Wimbledon grunt controller launched to limit players' outbursts
For armchair tennis fans it is the news they have been waiting for - a device that turns down the grunts of players.
The noise reduction programme, called Wimbledon Net MIx, allows people to fade out the sound of the players grunting on court, and turn up the volume of the commentators.
Available on the BBC radio player it has a sliding scale which the tennis fan can manually alter the contrast between the commentators and the sounds coming from the court.
The launch of the product, which is free to download, comes just days after the head of Wimbledon said that female tennis players who grunt too loudly are putting off their opponents and spoiling the games for the millions of spectators.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ian Ritchie admitted that tennis officials would prefer to “see less grunting”.
“The players have an ability to complain about it, if one player is grunting too much and the other player doesn’t like it and it is distracting, they can complain to the umpire,” he said
“We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting.”
“We are one tournament in a global circuit. But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.”
Net Mix allows BBC Radio 5 Live listeners to choose exactly what sounds they want to listen to and when.
Rupert Brun, the head of technology for the BBC’s Audio and Music department, said that they had come up with the new player after receiving lots of complaints from listeners about the sound balance when listening to sports matches on the radio.
“Having known for a long time that broadcasters have a problem with balancing the ambient sounds of a sports match with the commentary, we felt we had to develop a tool which put the control back into the hands of the audience.
“The BBC receives lots of complaints from the public regarding sound balance – with many of them wanting the sound of the commentators turned up and the noise for a match turned down. Wimbledon was a clear choice to launch this product for as there are always so many comments about the amount of grunting from the players.”
Brun said that it was early days for the tool, but so far the feedback from its initial users had been very positive. He said that if Net Mix, which is being billed as a ‘Wimbledon 2011 experiment’, continued to be received well, the BBC would consider rolling the technology out across more of its products and to the iPlayer.
Tim Davie, director of BBC Audio and Music, said: "I hope listeners will try Net Mix and let us know if they prefer 5 Live Wimbledon coverage with less - or more - on court noise. This is the latest trial in an ongoing campaign to innovate in radio.”
Net Mix allows listeners to vary the sound of the BBC Radio 5 Live Wimbledon reporting during live coverage of centre court matches only. The tool was created in partnership with Fraunhofer, a German technology company, who did not charge the BBC for the development.
The loudest ever known grunt came from tennis ace Maria Sharapova, who is due to play Sabine Lisicki today in the tournament’s semi-final, sending the sound monitor into new realms with a recording of 105 decibels in 2009.