Congratulations to Jeff Deminski and Bill Doyle (aka “D & D”) on eight years as WKRK 97.1 Detroit afternoon hosts. They celebrated in style opening the doors to the listeners at the radio station on August 24th.  What could be more appropriate?  Without the listeners who give them numbers they would not have jobs.  Yet, without D & D, the listeners would not be there in the first place.  So which came first, the listener or the host? Obviously the host.

The D & D Anniversary comes just a couple months after MY 8 year anniversary as engineer at Specs Howard  (June 30th).  Prior to that I was commuting to Ann Arbor, and now with the drive to Southfield, I had two choices:  Find something interesting on the radio OR listen to my own CD collection at high levels.  I had plenty of CDs, but I was fortunate enough to also find D & D when they first arrived

For most of their years, their studios are in a building I am familiar with: In the late 1990s, I had worked out of the building when it housed CBS’ sister station, WXYT, before it became home to 97.1.  There are plans in the works to move out of the building again, but for now, they are still there.

Jeff and Bill were the replacements for “Gonzo Greg” and have outlasted virtually every on-air host that has been since been featured on that station.  The reason is simple:  They make radio fun, vital and most importantly, personal.

It doesn’t matter what label you put on it – whether it falls in the “hot talk” category – or just “regular” talk (whatever that is).    The fact is through their daily conversations, they allow listeners to look inside their lives.  Good radio is good radio, folks.  And this is GOOD RADIO. Many thousands of people feel like they know D & D on a personal level.  That’s really good radio.

The fact they celebrated their anniversary with a listener-created D & D trivia contest is also pretty indicative of listener loyalty….but they are quick to point out “it wasn’t their idea…”

There have been other people on the station with talent and listener loyalty…if they lasted long enough for listeners got to know them.  Rob Parker and Mark Wilson come to mind, along with Gregg Henson and Michelle McKormick.  Heck, I even thought Ed Tyll was cool!

You can blame it on whatever you want that the others didn’t have as much lasting power as D & D.

The nature of radio is change.

In the “golden age” or even “silver” age of radio, you didn’t make it on AT ALL unless you were really REALLY good.  Today, the standards are lower for a variety of reasons, but there are more dollars at stake while the listener pie slice is smaller than before FM radio existed.

In most larger markets, there is mediocrity and sameness, over-researched playlists, 10 minute commercial blocks and “talent” without very much “talent” or at least enthusiasm for what they do for a living.  Air talent limited to saying “that was…” and “here is…”

A 3-4 hour show is voice-tracked in a half hour, but all is not lost, at least here in the Detroit.

Once in a great while, there is creativity, enthusiasm and actual cool people free of arrogance who land on radio.  For whatever reason, the just chemisty clicks…not just between the hosts and producers, but The Listeners.  

Rated by the Detroit News as Michigan’s Best Radio Show (ahead of Detroit radio legend, Dick Purtan in second place), it comes as no surprise, that so many listeners filed in and out of the station open house on August 24, ’07 to catch a glimpse of the duo in action, or meet their beloved producer, “Beaver,” or Rudy DeSantis. Both behind-the-scenes guys have assumed important parts of the show, both on-mike and off.  Even traffic reporter, Nicole Salem, cannot escape being part of the "team" which led to her selling "Rat Radio" T-shirts featuring pet rat, "Trevor."  The rat participated in a studio gag crawling on a listener who claimed he could sleep under any circumstance.  Don't ask me how this can work on radio, but it did. Nicole and Rudy, frequently the brunt of jokes, and hilarious drops of their voices at inopportune times like "Doyle is a sex god!" (as sarcastic as possible from Nicole), or Rudy's "It's a big meat stick!" are always good for a chuckle.  But the fact that D & D actually make these  people a part of the D & D Show puzzle or "cast" of characters, is brilliant programming (seriously brilliant, not Nicole's sarcastic "brilliant" drop).  We hope nobody ever quits for better jobs because they would be missed on the show.

But to hear Jeff and Bill talk, you would think they merely just got lucky.  They seem in fact humbled by their success, but they are in fact, brilliant programmers, themselves.

There is in fact, a bit of “luck” making it in radio.  But longevity on radio only comes from BEING YOURSELF in the right place at the right time, and making a connection with the listeners BEFORE Management has a chance to take you OFF the radio.

Thank you CBS for getting it right on this show, and thank you D & D.

When I hit 10 years at Specs Howard, and you hit 10 years with CBS, we must REALLY celebrate in style!  Maybe we can upgrade the T-shirts to embroidered polo shirts.

-Bob Burnham

Click here for more info including podcasts of show highlights.


When everything seems to be going NOT so smoothly and life doesn’t seem to be in its happiest mode, you can usually count on two things:

1. Things will somehow be different tomorrow.
2. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter!
Basically, it can be applied toward anything in life. 
It can be applied toward something you are trying to accomplish.

Things that are eluding you, whether reaching certain goals, acquiring certain skills or completing certain projects…will eventually be concluded through three more related things:

1. Work
2. The passage of time.
3. Acquiring certain knowledge or information that will not be available for a while.
Maintaining a positive attitude, being patient, and not being afraid of doing some work in the meantime (you may learn something in the process) will bring you a “better day” sooner than you expect.

With this in mind, my saga of “everything I touch turns to manure” mentioned in the last blog reached a new development.

Gateway sent me a pre-paid box to send the offending equipment to their repair center.  The problem is no longer mine!

The car CD player that refused to give up the CD “fixed itself.”  Don’t ask me how.  Sometimes technology (particularly computer-related) is so complex even the experts who hard-programmed the chips – might not have an explanation.

IN THE MEANTIME, not allowing the malfunctions to get US HUMANS too out of control is what Attitude is all about.



It has been a weekend filled with glitches…

The weekend starting of  8/19/07 will go down in my life as one of those weekends where everything I touch turns to manure!  

That’s right.  Nothing went right, and it was all techie related!  As most of you know, I make my living working on and installing broadcast equipment, and when something completely out of left field breaks and I can’t figure out how to fix it, I’m ready to carry it to the dumpster.

What really ticks me off is the horrible customer service and “I don’t give a crap” attitude some of these people have in places like Circuit City and Best Buy (yes, the so-called Geek Squad). 

Customers (that would be US) are their reason for existing!  They would not have a job without us spending money with their employer.  Not MY fault if they hate their job.  Try making sandwiches at Arbys instead.  Sometimes radio doesn’t pay very well and once in my very ancient past, I DID.  I NEVER treated fast food customers that way.

I won’t go into detail now about it except to say I WILL continue to support online businesses who atleast you usually don’t have to deal with these people.  

In reverse order…

Things that are pending and messed up in my life:

Bought a new CD and after listening to it awhile the factory CD player in my Jeep Liberty would not eject!  I like the CD, but not to listen to for the rest of the time I have the vehicle!  Pending at this very moment.  

Got a new processor for my band and either the damn thing is defective, or I can’t figure out how to use it!   I think it’s defective. If it’s that hard to figure out for me, it’s a piece of crap design, but I really think it’s messed up.  Thank you Behringer.  Most of your products are great, especially for the money.  This one sucks. Another pending item.

My Gateway computer (only 6 months old) with all the pricey Adobe software, website stuff and databases for everything turned itself off and would not turn on.  Circuit City, where I bought it, said it was a power supply, but since I didn’t buy THEIR service policy, wouldn’t honor the manufacturer warranty (Gateway would later tell me that was nonsense).  I decided to try Best Buy since they were an authorized service center, but they refused to lift a finger and had no sympathy.  I did buy a power supply and swapped it out myself along with a bunch of other parts, but the computer was still dead.  It has a "null stop" where it won't even boot.  Sounds like a failed motherboard to me.

So now Gateway tells me to take it to Staples, BUT if I did take it back to Circuit City and they refused again, to get the store number and employee name and they would “report it.”  Report it!!?  To whom?  The computer warranty cops?  Big deal.  I just want a functioning box that I paid a lot of money for!!  I will say I appreciate the fact that Gateway support is actually based in the U.S. 

Meantime, because of the dead Gateway, I managed to bring back to life a very old (almost 10 years) Mac that had most of the functions of the Gateway – if incredibly outdated or very painfully slow.  After some problems, it (more or less) worked.  My life is a little less painful.  Thank you Apple.  Your reliability always rocked!

(But sorry, these days I still prefer Windows machines).

Meantime, my laptop; only about a year old – also a Gateway – also lost sound.  I was told the sound card failed, but it would need a new motherboard because the sound was built in (completely out of warranty).  I decided to live without sound and add a separate sound card later.  Too many trips through airport security?  Maybe, but I don't think so.

There’s a lot more annoyances going on, but for now, those are my weekend issues.

Maybe I should just skip next weekend and work straight through.  Everything at work seems to function pretty much reliably, day in, day out, and I like that!

Part of that is I’m NOT a snotty “big box” store employee who couldn’t care less about customers.

NEXT COMPUTER:  I’m building it myself from scratch!  The computer I built a few years ago for audio has had its share of freakishness, but it WORKS day in, day out.  It’s a rock, and the Customer Service Center is ME!

I know everything here boils down to petty whining, but everything I buy comes with dollars that I worked for.  Nobody gave me anything, so I expect something of reasonable quality for my investment.  If part of the selling point is “how great” the warranty is, and I get nothing but aggravation and hassle when I have to use it, I feel ripped off!

Why not just BUILD THE PRODUCT BETTER so it doesn’t fail within months!?  There’s a concept. Stop building stuff in Korea and China.  I’ll gladly pay the higher price so that more people in the U.S. can have jobs building them.

The reason my job is easier is so much broadcast equipment is built in the good ole U.S.A. and the person who installed it is, too.



Dynamic Range in Radio, Audio and Life
What is it?

In this article, I have gone to some pains to make what could be to some a boring and deep topic at least a little more understandable and less boring to most people.

When to beginning broadcasters it SEEMS like we’re a little TOO nit-picky running good "levels" in the studio, this discussion will hopefully add some insight and some verification that there is actually some wisdom behind our pre-occupation.

At one time, not even a teenager yet, I wondered why songs coming out of a home stereo never sounded quite the same (or as good) as they sounded on the radio. As I would soon discover, radio stations limit their dynamic range before feeding it into their transmitter. It is done for several reasons which will be outlined momentarily, but for whatever reasons, it actually made the music SEEM to sound better. The transients that might otherwise be distorted anyway, were squashed. The bass that might otherwise interfere with clarity were controlled, the characteristics of the drum sounds and air talent voices

were modified in such a way that made them seem more powerful. What was that mystique? It was AUDIO compression

As humans, we all prefer our day-to-day activities to proceed as smoothly as possible, with as little conflict or obstacles as possible. When we travel, we prefer our flights leave as scheduled, our connecting flights synch up as scheduled and our hotel room to be ready when we arrive. When we go to a restaurant, we don’t want to get into an accident on the way, for a table to be available when we arrive, our server to greet us and bring our food on a timely basis and for it to be of reasonable quality. Hopefully they will accept our payment without incident that seems fair and reasonable for what was received.

We want our lives to progress in a constant flow with no rough edges, sort of like the waveform of a standard FM broadcast. What happens within that restricted range of modulation is within the realm of "acceptable."? (For the non-techies the waveform

looks like a straight pipe with a bunch of "squiggies" inside). That’s probably what we would truly prefer, but it doesn’t always work that way.

This is because life itself could probably be described as analog. We’re not bits and bytes, and life may be more like the waveform of a standard AM broadcast. We each live in our own little module of existence that constantly changes. We interact, create more of us, or "things" or thoughts or modify the things around us.

As analog creatures, we also create analog sounds, which for various reasons, we deem to be valuable enough to transport, modify, save or distribute. The accurate transmission of those sounds so as to maximize the effectiveness of the listening experience is at the core of what this article is about. It could also be why we can actually be emotionally affected by the way a radio station SOUNDS. That is if that sound is close to or even resembles what our idea of great sound is. Maybe the content is part of that reaction as well.

In terms of sound, dynamic range is the difference between the softest sounds and the loudest sounds.


In broadcasting, it is necessary to limit the dynamic range to make it easier to listen to in a typical listening environment, to stay legal, have a "presence" on the dial and be competitive. If someone is punching across the dial and yours is significantly lower in volume than the competition, you will not be the station where they stop. In a casual setting, this boils down to audio levels that are consistent.

Back in the studio, someone who is just learning the fundamentals of broadcasting is told to make sure levels never exceed a certain point on the metering, but always averages ABOVE a certain level. When the song ends, the voice should not "blast" the metering into "the red." This would be uncomfortable to listen to, aside from the fact it is considered "unprofessional."

Historically, in the earliest days of broadcasting going back to the 1920s, there was actually an engineer who sat in master control at a radio station whose primarily job was to "ride gain" and make sure the transmitter was not over-modulated. Using his best guess, his job was to ANTICIPATE what was coming next and be ready to compensate for that modulation peak that potentially, could actually damage the transmitter.

Various devices were developed in later decades that automatically took care of that and eliminated the job of just "riding gain." At least for this function, such equipment could actually react much faster than a human. Most of these devices, however, do work (and sound) much better if they are fed what’s known as a "good level." Digital processing is even more forgiving (as long as one doesn’t get to close to their absolute peak), but the garbage-in garbage-out mentality is still a good one: If it sounds bad going in, it will sound equally bad coming out.

In a practical Production environment, the on-air grade of processing is not used nor is it even desired. In other words, get the basics down first. Don’t rely on technology to fix carelessness or sloppy board work!

As already noted, in the Production studio, consistency of levels is, in fact, the key. In the music industry, not only consistency, but balance (both tonal and mixture of vocal and instruments) AND overall loudness (at the final mastering stage) becomes a factor.

A "limited" dynamic range boils down to the quietest sounds are made louder, and the loudest sounds are made quieter. There are various reasons as to why this could be called a good thing in certain applications. Listening environment is a factor.

When driving a car, natural road noise means when listening, you would have to crank up your radio during quiet passages. Except you may have noticed that you DON’T have to when listening to radio because radio stations limit their dynamic range – at least the popular music stations. A classical or jazz or public radio station will probably be more conservative with their processing. With certain musical applications, limiting dynamic range is considered a very bad thing. There can easily be too much of a so-called good thing. Music can lose its impact when over-processed.


On the plus side, in the analog world of AM broadcasting, a station will have greater effective coverage with a higher average modulation level. This is because as the distance from the transmitter increases, so does the noise. A station with higher (i.e. LOUDER) modulation will be more listenable at greater distances because the listener will not have to turn the volume up on their receiver as high as on a poorly modulated station. When listening to a weaker AM station, when a listener has to turn the volume up, they also turn the volume up on BACKGROUND noise that is inherent to standard analog AM broadcasting.

The general public is not tolerant of a noisy, scratchy listening experience, and you won’t find many people listening to shortwave radio or distant AM stations these days. But maintaining higher average modulation is still a consideration for lower power broadcasters operating on the AM band today.


Digital audio on a standard Compact Disc typically has a dynamic range of 100 decibels. A standard analog VU meter is not even half that range. A typical cassette or reel tape recorded above that range would be distorted, or be really hissy if recorded below that range.

With the widespread use of home-burned CDs, often there is not much consideration paid to dynamic range and it is often determined by whatever level the source recording was made when it was first transferred to a digital format.

Consumer-oriented CD burning software has made some effort to help the average person make their CD’s sound A LITTLE more like commercially produced CDs. They have a process called NORMALIZING.

Normalizing is a method that does NOT reduce the dynamic range. It merely moves it to a different (usually higher) level. It is also not audio compression in the sense that we think of it.

What it does is find the highest peak in a song and increases THAT peak to a pre-set level determined by the user (often as a percentage). Whatever the percentage of increase is, the entire song will be increased by that same amount. For example, if that peak was at 80% and you Normalized it to 95%, a 15% increase would be applied across the board. Thus, a segment of
audio that peaked at 50% would then be increased to 65%.

Depending on the source of audio, the recording would only change in overall volume. It would NOT sound more "punchy." For that characteristic sound, you need true audio compression as well as a modification of tonal balance. Unless it was an air check from a broadcast station that was already compressed in this way, by "Normalizing" one would merely get a louder CD, but it may not seem PERCEPTIVELY louder, because the overall average level was not changed. Only the peaks were raised.

Today, software is readily available that can modify an existing sound recording in such a way that it can closely approximate what the most advanced processors are capable of.

Modification of the actual dynamic range is a standard attribute, but the methods of modification so as to introduce little or no undesirable artifacts (or to introduce DESIRABLE artifacts) are the coolest facets that evoke an emotional response.



In the 1960s and 1970s, "pumpy" "vacuum cleaner" sound and even reverb recall nostalgic feelings of the songs that were popular at that time. Those of us who worked on-air at that time won’t soon forget how "BIG" our voices were made to sound on the headphones (and suffer from considerable hearing loss today). By the time multi-band processing became common place (and it became more common for separate processors to become part of the chain for microphones only), technology found a way for talent to sound "BIG" and full, without that constant sucking sound.

Dynamic range was being restricted in all cases. Newer technology, lower noise gear and source audio along with better-designed studios allow us to modify the dynamic range so it was less obvious. Yet the end result is clearly apparent: When I punch up a station in town that CLEARLY stands out with a very round, full, yet crystalline characteristic, and as the programming transitions and the sound never degrades, I know that there MAY BE a certain brand of processor in use, perhaps with a certain pre-set appropriate for the format designed by the manufacturer. Then I go to Station B and it still sounds good, but in comparison, very flat and lifeless, I would tend to return to Station A, even if the programming content was less desirable.

Restricting dynamic range and manipulating audio to function as an end product, is in fact, an art form and there are many different stages of artistry. Running good levels in the air studio is only one aspect of building the "painting" of a radio station.


That sound actually starts in the RECORDING studio, the very first time that artist uses his voice or plays his instrument while it is still in its purest analog form. There is but one chance to capture it properly at that stage and as needed, mix it properly with other instruments, and balance the dynamic range. In fact, the earliest engineers were referred to "Balance Engineers."

If a station sounds great… full of "punch", "guts", "pristine," "crisp without sounding harsh," or whatever words you want to use describe, it’s due to any combination of things including a good engineer at the station, good equipment, and good control or manipulation of the dynamic range and tonal balance from the very first time it was first recorded.

A voice-over recording in a Production studio certainly falls into that category but so does the rest of the programming content.

If the "snap" of the bass drum in a popular music song recorded 30-40 years ago can be heard clearly over THE RADIO today, there is no doubt that the recording engineer who sat patiently in that studio, who set up a certain microphone a certain way, as well as the MAINTENANCE engineer who painstakingly aligned the recording machine – ALL played a role in how that radio station can have that sound at that moment.

Basically, the Balance Engineer operated the equipment of the era within the specifications of its manufacturer, insuring that it was within its dynamic range capabilities. Throughout the process of that piece of audio traveling from then to now, people or equipment followed the rules of maintaining good consistent levels all without introducing undesirable ARTIFACTS (there’s that word again).

If at any point along the journey, the raw analog waveform were seriously clipped or otherwise grossly damaged in such a way that is audible, that station would not sound as good at that moment.

Audio restoration is also an art form in itself, but restored audio that has been seriously damaged can never come close to audio that has remained pristine from the microphone to the speakers in the car.

For further insight…
Giants among us in the recording industry include Roger Nichols, Grammy award winner for his technical achievements. He is also responsible for the sound of every Steely Dan song you’ve ever heard and countless other artists you’ve heard on the radio. He currently also teaches an audio mastering class, and creates custom plug-ins for Pro Tools…

On the British side, Geoff Emerick, whose work at EMI (Abbey Road studios) gave the Beatles their legendary sound that rivals any studio recording made today wrote a book a couple years ago. "Here There and Everywhere" gives tremendous insight into what he did to achieve great sound when technology was so primitive. Another related book that gets back to basics: "All You Need is Ears," by Sir George Martin.


Those of you who know me somewhat well are aware that I don't just "DO" radio and electronics.  I'm a musician.

A band is almost like a second family or a business.  You have ups and downs.  A few quick comments on  these middle-aged rock freaks, from left to right...

George is our lead singer.  We spent a few years together in Impact 50, and he was the heart and soul of that band.  I have always had to work extra-hard make others look good in a band or on radio.  With George, it's the opposite.  He sings it like he means it.  Formerly of the Front Street Band, George is one of the cores of this band as well.

John is a versatile guitar player that seems to play anything we throw at him effortlessly.  In fact, previously, John and I played a wedding gig along with Chris Brown with barely 24 hours notice and no rehearsal at all and managed to rock the house.

That third guy standing in the light colored shirt is a real dork.  LOL!

Next to him is Shawn, the drummer, whose claim to fame is jamming with me when we were only 12 years old.  We both played drums together in school concert bands until I quit in 11th grade.  Shawn has painstakingly restored his original Ludwig drum kit from those days which is still in use.

Kneeling is Ed, our bass and "other" guitar player.  Ed and Shawn played in bands with Robbie Noll when they were barely teenagers, and Ed and Shawn were pals in 6th grade.

The name of the band is Wherez My Limo.  You can blame Shawn for the name.  So far, we have not been driven to any gigs in a limo, so the question remains and seems appropriate. 


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This is yours truly, and Lee, better known back in the day as "Felix the Cat," and "Lee Knyte."  In the 1970s, the two of us were regulars on Southfield High Schools' "Super Rock 88."  In those days, Bob Sneddon operated the non-commercial outlet as a hit radio station and album rocker overnights.    Lee also spent some time on-air at WSAM in Saginaw and doing phone research at the original WDRQ in Detroit.


Traveling – It’s part of the gig

August 5, 2007

There was a time in my life that I did very little traveling, and had little interest in doing so.  Everything I thought that I ever wanted to do – or experience – was right here in the home base.

With that mentality, I managed to work in broadcasting my whole life without ever leaving the state.  I don’t regret that status, but like many things, as we progress in our careers and life, we learn to experience more.

The task and business of old-time radio show collecting, marketing and restoring has been part of my life since I was able to operate a tape machine. I developed many friendships around the country through correspondence, phone calls and later e-mails.  This is the source of some of my best and longest-lasting friendships.

I had to travel to finally meet them in person and did so through attendance at many conventions where I represented myself as a dealer of various cool stuff.  Needless to say, travel cemented those many lifelong relationships – both at a business level as well personal.

I traveled to both coasts to these various events.  Eventually, I got the idea it might be cool to travel just for fun.  I experienced horseback riding for the first time, the humid tropics of the southern states, New York and parts of the east coast and more.  In California, it really seemed like another world to me that I actually liked quite a lot.  I would’ve moved out there if there was a reason to do so. 

Traveling:  It really is a cool thing to do!  But it took me a while to figure it out.

Eventually, I was called upon to travel to do various on-site technical projects.  I spent almost a month away from home constructing a radio station from scratch in North Carolina, and various projects elsewhere.  I found that even though all my “stuff” back home wasn’t at my fingertips, the rewards professionally, personally and of course, financially made for a fulfilling experience. 

For me, traveling became “part of the gig.”

In broadcasting, especially early in ones’ career, not only traveling, but physically moving the home base is typical and expected.

If one focuses their interest strictly on one facet of the business, it is likely a move (or several) will be necessary.

In my case, I changed from on-air and production to the technical aspects of broadcasting.  My career “travels” never strayed farther from the Detroit area than Jackson, Michigan.    If that is what you desire, you’ll have to get used to the fact you will not always have the prime job role you hoped to make a career of.  If you are pursuing radio, thinking beyond the traditional roles and determining what kind of tasks you can perform that will be valuable to the employer are the keys to getting the gig.

If you don’t want to do that for whatever reason, and think you’re “better” than the next person, no matter how good you “think” you are, you’ll never be as good (or wise) as you will be in five years – or maybe just one or two.

There is no short-cut to getting experience in the industry, from both a personal stand-point, perfecting your skills, as well as providing yourself to the industry.

Today I provide a fair amount of contract and sub-contracted services, which temporarily take me to other parts of the country.  Most of what I do for these people is very specialty-oriented.  Having the skills and knowledge to provide those services only comes from years in the business.

On the other hand, if you are dead-set on being a morning show host and nothing else, be ready to travel from sea to shining sea in pursuit of that goal.  

Be ready to work in very small markets, making very little money while honing your skills.  If an opportunity arises that isn’t QUITE what you had in mind but close, you’re making what could be a real big mistake by not checking it out in detail.  Don’t be fussy about what you can get, especially early in your career.

When the time arises, be ready to hit the road... or the air (as in flying) if you really want to hit the air (as in broadcasting).