I have spent many hours in my life researching automation systems for a Christian radio station. I have researched low, medium and high price automation systems. I have asked many people what people think are the best automation systems and what is good and what is bad about different automation programs. I have studied what people have said on some internet web pages about different automation systems. I have asked knowledgeable people who have experience with different systems.
If you buy a low price automation system, you might regret it later as it might not have some features that you want or the features that it does have might not do that great of a job. I will try and tell you what I have learned as far as what is the best low priced, medium priced, and high priced automation systems. Of course, with every automation system you will find people who really like one and really hate the same one. I recommend that whatever automation system you buy that you try and see it in action before you buy it.
Also many automation systems have demo versions which you can test first. I think it is probably good to see it in action at a radio station first. It is good to get input from people already using the automation system rather than relying on the advertising of the company. Many times find out some of the problems with the automation system after you buy it and be disappointed. Of course, the company will not want to give you a refund. Sometimes the technical support department will have a hard time helping you to fix your problem and sometimes you will have to fix the problem by yourself. I am writing this to help you avoid some of this grief in life. Many times after you buy an automation system, there is resistance to switching to another automation system because of cost or the amount of time needed in switching to the new system. It is better to make the right decision the first time.
Sometimes the automation program advertising makes you think you get more than you will actually get or it will end up being more expensive than you originally thought. Links to many of the automation systems may be found at these web sites
Links to many broadcast companies
You may also ask other Christian radio managers, techs and engineers questions about different radio station automation systems at the www.crtech.org forum either before or after you buy the automation system.
I will start out with the lowest price automation systems and then the middle price automation systems and then the higher price automation systems.
I probably would not get the Arrakis system. It is free or under $100. The screens look good, but might have some stability questions. Of course, some problems could have been worked out by now. I have read on the www.Crtech.org newsgroup of some people telling of multiple crashes with this software.
An automation system that
Allen McGuirl at Galcom says he recommends to radio stations that he
helps to start in countries outside the USA is called Web Jockey. The newest
updated version is called Jockey Pro LT
Jockey Pro LT is a basic automation and music scheduling program. He says he likes it because it is easy to understand. It costs between $100 to $620 for a full automation system. If you need help starting a Christian radio station outside the USA, please contact Galcom www.galcom.org
One radio engineer told me about Musicmatch Jukebox Digital Audio Software. It is a music player that it allows you to organize your MP3s and play them in order. www.musicmatch.com/ It is only $20.
Another basic automation software package is called Automate for around $250 or $430, depending on what version you buy. http://www.wvi.com/~automate/
The developer, John Zolkoske offers support at a low price. This automation system has been on the market since 1994. It is probably one of the best automation systems under $500 although it is limited compared to automation systems in the $1000 to $2000 range.
Raduga has two different choices. One is $649 and one is $999.
I have read some good reviews of this product. I think it is an Australian
company but is supported in the
Below is the web site for Station Playlist Creator & Studio, which is a complete automation, live assist and music scheduling software. I have heard from one or two people that it is very good.
This is about $800 USD and is a good mid-range with a lot of features great for Christian Stations. It was developed in Greece. You never have to use a separate piece of software to generate program schedules. Spots are inserted into the auto-generated playlists. Of course, one can manually create playlists if they so choose. Demo downloads are available. A new release was made to overcome some shortcomings (spot scheduling for one). Jazler does not (but can be accomplished with other tools like satstore or satsked). I have heard from one Christian that it is very good. There might be a problem with support.
One low priced automation system is Tune Tracker Systems. It has a $1000 system and a $1249 system. This includes the computer, audio card, hard drive and automation software. It works with the BEOS operating system.
I received a review of this automation system by a Christian and can't recommend it. This is the review "I really liked the power of the music selection tool and tried my best to implement this system (keep in mind I have software development skills, etc). Ultimately, it was not friendly enough to use to switch between "automatic mode" and "live assist" while providing random, on the fly selection of songs in a way the on-air talent could understand."
In the $1000 to $1500 price range, a good choice might be BTSG
www.btsg.com It is owned by a Christian named Tommy Gray who has a vision for ministry. Tommy Gray has many years experience with computers and automation. He has also developed a music scheduler. He does not send out a working demo version, so I recommend you see the program in person before you buy it. I have heard the windows don't look the same as in other programs. One of the most popular automation programs on the market is Broadcast Software International Simian. www.bsiusa.com If you want to save yourself a lot of grief, I recommend that you buy this automation system. From my research, I think this is the best automation system under $5000. The earlier version of the program called Wavestation had some problems. Some people liked it and some people had some problems working with it. Many people have a bad view of BSI because of Wavestation. The new version called Simian seems to be very good. I think Cumulus Media bought the program, invested a lot of money in it and turned it into a first rate automation software. You need a fast processor for the new version. The automation software costs $1500, which includes a year of free support. After the first year, support is higher for this company than for other companies, so you might save on the initial cost but over time it will even up. Support is at least $100 a month. However, some stations buy the software without support. I think they have free email tech support.
I have talked to at few Christians who really like the program. Marty Jones at HCJB researched over forty different automation systems and choose BSI. HCJB now uses BSI internationally. http://automation.hcjb.org/ (see links) I have heard from people using a certain Antex card with BSI successfully. BSI will recommend only Audioscience cards. BSI claims that Audioscience is the best sounding audio card and worth the extra price. They warn against using other audio cards. BSI has an excellent web site. If you have to spend $2000 or less on automation software, this is probably your best choice of all the automation systems.
If you want a DOS based system, Register Data Systems www.registerdata.com/ is good. If you want stability and like DOS, this is your program. Of course, DOS is no longer being supported by Microsoft. Register Data Systems supports their hardware/software, however. The cost of the automation with the audio card and one or two computers was around $7500 for $10,000. I heard of one problem of the system.
In the medium price range, a good automation program is Wireready. www.wireready.com It is a stable program. I think the cost for the software for one computer is $3000 to $5000.
In the mid to high price area, there is a system called Media Touch.
They have many modules which was confusing to me. There are some good things about the software and the company has worked out some of its problems. I have read some good reviews of the automation system. It is more expensive than BSI. It might work with a touch screen. If you want an automation system in the middle price range, this is a system I would seriously consider.
Among the high priced automation companies, probably the best automation program is Enco. (www.enco.com) (1-800-827-4440) Many of the Christian radio stations and ministries who have enough money - buy this program. It was designed by an engineer type person for engineers (not necessarily your board operators).You may see a long list of radio stations and ministries that use it on their web site.
I heard it does everything well. Another very good brand in the expensive area is Scott Studios
(1-888 GET-SCOTT). I heard they try to dazzle
you with their scree. It is very good for on-air work. Their lowest price
hardware and software option is $12,000.
Dalet has a pretty good automation system but is overpriced. I hear support is not that good, but things could have changed. I probably would not buy the BE Audio Vault automation as it is overpriced, but they do make excellent transmitters.
About audio cards, many companies are using the ,Audioscience cards and believe it is the best audio card on the market. BSI has told me that they have tested many audio cards and believe that Audioscience is the best sounding audio card. BSI, Cartworks, HCJB and Register Data Systems use Audioscience. Some radio stations who do not want to spend money for the expensive Audioscience cards use the Antex card and are happy with them. Many companies build their automation software using a particular audio card; so many times it is a good idea to buy the audio card that the company recommends. Each automation company has their favorite audio card they will recommend to you. If you don't use the audio card they recommend, they say there could be some compatibility issues. Some radio stations use the high end Soundblaster cards and think it does a good job. Wireready uses the Lynx card.
Natural Music for Windows is the most recommended and most popular music scheduling software available. Many radio stations think about buying another scheduling software, but end up buying Natural Music for Windows. It costs between $500 and $700
If you go to the HCJB web site and click on links, they have a good section on software that can be used with most automation systems.
They also have other good links including FAQ.which has a list of good requirements for the computer. If you get the right computer, hardware and software in the beginning, it can save you a lot of potential problems.
Other Automation Systems
I don't know much about SMARTS Broadcast Systems- Smartcaster, although they have a good presentation. I have had someone tell me it is pretty good.
Trans World Radiois using MB Soft in some of their locations.
I heard it was pretty good. They allow people in different countries to put their automation system in the language of the country in which it is to be used. It is based in
This web site is about Free and Open Source Software for doing Radio
A free radio station automation system has been developed by Salem Radio Labs. It runs on the Linux system.
The radio station automation system is called Rivendell. It includes automation and scheduling. I have read many good things about it. There is however no tech support department, and you will have to rely on user forums or mailing lists for tech support.
This is a radio station automation program made in
I don't know enough about it to recommend it.
Known Radio Automation Products
April 26, 2005 - Marty Jones -
Engineering Center Automation Selection Process June 20, 2005
Our research of automation systems was from May to August of 2003. These were the goals we used in our research: = Reliable = Lower cost = Flexible (Used in simple to complex systems) Maximizes use of ASI6201 audio card was needed to discover the desired features in a radio automation product. I did extensive research on the internet to find what various radio station personnel had to say about different automation products. I even visited a couple of radio stations to get more detailed information. Since May of 2003 the Engineering Center has evaluated over 40 automation systems. Many of these can quickly be dismissed, because they don't align with the goals mentioned above. Others need a more in-depth evaluation. Most of the low-end automation systems do not work well with our ASI6201 audio card and are unreliable.
Here are the main reasons we picked BSI Simian as our automation of choice: = Field tested and approved (Reliable)
1. Over 6000 organizations in 44 countries use BSI products
2. Over 900 successful installations of Simian
3. Customers include BBC, CBS, CNN, USA, and Cumulus Media
4. BSI was founded in 1989
5. Good support and documentation = Complete Package at Good Price (Lower cost) Package includes automation, live assist, remote control, audio logging, cd-ripping, and optional scheduling software =
Can work in a variety of applications (Flexible)
1. Can use one single stand alone computer or it can run a whole network of stations operated with several computers
2. Can use Simian with or without an additional scheduler
3. Has sophisticated features that are optional =
Works with a variety of audio cards (Maximizes use of ASI6201 audio card)
1. Can use a low cost audio card (Sound Blaster)
2. BSI recommends using Audio Science audio cards
3. Our ARIEL (ASI620) audio card is fine tuned to work with their software
There is no shortage of automation systems on the market today. The key is to find a good one and stick with it. They range in price from free to over $10,000. It is very difficult to find one automation system to meet all of the partner's and regions needs. Every automation system has weaknesses. For example, with BSI Simian it is helpful to have a computer technician to setup and maintain the system. However, our hopes are that the Engineering Center can assist with setup and troubleshooting.
Your brother in Christ, Marty Jones
Visitors since April 27, 2004