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Yes, Mics Matter in Ratings

Voiceover veteran cautions against underestimating their importance

radio broadcast microphones, Don Elliot
Don Elliot

A nice collection of comments on microphones in the May 26 issue! But I have a comment about the quote in the first piece that “No radio station ratings have ever been tied to the mic used in the studio.”

I wholeheartedly disagree. If you ask a listener, they’re not going to flat out tell you that they love a station’s compressor, particular jingle, studio, microphone or one particular recording. They only know what they hear, and it’s generally without being analytical.

Whatever that mystique is that makes one station sound better than another certainly contributes to why the station is a favorite.

Every element is a little percentage point towards making a station number one. And it’s like dominoes. You break the chain and the result will disproportionately affect the outcome.

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As they say, “The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.” The secret of being a number one station is doing all those little percentages the right way; but with the microphone it’s a lot more than 1%. It’s the product that the listener hears upon which they make their preference judgments.

Comparing the quality of the air sound to the budget of whether you can use the microphone as a hammer and evaluating the choice of what to purchase is just plain outrageous.

I am often reminded of the quote by Ken Levine, a former DJ with us at a couple of L.A. stations and writer, director and producer of “M*A*S*H,” “Frasier” and “Cheers”: “Enough is a feast to an idiot.” And that’s exactly the mid ground “rollover and play dead” mentality of stations that just sound mediocre. It is super easy to beat them in the ratings because I maintain that the listener most certainly can tell the difference.

Of course personality factors into it as well, but put the same personality on a station that is superior in these other elements we are discussing, and it’s a slam dunk that they will have an edge. No details and listeners don’t really ever know why — except “It just sounds better.”

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