Radio station equipment for a professional studio
Planning on equipping your radio studio with sound gear? Well...
—professional radio studios weren’t built in a day.
And if you're just getting started and wondering what to buy...
This post is just for YOU:
—you'll learn all about studios & radio equipment:
So, what goes on in a radio studio?
Exciting stuff! And tasks tend to be similar regardless of the studio's size:
- Downloading songs from the internet.
- Ripping CDs.
- Recording audio.
- Field interviews.
- Audio from third-parties such as syndicated shows.
- Submissions from artists.
- Creating new concepts for shows.
- Creating audio imagery.
- Coming up with scripts.
- Sourcing on-air guests.
- Preparing and editing reports, interviews, news segments, and other audio pieces.
- Adding information to a track such as artist details, setting cue points & creating categories.
- Deciding when programmes will be aired.
- Creating playlists.
- Setting up rotations (templates).
It involves getting the content to the listeners e.g. Playing music, reading the news, hosting guests...
If you're a web radio, you’ll be broadcasting on the internet using an encoder to encode and send the stream to your Radio server.
Self-operated studios vs Tech-operated studios
....one more thing before we talk about radio station equipment:
In a self-op studio, the DJ or radio presenter drives the desk. Another way of saying —the presenter operates the equipment such as the mixer.
Most commercial studios favor this setup. And the guests and co-presenters are also in the same room.
In a tech-op studio, the technician or producer controls the programming from a second room (called a Control Room).
A sound-proofed glass will separate the two rooms. And the producer communicates to the presenters through a talkback system (with mic and receiver).
Now, let’s talk RADIO equipment...
There are two ways of equipping your radio studio:
Turnkey studio solution
Want everything without breaking a sweat? I'm talking about...
Getting a ready-made studio with furniture, computers, microphones, mixers, radio broadcasting software and more!
Numerous companies provide radio turnkey solutions.
- Clyde Broadcast (UK)
- Eletec Broadcast Telecom (France)
Design it & build it yourself
It’s the most popular route:
You buy individual components and assemble a radio station. It's really advantageous, in that—you can start small. So...
- What radio equipment will you need?
- What will it cost?
- Can you build a studio with just a 100 bucks?
Let's tackle these questions...
An ideal studio room is usually small and well-treated. And there are two ways to treat a room:
- Acoustic treatment – reducing sound reflections and echo in the room.
- Soundproofing – making the room quieter by reducing unwanted noises from outside sources such as traffic.
Here is a neat trick I learned on how to test the acoustics of a room:
Walk around the room clapping your hands. Listen for echoes.
If you hear an echo, the room needs acoustic treatment.
You can improve the acoustics by covering hard surfaces with materials that absorb sounds rather than reflect it:
Some ideas include:
- Carpeting the floor
- Hanging heavy curtains over the walls
- Installing sound absorbent materials like acoustic panels
- Adding a couch to the room
As you hunt for the best microphone in the world—remember this bit of advice from sound engineers.
The equipment that accompanies the mic such as the mixer or sound card is very, very important.
So are all mics the same?
No, their internals —what's inside the mic's capsule—sets them apart:
Without dividing into the technicalities, there are three common types of mics:
Dynamic mics – All rounded mics used for a variety of sound applications. They handle loud noises pretty well.
Condenser mics – Highly-sensitive mics mostly used in studio environments. And they are great for vocals and acoustic instruments.
Ribbon mics – Regarded as the most natural sounding mics, they were popular with radio broadcasters in the 1930s to the 1950s.
Sound engineers ditched them because they were very fragile.
But thanks to new technologies over the last decade—ribbon mics are slowing making a comeback in the modern world of broadcasting.
Headphones are great for monitoring your voice on-air. But...
You can also use headphones to pre-listen to songs, get instructions from the producer or monitor your guest's voice.
You need to monitor the output from the mixing desk
Mixing desk – (or console, board, panel)
The mixing desk combines sound from multiple sources into one output signal, which heads off to the transmitter or streaming computer. For instance…
Two microphones, a phone line, CD player, and so on.
The mixer can look daunting at first. But…all you need to understand is what each channel does.
A channel being the vertical column of knobs and fader.
A quick tip...when shopping for a mixer, check if it has a USB output and the number of its inputs.
It's a bit obvious...
You need a robust computer with a decent amount of ram (4 GB+) good processor ( i3 or an equivalent processor) and enough memory.
It’s handy to have TV screens in a radio station—broadcasters watch TV to stay abreast with the latest news.
BUT don't mention that you are watching TV in the studio. You know why...
Your listeners may think---"there is more interesting stuff on TV. I'll switch off the radio."
Some presenters stand up while doing a show…it psyches them up ...and makes them feel like they're performing.
You'll stand up a couple of times—and sit down a lot. So, it's vital to get comfortable seats.
Look for a chair with wheels, so you can move about your studio. If it has an adjustable the tilt and height—all the better.
You need a table to hold your radio equipment.
Again, you can get furniture designed specifically for radio studios.
Studio setups to try
Next, we'll look at some setups with prices pulled from Amazon: (note that prices shown below are subject to change)
I’ll pair some equipment together and tell you what you can do with them:
$100 studio 2 speakers
Total cost: $101.52
For this low-cost setup, you'll also need a table & computer.
For the software, you can try out these free radio broadcasting software:
PlayItLive and Mixxx have built-in encoders. If you're using RadioDJ, try pairing it with the Rocket Broadcaster Free Edition, BUTT or Altacast.
Can I host an interview with this setup?
Yeah…the Blue Snowball has two pick-up patterns: cardioid and omnidirectional.
$620 Studio 3 speakers
Total cost: $619.76
With three mics hooked up to the mixer, you accommodate yourself plus two guests.
Still, the Behringer X1204 mixing desk has four mic pre-amps, and it can support four phantom powered mics.
You may not need the boom arms
The Audio-Technica ATR2100 XLR/USB mics have desktop stands.
So, you may forgo the boom scissor arms.
$3,350 studio 3 speakers
Total cost: $3,353.26
If you're looking for high-end gear, this setup has some high-quality equipment for a radio studio.
Allen & Health is a reputed company for producing some of the best audio gear in the world.
The XB-14 2 mixer is specifically designed for small radios, internet broadcaster or large studios with multiple broadcasting rooms.
Some exciting features of the mixer include automatic muting of speaker outputs, mic ON sensing, telephone communication channels and more!
It also has pre-amps that provide up to 69dB of boost. The SM7B mics require a boost of at least 60dB.
I have thrown in a pair of Mackie monitoring speakers.
And the most respected headphones in radio broadcasting; the Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO.
As you shop, you'll find a myriad of equipment.
I hope these examples gave you an idea on setting up your studio.
It makes this process more exciting—because of the unlimited setups possible!
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