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School radio setup

I received a DM on the 23rd of July from an enthusiastic high school teacher in San Francisco regarding my podcast studio setup. Unfortunately, I have retired and the studio featured on my twitter site is based in my former school. However, I have advised and assisted several schools in Ireland, the UK, Germany and Italy during their purchase and installation of their school radio station and/or podcast studios.

Presuming that all the communication skills and etiquette have been taught the next important factor to consider is cost. If you have a reasonable budget Behringer offer a wide range of microphones, mixers, filters and cables for use in a semi-professional environment.

Though it is called “radio”  I have never had anything to do with the actual radio broadcasting side of the facility so I cannot advise on the purchase of radio transmitters or local legislation, performing rights, copyright fees, etc. If you intend to broadcast on AM, FM or SW no matter how short the distance, you may require a licence. Interference with surrounding emergency services’ signals, not to mention radio and television reception is treated very seriously by government departments, whether it is accidental or not.

School Radio is usually routed through the campus PA (public address) system at specific times of the day. Performing rights considerations will still have to taken into account if commercial music is used during the shows. Often an extract of the song with artist and studio credits will suffice if you have written permission to do so. A follow-up link in the after-show internet slot referencing the actual recording’s online availability may also be a condition of use.

She mentioned an old mic and an noisy old box in her DM so I asked for a photo to help in my evaluation of her predicament.  Unfortunately, the poor quality photo I received this morning seams to show a two pinned wired (no rear XLR socket) Shure dynamic microphone plugged into a possible vocal filter/processor box with three knobs and adhesive stickers plastered all over it. Alongside it is, what appears to be a cassette tape deck and a pair of old Walkman style headphones. It would appear that there is no mixing involved at the user end as there is no mixer visible. The signal may be routed to a preconfigured channel on the school PA and the peak limits and other filters are adjusted by the user using the “box”. Of course the box could be doubling up as a basic mixer as well – I can’t tell from the image. I do not have permission to publish the photo as there are school notices and a school pendant on the wall in the background. Unfortunately the background items are in better focus than the mysterious gear.

I believe in using legacy audio gear as for as possible but I suspect that the microphone may not have an XLR or jack plug fitted. I suggest that the noisy old box should be replaced by a Behringer AUTOCOM PRO-XL MDX1600.  It will spruce up vocals for male and female users. It is a Channel Expander/Gate/Compressor/Peak Limiter with Integrated Dynamic Enhancer, De-Esser and Low Contour Filter. It is a one stop shop for voice filtration. Furthermore, a large diaphragm condenser microphone is far more controllable than its dynamic cousin. A basic two channel mixer and XLR cabling would complete the setup and afford the user greater flexibility on the overall production. Finally, a mixer with an integrated USB port may be required if you intend to record the session or podcast it later. An external USB interface is also available for mixers without USB connectivity.

One final note. The higher quality the cabling used the better the signal produced. A little soldering skill goes a long way but always shrink sleeve each terminal to reduce signal loss and to avoid hum.

I hope the above information was of some help.

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