91.7 The River

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The Making of 91.7 The River

Here's how I made 91.7 The River a thing, and what led to me making it.

(img) A look at the setup for The River
A look at the setup for The River

The Beginning

Sometime around early December 2020, I decided to set up my own Icecast server. Around that time, I was playing around with a Prevue guide emulator and wanted to make a public stream for it. I decided to rent a $5/mo VPS from Hostwinds. It was basic enough that it wouldn't run my limited funds into the ground, but had enough growing room for me to play around with other things.

Now that I had a public-facing Icecast server, I decided to set up a 24/7 radio station. Music ranged from indie rock to pop, and was ran on my main PC in the background. The stream was a 24kbps AAC+ stream, as I wanted to stay conservative with my 1TB of bandwidth. The server was accessible via the IP address only, with a single-page website for users to listen to the stream.

The Second Stream

A few months after the stream began, I decided to add a second stream. I was given a collection of 7" singles by a local thrift shop owner, so I decided to digitize them and play them on a secondary stream. I had only digitized a stack of the records before I lost the motivation to rip the rest of them.

After this, I decided to download a 70's soft rock Spotify playlist to build on. I chose a soft rock based format because my local soft rock stations, KOBM-FM and KGOR-FM, have weak reception in my area. I later got my hands on a Talking House AM Transmitter and a Signstek ST-05B FM transmitter so I could finally hit the airwaves.

The Birth of Sunshine 88.7

(img) A screenshot of the Sunshine 88.7 Website
A screenshot of the Sunshine 88.7 Website

Late at night, I decided to open up Seamonkey Composer on my Windows XP netbook. My goal at first was just to play around. I decided to make a site for my radio station, borrowing textures from my GRSites.com archive. I made a logo and a "Listen Live" header in The Print Shop Ensemble. My inspiration for the layout of the site comes from the late 90's - early 2000's, hence the copyright date of 2002.

Renaming to 88.9 The River

A couple months after that, I decided to remake the website. Instead of basing it on a Seamonkey Composer page, I decided to write it myself. Graphics are pulled from the GRSites archive, and the webpage was made to resemble the peak of late 90's web design (animated backgrounds and all). I chose the name "88.9 The River" because of my proximity to the Little Sioux River, and then made a new logo with a fitting background.

Moving The River

At first, The River started off transmitting at 88.7. It was an empty frequency, with nothing on it within a 100 mile radius. However, in parts of my town, I noticed some interference. I decided to move to 88.9, as it was another decent choice, with the closest station being KJIA-FM, a good 100 miles away.

However, because I'm unlicensed, I have no protection from actual radio stations. This meant I had to move again when two construction permits were filed for, one in November 2021 and the other in January 2022. Because of these permits, I moved to 91.7. The closest station on this frequency is KNSW-FM, over 100 miles away.

Upgrades to The River

I've upgraded several things over the past few months. At first, I used my old HP Pavilion laptop as the playout system. I moved it to my HP Compaq 6000 after I encountered issues with responsiveness while using the laptop.

For a mixer, I used a Realistic portable mixer. With only one line input, I upgraded to a Numark CM100 for more flexibility. I use channel 1 as the playout input and channel 2 for my turntable, with channel 3 serving as an input for a media player. The mixer also has a built-in EQ and outputs for balanced audio.

(img) A picture of the Numark CM100.
A picture of the Numark CM100

I originally used Clementine for a playout system, but because of its crossfader being all over the place, I switched to Mixxx. To improve crossfades further, I compiled a version with a tweaked silence detection threshold. Streaming is handled by Mixxx's built-in Icecast client.

(img) A picture of my playout system.
A picture of my playout system

Since getting the Signstek ST-05B, I became dissatisfied with its 50 microsecond pre-emphasis. I live in North America, where 75 microsecond pre-emplasis is used. With no easy way to change the pre-emphasis, I decided it was time to upgrade. I saw a recommendation for the JPL995 transmitters, and decided to get my hands on one. For stereo encoding and pre-emphasis, I use Stereo Tool running on an HP T610 thin client running Windows 7.

Because I use Stereo Tool, I'm able to transmit RDS. I transmit radio text to show the currently playing song, as well as time data and program type. Supported radios can show what I'm playing, as well as having the ability to set time to The River. Time information is accurate, as I have the thin client's system time synced with time.gov.

(img) A picture of RDS, as shown on a Sparc SHD-TX2.
A picture of RDS, as shown on a Sparc SHD-TX2.

As I mentioned earlier, I used Hostwinds as a VPS provider. I changed to Endless Web two months later, thanks to their cheaper pricing. Because Endless experienced prolonged provider issues, I decided to migrate to DigitalOcean. I'm still using a basic $5/mo server with 1GB of RAM and 1TB of monthly data, albeit on a much more responsive server.

If you want to listen in to The River, you can visit the website at theriver.msx.gay. If you're in my area (I'm not saying where!), you can always set your dial to 91.7!

Copyright 2002 - 91.7 The River
No money whatsoever is made off of this stream

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