Question about sending processed audio to DJ monitor (fake air).

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Thread: Question about sending processed audio to DJ monitor (fake air).

  1. #1

    Question about sending processed audio to DJ monitor (fake air).

    This question is about engineering for a live broadcast. In days past, the studio monitor (and talent headphones) was a direct feed from the audio output of the modulation monitor. Not only did this provide for immediate notification if the station went off the air, it also gave the DJ a processed audio feed. As a DJ, I can tell you this was important. The announcers simply sound better when they hear the actual sound that the listener hears.

    However, I don't know how to explain that to someone that doesn't get it. Now days, with the time delay in digital processing, there is no way you could use an actual air monitor. So, some stations create a real-time processed audio feed to send to the studio monitor and headphones. I have heard this called "fake air."

    To satisfy the need of knowing when the station goes off the air, a silence sensor can flash lights when needed.

    Are any of you doing this for your live air talent? One engineer told me his staff wouldn't go live without fake air.

    How would you explain the need for this to a station owner that thinks an off-air monitor (with the delay) is the same thing? I get the "why are you the only one that complains about this?" question. How do you explain to somebody that hearing the proper mix and processing, even if it's only emulating the actual air sound, makes the DJ sound better? Sure, it's a mental trick, but it works. As a PD once told me, a DJ listening to the board monitor sounds like the life is sucked out of him.

  2. #2
    I think you have a pretty decent explanation as to how hearing a processed feed real time will help your performance on the air. I have never seen a jock that refused to go on with out a processed headphone feed though and It may be an up hill battle if your the only one asking. I have made "fake air" out of a few things over the years; some options are cheap or free and others can cost quite a bit. The free route is to reuse an old FM processor, maybe a pulled from service analog Compellor; assuming they have a few on the shelf? Cheap is to buy a basic compressor and EQ, a total cost of maybe $300. Expensive would be to get a new Compellor ($1100) or Omnia One or similar ($2500-3500).

    Good Luck!

  3. #3
    I have used dbx 166 processors to set up "pre-air" feeds for a bunch of my stations. They are all over E-bay or you can buy the current version brand-new. Air talent seems to like them OK.

    If you have a fairly late-model processor at the studio, some of them have an analog output that can be set up as a "headphone monitor" with minimal processing latency. Obviously that won't work if you have a delay upstream of the processor.

    If you want to show that owner why the talent monitor setup is such a big deal, see if you can arrange for him or her to talk on the air with headphones monitoring the raw air signal, processing delays and all. He or she will grasp the concept pretty quickly.

  4. #4
    Your best observation... "it's a mental trick, and it works". Stations have been doing this for decades. It may have started where studios were somewhat out of earshot of the transmitter, or maybe there was a lot of noise, but the advent of digital processors and STLs has certainly pushed it along.

    As for what to use: I make good use of the stuff the stations replace but never take off their books (read: laying around years after being taken out of service). Old Compellor/Dominator combos, analog Optimods, Symetrix & Behringer comp-limiters, even antique Dorroughs and Audimax/Volumax combos can be made to work. Whatever adds compression and maybe some density, followed by a set ceiling pretty much fills the bill. Personally, I'd consider an Omnia to be overkill, since most of what you're looking for is how your voice sounds in your ears, compared to the level of any surrounding (music) content.

    If you want to be a hero with the 'jock staff', put an equalizer in the headphone line and let them have it. That may be remnants of my '70s thinking, but it could be useful in some cases.

    Outfits like Henry and Broadcast Tools have boxes that will switch the headphones from air to internally-processed when the mic is turned on. That fixes the off-air monitoring problem and deals with latency when talking.
    Last edited by Grounded Grid; 06-15-2017 at 01:01 PM.

  5. #5
    We used to send the separate analog processed audio only to their headphones, but the studio monitors works too.

    Another cheap choice for headphone off-line processing are the classic CRL multiband stereo processors like the SEP 800's. You can get as aggressive in processing as they prefer and CRL multi-band units don't pump like Dominators or wide band limiters like Compellers do.

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