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Samsung Acquisition of Harman Not A Done Deal Yet

Harmon logoIt looks like that the deal for Samsung to buy Harman International may not happen as quickly and easily as everyone thought. Alexander Roepers, a large Harman shareh​older owning around 2.3% of the shares, has decided to vote against the deal, stating that the $8 billion price just isn’t high enough.

This is a great illustration of one of the pitfalls of a public company being in a small niche like the audio industry. Almost everything about this deal revolves around “shareholder value” on Harman’s part. Harman’s board wants its stock to rise (which it did when the deal was announced) and Roepers wants to make more money from his stock. Samsung wants to get into the car business, where Harman is a leader.

The problem is that nowhere do you hear the phrase, “This is going to be better for our products and customers,” because the fact of the matter is that neither is considered much. See the disconnect?

Harman owns a who’s who of premier audio companies, including Crown, AKG, dbx, Lexicon, AKG, Digitech, BSS, JBL Professional, Soundcraft, Studer and Martin Audio, not to mention hi-fi companies like B&W, Harman Kardon, Mark Levinson, and Infinity. While that stable of audio companies might combine into a powerhouse, the fact of the matter is that this segment pales when compared to its Connect Car and Lifestyle Audio segments. Harman already supplies the audio systems for some of the top auto manufacturers, including Audi, Bentley, Mercedes, BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Jaguar, Jeep, Toyota and Volkswagen, among others. That’s what Samsung is interested in, not the audio professional side of things, a fact that might eventually signal the demise of those companies.

The fact of the matter is that Samsung needs this deal more than Harman, so expect it to happen after the price is raised. Keep your fingers crossed that the great audio companies involved eventually don’t disappear.

December 19, 2016

7 Great Music Business Holiday Gift Ideas

If you read my Production Blog, the you’ve probably seen my 10 Cool Holiday Gifts For Musicians post a few days ago. Here’s another gift guide, but this one concentrates just on music business and social media.

Music 4.11. Music 4.1: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age
You know that I’m biased about this, but I really believe that if you’re looking for one book that best outlines the new music business, Music 4,1 is it. With lots of great traditional and social media tips to help you market yourself successfully and efficiently, the book (now in it’s 4th edition) is currently used in music business courses in colleges and universities around the world. You can read some excerpts of the book on my website, as well as my other books.

crowdstart2. Crowdstart: The Ultimate Guide To A Powerful And Profitable Crowdfunding Campaign
If you want to know the ins and outs about crowdfunding before you begin a campaign, there’s no better resource. There’s also a lot of great social media info here as well. Ariel Hyatt is the queen of social media PR and her Cyber PR company has been a huge help to hundreds of artists, so you might want to check out her other books as well.

 

3. All YoAll You need To Know About The Music Businessu Need To Know About The Music Business
This is the 9th edition of LA music attorney Don Passman’s excellent book and there’s a good reason why it’s been popular for so long. Let me put it this way, if you’re in the music business, this book is essential reading, since it outlines just about every business scenario that an artist might come up against. The best part is that it’s written in plain English so that even complex ideas (and there are lots of them in the music business) are easy to follow. Highly recommended.

 

Music Registry4. The Music Business Registry
This is actually the site for a series of different specialized registry’s, including Film & TV, A&R, Publisher, Attorney, Music Blogs and more. If you need some contacts in the music business, this is a way to find them.

 

 

This Is Your Brain On Music5. This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science Of A Human Obsession
This is indirectly about the business of music in that if you know the phycology of how your music works on your fans (and you, for that matter), then you’ll be in a better position to present and promote it to them. Fascinating!

 

lynda.com6. Lynda.com Video Courses
Lastly, you’ll find all sorts of great business and software courses on Lynda.com, the absolute best portal for learning on the Web. If you’re into Social Media, Mixing, Recording, or Mastering, you’ll find some of my courses there as well, but just about anything else you can think of that revolves around tech or business is available there. Here’s a free 7 day trail pass.

Social-Media-Promotion7. Social Media Promotion For Musicians

If you’re interested in some big picture strategies about how to approach your online presence this is the book for you. Although some of the social aspects are a little dated, the approach to your online music and video promotion is still current.

Each of the above makes a great holiday gift, but don’t forget to treat yourself to a present as well!

Radiohead “Creep” Isolated Vocals

Radiohead CreepRadiohead has engendered respect from artists and fans alike for following its own path and not being afraid to follow its muse. In fact, many consider the band to be the Pink Floyd of their time in many ways. “Creep” was the band’s first single and later appeared on its first album Pablo Honey. Not an initial success, it took a rerelease a couple of years later to actually catch on. The song was reported to have been recorded in a single take, and has been covered by everyone from Macy Gray to The Pretenders. Here’s what to listen for.

1. There’s a nice long delayed reverb on the vocal that’s fairly dark sounding. That’s the only effect used.

2. Thom Yorke gives a great vocal, but it sounds like it was done with one take (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s a bit pitchy in spots, especially at the end of phrases, something that probably no one has ever noticed in the context of the mix.

3. There are some lip smacks and breaths that are left in. They just add to the intimacy of the vocal.

4. There’s also some distortion during the bridge from an overload somewhere in the signal chain. It’s all about the performance though, so who cares?

December 15, 2016

10 Cool Christmas Gifts For Musicians And Engineers 2016

We could all use a little bit of shopping help when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the people around us in the music and recording business. If you’re in a quandary about what to buy, you’re in luck as I have a list of recommendations that covers a wide variety of items and price ranges. All of these following products I use regularly.

earpeace1. EarPeace Hearing Protectors  I personally never go into a loud audio situation without these little gems. They are soooo much better than foam or wax earplugs in that they cut the level down without affecting the frequency response, plus you get an extra one with each pair! Since I found these EarPeaces, I feel absolutely naked and scared when I don’t have them on me. At less than $20, you just can’t go wrong.

Equator D5 monitors2. Equator D5 Monitors
Want to know my secret weapon when it comes to mixing? It’s these little Equator coaxial monitors. I’ve used them on every mix for the last 3 years and all I can say is they’re the best small monitor (5 inch woofer) I’ve ever used. You just can’t find a better pair of speakers at this price point ($449) anywhere. Get the matching isolation pads too, an absolute bargain at $20!

 

blocklite3. Blocklite  This goes under the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Blocklite is a simple LED add-on to any 9 volt battery that turns it into a flashlight that’s perfect for checking all those dark spaces during a session or show. Cheap too at only $19.95 for a package of 3 including the batteries!

 

Radial JDI direct box4. Radial JDI Direct Box
This is the best DI on the market, period. It’s built like a tank and will last forever, and captures the low end that those cheap DI’s could only dream about. You need at least one of these. At $199, it’s still a bargain and you will hear the difference immediately.

 

Monoprice 8323 headphones5. Monoprice 8323 Headphones  It’s shocking how good these phones are for $28. They’re pretty comfortable, have a really tight fit, and provide a surprisingly balanced sound. In fact, I would trust the low end on the 8323’s more than on a couple alternatives that I have that cost 4 or 5 times more. Don’t let the “DJ-style” in the description scare you, these are terrific for the price.

music-producers-handbook-2e-cover6. Books by Bobby Owsinski
Okay, so I’m a little biased, but if you’re looking for a book for someone in the music business, you’ll hopefully find one of mine that will hit the sweet spot. There’s something for everyone, including books on mixingrecordingrecording drumsmastering, being a studio musician or a touring musicianimproving your bandproducing, navigating the new music businesssocial media for musiciansstudio buildingguitar tone, and making videos. From about $16 to $30.

Golden Age Pre 73 MK37. Golden Age Project Pre-73 Mic Preamp 
Everybody wants a Neve preamp but a lot of us can’t spring for a couple of channels of 1073s. The Golden Age Project Pre73 was built to sound a lot like the 1073 and it does a pretty good job of it (and the latest MK III version is even better). It’s not the real thing, but for only $379 it’s surprising how close it gets. If that’s too expensive, get the Pre73 JR version for only $249. The Pre73 is what I use for my podcast voice.

lynda.com8. Lynda.com Online Training Tutorials  If you don’t know about Lynda.com then you really should. They’re the #1 portal on the Internet for video learning, with over 3800 high-quality courses on just about any kind of tech you can think of. While you’re there, check out the courses I’ve done for Lynda. Lynda is just $24.99 for a full month, which allows you to access as many courses as you can watch. Here’s a free 7 day trial.

Warm Audio WA769. Warm Audio WA76 Compressor/Limiter
I happen to think that the 1176 was the best compressor/limiter ever invented, since it works on just about any source and even does things that no other compressor on the market can do. A vintage 1176 (or even a new UA model) will set you back a bundle, but you can get so close you might not tell the difference with the Warm Audio’s WA-76. I liked it so much I bought 3. An absolute steal at $599. Also check out their great API-style WA12 mic preamp as well (I own a couple of those too).

snark-sn1-tuner10. Snark SN-1 Guitar Tuner  We’ve all gotten used to using software guitar tuners, but when you want to tune as fast as possible, this is the best tuner I’ve found. It clips right onto the guitar so you don’t even have to plug it in, and it even has a built-in metronome. At $9.95 each, it’s unbeatable.

Why Do Guitar Amp Speakers Sound So Different?

Guitar SpeakerMost guitar players are blissfully unaware of the details of the speakers they’re playing through. Sure, they may know what size the speakers are and how many are in the cabinet, but other than that, they have no idea about how much of an effect the make of the speaker can have on the sound. Here’s a brief excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with Rich Tozzoli) that explains why they sound the way they do.

“Size

The size of a speaker has a great deal to do with the way it sounds. As you’ve probably noticed, an 8 inch sounds different than a 10 inch, which sounds different from a 12 inch, which sounds different from a 15 inch speaker. The reason is simple physics; the larger the cone, the more energy it takes to get it moving so the high end and the attack time won’t be as good as a speaker that’s smaller. Conversely, a smaller speaker has poorer low frequency response because it has less cone area to move air.

As a result, you’ll notice that an 8 inch speaker won’t have nearly as much bottom end as a 15 inch speaker, and the 15 with have quite the top end of a 10 inch speaker. That’s why 12 inch speakers are mostly used for guitar rigs; they’re a nice compromise between the two.

Number Of Speakers

That being said, the number of speakers in a cabinet can also have an affect on both the volume level and the low end. The more speakers that acoustically couple together, the more effective cone mass you have. As a result, a cabinet with two 12 inch speakers  gives you 24 inches of cone mass while a a cabinet with four 10’s (like Fender’s original Bassman) gives you 40 inches. Of course, other factors like resonant frequency are involved, but this is a simple way to look at it.

Speaker Wattage

Contrary to what you might think, lower wattage speakers usually sound better than high-wattage ones. High-wattage speakers have heavier cones and surrounds that change the response of the speaker and therefore the tone. Because the cone is heavier, it slower to move when a signal is applied so the high frequency response isn’t as good as one with a thinner cone.

Other things that change in a higher wattage speaker is the diameter of the voice coil and the type of wire used for it are usually larger, which again changes the speaker’s response. A heavier magnet is also required because the voice coil is a bit heavier to move.

As a result, what you have is a speaker that’s harder to blow up, but also one that has a different frequency response and doesn’t break up as easily, which may be an important trait of your sound.

Magnet Structure

There are three different types of materials used in speaker magnets, Alnico, Ceramic, and Neodymium, with each material having a distinctly different effect on the tonal characteristics of the speaker.

  • Alnico, an alloy of aluminum, nickel and cobalt, is the magnetic material used in the original speakers in all the vintage amps. It produces a classic tone that’s warmer and sweeter at lower volumes that many players feel reacts faster to the touch. Alnico was used for decades because of its strong magnetic field, but once the alloy became a bit pricey, many manufacturers opted for speakers with the less expensive ceramic magnets.
  • Ceramic magnets were developed as an inexpensive alternative to Alnico and have the advantage of being more versatile with a wider range of tones. Speakers with ceramic magnets tend to weigh more, but generally handle more power and sound better at high volumes. 
  • Neodymium is the latest development in speaker magnet material. It’s not as expensive as Alnico but costs a bit more than ceramic magnet speakers. It has the advantages of both weighing about 50% less than other speakers and having stronger magnetic properties. Speakers made from neodymium respond to a player’s touch similar to Alnicos and have a well balanced frequency response.”
December 13, 2016

Sphere Modeling Mic Creator Chris Townsend On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Chris TownsendWe’d all like to have a mic cabinet filled with the most coveted vintage mics, but few of us can afford even one of those beauties. That may all change thanks to the new generation of modeling microphones, which bring you an excellent rendition of the best of the best in vintage mics in one package at a reasonable price.

Chris Townsend is the creator of the Sphere L22 modeling mic, and he’s on this week’s podcast to tell us all about it, and why we should consider a modeler in the future.

I must tell you that his voice was recorded on one of his mics in the U47 mode, and it sounds fabulous, but you can hear it for yourself when you tune in.

On the intro I’ll look at how virtual reality may be a boon to live music, and the potential cyber-security risk facing us with our studio gear.

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

Mixing Synth Bass And Real Bass Tracks

synth bassSometimes synth bass tracks are a real bear to get to fit into the mix, but add a real bass to that and many mixers will be pulling their hair out before they make it work. That’s because a synth can have way more low end than a bass and it’s not always easy to tame. At the same time, it can also have a very wide frequency range that gets in the way with other instruments in the mix. That makes mixing synth and real bass especially tricky.

Here’s a video by Ryan West that features some Softube plugins that can help keep both synth and real bass under control and really working in the mix.

New Music Gear Monday: Mojave Audio MA-1000 Microphone

Mojave Audio MA-1000There are lots of great microphones available today that either try to directly copy one of the vintage classic mics, or use it as a starting point for an updated version. So why does the world need another one? Well, when it comes from the mind of the super inventive David Royer, its something that you have to sit up and take notice, which is why the Mojave Audio MA-1000 large diaphragm condenser mic should be on a “must try” list for anyone in the market for a new high-end microphone.

The MA-1000 is part of a new Signature Series and goes for that old Austrian/German sound by using an original new old-stock 5840 tube, a 1 inch 3 microns thin 251-style capsule, and a custom-designed transformer built by Coast Magnetics. Like most tube mics, the pickup pattern can be continuously controlled on the power supply, and the mic itself features both a switchable 15dB pad and 6dB per octave bass roll-off centered at 100Hz.

This mic sounds big and you notice it as soon as you push the fader up. It’s has the same bass extension that we’ve come to expect from those classic large diaphragm condenser mics that we’re all so fond of and can’t afford. And it has the same air that we equate with some of the best vintage mics but with even better definition as well. I absolutely fell in love with the MA-1000 in omni for vocals and dialog recording. Don’t get me wrong, a little proximity effect can be nice and you can easily dial it in with the pattern control, but if you want a vocal free from big pops and a muddy bottom, omni’s the way to go, and with the MA-1000, it’s about as good as it gets.

The thing about vintage mics is that they’re so expensive and most of the time they’re somewhat trashed after 50 years of service, so most don’t sound as good as they used to. The MA-1000 is only $2,495 and for that  you get something that will beat the pants off of most vintage mics (and their knock-offs for that matter) and be at its best for a long time.

The Mojave Audio MA-1000 comes with a very substantial carrying case (the folks at Mojave really went overboard here), a shock mount, and Mogami multi-core mic/supply cable. You can find out the details on the dedicated Mojave Audio page, or watch the video below.

December 9, 2016

A Listen To The Beatle’s Decca Audition Tape

The Beatles Decca demoThe Beatles, arguably the greatest music group of all time, were turned down by every record label they went to until a little arm twisting landed them on George Martin’s Parlophone label. One listen to this audition tape that the band did for Decca Records  leads you to understand why everyone passed however. The band played songs from their live show, and while certainly competent, didn’t provide even an inkling of what was to come later.

The audition took place in London at Decca Studios on New Year’s Day in 1962. The group (which included original drummer Pete Best) travelled down from Liverpool through a snowstorm with driver and roadie Neil Aspinall to arrive just in time for the 11am audition. Brian Epstein had travelled separately by train. The Beatles recorded 15 songs altogether with 5 of them,  “Three Cool Cats,” “The Sheik Of Araby,” “Like Dreamers Do and Hello Little Girl,” eventually appearing on the Anthology 1 collection in 1995.

Here’s the track listing.

01. Money (That’s What I Want) [0:00]

02. To Know Her Is To Love Her [2:26]

03. Memphis, Tennessee [5:01]

04. Till There Was You [7:22]

05. Sure To Fall (In Love With You) [10:23]

06. Besame Mucho [12:27]

07. Love Of The Loved [15:07]

08. September In The Rain [17:00]

09. Take Good Care Of My Baby [18:57]

10. Crying, Waiting, Hoping [21:26]

 The lesson here is to never judge a book by its cover, because you just never know if there’s greatness that lies within.

December 8, 2016

The 27 Foot Long Loudspeaker

the-27-foot-long-speaker

It’s 27 feet long!

Audiophiles can be quite obsessive, and when you’re an engineer it can make that obsession even worse. In the 1930s engineer Roderick Denman built a huge loudspeaker into the roof of his house that faced straight downward into an octagonal listening area that he used for the flare of his giant horn, which extended some 20 feet. There he placed a few reclining chairs. Basically, you were sitting entirely inside the speaker when you listened!

In order to get the best frequency response from the horn, it had to be large and straight. Many horns of the day were curved, which provided great low end response, but limited the highs, which why the only way Denman could could achieve such a large horn was to build it as part of his house.

Western Electric 55W driver

Western Electric 55W driver

The compression driver used to drive the horn was the then new Western Electric 555W (see on the right), designed by the famous Bell Labs and said to be one of the greatest speakers ever made. They have run in theaters for more than 60 years and today are bought and sold for thousands of dollars.

The loudspeaker was used for demonstrations until a wall fell on it during WWII and it was almost destroyed. Since then it’s been part of the Scientific Museum at Blythe House in the UK, but it wasn’t until recently that sound artist in residence Alex Kolkowski decided to build a modern version of it according to the original specification.

expohorn02

After 8 months the speaker is finally operational and on display at the museum. It’s also working again with the help of the original driver, and has a frequency response of 32Hz to 6kHz.

Those of us who grew up with horn-loaded speakers know how good they can sound under the right circumstances. They’re very efficient and directional, which is great for live sound, but also pretty bulky, which is why line-arrays are used in virtually every sound reinforcement situation today. Too bad, because they sounded great.

That said, it’s very cool that Denman’s horn has been recreated and available for all to see and hear again.