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Monthly Archives: February 2017

New Music Gear Monday: Aston Starlight Laser Targeting Microphone

Aston StarlightFrom the beginning of recording time we’ve been aiming microphones at the source by eye when first setting up. For the most part they’re pretty forgiving if we don’t point them exactly perfectly, and a quick listen will tell us if we need to adjust. But wouldn’t it be cool if there was a more precise way to position a microphone? Now there is with the new Aston Starlight laser targeting microphone.

The Aston Starlight is a small diaphragm condenser mic that features a built-in class 2 laser (the same strength as what you’ll find in a laser pointer) to show you exactly where the mic is pointing. I know that Sennheiser experimented with some prototypes of something similar 7 or 8 years ago, but the Starlight is the first mic to actually go into production with this technology. The laser can be turned on or off with a chassis mounted switch.

It would be cool enough if that was the only unique feature of the mic, but there’s a lot more. The mic features a sintered metal head over the diaphragm, and a 100% stainless tumbled steel chassis, making it virtually indestructible (just like the old E/V mics). The sintered head is made up of micro ball bearings that can be manufactured in such a way as to tune both the capsule and the cavity around it.

There’s more. The Starlight also contains a unique voicing circuit that gives the mic 3 different sounds. When Vintage is selected on the 3 way switch, the mic has a lift in the bass frequencies and a gentle rolloff in the top end. The Modern position provides more of a flat frequency response, and the Hybrid gives a combination of both. There’s also a 3 position bass rolloff switch, and a pad switch that provides both -10 and -20dB pads.

The Aston Starlight is also priced very reasonably. The mic has a street price of $349 while a stereo pair goes for $699 and includes a stereo bar. You can visit the dedicated page at AstonMics.com or check out the video below.

The Bee Gees “Staying Alive” Isolated Vocals

Staying Alive The Bee GeesSome might argue that “Staying Alive,” both song and the movie, heralded in the disco age. It’s certainly a song that everyone knows as it was iconic for the time as has seeped into our musical heritage. Whether you like disco or not, the Bee Gees had a sound that was entirely unique and hasn’t been duplicated since. There’s something about brothers singing together that produces a blend like no other, and it’s evidenced here on this isolated vocal track. Here’s what to listen for.

1.  There’s a quarter note delay with a single repeat on the vocals that also has some short room on it. This delay is pretty loud when you hear it by itself, but it disappears into the mix when all the instruments are added (that’s what timed delays do).

2. Barry Gibb’s lead falsetto vocal is by itself, but you’ll hear certain phrases doubled that aren’t obvious in the final mix.

3. The B-section and chorus harmonies are doubled, which is why they’re so thick.

4. The bridge (“Going nowhere…”) full voice track is doubled, but it has a different sound to it than the other sections of the song, which makes me think it was an overdub done on a different day.

5. You can hear a lot of breaths in between words on the lead vocal. Today a producer would be tempted to eliminate them, but they add urgency to the track here.

The Bee Gees were certainly artists of the highest caliber. Great melodies, great changes (although not so much in this song), great lyrics, great harmonies. Always a pleasure to listen to.

Easy Edits For That Distorted Guitar

Distorted guitar editingHere’s a great distorted guitar recording tip that I got from Richard Chycki, engineer for Rush, Dream Theater, Aerosmith and many more. I liked it so much I’ve used it on every session since, and included it in the latest version of my Recording Engineer’s Handbook as well.

Distorted electric guitar is notoriously difficult to edit, since it’s difficult to see the attacks and releases of notes and phrases. A great way to make it easier is to always record a direct track along with the amplifier mic or amp emulator track. This track may never be used in the final mix, but will more easily show the natural edit points of the track.

On the graphic on the left, for instance, you’ll some some of the points between the clean and distorted guitar track that would be pretty hard to pick out normally since the waveforms don’t conform to the attacks of the individual notes because of the distortion. The clean direct track makes each attack pretty easy to see, so editing can be a breeze.

After editing, be sure to hide and disable the direct edit track to unclutter the mix window and free up system resources.

That said, these day’s, it’s always a good idea to have a direct track  along with the distorted or amp track anyway, since reamping and guitar simulators make it so easy to change the sound as needed during mixing. Thanks, Richard. This is one that I’ll be using for a long time!

February 1, 2017

The 4th Edition Of Bobby Owsinski’s Recording Engineer’s Handbook Now Available

Recording Engineer's Handbook 4th editionI’m proud to announce the fully updated fourth edition of my Recording Engineer’s Handbook, a complete compilation of the best recording techniques currently used today.

Along with the rich treasure trove of information from the previous versions of the book, the latest edition also includes new sections on immersive audio recording, electric guitar recording tricks, and DIY microphone and mic preamp kits. Best of all, the information is presented so that musicians, artists, engineers and producers at any level can learn both the basic and advanced skills required to make their recordings shine.

Among the many topics covered in The Recording Engineer’s Handbook 4th edition include:

  • An overview of recording elements, including microphones, preamps, compressors and DAWs, and the secret for getting great sounds even from inexpensive gear
  • Multiple miking techniques for just about any musical instrument or vocal, including how to choose the right mic for any recording situation
  • Prepping and recording drums and percussion, including the keys to a great sounding drum kit
  • Basic tracking and overdub advice and strategies, stereo and immersive audio recording techniques, and much more

Part 2 of the book also includes interviews that feature the wisdom and down-to-earth practical advice offered by a host recording professionals, including all-time greats like Al Schmitt, Eddie Kramer, and Ed Cherney. These hit-maker engineers share their expertise and creative processes behind not only today’s hits, but the classic cuts we’ve enjoyed for years.

The print version of The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, Fourth Edition can be purchased on Amazon, and now there’s a Kindle version as well. The book will also be available at retail book stores and the iTunes book store.

Distribution to colleges and universities is through Ingram. A table of contents and book excerpts can be found at bobbyowsinski.com/recording-engineers-handbook, and an Instructors Resource Kit featuring Powerpoint/Keynote presentations, discussion topics and quizzes for a 12 week semester is also available by request.