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What are your 'pain points' in audio? How would you like them to be healed?

"Into each life a little pain must fall" - So what is causing us pain in the studio, and what kind of aspirin do we need to make it go away?

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I would like to pretend that the description for my article came from a long and intense study of the works of Longfellow. But you can see that it wasn't by the misquotation. Actually I was reading an article in Broadcast Engineering about the new version of Pro Tools where Avid's Pro Tools strategist Bobby Lombardi says (abbreviated here slightly), "Everything is keyed around our customers to find out the pain points and solve them."

I found that an interesting way of expressing that fact that working in audio has always had its frustrating and difficult aspects, and the search to make the 'pain' go away is admirable.

Thinking back over the years, there have been quite a few causes of pain in audio, not in any particular order...

  • Connectors not connecting
  • Random clicks, pops and crackles from a variety of sources
  • Noise from analog tape recorders
  • Scratchy faders and pots
  • Tuning stability of analog synths
  • Microphones needing to have their pattern, pad and filter switches 'exercised' to work reliably
  • Earth loops
  • Balanced connections going 'one-legged'
  • Switch-on/off thumps
  • One-sided headphones
  • Many more...

The above list consists of 'gremlin' problems. But there are operational causes of pain too...

  • Cable management
  • Sagging boom mic stands
  • Delays caused by digital conversion (a whole other story in its own right, considering that analog is instant)
  • Latency
  • Zero-latency monitoring
  • Software instruments taking toooooo long to load...
  • Buffer underruns
  • Running out of processing power due to too many plug-ins
  • Going to stop now before it gets too depressing.

Well that's just off the top of my head, I'm sure I could think of many more.

It is of course part of sound engineering to find ways to fix problems, or work around them if they can't be fixed. But I don't think that we should be accepting that problems are an integral part of what we do. I believe that sound engineering is all about achieving great sound, whether live, broadcast or in the recording studio, and anything that gets in the way of that, or slows down the process, is a problem that needs to be solved.

So, while Avid is in a mood to find out the 'pain points' for their customers, and presumably other DAW developers are too, let us know what's causing YOU pain in the studio.

Here's your chance to blow off some steam!

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By David Mellor Thursday March 24, 2011
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