Quality! Quality! Quality!

I was listening to the radio the other day - tuning back and forth between my local Catholic FM station and a local FM protestant "talk" station when something I was not hearing finally caught my attention - sound quality on my local catholic station.

As a long time radio guy, I pay attention to things like this and I will defend strenuously that listeners notice such things as well. They may not have it on the top of their minds, but they notice.

In this case, the local protestant station won hands down in sound quality. Both stations are in the FM band, both are about the same age in fact both are comparable. One is owned by a local catholic non-profit, the other by Salem Media. The only difference is that the Protestant station has experience and knows the importance of crafting a good sound. What do I mean by that?

Crafting your sound means that you listen critically to your station’s broadcast – away from the station. What you guage is how you sound “out there” where your listeners are located. Listen on a variety of radio receivers e.g. car stereos, home stereos, handheld radios. Then ask yourself how does it sound? Can you hear background noise? Do the voices sound high pitched? Or, low? The goal is to sound as if the station was right there. We used to refer to this as high fidelity. You want to sound as clear as if you were sitting right in front of your listener in a quiet room.

In my case, the local catholic station sounds too high pitched, has some annoying background sounds such as room echo, static hum, and more. [Some of this is their fault and some is from the program itself.]

Why is this a concern? Ears are amazing organs. They hear every sound within their range – unfiltered. But, if there are a variety of sounds being heard all at once the mind has to filter out all the unwanted sounds in order to focus on the content we are interested in hearing. This is, as most people know, mentally taxing. Imagine standing in the middle of a party and trying to listen to a conversation right next to you. Depending on the level of noise in the room it can be quite difficult. Just as in this scenario hearing and comprehending is difficult and mentally taxing, [Who doesn’t step outside for relief in such cases, if for only a moment?] so can listening to noisy or unprofessional content be taxing. It stands to reason then, that poor quality sound hinders audience enjoyment. If our audiences can’t stand to listen to our stations, then how will we grow our audiences?

Talk to your engineer; there is much an engineer can suggest to improve your station’s sound. Create a focus group to test your audience’s reaction to your sound. Use equalization to improve your sound. Normalize your audio to avoid over modulating sounds. There is much you can do. If you need a better understanding of all of this I recommend you listen to your local NPR affiliate or some other highly experienced station in your market. Then, do you best to rise to their level of sound quality.

Make your station sound great! Your audience will appreciate it and will find it easier to stay tuned.

May your ministry grow with the Lord’s grace and blessing!