Your station probably has a high-end multiband processor for the main on air signal that cost $10K+. It’s worth every penny to keep you competitive, right? What about the other audio streams that your station serves… the web stream, the HD2 channel, maybe even an HD3?

The competition isn’t just the other stations in your town anymore. It’s XM, Sirius, Pandora.com, iTunes, Live365, and the hundreds thousands of others that are playing in this arena.

The larger players among the new, non-traditional broadcasters (i.e.: Pandora.com on the web, and XM and Sirius satellite) generally have pretty smooth processing. They understand the need to keep the listener listening. It is not to their advantage to make the listener adjust the volume for every song. It is also not to their advantage to fatigue the listener… there are too many other places the listener can go to hear similar programming.

As I listen to various web streams from over-the-air radio and TV stations, many of the streams seem to be direct feeds from the back of the console, with no levelling at all. On others, the hyperactive compression has the audio levels bobbing up and down like a cork in the ocean. I am left with the impression that the web stream (or HD2) isn’t considered to be worthy of the time and attention necessary to make it attract and keep listeners.

Yes, in an ideal world everyone would have a high-end broadcast processor on every stream. (I would thank you… my boss would thank you.) But even something low-cost like a dbx 166XL will tame the levels enough to keep ’em tuned in.

The “bobbing up and down like a cork” behavior seems to come from the use of compressors that are made for live musical performance, not commercial audio. A “musical” compressor can be a little slow to attack, or overshoot a little, and it won’t significantly affect a live performance. But they are not very well-behaved when pressed into service for radio. I’m specifically thinking of low-cost units from Behringer, Alesis, Tapco and others. I have had good success with compressors from dbx, Aphex, and Symetrix.

Have a good, critical listen to all of your streams. Us radio guys have been doing this “broadcasting” stuff longer than anybody else… we should set the standard for listening quality.

I welcome your comments.

2 thoughts

  1. Your format is pretty hard-driving. The heavy multiband compression and limiting is consistent with the general intensity of the tunes.

    Heavy limiting at the high frequencies tends to make cymbals and “esses” sound smeared… almost like they are lisping.

    I passed the audio through an Aural Exciter, and was able to restore some of the lost “sparkle”. Your processor may have some type of “exciter” feature. Give it a try.

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