radio becomes a music effects processor

Use a radio as an effects processor.

Michael Oster
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Looking for another way to add character to your tracks?
Put your music on the radio for a distinctive new sound!

old tube radio

Here's what you'll need:
- a microphone (or 2 for stereo)

- an FM radio (vintage tube radios are great for this as long as they have FM reception)

- source material (individual tracks or instruments which can come direct or from a CD player, synth, sampler....)

- a recording device (DAW, CD recorder, DAT, cassette... your choice)

- an FM transmitter (Radio Shack makes one that goes for about $30 - they're supposed to be used to play a CD or ipod in your car)

Everything has a "sound". What we're going for here is to get the sound of the radio. As the signal is transmitted, it's "colored" by the transmitter's electronics. Then it gets picked up by the FM radio and "colored" some more by the radio's electronics. More character is added by the amplifier and speaker. What the microphone picks up is the "coloration" of the sound from the radio and it's housing (the case and guts' resonance, if you will). So a boom box sounds different from a handheld transistor which sounds different than sound bar speakers which sounds different than a large home theater system. Things get even better when you go the the flea market and pick up an old tube radio (make sure it receives FM). I've tried this with a '50s Telefunken and it's wonderful.

Microphone type and placement, room size, recording medium and more also come into play which really opens up possibilities. You'll easily hear the difference. And there is no "plug in" for this!

The cheezy diagram below will show you how easily things flow together.


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diagram using an FM transmitter and recording a sound source transmitted via radio

There you are, another fun and exciting way to abuse your audio and sound great while doing it. As always, I appreciate your feedback!

** Here's a link to a site with info and sales of FM transmitters - FM Transmitter information website.

Michael Oster

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