April 2013
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Radio Mayak: Real Russia

I have been following a video blog called “Real Russia” which has the stated goal of portraying life in Russia “as is, no BS.” This is a quick video of Radio Mayak, a state owned/run radio network in Russia. The network originates from Moscow but has a local morning show in various cities. This video was taken in Ufa (Уфа), which is the capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan. It is a little beyond this blog post to describe the political divisions of Russia, if interested, one can wander around in Wikipedia and figure it out.

According to video host Sergey Baklykov, Radio Mayak has been on the air since the USSR days, which explains the very cool (and retro) interval music played at the end of the video.

My take away; radio is radio. Morning show personalities appear to be universal.  Radio studios have missing ceiling tiles and wiring hanging down no matter what country they are in (excepting perhaps Germany, but maybe there too).  Except for the language spoken, this could have been any radio station in any city in the country.

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9 comments to Radio Mayak: Real Russia

  • I myself

    Missing ceiling tiles shouldn’t be an issue (also in Germany) as long as they don’t fall down. This really happened during the news on DLF (a nationwide information/cultural channel). Reaction of the news anchor: A short pause. You can relisten it here: http://radiopannen.de/mp3/hs005.mp3

  • Paul Thurst

    That is a great sound clip, sounded like something big fell down. News reader’s reaction: pause, meh, keep reading.

  • I myself

    According to the source of the mp3, some ceiling tiles fell down during the news (about the government debating the new defence policy). To my taste: Very professional reaction of the news reader!

    Please note, that the station broadcasting this piece of audio is from the most quoted radio station in Germany offering news, culture, background, politics and also some music.

  • Elliot

    Hi Paul,
    Please note that most all radio stations I’ve ever seen or been involved with in Europe use high quality condenser microphones in the studio,gosh,it sounds so nice and is the best “hiss killing filter” available!
    Looking back,I’m so shocked that our best stations were often using less than an EV RE 20( a kick-drum mic)for our best talent.
    Just pointing cultural differences, not picking a fight.
    of course,many of these mics cost 1000 dollars and(way,way up) up in the states and are mostly crafted in Europe which is a factor.
    Any thoughts?

  • I myself

    Hey Elliot (I’m not Paul, but I try to give you an answer): Cultural channels [in Europe: Mostly public broadcasters] often use high-quality mics even for their presenters, not just for instruments. I don’t know if listeners even with high-priced equipment can recognize the difference to more low-priced gear.

    I don’t know in which country you are living, but the things I noticed are: Private radio stations came up here in Europe very late (1980/1990) and copycated everything coming from the US (because commercial radio was established there long time ago, more research…). This involves formats, administration and also technical stuff. Cultural differences didn’t play a great role. They just adapted concepts. So you can find many EV-R20 / EV-R27 here even for presenters. Optimod settings might have been exchanged, too.

    Please note, that public broadcasters became addicted to the “ratings thing”. They were forced to show their success in a de-regulated market. So they tried to copy successful private broadcasters using the same gear and programming.

  • Paul Thurst

    Hi Elliot, that is a fair question. What it really comes down to is cost in both equipment and construction. In the US, commercial radio stations are mostly owned by business people, be they car dealers, real estate developers, construction, hoteliers, etc. Their primary concern is making ends meet; did the commercials air? did the client pay their bill? Thus, the technical quality of the broadcast is not at the top of the list.

    Studios are often shoe horned into commercial office buildings, retail space, etc. Sound deadening may not be fully implemented, therefore a very sensitive large condenser microphone will pick up lots of background noise. Things like trains, traffic, other radio stations, and so on. Downward expansion can be used, but then there is a certain amount of pumping and swooshing, which I think sounds worse than a lower quality microphone.

    Secondly, the cost of equipment for an RE-20 is much less than say a Neumann U-87. RE-20s are also fairly rugged and can handle high SPL (as you said, they are a kick drum mic). Thus, typical stupid DJ behavior (yelling, screaming, poor mic technique) are handled rather well by the RE-20 (and 27) microphones.

    In major markets and with different, high maintenance “talent,” things are occasionally different. I think that most broadcast engineers would love to work in a pristine studio with top of the line equipment, but those opportunities are few and far between.

  • I myself

    To my taste I would say: Paul is right, too!

    I’ve seen many stations using Shure SM-7B, a dynamic microphone (maybe) constructed in the late 1990s, when CRT screens were attached to automation systems. So you had all the noise coming from the electromagnetic field surrounding the screens. They compensated it using a Faraday cage. Today, in studios with TFT displays, you normally (!) wouldn’t need that. But maybe it’s some sort of “it worked well in the past, so let’s stick to that. no risks!” that might have influenced engineers still using this devices. Or maybe it’s that “special, unique” sound that has a “significant influence” on your “image and listener’s recogniticion” that prevents engineers from doing a switch. We don’t know, because we are no GMs.

    I’m just a guy who worked at some radio stations (local commercial stations, university stations and even a nationwide station) and now left the field for working in accounting/controlling because it’s a more safe field (when it comes to employment) than programming.

  • Jim Seaman

    Paul, My wife is Russian, and I’m more familiar with Russian TV which airs everything from their own homegrown Jerry Springer, to a licensed version of Wheel of Fortune, to a clone of the BBC World News. So when you take away the Dracula accents and Radio-Moscow style interval signals, I’m not surprised you can clearly see many American influences in this station. I was amused to see the man with the Elvis coffee mug. Among Russians I know, Elvis enjoys a cult following. Another thing I’ve noted for years is that Russians define the term blond differently than we do. I agree with previous comments about Europeans and condenser mics.

  • Paul Thurst

    Jim, I didn’t know that Elvis was popular in Russia. I know there is a huge following in Japan, when I was flying back from Guam the last time, we spent a day in Tokyo. I had been out of the Coast Guard for about six months, so my hair had grown out and I had sideburns below my ear lobes. The immigration guy looked at my passport, then looked at me and said “Ahhh, Elrvis Prlessry” then shook my hand.

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