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Gathering audio from across the ocean blue

For my internship with Marketplace, one of my hats is audio technician/engineer. I’m discovering every day the many ways stations are and can be connected to each other across the country and the world.

Part of my job is to set up audio connections and make audio test calls. As a radio show, we want to ensure we collect the highest quality audio for our stories and listeners. This means testing connections, troubleshooting with engineers and recording with high-end equipment.

I had my first experience making an ISDN call last week to interview a source for an upcoming story I’m working on (check back for the story). My source lives near Albany, NY, so getting to the NYC Marketplace bureau would have been difficult for her. Instead, I worked out a way for my source to go to the WAMC bureau in NY for the interview. I called WAMC via ISDN, and the source and I chatted like usual, as if it was a phone call.

“Any situation in which high-quality audio needs to be transferred over long distances in real time is a candidate for employing an ISDN link-up.”
Sound on Sound

Today, I had my second trial with ISDN. The BBC in London called the D.C. Marketplace bureau to test the connection. I sat in the studio making sure the folks in London could hear me across the pond. And they did! I suppose it’s not so exciting, seeing as we have telephones and cell phones. But there was no delay and we had the high-quality sound we needed. And yes, British people seem to use “brilliant” a lot. Like we use “excellent” or “great.”

Working with ISDN has broadened my understanding of the network of radio stations in America. Radio really is everywhere. There are small stations, large stations, membership stations (like the NPR model) — and all of them have the power to be connected. There’s Comrex, ISDN and other engineering terms I’m not familiar with that come into play. But the bottom line is, if I have a source in Chicago I want to interview, I can have her go to the local studio, call from the D.C. studio and still collect quality sound (meaning, not through a telephone). This is a great strength of radio. Having that ability to be connected to far places really matters.

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