A technical comparison of competing Sydney radio stations: Marc Kean | radioinfo

A technical comparison of competing Sydney radio stations: Marc Kean

Friday 31 January, 2014

Radio in Sydney this year is extremely fierce. You now have 3 radio stations all competing for the same slice of the pie.

Kiis 1065, Nova 969 and 2Day FM are all battling one another to be the most popular, which ultimately earns them the most $$$. But when it comes to the technical know how, it seems that the new Kiis FM only has the on-air talent to compete head-to-head with the likes of 2Day FM and Nova 969. But the technical side of things might let them down.

Will it be in the technical area where Kiis FM will not succeed?

In this tight CHR/Top40 competition, anybody and everyone would obviously go out of their way to make sure their product is squeaky clean and a well oiled machine. But it seems that due to the legacy of the old MixFM, Kiis FM's technology hasn't been updated and they could be left behind in this day and age of highly competitive audio technology.

It took radio broadcasters 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million, television 13 years and the Internet just four. Bearing in mind that all 3 stations are targeting the same age group - all tech savvy people who are heavy internet users, then technical quality will give some stations the edge, and leave others behind.

Technical comparisons listed below:

Nova 969

Their online internet stream is encoded at HE-AAC 48Kbps with gorgeous quality audio processing. Their digital radio feed is encoded at HE-AAC 64Kbps.  

Nova 969 has the best quality internet radio stream out of all 3 stations. http://livesh.nova969.com.au:15014
 

2Day FM

Their online internet stream is encoded at a very low HE-AAC 32Kbps and their digital radio feed is encoded at a very high HE-AAC 96Kbps. 

2Day FM has the best quality digital radio feed, but uses the lowest bandwidth for their internet stream out of all 3 stations. http://sc.2dayfm.com.au
 

Kiis 1065

Their internet radio stream is encoded at HE-AAC 48Kbps and their digital radio feed is encoded HE-AAC 48Kbps. http://icecast.arn.com.au/1065.aac

As Kiis FM have the lowest quality digital radio feed, the quality is much worse then their FM feed (106.5 MHz). The high treble tones heard on their digital radio feed are very scratchy and easily noticeable especially if you listen on a good pair of speakers. This scratchy sound is a direct result of their low encoded digital radio feed 48Kbps.

Their internet radio feed doesn't sound terribly good either. Listening for long periods of time, I have noticed that the quality lags behind if you compare their stream with another internet stream which uses the same audio codec (HE-AAC) and same bandwidth (48Kbps). So I did a comparison with the obvious choice being Nova 969. If you listen to Kiis FM's internet stream using a decent pair of ear phones or speakers, then you quickly swap and listen to Nova 969's internet stream, the quality comparison is like a Cassette vs CD. Of course this does not make sense, the internet stream for both Kiis FM and Nova 969 uses exactly same coding technology - HE-AAC 48Kbps, so there must be some poor quality audio at the source of the stream. 

Kbps (kilobits per second) is an internet term for measuring bandwidth. Greater bandwidth means more data that can stream which allows for better quality audio in most situations. Think of bandwidth as the size of a water pipe, the bigger the pipe the faster water can go down the pipe which allows for more water.

Getting back to the topic, if both internet stream's have the same bandwidth, then the only other thing that would cause the quality to suffer would be infrastructure. With the re-branding of Kiis FM, have they only done a face lift and not updated the back end infrastructure? It should be noted that since making the transition from Mix FM, they have increased the bandwidth of their internet stream from 32Kbps to 48Kbps. 

Why does the new Kiis FM sound so old? Is it the old legacy infrastructure and technology that they accumulated from Mix FM? Or is it because they think that the vast majority of listeners won't notice or simply won't care? Either way, if they don't get the basics right, listeners will flick back to a better quality sounding radio station using whichever medium they choose. 

Marc Kean spent several years as an on-air announcer on commercial radio in Australia and New Zealand. Chasing more money, about 15 years ago he made the transition to IT where he now works with Microsoft cloud services.

Marc still has a keen fascination with radio and is starting his own business from the ground up which will be a perfect mix of radio and IT. 

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