September 30, 2016

Patreon CEO Jack Conte On Inner Circle Podcast Episode #128

Patreon CEO Jack ContePamplamoose showed the world just how powerful some DIY YouTube videos could be, garnering millions of views that eventually landed the duo some national television commercials. Jack Conte, half of the duo, built on that success to form Patreon, a way for creators to make a living from their work through subscription payments from their fans.

In this week’s Inner Circle Podcast, Jack talks about how Patreon got started and some of the surprising successes of the platform’s users.

On the intro I’ll take a look at how radio as we know it is dying right before our eyes, and a quick overview of Pro Tools 12.6 and some features that we should have had a long time ago (as many other workstations have had).

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

September 29, 2016

Some Boutique Amp Secrets Everyone Should Know

11-boutique-amp-secretsThere are so many guitar amps on the market these days that the choices are probably greater than any time in music history. In fact, just about every make and model from the past has been reproduced, and some of these designs have even been made better than before (if that’s possible). Since companies like Fender and Marshall already make throwback models of some of their greatest designs, why should you even consider a boutique amp? I’m glad you asked.

Wane Fuday of 45RMP Music Technologies has put together a pretty cool PDF booklet called 11 Key Boutique Amp Secrets: Insider Secrets Mass Produced Amplifier Companies Don’t Talk About that will give you a pretty good idea why you might want to consider looking at a boutique amp alternative the next time you’re in the market for something new.  Among the secrets mentioned:

Modern Mass-produced Amplifiers Are Difficult to Repair and Can Be Prone To Reliability Issues

Modern Mass-produced Amps Depreciate Significantly In Value over Time

Mass-produced Amplifiers Aren’t Built With Tone and Playability As The Primary Goal

Where is Your Mass-produced Guitar Amp Actually Built and What Does It Actually Cost?

Wane goes into great detail into why and how a boutique amp might be better for you in the long run, but from a sound and reliability standpoint. He makes a great argument that even though you’ll pay a little extra up front, you’ll get it back over time thanks to years of service and high resale value.

Let’s face it, we all run into boutique amps on the road or in the studio just about every day anymore, so even if you’re not a guitar player, it pays to know what you’re dealing with. Wane’s booklet gives a good look at the differences between the big guys and the little guys of that business.

Get the booklet at 45rpm.com.

More Headphone Freakout Solutions

more headphone freakout solutionsI’m always amazed how musicians react to their headphones and cue mixes while recording. Some are extremely picky, needing everything to be as perfect as possible before performing, while others can make do with just about anything that closely resembles a mix and a working headphone or two. Rob Tavaglione recently wrote a nice piece at ProSoundNetwork regarding “Headphone Freakout Solutions” that covered a few things that I never thought of, which prompted me to fill in a few more solutions and tricks that I’ve learned through the years. Here we go.

First from Rob:

  • Try flipping the phase of the mic. This might open up a hole in the center of the cue mix where the vocal can sit better both frequency-wise, and if you’re providing a stereo mix, panning-wise as well. Just remember to flip the phase of the track back for a playback or when you mix.
  • Try some open-back headphones. The isolation of the cue mix might seem too foreign to some players who don’t have a lot of studio experience, so open-back phones might make them feel more comfortable. Watch out for the level so you don’t get too much headphone bleed, or even feedback with vocalists.

Now some of my own.

  • Set a mix up for the players. In these days of personal cue mixers, you’ll find that some players just cannot dial in a mix to save their lives. They know what they want, but just don’t know how to get there. That’s why it’s always best if the engineer sets up a basic mix first, then helps each player tweak it as needed. Remember, in a situation like this, fewer choices work the best.
  • Give the drummer some isolation headphones. Drummers need their headphones loud (especially the click) because they’re usually right in middle of a big ruckus of their own creation. Save everyone some grief with leakage by having the drummer wear some good iso phones.

For vocalists and overdubs in general.

  • The kick, bass, and one main instrument should be prominent in the mix. The kick will keep the singer in the pocket, the bass is the key center, and keeping one basic backbone instrument high in the mix (like a piano or guitar) will help the singer find the pitch.
  • Eliminate chorus or modulation effects. Anything that varies the pitch even a little makes it really difficult for some singers to find the pitch center, so they end up not being able to sing in tune. That nice wide chorus on the keys might be a great effect, but a boring mono part will probably help the singer a little better.

Setting up a great headphone mix is an art in itself, but it’s so important to a player or singer’s performance. Follow these tips and take enough time to get the phones right, and you’ll have happy players, singers and producers.

September 27, 2016

New Features In Pro Tools 12.6

pro-tools-clip-effectsIf you’ve been a Pro Tools user for any length of time, then you know that sometimes the upgrades don’t have a lot to show in terms of user improvements. You’ll be glad to know that in the latest version, Pro Tools 12.6, there are some features that many users may find useful. Here are a few of the cool ones.

  • Clip Effects provides real-time clip by clip, input gain, polarity, EQ, filters, and dynamics, complete with shortcuts and presets. That’s is based on the Avid Channel Strip plugin from the Euphonix System 5, which is very cool. The best thing is that you no longer have to worry about automation or rendering to make this happen. This is for HD users only, unfortunately.
  • Layered Editing is basically being able to edit a clip under another clip that overlays it, so if you delete the top clip, then you don’t have a hole there on the timeline like previously.
  • Playlist Improvements include new views, plus new options in the Preferences that will automatically send a clip that is fully overlapped, either by recording or editing, to the next available playlist.
  • Fades are now easier to manipulate as well.

The thing about the above new features is that other workstations have had these for a while now, so in many ways Pro Tools is still playing catch-up.

You can read all about Pro Tools 12.6 improvements on this Avid Blog entry, or check out the following video.

New Music Gear Monday: Empirical Labs Arousor Plugin

empirical-labs-arousorIt’s rare when a modern compressor becomes a standard, but after 20 years, the Empirical Labs Distressor can be found in every major studio, as well as many smaller and home studios, and is as widely used as any of the “classics.” The Distressor has a sound that’s different from everything else, and is one of the few hardware units that’s never had a digital plugin emulation. Until now, that is, as the new Empirical Labs Arousor comes about as close as you’ll ever get to the esteemed Distressor.

The Arousor has a similar look to the distressor, but there are a few things that jump out immediately that are different. For one, there are two new choices for gain reduction – 1.5:1 and 8:1. The much used Nuke setting is gone and Rivet can be found in its place instead (although they do much the same thing). There’s also a control called Attack Modification, which changes the envelope of the attack, as well as a new Soft Clipping control, which adjusts the amount of distortion from none up to plenty. Then there’s the new variable hi-pass filter and a sidechain EQ section (both were fixed on the Distressor). Finally there’s a Blend control that allows you to perform parallel compression with ease.

Does it sound exactly like the Distressor? Even Empirical Labs says that it’s close, but not exactly. According to their webpage, “We say “close” because most of Empirical Labs’ analog gear will pass 150KHz easily, and that is something that is impossible with current digital technology.” Another thing is that the ratio controls don’t exactly line up, according to the helpful online manual, which states that you should always use a ratio on the Arousor that’s one higher than you’re used to using on the Distressor. In other words, if you’re used to using 4:1 on the Distressor, use 6:1 on the Arouser to get close to the sound.

That said, it’s rare when a software emulation compares 100% to its hardware counterpart. We’re in the realm of “really close” and for the most part, that’s been good enough even more the most hard-core of golden ears, so the Arousor is definitely in the ballpark here. The fact of the matter is, it’s great to have a Distressor-like compressor plugin now available, and the fact that Arouser comes from the same company ensures that you’re getting software with its seal of approval.

The Empirical Labs Arouser isn’t inexpensive at $349, but it currently carries an introductory price of $299. There’s a free 14 day trial, and you can get it directly from the Empirical Labs Arouser webpage. Check out the video below for a sample of how it sounds.

September 23, 2016

Game Audio Composer Brian Schmidt On Episode #127 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

Brian SchmidtBrian Schmidt is a legend in game audio and he’s my guest on Episode #127 of my Inner Circle Podcast.

Both a composer and sound designer, Brian has worked on over 150 games, and he’s been the architect for the X-Box audio system and XACT gaming audio tool. Brian is also the founder of GameSoundCon, a conference exclusively for game audio professionals.

On the podcast, we discuss a variety of issues, like what’s trending in games, what are typical budgets, how large are the audio teams, how do you break into game audio, and what are the tools you need to know, among many other things.

On the intro I’ll discuss how the major record labels are moving to limit streaming exclusives, and some headphone freakout solutions.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

September 22, 2016

Joe Bonamassa On Guitar Tone

joe bonamassa guitar toneIf you’re a guitar player or an engineer that records guitar players, the tone is what you’re always trying to follow. For guitar players, it’s a lifelong journey to find that perfect tone, and for engineers, it’s trying to capture the tone that you hear in the studio, or help the guitar player improve what he already has. It always helps to learn about guitar tone from one of the best, so here’s a great backstage video with Joe Bonamassa where he talks about his tone, how to sound like Clapton, Page and Beck, and some guitar tone history as well.

It’s easily one of the most easy going, off the cuff, and informative videos on the subject you’ll find.

A Foolproof Method For Miking A Guitar Amp

Sometimes getting an electric guitar sound is dead easy and other times getting it to fit into the track seems nearly impossible. Here’s an excerpt from my Audio Recording Boot Camp book that provides an almost foolproof method for miking a guitar amp.

“Electric guitar recording has evolved through the years, from miking the guitar amp from a distance, to close miking, to using multiple mics, to recording direct and finally using an amplifier emulator. No one technique is better than another. In fact, multiple techniques are frequently used on the same recording.

Electric guitars don’t have need anything fancy to capture them. The frequency response doesn’t go that high or that low, and the more distorted it is, the fewer transients the signal has, making it somewhat easier to capture than other instruments. As a result, dynamic mics are frequently used with good results. That said, sometimes it’s surprising just how good an amp can sound when a large diaphragm condenser or ribbon mic is used, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Miking The Speaker Cabinet

While many engineers like to use our friend the Shure SM57 in this role, just about any mic can work if you know the sound that you’re looking for and the best way to approach it.

Classic Setup One – Close Miking The Cabinet

Standard guitar amp miking
Figure 1: The standard cabinet miking technique

A) If there’s more than one speaker in the cabinet, listen to them all to find the one that sounds the best (make sure to wear some ear protection). Is one scratchy sounding or distorted? Is one muffled with no high end? Does one have no low end? Find the one with the best balance of frequencies that’s not unintentionally distorted.

B) Place the mic about one inch away from the best sounding speaker in the cabinet and about three quarters of the way between the edge of the speaker and the voice coil (away from the voice coil). Have the guitar player play the song you’re about to record and listen on the monitors. Does it sound like what you heard in the room? Is the sound full enough? Is it too edgy? Is it too bassy? 

C) Move the mic towards the voice coil (the center of the speaker – see Figure 1)). Is the sound still full? Did it get brighter? Did it get bassy?

D) Move the mic towards the outside edge of the speaker. Is the sound still full? Did it brighter? Did it get bassy?

Classic Setup Two – Distance Miking Where The Speakers Converge

Distant guitar cabinet miking image
Figure 2: Distant miking

E) Move the mic about at least a foot away from the speaker or speakers to capture some of the room sound. The ideal distance on a cabinet with two speakers is where the output of both speakers combine (see Figure 2). Does it sound bigger? Can you hear the sound of the room in the recording? Can you hear some frequencies cancel out between the two speakers?

F) Move the mic to the side to capture more of the sound of one of the speaker’s voice coils if more high end is required.

Classic Setup Three – Close and Distance Miking

Close and distant guitar cabinet miking image
Figure 3: Close and distance miking

G) Move the mic back to the best sounding position close to the speaker and add an additional mic at the spot where the sound of the speakers converge, which should be around 18 to 24 inches away. Is the sound still full? Did it get brighter? Did it get bassy? Did it get bigger sounding? Is it closer to what you heard in the room? Is there more of the room sound?

H) Increase the distance to 6 feet if possible (Figure 3). Is the sound still full? Did it brighter? Did it get bassy? Is there more of the room sound?

I) Place both mics at the point where they give the sound closest to what you heard in the room, or what best fits the track when the other instruments are playing.”

As you can see, miking a guitar amp doesn’t have to be a heartache. By following this outline, you should end up with a big and bitey guitar sound that fits your track well without needing to add a lot of EQ or effects.

To read additional excerpts from the Audio Recording Basic Training book, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

September 20, 2016

Use A bunch Of USB Flash Drives In A RAID Array

flash drive RAID array If you’re a musician or engineer, you life is entangled in some way with a computer. For some of us, the computer is an essential part of our workflow, while for others, not so much. If you’re one of the geekier readers who constantly lives inside the computer, then this post is for you. It’s all about how you can take a bunch of USB flash drives and configure then in a RAID array.

This video explains how to do as well as what is a RAID, how it works, and what the advantages are. It’s a bit dated in computer terms (a year old), but still applicable, and it just might help you out in a pinch.

Now let’s get your geek on.

New Music Gear Monday: Antelope Audio Zen Tour Audio Interface

antelope-zen-tourBuying an audio interface can often be a confusing process. There are now so many choices that it often comes down to features rather than sound. Antelope Audio’s new Zen Tour interface is one that doesn’t skimp on either, providing far more features than most interfaces while providing the renowned Antelope Audio sound.

The Zen Tour starts with lots of I/O. It has eight analog ins (four guitar/line, four mic/line), 16 analog outs (two balanced monitor output pairs, eight line-outs on D-sub, two stereo headphone outs, two mono transformer-based Reamp outs), plus two ADAT and SPDIF inputs and outputs. Couple that with a touchscreen display, talkback mic and control, and a large volume/controller knob, and you have an excellent interface/monitor controller for any home studio or mobile rig.

Zen Tour also comes with a full compliment of very useful plugins, with Pultec, Neve and API EQ emulations to a wide range of guitar emulations. These include not only a variety of modeled amps, but also speaker cabinets and even the microphones that are being used on them.

Also included are apps to remotely control the unit from a Mac, Windows computer, iOS, and Android device that adjust Zen Tour’s audio routing, built-in effects, input/output metering, and just about any other parameter you can think of. Plus, you can run the app simultaneously on multiple devices/operating systems (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) and have them all control one interface at the same time!

Antelope Audio has long been known for its exceptional internal digital clocks that keeps the jitter low, which improves the clarity, depth, width and 3-dimensionality. The Zen Tour is no exception with a great clock and mastering-quality DACs capable of 129dB dynamic range. It can be connected to your computer via Thunderbolt or USB connectors, making it very easy to use with different computers without having to worry about adapters or interface boxes.

The unit is available now with a street price of $1,495. Check out this page and the video below for more info.

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