Great tool for Recording!

Posted April 20, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Music, Recording and Mixing

This week, FabFilter is having a sale on their plug-ins.  All of their plug-ins are excellent tools, but I wanted to recommend two of them in particular.

The first is the Pro-Q EQ plug-in.  I know that all of the DAWS have good EQ plug-ins built in, but this one has some rather unique properties that make it worth having in the tool box.  One of the features that really helps me is the analyzer display.  There is a setting for Pre + Post analyzation.  This makes it super easy to see what you doing to the original sound coming in.  With the 26 parametric EQ points and the analyzer, the sounds can really be shaped in a very visual fashion.

Second plug-in from FabFilter that I like is the Pro-C Compressor (and by extension the Pro-L Limiter and Pro-MB Multi-band compressor).  Compression to most musicians is a black art… done right it seems to make things ‘better’, but done wrong can completely drive you crazy.  What I like about the Pro-C is that it shows you what it is doing as it is working.  By drawing a continuous line on the internal volume, one gets the ability to see things like the compression ratio and the release and attack.

Great plug-ins worth their full price, and even better on sale!

Line 6 2/3s a DreamStage Review…

Posted March 21, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Guitar Playing, Music

Quick review:

I *finally* got my Line 6 L3T and L3S speakers and subwoofers.  I was able to pick up floor models / demos at a great price, and was finally able to bring them home for last weekend’s gig.  There has not been a lot of talk of these speakers, other than the initial release.  I’ve heard them before, though, and especially connected to the Line 6 StageScape, and they sound amazing.  They are loud, but not piercing loud.  Cheaper speakers seem to have a lot of extra high frequencies that these speakers do not have.  They are very full sounding without being over bearing.  I love how the speakers connect digitally to the mixing board.  One cable from the board to a speaker, then daisy changing all the way out, with complete assignability.

Why did I say 2/3s?  We still have regular monitors.  I’m keeping my eyes out for the L2Ms for monitors!

I’m looking forward to using these for a LONG time!

NAMM thoughts, and a gig…

Posted January 26, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Guitar Playing, Music, Recording and Mixing

So, this week was NAMM.  NAMM is one of the large music creation / production industry trade shows, held out in California.  Most of the products announced here will show up over the next 6 months to a year.  This is where all the new toys, goodies, and trends start.  After reading a lot of the forums and following as much of the press as possible, I just wanted to sum up what seemed interesting to ME with some editorial on my thoughts (Your Mileage May Vary)…

First off, true Thunderbolt audio interfaces started showing up.  Between Motu‘s 828x, Zoom’s new interface, and Universal Audio‘s Apollo Twin, true Thunderbolt audio interfaces are finally showing up.  There is one small problem will all of the new interfaces though… no pass through.  For me, that’s a deal breaker.  I have 2011 Macbook Pro, which has a Thunderbolt port that pulls double duty as a Thunderbolt to DVI connector.  Which, makes these new audio devices pretty useless for me right now.  Still, it’s GREAT to see the Thunderbolt port being used, and with the Apollo, because the device is also being used to off-load effects, the PCIe bus allows for a LOT of streams to be going back and forth.  I’m surprised that more of the audio interfaces haven’t moved to ‘true’ USB 3.0, as that would open up a lot of bandwidth for higher input track counts.

Second, more and more digital mixers are getting built.  This is kind of a two edged sword.  Personally, I LOVE the new digital mixers and am amazed at what the companies like QSC, Allen and Heath, and Behringer are putting into the price point of what the old basic Mackie boards go for.  The counterpoint to that is the old saying ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.  These mixers can do amazing things if you understand what needs to be done, and you have someone actually running the board.  The Line 6 StageScape mixers are pretty unique in that they focus on doing the mixing as a musician would, not a sound tech.  From what I’ve read about the QSC mixers, they have a similar idea, but not as ‘friendly’ as the StageScape is.  The thing is, you still need someone to run the boards to get an effective mix.  I’ve been moonlighting with my P.A. to mix a friend of mine’s band.  It always amazes me how much adding or removing just 1 or 2 db of sound changes the mix.  Having someone who knows when to push the instruments forward and to pull them back can make the night much more enjoyable for the entire room.  It’s unfortunate that the clubs really aren’t paying groups enough to actually pay a sound tech to run the shows.  It would make a HUGE difference in the performances.  Back to the original subject, the new mixers are getting more and more amazing with each iteration.  The Behringer X18 (was the X16) looks like the biggest winner, if and when they get it out to the public.  It was supposed to be released last year, but a redesign came about, and it certainly looks worth it.  This space is certainly going to get better and better.

Finally, there was some guitar stuff that was interesting.  Fender’s new Strat Deluxe Plus, with it’s easy part replacement plus personality cards look really cool.  Talk about a tweaker’s delight!  Pickups can be changed with no wiring to do, and the characteristics of the pickups, selector switch, and tone knobs can be changed by popping in personality cards.  Very cool.  Everything else was a bit ho-hum.  Line 6′s ‘amplifier redesign’ looks interesting, but there seemed to be some basic features left out, like direct outs, that leave me scratching my head at the market that they are going for.  It’s also interesting that they are using the older Pod X3 technology, rather than the newer HD technology.  One company that wasn’t at NAMM, but had a really interesting beta release is the Fractal Audio Axe-FX II.  The guy who designs and builds those things is crazy about capturing the nuances of a tube amplifier in a DSP, and he is close, if not having already surpassed a good tube amp.  The Axe is on my ‘next to buy’ list.

So, how does this tie into playing a gig this weekend?

The music instrument business seems to be going into two different directions.  You either have insanely specialized equipment that is VERY expensive, or you have things that ‘do everything’ at rock bottom prices with lots of trade-offs.  The middle ground equipment seems to be getting lost.  I’ll go to the Line 6 example.  The new amp is interesting because it’s a digital amp that is controlled via bluetooth with an iPad or iPhone, but it still has some basic controls on the amp itself.  The power wattage is enough to play live, and the price is fairly inexpensive, but I doubt that many people will use them live.  There’s just too much that has to go right to get it to sound good.  Not putting in a line out takes away a lot of the usability.  Heck, I just ran a show for someone who had an old Line 6 Flextone III, and we used the XLR out directly to the board to get a great sound.  I guess it just feels like the companies are really focused on the bedroom musician, and not the performing musician.  Amps are either 100 watt tube monsters or 10 watt recording amps.  Same thing with the guitars, great quality instruments are either insanely expensive or not up to gigging standards.

And, the million dollar question is… do we actually NEED a lot of this stuff?  For my gig this weekend, my power supply that I use to run my pedals went haywire.  I couldn’t run my entire board like I normally do.  Fortunately, I had a backup power supply, but it only allowed me to run my most important pedals. (which were my wah, tuner, compressor, and noise gate) .  I ended up having a pretty stripped down sound, and you know what?  That was all I really needed to play for 4 sets.  (It’s fortunate that we don’t play too many ‘effect-y’ songs).

Still, it’s a great time to be a musician!  Lot’s of great tools to help produce better and better quality music!

I’m liking Apple’s support for Logic X

Posted January 10, 2014 by dscheidt
Categories: Computers - Apple Mac OS X, Hobbies, Music, Recording and Mixing

Seven releases in less than 8 months!  And here most people, myself included, thought Logic was dead inside Apple.  Apparently, X has a much better support team.  Some of the updates have been pretty small, but all have been very significant.

Great job Apple!

Wow… 9 years already

Posted December 25, 2013 by dscheidt
Categories: Blogging about blogging, Life in General

I knew that I started blogging in December… just didn’t realize it was over 9 years ago!!!!

What’s amazing is how much has changed in those nine years…

  • Homeowner
  • No more Corvettes, until I have enough money to actually keep one serviced correctly :)
  • Have stayed at my current job for almost 7 years
  • Have switched from Dev to DevOps
  • Have switched from PCs to Macs
  • Have actually been playing music, recording, mixing, and running sound for people rather than being academic
  • Cat changes (please do not ask me about it)
  • No longer a PRS only guitarist :)
  • Switched from flip phones to iPhone
  • Mainly use iPad around the house instead of a computer
  • Went from 1.5 meg DSL to 50+ meg cable
  • Went from a single CRT TV to two LED TVs
  • Gained weight, lost it, and then found it (and it brought friends)
  • Have performed more than 200 times for people during the time frame

To say the least, it’s been an amazing ride.  Looking forward to year 10, as this is a year with lots changing, and lots for me to write about.

A decent Christmas for once

Posted December 25, 2013 by dscheidt
Categories: Life in General

Good day today.  Since Christmas is probably one of only 3 days in the year that I can almost guarentee no support calls, I decided to do a quick one day trip to Walt Disney World.  Living in South Florida, playing tourist is a LOT easier here than it is for most people.  Unfortunately, I almost never do.  I’ve been thinking about a Disney Christmas for many years, but this year was the one that I finally got off my rear and did it.

And ya know what?

I had a blast!  Heck, I didn’t even ride any major rides.  I just got out, and spent a lot of time walking and just enjoying the day.  So, no rant about prices, lines, times, food, general rudeness, etc… All definitely could rile me up, but today was about relaxing and enjoying life.  I was lucky that I was able to even make it into the park, they hit capacity by 11 a.m. (I got into the park around 10:00).  Plus, having to focus on ‘dealing’ with it helped me be a lot more cheerful than I usually am during the holidays.

Now, if one is going there to ‘do Disney’, all I can say is Christmas is NOT the time.  Check the internet for best times to go, and follow that!  If you just want to enjoy some serious people watching, and can take the nuttiness, Christmas can be a LOT of fun.

New iPad Air day! And some thoughts on the latest Apple software

Posted November 2, 2013 by dscheidt
Categories: Computers - Apple Mac OS X

Wow… In case you missed Apple’s event last week, then you missed a TON of announcements.  Instead of the event being iPad focused with little info about the Macs, it was completely the opposite.  The event was 2/3rds Mac, and 1/3 iPad.  Quick summary:

  • More info about the Mac Pro
  • Update Mac Book Pros and Mac Book Airs
  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks released, free
  • iWork updated on both OS X and iOS, all free
  • iLife update on both OS X and iOS, all free
  • new full sized iPad, called iPad Air, shipping Nov 1st
  • new iPad mini, now with Retina, shipping sometime in Nov.

Being the stupid, bleeding edge person that I am, I almost immediately installed Mavericks, iWork, and iLife (plus the small update of Logic).  My initial first impressions are very positive.  The Mavericks upgrade is a no brainer.  Unless one has the initial 32-bit Intel processors (the absolute first Intel macs), Mavericks will install on a machine.

The good:  So far, the OS part of Mavericks is awesome.  The boot time on my MacBook Pro decreased significantly.  I don’t know if that’s because Mavericks has a better handle on my SSD, or if some other voodoo is going on, but the boot up, and general responsiveness of my computer seems to have gotten better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have benchmarks, but ‘it feels faster’ works for me.

The bad: I’m coming to grips with the changes in applications.  I’m one of the people who like the skeumorphic apps like the calendar, notepad, and contacts.  The new apps are a bit bland.  Sometimes, skeumorphisim really works.  In my Digital Audio Workstations, plug-ins that look like their real counterpart seem to be much more accepted than ones that have abstract interfaces.

Then there is some ugly:  The multi monitor implementation might work for most, but I hate it.  I’m just glad that there is a check box allowing one to go back to the ‘old’ screen system.  iBooks is another issue.  Did anyone actually try to READ a book on an mac with the iBooks program?  Trying to get a large, single page view is impossible.  I expect iBooks for Mac is why iBooks for iOS didn’t get updated.  The iBooks team has probably been feverishly working on iBooks for OS X, and had to rip out the features in the program to get it to ship.  Hopefully, iBooks will get updated a LOT.

As for the other apps, I don’t use Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, and Garageband that much.  Garageband is more and more ‘Logic Lite’ as the latest Logic features, like Drummer, are showing up in it.  The other apps seem to have regressed a bit, as lots of features have been pulled to allow the apps to get a solid baseline.  I expect the extra features will come back, but only when  the feature can be implemented across OS X, iOS, and the web sites.

All in all, the hardware and software are great update, and show that Apple isn’t only focusing on the phones and tablets.

 

I had also told myself before the presentation that my current iPad, the 3, was ‘good enough’.  Well, that’s until the iPad Air was announced.  A lot of people have been calling the iPad Air a ‘boring’ release.  As for me, once the iPad Air’s information showed up, I decided to sell the iPad 3, AND my iPad mini to fund an update to the Air.  What makes this release not boring TO ME was several things: one, the weight dropped by almost 30%.  The new Air falls squarely in the middle of an iPad 4 and an iPad mini for weight.  At the same time, the reduced the size of it and changed it to be more ‘iPad mini’ looking.  I’m undecided on if I like the shrinking of the size.  On one hand, one can use the Air one handed.  But for someone like me who uses a stylus a bit, the edges were exactly right.  Now, there’s no where to rest one’s wrist.  Next up, is the processor upgrade.  This one is huge.  The iPad 3 has always been a bit lag-y.  I’m sure the 4 helped, but I’d skipped that version.  Still, the new processor is MILES ahead of even the 4.  Plus, the 64-bit change over makes the processor a very interesting upgrade.  And finally, 128 gigs of memory.  Yes, this was there for the 4, but the extra space was not enough to cause me to go out and upgrade from the 3 to the 4.  However, when you put all of the features together, the iPad Air became a no brainer.

So far, so good.  Apple is executing well, and I’m personally very happy with all the new toys!

 


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