by Andy Capp
I realize that it's unusual for me to do a product review in this column, but when I ran across this tool that claims to make your station sound better, streamline the workload and be more profitable, I had to take it to task and share the results. The following is only my opinion. Your results may vary, but the Prod-Pro version 96.0 could indeed meet and exceed its claims at every station.
One note I want to make before we continue: due to the hand-crafted nature of the Prod-Pro version 96.0, not all the features listed in this review will appear in every model. The features are a combination of the best found in several models I've examined. The prospective buyer will want to search for the model with the right combination of features for his or her station, but keep in mind that the unique, one of a kind manufacture of these devices is often what makes them so valuable at a station, not the appearance of any one feature.
On the outside, Prod-Pro version 96.0 has the same layout as earlier versions, still not rack-mountable, yet easily installed in any studio situation. The ins and outs, while not digital ("always analog, always will be!") are still the best, and their classic styling and sound have yet to be duplicated by any other designer.
In fact at face value, Prod-Pro version 96.0 could be dismissed as the same tool that many managers have considered a somewhat useful "toy," too expensive to offset the benefits. The good news is that astute managers will immediately notice the upgrades in software and how these improvements not only improve the output of the device, but make it necessary and affordable at any cost!
It's What's Inside That Counts
Upgrades of good audio equipment have traditionally kept the best features of the past, while adding features that keep pace with the latest developments in radio production, with an eye to the future. Prod-Pro version 96.0 is no exception, including the best of the old and the new.
As always, the Prod-Pro version 96.0 can take either verbal or written input, synthesize the input into well-written copy, then interface with whatever outboard equipment is in the studio's arsenal to create output that will grab the attention of the listening audience and motivate them into action, whether to buy product from the station's clients or to listen to the station for hours on end. This feature alone has made the Prod-Pro vital in stations around the world for years, but version 96.0 should make even the tightest manager belly up to the bar and buy.
What's new for the Prod-Pro version 96.0? Just as computers have become smarter and faster in the past few years, so too has the Prod-Pro. Some of this can be attributed to improved and more wide spread interface between computers and the Prod-Pro, but as any bean counter can tell you who has spent thousands in the past on gear to work in tandem with the Prod-Pro, better toys don't always mean better product. The real difference in version 96.0 is increased use of the input and learning systems to make the output better, a potential never-ending yet inexpensive upgrade for the nurturing savvy manager (example: a yearly subscription to the magazine you are reading now). Speed, too, is enhanced by increased knowledge and interfacing with the computer, but abuse of the increase in speed can result in the decrease of quality. The smart manager will still allow the Prod-Pro version 96.0 the time needed to do the job right.
Another improvement in version 96.0 is the human interface. Gone are the days when interface between the Prod-Pro and the salespeople could mean serious damage to equipment and staff. The Prod-Pro version 96.0 eliminates these sometimes life-threatening situations by incorporating intelligent human relations into the program, but don't be fooled into thinking that the device is just some emotionless machine! In any situation where too little input and lead time is given, where sales begins to expect too much, the results can range from bad output to the Prod-Pro blowing a gasket! It's important that sales staff be reminded of their duties as well, and that the Prod-Pro is part of the team, not just another piece of equipment.
Other new features include a powerful organizational algorithm, a cliche filter, a variety of randomizing tools for originality and an enhanced sense of humor. Add to that improved sensing and eliminating of "bad audio" and the ability to generate original music (optional on some models), and you've just scratched the surface of the Prod-Pro version 96.0's potential!
The Bottom Line
By anyone's standards the Prod-Pro version 96.0 is a powerful tool in the battle for advertising dollars, but is it worth the cost? Even at a retail price graduated by market size, the answer from any intelligent person would be yes, but in the down sizing climate of today's radio industry, many managers are attempting to over-task the system, using the Prod-Pro for production on multiple stations, even adding DJ programming to its list of duties. Such abuse adds stress to the Prod-Pro, diminishing the quality of any output from the device and giving it a bad reputation.
With reasonable use, sufficient input, realistic time constraints and a certain amount of care and effective outboard equipment (AND a decent paycheck!), the Prod-Pro version 96.0 should produce great creative for your station for years to come. After all, it's only human!