What makes NPR’s broadcast sound so crisp and bright, while many local public radio stations have a bassier, boomier tone? Adam Ragusea, host of our podcast The Pub, wanted to find out, so he recently interviewed the guy who should know best — Shawn Fox, senior director of audio engineering at NPR. This is an edited transcript of the interview, which first appeared on The Pub #17.
Current: How did you come up with what’s been described as NPR’s “secret sauce”?
Fox: Oh, the secret sauce! When we were in our very early design phases of our new building, that was one of the things that came up very quickly — making sure that we continue on with the NPR sound. There was a whole detailed analysis of what was that sound? In terms of the phenomenon of being able to hear the difference between local and national audio quality, there are lots of reasons for that. All in all, what our local stations do and what we do at NPR are very close when you compare it to some of our commercial brethren. But yes, you can hear that difference.
Current: What is ingredient number one of the secret sauce? Is it the NPR studio microphone?
In the new building, we knew we had the old microphones — and microphones don’t die unless somebody really works hard at it — and we had more facilities, so we bought a few more. But it really comes down to the U87 with the bass rolled off.
Catch the dialogue Via current.org