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A screen capture from a recent ADR project using Audition.
Have you ever heard a sound and knew you liked it …without knowing why? Not so much a song or artist, but a style.
For me, that happened long ago. At the beginning of my on-air career, I worked at an AM/FM combo. We were a medium market, but our signal easily penetrated a large market (Toronto). The cool guys and gals at the station worked album rock on FM. Let’s just say that I worked the AM side. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We monitored the station in real time. There was no talk show delay (mainly because there were no talk shows. we were all music, all the time except for CBS News at the top hour). There wasn’t a computer in site. ITC 3D cart players to the left and right. A Gates console, read-board and clock to the front. We monitored audio with Electro-Voice monitors and headphones when the mic was latched on. The on-air talent heard the same signal everyone else did. That meant mono, lo-fi along with lightning crashes and other static. Of course, we logged transmitter and antenna specs every hour by hand. If we heard static on the monitors, it was our job to remotely reset the transmitter. After all, everyone had a restricted broadcast permit ; )
Our format was “contemporary hit radio” or CHR. When I was hired, we were in the middle of a compression war with a competing station. My music director wanted a sound “louder” than anyone else on the AM dial, and he may have succeeded, at least in our market. As you could imagine, the music (compared to todays standards) didn’t sound all that great, but we had plenty of listeners.
I remember putting on the phones and switching the huge Gates mic channel on with a big thunk and succession of relay pops. Even I sounded good! It was magic. That super-compressed, low-bandwidth audio sounded great. As I started podcasting and netcasting, I kept searching for that sound. Well, maybe not that exact sound. Add some dynamic range, drop the lightning crashes and give me bit more high-end in the frequency department. Otherwise – I still like to push the processor a little harder than most. If you’re a classical music buff, you are probably cringing right now. Sorry.
So that’s it. At a pivotal point in my life, I was exposed to compression and leveling to make an AM signal sound as it was never intended. Today, I appreciate what the audiophile crowd hears, both the ‘transparent’ and ‘psycho-acoustic’ crowd. The change in sound design that created Home Theater (or was it the other way around) with dramatic dynamics and exaggerated bass. My best friends are severe audiophiles, and the conversations between us are always a blast.
Many people search for sonic accuracy. What goes into a mic or amp is exactly what should be heard. That’s impossible (with the exception of test tones), but the pursuit isn’t. Just as artists experiment with instruments, I experiment with processing. When a customer requests a voice-over ‘dry’ – I can deliver. I can also make the spot sound like it’s for a tractor-pull convention or anywhere in between. These days, my personal taste is somewhere in the middle – as exposure to both extremes has conditioned me.
My breed is definitely outnumbered – big time. As a voice talent, I do just as instructed.
However, when given free reign on the show, I do like to punch it a little. Old habits.
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