WUNH making the switch from analog to digital

By Courtney Williams
On November 27, 2012

Within the next academic year, the University of New Hampshire's radio station, WUNH, will be switching from analog to digital radio. Members of the university radio station pride themselves on being one of the last stations to make the system switch.

The student-run radio station has been in operation since 1971. Striving for diversity in programming, the station makes a point to play artists and genres that are underrepresented in mainstream media.

"The change is out of necessity, really," said Ian Chase, general manager of WUNH.

There have been no renovations to the station in roughly 20 years, and because most radio stations have switched to digital, it is logical for WUNH to update as well.

This will also provide a more accurate, real-world experience for students wishing to pursue a career in radio, because digital radio is more common and preferred. 

"We are just getting numbers, ideas, and logistics taken care of," said Sean Riley, the music director at WUNH on the progress of the change. "There is a lot to be done, so it is just one step at a time."

Steven Vanni, who recently redid ESPN's station, will be helping WUNH head this project. 

Analog radios process sound into patterns of electrical signals. Typically, CDs are used, but some stations - like WUNH - still use records. Digital radio is essentially the transmission of sound processed into patterns of numbers, hence the name "digital." This sound can be comparable to CD players, or even more commonly to the MP3 file one may find on an iPod. 

Just as a CD's sound quality is greater than a vinyl record, digital has a significantly clearer sound than past sound technology. 

Chris Noyes, an associate professor at the Berklee College of Music, said that digital actually has a noticeable difference compared to analog.

"Digital offers a better audio quality, simplified functions for the DJ, and can even introduce background information useful to the listener - quite a win," Noyes said. 

Careful listeners will be able to notice a difference in the sound, and the change may also open up more opportunities for listeners to customize their radio experience and be more involved. This could include being able to view song titles or even news reports on the screen of a radio while listening.

Having a higher-quality sound and access to more music selection on a digital system, WUNH could possibly increase its listening base. Currently, its followers include students of the university and locals on the Seacoast, but its fans branch out as far as international listeners on the WUNH website radio stream.

There is no telling if the switch will draw in new fans, but Chase is confident in saying that WUNH is standing by its initial mission statement.

"We are changing the appearance, not the content, mentality or purpose of the station," he said. 

Current listeners do not have to fear change in the station or its programs.

As for the massive collection of CDs and records it has saved up, WUNH will be keeping the records. Chase and Riley confirmed the records aren't going anywhere, because they are such a part of the station's image and are dearly loved by the staff. Staff members are still debating what to do with the CDs at this time, but are sure they will be put into good hands when the time comes. 

Ideally, WUNH would like to completely switch over to digital by the summer of 2013. The radio station team is optimistic about the change.

"I'm personally excited to see the station get a face-lift and for us to become more modern, while still keeping our mission statement," Chase said.

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