Now that you’ve established your radio project, you probably want to get down to business and broadcast live from your radio studio. But which radio equipment should you choose between the multitude of choices out there?
In this course, we will learn the basics of live radio broadcasting, how to choose your equipment according to your needs and how to set up your radio studio.
At the end of this course, you’ll be able to:
- Understand live broadcasting on the Internet
- Choose the right equipment to broadcast live
- Set up a home radio studio
Understanding live broadcasting
Before diving into the deep end, it’s interesting to understand how live broadcasting works.
Live broadcasting, how does it work?
On an Internet radio station you can broadcast in two different ways: automatic mode and live mode. When you create your playlists and schedule them to play, it’s automatic. To carry out a live broadcast on the Internet from your Internet radio station you must use a live broadcasting software.
A broadcasting software is a program installed on your computer. This computer will need to be connected to the Internet in order to broadcast your radio show to the world. It’s through this connection that you will be able to send your voice and music to the server that will forward your live feed to your listeners, regardless of the device they use to listen to you.
REMEMBER: It’s quite normal for there to be a delay when going live, this is the time taken for us to receive the stream, process it, re-encode it and then send it to your listeners. The delay can vary between 5 and 30 seconds.
How to choose the right equipment for my needs?
All projects are unique, as are the ways to carry out a live broadcast. It’s important to determine your needs in order to create a radio studio that is perfectly adapted to that purpose. Before you start buying, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are you going to broadcast live?
- When are you going to broadcast live?
- Under which conditions? (Outside, on the move…)
- Will there be other hosts? If so, how many?
- Do you have a dedicated space for your live broadcasts? A studio?
- What is your budget?
If you have read the first part of this course, you already know that you can do a live broadcast with a computer and a broadcasting software. In theory, you could easily perform a live broadcast by using your computer’s internal microphone. But if you’re looking for more professional conditions and sound, you will need to add a microphone.
Your microphone must be connected to your computer, generally a mixer (also known as a mixing desk or mixing table) is used for this purpose. If you are alone or recording in outdoor conditions, you may prefer a more mobile audio interface.
The mixer allows you to connect and manage several sources at the same time (microphone, telephone, headphones…). Finally, to achieve a live broadcast worthy of radio conditions, you will need a pair of headphones for your feedback. Feedback is when you hear your interventions, those of your hosts and the music directly in your ears through your headphones.
PLUS: Don’t forget the cables that you will need to connect your equipment.
- XLR cables to connect your microphone to your mixer (or interface)
- Stereo Jack cable
- A Jack to Jack Cable / RCA to RCA Cable
Choosing the equipment for your radio studio
We have prepared a selection of the different equipment for you, but, as we have already said, there is no such thing as a good microphone or mixer. The appropriate equipment will be the one that is adapted to your needs. If you have the opportunity, do not hesitate to test it before purchasing.
Choosing your live broadcasting software
Now, which broadcasting software to choose? It can be difficult to see clearly because there are so many options out there. Feel free to test several of them in order to see the different functionalities of each one. Ask yourself why you are going to do live broadcasts. Retransmit a concert? Do an interview? Mixing music? Not all software is necessarily adapted to your project. Add to that the fact that you will not have access to the same software whether you are on Mac, Windows or Linux.
BUTT stands for Broadcast Using This Tool. It’s a small open source software for all operating systems. If its simplistic aspect can put some people off, it’s one of the best allies for Internet radio stations. It’s even used by FM stations to retransmit their streams.
Virtual DJ Pro
If you want to play a lot of music and you have a lot of songs in your folders, Virtual DJ may be right for you. Available on Windows and Mac, it will cost you $299 to get the full version, although you can test the limited free version.
Sam Cast is an automation software so it may seem complicated at first glance, but it is one of the most advanced software for Windows users. Although the trial is free, you can count between $15 and $130/ month to acquire the software in its entirety.
Suitable for all operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux), Mixxx offers a very high degree of customization. Unfortunately, the software can seem very complicated for beginners. However, it’s worth it thanks to the many available features, plus, it’s free!
What if I want to broadcast live from my smartphone?
Note that there are very few broadcasting software available for smartphones. If you’re an Android user, you can download Mediacast for free!
Choosing a microphone for your Internet radio station
The world of microphones is very vast, there are a multitude of models and a very wide range of prices (from $10 to more than $2000). To help make your choice there are several criteria to take into account:
This refers to the sensitivity of the microphone and its ability to pick up the source of the sound. There are several types of directivity:
- Omni-directional: the microphone picks up sounds from all directions, interesting for some recordings, but not recommended for radio.
- Bi-directional (figure of 8): picks up sounds from both sides of the microphone (left and right, not front and back).
- Uni-directional (cardioid): only picks up the audio source that is directly in front of the microphone.
Sensitivity and rendering will depend on how it works: some produce a “warmer” sound (condenser microphones), others are more resistant (dynamic microphones). Bear in mind that that condenser microphones require an external power source (phantom power) to operate.
It’s recommended to acquire a microphone with an XLR connection so that you can connect your microphone to a mixer. But if you are broadcasting alone, a USB microphone that you can connect directly to your computer can also be a wise investment.
In general, we advise you to invest in a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern. Here is a selection of microphones according to budget.
Choosing your mixer
A mixer will allow you to connect all your devices (inputs) and send them to the broadcasting system. You will be able to manage these entries independently. A mixer can be digital (more expensive, but which allows you to process the sound beforehand as well as save your settings) or analog. A mixer has several strips depending on its size. A strip corresponds to a source.
When choosing your mixer, be careful to take into account the number of inputs. How many devices do you want to connect to your mixer? Be sure to check the number and type of inputs you want to connect before purchasing a model. Each input is different, so a microphone can be XLR (or USB) type, you may also need a jack, USB etc.
CAREFUL: Also consider buying a USB interface to connect your mixer to your computer.
Here is a selection of mixers according to your budget and the number of inputs:
If you don’t want to invest in a mixer or if you want to be mobile while enjoying a microphone, the iRig Pre could be a good alternative.
Finally, the last essential element for your radio studio: headphones. Don’t neglect the search for good headphones, it’s an important point for a radio host. Your headset will allow you to judge the quality of your broadcast.
There are several things to remember when it comes to choosing the ideal headset for your radio.
Choosing open or closed headphones
There are many debates on this subject. Open headphones allow a better sound reproduction, whereas closed headphones isolate you from your environment, therefore they allow better concentration during your shows.
Choosing comfortable headphones
This must be one of your top criteria, especially if you are doing long shows. You need to ensure that you can wear your headphones for hours at a time without them becoming uncomfortable. You’ll be wearing them during your live broadcasts, but also whilst you prep the content of your radio show. Plus, some headphones allow for you to replace the ear cushioning if they begin to wear out over time!
CAREFUL: For the set up of your radio studio, don’t forget: a headphone amplifier, this will allow you to connect your headphones to your mixer.
Setting up your Home Radio Studio
So, do you have all your equipment and are looking forward to your first live broadcast? In that case let’s move on to the next step: setting up your radio studio.
Which cables will you need?
First of all, in addition to a mixer, headphones and a microphone you will also need cables! To connect your computer to your mixer, you will need an RCA cable. You will also need a stereo jack cable to connect your headphone amplifier to your mixer. Finally, you will need as many XLR cables as microphones.
Connecting your radio equipment
First, connect your microphones to your mixer. Then connect the amplifier to the mixer. Add the headphones to the amplifier. And finally, connect your computer with your broadcasting software to your mixer.
Don’t forget your USB interface so you can connect the mixer to the computer.
If you’re looking to set up a simple one-person studio, follow the steps in our video tutorial:
TO SUM UP:
- Before making any purchases, ask yourself what are your needs?
- If you can, try and test your radio equipment before purchasing
- Don’t forget the cables and other necessary elements to connect your equipment (interface, amplifier, etc…)
We’ve reached the end of this second course, thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed this course and that it provided you with answers to your questions before starting your Internet radio station. You can now move on to the next course and find your format and content… So go ahead!
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