Monday, December 26, 2016

It was 20 Years ago today!....Multimedia Production.

A Sargent Peppers reference, but actually probably closer to 25 years ago, when CD-ROM was introduced and some time after Multimedia became a thing for awhile.

I had been assigned researching Multimedia, and attended many conferences, like the first CD-ROM Conference. Also had access to evaluate the main  tools of the time.  Macromind Director (on the Mac), Swivel 3D,  GRASP (on the PC) and later Adobe Premier and others. All cool stuff.  I had come from developing the Fairlight Instruments Computer Musical Instrument  Series II and Series III music production systems that allowed a single musician to produce symphonic or band works, so extending that to Interactive/AV type media seemed like a good idea. I had the sound production side, and had always drawn so the visual side wasn't foreign to me either. The stuff you needed in addition to the technical side, that I had too.

The commercial things that came out around then where MYST in 1993 and various interactive games, edutainment from Broderbund, most of which I don't remember their names well enough to find them in Google. The SoundBlaster was a huge selling Audio Card of this period , and many tried to get into that game.

I started my own experiments with a 286 PC I had at home using GRASP, which was a scripted 2D animation system. You could move sprites around, interactively put up text and all that and produce a run time thing that fitted on a 1.2MB Floppy disk of the times.  Just drawing it all was slow though, so I came up with the idea to use models and do limited stop frame animation and roto-scoping.  To that end I bought my own Computer Eyes gray scale video grabber, and built some things to photograph and animate:



In GRASP I was reducing everything to dithered 1 bit graphics to fit in the space I had, so final image quality wasn't great.  Like this in fact when you look at it normal size:



Made a few things and eventually bought a Mac Performer 640, that had a built in color video grabber and sound. I could also use Logic, Premier and Director then.

Before it all got squashed in the multimedia compression those things liked more like this:


But this was way  before Gigabyte memories and discs become everyday items and we had huge problems making anything but very small postage stamp sized moving image and sound files. The computers and media of the time just didn't allow it. I had a website, but the allocated space was less than the small videos I was making, so distributing anything was difficult. We had 33K dial up modems back then too. So tiny 8 bit GIF images were normal, and I couldn't store the large images on the computer for long either. That is shown in the only other behind the scenes images I could read off old disks in 2016:



Well what I made with this stuff is now mostly on discs I cannot even read, like a 100 MB MO disc and 5" floppies, (was even pre the 100MB zip drives!) but the miniatures and models have stood up fine.  Look pretty good in fact, and way out lasted "Multimedia", a business Steve Jobs once described as a "Zero Billion Dollar Industry".

We have moved on since that time.

I actually found one of the larger and longer files and converted it to an MP4 and put it on our YouTube channel.  It was 320x240 pixels, 16bit color, 15 fps. It is all way to fast, as the files just got too big.  I remember having to set the CINEPAK reference frames every m frames to a very large number to make the files small enough.  Most of the other files I've found are 160x120 pixels... pretty much just postage stamps, and even shorter. It is like  3 panels of a much longer comic.  The background is Alien Archaeologists in Space.



Something I have made more recently (not including our SoundCloud Music Album or our YouTube Channel ), 5 years ago!, in a similar vein is this very limited animation edutainment thing on Aerodynamics.



Now YouTube makes distribution trivial, but the making of something worthwhile is still hard! Making something that more than a few people will bother to watch is much harder again.

We can be contact at Art & Technology

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The rise of the Wireless Speaker


The above is the 21cm cube that is the Naim MU-SU Qb . This is just one of the type of Wireless Speaker products that seem to fill the recent years electronics store catalogs.

This one is particularly expensive and by NAIM,  and not your more typical $199 JBL unit or a SONOS.   { The Naim unit is a Life Style product. A Life Style product is an accepted category for consumers, typified by Apple or Nike, where image and style is more important than cost performance.}  The single speaker produces Stereo.

I  expect they are popular as the current source of the owners music is their Phone Or Tablet and they want to listen without headphones.  Most of the wireless speaker units are portable and have a rechargeable battery so you can take it anywhere with a days battery life...

You can get a small Bluetooth receiver with line outs for about $50, to wirelessly play music from a phone into a Hi-Fi  (large or small), but those devices haven't taken off, or there would be a dozen choices in those same catalogs.

I like the concept of these things but don't have or need one.   I'm probably just not the target audience...

The Naim unit is far more than just a wireless speaker though, and supports steaming and all the modern conveniences. I just don't know why you would spend that much for a single speaker, but it is cool.



 








Heavy Metal Garage - The Hot Rod That Ate My Wallet Calendar 2017



I have made one of these one month per page again for my own use.  It has become important as to how I schedule things.

The CorelDraw I use contains a Calendar generating tool  that produces the grid for each month of the year with various formatting options that makes this practical to do.  Laying out the rest of each page is done manually though.

Have been doing this for a number of years, but currently aren't planning on releasing it as a PDF as I have done previously.  But things can change.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

IoT - Something Something Something....

Have been involved with technical stuff for decades, and have seen the hype not match up to reality so may times......    

Internet Of Things, IoT is one such thing being hyped at the moment.  It will probably be become a thing, but don't see anything more than  suburb wide meter reading as a business any time soon, and that isn't something I'm involved with.

One of the touted approaches is a propriety  radio technology called LoRa.  That stands for Long Range. Now I have been developing electronics and firmware using this for over 12 months now and have working devices being deployed.  Have very detailed low level implementation experience in C and circuit design with the SX1276 radio chip in use with Arm processors making very low power (a few uA in standby) Remote devices, Repeaters and Gateways.   Others designed the Antenna and matching network though!


The application isn't what I would call IoT, and so far it has been absolutely amazing in our application compared to the existing technology radios.

We aren't currently using LoRaWan, and have rolled our own much simpler protocol closer to what the existing application and market actually needs.  Has worked very well so afar.

May move to LoRaWAN though for newer applications in our market. Do have  LoRaWAN gateway modules and have done some investigations, and read through lots of the C source code.  It is a question of overhead vs return.  Cool, but we need newer applications in our market to get a benefit for 8x the code and complexity...... something we are putting lots of thought into.  

Still would not call what we are doing  IoT though.   That seems too much like Multimedia, which was hyped as it was Something Something Something ..... which Steve Jobs described as a Zero Billion Dollar Business.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Learning Freehand Airbrushing

Been learning freehand airbrushing over the last few months.  Have many more to go, as it is very much like learning to play the guitar, where you have to commit actions to muscle memory to be able to achieve what you want.  Here are some samples of our original Megacurve music, if your interested.  Usually listening to music while I practice.  Dagger lines, dots, lines and all those basic things are far from easy, even if using stencils and masking is.


So what can you do with it?   Custom T-Shirts using Createx Airbrush Color...

You spend almost as much time cleaning the airbrush as you do practicing.  And as we are using Createx paint, we have to thin it to not clog and working how much to thin with what affect also takes time.

Over 12 months ago we did a series of watercolors, but the reality of that is, that was very much like the illustration work I already do.


Airbrush isn't, even though I do a lot of airbrush in Photoshop, it is not the same and not as critical to do as the real thing.

And you have Undo with Photoshop and the airbrush will not spit if the nozzle gets blocked!


We can be contact at Art & Technology


Saturday, August 6, 2016

HiFi - Vinyl, care and cleaning and the MP3


In the last few weeks we have been playing our old records and converting them to 320kbps MP3s. Portable MP3 players and large SD Cards just have so many advantages, and having the collection online is good too. In most cases I'm making a single MP3 per album side, not cutting up the individual tracks as separate files.

Our vinyl record collecting stopped in 1983 when CDs came out. I just loved that CDs have NO clicks and pops.  Still do. But I also didn't go out and rebuy my collection on CDs so now, some 30 years later, I want to hear most of the stuff I haven't heard in a long time.  I am recording them into Reaper, doing some mild mastering, writing 24bit files, then convert with dbpoweramp.

I really looked after my records. Most albums have vinyl covers, and were always stored vertically. I never touch the vinyl track surfaces, and all that, but now, some still have clicks and pops. I can edit out the big ones in Audacity, but it is tedious. Some records I was gifted years ago don't even have their internal vinyl record sleeve and are noisey and disgusting.

I have the usual record cleaning brush, even a dust bug that I'm not using, and found these received records need more.  Much more. A solution of distilled water, Isopropyl Alcohol and a surface tension reducer (that doesn't seem to be readily available) is what is in the commercial cleaning solutions.  It looks like vacuuming the surface is required too, and you need a record label covering device to keep the solution off it.

All a bit tedious. I don't have a problem with the sound of CDs, but it seems CD prices are now rising, so replacing an old vinyl album that is still available with a CD isn't as attractive as it was.

The DIY Cleaning Solution and a DIY Cleaning Machine for reference.

I would think making a vacuum cleaner attachment with velvet and some tubing and doing it manually would suffice for the number of records I need to do.  We will see.

It is the Vinyl Album Artwork and sleeves that I miss, nothing to do with the sound quality.

..... a bit later....



We have tried just using  demineralized water and 10% Isopropyl mixture with a velvet pad without a vacuum, and found the result better than dirty, but a long way to go before good.  So probably need to try the vacuum next....


We can be contacted at Art & Technology.






Friday, July 15, 2016

Recent Car Concept Design

Recent Concepts for a yet to be built race car

Some of the recent Concept Design work we have done.  We do the line work and Decals in CorelDraw then bring that into Photoshop to do the actual painting.  In this case we needed Goldleaf and Metalflake paint options and working in Photoshop is the way to go for this type of work. It also allows easier color variations and other things.

But just because I'm using a computer doesn't mean there is a button somewhere that allows me to move the camera and get another view.  This work is effectively all airbrushed, and I have actually drawn it all, based on the photographic reference I've been given to combine the different parts.

So it isn't a computer making this.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.





Friday, July 1, 2016

A NAD CD Player VS FiiO X1... or X5

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I could look at a NAD CD player the guy had someone else look at and could not fix. 3 hours had already been spent on it, getting a new NAD drive for it, and it still wasn't right.

Simple answer was no, as it just isn't worth the time to fix something like that. He said it was a good one, meaning Hi-Fi. I still said no. 

I almost never play a CD I own. I play the mp3 I've ripped from it using AudioGrabber and the Lame codec. 320kps sounds exactly the same. Playback from a computer using Winamp  and a hires USB 24bit 44.1/48/96kHz Audio Interface. Most would use iTunes to do the same and not care about the details.

Now if you actually wanted a "Hi-Fi" player, and not a computer/laptop I suggest you still do the CD rip or download files, then use a quality thing like this FiiO x1 for like $139 + SD card. They have more expensive models too. It does MP3, but also the FLAC and 24bit/192kHz thing if you image you can hear a difference and and want "real Hi-Fi". Plugs into amps and speakers for that Hi-Fi thing, and not just headphones.
Anyway, $139 is no time at all in repairing something unknown.



But the type of thing I mostly use is a small MP3 player that runs on a single AAA battery ....

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What HiFi doesn't talk much about - The Room Response


One of the big differences between the world of HiFi and Pro Studio Sound, is the mount of science applied to understand what is going on.

The sound of the room, and how to modify  bass absorption, standing waves and early reflections is a taken in setting up a studio or mastering room.  Your speakers may be flat to within +/- 3dB  over a useful frequency range, but your room isn't without treatment.  Without any treatment there will be standing waves of +/- 10+ dB  at frequencies determined by the size of the room. All simple physics, and way more significant than the sound of the speaker or power cables.

There are some devices that will measure the room and attempt to compensate the speaker response to fix the room. An ex-bosses company, DEQx has such a device, but there are others.  Some companies like Genelec even build it in to some of their speaker system.
But when there is a physical null due to a standing wave, no amount of power at the frequency will remove the null, even if the peaks can be handled with this intelligent and analysis and then applied EQ.

And the real interesting thing is that the technology to build Basstraps and early reflection treatments is the very low tech rigid fiberglass, closed cell foam and similar materials.  Things that look out of place in the high fashion world of Hi Fi.

Addition June 18 2016

Well well. Just seen the MAY 2016 HIFINEWS magazine, and see this born out again.  Page 119 has the question titled "Whats a regular size room?" 

A guy has amazing PMC speakers, says they are "boomy" and asks about replacing them with B&W 802 D2 speakers instead, and mentions his room size, but then nothing else about the finishing of the room.  The answer from the magazine displays a lack of the science of acoustics I talked about above.
The guy may have a concrete walled and tiled floor room, or  lush carpet and drapes that are completely inappropriate for his listening room, and this would have been involved with the real answer to his question, but wasn't.

"Boomy" bass indicates narrow peaks in the low end room response.  Changing the position of speakers and listening position will have an impact of where the nulls and peaks are. The pro audio solution is to add absorption at those frequencies.  In practice adding Bass-trapping will reduce "boom."   Changing this level of  speakers will make no significant difference....



Friday, June 3, 2016

GainClone Amplifier Revised, the Chinese Electrolytics..

We have been using the GainClone Amp in our little studio since December 2014 and opened up to put in a larger 160VA  toroid transformer, instead of the 2 traditional units I had on hand at the time I first put it together.  Also going to replace the speaker terminals for ones  that can take banana plugs.

The Amp has been working great.   But upon opening it up, we see that would not have continued for much longer.



One of the 4 10,000uF 50V electrolytic capacitors in the power supply would soon expire.  It has expanded and will rupture.

The bulging capacitor  before it was removed.

So we caught this in time before any damage was caused. Only real issue for me was I expected to get it up and running again in a few hours, but I will have to order  new supply caps online for delivery next week, around $25, as the local shop doesn't carry 10,000uF 50V PCB electrolytics anymore. Then again, 10,000uF at least on a channel is completely usable, until the new one arrives.

If one is near dead, they are all suspect and replacing them is the safest thing to do.   That cost is as much as the PSU and Amplifier modules cost in the first place. Stuff from China on eBay is just incredibly cheap, not always the highest quality but it isn't as if this is much of a problem. Now the capacitor is actually a Japanese Rubycon, and should be a quality part, but it may be forgery or a reject part.... who knows.

In the mean time I can use it fine with only 3 capacitors....

Some time later...

We ended up getting nichicon 10,000uF 50V capacitors from RS Components. .. mostly as it is free postage here, and no minimum order.






Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Wonderful Hi-Fi Experience.....

There used to be a fantastic haven of exotic audio equipment in Sydney Australia in the mid 1970s.  It was called Kent Hi-Fi  and was in Kent Street, not too far from Town Hall Station. Hi-Fi was a thing and musicians got paid for making music back then.

I used to frequent this place and one particular track, played in one demonstration kind of set the standard for what great Hi-Fi is to me, and what it can invoke in you.

They used to have a large double height room with all the speakers along one wall, the long edge. It would have been at least twice as wide as a normal living room. Don't remember what the speakers were, but I kind of remember they had a set of JBL studio monitors ( 15" woofer, horn tweeter etc)  in there as well, driven from a big power amp, either a Phase Linear 700B or Ampzilla (I remember the big glowing VU meters) with a Technics Direct drive turntable with SME arm and Shure V15 pickup.  The top of the range gear of the time.  Way out of my price range. Still way out of what I would pay, even today.

And it played Edgar Winter Group's Frankenstein. This is a really well recorded, mixed and mastered track and it was fantastic.  There is a drum break, actually a drum kit and a set of tom toms played by two people,  that sounds great on just about anything, but sounded very real in that room.  It also has that wonderful downward sweeping Arp 2600 Synth sound. Part of it was because the speakers were as far apart as in a small hall, and it was at a real life volume.

That demonstrated the point of technology to me, at that point in time.......

Years before that at school I had built my own speakers, using 10" Plessey drivers, assembled a Playmaster Amplifier Kit (From long dead retailer KitSets!) and bought the smallest Panasonic stereo cassette deck from the part time jobs I had while at school.  So I was already on the way to having a technical background in the world of audio. Why and How it worked..

I went on to work in music production systems, then spent 15 years in Japan at a synthesizer manufacturer. Music and Audio has always been important to us, and Hi-Fi was originally a driving force. Not the main thing we do now though......

We can be contacted at Art & Technology



And to show your HiFi interest, how about this shirt?    https://www.zazzle.com.au/techno_turntable_t_shirt-235639647746926876



Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Naim Audio Game...

For the last couple of weeks we have been catching up on what the world of Hi-Fi has been doing for the last 2 or 3 decades.  Now, I have been involved in Studio Sound, or at the least across it for all the same time, and find the differences rather striking.

One brand that has been constant from the mid 1970s till now is Naim Audio.  It seems they kind of invented the current Hi-Fi's networked Streaming Server products.  I've been playing stuff from a computer for so long I hadn't noticed.

The Power Amplifier I currently have in my small studio is a 50W per channel GainClone I put together from modules from ebay with a few modifications. Some $24 for the supply board and 2 stereo amps.  I added to that Zobel networks on the output and a relay speaker protection de-thump circuit. This is based on the LM3886 power opamp and very similar to the  very expensive, Audiophile 47 Laboratory Gaincard amplifier. Sounds great, but only cost around $100 to build using the other parts I had on hand. Well, I have experimented with power amplifiers and their  design since the early 1980s so had heatsinks and other hardware, but not the 2U rack case needed.  I did a blog post on this a year or so ago.

I happened to notice the recent Naim NAP 100 Power Amp , 50W per channel,  (equivalent to my own GainClone) and that these products still seem to have a good reputation like the old NAP160, 120, 140 and 250 amplifiers.   Making things sound "musical", which in the Audiophile world actually doesn't necessarily mean accurate.  I always liked the way they mechanically designed them. Very clean.

Naim Nap 120
I then saw that in Sydney the Naim NAP 100  sells for AUD$1,850..... wow.  How could that be?

Naim NAP 100 rear
Naim NAP 100 Front
Naim NAP 100 internal view

A bit of googling found the type of designs they use and that supply regulation was a key philosophy to Naim. By the way, the NAP 100 doesn't have that additional supply regulation.  All Naim power amp designs use a Quasi Complimentary output stage, based on the original RCA application note, with the Baxandall diode.
NAP 250 Power Amplifier Schematic
They also only ever use single power transistors, never wanting to parallel up devices to obtain higher power handling.  This very traditional design dates from the time that only NPN power transistors were good enough, many decades ago.  The output stage Vbe multiplier transistor is also not mounted on the power transistor heatsink, so thermal runaway is possible. An interesting design choice, but really, nothing special or magical.  They currently make a fuss about special custom power transistors, but they aren't that special, More marketing than reality.  It would seem the multiple regulated supply rails they use, and that for lots of their products they put the power supply in a completely separate box, is what sets them apart from other brands.

Their highest powered Naim NAP 500, some USD$21,950, uses 2 of their power amps in bridged mode per channel, 4 total to make a stereo amplifier to get around their self inflicted need to not parallel output stage transistors.  That is probably a far more complicated approach.

None of these design choices justifies the price, but I think that is part of the wonder of the current world of Hi-Fi.   Prices, claims and reality are only indirectly connected. As much style as technology.  Still, makes any Naim a desirable product.  They are cool and have that X Factor.

Not better than what I have built myself though, for much less $.  You can even buy clones of the NAP 140 power amplifier PCBs on ebay, for very reasonable prices.

And a random comment comparing the GainClone and NAP 140:
Just finished a gainclone type power amp with LM3886 chips and bog-standard circuit as in the National Semiconductor data sheet, plus a 280 VA power supply. With a simple double potentiometer.
Connected it up to a Naim CD3 and speakers and lo, wonder and horror at the same time, it sounds better than my Naim 72/140. In particular, the bass is just as strong, but less woolly, more detailed, more "tactile" if that makes any sense. Like an image in sharper focus. While the treble is gentle and sweet. This is after a few hours use.
Fascinating. Truly fascinating.










Friday, May 13, 2016

Quality Sound and the Decline of Hi Fi

Music and record Albums drove my original interest in electronics and it was all about Amplifiers and Loudspeakers, their design and technology.   And believe it or not, Hi-Fi magazines had stuff you could learn from.  Electronics magazines also covered the latest trends in sound reproduction.

It isn't like that now, and looking at the two issues of Hi-Fi News I have, one from 1984 and the latest 2016 issue shows up why. Hi-Fi really isn't a thing now, or at least it isn't really about good sound. Seems to be more some status thing for the 1%.  $6000 for an Amplifier and CD player is #$%^@%$!!! 

Hi-Fi News 1984 vs 2016
Real engineering in the 1984 issue.
It isn't that I'm not interested in sound and album playback.  It is just the Studio Sound perspective is at great odds with the Woo that has taken over Hi-Fi.

The 2016 issues talks about $3000 CD players and $900 USB cables, and that this is some how justified.  The standard in studios is set by the likes of Genelec with their active crossover powered monitors, and nothing like that is in the Hi-Fi rag.... they have diamond dust coated tweeters instead.

In 1984 there  was real engineering on architecture supported by measurements. In 2016 that is very dumbed down, probably as many of their advertisers don't have real scientific evidence justifying their claims and equipment..

I must say the 2016 issue was quite entertaining to me, even if the authors didn't intend it that way.

I was surprised to read the Vinyl album reviews of  Bowie's Low and Numan's Replicas.   Mostly as  the Numan article was written by an ex Melody Maker editor, and went on at length how this electronic music pioneer, and coming Moogfest hero was "uncool"! Really?!!!    Have always followed bands and music, but that never involved the lowest common denominator celebrity gossip in the likes of Melody Maker, and found it strange this HiFi mag would taint itself with the type of journalist that does stories on the likes of Kardashians...

I'm sure the new equipment does not hurt the enjoyment of music at all, and for the intended audience, works for them.

And what is old is new again.  The gold colored amplifier on the 2016 cover, which must be wonderful, with the numbers to prove it, is an update to the QUAD Current Dumping Amplifier of 1975.  That technology used a very small, high quality Class A amplifier, coupled with a high power Class B design to produce a good designs that's performance was "mostly" that of the small Class A amplifier.  The QUAD 405  100W per channel amplifier was the product that introduced this.
The 2016 version replaces the Class B amp with a Class D amp, to make a 650W per channel amplifier.

It was nostalgic for me to look at what is HiFi today, but see that I'm better off without it.... studio gear is "better" than "HiFi" and MUCH cheaper!



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Roland Rediscovering their Mojo

That is pretty much from the second last line of the SOS Magazine review of the Roland Boutique series....

It was a pretty tough road for Roland to get back to making the Analog Style Synths and Eurorack modules in its current line up.  I haven't worked at Roland Japan for over 15 years, but it looks like they had to tear the place up to do it.
This is because the founder and original chairman, Mr Kakehashi was completely against revising old retro style products. Only a few short years after the current President Mr. Miki took over, he and the rest of the board organized a management buyout to remove Mr. K.  In the process they shut down the European factories and streamlined the management there.

Mr. K now has a new company, and Roland is doing the types of products they thought they should do for years.... the years Roland was very much in Red Ink, and under Mr.Ks thumb.

So times change....  and I think they have their Mojo back too. I would still be in Japan if I had been able to do something like these products years earlier.....

Friday, April 8, 2016

Classic Microphone Pre-amps and Channel Strips

The move to  computer based recording systems, and project studios in particular has meant you don't need a mixing desk and all that gear associated with it.

A small private studio like my own means I only ever record one thing at a time.  So apart from an Audio Interface to the computer, I have a Monitor controller on the output  to control the playback volume and a single channel DI/Mic Preamp on the input to set the gain on whatever I'm recording.

Both of these devices are actually very simple and inexpensive with current components. And modern electronics means they have such low noise and distortion that they do not impact anything extra on the sound. Your microphone, recording space, guitar, bass or whatever is the limiting factor as far as noise floor and sound quality are concerned.  The loudspeakers, headphones and environment of the eventual listener are far more significant.

But the history of Recording Studios has produced various bits of equipment that have become "Classics" and instead of being distortion free are the  opposite and distort the sound in "a nice" way.  But this distortion is rather subtle, so there ends up being a magic to some brands.


Sound On Sound Magazine did a comparison of some classic pre-amp makers gear, and produced sound files of a piano performance, such that volume differences were all eliminated.  It was then very difficult to pick any one as being any particular piece of gear.  The real kicker in all this is such gear sells for 10 times the price for me to make the equivalent.

The part that makes the biggest difference in these high end components is the transformers used on input and output.   How the transformer is driven and the core saturated impacts the sound.  The current Rupert Neve designs have a control called silk, to exaggerate these pleasant distortion components, but  all the brands have similar design concepts that make that brands "subtle" sound.

All this stuff has become the myths and legend  of "Pro Recording".....  interesting, and if you have the money to buy such equipment, maybe it does give you extra mojo, even if only psychologically.

I can actually buy audio transformers and put them in my own modern designs.  They are the single most expensive component. But I don't actually need the isolation or balancing they performed in the old single sided pre-amplifiers, in my small project studio application.  And I mentioned the cost, right?    

But in the end, what is way more important is the performance performed that is recorded. Mistakes and all.  And for the constantly most successful commercial acts (like One Direction or maybe Justin Bieber) an old guy like me would say that isn't that important either,,,,



Friday, April 1, 2016

Project Studio Condenser Microphone Dust Cover


We have an Audio Technica AT2020 Condenser Microphone, mounted in a Samson SP01 Shock Mount, on a Rode Desktop or standing mic stand, and the Traditional bent wire and nylon stocking pop filter.

But it is all a bit too much trouble to remove and replace the microphone for storage, so we leave it set up, so needed a dust cover.

We purchased some time a go a small piece of some black springy material to repair headphone ear pads and had a rectangular piece left over to make this microphone cover.
Haven't sewn much, but can pin and hand sew a  hem (so the material doesn't unravel at the edges), hand sew along the two side edges (using pins to keep the material in the right place and give you a line to sew next to) then turn the result inside out to get a very usable custom fitted soft cover.

We actually have a SE pop filter, but this stocking version just works so much better.....

The Samson SP01 is THE shock mount to put an AT2020 in. The wire pop filter is bent to fit to the external fixed shock mount frame, and held in place with 3 cable ties.






Saturday, March 26, 2016

Classic Tracks and the Mix

Like a whole lot of other people, I've spent the last weeks playing a lot of David Bowie, and watched the BBC documentary "David Bowie: Five Years".   A lot of musicians have passed this year, but some have much more impact than others.  Bowie was one.  Jon English was another.

The comments from Robert Fripp and Tony Visconti have been food for thought on the making of some of Bowie's tracks. It all means more now that I have done this recording thing and have my own small project studio.

But listening hard to the actual track "We Can Be Heroes" doesn't give a lot of insight. It all seems very murky.  Eno's synth stuff isn't very audible.  Fripp's feedback main part isn't clear either.  Not the way you can hear it in the Tony Visconti YouTube video where he points these things out and solos the parts.

Yesterday I came across Sammy Hagar's interview about the 30th anniversary of Van Halen's 5150 album from a Guitar World Facebook post, and pulled that CD out for a listen too.  Eddie was a real hero of mine at the time. A real innovator, but I've come back to this again looking at the mix.

In Metallica's Black Album on tracks like "Enter Sandman", there are multiple guitar parts playing the same thing to produce a thicker sound, panned across the sound stage.   This isn't what you find in 5150.  You will have Eddies guitar panned leftish, then a plate reverb on it panned hard right. And then a single over dub with the solos.  Of course Eddie's playing is so interesting it doesn't need embellishing.  Most of the early Van Halen albums have this minimal production.

I don't play like Eddie, but was playing with this left guitar, right reverb, minimal production  yesterday afternoon on a little thing. It was the first time in about a year and a half I plugged in my J-Bass too, so not a bad way to spend some time on an Easter Saturday.


Something to unwind with...   and it sounds ok to me.  The Jet Flanger on the Lead Guitar is over the top though and the progression is .... very basic, shall we say.  It is more about the sound with just 5 tracks.

We have an Audio Technica AT2020 Condenser Microphone and run that through a Behringer MIC100 phantom power Tube Preamp, directly into our Audio Interface.   All the instruments are DI'ed.

This is the link on SoundCloud of this minimally produced clip.  It isn't at all serious in any of it's 1 min 13 second length!







Saturday, March 19, 2016

Being Known For...


We post on a few different subjects.  Music Production, Artwork, Electronics and Software Stuff, but what actually gets on going views is always our Automotive Artwork related material.

Our website  views are more evenly distributed between Guitar/Audio topics and the Car Cartoons and Logos.

We hadn't posted anything new for a few weeks, so that when we look at our Blog Stats this morning we see the above older posts coming up consistently.

Any new post gets an immediate blip of views, then dies away in a day or two. Especially if you link to it from Twitter or Facebook. That is why so many are continually posting to keep that blip a  constant on those platforms.     It is a bit like a sugar hit. But has little on going benefit.

The Long Tail, was a thing a few years ago (look it up), but has been disproved as viable business model now.

My take away from this is that I can post about anything I feel like, (like my 15 years living and working in the Music Technology Business in Japan) but what actually is appreciated is the Car Caricatures, Logos and Cartoon stuff....







Saturday, February 6, 2016

When to "Pivot" (or give up!)

"Pivot" is the term used in the world of the "Start-up" when you decide what you have been focusing on isn't working, and you need to change to something else, or change focus.  

A good example from Steve Blank would be your developing this great THING1 and to check if it is actually as great as you think it is, you go to the people you think will buy it, and ask  1 or 2 of them, “If we gave you THING1, would you use it?”   If they answer NO, because they have too much invested in what ever they are currently using, you are probably wasting your time doing THING1 at all. 

But what if it is more personal than that?

You do something, pretty well, and people get you to do it for them, for money, but it doesn't pay enough to be a full-time job, or you don’t have enough customers and it starts to interfere with you actually making a real living?

These more personal things are what can face your typical writer, musician, actor, dancer or artist.  They are doing this thing because they enjoy it, and they are trying to make it a full time gig, possibly as they don’t have any other practical option.  They can also do it just part time, but what if they have to make a decision to continue on a dream or be more practical?

How long then?  “Before the money runs out”, may be one answer, but for others it may be more along the lines of “Well it is fun, but it doesn't pay enough to be worth while with our current other commitments and available energy, I need to give up and just keep it a hobby”.

I know of a Band that produced several albums, toured, but decided they couldn't give up their day jobs......  and it took a year or two to work that out.

Don’t think there are any hard and fast answers, but suggest, “Taking a break”, can help in deciding how to move forward…especially if the special thing isn't what your relying on to support you.....  it is all good experience forming the “rich tapestry of your life”




Friday, January 22, 2016

Jean-Michel Jarre ‎– Magnetic Fields (and the cool stirred glass of water)

Les Chants Magnétiques, at about the 23 minute mark, after a train passes, has a track that has this weird rhythmical sound as a foundation.

That sound was on one of the sound discs that we used in the factory in those far off Fairlight Instruments CMI Series I assembly and testing days.

It is actually the sound of a tea spoon being stirred in a glass of water.  At normal pitch it is nothing special, and just another sound effect.  In the track it is played at several much lower pitches and is the foundation of the track and I think it just sounds "watery"...

So why am I bringing this up?   

In the promotional material about the release and making of Jean-Michel Jarre's latest  Electronica Part 1 album, he talks about many old instruments, and the 8bit , max of 22 kHz, 1 second sampling time CMI Series 1 gets a mention as being instant cool.  Now, I was central in the design of the much high sound quality (better than CD) Series III which doesn't get this label and will explain why I think this is so.

Because the CMI Series I had such a short lo-fi sample it made people use it in very creative ways and so was a synthesiser of strange sounds as much as for realistic (if very short!) sounds.  The lo-fi made everything thing sound different too.   So it is these factors that make it cool and as much a synthesiser as sampler. These are in addition to it being a one man band composers machine.

Users of the CMI Series III didn't have that sound restriction, and so used it much more as a replacement for real instruments and players.  That is pretty much what Hans Zimmer and ZZ-Top (like Afterburner) did.
  



Anyway, that simple stirred glass of water became a magical sound in the hands of a synthesist after electronic sounds, and from that POV, yes the CMI Series I has instant cool.