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COMPRESSION

QUESTION FOR DAN O’DAY:

I'm a copywriter at a major market talk station, and I'm in an odd situation. My producer has been told he can no longer use compression or other processing in his spots. The chief engineer claims that it fouls up the quality of the broadcast. He bolsters his argument with some kind of audiophile philosophy and uses some badly produced spots to support his case. Management has supported the engineer, perhaps without realizing how this hampers the production value.

The last thing I want is to have my creative suddenly sounding like bad college radio. I'm looking for a little objective feedback. I mean, I understand the audiophile argument for purity. But at the same time, production without compression seems crippling. Any insight?

DAN REPLIES:

Being very ignorant on the technical aspects of audio, I turned this question over to Radio Legend/Production Ace/Voice Guy (and KABC/Los Angeles Production Director) Howard Hoffman. Here's Howard's response:

Whether or not you should use compression in spots is so objective, there's never a clear answer. There's always someone who says you shouldn't no matter how good it sounds.

Here's my feeling. The chief engineer should have no say over content. Period. The PD should make up his/her mind over this. And the production director should be trusted to make his/her output sound a great as possible.

The "fatigue factor of compression" myth has been exploded time and time again. KFI uses a good amount of it on their air chain and it certainly didn't hurt their until-recent dominance for almost ten years.

This sounds like the engineer is worried about how his audio chain sounds to other engineers in the market; they LOVE to hear their equipment working. Our chief at KABC gets his pride over more important matters... like how incredible our remotes sound, how dependable our signal is, how fast they can turnaround a problem or broken equipment, how to accommodate what the station NEEDS. etc. You know...their job. We all assume each department knows what they're doing so we can concentrate on our OWN jobs and do them right.

We're a talk station and I use compression for several reasons.

  1. It sounds good.
  2. We have such a high output of work that it would be virtually impossible to ride perfect audiophile gain on every 8-track production we make. We'd never go home.
  3. It makes promos and station elements jump out of the radio. PDs like that.
  4. There's an intangible "professional" quality to it that people kind of expect coming out of their radio.
  5. They let me.
Again, the final word should come from the PD. I have the blessings of mine. And I think our chief engineer Norm Avery (along with his assistants Mike Worrall and Tim Ahern) is one of he best in the business because he does his job so well...not because "he knows his place." This doesn't mean we don't make suggestions to each other, but we respect what the other guy does and yield to their better judgement when it comes to their particular field of expertise. He has his...you have yours.

Hope this brings peace...

Howard

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