Video: Achieving the Perfect Custom Sound with Omnia VOLT V2.0
By Justin Gelske on Aug 11, 2021 12:27:53 PM
In this episode of Behind the Sound, we get to speak with Tony Bono. Tony has had a hand in just about every aspect of radio over the past 52 years from producer, to DJ, to program director, general manager, owner, and beyond. In 2018, Tony decided to upgrade his audio processing to none other than Omnia VOLT. In this interview, Tony shares everything he loves about our Omnia VOLT, as well as explains the difference it made for his station’s sound with version 2.0.
You can view the Behind the Sound - Achieving the Perfect Custom Sound with Omnia VOLT V2.0 interview and read a transcription of the interview below!
Hey everybody, and welcome back to our Behind the Sound interview series. And today, we're joined by Tony Bono. Now, Tony has a long history of working in the radio industry. So to start us off, Tony, can you just give us a quick summary of your history with radio?
Certainly. 52 years in the business. I was hatched in the business. My father, along with some others, own WOKZ in the St. Louis area on the east side. There was a class B covering St. Louis. I was 14 producing, 15 on the air. A couple of years passed, I was the youngest morning DJ in St. Louis history in 1978, working mornings on KCFM, which is now the Bowl. From there I went to KIRL, worked with Dave Scott as PD. Everybody knows him,. Worked at some other stations, ended up in Omaha working at Sweet 98, then a couple of other places, Texas, Arkansas, then ended up in Houston, Texas as an expansion director of engineering for KSBJ, which is a non-profit organization. Built a lot of stations for them.
Then I moved a station into Tulsa in the 90s, a C3, and operated that for a year, sold it to clear channel. And then everybody was on the phone calling me for move-ins during consolidation. Ended up in Chicago with Chris Devine, Marathon Media Superior Broadcasting, and was their director of expansion. I've got about 70 move-ins to my name.
In the process, sold a station and bought one in Tennessee and then ended up down here after I kind of semi-retired and decided to operate. I mean, it's what I always wanted to do anyway. So I own a C2 that covers the entire Tennessee valley. It's got a huge signal. And crazy enough, for whatever reasons, I ended up being a general manager for two LPFMs, and I help other LPFMs.
Wow, that's a really impressive resume there. You kind of have had your hands in a little bit of everything as far as radio goes here. And we've spoken in the past, and you've mentioned that for the past 15 years or so you've been a little bit partial to Omnia audio processing. What was your first experience with Omnia like and how has that relationship grown for you?
I was in Chicago with Chris Devine operating my office on Oak Street and Michigan Avenue. They had a Sony radio, still have the radio, and my Sony 7506s. And I was so impressed with the clarity that I was hearing on some of the stations in Chicago. And we all started with the basic processors. I remember seeing the beta Optimod 8000. Ed Bench had that in St. Louis and I was working mornings there. But I was so impressed with the clarity. And I started asking engineers there, "Hey, what am I hearing?" He said, "Oh, that's an Omnia.6." "Really? Wow. Where do I get one?"
"It doesn't sound like anything else. And after that point, I got hooked. Omnia products are friendly to people like me."
And believe it or not, I just bought one and stuck it in my studio to play with and to hook into a demi load. And then I put it on the air and its been on the air on and off for how many years now? 2005. I was impressed with it. It's got a big motor. It doesn't sound like anything else. And after that point, I got hooked. Omnia products are friendly to people like me.
So moving forward, you purchased your very first Omnia VOLT in 2018. Why did you decide to purchase the VOLT there and were there any challenges that you were experiencing that sort of made you want to make that switch, or can you tell us a little bit about maybe your first impressions with the VOLT as well?
Well, I work a lot with Tim Coaches. He's my chief engineer to my C2. And Tim has worked with Frank quite a bit and he sold Omnia's. Tim's a good friend and he's a genius, like Frank, and I was talking to him about his, he has an LPFM and I was listening to his audio. "Man, what do you got there? I want one of those for one of my stations and for the LPs I'm managing." And he said, "Well, you could buy an Omnia ONE, but there's this new thing called a VOLT. I'm going to buy one. I suggest you buy that." So I did. Man, I like the 6, but it blew the 6 away and I thought that was impossible.
I found settings I was crazy about and put it on the air. It's on a country format. We're playing everybody from Johnny Cash to all the new stuff to Florida Georgia Line and all of it. It's just incredible. The clarity is just beyond description. I've been after audio perfection for many years, trying to bring back the sound of the 90s with the control that we have today. That's what I believe the 11 does, because I've never owned an 11. I'd love to have an 11. But the internals of the VOLT kind of reflect that. It's the same algorithms. I just got the version 2.0. I'm going to convert my version one to version 2.0 and I'm going to buy more of them and I probably should buy another car for the family.
"...I have never heard clarity like this in my life. It's like I'm listening to the early 90s, but now with control."
I'll get in trouble when I have a toy in my garage as a backup because I like playing with it. "What happened to the version 2.0?" I took it out of box, put it in the rack, hooked up the transmitter to the dummy load, put on my Sony's, I heard electra V2 for the first time. Maybe I'm deaf, but I kept cranking it up and listening to it like I have never heard clarity like this in my life. It's like I'm listening to the early 90s, but now with control. I went further with this. I said, "Tim, it's not enough. I'm missing something. I played with QuickTweak." He said, "Well, I could get the internals." "Not necessary, Tim. I mean, no offense. It's not that I don't want to call you up but I like QuickTweak. It does what I want. I achieve what I need. I don't want to say I don't need you, but you know, you like making it loud. I want clarity and I want to be competitive."
So I said, "I need something that I don't know what it is. It sounds fantastic. It beats everything I've ever heard in my life, but I need one more thing. Figure it out." I'm a supervisor engineer. He said, "You know, there's a setting called warmth that's next to the effects. If you take down that shelving, you can get that sound you want from the early 90s." So I did and I applied that to all my presets that I had developed. I called Tim up at midnight or one in the morning and said, "My God, I can't believe what I'm hearing." Like, "What?" "I got it. When I was in Chicago listing all that clarity on the Zombies, I finally have settings that resemble that. It blows everybody else away."
I've had an owner of a station in Chattanooga drive up here just to listen because it's an LPFM. He said, "I have never heard anything like this for years, 25 years, but you've got the loudness and the control and you don't hear it working. How did you do that?" I said, "QuickTweak."
Ah, that's awesome. So, essentially you were able to get the exact sort of sound you were looking for here with VOLT 2.0 then, is that right?
Beyond my expectations and I'm not just saying that to make you happy. I've never heard anything like it. And listen, I've owned a lot of processors in my time and I still own some other processors and you know some cheap stuff I bought off eBay just in case for emergencies and so forth, in case of a friend of mine needs a processor. But what do I use? I use an Omnia VOLT. Why? I can plug it in and I've got presets. Using QuickTweak, I can be on the air in five minutes. The clarity... In fact, this owner from Chattanooga said, "There's no comparison."
"I mean, the bass is tight, you know what I'm talking about? The mids are silky smooth, you can fall through them. You can hear the resonation on the vocalist, on their vocal chords."
He said, "They're going to listen to what you're playing and then they're going to go back to the other station and it's just going to sound like noise that's fatiguing. Whatever you've got there, those settings you got, never heard anything like it." I mean, I have never heard anything like it ever. Because I remember the clarity of the 90s, but not with this control. I mean, the bass is tight, you know what I'm talking about? The mids are silky smooth, you can fall through them. You can hear the resonation on the vocalist, on their vocal chords.
The highs are whatever you want. You want all that semblance up there? We can do it. No birdies. There's no garbage in there. It's just clean and you can tailor it to pretty much do what you want.
That's a really nice compliment there and just like you're saying, sometimes people don't know exactly why they prefer a sound over another if they're not in this industry or it's not something they pay a lot of attention to, but they definitely can notice, which is awesome that you're getting those results. And that kind of leads me to another question. So, you've been using VOLT 2.0 here. Would you say it's been a significant difference for you going up to 2.0 compared to the original version?
I liked version one and I thought there were so many presets that I liked. When I went to version 2.0, I'm on the jalapeno settings and thinking, "Hey, that sounds good." Six VOLTs. I've been playing around with six VOLTs. Dang, it's like, I have the clarity. I got loudness that I don't even need that much loudness, but it's there if I want it. It's like, I don't know, it's like putting a Hemi in a Volkswagen. You know what I mean? It's like, it's going to go. And what's crazy is I've got several electro version 2.0 settings that work on any format. I just change it a little bit. I can use it for country. I could use it for rock, alternative rock, or I could use it for top 40. That's the weirdest thing. I mean, you take processing back to the day, early 90s, especially back to the DeRose, there was only one setting and that's what you got. Now we've come full circle and there are settings that you can use on anything, which I appreciate that.
That's awesome. To have that versatility is great, especially for someone like you who kind of dabbles in a little bit of every sort of genre it sounds like, you have that flexibility there.
I've programmed a classical station before. I've worked alternative rock, hard rock, country, worked AM, FM. I'm playing around with the internet now. That's the next thing. From here, would I want an 11? Absolutely. Would I buy an 11? Oh I could, but I see so much versatility with a VOLT, I'm going to stick with it because I can buy lots of them. Next step is to use them on internet for my streams for the stations. Process it separately and give it some real gas.
That was going to bring me right to my last question here, which was going to be any other future plans that you're working on aside from streaming, even?
You know, I've got my fingers in some other peoples' stations because they like what I do and I've recommended VOLTs for them too and they're thinking about purchasing. They already got processing, but they heard what I have and they want to know how to reproduce that. As soon I install this VOLT that's in my garage, I'm going to buy another one. I've got to have one in my garage to play with or I'm going to go insane. I like tinkering and what I really like is to bring Tim over with his laptop and watch him make some magic. He'll take some of those jalapeno settings and play with those and we get some really interesting sounds because I'm experimenting.
Well, we appreciate all of the support and of course all the kind words and everything. Obviously, you're passionate about what you do so it means even more that you love everything in the VOLT so much, and I'm glad it's been able to make such a big difference for you.
It has made a major change in my faith in the ability to process with clarity. I now believe that's possible again. I gave up for a while and I'm not joking, I have never heard anything like this before in a small box like that for that kind of money. I feel like I'm in New York City, in Cleveland, Tennessee.
That's a huge compliment. Well, thank you so much, Tony, for taking the time to speak with us today. It was great talking to you and great hearing about all your different experiences that you've had. And as always, appreciate the support. Thanks for joining us.
Interested in learning more about Omnia VOLT? Send us a message and our team will help guide you in the right direction for your studio.
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