Sound Off

Radio GrupoOur friends south of the border sure know how to do radio. When we sent our audio processing specialist Mike Erickson packing to Radio Grupo in the Mexican city of Aguascalientes last month, we expected him to come back with tales of AM flamethrowers and hot tamales.

Instead, he wound up doing something he rarely gets to do at a Top 40 station: setting the sound for clarity first and loudness second. “They were going for long term listening and clean sound, which is a welcome change for guys like me who appreciate some dynamic range,” says Mike. “When processing for CHR, it’s usually loud and exaggerated. But they wanted open, clear and engaging!”

Previously, Radio Grupo installed a new studio with LX-24 control surfaces networked through the WheatNet-IP system for its six FMs and one AM operating from the same facility in Aguascalientes. The new Wheatstone studio facility with IP control surfaces and audio network was a marked improvement over the consoles previously used. Now, with a new audio processor, the group hoped to introduce even more program clarity in order to increase time spent listening to its popular XHUNO Magia 101.7 FM.

For the job, Mike brought along our flagship audio processor, the AirAura X3. Unique to the AirAura X3 is its 31-band limiter design, which enables the processor to perform precision spectral energy control where it’s needed without generating additional density or artifacts usually associated with peak limiters having fewer bands. The 31 bands are selected according to accepted principles of human psychoacoustics with ISO standard 1/3-octave center frequencies, which means the actions of the limiters go completely unnoticed by the human ear. Given the need for very shallow limiting in each band, “swishing” artifacts and unnatural density buildup is nonexistent.

The AirAura X3 also has a five-band AGC that proved effective on the station’s Top 40 recordings, which fluctuate between today’s overly compressed cuts and those cuts from the past that had considerably more dynamic range. “A typical broadband AGC wouldn’t be able to handle those fluctuations as readily as the AirAura’s multiband AGC,” explains Mike.

The result? Increased on-air loudness, detail, and listenability. “The sound is much better and more clear. Before it was clear, but tiny and at times unpredictable. The AirAura sound is very big and clear,” says Sergio Gonzalez Velazquez, the managing engineer for Radio Grupo’s six FMs and one AM in Aguascalientes, Mexico. “They actually use the term ‘crystal sound’ on the station as a competitive advantage, and when you listen, that's exactly what it is,” adds Mike.

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