Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Who "Who Are You" Isolated Vocals

It's Friday, so that means it's time for another isolated track. This time we'll listen to the isolated vocals from The Who's big 1978 hit "Who Are You" from their album of the same name. This was the last album with drummer Keith Moon, who died a few weeks after it was released. Have a listen to:

1. The distorted vocal. The vocal is very interestingly distorted. This sounds to me like its a condenser microphone with capsule damage. Didn't stop it from being a hit though.

2. The sound of the plate reverb. It sounds like it's been very heavily filtered with no top or bottom end. As a result, you can tell it's there, but it doesn't stand out.

3. The smooth background harmonies. The 3 part harmony blends very well and is very tight. Listen to the releases, which is what make the tightness happen. Also take notice that each background vocal phrase is slightly different. No cut and paste here! Also, hear how it turns into 2 part harmony on the last chorus.



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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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When Audio Cables Cost More Than Cars

During a recent interview with mastering legend Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering for the 3rd edition of The Mastering Engineer's Handbook, he mentioned that he rewired his entire studio with Transparent Cable and both he and his clients were astonished at the improvement in sound. I wasn't familiar with the brand so I decided to check it out.

Talk about high end, here's an example of the company's most expensive power cable (from their online catalog).

Their power cables are priced from $195 to $2100 (I usually pay about a buck).






Okay, if a $2100 hundred dollar power cable isn't enough for you, how about an RCA cable for $11,580?

In fairness, they also sell RCA cables as low as $95 (I'm used to buying them for around 50 cents).






Perhaps you're looking for speaker cable. Here's one that goes for $34,735.

Of course, they also have them for as low as $210.







And of course, we all need lots of XLR mic cables around. How about buying a few of these babies for $20k each?

They also have them for as low as $485.

Normally I would scoff at the perceived worth of cable at this price, but I have to trust Bob Ludwig on this. All I know is that it's out of my price range until I have about 5 hit records.

Does anyone reading have experience with these cables? Comments?
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Meet The New Loudness Measurement Standard

Waves WLM Loudness Meter image
Waves WLM Loudness Meter
In December of 2013, a new law called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act when into full effect. The rule requires TV stations, cable operators, satellite television providers to control the audio loudness of all programs and commercials that are broadcast. The law is in response to years of complaints about commercials being much louder than program because they had been more heavily compressed.

 The law has some serious teeth in it for violations, including heavy fines and loss of a violator’s broadcast license for continued offenses. Because of that, all networks and broadcasters are now especially concerned about the level of any program or commercial supplied, and have a zero tolerance policy for volume that strays outside of the spec (officially called the Advanced Television Systems Committee A/85RP).

As anyone who’s mixed or mastered knows, the relative volumes of two different songs can be very different even though their levels can look the same on a variety of meters, thanks to the amount of compression added. That’s why a new metering system had to be developed to measure the loudness of a program as our ears hear it.

Meet The LKFS Scale
The new measurement is called LKFS, which stands for Loudness, K-weighed, relative to Full Scale, which distinguishes itself from the normal dBFS peak meters found on all digital gear in that measure the loudness not instant by instant, but over a period of time. In Europe, the measurement is called LUFS, which stands for Loudness Units relative to Full Scale. At one point there was a difference between the two, but today they are identical, so most loudness meters indicate both. LUFS is easier to say, so that seems to take precedent when engineer's talk loudness.

The new federally mandated loudness specification is -24LKFS  +/- 2dB, which means that the loudness of your program better be between -26LKFS to -22LKFS or the program is getting kicked back to be redone.

It’s even trickier than that though, since the measurement must be made around an “anchor element,” which for television means dialog. That means that the dialog must always be around the -24LFS level, while music and effects can momentarily peak above, maybe as high as -16LKFS for brief periods.

While the spec calls for -24LKFS at +/- 2dB, many broadcast networks have even tighter specs, holding their clients to +/- 1dB. That means that there’s little room for error when mixing a program intended for television with dialog.

There's really no way to estimate LKFS from a VU, peak or PPM meter, so it requires a specialized metering tool made just for this application. The Dolby Media Meter 2, TC Electronic LM2 or LM6, or the Waves WLM meter are the most widely used products on the market at the moment.

Keep in mind that television networks are very strict with their specs, and a violation will result in the project being kicked back to you to do it again. So on those times that you’re asked for television delivery, paying close attention to all the details will ultimately result in a lot less hassle.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, March 3, 2014

The Beginning Of The End As Guitar Center To Be Acquired

Guitar Center image
As if one blockbuster business deal in our industry isn't enough (see my blog about Avid yesterday), today the news came from the Wall Street Journal that Guitar Center was in talks about being acquired by one of its creditors (see this post for the backstory).

It appears that Ares Management, who owns the majority of Bain Capitol's (the owner of GC) debt, is in discussions to convert the debt into equity by taking over the majority of the company.

Talk about sending shudders through the industry, this is going to change the landscape of music retail, for better or worse.

Ares wants their money, so watch as they squeeze GC by making it leaner and meaner than ever, all at the expense of the customer. If you think doing business with them now is hard, just wait until this comes down. Fewer sales people that turn over even more frequently, less stock on hand, only the latest products and no deep inventory - that's what you can expect. It'll be the way it is now, only worse, if you can imagine.

And expect to see some of your favorite small manufactures either struggle or go out of business, as GC cuts its inventory and SKU's even more. For all those companies depending upon GC for a good chunk of their business, times are about to get a lot tougher.

And we may be seeing the beginning of the end of GC, at least as we know it. Ares could just decide it wants as much money as it can get right now and liquidate it.

The good thing out of all of this could be the rise of the indie music store again. I relish the days of individual services from people who really cared.

Once again, this is a small industry filled with creative people. It's too small for a company to go public, roll up smaller companies, or grow to big box levels without the customer suffering.

I want to thank Eric Garland for his heads up on the story. He's been on top of this from the start.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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, March 2, 2014

Major Changes Around The Corner For Music As Avid Delists

Avid a-la-mode image
It came as no surprise last week when Avid Technology received a notification letter from NASDAQ that the company would be delisted and trading of its stock would be suspended. For many of us in the creative end of the entertainment business who have watched the company try to battle through its troubles during the last few years, the question was more of “when” than “if” this scenario would happen. The writing had been on the wall for some time.

If you’re not aware, Avid Technology is the maker of video editing tools that are used at all levels and stages of the creative process in both television and movies. In 1995 Avid acquired Digidesign, the maker of Pro Tools, which is the standard audio editing hardware and software, giving the company leadership in both the audio and video editing sectors. In fact, Pro Tools is the standard digital audio workstation used in the creation of nearly every major motion picture and television show, as well as most of the music you hear today. While there are other very capable software audio packages available, Pro Tools is truly a universal standard when it comes to any audio job on a professional level.

But leadership comes at a price, as does being publicly traded. Over the years Avid has tried to wring every dollar out of its various technologies with what some would characterize as ruthless upgrade plans, and every time their substantial customer based would wince with pain but eventually give in. After all, if the rest of the professional world was doing it, you were forced to as well.

Of course what eventually happened was that the market became saturated both on the audio and video side, and you can only force someone to upgrade every year or 18 months or so, which isn’t exactly a great recipe for sustained growth. The company tried to expand by acquiring a number of companies with markets at the neophyte or even consumer level in an effort to increase its user base. Of course, as is often the case, Avid integrated those companies into their infrastructure, which unfortunately wasn’t capable of speaking to those markets, and the investments brought little of the expected return. As a result, the company began to hemorrhage cash and the stock went from a one time high of around $67 down to less than $5 when it was finally delisted. Read more on Forbes.
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You should follow me on Twitter and Facebook 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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