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Chez Radio Procaster - A review from the non-tech

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Chez Radio Procaster - A review from the non-tech

CORRECTIONS:

"I wanted to point out that the studio unit is not a modulator, but just a connection box with regulated 12V power supply. The modulator is inside the transmitter itself. "

END CORRECTIONS

First, thanks to ChezRadio for allowing me the opportunity to review this new entry into the FCC Certified Part15 AM Transmitter market (whew.. mouthful).

I am really hoping that what I got was typical of the TX package. Out of the box it included mounting hardware, enough Cat3 to get me going, the TX (natch), the studio modulator (woot! I love the separation of the mod from the tx), all the mounting hardware, and oh yeah - a surprisingly sturdy and easy to tune antenna.

In all seriousness, it took me a whopping hour to go from opening the box to listening to some tunes over the air.

The installation was very basic: The tx was nailed to my lanai in the back yard, the ground lug was fastened to a metal plate that holds the joists together, which was, in turn, grounded to a 8' ground rod. Nothing special.

I picked 1700 because it was temporarily open (daytime in San Jose - at night, forget it..), I stuck a little Sansa MP3 player on the mod box, and made it loop for testing. For music, I used some classic Tommy Dorsey, a shot of Led Zeppelin, some DJ Magic Mike, a Little Dead Kennedys, a spoken word concery bit from Henry Rollins, and a bit of Zeromancer. I figured that should cover most of the spectrum.

1/4 mile from the house, I was hearing everything like it was a commercial station. At .5 mile, it was still strong. It sort of dipped out a little at .75 miles because of the fact that I live on a hill, and I think it skipped a touch (no idea.. just seemed like a logical answer to me). At 1 mile, everything was still strong and listenable, but it would phase out to a little hiss every now and again. at 1 and 1/8 mile, it just quit.

I'm thinking if I really tuned this thing, it would probably push 1.5 miles pretty good in my area.

All in all, I give this little tx pretty high marks.

On a 1-5 scale:

Ease of Installation: 4 (it would have been 5 if it leaped from the box and installed itself:) )
Sound Quality: 4/5 - the bass was a little muddy in places - could have been my install.
Communication with Vendor: 5 (This guys is mega nice.. answers all questions)

Pics would be here, but seriously - all the stuff you need is at his site: www.chezradio.com

Procaster

Thanks for the quick review. I've been looking over the website since the ad has been displayed on the top of Part15.us. I like the looks of this TX. It seems to have all the quick setup features one could enjoy. The price is still a bit too high for my liking. I think more in the $350 range is closer to where it should be. I like the way this thing looks too. I know there has been some talk about the ground, but I'm sure that Chez thought about this before making the TX so there are plenty of ways to properly ground it without FCC issues.

Is CAT3 really a good choice for sending audio and power to the TX?
I guess we'll find out from more user reviews in the future.

I like the little built in tuner, but I guess there isn't too much I can say about it because I don't have one to personally review.

I do appreciate the review you posted and I am sure many other Part15 members appreciate the review too. Can't wait to hear more reviews from users of the Chez Podcaster.

Procaster Quality

You can't build a FCC certified AM transmitter of the quality of Procaster or RangeMaster for much less and stay in business. The Procaster is not a toy by any stretch, it's a professional quality transmitter, and like the RangeMaster, each is going to find their own nitch market. Since the price point for the two transmitters is about the same, price is not an issue with these two transmitters. I have my Procaster in hand and will be conducting further test as soon as the weather clears up a bit, and report my findings here and the Radio Brandy website.

Steve
www.radiobrandy.net

KNJO Radio, Radio Brandy, Radio Outlaw, Outlaw Radio, XRQK, XRQK FM, AV News Talk, KKTO, KGOE, KDNF, Rave HD. Did time in Los Osos, San Luis Obispo, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, The High Desert, Las Vegas, Needles, Victorville, Glendale, Ridgecrest.

Procaster comments

I was ready to order the Procaster and had a few questions I could not find the answers to on their website, so I went ahead and emailed the company this Saturday. I did not expect an answer until later Monday, and was pleasantly surprised to get a quick, concise response on Sunday!

Unfortunately it was not the answer I was hoping for; I had asked if the Procaster can achieve 125% positive modulation, and if the onboard limiter will pass 125% modulation. Unfortunately the answer was negative, the unit does 100% positive modulation.

For me that does not work, as I really want to squeeze as much range as possible out of the part15 rules, and the extra 3 or 4db does add real, usable range.

Overall though I was impressed with the companies speed of response and their straight forward answer. I look forward to Steve's hands-on reviews and comments from other users who actually use the rig.

A comparison would be interesting

It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of the modulation waveforms of the top units.

Personally, as the owner of both an SSTran and a Hamilton Rangemaster, I have to give the nod to the Hamilton Rangemaster for the absolute best sounding audio of any commercial unit I've ever heard. I believe it can achieve greater than 100% positive modulation from what I've read (I haven't made any lab measurements on mine, since it's been in service since I got it). I have to tell you, the audio quality is nothing short of "magical". You just cannot believe that AM radio can sound that good!

WEAK-AM
Classical Music and More!

I like AM radio for news,

I like AM radio for news, there aren't many music stations on there that I know of but with a good antenna and receiver i know it can sound good. As for music and sound go there's really nothing better then a live concert I just got T in the Park tickets can't wait to go should be an awesome time.

Rangemaster - 125 % POSITIVE modulation

Keith Hamilton says the Rangemaster transmitter is capable of more than 100 percent positive modulation. However, to maintain program audio quality, a high quality AM broadcast audio processor is REQUIRED. The processor should have automatic phase flip, a negative waveform clipper, a compressor, a limiter, multiband EQ and NRSC AM pre-emphasis. The Rangemaster web site mentions processors that fit the bill. These processors are listed occasionally on the 4-sale part of this site.

A calibrated modulation monitor or oscilloscope is needed for proper setup of the processor and transmitter audio. Of course, the final test is always what the station sounds like in a high quality AM receiver.

The Rangemaster will indeed produce positive modulation peaks in excess of 100 percent and at the same time produce negative signal peaks less that 99 percent. I have had mixed results with other transmitters I have tried. What is your experience?

BTW, AM transmitter modulation in excess of 100 percent will extend the stations range somewhat with all other considerations and comparisons being the same. This is a very old trick used by commercial AM station engineers. And yes, I include myself in that august group; old radio engineering geezers.

Marshall Johnson, Sr.
President & General Manger
Rhema Radio - The Word In Worship
The Dalles, Oregon, USA

Marsh Johnson, Sr. - North Bend, Oregon, USA

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