Richard Oliff: The magic of the radio studio

Radio studio technology has changed over the years, says Richard
Radio studio technology has changed over the years, says Richard

When I began in broadcasting there were no computers in any of the studios at my disposal.

Things were simply “tech” because no comparisons between “hi” or “low” could be made.

The most fascinating piece of equipment was not the turntables or the myriad of red and black faders lined like soldiers across the control panel, or desk.

Not even the twitching illuminated needles that indicated volumes and levels could match my fascination with one simple yet seemingly irreplaceable gem of equipment.

These were the carts, the cart players, and even the electro magnet that could wipe a cart clean of any previous recorded content with a few passes across an aggressively vibrating metal plate.

Have no fear, I’m not about to go technical or sound like some kind of instruction booklet about these carts; I couldn’t if I tried.

I only knew that, at the time, these simple yet highly effective recordable cartridges could make or break a radio show broadcast on AM (Amplitude modulation) radio.

They would play, then instantly rewind in real time ready to be played again.

They were primarily used by a radio station for the broadcast of commercials and station identification jingles, yet presenters were more than adept at using them to produce some of the most creative personal “ident” spectaculars.

The station would sometimes commission, at great expense, personalised jingles voiced by some of the most famous men and women in the field from around the world.

My most treasured of these was one voiced by the late great Bill Mitchell, a Canadian who was then acknowledged as one of the best in his field.

His equivalent today would be the voice of Mr X-Factor Peter Dickson, though not even he could compare with the vocal range and depth of the incomparable Mr Mitchell.

I recently found a cart with my name being used by him for my old radio shows.

I think I’ll use a computer to bring it back to life.