WNRN: the Good and the Bad

by Garet G. Sarkisian

WNRN is an independent, non-commercial radio station in Charlottesville, 91.9 on the FM dial — and I really love its main programming staple, modern rock. Modern rock (sometimes called alternative or indie rock) is the negation of all the commercialized trends in popular music since disco.

It’s sustained mainly by small businesses — recording studios, record stores, small venues, alternate ‘Net-based distro schemes — and for the most part disconnected from big multinational corporations.

Modern rock proponents might not like to admit it, but their genre marks a return to melody and refined emotions (coupled with rock’s tremendous dynamic energy) — quite at odds with the big music corporations’ attempt to merge rock with the crudest kinds of rap and hip-hop.

Many’s the time that listening to WNRN has opened my mind to new artists, new bands, and new lyricists, which I’ve later explored in detail. In fact, WNRN is my guide to what’s new and worthwhile in pop music, and guides my music purchases and explorations of Shareaza and other peer-to-peer networks (hey, I do like to try before I buy — and WNRN focuses my efforts).

But I think they need to do a couple of things better. I’d really like it if they dropped the hip-hop stuff they play late on weekends. It doesn’t fit, and other stations do that better anyway. And I wish they’d quit compressing and clipping the hell out of their audio — it sounds even more compressed than the commercial stations in town, and that’s too compressed, taking away the sweetness of the CD sound and removing too much of the dynamic range. They should take a page out of WTJU’s engineering book and back way off on the audio processing and turn off the clipping altogether. WTJU (91.1 FM) sounds like a high-fidelity stereo dream, even on my high-end German headphones, and their audio is still plenty loud to give them great coverage with only 600 Watts of power.

WNRN’s online audio stream isn’t particularly wide bandwidth, either.

But enough of the criticism. WNRN obviously cares about the music. They were first in the field — and are still ahead of the Modern Rock curve. They’ve built an impressive network with simulcast stations in Waynesboro, Lovingston, Lynchburg, Lexington, Richmond, Harrisonburg, and Staunton. They subsist on donations, not commercials or big-media bankrolls.  They’re good at what they do. Enjoy some new music and tune them in. And send them a few rapidly-depreciating Obama dollars if you like what you hear.

One thought on “WNRN: the Good and the Bad

  1. I love WNRN. But I do hate that “Boombox” show. The radio goes OFF and the mp3 player goes ON when “Boombox” fouls the airwaves.

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