Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Boston "Rock And Roll Band" Isolated Drums and Bass

It's fun to go back and listen to the hits from when rock was in its infancy to hear what the recording and production techniques were like back then. Here's a good example of one of the turning points in music production - it's "Rock and Roll Band" from Boston's first album.

This is really the song that started it all for the band as it's the one that first got the attention of both the band's managers and the record label. What you'll hear is Jim Masdea on drums and Boston leader Tom Scholz on bass. Here's what to listen for:

1. Listen to how tight the bass and drums are, and how near perfect both tracks are performed. The bass is sometimes ever so slightly ahead of the drums, but both are about perfect in their execution. That was a big departure in 1975 (when the song was recorded) when most songs still had a much looser feel, and it was a taste of what production would become a decade later.

2. The drums are in mono. They're very well-balanced (especially the ride cymbal, which is usually lost on most recordings) and have a nice medium dark reverb on them that doesn't get in the way.

3. The sound of the bass is interesting. Leave it to Scholz to not record a bass as a bass. There's some sort of very short delay or modulation on it, so the midrange is mostly in the middle but the extreme low end is puffed out to the sides. Of course, you need to listen on headphones to really hear this.

Above all, this track still really holds up because it was made so well, and as always, a great song is always remembered.




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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sending Money Via Audio

Bitcoin audio key image
A Bitcoin Audio Key
Bitcoin is going to save the world, or not, depending upon who you talk to these days. It's part of a growing shadow economy built around encryption, secret keys and anonymity, and there's a lot to be said for that.

But that's not enough for many of the more spy-centric Bitcoin users. As a result, a company known as Sound Wallet has taken encryption to a new extreme by taking a BIP38 encrypted key and converting it to a sound file. The average listener just hears static, but if you use an Android app called AndroSpectro you can dig out the encrypted key from the noise.

That's still not enough for some paranoid users though, as a user called Krach will cut you a 7" vinyl record for the utmost in security. The burst of energy right at the beginning of the record contains the key, but then gradually blends into some harsh electronic music.

I guess you could call this the ultimate safe, since no one would even think to look through ones record collection for their money. Then again, for most of us banks still work OK.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

3 Tips For A Better Sounding iTunes Encode

iTunes mastering prep image
iTunes is becoming less and less important as downloads wane in desirability, but that doesn't mean you can ignore it completely. There are those that still want to purchase their songs, especially at higher sample and bit rates, so having the best sounding AAC files is still worth striving for.

In that spirit, here's an excerpt from the latest Mastering Engineer's Handbook 3rd edition that provides 3 tips for a better sounding iTunes encode.

"There are a number of tips to follow in order to get the best sound quality from an iTunes encode. As it turns out, the considerations are about the same as with MP3 encoding:


1. Turn it down a bit. A song that's flat-lined at -0.1 dBFS isn't going to encode as well as a song with some headroom. This is because the iTunes AAC encoder sometimes outputs a tad hotter than the source, so there's some inter-sample overloads that happen at that level that aren't detected on a typical peak meter, since all DACs respond differently to it. As a result, a level that doesn’t trigger an over on your DAW’s DAC may actually be an over on another playback unit.

If you back it down to -0.5 or even -1 dB, the encode will sound a lot better and your listener probably won't be able to tell much of a difference in level anyway. 

2. Don't squash the master too hard. Masters with some dynamic range encode better. Masters that are squeezed to within an inch of their life don't; it’s as simple as that. Listeners like it better too.

3. Although the new AAC encoder has a fantastic frequency response, sometimes rolling off a little of the extreme top end (16kHz and above) can help the encode as well.

Any type of data compression requires the same common sense considerations. If you back off on the level, the mix buss compression and the high frequencies, you’ll be surprised just how good your AAC encode can sound.

Remember that iTunes still does the AAC encoding. You're just providing a file that's been prepped to sound better after the encode.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

New Internet Speed Is10X Faster Than Google Fiber

Internet speed is becoming increasingly important to everyone who records. Being able to collaborate in real time, whether it be creatively during tracking or listening to a mix as it's going down, is becoming more the norm every day, so any increase in Internet speed is always most welcome.

Until now Google Fiber was thought to be the Internet speed record holder at around 1 gigabit per second, which is way faster than the average 10 megabit broadband speed that most of America uses right now. The problem with Google Fiber is that it's currently only been installed in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, and will take a lot of time and trillions of dollars to roll out across the US.

Now comes a brand new technology from the famous Bell Labs that raises speeds to a ridiculous 10 gigabits per second (10 times more than Google Fiber) called "XG-FAST." The speed is fantastic, but the real breakthrough is that these speeds can be had over the existing copper landline structure already in place instead of layer new fiber, something that scientists had thought to be theoretically impossible.

But there is a catch - XG-FAST is only working in the lab so far, so it's not anywhere near to coming to a computer near you, but then again, neither is Google Fiber. That said, I'd put my money on Bell Labs getting this in the hands of consumers like you and me way before the Google boys do. And it can't get here fast enough!
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

New Music Gear Monday: DDMF The Strip Plugin

DDMF The Strip image
There are some people who are in love with any and all things Neve, but even if that doesn't describe you, you'll still enjoy this new plugin by DDMF called The Strip.

The Strip sure does look somewhat like a vintage Neve channel strip, but it doesn't exactly try to emulate one. Instead it just goes for the best series of processors that it can be, which includes high and low pass filters, a 5 band EQ, a gate and a compressor. Plus the order of the order of the EQ and compressor is interchangeable, a nice feature not often found in channel strip-type plugins.

The Strip boasts some very low CPU usage so you can slap one on every channel if you want without having to worry about running out of processor power. It's also available for Windows and Mac OSX, and in VST, RTAS, AU and AAX 32 and 64 bit formats.

Best of all, it's only $39 until the end of September, with a free demo version available. Check it out!
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