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Readers' Letters: "Metaphony" by Hamish Fox, and more...

A post by David Mellor
Monday December 17, 2012
"This track started as a rhythmic experiment. The idea was to write a piece which had a triplet at the beginning and end of each bar. I opened up Sibelius 4 and quickly jotted down what you can hear as the first few bars of the piece. I'm of the opinion that repetition is a very useful tool to make a person listen closely to a small section of music, and is especially effective when that section is a little quirky, so I copy-pasted that over a couple of bars. I than exported a midi file which I imported in
Readers' Letters:

In response to "Metaphony" by Hamish Fox, The Cheap Advice Guy writes...

This is a really ambitious song! It was very interesting to listen to. I especially like the idea of fading a part in with the treble turned down and then bringing it up. I'm going to try that one myself!

In response to If you could make ONE change in your studio setup, what would it be?, Fabrice EYRAUD writes...

I think i must change the most important thing i my setup .....:

The Room itself !!!


In response to What is a 'Class A' amplifier?, Tobias Hackstock writes...

I found this article misleading. The definitions of class A, B, symmetric, assymetric are all muddled and partially incorrect.

Your first definition of asymmetry "one power supply rail and the signal is biased to a voltage midway between zero volts and the power supply voltage." does not specify whether or not it is a push-pull amp. If it is, then what you mean is a push-pull amp with asymmetric power symmetric drive, and the entire discussion about assymetric distortion, even, odd harmonics is meaningless, since it will operationally be the same as a symmetric push-pull amp (assuming the bias voltage is chosen properly). If not, then you are referring to a non-push-pull asymmetric power symmetric drive, in which case the discussion of class A, AB, B, C means nothing - since they by definition apply to push-pull amps. There is no reason an assymetrical push-pull amp cannot be class B, AB, or C. Likewise, you cannot call a non-push-pull amp class A, since there is not a pair of amps to meet the requirements of the definition.

What are the definitions?

Class A: Both output transistors/tubes (amp devices) are always passing current.

Class AB: At least one is passing current, with overlap at the zero crossing.

Class B: Only one is passing current at a time.

Class C: Only one can be passing current, with neither passing current near the zero crossing.

A well designed solid state Class B amp will sound as good as, and be operational indistinguishable from, a Class A, or AB amp, except that it will generally be smaller, comsume less power, and not get as hot. Poorly designed or tube Class B's (and ABs to a lesser extent) have the potential to sound quite bad because of nonlinearities near zero crossing. This is before the discussion of overdriving.

"Pushed hard" is a bad term, as it is ambiguous in an age of mixed tube and solid state amps. Overdriven asymmetric push-pull solid state preamps have the potential to sound exactly as bad as an overdriven symmetric variant - it depends what the biasing voltage is on the amp.

I personally prefer my preamp to act... as a preamp. Solid state, not overdriven, no measurable or audible distortion thank you very much, just gain. Tube preamps are generally unable to provide this. On the other hand, if you are LOOKING for distortion, one should not care whether it is A,B, symmetric, asymmetric, 1$ a thousand $$$, or a strangely colored mystery box. If it sounds right, use it.

If you want the summary to be correct, you could change "So if you want to push the preamp hard and create pleasant even-order distortion, you need a Class A single-ended amplifier. Class A in itself isn't enough." to "So if you want to overdrive the preamp and create pleasant distortion, you need a tube preamp or a mystery box" :-)

There, fixed that for ya.

Tobias Hackstock


RP response: Thank you for your input, and there is much we agree with in what you say. However, there are many references in electronic literature to single-ended Class A designs. Of course, if a circuit is not push-pull, then it must be Class A, and push-pull can be Class A, but we feel that the standing current is the feature of Class A that is most significant. The essence of the article is the symmetry, or lack of symmetry, between the way the circuit handles positive-going and negative-going half cycles, which will make a difference to the character of any distortion that is produced. Regarding your opinion on preamps having only gain and no distortion, well clearly that is very often desirable. But it is a fact that producers and engineers often actively seek out preamps with 'character', and we couldn't possibly say that to do so is wrong.

In response to Impossible audio, Warren Goold writes...

As you stated moving a stick quickly through the air makes a sound, record that sound and the thud of a rock hitting the ground edit, cut here there EQ to taste and wala.

In response to Why does sound engineering have to be so LOUD?, Neil Porter writes...

I once attended a course called, "Music Industry Skills Certificate II". There was a live p.a. segment. The teacher was one of the most enthusiastic p.a.-loving people I had ever met . He expressed his absolute delight at being able to make a living from something he loved so much (teaching was part-time for him). His opening sentence has stayed with me forever: The correct name for p.a. operation is Sound Reinforcement. If the sound is good and doesn't need reinforcing, then turn the p.a. off! And this from a man who makes his living out of it!

Yes, rock, pop, grunge etc all need to be loud or they don't work properly, but we have more serious hearing problems in current generations of young people than ever before in history (including me, and I'm not young anymore!). There's a sensible limit which is not adhered to almost anywhere you go. Finally, if the bare band is playing too loud, don't try to mix them further. They are personally responsible for their own bad sound.

RP response: Instead of turning the PA off, you could sit behind the console with the faders down. That way you would still get paid!

In response to Why do Macs suck?, Auramac writes...

Macs don't suck. Far from it- and they're certainly my choice for many things. I don't have much to say to those who disagreee- I don't need the aggravation and have nothing to prove. I'm a Technology Specialist, with many skills and much experience. Apple is a beautiful thing....

In response to Classic Synthesizer: The Minimoog - tuning the Minimoog, Ad Cominotto writes...

Right, but my voyager has an octave problem and therefore. I have to retune the trimmers under the hood. The engineers here in Belgium are good at repairing but not at tuning. On the Moog website no procedure is to be found and my several mails where unanswered.

Does anyone know how to do it???( beside music I have studied electronics so...)


RP response: The procedure should be similar - getting the 'width' of the octaves correct while simultaneously setting notes to their correct pitchs. If you can find the right 'tweak' controls it shouldn't be that much of a problem. If anyone has any further information we would be interested.

In response to Can you get a great vocal sound from a $200 mic? (Hint... Yes you can!) With AUDIO!, The Cheap Advice Guy writes...

I have always thought that a good $200-300 microphone, properly recorded, can get you 97% of the way to perfection. If you want to spend $2000 to reach 99% that's OK, but remember that the public at large does not have "golden ears" (and may be listening in ear buds, agh) and would likely be perfectly happy with 95%. Or 90.

The vocal does sound good in this clip! Am I detecting a little top-frequency sheen in the sibilants that might be EQ?

In response to Is there any audio quality difference between bouncing to disk and burning directly to a CD or recording to an external CD recorder?, John Harris writes...

I use a Tascam CD burner. It is Red Book Code and only burns at 1x speed. It is a cleaner better sound than a bounce. A higher quality CD will make it even better.

In response to Is there any audio quality difference between bouncing to disk and burning directly to a CD or recording to an external CD recorder?, John Harris writes...

David ..

The CDRW 2000 is what I use to burn CD's. Direct from Protools through the AES ports. It takes a time clock from my Big Ben. The only restriction is the Cd's have to have 1X capability ... certainly no one would complain about the highest quality speed. Burning directly to CD is cleaner than a bounce. it also allows you to see everything in your mix as you burn ... as a bounce locks up everything making you wonder if you finished everything.

Bounces are nice for a quick audio file and sound pretty good ... but there is better.

John Harris

In response to Is there any audio quality difference between bouncing to disk and burning directly to a CD or recording to an external CD recorder?, John Harris writes...

One more thing on the Tascam CD2000 ... Imagine how good Cd's could sound if you plugged this unit on the Neve 8816 Analog Summing Mixer....The summing mixer will come straight out of Protools using the best sounding summing amplifiers and then out the Neve direct to the Tascam burning in Red Book Code. This would just have to be a great sounding Cd Master.

John Harris

In response to How many producers does it take to record one song?, Drago Senic writes...

Yes thats great!

I think that some kind of "organic" or "biologocal" production will appear very soon. The same happend in food industry, isnt it? When you go to cd store there will be probably a section that sells music recorded only in "natural way" and by humans : )

In response to Would like your recordings to sound like pro recordings? Yes? , Ryan writes...

Your article is an ancient view to a problem long gone. Also your statement "pros use simple equipment that sounds great" is simply nonsense. We're not talking about a guitarist using a pedal effect here, but producers after a good mix. And some of the best producers use all kinds of techniques to get a specific sound. There are no rules. You are partially right though, it's not about using the "new software". But it's also not about having the same equipment. That works, ofcourse, but just because it's easier doesn't mean it's the only way possible. In fact, using the same synths/mixers/instruments is almost cheating. It's just too easy and requires almost no talent. Not to mention, it's just lame. Make your sound, don't copy others.

The real challenge is getting a good sound with what you have. Ofcourse, I'm not talking about making a mix on laptop speakers here, but with good monitors/room and a quality sound card and mics there is no need for expensive hardware anymore. Naturally, there are still some things that can't be emulated perfectly, but software is the way of the future, and most importantly, it works. At least if you know what you're doing.

True, all the wannabe producers are giving software a bad name, but that's what happens when a product of this type is freely avaiable to the masses. Most don't have a clue what they're doing, and when the "veterants" hear some of this "music" most think it's because of the programs themselves. It's not. So please, stick to the things you're an expert on, and leave the software to the people using it. You might be surprised what some people can do with these "toys"...

RP response: I was in a studio just a couple of days ago, setting up my gear for an interview with a producer. While I did that, the producer - at least one of his records has sold over a million - was chatting to the assistant. He was saying how he was amazed that people in web forums can go on endlessly about which converters to use when what they should really be concerned about should be the song and the singer. That's what he said. It's true that the article, from the Audio Masterclass archive, could do with a little more detail, but I stand by it. DM

In response to Q: Which is better - hardware or software?, an anonymous respondent writes...

Why do most of the writers of your articles sound like they're 90 year old antiques?

I mean c'mon... use pro hardware, don't use software, latency problems?

What are these people talking about?

Most hardware has been replaced by software, quality and flexibility of which has increased dramaticaly and latency hasn't been an issue for years now. At least for people who know what they're doing. The more articles I read here, the more I'm certain you should find some people who are in touch with modern music production techniques. Just my 2c..

RP response: So all those hardware manufacturers out there should close down because they are out of touch with modern music production techniques? Alesis, Avalon, Clavia, dbx, Digitech, Focusrite, Joemeek, Lexicon, Mackie, Peavey, Roland, Soundcraft, TFPro, Yahama and many more... Just our Great British two new pence.

In response to Recording Tips: Should I use a capacitor microphone for recording vocals?, Ty Curtis writes...

I get really good results with a Samson C01 condenser. Better than with my AKG 414.

The Samson cost about $70. new. I am (to be fair) using an Avalon 737 vt sp.

Ty Curtis

RP response: And you might have a really good singer too - that's the way to get the best out of any mic. Are you going to let us hear?

In response to Legendary Audio Unveils the Masterpiece, Robert Snyder/RoughWood Studio writes...

I finalized the deal, and a Masterpiece is on the way. Billy has offered to include me in his next mastering class. Any advice before I head to the coast? I'm devouring the content on your site. What would you do in my position?



RP response: Yes, keep a diary, take lots of photos, and send them in to us when you're done! Seriously - discard any preconceptions, absorb every detail. Open your mind to everything. This should be an amazing opportunity that many of us would envy.

In response to How do you get maximum volume out of your mix?, Charlie Mizza writes...

For those who use Pro Tools with Waves Plugins:

I've noticed something strange in mastering sessions using Waves Mercury Bundle, or more specifically, the Waves L316 Ultramaximizer. Let me say first of all that this plugin is the best mastering processor I've ever played with!. It has the ultimate in transparency and the expansion of frequencies is virtually limitless......however, when placed on the chain, it tends to inhibit the Red light from coming on. Good or bad? I tend to think bad. When I first noticed this, I pumped a mix pretty hard, adjusted a few things, and bounced the mix to disk and brought it out to my car. (Here's where I stress the importance of some 'B' monitors) The mix sounded good other than the fact that it was distorted past a certain low volume. Limiters are the best way to go for those 'runaway peaks' like Audio Masterclass suggests. Of all the fancy plugins I have for Pro Tools, I've found that the stock Digidesign Limiter probably works the best for attenuation of peaks, and the threshold is pretty accurate.

The troubling thing about some newer studio monitors is that they tend to be to forgiving when it comes to sound quality. Some make your mix sound great when it's really not that good. The Yamaha NS10 is the ideal speaker to get to overcome this problem, but they are hard to find. I found a pair on Ebay, but sadly found that they were played so hard before that the cone was all but detached from the coil (got refunded needless to say).

RP response: Thank you for sharing your experiences. Would anyone care to suggest an equally 'lo-fi' replacement for the Yamaha NS10?

In response to Becoming a record producer, Jordan. writes...

As I read your description, my eyes got wide and I found myself smiling. I couldn't actually believe how perfect it fit me. I couldn't imagine myself doing anything other than music. There is not much else that runs through my head daily. I have a song in my head every minute, picking out the bass line and drum raps in each measure. I love making music and lyrics, thinking of my own ways to make it better. I would love to know how I could get involved in the music world, what it would take for me to do it. Any information can go to uhmjordanyeah@aol.com. Thank you.

A post by David Mellor
Monday December 17, 2012 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)