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Radio Jargon Explained....

On this page I have listed the many terms used in the radio industry and a brief explanation as to what they mean. I will probably have missed some out so if you know of any that you think need including, feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Accapella - Part of a jingle that is sung without any music - just the voices.
Ad -
Abbreviation for an advertisement, a recorded piece used to advertise a business or event or product for a station client.
A-D Converter -
Short for Analogue / Analog to Digital Converter. Changes a continuously varying electrical signal into a stream of binary data. Found in computer soundcards, Minidisk & CD Recorders etc..
Ad Lib - The presence of mind by a presenter to improvise when; 1) another presenter fails to start on cue 2) the normal progress of the programme is disturbed 3) lines are forgotten
AES/EBU - Audio Engineering Society / European Broadcast Union. Digital audio transfer standard, similar to S/PDIF. Uses 3 pin XLR connectors.
AGC - Automatic Gain Control. Circuitry within recording equipment which compensates for differences in volume in the incoming sound signal by adjusting the gain automatically. Helps to reduce wild swings in volume.
Analogue Signal - An analogue recording will record the exact waveform of the original sound, simply converting it to an electrical signal at the microphone, and back into air movement at the speaker.
Attenuate - To reduce the intensity of a sound signal. This is what the "PAD" switch does on a sound desk.
Automation - Facility available on larger sound mixing desks allowing channel muting or even fader moves to be taken under the control of a computer to ensure accurate and repeatable mixing. Radio programmes can also be recorded onto computer harddisks and played out automatically, this form of broadcasting is called automation.
Auxiliary Input or Return - A route back into the sound desk for a line level signal sent to a piece of outboard equipment (usually effects processor / EQ unit etc.) via an auxiliary send.
Auxiliary Output or Send - An additional line level output from a sound desk which can be used for foldback or monitoring without tying up the main outputs. Each input channel will have a path to the Aux buss. Also used for feeding a signal to an effects processor. See Auxiliary Return.
Back Announce - A DJ will back announce something that has just happened, for example saying the name of the song that has just been played, this is called back announcing the song.
Back Time -
When a DJ works out how long is left before an event is to occur. For example the DJ may back time to the news to make sure that he has the right length of song to get there without the song finishing too early or over running.
Balanced Line -
A method of carrying sound signals which reduces interference by using a third conductor, the shield. In the balanced line the shield, which is grounded, is in addition to the two signal-carrying conductors. Balanced lines are less prone than unbalanced to interference. In balanced lines, one of the signal wires carries the audio signal, while the other carries an out-of-phase (inverted) copy. When the signal reaches the destination, the inverted copy is flipped and added to the original. Any noise added by interference is also inverted. When combined with the non-inverted noise, the two noise signals cancel each other out.




Bandwidth - The range of a piece of sound equipment. If an equalizer has cutoff frequencies of 200 and 2000 Hz, then the bandwidth is the difference between them, in this case 1800 Hz.
Bass - Lower end of the musical scale. In acoustics, the range (below about 200Hz) in which there are difficulties, principally in the reproduction of sound, due to the large wavelengths involved.
Bed - Usually describes audio that is used to talk over by the DJ, it is usually part of a jingle or a particular piece of instrumental music used for that specific purpose.
Buss -
A signal line within a sound mixing desk that can receive its signal from a number of sources. eg the Aux 1 buss carries the signals from the input channels to the Aux 1 Send master control.
Cans - Name given to a pair of headphones.
Cart -
Hardly used now, but these tapes were used to record jingles and ads onto and comprised of a continuous loop of tape in a plastic box that when played always came back to the start ready for the next time it was needed.
CD -
Abbreviation for compact disk, a device to store audio recordings on.
Clean Feed -
A supply that is free from interference from other equipment.
Compressor -
Used to compress an audio signal so that it conforms within desired parameters.
Com Prod - Abbreviation for commercial production, the department where the stations commercials/adverts are made.
Crosstalk -
A leakage between two audio circuits (e.g. between two channels on a sound mixer).
Cue - The command given to carry out a particular operation such as to prepare something to start. For example cue up a song to the beginning of the track.
Cue Light - System for giving staff silent cues by light. Cue lights ensure greater precision when visibility or audibility is limited. In the UK, a flashing Red light means stand-by or warning, green light means go.
Cut - Describes a small piece of audio, for example a news reader will use audio reports in the bulletin, these are called cuts.
DAT -
Abbreviation for digital audio tape, a device to store audio recordings on.
Delay Unit -
Used to delay an audio signal before it is broadcast. Normally used during phone in programmes so as to be able to cut offensive language out before it is transmitted. The delay is usually around 7 seconds.
Demo Tape -
A piece of audio used to demonstrate something. DJ's use demo tapes to show how good their presentation techniques are to potential employers.
Digital Recording -

1) ADAM : (Akai Digital Audio Multitrack). 12 track recording onto Video 8 tape. 16 bit, 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rate.
2) ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) Digital 8 track multitrack recording format introduced in 1991. There are two formats of recording: Type 1 (16 bit) Type 2 (20 bit) at two sample rates (44.1kHz and 48 kHz) onto standard SVHS video tapes.
3) DAT (Digital Audio Tape) Cassette-like system which has much higher quality than standard audio cassettes. Introduced in 1987, and widely used in gathering sound effects, for news gathering, and for playback of music.
4) DCC (Digital Compact Cassette) Rival to DAT which also plays standard audio cassettes. DCC was discontinued in 1996.
5) Mini Disk (MD) : Uses magnetic disk technology, rather than tape. A laser heats an area of magnetic disk which is then written to by a magnetic head. When cooled, the magnetic information is read from the disk by laser. Tracks can be named, and are instant start.
6) Direct to Disk : Uses the hard disk present in most PCs as the recording medium.
Din - Deutscher Industrie Normen. European standard covering audio connectors and tape equalisation characteristics.
Distortion - Usually undesirable result of overloading sound equipment. Reducing the levels can remedy the situation.
Donut - A jingle that has singing at the beginning, music in the middle and singing at the end.
Dubbing -
The process of copying a sound from one medium to another or for backup purposes, or simply copying sound tapes.
Equalisation - The process of adjusting the tonal quality of a sound. A graphic equaliser provides adjustment for a wide range of frequency bands, and is normally inserted in the signal path after the mixing desk, before the amplifier.
Fade In - Used to describe audio as it gradually becomes louder till it reaches it's proper volume.
Fade Out -
Used to describe audio as it gradually becomes quieter till it disappears.
Fader -
Slideable button found on a mixing desk for altering the audio loudness.
Feed -
A power supply to a piece of equipment or installation is termed a "feed". Sound equipment and sensitive computer equipment should have a clean feed - that is, a supply that is free from interference from other equipment. A signal from one system to another is also known as a feed (for example, an audio signal from a sound desk of a concert back to the radio station is known as a feed.)
Feedback / Howlround - A loud whistle or rumble heard emanating from a sound system. It is caused by a sound being amplified many times. (E.g. a sound is picked up by a microphone and amplified through the speaker. The microphone picks up this amplified sound and it is sent through the system again). Feedback can be avoided by careful microphone positioning, and can be reduced by use of Equalisation to reduce the level of the frequency band causing the feedback.
Intro - Usually describes the start of a song before the first line is sung.
ISDN - Abbreviation for Integrated Services Digital Network, a high quality line used to transmit data, voice, and video in digital high quality.
Jack -
Segmented audio connector. Mono Jacks have two connections - tip and sleeve, and are unbalanced. Stereo jacks have three connections - tip, ring and sleeve. B-type jacks (also known as Bantam jacks) were originally designed for use in telephone exchanges and provide a high quality (and expensive) connection in jackfields. A-type jacks are cheaper and more common, but more fragile. A type jacks are available in 2 sizes : quarter inch and eighth inch.
Jackfield - Junction box where different audio signals are terminated. Used to re-route audio to different pieces of equipment or to different parts of a building. Usually located in the studio desk or in the racks room, or both.
Jingle -
Usually a short musical tune that identifies the radio station or presenter. It can also take other forms when mixed with voices and sound effects.
limiter -
Used in the racks room to limit an audio signal if the volume level is too high. Large volume levels can either damage sensitive equipment or can sound distorted when listened to on air.
Line Level Signal - "Standard" level at which the inputs and outputs of domestic and professional sound equipment operate. Slight variations are that some equipment works at +4dB, some at -10dB.
Line-up Tone -
Signal of known frequency and level used for setting up sound recording equipment levels accurately.
Link - Used to describe a spoken piece between two songs or into a feature such as news, weather or a competition.
Logging -
All stations in England are required to record their output, this recording is called logging and can be recorded onto tapes or stored on digital hard disks.
MD -
Abbreviation of mini disc, a device used to store audio recordings on.
Mic -
Abbreviation for microphone, used by the presenter to talk into.
Mixer-
A desk comprising a number of input channels where each sound source is provided with its own control channel through which sound signals are routed into two or more outputs. Many mixing desks can also change the quality of the sound.
Mixdown - The process during which a multitrack recording is balanced and transferred to two tracks (stereo) for playback or reproduction.
Monophonic (MONO) - Single channel sound recording, as opposed to Stereophonic, which uses two channels (left and right).
OB - Abbreviation for outside broadcast, when a radio station presents it's programmes for somewhere other than it's normal studio base.
Over Running -
When an item has exceeded it's expected finish time.
PC -
Abbreviation for Programme Controller - the DJ's boss.
PD - Abbreviation for programme Director another name for the DJ's boss.
Phantom Power -
Some condenser microphones require a power supply in order to operate. If this supply is not from a battery within the microphone body, it is known as a phantom power supply. It is usually 48 Volts DC (can be 9 - 52 volts from most mics), and is supplied either by a separate battery pack, or by the sound desk. The supply is termed "phantom" because it is "invisibly" carried down the same microphone cable as the sound signals.
Phase - Two identical sound waves which are slightly apart in time are said to be out of phase; two identical waves are in phase.
PPM's - Abbreviation for peak programme meter's, used on audio equipment to show the loudness level of audio.
Pre-fade Listen -
Often shortened to PFL. Control on a sound mixing desk which allows the user to check the presence of a signal, and its quality before bringing up the fader. Also vital for fault-finding, where the route of a signal can be PFL'ed around the desk until the point where the fault occurs.
Prefade - An output from a sound desk is said to be prefade if it is independent of the channel fader.
Pre-Record - When audio is recorded in advance before it is required.
Promo -
A form of advertisement for a station event usually recorded although it can take the spoken form.
Q Card -
Another name for a formal written piece to be read by the presenter.
Racks -
Term given to the room where all the radio station transmission equipment is housed, this is the place that you will also find a jackfield.
Ramp -
Describes the audio loudness increasing.
RF -
Radio Frequency.
Riding The Fader - Sound operating technique where the operator constantly adjusts the fader level to maximise level while minimising feedback and background noise.
Script - A formal written piece to be read by the presenter.
Segue -
The term given to the transition from one item to another usually between songs, when one song segues into another.
SFX -
Abbreviation for sound effects, audio of anything be it car horns, lightening, footsteps, doors banging, children laughing.
Sibilance -
Undesirable characteristic of some performer's speech when s, sh or ch sounds are emphasised.
Signal To Noise Ratio - Signal-to-Noise Ratio- The ratio, usually expressed in decibels, of the average signal (recorded or processed) to the background noise (caused by the electronic circuits).
Splice - A join or edit in a sound tape. A splice may be between leader tape and audio tape or between two pieces of audio tape. Splicing tape is the adhesive tape used, a splicing block is used to hold the tape and guide the single-sided razor blade when making the cut.
Sweeper - Station jingle that is played between two items such as music.
Talk Back -
System employed on OB's where by the remote location team and studio can talk to each other without it being broadcast. Talk back can aso be found as a way to communicate between two sound proof studios without having to walk back and forth between them.
T/O -
Can mean two things. Firstly, technical operator, somebody who works in a radio station and is mainly involved in the technical side of getting programmes to air but does not speak. Secondly it can mean talk over, this is when a presenter will read or talk over a piece of music.
Twig -
Another name for an aerial.
TX -
Abbreviation for transmission, how the audio is broadcast to the listener.
UHF Link -
Abbreviation for ultra high frequency link. A form of radio signal used to transmit audio from one location to another. May be used when getting a signal back to a studio from an OB or to send audio to a transmitter.
VU -
Abbreviation for volume unit, used on audio equipment to show the loudness level of the audio.
Wavelength -
The distance from one point on a vibrating wave to the same point on the next wave. The lengths of the sound waves (wavelengths) we can hear range from one inch to 40 feet. High frequency sounds have short wavelengths (and are more directional), low frequency sounds have long wavelengths (and are less directional).
XLR - Multipin metallic audio connector. Sometimes called Cannons after the original manufacturer. See balanced line. The UK standard for wiring the 3 pin connector is as follows : Pin 1 (Screen), Pin 2 (+ve / "hot"), Pin 3 (-ve, "cold"). (Xternal, Live, Return).