ABN Antioch is an Old-time Radio Shows station
located in Antioch, IL, a mile from the Wisconsin border and 20 miles
inland from Lake Michigan currently transmitting at 1610KHz. The AM
transmitter is a micro-power part15 AM RangeMaster1000 transmitter.
Range is very limited due to just 100mW of power and competition with
many distant stations but it is sufficient for all the antique and
crystal radios in the house and can be heard well by the near neighbors
if they care.
There are nearly 18,000 shows of which about
11,000 are automatically scheduled. And there are lots of music samples
to fill time between shows. The Library of shows and music occupies 160
GB in a Late 2010 Mac Mini. The Mac also has the job of scheduling all
shows with in-house custom software begun in 2003, playing the shows
and music in iTunes controlled via Applescript.
Collections are merged from various
sources--comparing and making judgements and even fixing audio, dates
and spellings where I can. Audio quality is not always ideal but
sometimes the content is so good it demands inclusion anyway. This is
particularly true with The Whistler and Quiet Please episodes. I'd
prefer hearing surface noise to a loss of fidelity and I'd sometimes
prefer a more complete show if the audio is a little worse and
sometimes I'll even merge two files into one. Large collections take
years to listen to so this is an ongoing process. But I spot check
everything by listening to the first 30 seconds, sampling several
places in the middle and listening to the end. I sometimes have to
remove long annoying 30 second to 2 minute trailing silence. I've often
done pitch corrections and careful noise reduction where I can to
remove clicks and narrowband noise such as hum using notch filters and
low and high cut filters.
It's certainly possible to simply purchase a
loaded hard drive or dozens of DVDs on eBay of mp3 OTR shows for
various prices from $90 for 10,000 to $1,000 for up to 40,000 shows but
I can't think of any case where this results in my idea of quality,
though I haven't tried the latter. Even from the best "HQ" sources
there can be problems so having more than one HQ source is an
advantage. From the more commonly available mp3s available from
probably hundreds of vendors, I've heard the worst examples of very bad
decisions at the digital stage such as encoding stereo at a mono bit
rate like 32Kbps stereo 22KHz sampling. I've heard noise reduction
techniques that make things sound underwater. I've heard AOL sign-in
and Windows desktop sounds (just lovely and embarrassing to hear played
on a Mac). I've heard mp3 encoding glitches that sound like hiccups.
I've heard large amounts of leading and trailing silence which is like
counting rings on a tree as I hear the different hiss sounds of many
generations of tape recordings. I've encountered lots of missing ID3
tags. I've encountered duplicate files just with different file names
claiming to be and episode they're not. I've heard audio drop-outs
consistently every few seconds for an entire 900-show Suspense
Some good sources have already disappeared. One
source for which I've purchased several hundred shows is no longer in
business and I can't find those shows at that quality anywhere anymore.
Good thing I got as much as I did when I did since there's no telling
how long before we see it again. The Suspense collection available at OTRNow is very close to my
collecting standards with the exception of a bit of underwater noise
processing on some episodes. OTRNow is a good starting point for any
collector since it is relatively cheap and quality can be very
excellent. Jerry Haendiges's collection is also an excellent
source for hundreds of shows I've received for high quality. He has
some rare ones and he tends to be close to the source. But no one is
perfect. At least when what I get is already digital high-fidelity, I
can work with it to improve it. There are others but you're on your own
from here. Please don't ask me more about my sources.
The result is after years of collecting, the
total size of the collection has only grown modestly but the quality is
uncommon. Thousands of shows are now digitized directly from Electronic
Transcriptions or master reels which over the past few years has become
an investment of thousands of dollars and uncountable time.
Scheduling of shows is an automated process where
shows are selected by the following priority:
1. Shows that match today's date that have not
2. Shows that match today's date regardless of when they last played
3. Shows that match yesterday's date that haven't played recently
4. Shows that match the day before yesterday's date that haven't played
5. Randomly selected shows that haven't played recently.
Where recently = a few months to a few years
depending on category. In the case of Comedy shows, this can be 2 to 3
years whereas with Spy Stories it can be just a couple months. Serials
The dates are read as a date object and audio is
concatenated to present an introduction of original play date including
the day of the week. Station IDs and an "Up Next" file are compiled
along with music fill.
Since we're matching today's date and since most
of you don't stay awake listening for 24 hours, there are replays of
several sub-genre segments across the day so you don't have to worry
about missing much.
When there's room at the end of a segment, we
fill with public domain classical music from musopen.com.
The source material is varied in quality so in
audio processing I tried to make the best compromise. First the tracks
are virtually normalized with iTunes Sound Check function. iTunes plays
the audio which uses Volume Logic to lightly process (AGC, 5-band
compression, and limiting) the audio in realtime. Nicecast digitally
captures the audio that iTunes is playing. I use a couple Apple Audio
Units and VST effects in Nicecast to roll off the extreme highs and
lows (such as rumble) not useful or desirable for AM or low sample-rate
From there it goes to two places: 1. Nicecast
encodes the audio using LAME and passes it on to an icecast server on a
major internet trunk at fast-serv.com which serves the internet
streams. 2. Nicecast runs a parallel audio chain which processes the
audio more aggressively with audio units before sending it out through
an audio transformer, and then to the transmitter in the back yard.