semi drivers, any of them driving at that hour should not still have been driving eleven hours later when the front was scheduled to arrive.

Technology 10; Common sense, 2 or less. We recently stumbled on to a cure, for the most part, of our understanding of television audio, or lack thereof. Both I and my wife have lost a good part of the spectrum we used to hear and took for granted. Both of us now use hearing aids, mine for loss of high frequencies, hers for loss of lows for the most part. We each compensated
for each other a good deal of the time, but often with many "what did they say?" or "say again?" phrases flying about the room. She happened to see a sound bar for sale on a shopping channel, and we ended up ordering it. At least from that source, we can try it out until January 31 and still be out only the return shipping if we decide we didn't like it. It was called the ZVOX, and had several settings for "clarity of conversation. Dimensions are about 3x4x17 inches, and although we had to order white instead of the black cabinet they were out of, the performance is the thing, right? The installation was straightforward and we were able to use the digital optic connection between our Sony Bravia and the ZVOX bar. We powered it up, and my wife exclaimed "Yes!". I must admit I was surprised myself. Bass was pouring out of this small ducted box that I didn't even know I had been missing! It isn't too much of it, it simply fills in what should have been there all along. Now, I've been analyzing the performance for several days now, and decided I had to write about it. Besides filling in the missing spectrum, the thing I noticed most is the sound level processing. I know our Sony TV has some processing available on its menu, but when I got to thinking about it, that TV is more than 10 years old, and to expect its two small speakers to produce what I was expecting was probably not realistic. What little bass they were able produce has likely faded with time, but the level processing is something I have been grousing about for a ling time. I think we got the ZVOX mid week, and I told my wife, "we will see what it does on 60 Minutes".

Now this program is one that has caused me to hog the remote control, because when single reporters spoke, I had to jack the audio up four to six ticks, which caused audio to be way too loud when the commercials came. So, I was kept busy riding audio, if I was involved in listening to the program. When 60 Minutes came on the following Sunday, I barely touched the remote, and I was astounded! I thought about it for several days before coming up with a plausible explanation. The manufacturer of the ZVOX is not very forthcoming with online specs, at least to the degree I was wanting to know about.

    Obviously, sound processing has improved remarkably since TV has gone digital.

    It is very likely that my TV used peak voltage limiting to drive its sound processing.

    It is also likely that the ZVOX has its sound leveling based on power in the audio over a small period of time.

Even commercials that used to really bug me with very loud rock (Subway for one) are now tolerable, at least to the point that I don't immediately mute them (and the rest of the commercials during that break), and the funny thing is that this situation held true whether I had my hearing aids in or not. I have observed that as I age, the range between understandable hearing and the threshold of too loud has narrowed. In other words my comfort level has narrowed considerably. The ZVOX seems aimed at this feature and several others associated with audiology and aging. It has six positions which increasingly narrow the spectrum to the frequencies used in speech, while increasing the overall volume simultaneously. My wife said no to all of those clarity choices when we first ran through the sound bar setup, and we both settled on the default factory setting. I had resisted trying a sound bar before now, not knowing if it would help us or not, and since most of them come with an external sub-woofer, which we don't have room for. The ZVOX has only three 3"x5" speakers, L,R, and center. They have massive coaxial magnets, and I'm sure the ducted cabinet helps with the bass. But, I have not been able to find any spectrum plots from ZVOX. but, we are happy with it anyway. My wife wanted to know if we would keep it. I replied I had already modified the TV and IP distribution schematic for the house, and registered the product online. I think that should be considered a yes. I still am of the opinion that much more could and should be done to make audio more listener friendly at its point of production and distribution, but I'm quite thankful integrated circuits have made digital processing readily available in products for end consumer use.

Marty Heffner sent me link for a now unused microwave tropo-scatter system between southern Florida and Cuba. It was the early telephone infrastructure allowing Cuba long distance tele-phone service. The basis of the system was built on a massive sixty foot high parabolic section on each end of the link. With the high mechanical gain of the antennae on each end of the link, enough signal was reflected off the tropospheric layer to make the system work. The troposphere begins at earth's surface and extends upward to roughly 59,000 feet in the tropics, 56,000 feet in the middle latitudes, and 20,000 feet in the polar regions in winter. So, this link would work by reflecting off the 59,000 to 60,000 region created by the meeting of the troposphere and an ozone layer in the stratosphere. This system was used in the 1950's with one antenna in Cuba, and the other 90 miles away in Florida City, Florida. After the revolution outing Batista and allowing Castro to take power, the US government allowed the system to continue to operate, so they could eavesdrop on the calls, and the Cubans had no choice in the matter, but they likely looked for a different mode that allowed for more secure international conversations. Commercial satellites emerged in the mid to late 1960's, and 1990's for fiber optic cabling that would have allowed this to happen. The story didn't tell what system had replaced the telephone link to Cuba, but it is likely the 90 mile path was connected with either satellite or a fiber optic link, which should have allowed for fewer outages and a lower overall cost of maintenance and operation. There isn't space in this month's section for photos and diagrams showing the workings of the microwave path, but we will try to examine that portion of this story in the next publication of the newsletter. Think of the tower height necessary to place a microwave reflector in them middle of this path, or to install a repeater for better reliability !

Our thanks to Marty for the tip on the story. Ocean cabling would make an interesting article in its own right, because the only way to repair or replace a communications receiver-transmitter set would be to fish the cable up out of the ocean depths, complete the maintenance and return it to its place on the floor of the ocean. If any of you have topics or subjects you would like to see explored, contact John Langer with your suggestion. It is not always an easy task for a program chairman to fill our program schedule, not knowing what subjects are within your range of interest, so we encourage you to speak up - we all can learn something new, learn more about the subjects you may find of interest, or be able to contribute to the subject under study. If any of you have subjects for the newsletter, as Marty did, they are welcome too, and may get you re-certification points for SBE!

(Top Left) 1 ton cartons of virgin Thailand vinyl. (Bottom left) One of the presses. They are not huge, but do have a large ram, as seen in the right picture. Many complex processes come together at this point in production.

Newsletter Editor: R.W. Abraham

CPBE / CBNT Regional Engineer Cox Cable Wichita Retired

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