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Hi all! Visited during the JP22 saga. Fun times! And I've been here various other times to get info. Excellent site and the info has been very helpful! Just signed up today because I have a query and I can't seem to find an answer that had been specific to it.

Some years ago I did a recording at a "pro" studio. Not bad but they had a few things to be desired. Details aren't relevant to my question though. After the tracks were cut/mixed/mastered, I took them to the local underground radio station that had a program that aired local bands. Gave them one of the tracks and the band and I rushed home to hear it.
As you can imagine, we were pretty excited! As the track started, I noticed immediately that the center lead vocal track was almost NON-existent! Only barely audible if you strained to hear it and knew what you were listening for. The backing tracks, which were panned to the sides a bit, popped out at normal volume. This left us somewhat embarrassed and VERY perplexed as to why it did that on the radio, but when we played the tracks on a normal CD player (car, home, etc.) they sounded fine.

I quickly relayed this problem to the engineer and he fixed it and sent us new discs. On the next radio play, thankfully, everything sounded the way it should. Yet I heard no discernible difference between the new mix/master and the old one when I played the tracks on my home stereo.

One of the reasons I was given was that FM operates on a "Carrier wave" system and what you hear isn't true stereo but the "decoded" signal after the radio receives it. And certain center tracks experience a "phase out" effect when those signals get decoded and processed.

I'm now doing my recording at home after purchasing the gear to do so. I've got my system down pretty well and am happy with what I produce after I master a song. However, I'm worried that future broadcasts might run in to the same issues as that first one. I've tried to get in touch with that engineer to see what he did to solve the problem but he has since moved.
I've also purchased one of those MP3 player FM transmitters that sends a signal to your car or home stereo so you can listen to an ipod in leu of a direct input. However, the sound quality of those have been less than ideal with static and interference prevalent if not positioned exactly right. Although, from what I could hear, I didn't notice any lead vocal drop. But I'm also not certain that an MP3 will have the same type of audio stream that a CD would.

So my question is, does anyone know EXACTLY what causes the vocal drop in radio broadcasts and what I can do to ensure it NEVER happens again? Any info would be GREATLY appreciated as I don't want that to happen again when we get the chance to do a major radio station show. First impressions to a mass market audience can last a LONG time and I'd like to make mine the best that it can be.

Thank you very much for your time and help. I appreciate it! :)

-Spyder Z. Prime-

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jg49 Mon, 09/07/2009 - 00:03

If you check your mixes in the end by collapsing to mono any cancellation effects you have from the seperate channels should be noticeable. These sometimes come from the technique of widening or thickening by slightly timeshifting a vocal in one of the stereo channels but there can be other reasons.


or phase issues

These particular ideas may or may not have been the problem with your recording, but checking mixes in mono is a way to notice most of these.

dvdhawk Mon, 09/07/2009 - 09:49

The fact that your engineer was able to correct the problem makes me suspect this is what happened.

Purely speculation here, but I'm guessing the engineer had the lead vocal doubled and panned off-center to make it sound fuller. If one of the tracks got flipped out of phase you wouldn't notice anything unusual as long as the two tracks are panned left / right (even a little bit).

I'm sure you've noticed most FM tuners have a "Stereo" indicator they lock-on when they're getting a good strong signal and they revert to mono when the signal strength trails off. The phase-cancellation would wipe the vocal out when they're mono'ed. You'd never notice it listening to your CD of the mix, because your CD player never reverts to mono.

I can only guess that might be what happened in your situation.


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