Episode 168 – We’re on life support

The silence is deafening.
Tell us what you’d like this podcast to focus on, because right now, we’re unsure as to why we’re not getting any feedback.
We love talking about pro audio recording, mixing, mastering and what-not, but we want to know that there is an audience for it.
Drop us an e-mail, hit us up on the Facebook page, or via twitter.

Also, Doc shares a couple of war stories from his career. I’m sure there’s many more where they came from!

Episode 167 – EQ

This episode, we talk all about equalizers, filter shapes, and all that other tonal-adjustment type stuff.
A couple of links I came up with (if you don’t mind some technical reading) are these:
The Rane page on Operator Adjustable Equalizers,
and this frequency bandwidth calculator.

If you want to follow my European travels, I’m on instagram @bruce_williams_photography


Graphic equalizers

API 560
The API 560 ‘lunchbox’ graphic EQ that Doc made reference to.

Klark-Technik DN370 1/3 octave graphic equalizer

Episode 166 – Audio hardware specifications

This episode, Doc dives into the hardware specs of some of his favourite pieces of gear.

Sennheiser MD421 (product page | pdf specs)
API 550B (product page | pdf specs)
Bock 47 (product page | pdf specs)
AKG C414 XLii (product page | pdf specs)
AKG C414 XLS (product page | pdf specs)
Neve 1073DPA (product page | pdf specs)
AEA R84 (product page | pdf specs)
Shure SM57 (product page | pdf specs)
Shure SM58 (product page | pdf specs)
Neumann TLM103 (product page | pdf specs)

Also mentioned in this episode, Bob Katz’ book, “Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science“,
Mixing techniques for the small studio“, by Mike Senior,
and my old favourite, “Mixing with your mind” by Mike Stavrou.

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Episode 165 – Stereo miking techniques

This episode, we’re going to dive into different stereo miking techniques, with samples for you to listen to, AND to download and play with!
But first, some follow up from ep#164.
WHY would you flip the polarity on the bottom mic of a snare?
Which somehow led off to a short discussion about room acoustics (a topic for a future episode, to be sure!), in which Doc mentioned a Company called RPG Inc, who specialises in room acoustic treatment.

Then, it’s on to the main topic of conversation…. stereo miking.
After a quick search, I found a couple of articles which covered most of the main stereo miking techniques.

1. The Pro Audio Files
2. Sweetwater

And because mid-side recording/mixing can be so fraught with danger (I’m not even sure I’ve rendered my recording properly, to be honest!), I’m including this link to Universal Audio, who has done a good write-up on the process.

The thread at Gearslutz that I mentioned can be found here.

And the post over at Recording Hacks that I mentioned can be found here.

The screen shots I’ve included are from Izotope’s amazing Insight metering plugin.
Izotope’s stuff certainly ain’t cheap, but I do highly recommend their software. Interestingly, Ozone is actually cheaper than what I quoted on the podcast (apologies to Izotope for that!).
Grab Ozone here, or you can just get Insight on its own here.

The Tony Faulkner article from Audio Technology magazine is right here.

Mics used in this experiment…

Rode NT4 stereo XY
Rode M5 matched pair
sE2200a cardioid condenser (This link is to the 2200a mk ll, but the mic I used is the original, which is no longer available)
Neumann U87 (Again, this link is to the ‘Ai’ version of the U87. The one at my disposal is roughly 40 years old, and judging by this wiki article is most likely the ‘i’ version, not the ‘Ai’)
AEA R84 ribbon

Sample #1 – XY @ 90°
Mics used: Rode NT4
Rode NT4 XY stereo microphone  XY at 90 degrees
Sample #2 – XY @ 135°
Mics used: Rode M5 matched pair
*No image*  XY at 135 degrees
Sample #3 – Spaced parallel pair @ 1m
Mics used: Rode M5 matched pair
Spaced parallel pair 100cm  Spaced pair at 100cm
Sample #4 – Spaced parallel pair @ 50cm
Mics used: Rode M5 matched pair
Spaced parallel pair 50cm  Spaced pair at 50cm
Sample #5 – Spaced parallel pair @ 1.5m
Mics used: Rode M5 matched pair
Spaced parallel pair 150cm  Spaced pair at 150cm
Sample #6 – Mid-side
Mics used: AEA R84 + sE2200a
Mid-side  mid-side
Sample #7 – Blumlein
Mics used: AEA R84 + Neumann U87
Blumlein  blumlein
Sample #8 – Faulkner phased array
2x fig 8, parallel @ 20cm
Mics used: R84 + U87
Faulkner phased array  faulkner phased array
Sample #9 – ORTF
outward facing, 110°, 17cm apart
Mics used: Rode M5 matched pair
ORTF  ortf

Samples 10-18 (in the downloadable assets) are collapsed mono renders of the same.

In hindsight, it would have lovely to be have had two figure 8 mics of the same brand at my disposal for the Blumlein and Falukner Phased Array recordings, but sadly, I had to make do with what I had.
I realise it’s not perfect. 🙁

Rendered wavs (as featured in the podcast)
Rendered wavs collapsed to mono
Source files

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Episode 164 – Microphone technique

Apologies on this one being a little late out of the gate. We had some minor technical issues which pushed recording back to Sunday morning!
This week, a quick explanation of why we’re NOT doing the stereo miking techniques episode right now, plus Doc talks about AF (audio frequency) transformers in pre-amps versus the power transformers you might encounter in a power supply.
For anyone interested in building their own components (something I’d love to try one day!), check out THAT Corporation and John Hardy Co. for components.
Then, we get onto a discussion about microphone technique. We discuss the difference between end-address and side-address microphones, and about placement of microphones relative to the source you’re trying to mic up.

Examples of side-address microphones:
My AEA R84 ribbon, a Neumann U87, an AKG C414, an AT4040.

Examples of end-address microphones:
Shure SM57, Electrovoice RE20, Sennheiser MD421 (this is the one Doc said can be incorrectly identified by the unwary as being a side-address design, when it is in fact, end-address).

A sketch of the layout of our studio complex at work. I’ve moved from CR#2 to CR#3.

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Episode 163 – Microphone preamps

This episode, Doc and I answer more of Dave King’s questions from ep #161.
Then, it’s on to a discussion of Proximity Effect,
the PiSound add-on for Raspberry Pi,
and microphone preamps.
Along the way, I found this concise preamp buying guide at Sweetwater, which is certainly worth a look when you’re next in the market for a preamp.
I also came across this interesting (if not particularly aesthetic!) page of questions and answers regarding in-depth stuff like impedance…
Musical Instrument Tube Amp Building, Maintaining and Modifying FAQ

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Episode 162 – Microphones

This episode, Doc and I go right back to square one to discuss microphones.

The different transduction types:
– dynamic
– condensor
– electret-condensor (used in cell phones etc)
– ribbon
– pzm (didn’t really get to go into these… another time!)

Polar patterns
– omnidirectional (completely closed on one side, relies on air PRESSURE)
– – For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that there is a tiny hole in the capsule to the rear of the diaphragm. This is so the microphone can compensate for long-term variations in air pressure. The hole is too small to affect its sonic characteristics. (source)
– figure 8 (open on both sides, relies on air pressure GRADIENT) Sound arriving from the sides presents equal pressure on both sides, hence the null.
– cardioid
– hyper cardioid
– super cardioid

I had planned on getting to proximity effect in this episode as well, but we just didn’t get there. Perhaps in another (or the next) episode. But hit the link if you’re keen to explore.

Also, this page on the Shure website has some good 3D graphics to represent polar patterns of microphones.

And the pdf version of the Neumann book, “Microphones for Studio and Home-Recording Applications” can be found here.
Interestingly, the title of the book has changed since my ‘dead-tree’ version was printed, AND the title on the front page of the pdf is not the same as what appears on page 2! But for all that, it’s a FANTASTIC resource if you really want the nitty-gritty on microphones.

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Episode 161 – Welcome aboard, Doc!

This episode, we welcome Doc Goldstein on board as co-host!
Doc and I chat about his background, and where we see this podcast going from here on out.
We also got a great question from Dave King about PC noise in a recording environment.
I also came across this handy infographic which explains the difference between audio compression and data compression.

Also, who knew? The depths of the ocean are quite noisy!

I came across this interesting quote from TapeOp #115 regarding the transfer from audio master tape to vinyl:

“The tape machines that were used to play the master tapes were fitted with an extra pre-listen head over to the left of the regular head stack. This head would sample the audio slightly before the regular playback head. The signal would be filtered and used to determine the speed of the leadscrew motor. This allowed the groove spacing to open up just before loud passages and close down during softer passages.”

Speaking of TapeOp…. They’ve just launched a new podcast!

And I’ve now launched a Sine Language Podcast page on Facebook. If you haven’t ‘liked’ it yet, head on over there and do so! Feel free to post questions and comments there, or e-mail us at our new e-mail address (mentioned in the podcast, and at the closer). That e-mail address will reach both Doc and myself.

Also mentioned in this ep, Mick Rooney’s fantastic AATranslator software.
Mick runs a project studio in Sydney’s western suburbs, called Suite Spot.
In the podcast, I mistakenly said “.com.au” but it’s actually just “.com”, if you’re wondering.

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Reason to believe

“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog
by the highway in a ditch
lookin’ down kinda puzzled
pokin’ that dog with a stick.
Got his car door flung open
he’s standin’ out on Highway 31.
Like if he stood there long enough
that dog’d get up and run”

Reason to Believe – Bruce Springsteen


OK, couldn’t resist that, given that Bruce is in town this week, and I saw him play for the zillionth time on Thursday night.
But there’s a reason for that quote.
You are probably thinking right about now that this podcast has faded for the second time, and that it wasn’t coming back. That it had become the proverbial dead dog lyin’ in a ditch.
Well, I’m here to announce that I’m poking it, and it is in fact, about to get back up and run.
As Shutters Inc listeners would no doubt attest, the “2 heads are better than one” philosophy works.
I mentioned late last year that I was kicking around the idea of bringing a co-host on board for Sine Language as well. And as fate would have it, the contributor to this podcast who always had to guard his identity, and who went by the nickname “My man in Hollywood”, has now retired from the industry.  But he still loves “talking shop” as much as I do, and he has expressed a willingness to come on board as co-host!
I’m super excited by this! You have no idea!
We’ve been nutting out the details over the last week or two, and it is my hope that the next episode will be out in… well, I don’t want to jinx it, but let’s just say, it’s not far off!
And it will be the moment when I can introduce him to you, and when we will jointly have the opportunity to lay out the roadmap for where Sine Language will go in the future.
His quote, upon reading the draft of this post…

“I would just say that I’m looking forward to the podcast and I expect that I will have to stay up on my toes to keep up, but I’ll do my best.”

Episode 160 – Manga-inspired audio

This week, Ernie wrote in to follow up on last episode’s e-mail.
Rob wrote to me to thank me for an e-mail I’d sent him a couple of weeks back.
He also included a link to this Italian song, which is pure gibberish intended to sound like English.
And then it’s on to another Dissection.
This time, a commercial from about 5 years ago, which was intentionally written and produced to sound like it was inspired by Manga comics.

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Episode 159 – Gain staging

This week, Ernie wrote asking about gain staging.
And Steve wrote to say:

a) he loved the Dissection (that’s good… there’s another on this ep!),
b) like Rob, he also hated the Pono, and
c) to ask my opinion on what’s driving the renewed interest in vinyl.

Rob also wrote to say he was impressed with the idea of the Dissection segment.

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Episode 158 – The initial Dissection

This week, Rob wrote to discuss the high fidelity audio needs (or lack thereof) of the smartphone media-consuming market.
And I introduce a new segment to the podcast called The Dissection.
If you find this of value, let me know.
Each episode, I will take a commercial I’ve made, and pull it apart, let you hear all the work parts, and then slowly reintroduce all the processing, plugins, automation, eq and whatever else until we get back to a final mix.
My intention is to share my workflow, my thinking, and my techniques behind creating radio commercials. Hopefully, this will be of benefit to the listener who wants to either:
A) follow in my footsteps (What? Are you crazy?),
B) create their own podcast intros and outros,
C) edit and mix audio dramas,
D) anything else that requires a multi-layered audio approach.

In this episode, it’s an ad for a paintball business. As well as breaking apart the mix, I’ve taken a bunch of screen grabs so you can see what settings I had where, and how stuff was routed.
All of this was done in Steinberg Nuendo 4.5 (software which is now about 7 years old, because my employer won’t upgrade it…. a rant for another day).

A primer for mixing a song (for non-audio engineers)

I have a mate who does rough mixes to send to me, prior to me doing a ‘real’ mix later on. His mixes always come to me with red lights all across the board, so I wrote the following as a guide to setting up a rough mix. Yeah, he’s a guitar player.
And before we move on, if you want to share this, please do. All I ask is that you attribute it to me. Thanks!

First off, understand that the reason we record and mix in higher resolutions than 16 bit is so that we don’t have to peg every meter to the ceiling. And there’s a very good reason for NOT wanting to peg every meter to the ceiling.
In an analogue console, you have hundreds of amplification stages…. mic preamps, channel faders, EQ boost/cut knobs, subgroup faders, the master channel faders…. all of these are amplifiers.
And an amplifier ALWAYS has one point (and one only) where its signal-to-noise ratio is optimum. And that point is what we refer to as “unity gain”.
Any point below unity gain means that the noise level is the same as at unity gain, but the signal is lower.
Any point above unity gain, and the amplifier circuit is starting to distort. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but many times, it’s not.
Now, the thing about the digital domain is that there is no headroom above 0dBFS. You hit zero, and you clip. Plain and simple.
So the benefit of 24 bit mixing is that we can build our mix lower on the meters, and not actually sacrifice any bit depth.
Every “bit” in our wordlength equates to 6dB of dynamic range. CD’s use 16 bit audio which equates to 96dB of dynamic range (vinyl has a range of about 70dB, studio-quality analogue tape had about 60, cassette tap about 45).
At the risk of this turning into an epic (if it hasn’t already), you should build your mixes starting with drums and bass peaking NO HIGHER than -20dBFS. You start there and bring in the next element to such a degree that it neither overpowers, nor is overpowered by, the drums and bass.
And you keep repeating that process. Bring in each new element so it just sits nicely in the mix.
If you follow this approach, you’ll end up with a finished mix which will most likely be peaking around -6dBFS (obviously, this depends on how complicated/dense the arrangement is), at which point, you slap a peak limiter across the master, set the output for -1dBFS and then apply as much threshold (to the limiter) as is needed to bring the whole mix up to 0dBFS.
And if you did it right, you will never need to go back and nudge the drums or bass higher.
If you find yourself doing this halfway through, or near the end of, the mixing process, then you’ve obviously introduced an element somewhere down the line TOO LOUD. So rather than pushing the drums or bass higher (more than likely to be heard over your guitars), pull the guitars back. That kind of perpetual ‘fader creep’ is what leads to you maxing out your faders, and having red lights all over your mix.
And if your mix only peaks at -12dBFS…. so what?
At 6dB per bit, you’re still effectively mixing at 22 bit resolution, which means you can STILL truncate to 16 bit without losing ANYTHING. And if you’re mixing at 32 bit, well….
Just some stuff to consider when you’re next assembling a rough mix. 🙂