so much talk online
everybody an expert
who can I believe
so much talk online
everybody an expert
who can I believe
Earlier this year I had the chance to work with composer Nathan Halpern on director Jeff Dupre’s documentary “Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace.” Wiley is one of the most significant contemporary painters; his work manages to accomplish many of the traditional functions of portraiture while intensely exploring issues of race, class, and hegemony.
The 44-minute documentary won the short-form doc category at SXSW earlier this year, and had its broadcast television debut 9/5/14 on PBS. You can get all the details here, and view the trailer at Vimeo.
The score was made primarily using the minimal setup you see above here: an Arturia mini-brute and a Korg MS20 with the oft-maligned but oh-so-versatile Line 6 POD Pro XT effects processor; my el-cheapo Alesis midi controller was also on-hand to operate various soft-synths since it can’t all be monophonic, all the time,,,,. Drums were primarily recorded at the big room at Gold Coast Recorders. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while and have ever wondered, ‘but what does he DOOOOOO with all that stuff?’, well, here’s your chance to find out. I write a lot of music for television, but rarely is a project so near+dear to my heart, both musically and thematically.
(Above: the prototype) A client contacted me recently regarding his 1960’s Akai stereo tube tape machine. Apparently there is a popular internet ‘meme’ based around the modification of these units (the same machine was marketed under both the Akai and Roberts brand names). Here’s an example of one of these DIY sites. Handy types are encouraged to turn these stereo tape decks into four independent microphone preamps, and step-by-step instructions are available. Anyhow, my client is an engineer at a busy commercial studio in Brooklyn NY and he had purchased one of these machines in order to have this mod performed. After a look over the instructions and forum info, it was clear that these mods would present some challenges for use in a pro studio – especially as far as impedance and output level are concerned. My advice was: leave the Akai alone! And spend the money instead on a fresh build that utilized the most significant/interesting parts of this project, add a ton of useful add’l features, and pushes full +22 output level at 600 ohms.
Above is the Akai preamp with the popular ‘Ron Childers’ modification notes added (I can’t seem to recall where I found this – if someone has an attribution link, pls LMK and I will add it). I began the prototype by building it as you see here, taking the output from the cathode of V2B. It was quickly apparent that the cathode of the 12AX7 was incapable of driving a 15K:600 output transformer to a high enough level. The solution was to replace the entire V2A/V2B section with a 12Au7-based voltage amp plus cathode follower similar to this classic RCA design:
I repo’d the gain pot between the EF86 input stage and the first stage of the 12AU7, also adding a 1/4″ switching jack immediately ahead of the pot so that medium impedance (nominal 10K ohm) signals could be ‘directly injected’ into the 12Au7 stages (ideal for adding a little bit of gain and/or crunch to drum machines and synths). Also as per my client’s request I added phantom power and my familiar variable output pad (see here and here for video). The pad is fully bypass-able via the TPDT switch located directly above the pot.
At left of the image above is input transformer. It’s a shielded unit as found in the ubiquitous Shure M67 ‘Mic Mixer’ that was sold in huge numbers for decades to churches, civic institutions, etc.
Many of the online Akai/Roberts discussions recommend using the 4 input transformers as-found in these units as donors for the ‘4 channel’ mod. My client was significantly intrigued by this as to request the same thing. Luckily I had a spare M67 in stock (these things are readily available in the $10 – $50 price range) and so I pulled a transformer from it.
Above: T. Walsh at Gold Coast Recorders
I was pretty suspicious about the quality of these Shure transformers; even though they spec’d out OK as far as measured frequency response, I would have been much more inclined to use my standard Jensen 115 input transformer as I do in 90% of units that I build. I thought that the best thing to do was to really put the prototype unit through it’s paces. T. Walsh, himself an Akai machine owner, was kind enough to come to Gold Coast Recorders where we spent 3 hours writing and recording an entire pop track using only the prototype preamp on every source: drum kit (a Telefunken tube mic, in front), vocals (can’t recall,,,) , acoustic guitars (U87), hi hat (460), percussion (Royer), and all synths and drum machines were likewise routed through the front-panel input of the unit. I figured that if my client liked what he heard in the recording, he could make up his own mind regarding the suitability of the input transformer. Here’s the track. The lyrics are an homage to the Akai unit itself:
Anyhow, my client was happy with what he heard, so I proceeded to building the 2-channel unit that he had requested. It is near completion and I will post a follow-up once it has been delivered.
Above: the BRDCSTR in Somers’ outboard rack, left side, third from bottom
Thanks to reader EL for reporting that Sigur Ros’ engineer Alex Somers made mention of his Olmsted ‘BRDCSTR’ preamp in the Sept 2013 issue of AudioTechnology magazine. The context was a thorough piece written by Paul Tingen on the making of Sigur Ros seventh studio LP “Kveikur.” According to Somers, “When recording (Sigur Ros Vocalist) Jonsi, I used a Neumann U47… we mostly used a really cool preamp made by Preservation Sound.”
See below for the full text.
It’s very hard to find vintage BRAUN hi-fi gear in the states; i’ve seen some amazing BRAUN receivers in Canada, but they either were not sold here, or poorly distributed, because they just ain’t around. Sporting a design aesthetic that would be popularized in the NAD, ADS, and PROTON lines of the 80s, BRAUN kit owed it’s beautiful, so-far-ahead-of-its-time character to Dieter Rams. Rams put his stamp on a huge range of goods for BRAUN; I once found a Rams-designed mini desk fan (!) that was shockingly valuable as a collectors item. Anyhow, here’s a great synopsis of the career of a man who’s ideal could be summed up as Less But Better: CLICK HERE.
Via Wikipedia, here are Rams’ ten principles off good design. Enjoy.
I’d never been particularly interested in learning solid state electronics. There just didn’t seem much point; considering that you can buy a 4-channel Sytek mic preamp for $900, there just ain’t much to motivate anyone to DIY ss kit. Tube stuff is another matter – it’s a different sound, and well-made ‘real’ high-plate-voltage, transformer i/0 tube gear is super-expensive. So I learned to make the tube gear both for my own studio and as a way to make some add’l income by custom-building for other engineers.
All that being said, there is an undeniable appeal to be able to build something useful that doesn’t require a heater circuit and the attendant 60-cycle-hum battles that come from those hi-current windings. Solid state is just easier, which is prolly why it has won-out in the world of consumer electronics, if not necessarily in the pro-audio world. In my endless diggin for ancient tubes and transformers and bakelite meters I invariably come across stashes of ole germanium and silicon transistors, and I recently decided to take the plunge and try and cross this bridge once and for all. Cos I can talk tubes and tube audio circuits up+down, but frankly I don’t know shit abt solid-state and maybe it’s time I learned.
DOWNLOAD THREE CIRCUITS FROM RCA HM-80:RCA_SS_Hobby_1968
The old RCA Tube Manuals have always been my primary source of information for my tube-audio builds and experiments. The circuits that they recommend are the most solid, reliable, and practical that you will ever find. I trust them implicitly. And why not? After all, this was the company that made the tubes themselves! So when I decided to try and get into SS, I started with the RCA Solid-State Hobby Circuits Manual. In the scan above you will find a mic preamp, a line-level compressor, and a fuzz pedal. I’ll be building all three eventually and I will LYK how it goes. In the meantime, if any of y’all beat me to it, drop us a line and report back,,,
“ROCK SCENE” was a musician-oriented newsprint rag published out of Bethany CT from 1973 – 1982. Now, Bethany is a sorta non-place just north of New Haven perhaps most notable for its Book Barn. So the fact a new-wave/punk-loving magazine came out of here back in the day is pretty amazing. NEways, I was flipping thru some cartons of old garbage at the Flea Mkt recently and I came across the 09/80 issue. Top story: CONNECTICUT ROCK REPORT.
DOWNLOAD THE 1980 CT ROCK REPORT: CT_Rock_1980
Being a rocker in CT is kinda like being a (what) in (where). So, CT rockers of ’80: we salute you. You are our past, and our future.
BTW: some wonderful absolute fkkn nutcase, glob bless him, has scanned EVERY FKKN PAGE of EVERY FKKN ISSUE of ‘Rock Scene’ and you can waste a ton of yr employer’s money by clicking this link.
SOOooo it’s been almost a month since I’ve written anything here. Things have gotten quite busy around PS HQ, what with custom fabrication work for clients, sessions and equipment upgrades at Gold Coast Recorders and other assignments of which I will spare you the details. Thanks to a few helpful contributors, I still have dozens of issues of the old DB mag and hundreds of pieces of obscure 70s/80s pro-audio and high-end consumer hifi literature to dig thru+upload for y’alls edification. In the meantime, if you ever need a jolt of weird old audio flotsam, bookmark my Instagram and have a look. I keep pretty active on there,,,
For you today: a profile of Manta Sound Toronro from DB mag way back in ’72. According to this source,
“In the early 1970s, the audio shop was a Canadian recording pioneer thanks to its famous Studio 2 that could accommodate up to 70-piece orchestras. Studio 2 made it possible to do more complex recordings than had been done in Canada before, Potma says. Studio 2′s rich history also includes providing the facilities in 1985 as the Canadian music industry gathered to record Tears Are Not Enough for famine relief in Ethiopia. Artists involved included Young, Bryan Adams, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Platinum Blonde. ‘It seems like a century or two ago,’ Potma says. ‘That was huge. That was probably the biggest thing that we ever did – our little part of that.’ More recently, Manta completed a James Brown recording for the Jackie Chan actioner The Tuxedo, filming around Toronto. *
Tomorrow morning: 7AM-9AM EST (that’s NYC time, buddy) I will be doing a guest DJ set on-air at WPKN, 89.5 FM.
If yr in the NYC metro area, you can tune in as you sit in traffic on I-95/the LIE/the Merritt/ etc.
Or just visit the WPKN website and click the ‘Listen Now’ button.
I ‘ve put together a set of electro and electro-pop from my LP stacks. All vinyl, folks. No cheating.
‘PKN is a wonderful listener-supported radio station that has been a big part of my musical life since I was a kid. Just some artists that I discovered via this venerable institution: