Touring a Transmitter Manufacturer

I started in professional radio in 1968. A transmitter company in Hackett’s Cove, Nova Scotia was founded in 1969. That company was Nautel, and both of us have been in the radio business for over 50-years.

Nautel initially began as a company that would build and supply solid state navigation beacons for the Canadian government. These solid state transmitters replaced ones built using tubes and proved to provide greater reliability and longevity; in fact, many of these early models are still in service today.

In the early 80s, Nautel would apply their knowledge and experience in building solid state beacon transmitters to radio broadcast transmitters, introducing 10,000 and 50,000 watt solid state AM transmitters.

Jeff Welton

One of the readers of this blog, saw that I would be doing a road trip through Atlantic Canada and reached out to me suggesting I email Jeff Welton at Nautel and ask for a tour of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Nova Scotia. When I reached out to Jeff, he quickly responded that he would be happy to give us a tour.

In 2020, Jeff Welton was the recipient of the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award.

Jeff has been with Nautel over 30-years, and is an expert in digital radio, radio technology and radio engineering. He is currently sales manager for the central United States region for the company. When I reached out to him, he quickly responded that he would be happy to give Sue & me a tour.

Since COVID-19 closed down the world, many of the people not involved in the manufacturing process at the Nautel facility work from home, so like most businesses these days, the volume of workers in the plant on any given day is lean. However, business for the company has never been stronger. The amount of orders they have in their production pipeline is noticeably higher than what it was before the pandemic began.

Jeff told me the company’s support team maintains several lower power standby transmitters (both AM and FM) for their customers that can be immediately moved to a location where a customer’s transmitter plant has experienced an emergency. Currently all of the support transmitters are in the field, as several stations have faced challenges this year, ranging from floods to fires to older (non-Nautel) equipment failing and needing something to get back on the air fast.

Solid State Technology

I had always heard Nautel being referred to as the “Cadillac of broadcast transmitters.” After Sue & I toured the plant, we understood why. Nautel oversees every element of their transmitters, from building the cabinets, to the internal components, down to the wooden crates that the finished product will be shipped in.

Nautel’s large impact on the radio broadcasting industry came with its introduction of solid state AM & FM transmitters and as the benefits of solid state technology became clear, radio broadcasting quickly embraced solid state designs over tubes.

Its focus on solid state technology from Nautel’s inception in 1969 is what made it a leader.

The company is privately owned, and Kevin Rodgers the current CEO/President of Nautel, worked for the company for decades before taking over the company from its founders.

Pipe Organs

While I’ve been to several different manufacturing plants over the years, what I found touring Nautel’s operation in Nova Scotia reminded me of touring a pipe organ manufacturer in Ohio. In each case, the company’s employees were like family, with the newest employees having multiple years with the company. There is enormous pride in the construction of the finished product down to the smallest detail.

Both the organ company we visited as well as Nautel, want their products to provide years of trouble free service but are always ready to provide customer support on a moment’s notice.

Nautel’s customer locations around the world.

Today, Nautel has more than 19,000 customers in 177 countries, with their RF (radio frequency) solid state solutions providing reliable service in harsh climates from the arctic circle to the world’s deserts.

Nautel is one of those rare companies that is big enough to be at the cutting-edge of innovative technology and small enough to respond to specific customer needs.

8 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

8 responses to “Touring a Transmitter Manufacturer

  1. Steve Biro

    I remember when those Nautel AM transmitters first hit the air in the 1980s. One could really hear the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had always heard people call Nautel broadcast transmitters the “Cadillac transmitters” of the radio broadcast industry. After touring the plant and meeting the people who work there, I understand why. Their pioneering of solid state transmitter technology from their founding has truly kept them out-in-front.

      Thanks Steve for sharing your thoughts.
      -DT

      Like

  2. After owning and operating a Nautel and witnessing firsthand the company’s commitment to excellence at many an NAB I’ve repeated many times, “If I can’t build the next station with a Nautel, I just won’t do it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julian Adamaitis wrote on Facebook:

    I always buy a Nautel whenever one fits a customer’s needs and budget. They started out building AM transmitters because solid state technology did not yet exist that could handle the higher frequencies of FM radio.

    I worked for an AM station that used Nautel and that was my first experience with their product. I bought an FM transmitter soon after their FM products became available. It was a rock solid design that had no computerized comments at all so they could keep the design as simple as possible and focus in building a robust and reliable amplifier. That first one I bought is still in service since. It is serial number 174 or something.

    I was brand new to installing transmitters then and Jeff Welton was amazing at guiding me though it. I can remember a call that they transferred to him at home. He didn’t need a schematic to help me out with my issue which was pretty complicated. I met Jeff several times. They sent him out to help me replace capacitors that had been recalled in that first FM I bought and again at NAB. A great guy!

    And yes the Cadillac of transmitters AM or FM.

    Like

  4. Pingback: Touring a Transmitter Manufacturer – dxradio.de

  5. Dave Colarossi

    Enjoy listening to Transworld Radio Bonaire on 800khz. in the evening over the air . Their new 440,000 watt transmitter and new tower array really is an improvement. I live in Pittsburgh Pa., the home of the world’s first commercial radio station- KDKA, non-directional, 50,000watts on 1020khz. Thank you for producing excellent equipment.

    Liked by 1 person

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