Thursday, January 10, 2013

How's This For A New Speaker Technology?

Microphone and speaker transducers haven't changed in more than a hundred years. Sure, they've evolved and have become a lot more efficient, but the basic operating principles are the same despite major advances in technology. That's why it's cool whenever anyone decides to think outside the box when it comes to speaker development.

Well you can't really call these JVC Kenwood wireless speakers outside the box exactly, because they are the box. Yep, these wooden boxes produce sound by vibrating the wood.

The problem is that they can't move enough air to produce a lot of low end, and JVC Kenwood knows that. That's the reason why they're tying the speakers to a subscription services that will stream real-time sounds from microphones placed up in the Takayama and Morotsuka mountains, but eventually plans to have choices from around the country. There's not much low frequency content in the sounds of birds and rustling trees, so this seems like a good match.

The boxes are made out of Japanese oak or cyprus by a furniture manufacturer for JVC, so the quality and material should be pretty high. They also plan to sell the speakers in furniture stores, which is a new distribution outlet for consumer electronics.

For wooden boxes, these things certainly aren't cheap, with the 5.35 inch small one selling for about $680 while the 12.2 inch large one will set you back $3,400. And that doesn't include the monthly fee for the subscription service (no word on how much that costs). It's no wonder that the system has only been offered in Japan as of yet. I think they have a deeper appreciating for things that are aesthetically simple than most of the rest of the world, and they're willing to pay for it too.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Sound Engineer's Hard Work

And they think we don't do anything. This video is obviously fake, but it's so funny that I just had to share. It instantly brings back memories of all those horrid vocal sessions from way back when. Make sure you watch it at least through :36.



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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rhythm Section Mix Balance Tips

Rhythm section instruments from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture blog
The rhythm section is the heart and soul of a song as it provides both the pulse and the key center, and that's why it's so important to get the correct balance in a mix. It would be nice if everything sounded so good that you didn't have to add a thing but that's not usually the case. Here are a few tips taken from both The Mixing Engineer's Handbook and The Audio Mixing Bootcamp that can help get that rhythm section kicking.

"In order to have the impact and punch that most modern mixes exhibit, you have to make a space in your mix for both of these instruments so they won't fight each other and turn the mix into a muddy mess. While simply EQing your bass high and your kick low (or the other way around), might work at it’s simplest, it’s best to have a more in-depth strategy, so to make them fit together, try the following:

1. EQ the kick drum between 60 to 120Hz as this will allow it to be heard on smaller speakers. For more attack and beater click add between 1k to 4kHz. You may also want to dip out some of the boxiness that lives between 200 to 600Hz. EQing in the 30 to 60Hz range will produce a kick that you can feel if your speakers are large enough, but that can also make it sound thin on smaller speakers and probably won’t translate well to a variety of speaker systems. Most 22 inch kick drums like to center somewhere around 80Hz, for instance.

2. Bring up the bass with the kick. The kick and bass should occupy slightly different frequency spaces. The kick will usually be in the 60 to 80Hz range whereas the bass will emphasize higher frequencies anywhere from 80 to 250 (although sometimes the two are reversed depending upon the song). Before you continue to EQ at other frequencies, try filtering out any unnecessary bass frequencies (below 30Hz on kick and 50Hz on the bass, although it varies according to style and taste) so the kick and bass are not boomy or muddy. There should be a driving, foundational quality to the combination of these two together.  

A common mistake is to emphasize the kick with either too much level or EQ and not enough on the bass guitar. This gives you the illusion that your mix is bottom light, because what you’re doing is effectively shortening the duration of the low frequency envelope in your mix. Since the kick tends to be more transitory than the bass guitar, this gives you the idea that the low frequency content of your mix is inconsistent. For pop music, it’s best to have the kick provide the percussive nature of the bottom while the bass fills out the sustain and musical parts. 

3. Make sure the snare is strong, otherwise the song will lose its drive when everything else is added in. This usually calls for at least some compression. You may need a boost at 1kHz for attack, 120 to 240Hz for fullness, and 10k for snap. As you bring in the other drums and cymbals, you might want to dip a little of 1k on these to make room for the snare. Also make sure that the toms aren't too boomy (if so, try rolling them off a bit below 60 Hz first before you begin to EQ elsewhere). 

4. If you’re having trouble with the mix because it's sounding cloudy and muddy on the bottom end, turn the kick drum and bass off to determine what else might be in the way in the low end. You might not realize that there are some frequencies in the mix that aren't musically necessary. With piano or guitar, you're mainly looking for the mids and top end to cut through, while any low-end might be just getting in the way of the kick and bass, so it’s best to clear some of that out with a high-pass filter. When soloed the instrument might sound too thin, but with the rest of the mix the bass will sound so much better, and you won’t really be missing that low end from the other instruments. Now the mix will sound louder, clearer, and fuller. Be careful not to cut too much low end from the other instruments, as you might loose the warmth of the mix.

5. For dance music, be aware of kick drum to bass melody dissonance. The bass line is very important and needs to work very well with the kick drum when it’s reproduced over the huge sound systems commonly found in today's clubs. If your kick has a center frequency of an A note at around 50 or 60Hz and the bass line is tuned to A#, they’re going to clash. Tune your kick samples to the bass lines (or vice versa) where needed.

6. If you feel that you don't have enough bass or kick, boost the level, not the EQ. This is a mistake that everyone makes when they’re first getting their mixing chops together. Most bass drums and bass guitars have plenty of low end and don't need much more, so be sure that their level together and with the rest of the mix is correct before you go adding EQ. Even then, a little goes a long way."

You might want to read some additional book excerpts at bobbyowsinski.com, or check out the Audio Mixing Bootcamp video series from Lynda.com.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Monday, January 7, 2013

All Robot Band Plays Motorhead

Here's an all robot band aptly titled "Compressorhead" playing a cover of Motorhead's "Ace Of Spades." While I appreciate the technology that went into making these robots actually play the song, it's also a great example of why it's so hard to replace humans with machines when it comes to real playing. So much of this sounds like moving furniture even though the notes are right. Let's just say that the technology isn't quite there yet.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Music Gear Monday: Soundcraft Console Does Stage Lights Too

Just like audio, it's been years since stage lighting has moved from the old analog days to complete digital control. In fact, a typical stage lighting console is now quite similar to a digital desk or controller. That's why the new Soundcraft Si Performer console is so cool, as it's a digital audio console that also incorporates a DMX port to handle the stage lighting as well.

This is one of those "Why didn't they think of that before," moments as far as I'm concerned. If you go to most small or medium venues, the soundman is usually tasked with doing the lights as well as the audio, and therefore has a a lighting console set up beside the audio desk. With the lighting control now built into the sound desk, the scene lighting not only be at the soundman's fingertips, but be tied into the audio automation as well.

The console is on the expensive side at $8k for a 24 channel console and $10k for 32, but this is still a nice evolution in sound reinforcement console design. The video below doesn't really tell us about many of the details, but it'll give you a bit of an overview of the Si Performer.



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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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