Automation & Playout software is a core component of a radio station’s operations. Most stations these days, even when running with a live announcer, will use an automation system to assist the announcer in playing and recording audio.

Here are some of the more popular radio automation and playout software packages available today. They vary wildly in price and features and it particularly hard to compare some as they are geared towards different segments of the market. If you are selecting software for your radio station, ensure you put together a comprehensive list of functionality you require and also arrange demos for the key stakeholders (make sure you include content people, as well as technical).

This list of features isn’t comprehensive, as I don’t have first hand experience with all of these systems. If you notice something I’m missing, please add it to the comments below.

RCS Zetta

RCS Zetta Screenshot

Zetta is the big new software package from RCS. It does almost everything under the sun, and has a price tag to match. Key bullet point features:

  • Full automation, live assist and manual modes
  • Multiple stations in one system
  • Microsoft SQL Database
  • Distributed system. Each workstation can act as a remote control for the real machines doing the actual audio playout.
  • Time stretching/squeezing to help hit time markers
  • Built in recorders (automated and manual)
  • Great support for networked programming (File & log sharing over WAN, remote voice tracking, “split” stations for local spot breaks)
  • Auto segue features, with full manual control too
  • Close integration with their other products, such as GSelector and Aquira
  • Price: If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.
    P.S. If you are clever with Google, there is a RCS purchase order you can find on one of those PDF sharing websites. The unit-price isn’t too far from what you might expect to pay these days.

RCS Zetta Website

Note: NexGen and Master Control are older software packages from RCS (used by the majority of Australian Commercial Radio Stations, I dare say), but they don’t really recommend installing these pieces of software for a new install as they are quiet old. Zetta is what they are pushing.

WideOrbit Radio Automation

WideOrbit Radio Automation Screenshot

Formerly Google Radio Automation, Scott’s Studios & SS32. WideOrbit have traditionally build traffic software for radio & TV, and WideOrbit Automation for Radio is their adventure into the world of radio playout and automation software. There are four major components to the system:

  • Workstation (what you see above)
  • Web Interface
  • Playlist Editor Application
  • Adobe Audition Plugin

The Workstation is a touchscreen-based user interface. You can load as many widgets into as many places as you like. Widgets include:

  • Stack player (main station player)
  • Playlist editor
  • Library
  • Voice tracker
  • Audio asset editor
  • MusicMaster widget
  • It’s also possible to build your own plugins and run them as widgets

The Web interface is how you configure the system, but also a great way access the audio library outside of the studio. You can search through the library, update details, and also launch the audio file in the application of your choice. When you install the Adobe Audition Plugin you have a nice and easy way of editing audio outside of the system and sending it back in without loosing metadata.

The Playlist Editor is a standalone application which allows you to edit playlists. It’s fairly limited, but when combined with the web interface would work well in an out-of-studio environment such as the programme director’s office.

There is also a “Friendship Server” which allows you to connect remote systems and share content. Files and logs can be pushed backwards and forwards, to allow for sharing of resources. There are a lot of configurable rules to enable easy sharing while still maintaining control over your libraries.

Add to the list a Remote VoiceTracking server. Talent can be emailed when logs are ready to voicetrack. They can then login to their local Windows App, record the tracks, and send them back easily. If the logs change after this for some reason, they can be emailed again to request they re-voicetrack specific sections.

Overall, WideOrbit is a nice system and well suited to a wide range of applications. It’s also a lot cheaper than some of it’s larger competitors. Because it has the Web interface and Playlist Editor (which are free) you can save a lot of money by not buying everyone a Workstation license.

WideOrbit Radio Automation Website

BSI Simian

BSI Simian Screenshot

Simian is very popular amongst smaller stations. Key bullet point features:

  • Full automation, live assist and manual modes
  • Microsoft Access database (MDB)
  • Time stretching/squeezing to help hit time markers
  • Built in voice tracking recorder
  • Price: US$1,499.00 per workstation

BSI Simian Website

BSI Op-X

BSI Op-X Screenshot

Op-X is the big-brother system from the same people who released Simian.

  • Full automation, live assist and manual modes
  • Multiple stations in one system
  • Distributed system. Each workstation can act as a remote control for the real machines doing the actual audio playout.
  • Time stretching/squeezing to help hit time markers, using ASI audio cards
  • Built in voice tracking recorder

BSI Op-X Website

StationPlaylist Studio

StationPlaylist is also very popular amongst the smaller stations.

  • Full automation and live assist modes
  • Suitable for small stations – has a lot of nifty featured geared towards this end of the market
  • High accessibility for blind users
  • Price US$135.00 or $259.00 per workstation

Dalet Radio Suite

I’ve used older Dalet 5.1 systems before, but don’t have experience with their newer Dalet Radio Suite. One thing I can say about Dalet is that they are really into the whole Media Asset Management and Program Associated Data thing. While other systems don’t focus much on the actual storage of media and it’s metadata, Dalet puts a big emphasis on it.

Key features:

  • Full automation and live assist modes
  • Multiple stations in one system
  • SQL Database
  • Built in newsroom functionality
  • Built in multi-track audio editor

Dalet Radio Suite Website

Other Systems:

Here are some other notable systems.

  • RCS NexGen
  • RCS Master Control
  • ENCO DAD
  • iMediaTouch
  • Jutel RadioMan
  • Rivendell
  • Sourcefabric Airtime
  • Netia

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a broadcast technologist. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008 (getting my start in Community Radio while still at school), and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I work full time for Hope Media, and provide some freelance services through Media Realm.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden or Google+