Grupo Renascença Multimedia is among the largest players in Portuguese radio. The firm operates three major stations in the nation: Rádio Renascença – known colloquially as ‘RR’ – Mega Hits, and RFM – which constantly rates as the highest listened-to station in the country. Across its entire portfolio, Grupo Renascença Multimedia provides everything from news, sports, music and other entertainment. The stations also include a bit of religious programming as the primary owner of the radio group is the Catholic Church.
“We actually have a chapel in the building,” said José Loureiro, Assistant Manager at the Radio Innovation & Technical Unit for the stations. “And even the chapel is connected to our audio system, because once in a while, we do use it for broadcasting religious events. But really, as unique as that is, it’s not that crazy or difficult to include it in the audio workflow because we’re using Dante.”
Audinate’s Dante is the de facto standard for digital audio networking, and distributes hundreds of uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio channels via standard Ethernet networks, with near-zero latency and perfect synchronization. Dante allows audio, control, and all other data to coexist effectively on the same network.
Loureiro describes Dante more succinctly.
“It gives us confidence and agility,” he said. “And it makes life a lot easier.”
In 2016, RR moved into a new headquarters in Lisbon. The previous office location – which they had occupied for nearly 80 years – was in the city center and snaked across multiple floors within a historic building. The facility was, according to Loureiro, a case study in how challenging traditional cabling becomes over time.
“There were cables in there that had been sitting in the same place for a long time,” he said. “You didn’t want to touch them because you really didn’t know what they did. Maybe nothing. Maybe something really important. So, people just left them alone. Over time, that becomes a bigger and bigger problem.”
This challenge was discussed when Grupo Renascença Multimedia began looking at a new facility. Manufacturer AEQ, whose technology features heavily in the new system, recommended moving to a Dante-backed system, which would largely eliminate traditional cabling. Instead, signals could flow over standardized network infrastructure – allowing for less cables, more connections, and better insight into what, exactly, was on the network.
“We knew we could go beyond just solving the problem of cables lying around,” Loureiro said. “We knew we could gain the ability to know what, exactly, each signal we were using was. And if we could do that, we could run a more agile business. So, we went with Dante.”
Loureiro said Dante provided not just the audio-over-IP capabilities it was looking for, but also confidence through its interoperability. Because Dante is used in more than 2,800 products by more than 500 manufacturers, RR would never be confined to one single type of product or manufacturer.
“For example, if a mixing console goes down, I don’t worry anymore,” Loureiro said. “Because I know Dante isn’t down. I can just plug in a new console and we’re back up and running. The ability to replace something that easily without a hassle and without cabling it really does give you confidence.”
RR has 11 studios and four “phone booths” – or mini-studios – it supports with Dante networking.
The studios utilize AEQ Netbox 32 interfaces, which turn all the audio from the studio – microphones, CD Players, TVs, DJ Sets, and more – into Dante signals. AEQ Capitol IQ mixing consoles are also used in the studios – these are also fully Dante capable, allowing for mixed signals to exist immediately on the network.
Behringer X32 mixing consoles, which are native Dante, are also used in a few locations. Two RDL RU-LB4 line-level bi-directional network interfaces and an AEQ 4MH interface are also used.
In total, the system makes use of more than 50 Dante-capable pieces of equipment and manages around 1,000 signals – mono and stereo – each day.
“I think we currently have zero audio cables running from one room to another room,” Loureiro said. “We’re at the point where I can’t even think about doing it the old way anymore. Going back to traditional audio connections would be very difficult for all of us here because of how much it has improved operations.”
A day-to-day, quality of life improvement Loureiro gives as an example: sometimes a reporter or producer will want to play out something from YouTube or bring a Skype channel into a production. Because Dante is integrated into computers on site, the addition is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse.
Further, Loureiro said he is looking forward to adding additional locations to the workflow – such as meeting rooms and a small auditorium – with Dante capable microphones.
“It seems simple, but the big advantage we have now is flexibility,” Loureiro said. “We’re in a world where we just need to connect devices to the network with a single cable and we can change our production. It used to be a pain to make changes. And now, it is very easy.”
When asked about the fiscal difference in the system – what it would cost to replicate what he has now with a traditional setup – Loureiro said he didn’t want to consider it too much.
“I don’t want to go back to a traditional system,” he said, laughing. “But, obviously, it would be far more expensive. I really don’t think I can put a number on it with the cables and work hours that would go into setting it up. But you could easily guess you are cutting costs by 90 percent by going with Dante.”
Loureiro says even with that estimation, he still believes the greatest benefits relate to the new efficiency of his company.
“We’re working a lot faster and with a lot less stress,” he said. “Yes, it is also far less expensive of a system, but it is so much better it is hard to put a price on it. The fact that you can access a signal anywhere on your infrastructure is really amazing. Radio makes the effort to be very agile in its response to news or new music, so solutions like Dante allow us to amplify that effort. It’s changed the way we work for the better.”