High Fidelity

Posts about music and sound production.

Getting Started in Audio Production

Posted September 13, 2012 @ 10:00 am | Filed under: High Fidelity,Reflections

The other day someone used the contact page, asking for some tips for someone getting started in audio. This particular person is planning to go to an audio engineering program. I’m certainly no expert, but there are a few things that I wish I’d known starting out. Here’s an edited and expanded version of my reply:

The best knowledge comes from experience. In fact, you should think of going into an engineerging program as “paying for experience” more than book-learning. I never learned audio engineering formally, but I learned by working as an “apprentice” of sorts (with Darren) at my college radio station, where I got exposure to all sorts of gear and had to think my way through unusual situations.

If I could give anyone who is starting out in audio a few tips, the list would look something like this (My experience is mainly in recording bands, so this will be geared towards that type of work, but still applicable to most anyone):

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A winding road to a tasty signal chain

Posted March 13, 2012 @ 3:01 pm | Filed under: High Fidelity

Amplifiers has been working on tracking at my place over the last few days, and last night we did some vocals. Ultimately, the signal chain was one I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but for various reasons I didn’t get around to really trying until now. The setup was:

Shure KSM-44 –>
Auditronics 110B Preamp & EQ –>
Universal Audio LA-3A (vintage) –>
Computer input (Layla 3G).

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Atari 2600 Guitar Stompbox

Posted January 11, 2012 @ 8:33 pm | Filed under: High Fidelity,The Workbench

So here’s one of those projects that sort of randomly materializes while rummaging through old stuff in the attic. I was looking for an enclosure to build a sort of “multi FX analog stompbox” for my guitar rig, when I found an old broken Atari 2600 in all its faux-wood-trimmed glory. Immediately the wheels started turning and I began taking it apart to see how much room was in there. Turns out there’s quite a bit of space, so I took to fitting a Line6 power supply PCB I’d recently scored on eBay into the bottom, and fitting the guts of a TU-2 tuner pedal, A/B switch, tremolo, and tube screamer clone into the top. Never has the Milwaukee rotary tool seen so much action.

Unfortunately my original design was full of fail because the power transformer ended up right next to a bunch of unbalanced, guitar-level signal wires. So the thing buzzed like crazy when I put it together, and no amount of shielding trickery could eliminate it. The next thing to try, then, was moving the supply into an external enclosure. For this, I found an old failed network hard drive (actually the little mainboard is fine, just one of the drives failed… don’t get me started on the stupidity of RAID-0) and gutted it. After adding a fuse and properly tying the enclosure to ground, I ran 8 discreet 9-volt DC lines out of the enclosure via CAT5 cables and added an RJ45 jack to the back of the Atari.

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Alive In The North Woods: Technical Details

Posted May 4, 2011 @ 2:05 pm | Filed under: High Fidelity

Yellow Lady Slipper recently released their (our) new live disc, called Alive In The North Woods. For those interested, here are some technical details about what went into producing it.

First, some background: The disc was compiled from two live shows done in the month of February 2011. The first show was at North Country Brewing Company (Slippery Rock, PA) and the other at Beans On Broad (Grove City, PA). We ended up with somewhere around 25 usable song takes, and whittled that down to a final 9 we were happy-ish with our performances on. We also decided we didn’t want to do any “cheating”, which we defined as: nothing that couldn’t be done live. So no overdubs, no wrong note or pitch correction aside from turning down the volume on a track, etc. We believe in “audio honesty”. ;)

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A lovely piece of aging technology, the Otari MX-5050 MKIII-8 is a 1/2-inch 8-track analog tape machine. It’s not as huge and glorious as some other models that are out there, but it’s also not nearly as expensive to operate. Which means, at current tape prices, about $2.40 per minute — whereas a 2″ 24-track machine (at 15ips) would cost about $7.50 per minute. Fortunately I happen to have a few reels of 1/2-inch tape to play with.

Here’s the back story on this beauty: it came from a local TV station, who wanted rid of it. Darren and I went to pick it up and noticed something else sitting in the transmitter building where it was housed… A pair of vintage Universal Audio LA-3a’s! The LA-3a is the little (solid-state) brother of the LA-2a, which is pretty much one of the most-used compressors in the whole recording industry. LA-3a’s can be heard on just about every guitar track from the 70s. So we asked nicely if they thought they’d need those junky (*ahem*) old things, and the technician from the station somewhat reluctantly let us take them as well! Darren fixed up and sold one of them, and the other he fixed up for us to use.

But back to the Otari… we hooked it up to our super-old Mackie mixer and recorded a few rehearsals with it. Aside from being helpful in allowing us to hear ourselves, the thing sounds incredible due to magnetic tape’s natural compression (when you push it a little bit) and softening EQ curve. It will almost certainly make an appearance on our future recordings, even if we track and edit the tunes in the computer and then use the Otari as a giant plugin.

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