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Why Does NPR Have Such a Specific Sound?

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chances are, you've heard a difference between a National Public Radio (NPR) show like All Things Considered and some other radio talk show. NPR just has that certain sound.

One reason is that NPR hosts tend to have a certain cadence. But the signature sound is also technical. The public media news outlet Current describes NPR’s signature audio as “crisp and bright.” Last year, its podcast, The Pub, interviewed an audio engineer to figure out how exactly NPR creates its one-of-a-kind audio style.

Part of the effect comes from using specific microphones. NPR is a radio programming powerhouse, and it uses top-of-the-line Neumann U87 microphones. These microphones are specifically tuned to make NPR voices clearer to people listening in their cars by filtering out very low frequencies (below 250 hertz).

“The reason NPR came to this standard—and this was decades ago—was because most of our listeners are consuming in an automobile or with something else in the background,” audio engineer Shawn Fox tells Current. “Back in the day, and even to some degree now, you roll down those windows and hear those low rumbling frequencies. We wanted our voices to get above that so that they could be clear, open and understandable to improve our storytelling.”

The studios are also crafted to ensure high-quality audio. “We have a very low-reverberant studio, and we make sure that there aren’t a lot of solid walls,” Fox says. “Most of our facilities are all centrally located inside, right in the middle of our newsroom, so we make sure they’re isolated so you don’t hear anything else but the person speaking.”

For more sweet-sounding audio nerdiness, check out the full conversation.

[h/t Current]

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architecture
One Photographer's Quest to Document Every Frank Lloyd Wright Structure in the World
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iStock

From California’s Marin County Civic Center to the Yokodo Guest House in Ashiya City, Japan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence spans countries and continents. Today, 532 of the architect’s original designs remain worldwide—and one photographer is racking up the miles in an attempt to photograph each and every one of them, according to Architectural Digest.

Andrew Pielage is the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s unofficial photographer. The Phoenix-based shutterbug got his gig after friends introduced him to officials at Taliesin West, the late designer’s onetime winter home and studio that today houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Higher-ups at Taliesin West allowed Pielage to photograph the property in 2011, and they liked his work so much that they commissioned him for other projects. Since then, Pielage has shot around 50 Wright buildings, ranging from Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, to the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles.

Pielage takes vertical panoramas to “get more of Wright in one image,” and he also prefers to work with natural light to emphasize the way the architect integrated his structures to correspond with nature’s rhythms. While Pielage still has over 400 more FLW projects to go until he's done capturing the icon’s breadth of work, you can check out some of his initial shots below.

[h/t Architectural Digest]

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Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Design
Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books

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