Building your LPFM can vary in cost from $3000 and on up. There are lots of variables involved, including whether you will have your transmitter and antenna at your home, or if you will have to relocate it to another site.
None-the-less, any amount of money can be a huge hit to anyone just putting a station up. So...I have arranged lease-purchase programs with a couple of good broadcast related companies that will allow you to pay each month as opposed to putting a huge amount of money out up front. Sure, you'll pay more in the long run, but, you will have an amount that you can budget a lot easier.
First out of the box ( so to speak ) I am going to show you 2 transmitters. These are both BW Broadcast transmitters. They are wonderful units and have been used here in the U.S. both as main transmitters and as a FM translator. Very simple to use, nice front panel display and has a very simple audio processor in it, which is defeatable so that you can use an external audio processor. They also produce other transmitters ranging from Part 15 units up to 1Kw., also in their line are FM amplifiers, audio processors, IP units, RDS encoders and FM receivers/translator receivers
The 50 watt transmitter is $1650.00
The 150 watt transmitter is $2325
In selecting equipment for your LPFM station, there are literally hundreds of items you could choose for your station. What we are attempting to do here, is to reduce this down to just a few of the most popular items to make your selection a quick process and not a long, drawn-out mess that it could be.
You have taken the first step towards professional radio, and I want to make sure that the equipment you choose will work for what you need it to do. No "Shack" stuff here. You will be using this on a daily basis with a lot of use. Consumer equipment is just not designed for the use it would get each day and that is why we don't use this in the broadcast industry. It's embarrassing when something breaks, and you don't need that in your venture. Here, you will find only equipment that the pros use, which is what you are as well. A couple of items will be posted here shortly
Your next selection is microphone stands. There are a couple of types that you will need to decide on, depending on just what you want to do.The first is the basic table top mic stand, such as this Atlas unit, and for some, this will work just fine. It has a few inches of vertical adjustment and has a standard thread to accommodate industry standard mic clip or shock mounts.
If you want more function, then you need to look at the following. One has a flat table top mount, the other has a 12" high extention, which is great for those of you who want to stand up when you talk.
Next, let's talk about audio....This is a subject of much, much debate. Most small transmitters have at least some sort of audio processing built in them, mainly along the line of a limiter or limiter/AGC. So, you get very basic processing of your audio. It won't sound like the big boys, but it will do a decent job.
If you want to get more punch, then you need to look further. Companies like Omnia, Orban, BW Broadcast and a couple of others, manufacture professional processors that can help you get punch in your signal and help you stand out. From 2 band up to 6...or even more, they help you tailor the sound to what you want it to be. Now, do you need to spend $13,000 for a new processor? No..and in my opinion, you'd be wasting a lot of money. Processing companies have great little boxes that will surprise you with what they can do and are a better fit for LPFM. Sure, you won't get one for $800, but a good one does not come cheap. And let's face it, we are all in the audio business. Do you want to trust your audio to a cheap, unknown "processor"? Of course you won't. You've got too much on the line.
Let's look at mixers, now. You can use just about anything you want to, really...if you want to use a flat, tabletop mixer, then there are a lot of choices... Mackie, Behringer, Allen & Heath, and that list goes on. Just remember that if you use one of these mixers, pay attention to how many stereo channels are available. Some only have one or two stereo channels available, with the rest being used for microphone or mono inputs, so be really careful. PERSONALLY, I don't like using a mixer with the little knobs, like the Mackie 1202 or the Behringer equivalent, just because....well, because I like slide faders. These are just my preference, but I like to know immediately where on the fader my audio is.
If you decide to go the professional broadcast mixer route, plenty of good mixers abound. Just take the time to research.
Microphones? Personal preference again. I like the Heil Sound PR40 in my little studio at home, but you will also be spending $275 for this. It is a good mic, though. Other, more basic mics are the old workhorse Shure SM58, HeilSound PR20, Shure SM57.
****OK. Now here is something you need to reallllllly pay close attention to. EAS is MANDATORY. And it's not something that many are talking about, but you need to comply, and it is a very expensive fine from the FCC if you don't. The EAS, or Emergency Alert System, is the government mandated warning system that you hear on your local radio or TV with the attention getting ( read annoying ) digital scritch-scritch-scritch that you hear right before a weather alert, warning or weekly test. LPFM stations will be required to receive the alerts from 4 sources: AM, FM, NOAA weather, and Internet. You will not be required to generate alerts, but you must be able to receive the alert signals, and to pass this on either in a delay mode or allowing your EAS unit to overtake your own audio to transmit the alert. A new unit from Digital Alert Systems is a receive only device will help you fulfil this requirement. SAGE Alerting Systems has a decode/encode unit, but as of this time, I don't believe they have a decode only unit. I will check over the next day and report back.
CD players, Recorders, and other audio equipment. This is a wide and varied subject, but, I will tell you what I feel works best.
Although combo CD/CD recorders are great, it leaves you with a huge point of failure. If your recorder goes out or your player goes kaput, you are dead in the water. This is why I like separate pieces. There are great dual CD/MP3 players available, and recorders are available as well. Of course, if you needed to have a unit like the "station in a box ", the having a "one piece does all" might be better for you, at least on a temporary basis.
You will want to go out and have the ability to do a remote broadcast. PLEASE, PLEASE don't use your cell phone. It's a pet peeve of mine as it just sounds amateurish, especially when there is equipment that will allow you to sound like you are in the same room. TieLine has different equipment that makes it easy to do, and it can be done by either 3G or 4G cell or by WiFi. The 3G/4G is encoded and decoded back at the studio, so none of the cellphone sound. Good, 15Khz audio.
Coaxial cable. Ya gotta have it. Depending on what your distance is from your transmitter to the input of your antenna, RG8 or RG214 will work fine for short distances, but anything over 50ft., though, and I'm using LDF4-50A coax due to it's much lower signal loss. Don't forget to figure in coaxial connectors and a couple of short jumpers to connect to your transmitter and antenna if you use the 1/2" coax. Why use a short jumper and not connect directly to the back of the transmitter and antenna? In one word, flexibility. Sure, you CAN go directly to each, but, since the 1/2' coax is fairly rigid, any bump puts strain on the connector on the transmitter and certainly on the antenna input. Thats why I have always used a 12" jumper of RG-214 to connect to each, thus giving you some room to counter any bumps or vibrations caused by wind.