Greg Rickaby

Engineering Leader / Full Stack Developer

· 4 min read · #personal

Podcasting: Sound Like a Radio DJ

After listening to episode #265 of Shop Talk Show, where Chris Coyer mentioned he wanted to sound "like the guy on the radio"; I was compelled to share my knowledge of radio studios.

I was in the broadcast industry for around 15 years, both as a DJ and eventually as chief engineer. I've built dozens of studios...


Below is a laundry list of equipment you might find in a typical radio station.

As Chris Enns mentioned, a lot has to do with a person's voice. All the equipment in the world, isn't going to make your voice sound "deeper than whale sh@#", as they say in radio.


Most radio stations use either an Electro-Voice RE20 or a Shure SM7B, both are on a mic boom, and have some sort of foam/pop-filter. (note: the RE20, has a built in pop filter).

I use a Behringer B-1, which is a fantastic cardioid mic for the price compared to a TLM-103. Both are used in production studio environments. (Production = non-live, where we cut commercials and stuff)

Note: The RE20 is basically everywhere. It's THE microphone. Watch any radio show on TV, such as: Mike & Mike, The Herd, The Dan Patrick Show, and they're all use RE20's.

Microphone Preamp:

You will probably find an Symetrix 528e (or in a pinch a DBX 286s) in most studios.

In addition to "massaging" your voice with EQ and a De-esser in real-time? These boxes also have a noise gate, which will help eliminate background noise, and a compressor, which will keep your voice the same volume - even if you yell.

Audio Interface:

There's probably not a USB input anywhere in sight (except maybe on the computer that records phone calls). You're going to need to drop some serious cash on a Broadcast Console (insider speak, for a professional multi-channel mixer), which can cost thousands of dollars.

For podcasting, you could use a 12-channel Behringer Xenyx X1204 USB or a Mackie PROFX12V2 mixer.

Recording Software:

Industry standard is Adobe Audition, formerly named (and still referred to as) "Cool Edit". This software has been around since the 90's.

Your Room/Studio:

Carpet and audio foam will clean things up so much!

You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned closing the doors, windows, turning off Slack/Notifications, and asking family to turn off the TV. Quiet rooms are your friend!

You will also need two, 6-foot XLR cables. (One cable goes from mic --> preamp, the other cable is for the preamp --> USB mixer)

Audio Processing:

This is radio's "secret weapon". How does radio DJ sound amazing? It's because their voice is going through a $14,000 audio processor before being transmitted to your radio.

These boxes do it all: multi-band compression, multi-band EQ, and limiting. Basically, they turn all audio sources (DJ vocals, music, commercials, etc...), into very loud (but clean) audio. The next time you listen to an FM radio station, take note on how the volume is consistent from song-to-song.

These audio processors are where the term "audio wars" came FM radio stations back in the 80's competed to sound the loudest on the dial, without sounding distorted. The louder a radio station was, the more likely you were to stay tuned in (its true, even today).

Wrap Up:

You don't need to spend thousands to sound amazing. A decent audio chain (quiet room + microphone + preamp + USB input), will take you well on your way to sounding like a radio DJ.

BTW: You should also read my review of the Behringer B-1 vs Neumann TLM-103's fascinating, because it really comes down to the equipment surrounding the audio chain.

I hope this helps! Feel free to ping me if you have questions.

(yes, some of these are affiliate links)

Greg is the Director of Engineering at WebDevStudios. He also moonlights at Dummies writing and editing books. Follow him on Twitter for lots of pictures of pepperoni pizza and tidbits about Next.js.
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