Listen to “Australia!”

“Creative Audio Unit.” I like the sound of that. Just the idea is ear catching. It sounds like a group of radio producers who play and experiment with form, narrative, sound design… just about all aspects of audio production and storytelling. Dreamy, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to work for or listen to stories from a “Creative Audio Unit?”

Well, that’s exactly where Julie Shapiro goes to work every day. Lucky her. She’s the Executive Producer of the Creative Audio Unit of RN (formerly Radio National), a network of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Julie and three other staffers produce two, hour-long radio programs a week: Radiotonic and Soundproof. And, just like the name “Creative Audio Unit” (CAU) suggests, Radiotonic and Soundproof feature imaginative, ear-grabbing stories.

Listen to “What could radio be?”

Frankly, I’m surprised Radiotonic and Soundproof are on the air. Podcasts, yes. On the radio, no.

Or, put another way, it’s highly unlikely that the production aesthetics of the two programs would be accepted here in the States (Radiolab is an obvious exception). The producers at CAU treat their audience as listeners. True listeners. The expectation is that people are paying close attention with their ears.

On this edition of HowSound, Julie guides us through a sampler of episodes from Radiontonic and Soundproof – clips of sound art, narrative features, and pieces that mix both. (Links to all the stories are below.)

Plus, this HowSound also features “The Real Tom Banks” in its entirety. The piece won a Silver Award at the 2014 Third Coast Festival in Chicago.

And if all that isn’t enough, here are a couple of clips from a very funny radio drama about radio from Radiotonic called “Me, Ricky, and Him.” It’s a satire about an older Australian radio personality struggling to make a big comeback producing a youth oriented radio program – if only Ricky Gervais would work with her.

Listen to “a clip from Me, Ricky, and Him”

In the meantime, while Ricky Gervais is not responding, the older host, paired with a more youthful one, produce segments that will supposedly attract a “younger demographic.” They’re awful.

Listen to “Computer Haiku”

After sampling all of this inspired audio from Australia, I suspect you’ll add Radiotonic and Soundproof to your podcast subscriptions and maybe start your own Creative Audio Unit.

Links to work featured on this HowSound in the order that they appear:

“The Regents Canal, London” by Iain Chambers

“Ray and Ponce” by Edward Primrose

“Hit Parade” by Christof Migone

“To Skin a Rabbit” by Mark Brandi

“Inaudible Me” by Belinda Lopez

“The Real Tom Banks” by Jesse Cox with sound engineer Timothy Nicastri

“Me, Ricky, and Him” by Natalie Kestecher and Steven Tilley

Other links:



Creative Audio Unit


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  • Hjelm



    Great to see the CAU featured here! It’s a wonderful and intelligent initiative on public radio, and we need more of it. In Australia, these two shows are dearly loved.

  • Jan Jansen



    I was utterly convinced RN’s “The Night Air” would be mentioned in this episode. It wasn’t 🙁 It was one of the first podcasts I discovered and going for a run in the summer, in the dark, with The Night Air on.. it’s a pure wonder of sound! So Rob, do you know it? If not, go and discover! (Always wanted to say that 😉 ) Thx for all the splendid How Sounds! Much appreciated over her, in tiny Belgium

  • Rob Rosenthal



    Hi Jan — No. I hadn’t heard of that program. An oversight on my part. I’ll check it out. Thanks! — r

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