Two North Central College students use the new Wheatstone console at WONC radio.

North Central News

WONC makes major radio equipment upgrade with Wheatstone console

Mar 03, 2020

New technology creates new opportunities for radio career training and student broadcasting

WONC-FM 89.1 achieved another important milestone in its illustrious history with the addition of a new Wheatstone LXE digital console for use in its studio at Oliver Hall.

General Manager Zach DeWitz ’05 explained that the console provides students working at the station the opportunity to work on equipment comparable to what they’d find at a professional radio station just about anywhere in the nation. Entercom, America’s second-largest radio company, is an example of a major Wheatstone user.

“Our engineering staff did a great job making this look like a commercial radio station,” DeWitz said. “There are a lot of major market stations—including Chicago stations—that don’t have anything close to this.”

“That’s really what it’s about—providing the best experience for students who come here, regardless of whether they want to go into radio or not.”

Zach DeWitz

The Wheatstone LXE is a fully programmable digital system, meaning that WONC students for the first time are going from a digital database through which they program their shows to a digital automation system to make those shows happen. With minimal effort, they can pre-set broadcasts, make microphone adjustments, adjust the sound dynamics of what’s playing, communicate with colleagues on location, and queue up phone calls. The previous console was an analog device, so now all the equipment speaks the same language.

DeWitz explained that the transition to the new system has been largely smooth, thanks to the similarities in configuration between the old and new consoles.

“There wasn’t much of a learning curve,” he said. “Students can say, ‘I used it this way before and everything’s really the same—it just looks different and it’s much higher quality.’”

A top-down view of the Wheatstone LXE console used at WONC radio.

The Wheatstone LXE console in action at WONC.

Creating radio careers and building better communicators

The addition of the Wheatstone LXE was made possible thanks to the support of the College as well as generous donations from WONC alumni, who have always recognized the station’s need to grow.

DeWitz attests that North Central journalism and media communication majors as well as students with a passion for radio receive opportunities they can’t get anywhere else—whether they are pursuing a radio degree, radio career or something else entirely.

“That’s really what it’s about—providing the best experience for students who come here, regardless of whether they want to go into radio or not,” he said.

“I feel very lucky because it’s not every day that you get to work with such high-tech (equipment),” said Emily Vickers ’22, a DJ at the station majoring in psychology. “I’m doing this for the fun factor and the community, but this kind of experience will help me in the future. I’ve become immensely more confident and I can speak in public much easier.”

The console is now in constant use, and while having the new technology helps WONC students explore new kinds of shows and approaches like sports talk shows, DeWitz promised the station is staying true to its roots.

“We’re sticking with the pure rock format,” he said. “It’s been that way for decades and it’s not going to change.”

To listen live and find out information on how you can support WONC, go to the station’s web page. You can of course listen every day in the Naperville area on the radio at 89.1 FM.

North Central College students using the new console at WONC during a broadcast.

Joey Ficarella '20 (left) and Gracen Mylott '23 using the new console during a live WONC broadcast.