On-Air Studio

On-Air Radio Studio Equipment

What broadcasting equipment do I need
to set up my own Radio Station?

In a studio, you need many things: audio mixing consoles, microphones, studio speaker monitors, headphones and much more...

Studio equipment, stacked

Here is a LIST OF ALL THE EQUIPMENT you need in a Radio Studio:

Let us now look at each piece of equipment
to find out what their special features are,
and how they can help you build the best Radio Studio.

The Microphone


The seed, the origin, where everything is born: this is The Microphone.

Technically, the Microphone captures the sound and converts it into electrical impulses.
In practice, its primary responsibility is to carry the voice through to the listeners.

On the the microphone depend: timbre, depth, clarity, body and softness of voice.

We can imagine it as the object that moves the speaker from the studio and makes him/her appear right in front of the listener.

It cannot be explained scientifically, but listeners unconsciously recognize the difference between a professional, good quality microphone, and a low quality, consumeristic one.
Even if the budget is limited, an important part of it must still be destined to the microphone. In any case, today there are wonderful microphones at affordable prices.

Microphone Processor

Microphone Processor DBX286S

To stabilize the voice of the speaker on a constant level, a Microphone Processor is necessary.

This is an audio compressor than can decrease the volume of the voice when it is too loud, or amplify it when it is too low.
Doing so produces a sound that captures all the details of the voice but levels out volume changes.
Too high a volume level could distort the signal; or, if too low, it could make speech incomprehensible.

A microphone processor helps smooth the audio, minimizes background noise and cleans the signal.
It helps with the mixer control, since it is not necessary to continuously adjust the level of the microphone.
It also helps to get "Radio Sound", so that it always sounds at the right level and the speaker can concentrate on performance – rather than worry about being too close or too far from the microphone, or even speaking in too loud or too soft a voice.

Moreover, it gives more presence to the voice and allows to set it at higher level – because you are sure it will contain the peaks. Adding to it, it removes hissing noises such as those produced with words that contain an "s".

DBX 286 Microphone Preamp or Behringer Ultragain Pro MIC2200 are some of the most popular ones.

Mic Arm

Mic Arm, white

Studio microphones are often mounted on a special arm that keeps the microphone at the proper height.

A Mic Arm helps you move the mic around and adjust it to your liking.
These arms often extend over the audio console, computer monitors, and other equipment – leaving plenty of free table space for other instruments and paper.


Headphones, AKG, black and gold

Headphones allow you to listen carefully to the audio you broadcast.

These are connected to the same audio channel that feeds the speakers: when you plug in the headphones, the speakers will mute automatically.

If you want to have complete control over your audio, you need to be able to monitor it using headphones.
You won't otherwise be able to monitor what the audio is like as well as ensure that your setup is working properly.

Headphone Distributor

Behringer HA8000 headphone distributor

In the studio there is often more than one person participating in the program. For this reason, a Headphone Distributor is necessary to connect several users to the same source.

Headphone distributors have four, eight or more outputs; each one with an independent volume adjuster so as to allow each user to set a self-comfortable level.

Audio Mixer Console

Wheatstone AudioArts Air-1 mixer console

At the heart of any studio is the Audio Mixer Console.
This is the interface used to control what’s heard on air, and to choose which sounds should be broadcasted.

Each channel represents an “input”. The fader (slider) attenuates or amplifies the incoming signal; it can change the volume and the dynamics of the sources, and combine the various audio signals.

The Audio Mixer Console is the device that allows us to monitor and control the audio.

Broadcast Audio Processor

Audio Processor, white

The Audio Processor is a very important piece of equipment, as it is usually the last one you use before your audio is transmitted.

It improves and optimizes the sound quality of your Radio, thus giving it a unique sound with its own character.

You may choose between several mood sounds such as jazz, pop, rock, classical, etc... or even create your own sound.

Mainly designed for medium/small radios (local radio stations, community radios, web radios), the Audio Processor combines ease of use, flexibility and robustness.

It is indeed a combination of a multiband compressor/limiter and a parametric equalizer together with other effects.
It compresses the overall dynamics of the program, but it is also possible to increase the volume, because it prevents against over-deviation, clipping and other saturations – all effects that create distortion.

The final result will be a “louder” and “bigger" sound for your radio.

There is a psychological reason behind it: when searching on the radio dial, people stop to listen at the radio that sounds louder, bigger and better – and this increases your audience.

Active Monitor Speakers

Speakers, Behringer, black

Studio Monitor Speakers show you how the music sounds without headphones.

They must be of high quality, so that all the abnormal sounds can be detected.
It is also advisable to have another speaker, small and of low quality, to cross-check how the sound is even in this kind of speakers. Ultimately, the sound must be good but also understandable for every type of audience.

It is recommended to use speakers specifically designed for music, as they can provide the most accurate representation of the signal.

Telephone Hybrid

Telephone Hybrid, ITB 101 AEV

You also need a Telephone Hybrid Interface, to join the console with audios coming from phone calls.
This is important if you want to take phone calls while you are on-air.

In simple terms, a Hybrid is an interface that connects two-wire phone lines into input and output XLRs. These XLR connectors are plugged into an audio console or I/O node.

Many Hybrids also contain echo cancellation and an automatic equaliser.

On-Air Light

On-Air light

How do you know a mic in the studio is live?

There is a special light just for that!
This light is automatically turned on/off by the audio console whenever a microphone channel is turned on.
In fact, in order to show everybody that the program is live, you need an On-Air light.

There must be one inside the studio, and one outside.
It prevents people from coming into the studio, opening doors or disturbing the show with any kind of noise.

Computer with Automation and Playlist Software

Computer with Automation and Playlist Software

You also need a Computer with an Automation Software.

This computer system makes it possible to play background music and commercials.

The software is called Automation Software or “Playout”, and it is designed to continually play music in the background.

The heart of these programs is the Playlist – which is a list with all the audio files that need to be played.

Most of the time these programs contain hotkeys, a music database, and a lot more.
They are computer programs especially designed to allow continuous audio playback, with exceptional granular control for Announcers and Programme Directors.

Paramount to any Automation System is also the “log": a sequential list of all the audio files and commands that need to be played at certain times.
All the music played on a commercial radio station will be pre-programmed by the Music Director and loaded directly into the log.
A separate person will often load all the advertisements into the same log.

Most automation systems also contain a Music Database, Hot Keys (to play ad-hoc audio), an Audio Editor, a Segue Editor (to change the mix between the different elements), Interfaces for Website and RDS data, and a lot more.

Talent Panel

If you are planning on having guests on your radio show, it is important to get a Talent Panel.

With a Talent Panel, guests can control their own headphones and microphone.

It would be smart to place the Talent Panel in front of the guest’s microphone.
In fact, while the Main Announcer or Panel Operator controls everything via the Audio Console, guests often need their own individual control for headphone levels, cough mute and mic on/off.
Most panels include a headphone jack, and some also contain an XLR connector for the microphone.

CD Player

CD MP3 USB Player

Even though nowadays most of the music comes from some MP3 source, you still need a CD Player of good quality to play music.

The CD Player is used even just as a backup, or as a way to capture old archival material.

Tuner FM Receiver (good quality)

Tuner, Denon, black

To monitor the real sound you are broadcasting a good quality Tuner is necessary.

This will also help you compare your on-air sound with that of your competitors.

RDS Encoder

RDS Encoder, AEV, blue

RDS (Radio Data System) is a way of sending ASCII text and other metadata to the radio display.

It encodes a 1187.5Bps data stream onto the 57Khz subcarrier (third harmonic of the 19Khz FM Stereo Pilot signal).

Stations use RDS to encode the station name, song data, program guide and traffic information.

RDS Encoders are sometimes built into the FM Audio Processor or in the FM Transmitter.
If you have an external RDS Encoder, it needs to be connected into the SCA input in your Stereo Generator or Processor.

Broadcast Desk and Furniture

Broadcast Desks, two

Even in a small Radio Studio, all the Broadcast Equipment here mentioned can be easily arranged on a normal-sized table.
Broadcast Desks, however, are designed to be resistant through the years, for a 24/7 use.

Their anti-scratch material and their special racks – specifically made to house Radio Studio Equipment – make this exceptional accessory just what you need to build your own solid Radio Studio: to last you for years to come.

Soundproofing Panels/ Acoustic Panels/ Studio Foam Wedges

Acoustic Foam Wedge, blue

Adding some soundproofing to your studio can really help you to improve the overall audio quality – especially if there is a lot of reverb or echo.

Foam Soundproofing Panels are the last piece of the "audio puzzle". They come in a variety of sizes and can be purchased cheaply.
If placed strategically in your broadcast area, they are an excellent way to cancel out any remaining ambient and background sounds such as street noise.

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