Just Another Fine Update

TIL that Nestle are still up to the same tricks they were at in the early 80’s, and may even be /more/ evil than they were back then, in spite of their weasel-words. Visitors will have to like whatever non-evil coffee I settle on, after some research. http://www.babymilkaction.org/

Thanks to the wonders of Ebay, and the help of the lovely Juliet, we now have (arrived, probably testing tomorrow) a second “Redeye” Layla 24/96, which, with the help of the, also lovely, Jonathan, in making up a short BNC-BNC “word lock” cable, will pair up with the existing Layla setup to give us 16 analog channels of pristine 24/96 audio loveliness, and another 16 digital channels of 24/48, which we will probably never use.

24 track tape never seemed to sound as good, to my (admittedly bat-like at times) ears as 16 track.

The thing was, I think, the width of the tape. Sure there were a few 3-inch 24T machines, but 3-inch tape was hard to find, and notorious for “twisting” at the capstan of the tape machine. 16 track, on tape, was always my ideal format, though I’ve never actually /used/ it. (I’ve used, and still own 1/2 inch 4 track (which sounds great, though (without dolby, which I’ve never used outside of of a “big” studio, and reluctantly within, as it seems to “do something” to the top end that I don’t like. As of course, do the cheaper variants, including my own (never used in anger) DBX box.). 1″ 8T has also been just fine.

Now we use digital, non-linear editing, virtual tracks etc. WHY ON EARTH would I ever want to use more that 16 tracks? Oh, of course. Mixdowns. Hopefully, by by which time, I will have aquired another Layla. (and a bigger console, as, apart from the Rank, which is a monster, all of the desks in my arsenal max out at 16 tracks. :-/ Idea is to flog a few (Tweed Audio, Trident, maybe one more…) and get a bigger version of the QM-1, using the one I have already for sidecar expansion and/or spares, after swapping in the nice preamps into the (probably newer, and less discrete/more op-amped) into half of the new desk.)

I may (if Cam will let me!) part with the Rank console too, though not many smaller players have the space in the control room for something that big, and probably would not want to take on a vintage analog modular with transformer balanced ins and outs for each pre-amp. Keeping desks will be the QM-1 (as above) and the Studiomaster (in the “spare” bedroom, with the UX-8 hooked up to it, for home demo’s experiments/etc.)

Oh, and I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, which, when medicated and under new (or any!) management, will probably mean that I feel a bit better. 🙂

We will return!

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Rumours of Our Demise Are Somewhat Exaggerated

But I have given facebook the long-overdue elbow. Health still not good, but a small studio is kinda-operational, or will be when I replace the PSU in the DAW that popped on Thursday, and Cam has had “a bit of” a tidy up. Winter is long gone, and we should be recording. I’m not sure whether “Stranger On My Own Street” is now officially the longest-in-production album or not, but certainly some sort of distinction for time.

I, on the other hand, have embraced hermitism and 66.666% of hermeticism, and also started to lock antlers with philosophy (at least that small percentage of it which passes /some/ scrutiny, which excludes much of Descartes, Sartre and Nietzsche.)

Of course. I’m taking it seriously, which, I am fully aware, is probably not a good idea. The way I figure it, I don’t have much santity left to loose. 😉

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A moment of hubris (and the anticiptation of nemesis)

Have just (at 6-summit in the morning, having been awake for almost 24 hours) finished “mastering” (an odd term that I’m still not comfortable with) the latest recording of Cameron Pyke (http://smallsymphonies.wordpress.com) I didn’t start until about 2:30am, and have been taking a few breaks.

It (3 songs arranged as a kinda medley) has /that/ sound again, which I’m delighted about. Especially as this isn’t a Calrec Soundfield recording, instead being recording using near-coincident pair of relatively cheap Chinese built “T-Bone” small diaphragm condensors, and a Line6 Toneport UX2 stuffed into Cam’s laptop.

Which means that the sound (which I like, anyway…) appears to be a me thing. I’ve been listening to other recordings, and, well.. I’m feeling pretty bloody smug right now. 🙂

Nothing complicated at all, but rather congratulating my sense of /not/ using all them magic “turd polish” buttons the way it seems most others do.

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In The Box.

Have now “Remastered” the work-in-progress tracks that have been recorded so far from Cameron Pyke’s album and put them online as high bitrate Ogg Vorbis files (downloadable, or playable online at reduced mp3 quality (which is all you get with most online music!)) . These “remasters” (they ‘aint really masters, and you don’t exactly “mix” ambisonic material, but to use phrases like “decode” or “render” would leave most readers baffled) were done, unusually for me “in the box”, i.e on the computer, without resort to my usual battery of Ca;rec ambisonic processor, compressors, eq’s etc. (and I don’t currently own a reverb unit of suitable quality for this, would’t /contaminate/ it with an aural exciter, and didn’t feel the need to use a de-esser.)

So it was all done on the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) with the most vital component being Visual Virtual Microphone, downloadable free from http://mcgriffy.com/audio/ambisonic/vvmic/

The (un)finished product can be heard/downloaded from http://soundcloud.com/ambisonix/sets/small-symphonies

Feedback welcomed. (and yes, I know there is noise, from the mic preamp’s power supply smoothing caps.)

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Not a Happy Camper

So the Rank console is located where I can use it. And the time presents itself to attack the most temperamental modules.

With audio gear, one of the most frequent bits to fail are capacitors, and specifically electrolytic “cans”, and they don’t just /die/, oh no, they /complain/ and /warn/ about it, with mysterious bursts of crackle and pop that threaten to destroy speakers etc. They are, for the layperson, like little batteries, that get charged, and discharged, and consist of many conductive layers, separated by an insulating “dielectric” layer. This dielectric is normally what breaks down, allowing the electricity stored in the adjacent conductive layers to short through. Now perversely, this often “heals” the cap, by boiling the adjacent dielectric, pushing the conductive layers apart, or by burning away a bit of conductive layer, like a microscopic fuse.

The tell tale is that something snaps crackles and pops at switch on, then seems to calm down after a while, only occasionally having little noise attacks randomly afterwards, until it is switched off for a while, then will go through the entire process again at next switch on. When this occurs, it is time for a re-cap.

With any mixer re-cap, the first thing to do is audit the desk, which involves pulling one module of each type, and listing the electrolytic capacitors, by: number, type, capacitance, voltage, and physical size.

Easy, right? Except tis desk has 7 types of module, and on many, the caps are inserted with the value face down. – pull another of the same type and see, repeat ad nauseum.

Being of That Age and fairly unwell, with side effects, I need to use reading glasses *and* a magnifying glass to read the component values. A cumbersome task, but one I attack with enthusiasm, if not relish. Even when dismantling the multi-pcb-stacked “Aux/Monitor” module, which contains more components than any other 3 modules on the desk (other than the talkback module) and, like most talkback/monitor modules, is not built to anywhere near as high as spec as the main signal paths.

Many hours later I have a list (just don’t ask about costs, it is more than I paid for the desk!), go online and price the components (where decent ones are available) at that well know supplier, Maplin, who often have a /very/ good premium component, as well as the “economy” components. Seriously, I acquired the caps to do my Trident there, “Rubicon”, renowned for good tone at the time, and the whole lot cost maybe £40. The idea is to go in, get the bits for one module, check them out, do a channel and group, check the sound, then if satisfactory, order in enough to do the whole desk. The Rubicon caps sound /mighty/ fine.

Yesterday, online, Genelec (General Electric) caps were available, and priced “economy” too. So maplin it was, and list in hand I trekked (got a lift off son#1) to Maplin, where at the first and most common component, a 220uF 25v axial cap., I was told that “this is an online item only”.

Now I’d had a bad feeling when I approached the “technical” counter at the back of the store, and seen it piled high with fishermans anoraks, but this, the lack of a most basic and common electronic component, ws a little weird, and I, being me, went to great pains to point out exactly that, and was informed that Maplin are getting out of components, and into camping equipment.

Hi-de-sigh. 😦 ho and off to Farnell we go!

(added days later)
So far I’ve audited all of the the Preamps, Routing, and Group modules. 340 capacitors, average price 50p (I’ll get a bulk discount though) That’s 720 desolders, 720 solders… Ugggh! It will be nearer 500 caps (1000 joints) by the time i’ve finished the audit. 😦

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“The Sound Is In The Iron”

… thus, is oft said, said Rupert Neve, when explaining why his (older) consoles sounded so much nicer than more modern designs.

There may be a grain of truth in this, however certainly more modern desks have better specs on paper – but they don’t sound as yummy.. And, purist though I may claim to be, I acknowledge the magic of valves, or discrete silicon class A preamplifiers, and especially used in conjunction with good quality transformers.

So I huffed, and I puffed, and I sweated away, and one by one, I removed all 53 modules, and 32 blanking plates, from my ancient “Rank” mixing desk, placing each module carefully at a different strategic location in three rooms of the house. Then (after a cup of tea and a cigarette of course) steeled what is left of my once almost-adequate, and now, well “decrepid” would be a complement – and that is according to my doctor (though in fairness, he used less direct language.) who cannot fix it any more, and just provides the necessary chemistry to sustain cellular activity of sorts – body, and hefted the wood-clad steel and aluminium mainframe of the console from the old “music room” to the lounge, and gave the innards (and backplane, which is just too complicated to remove) a good vacuuming out.

More straining and groaning, and (yesterday morning, if I recall correctly) I managed to get it up the stairs and into its new home, a rather-too-creaky-for-comfort pine table, that continues, in spite of its many years of service as a computer desk, and table for strippers wearing stilletos to dance upon, to just about prevent the monster console from crashing to (and perhaps through!) the floor.

And over the last 24+ hours, between cursing the condition of my back/knees/eyes/teeth and excuses for muscles,  I have been bringing up power supplys, monitoring, group, routing, fader metering, talkback, and the all-important, discrete silicon and transformer buffered in and out, preamp modules, and carefully negotiating them down their now-brittle plastic guides, and into the probably-equally-brittle Socapex connectors of the backplane. Powering up periodically to check for the magic smoke escaping from the precious antique silicon.  It is going to be ongoing “For A While”<tm>.

I’m not too bothered about the capacitors, though expensive, they are all of “that age” now, and a re-cap of the whole console is probably a decade overdue (I’ve had it about two years, so only 20% of the negligence can be laid at my door).

A re-cap is in order, as soon as I’ve finished the recap on my Triden 16:8, which I have at least purchased the requisite parts (except for one chip, an LED ladder driver IC for the master section, which I never use so…) Used to love soldering things together.. Now.. ermm..

Some while later, after wiring the desk up to the DAW, and running a few of my digital multitracks through it as a test, I wondered at its way of “maxing up” the sound, even with the EQ flat, things set not to distort,  and pondered Mr. Neve’s words from several decades ago.

Transformers really do /rock/.

I will of course be chasing intermittent pops and crackles for many moons after a move. And fixing the half-dozen  pre-amps that caps have already fully failed on. At some point.

But I also ran “House Of Hopes And Dreams” through a couple of channels, and back to the computer.. Whilst recording..

Emperors New Clothes?

You Decide.

Before: 
http://soundcloud.com/ambisonix/house-20100818-take3faded-1

After:
http://soundcloud.com/ambisonix/house-20100818-take3topranked

For me, the main downside of this console is not the lack of enough groops (it only has 4. against the Tridents 8) but that it it doesn’t have PPMs, but VU meters instead. I’ve never found a use for the things. Managed to balance this to within  0.5 dB L/R,  and 3.3 dB of headroom at first (and only)  attempt though, so I’m fairly chuffed. (and surprised!)

The layout is fairly cumbersome, with the A/D box and the Calrec Soundfield processor perched on a wooden 1940’s coffee table under the pine bench that supports the console.

A Dark Place.

Hmm.. I may have overdone the consonants, but hey “work in progress”, right?

In the mean time,  I may need the services of one of them there chiropractors, or at least a stiff drink or two.

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Oh! Yet another website to fiddle with..

Seems I’ve been seduced by WordPress, due to a friend (smallsymphonies.wordpress.com) impressing me with his. Together we are producing some ambisonic recordings, though what goes on here will probably just be the stereo mixdowns, as, well, how many people have the ability to play the full spherical surround stuff?

Many years ago, when Dolby Surround became prevalent, I expressed my displeasure. Nothing has changed, its a piss poor consumer grade system, limited rear/side sounds, and no up/down component. I can’t fix history, or the intelligence of the cinema-going or gadget buying public.

But I /can/ moan. :-0

Posted in ambisonic, Calrec, microphone, music, recording, soundfield, South Wales, Wookiemonstah | Leave a comment