Analog

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Extron Announces New Versions Of DTP Switchers

DTP T USW 233 and DTP T USW 333 three-input switchers now feature analog stereo audio embedding and compatibility with HDBaseT-enabled devices.

Extron Electronics announces new versions of the DTP T USW 233 and DTP T USW 333 three-input switchers now featuring analog stereo audio embedding and compatibility with HDBaseT-enabled devices.

The DTP T USW switchers send HDMI or analog video, audio, and control up to 230 feet (70 meters) or 330 feet (100 meters) over a shielded CATx cable. The switchers can embed stereo analog audio onto the digital video signal for transport over DTP. This streamlines integration and is particularly useful when connecting to displays without analog audio inputs.

Additionally, a selectable HDBaseT output mode offers the convenience of sending digital video and embedded audio, plus bidirectional control signals over a shielded CATx cable to any HDBaseT-enabled display. The new DTP T USW versions with audio embedding and HDBaseT compatibility are now available.

“The DTP T USW is ideal for AV system designers looking for a compact product that provides flexible connectivity at the conference table or lectern,” says Casey Hall, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Extron. “The addition of analog audio embedding support on these new versions further streamlines AV integration by supporting transmission of HDMI and VGA with analog audio transmission to a single input at the display.”

The DTP Systems product family includes a number of different extender models in a wide variety of form factors and video formats, plus a broad offering of distribution amplifiers, switchers, and matrix switchers with essential AV signal processing and control features. DTP Systems allow complete flexibility in designing systems precisely to application and budget requirements.

Extron Electronics

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Posted by House Editor on 03/31 at 06:18 AM
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bloomsburg University Adds API 1608 Console

Pennsylvania school expand students’ understanding of full signal path routing upon which most digital plug-in representations are based.

Bloomsburg University has recently acquired an API 1608 console. The 1608 is being used to expand students’ understanding of full signal path routing upon which most digital plugin representations are based.

According to associate professor of music Dr. Todd Campbell, the integration of the new console compliments the University’s already extensive collection of API equipment.

Campbell explains that greater access to traditional analog gear helps students lessen their reliance on audio editing software, and instead encourages them to record and mix audio by developing and using their listening skills.

Dr. Campbell also notes that “with the addition of the 1608, students have an opportunity to learn analog theory on an amazing piece of hardware.”

The 1608 is used primarily for upper-level audio recording classes, “particularly as related to analog signal flow and console automation. It has surpassed our expectations, and it’s an amazing and aggressive desk, suitable for a huge variety of applications. Sonics are particularly impressive, and the automation is intuitive and powerful. This assists students in starting and finishing projects of a caliber they could not have otherwise tackled, as the school previously relied heavily on in-the-box, digital solutions rather than hands-on analog hardware. The 1608 makes it easier to bring mixes forward, and to achieve punch and presence without relying on plugins.”

Dr. Campbell purchased the school’s 1608 through Jeff Green at Sweetwater.

API

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Posted by House Editor on 03/30 at 10:43 AM
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Monday, March 28, 2016

Ed Stasium Chooses Manley Preamps

Former member of New York's Power Station studio relies on the Dual Mono two-channel and FORCE four-channel tube preamplifiers.

With more than four decades of engineering and production experience and a long list of noteworthy credits, Ed Stasium knows a thing or three about sound.

Today, the former member of New York’s Power Station studio works at his Southern California home, relying on a DAW as his main production tool and Manley Dual Mono two-channel and FORCE four-channel tube preamplifiers as his analog front end.

“In this digital world, we have to get the best analog going into the box that we possibly can,” Stasium insists. “The Manley Dual Mono and FORCE provide the maximum tubage getting into the box. I record a lot of drums here, and I am thankful for Manley tube preamps; without them, I wouldn’t want to record drums straight into the DAW. With the FORCE and Dual Mono, the drums sound fabulous.”

A firm believer in getting the best possible analog sound before converting to digital, Stasium likes to record with natural ambience, like the 20-foot-high entryway to his home. From there, he relies on quality mics and Manley preamps, with minimal processing.

“The Manley Dual Mono and FORCE are so clean, and the gain on them is so good, I can even use my 1937 RCA PB-90 velocity mic with them,” he relates. “A lot of preamps I’ve used don’t give you enough gain for that. When you put a vintage ribbon mic through the Manley, the sound is wide open. It sounds fantastic, so clean and quiet. I don’t need to EQ; I don’t need to do anything.”

Although he doesn’t talk much about his success, preferring to let the music speak for itself, Stasium’s credits include records by the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Smithereens, Living Colour, Peter Wolf, Mick Jagger, Jeff Healey, Joan Jett, Marshall Crenshaw, and Motorhead. He recorded and mixed his first gold single, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia,” back in 1973, when he had been engineering professionally for only a year. He has been there and done that, and when he offers an opinion, it’s wise to listen.

“I mix a lot of tracks that people have recorded in their homes, and too often the tracks sound really bad. But they don’t have to be like that,” he advises. “A Manley preamp makes a huge difference. Put a Manley FORCE up front, so you have four tube preamps. Then put just four mics on the drum kit: kick, snare, and a couple of overheads; that’s all you need. Run those four mics through the FORCE for maximum tubage, and you’ll get a great sound.”

Clearly, Stasium is a Manley true believer. “The Manley FORCE and Dual Mono are so precise and true, I love them,” he proclaims. “I can’t live without them.”

Manley

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Posted by House Editor on 03/28 at 11:50 AM
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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Church Sound Files: The Art Of Bass EQ - Using Eight Key Frequency Ranges

This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

 
Many a new bass player starts with thumping out the notes in the chords of a song. They are mixed then as low-end filler. 

As they progress in their skill as a bassist, are you still mixing them as an afterthought? 

Sitting in the sanctuary, I watched the worship band practice. Most everyone sounded great. 

And then there was the bassist. He was playing the triad notes of the chords in the song’s chord progression. Nothing inspiring. He was, at most, adding to the low-end of the song. This was well over 20 years ago and before I started working in audio, but I could tell what was lacking.

Years later, I’ve seen this same bassist and he’s become a great bass player. He can play funk, pop, rock and county.

Each of these styles has a different bass sound. And each of these requires a different type of mixing.

Let’s get to proper mixing. The sound of the bass is more than just a low-end addition.

The sound of the bass affects:
—the sound of the instrument
—the sound of the song
—the feeling of the congregation about the worship

If you’ve ever listened to a bass solo in jazz or even in rock or county, it’s obvious that the bass has a distinct sound.  This comes from how the musician is playing the bass but also the genre of music. 

Therefore, let’s look at how you can get the best sound for the instrument, for the song, and mix it in a way that supports the worship experience.

The Frequency Range of a Bass
The low E on the bass runs around 40 Hz. 

Now just up two octaves to another E and you have 165 Hz. This doesn’t mean the bass frequencies only exist below 200 Hz. 

Just like any instrument, by the time you look at the fundamentals and the harmonics, you can be looking frequencies as high as 6-7 kHz. 

It’s easy to think of the bass only as “low end” but as you can see, it’s so much more than that.

Let’s examine how you can alter these frequencies for a better sounding bass.

The Eight Key Ranges
There is a lot you can sculpt with bass EQ – well, there is a lot more frequency range than you might think. 

Without going overboard, here are eight frequency ranges and the type of work you can perform in each area.

  Boomy (40 Hz – 90 Hz)
  Fat (75 Hz – 150 Hz)
  Thin (40 Hz – 180 Hz)
  Power (40 Hz – 150 Hz)
  Impact (40 Hz – 150 Hz)
  Clarity (190 Hz – 800 Hz)
  Presence (800 Hz – 6.5 kHz)
  Attack (120 Hz – 4.1 kHz)

Those first five are all sub-200 Hz.

However, look at what you can do above that. Presence and attack can reach as far as 6.5 kHz.

Then we have what might be the most important of all: clarity.

Using a digital mixer with the ability for multiple areas of boosts and cuts, you can do a lot.

But what can you do with the analog boards? Analog consoles come in a variety of EQ designs, from a single sweeping mid design to sweeping mid’s for “high mids” and “low mids.” 

In the case of the single sweeping mid, focus on clarity and/or presence.

In the case of mixers with the two sweeping mids, you’ve got quite a bit more to work with. In the end, when you have limited EQ control, focus on clarity, presence, and the fat/thin. 

If you aren’t sure where to start, start by listening to a collection of songs that the worship teams cover. Listen to the sound of the bass. Make notes on how it sounds. Now, you’ve got a sound goal.

A tip on bass EQ: don’t forget about the volume control. I’ve had times where I liked the mix but it seemed it didn’t fit.

Cutting a few dB put it perfectly into the mix.

The Kick Drum
Sculpting the sound of a mix means mixing instruments against each other.  In the case of the bass, much of that work will be done with the kick drum in mind.

The bass and the kick drum can support each other and take turns driving the song, from one song to the next. You’ll want to know the role of the bass in each song so check with the musicians.

Compression and Gating
You may or may not have at your disposal, the ability to work with compression and gating with regards to the bass.  If you do, start by using these features to separate the sound out from the kick drum. 

A natural part of the EQ process is mixing against the other instruments and compression and gating is another tool you can use to do that.

Summary
As you can see, the bass guitar has a wide range of frequencies that are used and you have a lot you can do with them. Not only will EQ bring out the right sound but compression and gating can also help significantly with the sound. 

The bass is just as important as a rhythm guitar and, with a little work, you can make your mixes sound even better!

Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer, covering topics ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians – and everything in between.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/24 at 05:43 AM
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Friday, March 18, 2016

The Top 10 Technical Concepts You Should Know

I mentioned in a previous article (What, Me Worry?) that I’ve been troubled by the lack of fundamental audio and acoustics knowledge often displayed in our industry.

And because of this, there are misconceptions that are difficult to stamp out.

So in an effort to help, I’ve whittled down a concentrated list of the top technical concepts I think everyone in our business should have under their collective thumbs.

Of course there are many more important ideas and concepts that we all need to know, but to me, these are the ones that translate very directly into a better product.

10. The Speed of Sound and Delay
First, we all benefit from understanding that sound waves move through a fluid medium - i.e., air - and thus the speed of sound is related to temperature and the density of the air, depending on altitude.

At sea level and “room temperature” (generally speaking 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius), sound travels at about 1,130 feet or 343 meters per second.

That’s actually pretty slow when you think about it. In fact, it’s fairly easy to observe a lag between what you see and what you hear when located more than 40 or 50 feet from a sound source.

This is the reason why we need “delay towers” and not just “loudspeakers” when covering a very large area. Don’t forget that at higher altitudes, sound travels slower, and at higher temperatures, it travels faster.

As a result, it’s wise to carefully measure delay times for towers before setting them - the standard formula may not work for your particular setting, and also keep in mind that settings might need to change as the day wears on.

9. Loudspeaker Crossover Frequencies
Different loudspeaker drivers have different frequency ranges and need to be “crossed over” or properly filtered for the cabinets to work well.

But we should also be aware that different engineers have different approaches, and that different crossover schemes can have a radical effect on the ultimate sound of the system.

The exact corner frequencies chosen, the slope/s of the filters, and whether the crossovers are active or passive all make a difference.

For instance, a 2-way box that has an internal, passive crossover will sound different if bi-amplified with an external active crossover.

Some of this has to do with phase, and some of this has to do with filter slopes. I suggest reading up on the subject, starting with loudspeaker design guides. There’s a whole world of information available on this subject.

8. dB Relationships
First, we need to understand that the dB (deciBel, or 1/10th of a Bel) is a relative measurement.

In other words, it doesn’t mean anything without a reference of some sort. If someone says, “did you hear that show last night? It was so loud, it was probably 110 dB.”

Of course, the person is probably referring to 110 dB SPL (sound pressure level), but without the SPL, there is no reference.

There are also electrical references like dBv, dBu, etc., and it’s important to understand what they mean.

The other important concept about dB is that it is on a logarithmic scale (powers of 10). This means that if something is 10 dB more than something else, it is actually 10x the power! Interestingly, for us to perceive something as “twice as loud” as something else (a perception of SPL) we actually need 10x the power to achieve that effect.

A 3dB increase represents twice the power but only sounds “slightly louder”. So it truly boggles the mind to think about huge changes in dB, such as “the reverb tail was 60 dB down after 2.4 seconds”.

This means that 2.4 seconds after the last note ended, the sound level was reduced in acoustic power by 1 million times.

7. Grounding
You knew I’d bring this up! One of the main problems we all face is dealing with ground loops and the resulting audio problems, namely hum and/or buzz.

The basic concept is this: if there is more than one “path to ground” with different resistances, then there is a ground loop and the likely result is buzz.

I strongly recommend reading up on this subject in the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook and also possibly attending a SynAudCon workshop on hum, buzz and grounding.

6. RF Frequency Coordination
Many wireless microphone products have made this task easier the past few years. Some systems auto-coordinate, and some have “wizards” that step an operator through the process.

But I still believe it is important to understand what is happening “under the hood”.
And, frankly, most larger-scale systems at pro events are carefully hand-coordinated using specialized software.

Why?

Skilled operators can eek out a few more solid channels by using their superior knowledge and experience versus simply relying on a machine to do it.

Several manufacturers offer courses or workshops on the subject, and most are also more than willing to answer questions on the phone. Take advantage of these resources and you’ll be better off going forward.

5. Inverse Square Law
Like dB relationships, this is an important fundamental concept of acoustics that has powerful ramifications. In basic terms, the law is states: for every doubling of distance from the source (in free space, i.e., no reflections) the acoustic power is reduced by 6 dB (4x).

Mainly, this is important to understand within the context of coverage, the amount and type of loudspeakers needed, and the resulting amount of amplifier power required.

4. Power & Distribution
Do you know the difference between 110-volt and 220-volt AC power in the U.S., beyond the fact that 220 is basically twice as much voltage? How about 3-phase power?

While we’re at it, what’s “AC” actually mean? If you’re even slightly fuzzy on these concepts, time to get busy and learn.

I’ve found that understanding 110 versus 220 power has even made me more handy (and safe) around the house, since there are usually some 220 appliances around.

It’s also a good idea to be familiar with the peak and average current draw from all components in a sound system, and how to best manage the AC power. Remember the story about how Aerosmith lost power at Sturgis in 2009?

Someone plugged something (non-audio in this case) into a power distro and drew too much current, tripping a breaker.

The show was temporarily paralyzed, and Steven Tyler ended up falling off the stage and requiring hospitalization. All because someone ignored a power issue. Don’t be that guy.

3. Microphone Proximity Effect
Know the difference between omnidirectional and directional microphones with respect to proximity effect?

How about the difference of proximity effect between cardioid and hypercardoid mics? What do those little lines and dashes mean on a microphone frequency response plot below 100 Hz?

In a nutshell, proximity effect is something that directional mics exhibit, and true omni mics do not. The closer the microphone gets to the sound source, the more the low frequencies are boosted.

But don’t forget that it also works the other way - the further a mic is located from the sound source, the more the low frequencies are attenuated. The more directional the mic, the more proximity effect it will exhibit.

2. Polarity vs. Phase
These terms are often erroneously interchanged by those who either do not recognize the difference or don’t care enough to make the distinction. Some manufacturers even use “audio phase” where they mean “polarity”. So let’s straighten it out.

Polarity refers to swapping the positive for the negative, either in terms of speaker terminals, microphone signals, or the electrical signals within a console.

Phase refers to the relationship between signals in terms of “degrees of phase”. One place where these ideas appear to merge is when it is said that “flipping polarity is the same thing as the audio being 180 degrees out of phase”.

Yes, I suppose this is true, but it confuses the issue. Normally, a number of degrees of being “out of phase” refers to a specific frequency. In other words, you might be 90 degrees out of phase at 1 kHz, but it would be a different number at 2 kHz. Get the picture?

1. Gain Structure
I saved it for last because it’s the one I see done wrong more than any other. If you “use your gut” to set levels, and if you like to mix by the light of the clip indicators because your idol says, “I like to hit the buses hard” - you’re in for some trouble.

Unless you’re looking for a specific effect (i.e., some oversaturation in the sound), it’s best to gain stage the signal from start to finish so that you’re maximizing the dynamic range of the system, minimizing the noise floor, and avoiding distortion. There are many sources of good information and instruction about gain structure.

Learn it, know it, live it.

Karl Winkler serves as vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 25 years.

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Posted by admin on 03/18 at 10:04 AM
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Lebanon Valley College Adds Second Audient Console

Audio & Music Production Program receives ASP4816 in Studio B to provide continuity with the ASP8024 in Studio A.

Lebanon Valley College, (LVC) sets itself apart by combining a traditional liberal arts based education with a “professionally oriented” Audio & Music Production Program, a formula that has been successful for the school’s students since the late 1980s.

In order to meet the demands of training students for a diverse job market, the program employs a duo of Audient consoles to provide a solid audio foundation.

Students in the Audio & Music Production Program study music, studio recording, mastering, electronic music, audio for digital media, live sound, game audio, and more.

Graduates have gone on to work in recording studios, live sound, broadcast, game audio, retail, and performance with leading creative companies such as The Hit Factory, DreamWorks Animation, ESPN, Insomniac Games, Sony, Universal Music Group, Disney, and even the Ringling Brother Circus.
 
“Audient consoles are perfect for students to learn on,” says Dr. Barry Hill, professor of music and director of audio & music production. “Signal flow is extremely easy to see and follow on these boards. It’s not crammed, and the color-coding of the channel, mix path, and operational layout is very accessible for learners.”

Both LVC studios have been around for a long time. Studio A is a traditional control room/tracking room setup centered on an Audient ASP8024 with 36 channels and a Command 8 that the school has used reliably for some time. Studio B has classroom seating and features a brand new Audient ASP4816 added for this school year. The two consoles are configured to meet the needs of each space while providing students with the continuity to easily move from learning in a classroom setting to working on projects in the studio.

The Audio & Music Production Program has approximately 60 students that spend time on the consoles. “Using the Audient board is a great way to learn signal flow,” said senior Nate Merrill. “The way the board is organized makes it a great learning tool for college students like me.”

Fellow senior Luca Gienow agrees: “The Audient has been a fantastic board to learn how to engineer on. I continue to find new ways to run signal through the board during tracking and mix downs that benefit my particular style, and yet it is designed simply enough that new engineers can sit down and work on it after a few short lessons.”

Audient
Lebanon Valley College

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Posted by House Editor on 03/18 at 08:43 AM
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Institute of Contemporary Music Performance Launches Audient Scholarship

Scholarship coincides with an overhaul of the ICMP recording studios, centered around a new ASP8024 analog mixing console.

British audio manufacturer, Audient and London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) have teamed up to present The Audient Scholarship: a sponsored tuition for a one-year Professional Diploma in Music Production at the London facility, starting at the beginning of the new academic year, September 2016.

The creation of the Audient Scholarship coincides with a major refit and overhaul of the ICMP recording studios, which are to be centered around a new ASP8024 analog mixing console.

Facilities manager, Mike Sinnott tells us about the new studios, designed and built by Slowglass Creative.

“There’s one control room with two adjoining live rooms, which will have a traditional analog set up (tie lines, patchbay, desk), along with ProTools HD, Logic, Ableton, further outboard and a comprehensive mic cupboard. We are also building three production rooms and a new tech lab.

“The ASP8024 is a great sounding console with great mic pres. It also looks great and provides the flexibility to configure to our taste,” he continues, explaining the decision to go for the Audient desk. “Audient’s reputation was also a factor, as well as value for money and company’s commitment to support education. We have great confidence in our choice.”

Audient’s marketing manager, Andy Allen adds,  “We have always been proud supporters of music education and our new partnership with ICMP offers an exciting opportunity for one lucky student to start their career on the right path. The facilities on offer at ICMP are outstanding and to have an Audient console at the heart of them is a testament to Audient’s investment in education.”

Billed as London’s premier school of modern music, the ICMP encourages and inspires its students as much as it equips them to succeed in their chosen profession, be that musician, songwriter or music business entrepreneur.

“The one year Professional Diploma leads to a ‘Cert HE Creative Music Production’ which provides the foundation for two years of further study on the BA (HONS) Creative Music Production. We also offer short music production courses,” says Sinnott.

Open to applicants from all financial, social and cultural backgrounds, the recipient of the Audient Scholarship will apply through the ICMP website with a link to Soundcloud for their work and a short personal statement around why they should be selected, with full details available here.

“In the first year we estimate an enrolment of around 25 students on the course, however this will increase when students can apply via UCAS next year. After three years we could expect the number of students using this console to be around 100 per year,” adds Sinnott.

A busy time coming up for the new, improved studios. “As specified with producer panels and a patchbay it certainly has the WOW factor and looks like a serious, grown-up desk,” confirms Sinnott - Audient concurs.

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Posted by House Editor on 03/16 at 12:05 PM
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Are You Confusing Polarity With Phase?

This article is provided by Church Soundcheck.com.

 
On most audio consoles above a certain price point, there is a button on each channel with the “∅” symbol. It may be (mistakenly) labeled “phase”.

Mythology runs rampant on the meaning and the use of that switch, and most of that confusion is steeped in stories told by someone who didn’t understand it to others who understood it even less.

That misunderstanding leads to a statement that I still hear today – “inverting the polarity is the same thing as the signal being 180 degrees out of phase”.

The terms “phase” and “polarity” refer to two different things and cannot be used interchangeably.

Figure 1. Sine Wave in Polarity (1.5 cycles)

“Phase” implies a shift in time relative to some reference, while “polarity” is simply a reversal of the positive and negative terminals of an audio connection. That could mean swapping pins 2 & 3 on an XL connector, the tip & ring connection on a TRS connector, or the plus & minus leads on a loudspeaker terminal.

As you can see from these two graphs, nothing has changed with time. The Figure 1 shows our friendly sine wave test signal in proper polarity, and the graph on the right shows the sine wave signal out of polarity.

Figure 2. Sine Wave Out of Polarity

So let’s clarify. It is more properly termed a “polarity” switch because all that the button does is reverse the wiring between pins 2 and 3 at the XL input on that particular channel. It does not affect the phase. I know that many of the engineering guys at the manufacturers still call it a “phase” button, but they should know better.

When one looks at a graph of, for example, a sine wave, with the signal delayed in time by 180 degrees, it looks like the polarity has been reversed. And that is probably where the misunderstanding begins. If we don’t see that the signal has been delayed in time, then we could be misled to believe that polarity and phase are the same.

Figure 3. Sine Wave (The red trace is delayed by 90 degrees.) 

   

Under what conditions would a sound operator choose to push that polarity switch? Rarely.

But here’s one that may help to know. Let’s say that you have decided that you want to double-mic the snare drum, with one mic on the top head to capture the main “body” of the sound, and a second mic on the bottom head to get the “snap” of the snares. When you think about it, you realize that the acoustic energy reaching the top mic when the drum head is hit (down first) is roughly the opposite condition for the acoustic energy received at the mic on the bottom head. If you don’t invert the polarity of the mic on the bottom of the snare, the sound will seem thin because the low frequencies are cancelling; just press the polarity switch on the channel with the bottom snare mic and the snare will sound “fat” again.

Figure 4. Sine Wave (The red trace is delayed by 180 degrees.) 

I share a couple of stories in another one of my articles where that switch came in handy, but those were cases where something was miswired. In one case it was a mic cable that had been wired wrong, and it was a situation where changing the cable at the moment wasn’t possible. In multiple other cases the polarity reversal was in a new unit that was shipped from the manufacturer! It happens.

Just remember that the “phase” switch on your console input channel does not “shift the phase by 180 degrees”, because that would involve a shift in time. It is nothing more than a polarity reversal. And from this day forward, start calling it a polarity switch rather than a phase switch!

Read the original article here.

Curt Taipale of Taipale Media Systems heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, as well as the Church Sound Boot Camp series of educational classes held regularly throughout the U.S.

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Posted by House Editor on 03/15 at 06:28 AM
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Behind The Glass: Producer/Engineer Joe Chiccarelli On Being A Sonic “Chameleon”

Editor’s note: This originally ran in 2011 as an excerpt from Howard Massey’s “Behind The Glass Volume II,” which features more than 40 all-new, exclusive in-depth interviews with many of the world’s top producers and engineers.

Joe Chiccarelli is a chameleon.

Not literally, of course. But unlike many producers whose sonic stamp is immediately recognizable (a Roy Thomas Baker or a John Shanks, for example), you’d be hard pressed to identify a Joe Chiccarelli “sound.”

It’s hard to believe that the same individual who produced the rough-and-ready White Stripes’ Icky Thump was also responsible for the ephemeral, moody ambience of the Shins’ Wincing the Night Away or the smooth, slick jazz tones of Kurt Elling’s Night Moves.

But not only was it the same guy, it was a body of work that netted him a 2008 Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.

Chat with the soft-spoken, self-effacing Chiccarelli for just a few minutes and it becomes apparent why artists in so many different genres gravitate to him.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’m confident enough in my abilities to have a sound and a strong direction,” he admits disarmingly. “It’s more important to me to study the song and the artist and figure out what’s strong about them and then help the record be the best it can be.”

Originally from Boston, Chiccarelli relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1970s after playing in a series of rock bands. Always interested in the technical aspects of music-making, he landed a job as an assistant engineer at Cherokee studios, but his big break didn’t come until the day that Frank Zappa’s regular engineer was held up in London with visa difficulties.

As low man on the totem pole, the 20-year-old Chiccarelli was given the assignment to work with the notoriously difficult and demanding artist. Seven albums later, he had a career.

Since then, Chiccarelli has worked with an astonishingly diversified group of artists, including Tori Amos, Oingo Boingo, Black Watch, American Music Club, and My Morning Jacket. And every album he works on, it seems, sounds totally different from every other album he’s ever worked on.

“When people ask me, ‘What’s your approach to producing records?’” Chiccarelli says laughingly, “my answer is, ‘Well, what day is this?’ But on a creative level I think I would be dead if I just made the same record over and over again. The personal challenge for me is to try to make something that’s unique to that artist.” Clearly, he’s succeeding.

What do you think it was that Frank Zappa saw in you that made him want to continue to work with you?

I think it was because I was very much an open book. At the time, my only experience was in making good, clean contemporary pop records, while Frank’s whole thing was to try the most outrageous things possible in order to make the music interesting and dynamic and over the top.

It was a new place for me, but I was very willing to go there. Perhaps he just viewed me as someone who hadn’t done a lot of records and so wouldn’t be as set in his ways or closed to new ideas.

Frank was all about breaking rules and challenging the norm. I learned pretty quickly during my first few days with him that you just didn’t say no. [laughs] He really had a great sense of the big picture.

Before I even had a chance to make a statement or try to do things my way, I realized that this was a guy who could see five steps down the line, so I had to learn to trust him and know that in the end it would be okay.

A lot of producers and engineers I’ve talked to have stressed how important it is to be ready when your big break comes. Looking back with hindsight, what preparations had you made to be ready for that moment?

To be honest, I didn’t know where the Frank thing would lead. I was fortunate in that I fell in with an artist who was a workaholic and went from one album to the next.

But I didn’t know at the time that this was going to be a break; I thought it would be a very transitory thing, that I would work with Frank for however many weeks and then go back to Cherokee and resume my assisting gig.

In terms of preparation, I’m not so sure that I did anything specific, but the one thing I tell people who want to become an engineer or producer is, “learn everything.” Not just engineering and music, but also learn about art, poetry, literature, psychology. The job really involves a lot of things, and it changes from project to project.

image

As someone who appreciates good sound, do you ever find it frustrating to work with an artist like Jack White, someone who’s into rough edges? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “if only we could work on this mix a little more we could get it sounding so much better?”

Yes, and there are many times where I will say something just like that: “Give me another half hour and let me fix this and fix that.” But the thing that makes rough mixes good is that you just kind of go for it, as opposed to laboring over it and making sure that every corner is polished and every little detail is in place.

That’s why they often find their way onto records, and that’s one of the things I respect about Jack: he’s so much about spontaneity and honesty - the reality of something - that he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on sounds, on mixes, on anything.

Jack is a big fan of old-school recording; he’s the kind of guy who thinks that nothing’s sounded good since 1972. [laughs]

But if you go back and listen to a lot of the music from the ’60s and ’70s, the thing that it’s got more than anything else is a feel and an emotion. So I actually think Jack is correct in that things sometimes just get polished to death.

With the White Stripes, my basic role is to capture the performance and protect the energy and the magic that Jack and Meg have. And they’re a pretty powerful combination, I have to tell you.

I’ve recorded Jack now with three or four different drummers, but there’s a chemistry between him and Meg that’s unique. They’re so respectful with one another, and they work hard, and they push each other. Whatever people say about her abilities, it’s immaterial, because there’s something that she does that lets him do something very special.

Do you prefer to record digitally or to tape?

It really depends on the project. When I feel confident that the band has got it down in terms of performances and things will probably be just a matter of a few takes, then I’ll do it in analog.

With the White Stripes, we recorded to 16-track analog, which was Jack’s preference. But if it’s a situation where there’s still some uncertainty as to arrangements and structures, then I would choose the digital approach.

Having the Shins project done in Pro Tools was a godsend, because I was able to say to [singer/songwriter] James [Mercer] something like, “You know, it would be wonderful if the chorus happened again at the end,” or “Let’s put a whole new section in the middle with different textures, and let me show you real quickly how it could go.” Working digitally gave him lots of options.

For example, there’s a track on the album called Sea Legs where the chorus only happens twice in the song, and that was slated for release as a single. But for radio, sometimes that doesn’t really work.

So we tried doing the song with a more traditional pop structure, where there are three choruses and it ends on the chorus, and it worked, but we all felt that it was a little too normal-sounding. So we opted to go off on this crazy, quirky, almost Latin jam thing because it sounded really exciting when the song took a big left turn, and that’s the version we used for the album.

But when it came time to prepare the track for a single release, we went back and used the file that had a shortened jam section and a third chorus at the end.

Both analog and digital work fine, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses, and their own distinctive tonality. To me, it’s like having another microphone or compressor to choose from.

But even when I record digitally, my goal is still to get the sounds the way I want them on the way in. I’ve always taken that approach, and everyone I ever learned from back when I was just starting out took that approach.

In those days, you were limited track-wise, so my attitude was, every time you put up the faders to do a rough mix, that was your record, or at least it was 90 percent the way you wanted it. I viewed mixing as a process of balancing and refining, not reinventing, and that’s still my attitude.

What do you think it is that makes a song great?

In any kind of pop song, you want to be able to tune in and tune out at the same time. In other words, you want it to engulf you and captivate you every second of the way, but you also want it to take over your body in the sense that you don’t want to have to work too hard; you want to be able to turn off and just kind of sing along.

I think great songs work that way, in that you can view them from afar or be really inside them, just like a great painting or a great movie.

What do you think is the most important quality in a successful producer?

I think the more you are a fan of the music and are moved by it, the better the job you will do with it. And if you are really in love with the music, you will protect the artist’s integrity at all costs, and that’s all-important.

Of course, you do need to know a little of the technical side of making records as well as the musical side of it, but mostly you need to be well-rounded as a person. I’m always inspired by people that create works that are long-lasting, in any art form.

I think that what we do can sometimes be a very ephemeral thing, and I’m always awestruck by the Bob Ezrins and the George Martins in this business - people who have made records that will indeed last for a long, long time.

But I often try to gain my inspiration from art forms other than pop music - painting, or filmmaking, or novels, or great architecture: something that’s been around a hundred years, created by some guy who really broke all the rules.

If I go to a museum on a Sunday and I get motivated by some new young painter or sculptor, that’s more fuel for me to go into my medium and try to do the best that I can do.

Suggested Listening:
Frank Zappa: Joe’s Garage, Zappa, 1979
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges, ATO, 2008
The White Stripes: Icky Thump, Warner Bros., 2007
The Shins: Wincing the Night Away, Sub Pop, 2007
Kurt Elling: Night Moves, Concord, 2007
American Music Club: San Francisco, Reprise, 1994

To acquire “Behind The Glass: Volume II” from Backbeat Books, click over to www.musicdispatch.com.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/14 at 04:23 PM
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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

A-Designs Unveils The HAMMER 2 Tube/Hybrid Equalizer

Update of dual-channel, three-band equalizer offers new enhancements based on customer input

A-Designs Audio has announced the immediate availability of the HAMMER 2, a new version of the original HM2EQ HAMMER three-band, dual-mono tube/hybrid equalizer for studio applications

“Although the original HAMMER has certainly developed a very loyal fan base over the past eight years, we’ve been asking our customers if there were ways that it could be made even better,” says A-Designs president Peter Montessi. “Based on the input we got back, we’ve extended the frequencies on the new HAMMER 2, as well as added shelving on the lows and highs. So the frequency bands can now nicely overlap into each other and you can really give the bottom end a bit more punch, thanks to the shelving.

“We’ve also now switched over from continuous-sweep pots to 31-detent controls, which will improve setting repeatability,” Montessi continues. “With the new HAMMER 2, musicians and engineers can easily recreate the same sounds they’ve loved with the previous model, but now also have access to even more options and tones. The new version really sounds incredible—especially the shelving—and it’s everything the old HAMMER was and more.”

The HAMMER 2, with an overall frequency range covering 30 Hz to 40 kHz, enhances sound simply by running signal through it due to a filtering system that passes musical, second-order tube harmonics while eliminating unwanted noise. It can also be utilized to add “air” to vocals, punch to instruments, or texture to an overall mix.

Each channel has six detented rotary controls: three frequency selector knobs (Lo, Mid, Hi), which are stepped switches for easy recall, each with an accompanying gain knob providing continuously variable boost or cut of 12 dB. Each band has a selectable center frequency and overlaps with the other bands that provide a seamless transition throughout the entire spectrum.

Both channels also offer individual toggle switches for EQ In/Out as well as Lo Cut (84 Hz) and Hi Cut (8 kHz), filters that allow engineers to perform utilitarian EQ chores while still being able to utilize the HAMMER 2’s three bands. Mainly intended as a “broad stroke” equalizer, the product’s bandwidth (Q) is self-adjusting (floating), based on a combination of the amount of gain applied and the dynamics and frequency content of the program material.

Along with its tube-harmonic filtering circuit, a pair of carefully selected 12AT7 tubes—offering the most consistent control of any tube—and a custom, heavy-duty toroidal power transformer add the final touches to the signal path.

The HAMMER 2 is housed in a black, custom-milled, brushed 2RU faceplate with custom-milled aluminum control knobs, a Carling toggle power switch, and a big blue jewel power indicator lamp. It’s Immediately available, carrying a street price identical to that of its predecessor—$2,495 USD.

“The HAMMER 2 is an inspired design whose sonic signature is far greater than the sum of its components,” Montessi adds. “Equally at home in tracking applications or as an insert effect on individual channels, the product is the ultimate full-range finishing device for submixes and master outputs.”

image

A-Designs Audio

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Posted by Keith Clark on 03/08 at 08:36 AM
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Thursday, March 03, 2016

London South Bank University Adds SSL AWS 924 δelta Console To Elephant Studios

New studio with Dolby Atmos capability opens production facilities to the School of Arts and Creative Industries students and commercial clients

Elephant Studios at LSBU is a new £4 million media complex built to provide production facilities to the School of Arts and Creative Industries students at London South Bank University (LSBU), as well commercial clients from summer 2016.

The studios were officially opened on February 8th 2016 by television executive and former chair of the BBC, Lord Michael Grade and include a new sound studio with Dolby Atmos capability and a Solid State Logic AWS 924 δelta console.

Justin Randell is the director of Elephant Studios at LSBU and also course director of the university’s Sound Design degree. He was instrumental in putting together the initial specifications for the project, which aims to encourage students to collaborate across all media.

“The sound studio design, for example, recognizes the changing landscape of music production in education,” he explains. “...A move to a more industry-focused approach.

“The Sound Design course is a hybrid - looking at aspects of music technology, but also how it applies to post production and game audio production, as well as conventional music production.”

It was important for Randell to provide a versatile sound studio that could be used for anything from teaching analog signal flow to producing film sound in Dolby Atmos. He and project consultant Bill Ward from Langdale Technical Consulting, along with other lecturers from LSBU, visited a variety of commercial music, post, and games facilities to pick out the best ideas for incorporation into Elephant Studios at LSBU. One that stood out in particular was Factory Studios in London, where they use an AWS 948 in a multi-purpose studio designed for music recording, dialogue, and sound design in a huge range of productions.

“At the same time I was also working with various Dolby Atmos projects in cinema,” continues Randell. “So I had a conversation with Dolby about what we could do at a university level to teach Atmos and integrate it with the SSL workflow.”

The SSL AWS series are hybrid consoles that combine classic SSL SuperAnalogue console technology with comprehensive DAW control, including the new δelta-Control plug-in technology that allows the AWS automation to be read, written, and edited using standard DAW automation lanes.

For Randell and his team, the AWS 924 was a perfect fit. “The SSL is the backbone of the project,” he states. “It’s the center piece of the whole studio. It combines the DAW side of things with the I/O matrix to make the Dolby Atmos feasible, and also allows us to integrate all those lovely classic analog toys that we have, so we can teach signal flow in a proper way.

“Because the SSL goes all the way up to 5.1 we can use it to teach standard surround. When we switch to 7.1, 9.1, and then to Atmos we then switch to a matrix and the SSL becomes the session controller.”

Randell values not only the versatility of the AWS, and the SSL sound - noting that transparency is vital to the studio’s post production roles - but explains that an exceptional analog path is critical to his students’ development: “The studio isn’t just for Atmos production; it’s there to provide a rounded learning experience. That’s where the analog side comes into its own… In my view that’s the best way to do it.”

Solid State Logic

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Posted by House Editor on 03/03 at 09:27 AM
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mastering Engineer Pete Lyman Chooses Manley Stereo Variable Mu Compressor

Dedicated solid-state-path engineer of Grammy-winning projects converts to tube-based compression.

Veteran mastering engineer Pete Lyman of Infrasonic Mastering in Echo Park has mastered projects for Rival Sons, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Panic! At the Disco, and Sebadoh, with virtually all of them passing through his Manley Stereo Variable Mu Limiter Compressor.

Recent projects included Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which received a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for “Best Americana Album,” Jason Isbell’s Something More than Free, which garnered two 2016 Grammy Awards, and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, which was CMA’s 2015 “Album of the Year” and earned a 2016 GRAMMY for Country Album of the Year.

“I was looking for a compressor that gave me that little extra bit of ‘glue’ I needed on some mixes,” he begins. “I had a compressor that I swore by, and it gave me a gluey, analog squeeze but it was never quite ‘there’ in my mind. I realized something was missing. I had heard about the Variable Mu but I hadn’t worked with one, and I had a misconception of what it sounded like. I was a solid-state-path guy; I didn’t want tubes in the path because I didn’t think the sound would be transparent enough for mastering.”

Fortunately, a friend and fellow motorcycle buff prevailed on him to give the Manley Variable Mu a try. This is unsurprising when you consider that the friend was Manley Labs president EveAnna Manley-and, says Lyman, her advice was excellent.

“From the minute I used the Variable Mu, I realized that this was the compressor I’ve been missing. The Variable Mu does exactly what I want it to do. It sounds fantastic, and it’s hard to beat the build quality. I love it; I’m a huge fan.”

Lyman’s work spans a variety of musical genres, and he uses the Variable Mu for all of them.

“My discography is crazy,” he laughs. “I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Colorado and listened to country music but I played bass in punk bands and loved metal. Although I still work on those types of records, ironically, these days I master a lot of Americana and country. My discography is diverse, and I like it that way. The Manley Variable Mu has made it onto pretty much every record I’ve mastered since I got it. It sounds as good on punk, metal, and rock as it does on Americana and country.”

Much as a younger Lyman once forswore country music in favor of punk and metal, only to come full circle and work on all of those genres and more, the Variable Mu compressor has made him change his tune about only using solid-state processors.

“Having a top-quality valve compressor, as well as solid-state stuff, is great,” he proclaims. “In fact, now I have both the Variable Mu and a tube EQ in my chain.”

When Lyman shops for a new tool for his mastering chain, he takes his time and makes sure he is getting exactly what he wants. He doesn’t add another compressor just for variety, as a recording engineer might do.

“If I am not using that tool at least 60 percent of the time, my money could be better spent elsewhere,” he explains. “So when I went looking for a new compressor, I tried several high-end models, and I only bought one. As soon as I plugged in the Manley Variable Mu, I ditched the other compressors I was considering. I knew I had found the missing piece I had been looking for. The Variable Mu delivers a classic sound that we all know and love. It’s worth every penny and more. I absolutely love it.”

Manley

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Posted by House Editor on 02/24 at 04:12 PM
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Point Blank Music School Adds SSL Duality δelta SuperAnalogue Console

Music Production & Sound Engineering Complete Master Diploma course now includes 48-channel console in main studio.

Point Blank Music School has opened a new facility near to its existing London base, doubling its core production portfolio and increasing its longest available course length from one to two years. This expansion brings a fresh new industry-focused element to the school for students looking to cultivate full time careers in commercial music, film, broadcast, and games production.

As part of this development Point Blank has invested in the most commercially-relevant production tools for its flagship Music Production & Sound Engineering Complete Master Diploma. Headlining that investment is a new 48-channel Solid State Logic Duality δelta SuperAnalogue console for the main studio.

“We’re a cutting edge music school,” says Rob Cowan, the owner of Point Blank. “And we want cutting-edge gear. That’s what the Duality is. If students are going to go on and work in commercial studios, we need to train them on the best there is.”

The School has premises in London and Los Angeles, and is distinguished by the wide variety of courses it offers - everything from music production and sound engineering though live sound, song writing, singing, DJing, radio production, and music business. “We’ve been training students on Logic and Ableton,” explains Cowan “...In one year taking them from not knowing anything to being competent music producers.

“Now with the Duality, and us becoming an Avid Training School, we’re taking it to the next level. We’re training people to work in the industry.”

Duality is a large-format hybrid console that combines a superb analogue signal path with exceptional DAW control and integration. TFT screens deliver complete optical feedback of channel status and routing, while multi operator Total Recall with channel autoscan allows more than one operator to recall the console. New to Duality, the SSL δelta-Control plug-in harnesses DAW automation to read, write, store, and edit console automation - ideal for a busy control room.

The new Point Blank facility incorporates seven studios and training rooms - including a live recording area - all connected to a central space that the school is calling ‘The Hub’. This relaxing space encourages student collaboration, while providing a perfect venue for master classes. “Students can hang out, but we can also do workshops in there,” says Cowan. “We can easily rearrange the furniture and comfortably accommodate up to around 70 people. It’s fantastic for when we host guest producers and artists, and so on.

“We can now deliver all the new modules that we’ve been so desperate to start, and at the same time provide a better student experience.”

Cowan refers to the Duality room as both a studio and a classroom in one: “That is our number one space - a showpiece studio where we’re going to teach more advanced sound engineering, more advanced mixing. That’s where the Duality is really going to come into its own.

“We’ve now got more options, more at our fingertips… more exciting things that we can do.”

Prospective students can find out more about the two year Music Production & Sound Engineering Complete Master Diploma course at the Point Blank School of music via the Music Production section of its website.

Solid State Logic
Point Blank Music School

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Posted by House Editor on 02/24 at 09:16 AM
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Final Track Studio Upgrades To Audient For New Facility

Displaced studio in Roanoke, Virginia relocates to new building centered around the compact ASP4816 analog console.

“Analog and digital play well together,” says Skip Brown, but maintains that, “The best ‘front end’ for any music studio is an analog console.” So when the building housing his original studio was sold from under him, he created the new Final Track Studios in Roanoke, Virginia centered around the compact ASP4816 analog console from Audient.

He describes the decision to go for Audient as a two step process, initially buying four 8-channel mic pre ASP008s (the predecessor to Audient’s ASP880) before purchasing the console.

“[We] never told the clients what we were using, and got consistent comments about how much better the ‘new place’ sounded, knowing the whole time that it was the ASP008s - not the space.”

As all Audient products implement the same mic pre technology across the board, Skip was confident that the compact analog console would deliver the same quality. “The ASP4816 in a custom Argosy enclosure was the perfect solution,” he says.

“One of the best things about the ASP4816 is the incredible two-bus compressor sitting right there on the console. We either bring our ‘in the box’ two track mix or 8 pairs of stems out of ProTools to the ASP4816, glorify them with the bus compressor and then record the result to one of our analog or digital two track recorders,” continues Brown. “One of the four stereo returns brings the finished work back into the console and with the full assignment to the output buses, we record it back to our ProTools session for distribution (MP3, DVD, etc.)  I cannot think of anything missing in the ASP4816 design.”

Brown is now finishing up his fifth decade in the music business and he’s not showing any signs of his dedication waning.

“I work with people’s dreams every day. There is nothing more humbling than being part of the creative flow and watching it happen,” he says, particularly proud of a referral from an existing client “...who ended up being a 2016 Grammy Nominated vocalist.” Audient joins Brown in getting excited about the possibility of adding another award winner to the list of Audient users.

Despite his experience, he doesn’t forget good advice from others.

“I remember a conversation with an old, grizzled engineer from South Carolina,” he recalls. “I asked him what is the best gear I should buy.  His answer: ‘You can cut a CMA Award-winning record [and he had] with a pocket knife. Just be sure the knife is really sharp.”  I guess I looked confused, so he finished by saying: ‘Most of it is your skill as an engineer, but having the sharpest gear for your workflow is mandatory.’  The ASP4816 is really, really sharp.”

Audient is delighted to hear it. Skip’s Audient console was purchased from Odyssey Prosound in Salem, MA.

Audient
Final Track Studio

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Posted by House Editor on 02/24 at 07:45 AM
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Old Soundman: Chuck It All For A Sound Career?

Dear Old Soundman:

I’ve been asked to be the “sound dude” (or “concert operations manager” as I prefer to call it)...

That’s kind of funny, but also kind of silly. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a young pup like you, titles meant a lot to me too.

...for a local band, since once upon a time I was a “roadie” for the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Randy Travis, Sammy Kershaw and others.

Hey, what’s Randy Travis really like? Why’d he marry that old babe, anyway?

I’m sorry, do you have an audio-related question, or are you just here to drop names?

However, I did not work as a sound tech. (I was a “lighting/video dude.”) I guess the band thinks that l would just automatically know live audio because I’ve been to a lot of concerts.

Aren’t people great? Like maybe I should be a cop, because I’ve gotten so many traffic tickets. Or maybe I should be a cow because I’ve consumed so much milk! Mooooooo!

You’re probably too young to have heard the old saying, “I­f my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a truck!”

I know the basics of mixing live audio…

As do I, Stevo, as do I. See? We’re really buddies, total brethren, hail fellows well met. Workers of the world unite—we don’t need no stinking line arrays!

...but would like to acquire a serious working knowledge of pro sound…

As would I, Steverino, as would I! Did you ever see the old clip of Steve Allen interviewing Lenny Bruce? That rocked! Now, what are you babbling about?

... and perhaps pursue a career in the field. (The telcom company I work for is bankrupt, and my job as a video tech is getting boring.) Oh wisest of the wise, where do I start?

Thanks,
Steve

Dude, if you’ve got a salary and benefits, do not, I repeat not, walk away from it! You must not be a parent. See, me with the wife and the young soundman, I don’t have the option of spitting in the face of my salary, and running away to join the rock circus all over again.

I do have to admit that you get some points for addressing me as the “wisest of the wise.” The old soundwoman has a few other terms she uses to describe me, with wiseass probably the only one that can be used in a family publication.

Here’s the big question, Stevie boy: do you really enjoy coiling XLR cables? Because you’re going to have to ­coil about a million of them over time.

The shows are a bitch, and then you coil cables. You’d have to be clinically insane to choose a lifestyle like that. I know I was!

Here, just bite down on this rubber block, and let me smear a little conductive paste onto your temples, this won’t hurt a bit!

Luv -
The Old Soundman

There’s simply no denying the love. Read more from the Old Soundman here.

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Posted by Keith Clark on 02/19 at 04:14 PM
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