Archive

Oct.18.2005

Wired, Using ReWire -
@ 20:21:41
Rewire is one of those weird proprietary technologies that that you keep hearing about, but aren’t quite sure what it does. ReWire is a feature in all the Big five Mac audio programs, GarageBand, Logic, Pro-tools, Reason and Ableton Live all use ReWire even though that it is under documented or in the case of GarageBand completely undocumented.
So, what is ReWire and what can it do for you? Re Wire was originally invented By Propellorhead software as a way to link Reason to other audio programs, most notably to Steinberg’s Cubase products. This addressed the most notable shortcoming of Reason, which was the fact that it doesn’t record audio tracks. By using Rewire you could slave Reason to cubase and use all the cool synth stuff from Reason with the audio recording abilities of Cubase, A marriage made in heaven. So much so that other manufacturers soon hoped on the ReWire bandwagon. Rewire functions by allowing one audio program to sync to another. One of the two programs acts as the mixer or master program while the other acts as the slave or synthesizer program. In most cases this means that you’re main audio recording program controls Reason. Most audio sequencers including Logic, Pro-tools, Live and even GarageBand can act as ReWire masters. Reason is the most common ReWire slave but Ableton Live and a couple other programs can act as ReWire slaves.
In a nutshell, Rwire allows you to do :
• Real time streaming of separate audio channels, at full bandwidth, into another
audio program.
• Automatic, sample accurate, synchronization between the audio in the two
programs.• The possibility to have the two programs share one sound card.
• Linked transport controls that allows you to play, rewind etc, from either program.
• Less total system requirements than when using the programs together in
the conventional way.
But wait there’s more: if your program supports ReWire 2 you get:
• Up to 256 audio channels (previously 64).
• Bi-directional MIDI communication of up to 4080 MIDI channels (255 devices
with 16 channels each)
• Automatic querying and linking features that (among other things) allow ahost to display the slave’s devices, controllers, drum sounds etc. by name.
So if you can read through the jargon this means that at your host /master/mixer program adds all the functionality of the slave program.
Still sound rather Greek to you? Okay, simply put, you can use all the instruments of Reason or any slave program like Live with your master program. Especially for virtual instrument challenged programs like Pro-Tools, this vastly increases your synthesizer repertoire. And if you’ve been composing using Reason this opens up the ability to add audio tracks to your otherwise instrumental only tunes.
The main trick to using ReWire is to make sure that you launch the Master or mixer app first and then launch Reason or other slave app. You should then see something that indicates that the slave app is in slave mode. In the case of Reason, it’s in the output buss. Secondly, again in the case of Reason you want to route all the individual channels through it’s output buss rather than through the mixer. This will allow you to mix the individual channels through the master programs mixer. Which will allow you to use all the maser programs effects and settings on the Rewire channels input signal. You can also use the Masers Midi outputs to control Reasons instruments. This is all really cool stuff for an advanced user but I’m sure some of you are still scratching your heads. If you want to get into the nuts and bolts, put on your secret decoder ring and read your master programs documentation. If you are a garageBand user and own Reason you can simply launch GarageBand and then Reason and Reason will slave to your GB composition and you can even use the Export to iTunes feature in GB to export a mix of your gb tracks with the Reason tracks.
Bottom line. If you own a ReWire master app like GB or Cubase and slave app like Reason or Live you can combine the features of both apps into one audio weapon of mass destruction. Bombs away!

New and Cool!:

It was only a mater of time with 1 gig + compact flash ram cards around before somebody made an audio field recorder to use them. Well here are some Pro-quality Flash based recorders on the market that are worth checking out, especially if you are into remote stereo recording.

For high end broadcast stereo recording check out the Fostex’s FR-2 which is a stereo flash based Broadcast wave recorder with many pro features including full broadcast smpte time code implementation. It runs about $1299 which is a bargain for pro level recording. If you want to spend a little less and if you don’t need all the broadcast features, check out the somewhat simpler Edirol R-1 which goes for about $500. Or the brand spanking new M-audio Micro Track 24/96. Both these guys will record both wav and Mp3 and are the perfect replacement for that old portable Dat machine. Of course I’m one of those dinosaurs that’s stuck with a perfectly good but almost worthless DAT machines. Doh! Any way Both these will make that perfect bootleg Phish or Dead recorder. Use with care, I’d hate to see a concert bouncer take away your brand new toy.

Oct.02.2005

Quiet Please, Getting Rid of Noise -
@ 19:57:58
Noise, don’t cha just hate it! You’ve just recorded that killer take or irreplaceable moment and when you play back your recording, you find that it’s noisy. Is it suicide time or is there anything you can do. Well to be honest, unlike in the movies, there is no magic button you can push that will turn a garbled mess into “I know where Jimmy Hoffa’s buried.”
To destroy noise we must first know the enemy. There are two basic kinds of noise: ambient noise and induced noise.Ambient noise is noise that occurred in the environment while you were recording and it can range from a jack-hammer outside the window to having the mic too far away in a reverberant room. The simplest solution is to record in a controlled environment. That’s why recording studios originally came into being. If at all possible you want to record In a quiet non-reverberant space. If you are recording music in your own house or apartment, there are a few, perhaps obvious, things that you can do. First find the quietest room and determine the quietest time of day to record. You can also treat the room to reduce ambient noise by doing things such as hanging heavy curtains or carpet over the windows. And even over the doors while recording. If the room is big and the walls are bouncy (or echoey) you may want to divide the space into a smaller space just for recording and hang foam or fabric on the walls to achieve a “dead” sounding room. One of the most important lessons that you can learn is that you can always add reverberation to a recording but it’s almost impossible to remove it.
What about if you don’t have control over the space, such as when recording live at a club or doing a video shoot or an interview. When recording a live performance microphone placement is everything. If you’re not recording from a sound reinforcement board feed, you’ll want to place a microphone (or several in the case something like drums) in as close proximity to the instrument as is feasible. The exception to this scenario might be if you are recording an orchestra in a acoustically treated concert hall. Where the ambience of the space adds to the recording rather than detracts. For video recording and “man on the street” interviews you’ll want to use a directional or “shotgun” mic, just make sure that the jack-hammer is not directly behind the person that you’re recording. The most obvious way to avoid a noisy recording is to make sure that you don’t make a noisy recording in the first place.
The second kind of noise that we are worried about is induced noise. We are all very unfortunately familiar with that 50 or 60 Hz hum that finds it’s way into guitar and mic cables at the slightest provocation. This noise is caused by the by the line voltage frequency being induced into your audio signal. If any part of your recording set-up is plugged into the wall there is a potential for this type of interference. If you are experiencing this type of noise, be prepared to do some work to track it down. First you need to arm yourself with a several ground float plugs, you know those three prong to two prong adaptors for wall plugs. Next, you need to try track down the device in your recoding set-up that is causing the hum and then put the ground float plug on that device. You’ll probably find that you need to do this on several devices. Without going into a lot of grounding theory, ideally you want your system to have a single point of ground so that it’s easier for line hum to go to ground rather than into your recording. Your second weapon is high quality mic and guitar cords. Throw out that guitar cord that you picked up for free ten years ago. If a mic or a guitar is noisy, chances are that the cable is the culprit. When in doubt, swap it out.
There are a couple of other types of induced noise that are battling to get into your pristine recording. RF (radio frequency) interference is cause by your recording set up acting as a radio antenna. Some sources of this type of interference aren’t obvious. 900 MHz. wireless phones and even wi-fi networks can wreak havoc. If you can turn off these sources, do it. Otherwise you’ll have to rely on a careful grounding scheme. Hiss or white noise is usually caused by an incorrect gain structure in your recording chain. What that means is that you’re amplifying the audio signal at the wrong point in the signal chain. What you want to do is to try to do is do most of your amplification at the pre-amp stage and then set your channel faders and your master fader to unity (zero) gain before the signal goes into your Mac. And finally there is digital noise which is usually caused by some computer or audio interface mis-configuration or incompatibility. For this kind of noise only logical deductive reasoning can sort out the problem. Or throwing your computer out the window.
A book or three could be written on noise mitigation in recording and unfortunately it’s as much voodoo as it is science. Invariably sooner or later noise is going to find it’s way into your recording and you are going to want to get rid of it.
I hate to have a defeatist attitude, but in reality, often there is no way to get rid of noise entirely. The idea is to reduce noise as much as possible while not affecting the “good” part of your recording.
The first step in repairing a noisy recording is making sure that you have as much signal to work with as possible. To do this you need to normalize the recording in your audio editor. Normalization sets the highest volume peak in your recording to 100% or whatever value you set. I generally set my normalization level to about 95% or -3Db absolute digital level. A lot of people think that the magic bullet for noise is a noise gate and apply the effect immediately. This usually ends in disaster because while gate silences sounds between words or musical phrases, it often chops out the softer parts of the signal, which sounds, well, choppy and the gate does nothing to the noise that is part of the signal. An expander is a gentler form of noise gate which can help solve the chopping problem but does nothing to the noise embedded in signal.
Instead of gates and expanders the best tool for getting rid of noise is the noise sampling method of noise reduction. Various audio editing programs like Soundtrack Pro and noise reduction programs like Sound Soap call this by different names. But if your program has this feature, it works by taking a sample of the noise and then removing anything that is identical to the sample from the recording. This works by using something called phase inversion, where a mirror image waveform cancels out the original waveform. Without going into the nitty gritty details, what you want to do is take as large as possible sample of noise from your recording without any of the signal part. Because you don’t want to cancel out any of the good signal. While this method may appear to be the perfect solution, it does have it’s limitations. Often the good part of signal shares characteristics of the noise and when that is removed the good part of the signal can sound weird or “phasey.” The better sound editors have a setting that adjust how much noise reduction is applied so that the actual signal isn’t affected badly. Let your ears be you guide on this.The final method that you can use is equalization. Here you are trying to reduce the frequencies where the noise is and keep the frequencies where the good signal is. Easier said than done. The type of noise that this works best on is a constant frequency noise such as Hum. You want to set your equalizer so that it reduces the fundamental frequency of the noise (60Hz for U.S. line noise) AND all the harmonic frequencies of the noise. In the case of 60Hz, you want to reduce 120Hz. 240Hz 480Hz and so on. Some audio editing like Soundtrack Pro and noise reduction programs like Sound Soap have a preset equalization program for this. Like all the other method equalization is somewhat destructive in that it reduces some frequencies of the good signal with the noise.
In spite of what Hollywood might try to make you believe, there is no magic bullet for getting rid of noise totally, but you can use these methods to at least salvage an otherwise unusable recording.

Old and Cool!:

Rebirth is Dead Long live ReBirth.
Today I bring sad news, Rebirth has been discontinued by Propellorhead software. after If you don’t Know what ReBirth is, You missed perhaps the earliest and greatest software instruments ever created. Rebirth was Propellor head software’s OS 9 only retro electronic TB303 and TR-808 emulator. I created almost my entire OOOHLALA Album using the program. And Rebirth led directly to Propelorhead’s flagship program Reason.
Before you cry in your beer there is also good news. Rebirth is reborn in a different form. If you own Reason you can download a free 100MB. Refill that includes all of the old ReBirth drum sounds a bunch of 303 patches and even some of the cooler ReBirth Mod sound sets. Not bad for FREE. And if that isn’t good enough news The venerable OS9 only version of ReBirth is also a free download.
Just go to propellorheads.se and download away. But don’t forget to hoist a pint in remembrance of ReBirth born 1997 – reborn 2005.

30 Second Rant:

Audio Units, Vst, and Rtas plug-ins unite! Why should plug-in manufacturers have to make three different formats of the same damn plug-in. C’mon Apple, C’mon Steinberg, C’mon Digidesign get your stuff together and decide on a single format. Call it whatever the heck you want How about a virtual real-time audio studio unit suite. Whatever, just as long as it works with all of your programs. Right now it cost us consumers $80bucks apiece for Fxpansion’s Plug-in converters, it wouldn’t cost you anything, So do us a favor put down you petty proprietary posturing and give us a break. Yeah right. Like that’s gonna happen.

Sep.21.2005

iPod DJ toys -
@ 14:48:01
Mixing DJ sets with a couple of iPods is all the rage. And the newest kid on the block is the Numark IDJ ipod mixer. The specs on the Numark Website are a bit sketchy but it advertised features include:
Two universal iPod docking stations will accept all model iPods with bottom connector and charge while connected.Large iPod navigation controls.3-band EQ with gain control on both channels.

Dedicated microphone input with tone and level control.

Phono/line inputs for adding additional devices on both channels.

USB connectivity (PC and Mac) enables iDJ to function as a music-loading base.

iPod’s recording capabilities supported by iDJ for voice memos, etc.

Zero tolerance precision switches/knobs for a tight, precise feel.

And oddly A Turntable spindle receptacle enables placement of the iDJ on a turntable.

Another oddity is that there is another product from ION Audio that looks exactly the same as the iDJ available at JR Music World and it list s-video outputs for mixing with iPod Photos!
Both these bad boys list at $250 and are supposed to ship the first week of October.

Aug.27.2005

The Need for Speed -
@ 09:16:29
Audio recording and processing is one of the more machine performance critical applications that you can do on your Mac. Especially if you are recording a live performance often you are working without a net and there wont be any opportunities for second takes. Even the fastest Macs can have trouble keeping up to the demands of audio software. Today we’ll look at some things you can do in OSX to optimize your Macs performance.
Ad to the old saw that you can never have enough RAM to include you can never have enough disk space. In today’s environment having 512 Megs of RAM is the bare minimum. For most audio apps you need a gig or better, Simply put; load your machine with as much ram as it’ll hold or you can afford. Splurge for name brand RAM because although it fails less often than no-name stuff the important thing is it usually comes with a warranty. And replacing bad ram can get expensive. Enough about Ram but what about hard disk space? A fairly well kept secret is that Mac OS X makes extensive use of Virtual Memory (VM), which requires free disk space on your startup disk. And you remember back to OS 9 days, you probably remember always being told to turn off virtual memory. The reason is that read/ write access to a disk is much slower than to RAM. If you have less than 10% of your start-up drives disk space free, you are going to run into serious performance degradation in OSX. The solution is to move stuff to another drive, ideally to another internal drive as the internal AT or SATA buss is faster than the Firewire buss. While it seems like a bit of a waste keeping at least 20% of you start-up disk free will boost your Macs performance.
The next item may seem obvious. But I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people with e-mail running in the background while using a recording app. Like the old grammar school Strunk and White warning to eliminate unnecessary words, we need to eliminate unnecessary Apps. While you are recording or editing in an audio app it should be the only thing running. It needs every processor cycle it can get. If you look at some documentation using Adobe reader make sure that you quit the reader when you’re done. If some one looks over your shoulder the only active app they should see on the Dock is your audio app.
Speaking of the Dock. Do you still use the Genie effect? Ain’t it purdy? Well don’t! In fact you want to turn off as much of that processor hungry animation as possible. Go to Dock under the Apple menu and click on Dock preferences. Select Scale Effect in the Minimize Using field. Deselect the Animate Opening Applications option. And also Disable window effects. Also Animated desktops and iTunes visuals will kill ya’ turn ‘em off. Sheesh!
What about all those oh so handy Widgets you have running in Tiger? Well we’re going to have to get rid of them also. * While Dashboard Widgets do not use the processor unless Dashboard is open, they consume both Real and Virtual Memory after you’ve opened Dashboard. You need to close nonessential Widgets (which is a nice way of saying all of them .). To close a Widget:
Open Dashboard., Press and hold the Option key. Move the mouse pointer over a Widget to wish to close. Its Close button (X) appears in the upper-left corner of the widget. Click the Widget’s Close button. You should do this for all the Widgets that you have open.
While usually it’s not a big issue unless you’re also a graphics person, a large number of fonts can kill your systems performance. If you think this might be an issue you can go to the Font Book Application and Disable fonts that you don’t require. Also while you are there you can select the Resolve duplicates item from the Edit menu.
If you have a powerBook the Energy saver preference may be hurting your performance also. Go to the Energy Saver preference and set the Optimize Energy Settings to Highest Performance.. If you are on battery power, increasing the processor performance will shorten the amount of battery time. But you shouldn’t be recording on battery power unless it’s absolutely necessary.How are we doing? Fortunately there is a handy utility that will tell us just that. Launch Activity Monitor in Panther or Process Viewer in Jaguar and Tiger from the Applications > Utilities folder to find out which apps and background processes are running and what resources they a using. Using this utility will tell you a lot about Applications and back ground processes such as how much of the Cpu and how much memory and virtual memory they are using. You can terminate processes if you know what you are doing, if you don’t , your on your own, although about the worst you can do is crash the computer and have to restart. Which brings me to a handy free utility that sets an applications priority. Without going into all the gory Unix details just download
Process Wizard from lachoseinteractive.net/ Once you launch the utility you will be able to set your audio apps priority to high so that it has first shot at any stray processor cycles. In English, that means your program runs better.
Finally you’ve probably heard time and time again that you need to clean-up your preference files in OSX. Whatever the hell that means. While you can do this through Apple’s disk utility there is a better alternative. Download AppleJack from sourceforge.net/projects/applejack/ Applejack is a UNIX type utility that does all kinds of mysterious stuff that cleans up your Mac. Once installed you start Mac in Single user mode by holding down the Command and “S” keys. Once all the scary UNIX command line stuff comes up you type in applejack and follow the instructions. When it’s done doing it’s thing you type reboot and your cleaned -up Mac will boot back to it’s friendly usual Finder screen.
All these things will help the performance of your Mac. I won’t promise miracles but these tips will help until you can afford an even faster Mac and even more sophisticated software to slow it down.
NEW and Cool!:This week I bring you yet another free plug-in, but before you tune out let me say that this is one that is a bargain at twice the cost! But wait there’s More! How about 24 effects for the price one! Call now operators are standing by! Ok all kidding aside I’m talking about the LFX-1310 from Luxonics. This is one cool plug-in and it’s available in both AU and VST format. It’s a must download and it’s available at luxonix.com

Aug.18.2005

Holy Utilities Batman! - @ 10:05:37
When you think of recording software for your Mac, you usually think in terms of the big programs that you actually do your recording with. But when comes time to do something unusual (like recording an interview from iChat) or just keeping things organized you need some small but essential programs to do the dirty work. Let’s take look at a bunch of handy programs that you’ll never know how you got along without.
First off is Cycling 74’s handy little freebie called SoundFlower. Sound Flower lets you route the outputs of any core audio program to the inputs of another. Ned to record an iTunes radio show? Just set the output of iTunes to Soundflower and then inputs of Gargeband to soundflower and record away. Want to send the output of GB to an audio edtor rather than iTunes just route the output of GargeBand to the input of Audacity or your favorite audio editor. Get it at Cycling 74.com. http://www.cycling74.com/products/soundflower.html
Another freebie is Soundsource from Rogue Amoeba.com Soundsource is a tiny tool that allows you to switch audio inputs and outputs from the Finder menu bar. Simple and sweet. Rogue Amoeba also make a couple other handy programs including AudioHijack Pro which allows you to route and record any audio streams that are available on your Mac. Very cool for only $34 bucks. You owe it to yourself to visit Rogueamoeba.com.. http://rogueamoeba.com/If you’ve ever wanted to expand GarageBands software Instruments (to get a decent Trumpet for example) then help is on the way. SonicAmigos.com http://sonicamigos.com/ brings us to a dynamic duo of programs called PolyPhonics and PolyPhonicsGB for $60 and 25 dollars respectively. These guys allow you to map samples and create soundfont files which can be used by the DLS Music device in GarageBand to create Instruments, Sounds more complicated than it is. Although mapping samples is pretty time consuming. These programs also let you import and edit soundfonts.
Another program from Andy Drabble is SoundFont synth which is an AudioUnit Plug-in that allows you to play Soundfonts and even access the QuickTime General MIDI musical instrument library. And since this is an AU Instrument you can use it with any Program that supports Audio Units including Logic. Andy also has a bundle of utilities called GB Assistant which among other things allow you to import Logic’s EXS instruments into GarageBand. Andy’s site . http://andydrabble.users.btopenworld.com/index.html
EXS instruments are the sample format used by GarageBand and big brother Logic. And It used to be that the only way to create these instruments is by buying the EXS24 sampler or Logic Pro. Logic express EXSP24 only plays EXS instruments. Now there are a couple of programs that allow you to translate instruments from other samplers into the EXS format and soon there will be a program that will allow you to map your own samples and create EXS Instruments.
Chicken Systems http://www.chickensys.com/ makes Translator Pro which has translators for practically every sampler format ever created. Unfortunately my Mac can’t read disc from my old Emax 2 Sampler so translator pro can’t help me there. But if you’ve got loads of samples that you want to convert to EXS format Translator Pro’s $149 price tag is worth it. Redmatica’s AutoSampler takes a different approach, it actually resamples instruments and converts them to EXS instruments. Remember My Emax2? Autosapmler automatically plays each key on my sampler via MIDI and then records the output and then turns it into an EXS instrument. Brilliant! While resampling is always painful auto sampler does make it easier. So pull out that old Proteus you have gathering dust and resample it! Auto sampler will set you back about a hundred bucks, but then again being able to sample your old samplers is priceless. Finally Redmatica also is promising to release a new program called KeyMap which allow you to map your own samples and create EXS Instruments. No Price yet, but it will surly be less than the $400 for an old EXS24 if you can find one. Redmatica’s products are available from Redmatica.com. http://www.redmatica.com/There’s one more must have utility and that’s Iced Audio’s AudioFinder. AudioFinder allows you to find, audition , catalogue and manipulate the (in my case) tens of thousands of loops , samples and audio file in various formats that are hanging around in your computer. Organizing a sample collection is almost impossible without this tool. It doesn’t sound very sexy but this is one sexy beast of a program in a sick sort of Martha Stewart way. Just in terms of freeing up disk space by finding duplicate files make this puppy a bargain at $69.95 from the Icedaudio.com website. http://www.icedaudio.com/

Aug.11.2005

Touchy Feely Or getting to know MIDI control surfaces -
@ 15:49:35
Ever since recording moved from the control room to the computer the one big thing that was lost was the feeling of control that you have when your fingers are pushing faders turning knobs and punching buttons. Somehow doing a mix using a QWERTY Keyboard and mouse just doesn’t feel right. And using computer keys doesn’t have the satisfaction of punching a big red record button. And how are engineers supposed to impress cute lead singers if they can’t twiddle some EQ knobs (if you catch my meaning. Wink, wink nudge, nudge.)Alas, all is not lost. Today there are a whole host of products that allow you to fade, punch and twiddle to your hearts content. The trick is that these controllers use MIDI or a variant of MIDI to control your DAW which you probably know is short for Digital Audio Workstation which is a fancy name for your recording software. Several standards have cropped up over the years but they all pretty much involve the “Mapping” of MIDI commands. Mapping simply means that when I slide fader #2 on my controller that channel #2s volume is adjusted it the DAW. And without getting into the gory details of MIDI machine control, that when I hit the rewind button on my controller that the DAW does indeed begin rewinding.
Since all DAWS use the same controls, One controller can control all of you programs, right? Not so fast Wyatt Earp! You didn’t really think that the manufacturers could agree on a standard did you? We used to have a saying in the studio: “We love standards, that’s why we have so many of them.”
Okay let’s talk products. Here is my short list of control surfaces that will help gain that touchy-feely feeling again.
At the bottom of the budgetary ladder (where I spend most of my time.) is the Contour Design ShuttlePro v.2 for $99 from the Contour design website or from AudioMidi.com.
The Shuttle pro v2 features 15 fully programmable buttons and a Pro quality Jog and Shuttle wheel. Also the SP2 has templates to map most of your audio and video programs controls. The buttons can be configured as transport controls as well as other functions like track selection add to that the super smooth Jog and shuttle (so that you can jog and shuttle through project) make the SP2 my favorite for control on a budget.
Next up is the M-Audio iControl. The iControl is a one trick pony, but the trick is pretty good, and the trick is controlling GarageBand. The iControl runs $149 from most music retailers including the Apple store and AudioMidi.com. The iControl is the perfect companion to Garageband despite costing almost twice as much as iLife ’05. The iControl has eight rotary encoders are easily assigned to track functions like volume and pan, or to parameters for effects such as GarageBand’s EQ or any other AU plug-in. iControl also provides dedicated mute, solo and record-enable buttons for each track, plus a master volume fader. If GarageBand is your main Axe and you plan to use it for a while, then having iControl is the perfect solution for controlling the program.
If you want the flexibility to use your controller with a variety of programs and you’re on a budget, you want the Evolution UC33e USB Controller. Evolution isn’t well know in the US but they are a highly respected keyboard and controller manufacturer from the town of Leighton Buzzard in the UK. And it’s availible from AudioMidi.com for $189
The Evo UC33e features 24 fully-assignable rotary knob 9 full-size assignable ALPS faders with light indicators (yeah 100mm Faders!) and Independent channel assign for all 47 controllers. It uses MIDI Sysex commands to learn the controls of your particular DAW. It comes with presets for most popular DAWS and you can buy overlays for different DAWS so that you know which widget does what.
As far as doing the most for the cheapest the UC33e is the way to go!A new product that’s getting a lot of buzz is the Frontier Design Tranzport that’s transport with a “z”. While the transport is only controls transport function like play, Record, an Jog and shuttle, the cool thing is that it’s wireless! So now you can control your DAW from across the room or even in the next room. There’s a lot of practical joke potential here. So if being wireless trips your trigger this bad boy is pretty cool for only $199.
Now if you’ve got the budget to play with the big boys, then you want the Mac-Daddy of control surfaces. I’m talking about the Mackie Control. We’re talking 100mm Penny + Giles Motorized Touchfaders, Multi-function V-Pots for fast control of panning and effects, Comprehensive Automation controls, Full Meter Display with track names and parameters, 7-segment Timecode display, Software-specific Lexan overlays and almost universal dedicated support by all the major DAWs. All these cool features will set you back $999 from AudioMidi.com. You can also spring for two types of expander module for $799 and $999 respectively. Alterative in this price range include the $799 Tascam1082 and the $1200 Digidesign Control 8.
Who would’ve thunk that while recording software keeps getting more features for less money that MIDI control surfaces would be over a thousand bucks. Oh well, Recording has never been cheap.

Aug.04.2005

Dodging torpedoes -
@ 15:26:57
Recently I did a photo shoot for a small horsemanship magazine. Where I was shooting for an article on herd behavior on location at a horse ranch. What does this have to do with Mac audio, you ask? Like many recording projects, Murphy’s law reared it’s ugly head several times during the shoot, and like in many recording sessions, I dealt with the problems and ended up with a successful project in the end.I was using a borrowed Nikon D70 for the shoot (Really nice camera BTW) and the night before the shoot I cleaned off a 512 Meg Compact flash card in the camera and hooked up the AC adaptor to the camera to (presumably) charge the battery. And I skimmed through a PDF version of the manual for the camera. I went to bed that night thinking that things would probably be OK.I forgot one the first rules of production: It probably won’t be OK. In other words if you don’t check something and think it’ll be OK, it won’t. Example: During the morning production meeting at the ranch We were going through the shot list and I thought to my self that I can get 50 shots in RAW format on a 512 Meg card, it’ll probably be OK. Funny thing about shooting horses is that they don’t take direction very well especially when you are trying to capture natural behavior. I suddenly realized that the Ten shot shot list was going to take a lot more than 50 shots.
Oh and remember that I had the camera plugged in all night? About five shots into the shoot the camera battery went dead. Frantically pawing through camera bag I luckily found a second battery still in it’s packaging. The million dollar question was “is it charged?” I popped it in the camera and the battery showed 3/4s full. Sighing relief I sent Art director back to the ranch house with the dead battery and the charger to plug it in. I made the mistake of thinking that the battery was charging in the camera overnight, it wasn’t.
Just as we had moved to our fourth set-up out of ten when I filled up the CF card. Again frantically pawing through the camera bag I find two more 512 meg cards. Big question: How many shots left on those cards? I popped in the first one: Two shots! Yikes. Second card in 27 shots! We were back in business. In meantime. I again sent the Art Director back to my car to dump the first card onto my iBook back at the car. To make a story that’s already too long, shorter. One hundred and forty-seven shots on all three cards later, We wrapped the shoot and the client was happy with the photos. Of course only four or five of the photos will actually be printed with the article.
Ok I’ll admit that these were pretty amateur mistakes. And that I’m not that experienced as a Photog. My background is more Videography, cinematography and of course recording engineering. But the lessons learned here apply to audio production as well.

So here are my tips for keeping things from running amuck and going awry.

1. It probably won’t be OK. For every recording session, make sure that you are prepared. Go over and test everything that you will be using. Test you mics. Test your audio interface. Do a test recording. Check your monitors and headphones. In short if you haven’t tested it, it probably won’t be OK.

2. Know your Axe. If you are using a new software program or an old program in a new way, take some time and read the frigging manual. And don’t skim over the stuff you don’t think you’ll need. You will. My new axe is Soundtrack pro. I’ve read the manual several times and done several sessions including these Podcast with it. But I still would be reticent to use it on a big client project until I know it a little better.
3. Save often. I teach a class in GargeBand at the local community college, I don’t know how many times I’ve been called over to a students workstation and see the spinning beach ball of death their screen, My first question is when was the last time you saved. The answer is always “Quite a while ago.” Crashes happen. They happen an awful lot in recording software. So if you don’t want to loose that last thing you did, make sure it’s saved, because the next thing you’re going to do Probably won’t be OK see rule one. Prepare to die.
3. Get out of the car, get back in the car. When your program crashes or just starts acting funky, it’s time to quit the program and get back into the program. If your program suddenly refuses to recognize your audio interface, it’s time to save your work, get out of the program., turn the interface off and back on and start the program. Maybe it’ll even work now. If not you may have go as far as restarting the computer. Sure there are many other troubleshooting tricks like throwing away preference files and cleaning up permissions. But the first thing to try is rebooting the program or the computer, hence the old software engineer joke of getting out of the car and back into the car to fix it
4. Back-up or die. Two weeks after you finish a project, the client wants some revisions on their project. Never mind that you filled up your hard drive with Ramones bootlegs last week, the project files will probably be OK (see rule 1.) when the project file refuses to open, you can just go to the back-up disc you made for the project, right. You DID make a back-up disc, didn’t you?
Here it is plain and simple. Burn a back-up CD of your project file after every significant change and write the date on the disc. Because the one time that you don’t, is when your hard drive will up and puke out on you. (see rule 1.)

Jul.19.2005

Pro Tools- Resistance is Futile. -
@ 14:59:42
Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, I let my prejudices cloud my judgment when I was writing the Soundtrack Pro review article. Specifically I said “You can do all kinds of neat stuff that Pro-tools doesn’t; like automate effects parameters, do dynamic tempo changes, stretch audio to fit video, and resize the video window. ” Turns out that you can do all those things in Pro-Tools except resize the video window. But keep in mind that Pro Tools LE is $500 minimum and you would need to add the DV Tool kit which cost a mere $995 to do some of the things that $299 Soundtrack Pro does.
This week has me thinking long and hard about why I constantly bash Pro Tools, the undisputed leader in professional audio production software. It’s funny that I don’t actually dislike the product technically, I’ve used TDM systems in studios and they do the job of recording audio very well. My gripe is more economic and emotional.
Digidesign and parent company Avid have traditionally catered to the high end studio market, and that market has deep pockets. When you consider that the entry level Pro Tools HD system is $10,000 for a core card, an 8 channel interface and Pro Tools TDM software, and it only goes up from there, you realize that theses guys have a distorted view of the value of basic recording hardware and software. So what makes it worth so much? Basically by using l DSP cards Digidesign guarantees studios that they will be able to have X amount of tracks for X amount of money And for studios that were used to paying better than $50,000 for a 32 track digital multitrack machine and at least that for a console Pro Tools HD as a recorder is a bargain (at least in their minds.)
So what about the little guy? Which is to say, me and most of the small production houses and people I work with? We get the somewhat crippled Pro tools LE systems which run from a mere $500 for M-box and go up to the Digi 0002 console for $2500. Still too steep for your pocketbook? Now you can get the further crippled Pro Tools M-powered software which you can use with certain M-Audio brand interfaces for $350 for the software plus $130 for the least expensive interface ( the Delta 2496.)
Okay, let’s do some comparisons here. Arguably there are two products that compete with Pro-tools M-powered, Steinberg’s Cubase SL and Apple’s Logic Express which retail for $299 and both these products can use practically any core audio compatible interface.
If you step up to Pro Tools LE/ M-box at $500 it’s competing against Apple’s Logic Pro at $995 and Cubase SX at $599 though some would argue that these programs compete with Pro Tools TDM at least from a software features point of view and both can use any interface. With the $800 MOTU 828 MKII being roughly equivalent to the $1200 Digi002 Rack and The $1000 Yamaha 01x being roughly equivalent to the $2300 Digi002 console when you add software and hardware together Pro Tools actually has a slight advantage in this arena.
So what about my emotional gripes? I really dislike monopolies, hegemonies, group think and bullies in general. Just call me an underdog kinda guy. Given Pro Tools dominance in the studio realm, Digidesign’s attitude is that if you aren’t using Pro Tools then you can’t be producing pro-quality work. This is mainly in the U.S., if you go to studios in Europe and the UK you’re just as likely to see Cubase or Logic as you are to see Pro Tools. Also I don’t like the ongoing attitude with Digidesign that to use their product you have keep buying extras, like the Digi-translator to import OMF files, the $995 DV Tool kit to effectively work with video and the Producer Factory plug-in bundles. I also hate the DigiKey plug-in dongle and the fact that every time you upgrade your Mac you have to wait weeks, if not months, for Digi to update their drivers. Just this week they finally released the drivers for PT LE to work with Tiger. Grrrr!I’ll admit that some of my attitude is somewhat illogical and that I should spend less time bashing Digidesign. But I still refuse to be assimilated into the Avid/Digidesign continuum. Until I get assimilated I’ll still keep hoping that Soundtrack Pro matures, that Logic Pro comes down in price and that I had a G5 double-pumper with an 828 interface.
MAG

Jul.14.2005

How Pro is Soundtrack Pro? - @ 10:48:21
I finally got Soundtrack Pro. I’ve been expectantly waiting with high hopes that this was a program that could compete with Pro-Tools in the audio post-production arena and become my main axe. So is STP a Pro-Tools killer? It saddens me to report that the answer is No, at least not yet. While STP has many features that should blow away PT for post, The problem is that Version 1.0 was buggier than a Volkswagen convention, crashed more often than NASCAR’s Robby Gordon and was missing several essential features. Thankfully version 1.01 fixed a lot of bugs and stability issues.Don’t get me wrong, STP is miles ahead of the somewhat ill-conceived consumer level Soundtrack. And it has a ton of useful features that really do work. It combines a multi-track DAW with a very competent waveform editor, You can do all kinds of neat stuff that Pro-tools doesn’t; like automate effects parameters, do dynamic tempo changes, stretch audio to fit video, and resize the video window. STP also does a lot of stuff that PT users are used to like record multiple takes on one track. assign tracks to busses and output multichannel files. Add the fact that for $299 Apple even throws in Apple’s Compressor 2 video compression utility and a new Apple Loops utility and the program seems like a bargain, All well and good until you realize that you payed $299 for a version 1.0 that is so unstable as to be unusable. I had just written a totally scathing review when the software update notified me that V1.01 was available, Luckily, I downloaded the update and did some testing and this is the rewritten article (call it version 1.01.). Version 1.01 of Soundtrack Pro is what version 1.0 should have been . Version 1.0 was a beta candidate at best. My theory is that it was rushed into production to ship with the Final Cut Pro Studio HD Suite. Shame on Apple for charging people money for an application that is not fit to be released, let alone be called Professional!If you read the support forums for version 1.0 you quickly realize that you’re not the only one experiencing real problems. Things like serious lagging when doing even mildly complex task, 32 bit floating files (aiff) often get corrupted, audio rendering problems, performance degradation as you work and, most damaging, issues with moving projects between Final Cut Pro. Which is Soundtrack Pro’s primary raison d’être. I tried to use STP’s send to external video device feature and it slowed playback to a crawl just before it crashed. It crashed so often that I was almost afraid to do anything beyond the most basic task. The good news is that version 1.01 killed most of these bugs and hopefully STP will follow in Final Cut Pro’s tradition of improvement over time.

What about features? You just scratch your head. Thankfully Broadcast Wave time code support was added in V1.01. it should have been in V1.0 What about ReWire? ReWire is a technology that is essential to my work flow as a sound designer and composer. Why no ReWire support? Even Garageband has that. I realize that STP is not a MIDI sequencer but why can’t you freeze and import GarageBand and Logic project files? FCP can output OMF files (The industry standard way of moving multi-track sound files), Can STP import or export them? ‘fraid not. How about if I nudge an audio region. Does it’s automation move with it? Sorry Charlie. What about the highly touted (and mildly useful) MIDI Time code synchronization features? The Manual spends an entire two sentences on this feature. Well, I did finally get Cubase SL to sync to via MIDI time code but only as a slave and only after several crashes.

To be fair, I am using V1.01 on a project and i haven’t run into huge roadblocks or had a major crash yet, although the external video device support is still shaky and I still want my ReWire.

Bottom line? Soundtrack Pro V1.0 was a non-starter, not even close to being professional grade software. Version 1.01 stops most of the bleeding and gives us a glimmer of the STP’s potential. Let’s hope that it continues to improve. On the bright side, for your $299 you get six more gigs of AppleLoops, a bunch of new AU effects including Space Designer and Compressor 2 out of the deal, DigiDesign can’t compete with THAT! . C’mon Apple, Let’s make a program that will bury Poor-Tools once and for all! Thank you for giving us a quick bug-fix update and please give us a free version update with Logic import and ReWre at least.

MAG

Jun.10.2005

Getting the Sound in -
@ 11:42:00
If I had a dollar every time I get asked “ What hardware do I need to record audio with my Mac?” I’d have a couple hundred bucks to buy hardware for recording with my Mac. So here it is, the definitive answer(s):
1. Most Macs have an 1/8″ stereo audio input (iBooks are the notable exception and I’ll get to them in a minute.) and an 1/8″ stereo audio output. These are usually on the back of the machine and are marked with picturesque microphone and speaker icons.
To record into the built-in audio inputs on your Mac you need. A 1/4″ Mono female to stereo mini male adaptor cord A.K.A. the Monster iStudioLink Available from the Apple store for $19.95.
Simply plug your guitar or a dynamic mic with a 1/4′ plug into the adaptor and you’re good to go.
For recording from a cassette recorder or other line level stereo device (such as a mixer) you need a stereo RCA male to stereo mini adaptor cable available any electronics store for under $5.
2. If your Mac doesn’t have a built-in audio input (such as an iBook) you need to get a $40 iMic from Griffin Technologies (http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/imic/) The iMic is a USB audio interface with the same 1/8″ stereo inputs and outputs as a Mac with built-in audio. Use the same cables from answer 1, with the iMic.
3. If you a serious about recording at a pro-level you need a pro-level USB or FireWire interface. These come in two basic varieties; a stereo interface or a multi-track interface. For a stereo interface look for the following features, Phantom power for condenser microphones, instrument level inputs and direct monitoring. A good example of this type is the M-Audio Mobile Pre at $180 (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MobilePreUSB-main.html) Similar products are available from many other manufacturers including Edirol, Yamaha, and Tascam.For recording multiple tracks at once you need a multi-track FireWire Interface. Be prepared to shell out some cash though. An excellent example of this type of interface is the MOTU 828 MKII at about $750 (http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/828/body.html/en) Again there are many other similar products available from other manufacturers.Microphones, mixers and other recording equipment is material for another article (or ten) as is recording software. But hopefully this answers the question of what you need to get your sound into your Mac.


2 Responses to “Archive”

  1. 1. Red Pharmacist Says:

    Hey, so sorry to bother you with my troubles, but I am at my wit’s end here and hoping that my karma will kick in and someone will come to my aid with a word of wisdom…
    The problem: I have an audio file that plays perfectly in Quicktime…
    But when I export it, either up to YouTube, or more importantly, to DVD, the audio goes missing!
    I recorded the audio with a (miniDV) digital video camera and an external microphone, uploaded the footage into iMovie, exported it to full-quality digital video, then deleted the video channel in Quicktime. (because it was a 2-hour recording, I needed only the audio, the file size was huge, and I was short on external hard drive space).
    Now when I play the file in Quicktime… at first it played really, really low in the mix on a pair of crappy speakers. I thought that the speakers were the problem perhaps, so I good a decent pair of speakers. Sure enough, now I hear the file when I play it in Quicktime. But let’s say I export it to MP4 format to upload to YouTube. The MP4 file, in Quicktime, plays the audio fine, but when I upload it to YouTube, the audio can’t be heard. Or, when I encode the file in MPEG2 format to put on a DVD, again, the audio can’t be heard.
    Additionally, I tried playing the file in Quicktime and recording it with one of those screen-capture programs that’s supposed to capture everything that’s going on onscreen, including audio events. Did that, and the new audio file worked, but again, when I tried converting it either to YouTube or DVD, the audio was inaudible.
    This file is vitally important for the indie documentary I am working on… I am desperate and starting to stress! Please help!
    Thanks 1000000

  2. 2. macaudioguy Says:

    I know exactly what happened! If you did the mix in Soundtrack Pro, it defaulted to a surround mix. You need to go back to your mixer settings in STP and make sure your mix is set to Stereo (outputs 1,2) If you outputs are set to 1-6 you’re mixing in surround. sounds great in Quicktime but everything else is muted because of the surround mix. Email me direct if you have questions.