By Karen Johnson
You know the phrase, “less is more”?
By definition, it means simplicity is better than elaborate. Often, something simple is better than something advanced or complicated.
I struggle with this concept sometimes when I cook. I’ll add a little bit more of my favorite herbs and spices, only to regret it when I give my dish a taste.
A lot of broadcasters I know struggle with the concept, as well.
In radio, “the sound” is everything. Yet, behind the scene, the sound produced over the air is often the most discussed aspect of a broadcast.
Getting it right is important – really important – when it comes to audience retention, and in Arbitron’s “Time Spent Listening”, or TSL.
If your network provides audio to affiliates, our advice? Don’t process the audio at all.
Our Vice President of Field Operations, Doug Watson, was Motor Racing Network’s Chief Engineer for 14 years. Since Doug knew the stations would process the sound once it got to them, his staff only managed the network’s audio levels.
“We did use Aphex Compellors to make sure all audio was at approximately the same level”, says Doug. “We had huge dynamics of volume, especially when broadcasting the races. You would have loud cars and announcers shouting over the roar of the race cars. The Compellors evened all that out.”
If your network is not affiliate based, then you can adjust at the source or at your individual transmitter sites.
Larry Wilkins with the Alabama Broadcaster’s Association has some spot-on suggestions on how best to properly evaluate your sound and adjust accordingly that we highly recommend.
The only other suggestion we would add to Larry’s thoughts would be to
know your audience.
Knowing and understanding your target audience (and what their typical preferences are) can significantly help when processing.
At a small news-talk AM station in Tallahassee, our target audience was men, 18+. Even for a news-talk format, we included lots of treble and some base in the audio.
At a station that focuses on the female audience, often a cleaner sound is best, without distortion and over-modulating levels. According to Doug, “Lots of treble will drive a woman away, and she won’t even know why. She will just know that it can be tiring listening to your station. I never thought about it at the time but we probably should have brought in some of the women on staff to listen when we were adjusting processing.”
Today’s audio processors have helpful presets that Larry recommends, and so do we. If a preset is spot-on for your target audience, then that’s great. At the least, it gets you closer to what you’re looking for, with minimal tweaking.
Remember: when it comes to audio processing, “less is more”.