When Programs Have Poor Technical Quality

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When Programs Have Poor Technical Quality

Now that so many producers maintain their own little studios not all programs have the best sound quality for broadcast.

When excellent content is marred by poor audio quality there is an impulse for me to "butt in" and offer the programmer my best advice to improve their product.

Up until now I have kept hands off and accepted programs as they are, but in one case (unmentioned) I'm thinking about giving it a try to see if I can help.

Does your station have a policy in this regard?

I Would Do It

Is this show being aired anywhere else, or is it exclusive to your own operation?  If the former, ask the other station their opinion of the audio quality and what they are doing about it.  If the latter, offer your opinion and your assistance to the program provider. It might be their show, but its your station.

Darsen the III


Probing Deeper

Darsen III asks: "Is this show being aired anywhere else?"

Don't know, since the program is offered as a podcast and not a broadcast.

The program is "Skepticality", and consists of a monaural audiofile, but I suspect that they are employing multiple microphones which result in phase cancelations on studio voices and especially phone pickups.

Carl Blare

Sorry for the Long Response

Carl, I'm auditioning the episode titled "Fighting Post-Truth" from the link you gave me. Sorry about the length of this response, but if it helps make a better show, its all good.

First of all, is this show still in production? The copyright date on this production is last July and I don't see anything newer. Anyway, the file I downloaded is stereo. If I mix it down to mono, the bumper music naturally collapses, but I don't hear any major problems beyond that. The first segment sounds to be recorded in a reflective room, I suspect with a solo microphone (or portable digital recorder), as you can hear the handling noise and the host saying she'll "pass it over to Ben" at the 2:28 mark.  Stationary directional (cardioid) mics and a few curtains in the room would go a long way in helping the recording.

At the 30 mark, Bob Blasswith (sp?) enters with his report. This sounds like a webcam mic from more than a foot away. The gargle and room-ring is evident, and his cutoff at 7kHz is adequate for AM but abysmal for podcast purposes. He would benefit from a dedicated USB mic going directly into a recording program like Audacity (or other), then either emailing the file to the producer or connecting live to the host using Zoom or SourceConnectNow (no Skype). 

The Maldovian guest has the same issue: Internet gargle. Not much can be done about that at the receiving end. But the interviewer/host would benefit from moving his computer (and its fan & drive noise) far away from the mic and backing off just a bit on the heavy compression.

I also checked Episode #280 from Nov 2016, which is a mono MP3 file with a bit-rate of 32 kbps. A file with such a minimal rate is just begging for trouble, and the 'swimmy' audio quality throughout proves it. 

I'll sample a few more files to see what else is up, but if the show is seven months out of production, I dont know what benefit my analysis and suggestions will be. Good luck just the same.

Darsen the III


Mighty Fine

Darsen III I'm wonderfully thrilled that you have delved into this analysis of the "Skepticality" program, and am enjoying your well considered comments which demonstrate that you know the territory where audio quality is concerned.

I'm presently confused about the status of the series, having just heard the hosts appearing as guests on another very recent program in a different series.

Your remarks show that there are many possible explanations for poor audio, which makes it tricky to guess without knowing how they do their engineering.

I'm afraid that even if they welcomed outside help it might amount a very time consuming matter trying to convince their technician that he needs to learn better methods. I've had people bristle when I gave their audio work a poor report.

Still, we'll dig into this one case and see what we can do.

Carl Blare

Been There, Still There

CARL SAID: it might amount a very time consuming matter trying to convince their technician that he needs to learn better methods (END)

I work with people like this all the time: they know a guy who knows a guy who owns a Radio Shack mixer and is self-taught, knows it all and refuses to take advice, and is convinced the world stops on its axis so a global population will halt everything to listen to their brilliance. Aggravating.

I would first reach out to these folks to find out if they are still producing the program, explain that you are airing their show on OTA radio, and if they would be open to suggestions that could help make their show air-worthy and not just earbud candy.

Darsen the III


"..they know a guy who knows

"..they know a guy who knows a guy who owns a Radio Shack mixer and is self-taught, knows it all and refuses to take advice.."

I think people sometimes are unwilling to take advice simply because they don't clearly comprehend the advice they are given.. So for them it might be a case of doing it their own way or not at all...

Me, personally I think I suck at proper audio proccessing - probally because my hearing has always been so bad.. but if someone spelled out specific settings to try; for example: Set your EQ here, here and here. Set your attack and release here and here... etc etc. Well, I would certainly give it a try.

But if someone advised me in a more advance technical manner, then I probally wouldn't comprehend what the hell they were talking about, and then I would resort to adjusting settings in my usual not-a-clue way and hope for the best.

I think what I'm saying is; for example: If you want to give me advice on how to make my audio sound better, then talk to me like I'm an ignorant idiot.. but be nice about it!

Rich Powers Part15, Take 2..

Totally Makes Sense

Rich, points well taken. I actually have been a radio/audio instructor for both public access broadcasters and for summer camp students, and making things clear for both groups was always essential. "7 kHz rolloff" and "too much compression" means nothing to either group, but if I play a bad file versus a good one and explain in plain detail what it is that makes it a bad file, the understanding comes a lot sooner.

We all have a stake in good-sounding audio, otherwise we would be putting our gear up on Craigslist and starting something else.

You're on the right track, Rich: the best things any podcast producer or Part 15 operator can do to assure their product is good is 1) ask someone, "Be polite but be honest, does this sound OK to you?", and 2) Listen to your signal as if you never heard it before and pretend it was coming from a competing broadcaster ... what do you hear that you would change right away?

Darsen the III


Rich says:

"..they know a guy who knows a guy who owns a Radio Shack mixer and is self-taught, knows it all and refuses to take advice.."

I pull some syndicated stuff from Radio4All for our LPFM. It is amazing to me that some of the programs are so poorly produced with regard to audio. Hum in the background, over-driven distorted audio, etc. However there are lots of very professional sounding shows as well. Shows produced by Jake Longwell come to mind.

Like End80, my hearing is so bad from working the Flight Deck back in the day, I would need someone to send me instructions on how to dial in processor settings.

Druid Hills Radio AM-1710- Dade City, FL. Unlicensed operation authorized by the Part 15 Department of the FCC and our Resident Hobby Agent.  

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