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The XM Satellite Radio System

The XM Satellite Radio broadcast complex in Washington, DC, is a new concept in broadcast facility building, operations and control. The facility serves as the corporate headquarters for XM Satellite Radio, America's first national satellite radio service. From this broadcast complex — the largest all-digital radio facility in the United States — XM beams 101 channels of music, news, sports and talk programming to customers coast-to-coast.

Following substantial planning and research, XM selected a building in Washington, DC, that provided a large, raw space that could be transformed into a technologically advanced broadcast center. Though built in 1896, the all-brick building proved structurally sound and easily accessible from nearby Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The 150,000-square-foot XM facility is equipped with 82 end-to-end fiber optic, all-digital radio studios and a large performance studio. Independent suspended studios with four-inch-thick, steel-clad structural panels seal out intrusive noise to provide complete acoustic isolation without compromising sound quality. Fiber optics and computer servers enable XM to produce digital-quality sound across all 101 channels. Two satellite dishes transmit programming to XM's orbiting satellites, “XM Rock” and “XM Roll,” and the XM signal is then beamed to cars and homes across the country.

The studio design criteria required that the building be multi-functional, with studios of all configurations, as well as office space for more than 300 XM employees. XM's technical facility is comprised of a technical operations center (TOC), a broadcast operations center (BOC) and a network operations center (NOC), which together sustain the mix of radio programming, technology and satellite control needed to offer continuous digital-quality radio.

XM's operations and broadcast engineering team acted as systems integrator on the project, working with vendors and manufacturers in planning and building the facility. Modular and computer-aided design enabled planning of the entire facility before any physical construction began.

Because the buildout and technical infrastructure had to be completed in fewer than 12 months to meet XM's targeted on-air date, XM utilized modular studio construction to ensure on-time completion and consistent, repeatable acoustic performance from studio to studio.

XM combined key disciplines not traditionally used in radio. Among XM's innovations is the use of a large-scale automation system. Encoda Systems' Paradigm suite manages all of XM's audio channels and satellite uplink parameters. Encoda Systems' Channel Manager D-Series communicates to the Klotz digital audio routing matrix while interfacing each of more than 200 digital audio playback devices with each studio and remote origination source.

Each week, XM broadcasts more than 1500 hours of live programming, hosts artists and musicians from around the globe, and often serves as a venue for local community and government events.

Design Team

XM Satellite Radio:
Tony Masiello vice president, operations
Ed Schwartz director of broadcast engineering
Jaime Colon manager of broadcast systems
Eric Hoehn manager of broadcast operations center

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