The Workbench

Check out what’s been on the occasionally-proverbial workbench lately.

More studio construction fun

Posted March 11, 2011 @ 11:43 am | Filed under: The Workbench

Finally after a several-month-long break, we got a little more studio work done. Some of the glass block windows are in, the inter-room double-pane window is installed, the insulation is up, a lot more wiring is done, a ventilation system is in place, and a lot of beer has found its final rest. I’ll just let the images speak for themselves:



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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Little Bit Of Real Studio Progress

Posted December 14, 2010 @ 8:49 pm | Filed under: The Workbench

So after a period of relative inactivity on the sound production front, a new studio is finally in the works. With the help of the rest of the YLS crew and input from our friend / sound production genius Darren Morton, it will be done right. We hope.

The studio will be a classic don’t-touch-the-rest-of-the-house basement studio (i.e., let’s not mess up the resale value of the house), in a space with a total of about 490 square feet. This space will be divided into two rooms, one which is thoroughly sound-proofed for rehearsal/recording, and another which is less-thoroughly sound-proofed but still nice and quiet and, more importantly, tuned for monitoring/mixing.

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Tube Screamer clone kit from BYOC

Posted November 16, 2010 @ 5:24 pm | Filed under: High Fidelity,The Workbench

I recently built a clone of Ibanez’s Tube Screamer overdrive pedal, from a kit made by Build Your Own Clone. I also did a tremolo pedal kit, but I didn’t take any pictures of the building process.

There’s not really much to tell, because I was just following their directions– yeah, I’m a hacker-wannabe. It turned out to be a really enjoyable project though, and it only took me two evenings to do. The tremolo only took one evening, I assume because I knew what to expect and it’s a simpler kit. Hopefully these will open the door to more “personalized” DIY guitar projects in the future.

Oh, and how do they sound? Amazing, I must say. I’d post a sound clip but then you’d have one less reason to come to a YLS show. :)

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Antique Radio Computer Build

Posted October 12, 2010 @ 3:46 pm | Filed under: The Workbench

Over the course of the past six months or so, I’ve been working on rebuilding an antique stand-up radio console as a gift for my girlfriend. Here’s a quick rundown of the process:

Hardware setup

  • First, we got a five-ish foot radio console from an antique store. We thought the price was pretty reasonable.
  • Once I got it to her house, I removed all of the internal components. This included a big old tube-driven radio tuner and amplifier.
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