New York, NY, July 22, 2019 — The Empire State Building has gifted the Audio Engineering Society with one of the 32 elements from its Alford antenna array, which overlooked Manhattan from high above for more than half a century. This piece of FM broadcast history will be on display at AES New York 2019, the 147th Audio Engineering Society International Pro Audio Convention, at the Jacob K. Javits Center in October.
“The Alford Antenna is an important part of what made broadcasting as we know it today possible, and the Empire State Building is excited to share this special piece of history with the Audio Engineering Society,” said Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust.
Since its opening in 1931, the Empire State Building has been on the cusp of innovation. When the Alford master FM antenna was installed around the 102nd-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1965, it was a revolutionary development in broadcast technology. Instead of operating at lower power from various rooftops and hilltops around the city, for the first time multiple FM stations could operate at full power from a single shared antenna system atop what was then the tallest building in the U.S., carrying the signals of more than a dozen top New York radio stations to tens of millions of listeners in the tri-state area.
“The Alford Antenna played a critical role in the delivery of spoken word and music to millions for decades,” notes Nadja Wallaszkovits, AES President. “The AES is proud to present this slice of New York’s rich broadcasting legacy to the attendees of AES New York.”
The 32 elements from the Alford antenna ringed the 102nd-floor observation deck, 16 each above and below the viewing windows, each element angled at 45 degrees to create both horizontal and vertical polarization, another pioneering aspect of Andrew Alford's design. The array continued to serve as a backup antenna for New York FM stations well into the 21st century, including being used for emergency restoration of FM signals that had transmitted from the World Trade Center.
The antenna's 50th anniversary was celebrated at a joint AES/SBE event held at the World Trade Center in 2015, recognizing its place in FM history as the first of what would eventually be hundreds of FM master antenna systems around the globe. Additionally, due to their longstanding relationship with the Audio Engineering Society, the Empire State Building authorities and the broadcasters of the building have long supported the Society and have hosted special tours and events for AES members and convention attendees.
The Alford Antenna display is just a part of a full slate of Broadcast and Online Delivery content at AES New York 2019, including workshops, tutorials and presentations of cutting-edge research, best practices, standards work and additional historical perspectives. Registration for AES New York 2019 is now open at www.aesshow.com.
Additionally, videos of special events hosted during the AES New York 139th International Convention in 2015 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Empire State Building’s Alford antenna are available:
Video 1 - AES Empire State Building special event at AES 139th International Convention celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Master FM Alford Antenna during the AES New York 139th International Convention (https://youtu.be/h3_Xv78fK-E)
Video 2 - Empire State Building Alford antenna 50th anniversary lightshow held during the AES New York 139th International Convention (https://youtu.be/rhrI9Xgg6j4)