Why is it so hard to get Realtime Broadcast-quality audio, even in 2022?

Forgive my ignorance, I’m not a hardware guy.

My goal is to do what the radio stations and cable news shows do—just record audio real-time and have a nice compressed (and loud) wave file come out.

Preferably, I’d like to do this all without any post processing.

I have messed around with the DBX 286 and the VB-Audio VoiceMeeter Banana and the Behringer Xenyx Q502USB mixer (which has a “one button compressor”).

But my question is, how come it still seems to be so difficult to find a hardware go-between unit—which is capable of producing broadcast quality output?

E.g., I want to just buy a box that will plug into my mic and my USB port. And I want this box to automatically make my mic line sound good. E.g. I want a “sound goodizer” box.

I would think that such a box would exist in 2022. But it still seems elusive.

Any of the gear guys out there got any input for a newbie?

Thanks!

With a live DJ or talk radio host or TV news there is (probably*) no processing other than limiting when necessary.

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  • It’s been a long-long time since I’ve been in a broadcast studio and in those “analog” days there was only a limiter on the transmitter to keep from accidently over-modulating because over-modulating is illegal.

You ain’t gonna get broadcast quality from consumer grade products, sorry but simple as that.
The products you have shown, are good but not broadcast quality.
Things like dynamic range, common mode rejection, filtering (PSU and audio path/s), noise floor, etc, will all affect the result.
To compound it, the more things you put “in-line”, the more the signal is degraded by these short comings.

Another thing that is very important , irrespective of the quality/grade of the equipment, is proper interconnections.
By that I mean things like gain staging, impedance matching, good quality cables and connectors and choice of source material.

Top setups use things like balanced audio, optical feeds, filtered and cleaned USB and proper earthing and screening of equipment.
To really get that professional, broadcast quality “sound”, every little bit counts and collectively, lands up making a huge difference.

It’s very much a case of “the devil is in the details”.

https://youtu.be/TBMVMce3LEM?t=59

You left out a piece. All that stuff is sitting in a quiet, echo-free room. You can tell higher end/pro recordings almost immediately because there’s no street noises and they don’t sound like they’re recording in a bathroom.

Record with the blue wave peaks at about half-way and do it with wired headphones connected to your interface so you can hear yourself real-time and don’t drift off too high or low.

After you get your recording, run it through Audiobook Mastering and that will set overall loudness and correct for peaks. Gentle noise reduce if you need to. Go make coffee.

Another possibility after you get your clean recording, is send it through Chris’s Compressor with the first option, compress ratio boosted from the default 0.5 to a stiffer 0.77. That will compress and limit to match my local FM station.

That first step, making a clean recording, is a Really Big Deal. Many of the postings on the forum start with the words “Help Me Clean Up.” You’re already on the downhill slope. The next step from that is apply filters to correct the damage cause by the first batch of filters. And etc.

Go back and record it again.


And all of that is assuming you have a reasonable conversational voice. As my stupid joke goes, if your voice scares the horses, there isn’t a lot we an do.

Post back if you want more details on any of those techniques. You can do a remarkably good job with relatively modest kit, but you do have to pay attention to basics. You can’t do it with just a magic interface or software package.

Koz

Koz wrote:

You can’t do it with just a magic interface or software package.

Spot on, there ain’t no magic bullet.

DVDdoug wrote:

  • It’s been a long-long time since I’ve been in a broadcast studio and in those “analog” days there was only a limiter on the transmitter to keep from accidently over-modulating because over-modulating is illegal.

There is also the ever present “master” compressor and EQ set to create the “sound” of the specific station.

Right, that’s my question.

What sorcery is going on in multiple hardware boxes, that can’t be placed into one box?

How come nobody has made a single hardware unit that does everything. (And buy “everything” I don’t necessarily mean the audio has to be good enough for FOX news or even an audiobook.) But at least good enough for a streamer to avoid messing with anything but a USB cable.

It seems like there could be one black box in which a mic could be plugged into, and that black box would create a powerful outbound signal.

The “one button compressor” on the Behringer Xenyx Q502USB mixer actually seemed to get pretty close.

And it appears the RØDECaster Pro is trying to fulfill this niche.

But I assumed mankind would be farther along by now with this.

What sorcery is going on in multiple hardware boxes, that can’t be placed into one box?

No sorcery at all, just good audio engineering practices.

How come nobody has made a single hardware unit that does everything.

Here are two reasons, cost and flexibility.

The “one button compressor”

The words “one button” should immediately be sending you running for the hills.
Unless that one button just recalls certain settings that you can adjust to suit your settings beforehand,
it’s a sure fire recipe for degradation of audio.

When you press that button, it may enable the compressor but at what threshold? what knee? what does it do to the noise floor?
Do the stages post compressor have enough headroom to cope with the signal levels? …
See where I’m going with this?

Chris’s Compressor is probably as close as you’re going to get to what you want. It is a software processor and not a “box with a button.”

Chris wrote it to solve the problem of listening to wide-range opera in the noisy car. It’s a look-ahead compressor. It actively sets volume note by note and then boosts the whole thing up to just shy of overloading (which you can set).

My particular application was the Car Talk radio show. When you listen on the radio, two mechanics throw funny lines at each other and answer questions. I would record it off-air, burn a CD and listen in the car. Dust off hands, done.

The station started to offer it as a on-line podcast. Great. No FM stereo carrier noise. The problem was, the podcast didn’t go through the transmitter compressors. It was unlistenable. One performer mumbled quietly in his beer and the other had a loud laugh recognized as a lethal weapon by the State of California.

Run Chris’s Compressor with that first value stiffened up from 0.5 to 0.77 and the show comes out almost exactly as the broadcast. There is one bug. Chris doesn’t like running off the end of the show (look-ahead, remember?). So make sure the show is longer than you need and cut off the extra later. Chris will not be fixing this because he reached end-of-life.

https://theaudacitytopodcast.com/chriss-dynamic-compressor-plugin-for-audacity/

Last known good version is 1.2.6.

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Koz

Behold, reasons you can’t do the Black Box solution. These are from actual Youtube Explainer videos.



Both of these came down with almost exactly correct volume and no obvious damage save the room echoes.

You can’t fix either of these with any corrections. Echoes are hard (impossible). Do you want to be Customer Service when these people call wanting to know why they don’t sound like NBC Nightly News?

Koz

I did cherry-pick those voices. The woman has a headset microphone in addition to the video one. It has much less room effect, but she had the bad form to intercut that with her video performance voice. It sounds like two different people.

He also started using a much better microphone system, but he’s too close to it and has breath noise damage and P Popping, missing from his earlier work.

If this was easy, anybody could do it.

Koz

Update

Hmm interesting

Well it looks like they finally upgraded the Wave XLR so that it can run VST plugins.

I guess this is kinda close to what i was describing… Still wish it was simpler tho

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4lSkuwMvD0

how come it still seems to be so difficult to find a hardware go-between unit—which is capable of producing broadcast quality output?

…for Boonman.

We’ve been pretty clear that you can’t make a million of these and have it used by every performer. There’s way too much quality variation in home microphones and studios. That and no manufacturer is willing to go to the research, development, and marketing for one.

Did you try Chris’s Compressor?

Koz