NEW YORK, NY—“We have an opportunity with the gear that we have for great audio,” observed Randy Woods during a panel on “Audio Processing for Radio,” one of the many panels on the Broadcast/Media Streaming sessions program at the recent AES Convention in New York.
One of the challenges to great audio, noted Woods, engineering director for Central Florida Educational Foundation’s Christian AC radio station WPOZ (Z88.3) in Orlando, FL, is that there are issues even before processing. “Music production quality is flawed,” said Woods, who is also an officer of the local chapter of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.
The problem, he said, is at the source. Woods detailed a list of problems associated with even some of the top songs being added to the station’s playlist, using a number of waveforms of current hits to illustrate his points, the artists’ names omitted to protect the guilty. Among the problems, he said, is that production budgets and time are being slashed; that Pro Tools “is more of a curse than a blessing”; and that not enough attention is being paid during the mastering process.
As he allowed, there are certainly those within the radio industry who have also participated in the “loudness wars” along with the recording industry. And many stations are not even focusing on the technical issues.
The digital radio standard is 48 kHz/24-bit, to which all of the gear at WPOZ conforms, and to which the station’s library has been up-converted. In the studio, artists are typically recording at 96/24, sometimes at even higher resolutions.
But the industry is being let down by music distribution, he commented, which is 44.1 kHz/16-bit at best. The most common distribution methods, CD and Play MPE digital delivery, are at resolutions below the recording industry’s standards. “The CD is a consumer format,” he pointed out.
WPOZ, which has garnered numerous industry awards and is one of the most successful contemporary Christian music stations in the country in terms of ratings, is certainly in a position to push back against the labels, as Woods noted. Indeed, he has told the labels that WPOZ won’t play a song if the quality is not good enough, and is actively encouraging other stations to follow suit.