Tip of the Week – 2016 12 07: A Second On-Air Computer

In order to present a diverse, compelling programme, your announcers need to have access to a second computer in the on-air studio.

Here’s how a two-computer setup might look.

The only job of the main computer in your on-air studio is to run the radio station automation software. It is from here that songs, jingles, IDs, commercials and programmes are played. It’s a good idea to network it with at least the production computer, so audio files can be easily transferred. However, in my opinion, it should NOT be connected to the Internet. This is to protect it from viruses, and to make sure it is free to play audio without interruption. The on-air computer has its own channel on the audio mixer.

The second computer does everything the first one doesn’t. It IS connected to the Internet. It also has its own channel on the audio mixer – which is clearly labelled. That means it has the advantage of playing audio independent of the main computer – so you have two digital audio sources. Here are some of the possible functions of a second studio computer.

  • It can record. Attach one of the outputs of the mixer to the input of the second computer. This way, you can record things off air as they happen, so you can edit them and play them again later. You don’t need expensive recording software. The free Audacity will do fine.
  • It can play all your music beds. If you like to play music underneath the voice, then play it from the second machine. Because it has its own mixer channel, you can control the volume of the music bed independently, and then fade it out when finished (and transition smoothly into the next song from the main computer).
  • It can play your instant sounds. Competitions and live shows are much more fun with interesting sound effects like applause and laughter…exactly at the right moment. Download and install free ‘cart wall’ software (eg: DAC Free), which will allow you to instantly access and play your sounds.
  • It will allow announcers to search stuff. News, show prep, interesting audio clips, and song information are all available on the web. In order to remain relevant, your announcers need Internet access. Yes, they should have done their preparation before their show – however, things happen while they are on air. This is a necessary tool!
  • It will do Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, Instagram… all the tools the announcer needs for two-way communication.
  • It will allow you to use Skype, Google Talk and Facebook Voice Call for live radio interviews. In the software, set the input from the mixer as the ‘microphone.’
  • It can be used for voice tracking – just as long as it has the same automation software as the main machine, and they are both in the same computer network.
  • It is a backup for your main computer. Have some kind of audio player software installed, so if the main machine goes down, the second machine can take over and play audio temporarily.

None of the above functions is highly taxing, so a fairly humble machine should be enough. Just make sure:

  • it has a sound card (with both audio in and out)
  • system sounds are turned off
  • it has good virus protection
  • the internal microphone is switched off


Anything to add? Write a comment.

Happy broadcasting





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: Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

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