NILES, Ill., May 1, 2013 — WFMT Chicago is a unique radio station that is dedicated to classical music and fine arts programming, yet operates on a commercial basis. “We’re sort of a hybrid radio station, commercially licensed and owned by a not-for profit. What sets us apart from any other station in the country is the amount of live remote broadcasts that we do,” says WFMT Director of Operations Don Mueller. “We had 30 live broadcasts from different venues across the city in April alone.”
To maintain the high quality standards necessary for effective fine arts broadcasting, WFMT relies heavily on Shure microphones and wireless technology. “Shure is actually a core part of our sound,” says Mueller. “We use the SM81 as our announcer microphones. It’s a natural presentation, like listening to the announcer face-to-face. It doesn’t sound hyped. We settled on the SM81 years ago, specifically because it has such a great ability to accurately reproduce the human voice.”
One new weapon WFMT has added to its arsenal is the Shure PSM 1000 personal monitoring system. “We’ve used in-ear monitoring for artists, of course, which is what the system is designed for,” Mueller notes. “But where it has really helped is with our reporters at events like the Grant Park Music Festival in the summer. They use wireless microphones – Shure Beta 87 UHF transmitters – to interview people during intermissions, and use the PSM 1000 as a wireless headphone to monitor the program feed, live on the air. They have been totally flawless, even running outdoors at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. And the fidelity is incredible.”
Similarly, WFMT uses the PSM 1000 in the studio as well. During pledge drives, broadcast live from the station’s Fay and Daniel Levin Studio, a phone bank manned by volunteers is set up to accept pledges from listeners. A moderator roams the phone room doing interviews, and wears a PSM 1000 system to hear what’s going on in the main control room.
According to Don Mueller, before acquiring the PSM 1000, the station’s reporters used wireless microphones, but were tethered to wired headphones. “Frankly, now that we have the PSM 1000, I don’t know how we ever managed without it, being locked into using curly cables plugged into headphone jacks,” he says. “The system has expanded our functionality and made the ease of operation a lot greater.”
For its part, Shure is an active supporter of WFMT. “Shure is a great corporate partner for us,” says Mueller. “What we really value is their expertise. They have applications engineers on staff who are a huge help to us, recommending solutions that help us provide a much better broadcast for our listening audience.”
With a schedule of live and taped symphony concerts, opera grand drama, jazz, and folk captured at venues ranging from Lyric Opera and Old Town School of Folk Music to the Chicago Cultural Center, Ravinia Festival, and beyond, WFMT is truly in the forefront of the area’s cultural landscape. “There is so much happening in the Chicago area, we cannot hope to broadcast it all,” says Don Mueller. “But with the support we get from partners like Shure, we do more, and do it better than ever before.”