Too large for Theile/Small.

A loudspeaker's small signal behavior can be calculated to better than 95% accuracy from impedance measurements. An accurate equivalent circuit of the loudspeaker system is required (think Thevenin's Theorem), instead of an impedance curve fitted to an equivalent model. Unlike the impedance curve, an equivalent circuit shows the current flow through the mechanical and cabinet components representing both vent mass and driver mass, and thereby calculates their acceleration. This provides the loudspeaker's far field response, ignoring crossover influence and cabinet diffraction.

The designer can then accurately calculate the loudspeaker's response from its impedance curve, measure the near-field radiation from the vent combined with that of the loudspeaker driver, measure the box's internal pressure, measure the far-field response of the loudspeaker (in an accurately calibrated anechoic chamber). The results will agree to within 0.5dB down to 25 cps.

But, if the measurements are then converted to Theile/Small parameters the result will not be as accurate because they ignore some of the driver's behavior.

All of which explains why I do not use the Theile/Small equations for my design work.

The Rumor Mill

Firing Up The Rumor Mill!

It’s time to confirm or deny some rumors floating out there. Okay, so here’s the truth (if you dare) about various rumors regarding my work or products.

RUMOR: I have only analog studio recorders.
FALSE. I prefer analog recorders, but also operate digital recorders. I save the analog recorders for only the best musicians because of the high operating cost of analog tape recorders. Also, analog recorders cannot effectively mask or enhance a bad performance, whereas digital can, so only the best musicians can be recorded on analog. That said, some quite excellent projects are better suited to digital recording, so I use digital where it is most appropriate.

RUMOR: I record only established bands.
FALSE! I look only for talent, commitment, honesty, a strong work ethic and a willingness to experiment. In some ways, I prefer to work with up-and-coming musicians and bands. It’s more fun to help someone “make it.”

RUMOR: I do not make traditional electric guitars.
FALSE. Although I promote my exotic Acoustron guitars the most heavily, I also make electric guitars with traditional control layouts. No one guitar design is best for all styles of playing, so by offering many different guitars I can serve every musical style.

RUMOR: I make vintage reissues of classic vacuum tube guitar amplifiers and audio processors.
Both TRUE and FALSE. I am still making vacuum tube audio designs that I first made in the 1970s, which, technically, today would be regarded as vintage reissues (so, TRUE), but I do not make vintage reissues of other companies’ designs (so, FALSE). All of my electronic products are of my own design.

RUMOR: I won’t work on any guitar other than my own designs.
FALSE. I do a brisk business restoring and modifying all brands of electric guitar, and a few acoustic guitars are well. Because of the scarcity of parts, some brands may take a while to finish.

RUMOR: I don’t design affordable audio equipment, my work is only high-end.
FALSE. I have designed quite a few affordable, yet high-quality amplifiers, preamplifiers, loudspeakers, studio equalizers, processors and other audio equipment. Unfortunately, I have been prevented from bringing these products to the marketplace because of the extremely high tax rates, and the excessive (and stifling) regulation of businesses in the United States. Combined with this present government’s hostility toward small businesses generally (or any businesses other than those giant corporations who contribute to politicians’ campaigns and cronies), I could not hope to break even, let alone make any profit from any product line other than the high-end models. Profit or wealth is demonized, then punished, by the rich politicians who rule the United States, unless you’re one of their cronies or major campaign contributors. My only other alternative is to have my affordable products manufactured in China or other Asian countries, which I refuse to do. If I make it, it will be made in the United States only by proud workers who are legal American citizens.

RUMOR: I’m creating a line of audiophile loudspeakers, amplifiers, accessories and turntables.
FALSE. I left the audiophile market in 2010, and have no plans for producing audiophile products. All product development projects for that market were terminated in 2009. I was planning to create a turntable for archival re-recording and serious record collectors, but increasing business taxes and regulations made the project impossible. So, instead, I restore and upgrade vintage turntables.

RUMOR: I’m creating a line of home theater loudspeakers.
TRUE. They’re scaled-down versions of my harmonic-structure-accurate, time-aligned commercial theater loudspeakers, but built to the same demanding standards. I’m confident they will raise the bar for home theater loudspeakers.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of studio loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of sound re-enforcement and PA loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of music instrument loudspeakers.
TRUE. This is a core product line.

RUMOR: I’m creating a new line of home audio loudspeakers.
TRUE. I recently decided to bring back two of my favorite designs from “back in the day,” the “Ten-Two” and the “Bookshelf 8.” Both are derived from “old school” stereophonic loudspeakers and recording studio monitors.

RUMOR: I repair cameras.
FALSE. I have a dear friend, Clarence Gass, who is a master camera repairman. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips but that hardly makes me a camera repairman.

RUMOR: I collect cameras.
TRUE. I do collect Pentax K, M, A and L cameras, along with Graflex, Minox and various oddball or turn-of-the-20th Century cameras that catch my eye. Collecting cameras is far more fun than collecting dust or traffic fines.

More news later!

Pentax MX Versus Leica IIc

Click on this comparison photo showing why I love my Pentax MX: it's the same size as a classic Leica IIc rangefinder camera! That gives you a pro-quality, all-mechanical, manual camera, blessed with magnificent SMC Takumar-M 50mm f1.7 lens (equal to any Leica's), quite accurate shutter speeds (especially at slow shutter speeds thanks to one of the best slow-speed governors ever made), great ergonomics, very accurate metering, zero-parallax viewing thanks to its SLR design, open-aperture focusing, depth-of-field preview and self-timer -- all in the same size and weight as a 35mm rangefinder camera! (It's even smaller than clunky Argus C3 and C4 rangefinders cameras).

Mullard Preamplifier Project

This article was published by Mullard, a major vacuum tube manufacturer, describing a high-quality preamplifier. I’ve included it in this blog because it is so versatile. You can easily adapt to become a superb studio microphone preamplifier for classic ribbon microphones. Enjoy!

Mullard Preamplifier

An Homage To Toes An Homage To Toes An Homage To Toes

I admire toes. They get stepped on all day long yet they won't leave you. You can walk all over them but they won't get angry at you.

Toes understand you perfectly because they have literally walked a mile in your shoes.

You can count on your toes. Truly, you can count on your toes.

So why I do I prefer film photography?

So why I do I prefer film photography? Am I a Luddite? After all, this is the 21st Century, the Digital Age, the era of The Cloud. Naturally, you’re supposed to snap your photo with your mobile device or digital camera -- and within an instant there they are, emblazoned across Facebook, Flickr, Snapchat, or your home computer.

I don’t care that everyone has the latest DSLRs, mirrorless cameras or smartphones, the results and the experience is what matters to me. Frankly, I dislike the experience of using digital cameras. Film cameras eliminate the distractions of switching the camera on, waiting for it to boot up, then tinkering with menus, setting, cryptic parameters, white balance, and other things You open the camera, focus, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, and click your photo. Done!

Honestly, our modern “digital life” makes me edgy, and  I have to flee it occasionally. That’s why I disappear from Facebook for days at a time.

I admit that, for me, part of the appeal is film’s scarcity. Film has become counter-cultural in a sense. Film lets you revel in the advantages of technology past. Photographers under the age of 20 probably has never used a film camera, so you can enjoy the looks you get when you unfold that huge Crown Graphic. It’s fun to watch youth search for The Menu Screen – in vain.

Film cameras are great icebreakers! Carry a vintage film camera and it will draw a crowd. People will want to try it. They’ll ask you questions about it.

A film camera sets you apart. It’s retro. It’s cool. It’s edgy, counter-intuitive, esoteric. Everyone can use a digital camera or a camera app on their smartphone. Big deal. Not everyone can use a film camera. It takes the ability to predict what the final image will look like before you ever press the shutter release. It takes practice. That makes it exclusive. That makes it hip. Yes, it makes it a bit elitist (and I do not like elitists, customarily), but elitist in a good-natured, artistic way. Sniff.

Film photographs are special. They’re an occasion. They’re not a flood of here-today, forgotten-tomorrow digital commodities, one of the flood of endless images banally flowing across computer screens every moment.

Most persons aren’t as camera shy once they know your camera isn’t digital because the photo isn’t instantly being gawked at by others online. They’ll feel more assured that the photo won’t end up online if they ask.

Film, especially when you shoot a fully-manual camera, forces you to think about each photograph. Ouch. No, that's a good thing. You'll take fewer photographs as a result, and have a greater percentage of those photographs that are great.
You don't just takes hundreds of photographs. I know a “professional” portrait photographer who typically takes 500 or more photos per session. Sadly, almost none are any good. How much better if this “professional photographer” took time to think about composition, lighting and the overall feel of the photograph instead of just blazing away like a machine gun. That's the difference between film and digital: a sharpshooter who nails it in one shot versus a machine gunner who blasts everything in sight hoping to hit the real target. I doubt I ever shot more than 36 photos on any professional job, usually much fewer; yet nearly every photo was flawless.

Each frame of film costs you money. That reality puts the brakes on the mindless machine-gunning of digital photography.
Your film camera has no LCD screen. You can't check each photo immediately after you take it. Good. This forces you to use your brain and learn to pre-visualize the subject.

You must wait before processing the photos you're able to keep emotionally detached from the photos during. The forced time delay serves you well and ensures objectivity. You'll show only the truly great photos instead of drowning your viewers with a hundred photos of your previous meal, the dog laying in the street, the mess from your latest home improvement project and the shopfronts of every you store you last visited.

Film has limitations and that's great. It's like chess – you master the rules despite the weird, arbitrary limitations. You then become a chess master. You master the game, instead of the game mastering you. So it is with film. You master the technology, instead of the technology mastering you, unlike digital.

Film has a special feel no software can equal. Colors are more natural, tone is smoother, and the overall look of film is more dramatic, more ethereal, and genuinely more artistic.

Film has superior dynamic range without the need to hassle with that cumbersome HDR multi-exposure technique and its attendant complex matrix light metering. Please.

Film exposure is easy to calculate, and film has a good margin of error that will still yield good photographs. You never have to worry about suddenly having the highlights of your photo disappear into a white blob image. Even when film is seriously overexposed highlights will gradually fade to white.

Film is grainy. Cool. Revel in it. Digital noise is ugly and makes the photo seem cheap and artificial. Film grain is beautiful, individual, non-intrusive and feels organic, a natural part of the photo.

Every film has different characteristics, creating a different interpretation of the same subject. You can photograph the same subject with different films and have very different photographs.

Film gives you a real hard backup. Yet you can still enjoy all the benefits of digital, like sending emailing the photos or uploading them to Facebook, SnapChat or Flickr.

Vocal Cord Health - an article by Roger Love

A singer’s livelihood relies on functioning vocal cords, but the Internet is littered with conflicting information on how to properly care for these vital membranes. Should you soothe a sore throat with tea and honey? What about products like throat lozenges that are advertised to repair a raspy voice? GRAMMY Pro caught up with Hollywood’s vocal coach to the stars, Roger Love, to discuss the dos and don’ts of proper vocal cord health:

What dietary changes should singers consider for keeping their vocal cords healthy?

Phlegm is the mucus of the throat and the lubricant of the vocal cords. Phlegm is a good thing. If you didn’t have phlegm, the vocal cords would be trying to slam up against each other and they would get really red and puffy because there would be no lubricant. If you are one of those people that is always clearing their throat because you have excess thick phlegm, then and only then do you need to look at your diet and say, “OK, what are some of the things that could be causing this extra thick unwanted phlegm?” Dairy is usually on the top of the list because most people make extra thick phlegm by having too much dairy.
Next on the list is caffeine because caffeine speeds up the production of all kinds of things in the body, one of them being phlegm. It builds more mucus because it speeds up your metabolism and then you make more phlegm. If you’re having excess phlegm, you have to look at how much caffeine you are having.

What about tea with honey and lemon? Is that a good way to coat your throat?

That’s a common wives tale. They always say, “Oh your throat hurts so you should have tea with honey and lemon.” The bottom line is that’s not a good idea because tea is generally too hot. When you drink anything too hot or too cold, it can change the size of tissues in your throat. When you drink anything, it doesn’t go anywhere near the vocal cords. There are two holes in the throat – one for food and liquid and one for air. You think, “Oh my vocal cords are really dry. I’m going to drink water. Oh my vocal cords are really hydrated.” Well that’s baloney. The vocal cords live down the air hole and if you drank anything down the air hole, you would have choked. The goal is you have to drink a ton of water so that the water gets into your system and then travels to the Salivary glands, which produce mucus, but you have to have a lot of water in your system to do that. Tea is not so hot because even though it goes down the other hole, when it’s really hot or really cold, the temperature can still permeate from one hole to the next. You can still drink something that’s really cold and it can affect the vocal cords because the cold goes from the tissues from one passage to another and the surrounding tissues. You wouldn’t want to make any of the tissues in your throat swell or increase holding water. And also caffeine in tea is bad and also lemon in tea is bad. Citrus makes you salivate more and if you salivate more, you create more phlegm.

What should you drink when your throat is sore?

You can have decaffeinated tea that’s warm without lemon or honey. Honey is so thick that your body thinks that it’s just phlegm anyways. The best way to keep your cords hydrated is to drink a minimum of a half a gallon of water a day. You have to drink that much because once you take water into your body, it goes to vital organs -- the brain, the heart, etc. Salivary glands, the glands that produce the phlegm the throat, are at the end of the spectrum. So they only get water if everything else is serviced in the body. That’s why you have to drink a lot of water and the water you drink right now isn’t going to help you right now. The water you drink right now is going to help you hours from now.

What about special vitamins and products designed to repair a sore throat?

It’s all baloney. And special throat sprays and throat coat and all that stuff – you’re drinking it. It’s going down a hole where the vocal cords aren’t. And those sprays like Entertainers Secret that people just spray in their throat and then swallow it? It goes down the wrong hole. If they wanted to use a spray – which still doesn’t help really – but if they wanted to, if when they sprayed it they inhaled, then it would go to the vocal cords. That’s why when you see old movies of opera singers and they have those spritzers, they are inhaling the spray. You have to breathe in because then it goes near the vocal cords. The millions of people that are buying those stupid sprays, nobody is breathing in!

What about alcohol?

Alcohol is very bad. It’s dehydrating so when you drink, alcohol robs your body of natural moistures. When you get dehydrated, the body does two things. It’s like, “Well we better make some more fluids” and then it goes into over production of fluids and you get that thick phlegm – or it’s just in a state of “I’m dehydrated and I don’t have enough water for the vital organs and the vocal cords are not going to get any.”

What are some of the most common vocal cord issues that you see?

Well first, vocal cords just get red and swollen from putting too much pressure or singing too airy. Whispering is actually harder on the voice than screaming because it sends so much pressure to the cords that it dries up all the moisture. What I see a lot is redness, swelling of the vocal cords, and then when they keep singing when it’s red and swollen, you see these little lesions appear, like little calluses. Nodes or nodules on vocal cords are not as scary as people think. A guitar player, for example, develops calluses on his fingers because he plays the guitar daily. That’s the body saying, “If I don’t build an extra layer of skin right there where you are touching those hard strings, then you are going to wear off your fingers.” The body does the same thing for singers and speakers. The body says, “You seem to be rubbing your vocal cords in a way that is going to damage your vocal cords. Why don’t I give you an extra layer of skin there to protect you?” That’s what nodes are. They are like calluses on the vocal cords. By making the skin thicker, a mass appears and the vocal cords don’t close 100%. Vocal cords are supposed to close all the way and stop the air so when there is something on the cords, they can’t close and then air escapes in the gap on both sides. Not only does it make it red and puffy but it makes the sound all fuzzy and then the vocal cords can’t do their job. If your cords are not closing then air coming up to them is not stopped.

Then is surgery the next step?

Yes and no. Better technique is the answer. Most people who get nodes could easily just change the way that they sing and the nodes would go away. People have been coming to me since I was a kid and I have tremendous success getting rid of nodes and nodules [using better technique] before I would even think of surgery. Most of the time people have to learn how to sing better but sometimes they get hard and when they are hard, they don’t shrink back the same way. And certain things like what Adele had was a polyp -- kind of like a callus on a cord but it ruptured. When it ruptures, it bleeds and then you don’t have any choice – you have to go in and take off the scar tissue.

So when people notice that their throat is swollen, do they need to just stop singing for a while?

When people get hoarse, they need to stop singing so much or stop singing the way they are singing. They also need to seek better vocal technique that will help shrink the swelling on the cords. I have specific exercise called “Low Larynx” exercises. It elasticizes the cords and takes pressure off and allows them to move up and down the range without any pressure. Quite often, I’m called in and someone has to go on stage in a half hour and they don’t have any voice and I have to do those low larynx exercises to shrink the swelling before they go on stage.

Are there any quick tips that people can do if they are in a pinch and find their voice is horse?
They should try to find their Adam’s Apple and try to make a Yogi Bear deep sound or try to bring their tongue down until they feel their Adam’s Apple come down lower. Then they should try singing for 5 or 10 minutes in that funny voice. That will help take some of the pressure away.

What about quick tips for vocal warm ups?

Singers go to my website (http://www.rogerlove.com) where there are plenty of free exercises for them to learn my techniques. The answer is that they have to do exercises that warm up the chest voice, middle voice, and head voice. If they are just warming up their chest voice and think they are rock singers, they are not going to be singers for long. If they are only warming up their head voice and they are thinking they are opera singers, they are not going to be opera singers for long. They have to warm up chest voice, middle voice, and head voice and you need exercises to do that – while you’re doing the right kind of diaphragmatic breathing…in through the nose pretending you have a balloon in your stomach, letting the stomach come out when you inhale and then letting the stomach come back in without any pressure when you exhale.

In a nutshell, what is the best way to keep your vocal cords healthy?

The way to keep your vocal cords healthy is to drink a lot of water, to practice vocal exercises, and sing in a way that doesn’t make them red and puffy and swollen to begin with – so then your voice which is actually set up to speak and sing 24 hours a day and not get hoarse, won’t get hoarse. If you’re singing and you get hoarse afterwards, then you are doing something wrong and it’s unnecessary. It’s really that simple. 

Who's the master: you or the recording?

The best reason to use analog recorders is seldom ever discussed. It's not sound quality, as you'd expect. It's technique. With an analog master recorder, you cannot make any compromises, you cannot make any mistakes, your technique has to be flawless, and your tracking has to be planned before the first take. Noise must be kept to the minimum, modulation has to be carefully controlled and distortion has to be eliminated. Defects quickly add up. Each track has to be planned to ensure no crosstalk, optimum clarity, correct tonal balance and that each instrument and vocal has its own "space." You have to be the master of the technology, the art and the aesthetic. Otherwise, sound quality degrades quickly. Your mindset has to be that no aspect of the recording equipment is good, and you must hold all quality losses to zero -- or else. It's an Olympic athlete mentality.

With digital recorders, the assumption is made that sound quality is flawless, the number of overdubs, tracks or processing doesn't matter, and that any "mistakes" can be "fixed" with plugins during the mix. This creates an environment where no thought is given in advance to any aspect to the recording: tracks are recorded at a whim, in no particular order. Microphone placement is often rushed, even haphazard. Little effort is given to ensuring optimum modulation, controlling noise, adjacent track bleed, let alone any other aspect. After all, "we'll fix it in the mix." The result is musical mulch, sound salad, and track (dis)organization worthy of a hoarder. The recordings become cluttered, over-processed, and sound quality is at best mediocre, and to often is unacceptable. The technology masters the recordist, creating the ironic situation that today's superior technology leads to artistically and technically inferior recordings compared to the past.

So, put away those cluttered ProTools box mixes, grab a good analog recorder, and turn your tracks into treasures. Master the technology, otherwise it will master you. The more you rely on equipment or software to "fix" your mix, the less of a recording engineer you are. A correctly-done set of tracks should almost mix itself, giving you many ways to interpret the sound through different musical balances.

Better yet, get a full-track monaural analog recorder, and find out who truly rules your studio: you or that wad of tracks called "the master." You had better be the master, not the wad of tracks. Analog recorders ensure that if you aren't the master, you will be -- or else.

Leica and the Jews

The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. Leica cameras have the deserved reputation of being superlative cameras against which all others are compared: precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Made in Germany beginning in the late-1920s, they were part of that country’s all-out effort to create excellent,innovative products and thereby end the world’s perception of German goods being cheap, shoddy and imitative.

Behind Leica’s worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially-oriented firm who, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty. E. Leitz AG, designer and manufacturer of Germany 's most famous photographic product, saved its Jews from Hitler’s death camps. Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such away as to earn the title, "the photography industry's Schindler. "

When Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933,Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's infamous Nuremberg laws,which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities.

To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as"the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leaveGermany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas. Employees,retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States.

Leitz's activities intensified after the Kristallnacht ofNovember 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned acrossGermany. Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz AG, where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry.

Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica camera. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work.

Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press. Keeping the story secret, the "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks.

Alas, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939,Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America, thanks to the Leitz' efforts.

How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it? Their corporate reputation was the key. Firstly, Leitz, AG was an internationally recognized brand that reflected favorably on the resurgent Third Reich. Secondly, the company produced cameras, rangefinders, binoculars, telescopes,gun sights, microscopes and other optical equipment for the German government and military. Thirdly, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the UnitedStates.

Nevertheless, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. The Nazis jailed a top Leitz executive, AlfredTurk, who helped several Jews. He was freed only after paying a large bribe.
The Gestapo imprisoned Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz after catching her at the German-Swiss border helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed, but endured harsh abuse during her questioning, a common Gestapo behavior. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who worked in Leica’s factory during the 1940s.

After the war, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officer d'Honneur des PalmsAcademic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the EuropeanAcademy in the 1970s.

Why has no one told this story until now?

According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the story of the"Leica Freedom Train" finally come to light. It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica FreedomTrain," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living inEngland.
 

Back to the future!

Love the sound of 1960s vinyl albums? Want to capture that sound using vintage 1960s equipment? Good! Here’s some random thoughts on how to capture that vintage vibe on tape:

Firstly, you must decide whether you want to sound early ‘60s or late ‘60s. Also, do you want to sound Big Label, typical commercial studio or small studio. Here’s a general summary of the differences (specific studios may have differed from this):

Early 1960s-era Big Label Studio: 8-channel multitrack, “speech input console” has no EQs, Left/Right/Both assign switch (ping-pong stereo), variable-mu compressor and optical compressor combo with “program equalizer” (think Pultech EQP-1) for mixdown to stereo deck. Mikes – Large diaphragm tube condensor mikes and Altec, Westrex, American, RCA or STC/Coles ribbon mikes. Other gear: echo chamber or reverb plate, variable room acoustics, studio about 10,000 to 25,000 square feet.

Early 1960s-era Typical Commercial Studio: 4-channel multitrack, “speech input console”, variable-mu compressor OR broadcast-style AGC with “inductor-based equalizer” for mixdown to monaural deck. Mikes: Shure, Reslo, or ElectroVoice ribbon mikes and maybe one high-end ribbon for vocals, dynamic omnis and cardioids. Other gear: Multiple spring reverb (high-quality, not guitar quality) or used reverb plate, variable acoustics, studio about 5,000 square feet.

Early 1960s-era Small Studio: speech input console, inductor EQ, mixed directly to monaural tape deck. Mikes: all dynamics and double-button carbon. Other gear: reverb tank like electronic organ has, DIY gear, studio size about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

Late 1960s-era Big Label Studio: 16-channel multitrack, full console with channel EQs, pan, channel assign, submixers, just like today. Variable-mu compressor and optical compressor combo with “program equalizer” for mixdown to stereo deck. Mikes – Large diaphragm tube or nuvistor condensor mikes and Altec, Westrex, American, RCA or STC/Coles ribbon mikes, several high-end dynamics. Other gear: Dolby A tape noise reduction, reverb plate, variable room acoustics, studio about 10,000 to 25,000 square feet.

Late 1960s-era Typical Commercial Studio: 8-channel multitrack, modern-style console with EQs, pans, subgroups. Variable-mu compressor OR broadcast-style AGC with “inductor-based equalizer” for mixdown to stereo deck. Mikes: Shure, Reslo, or ElectroVoice ribbon mikes and maybe one tube or nuvistor condensor microphone for vocals, dynamic omnis and cardioids. Other gear: Multiple spring reverb (high-quality, not guitar quality) or used reverb plate, variable acoustics, studio about 5,000 square feet. Lots of DIY equipment made by house engineer.

Late 1960s-era Small Studio: 4-channel multitrack, 6-input stereo mixer with pans and channel EQs, master RC-type EQ, compressor scavenged from high-end studio OR new FET ladder compressor (think DBX 117) or some DIY compressor whipped up by the house engineer from scrap parts mixed directly to stereo tape deck. Mikes: all dynamics, maybe a Shure or ElectroVoice ribbon for vocals. Other gear: reverb tank like electronic organ has, DIY gear, studio size about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

Also keep in mind that vacuum tube circuitry still dominated professional recording in the 1960s. Pentodes were preferred over triodes. The very newest, high-end equipment had nuvistor circuits, germanium transistors or, at the highest end, silicon transistors. * * * * *

Recording technique during the 1960s was very different from what most recording engineers practice today. Overdubs were kept to an absolute minimum, with the exception of Motown. You try to avoid using EQ and compression as much as possible. Instead of EQ, it was more common to pick a microphone having the right tone and using that instead of using EQ. You fine-tuned the EQ by positioning the microphone.

Compression was also avoided. Notice that 1960s compressors aren't capable of as extreme compression as are modern compressors. This was because they were mainly used at the very end of the recording process to limit the uncompressed master tape to the dynamic range of the copy that would be sent out to the listeners.

It was expected that the musicians themselves with control their dynamics, in other words, engineers expected that the musicians would be able to provide their own compression. They were expected to do this by varying their performance.

When that wouldn't work, the recording engineer was expected to ride the gain instead of using an electronic compressor.

An Ode to TASCAM's 1/2-inch 8-channel analog master decks,

According to the “experts” in various online discussion groups and forums, narrow-track analog recorders like the TASCAM 80-8 and 38 are rubbish, little more than “semi-pro” or “prosumer” toys for musicians, and not serious quality recorders. Is it true? No, I most emphatically disagree. I’ve owned many analog recorders over the years, including full-size Ampex 350 and 400; Scully 280B and 280; and Studer B67 and A80 master decks along with both the TASCAM 44, 80-8 and 38.

Here’s how to get the most out of a vintage narrow-track TASCAM 80-8 or 38:

Firstly, understand the recorder. What is it? It’s TASCAM’s innovative recorder that they designed to sound like an Ampex 400 or 440 series 8-channel master recorder but cost much less to own and operate.

Did they achieve their goal? Yes! I’ve owned both the TASCAM 80-8 and the 38, and both can sound so close to an Ampex 400 that it’s eerie.

What did TASCAM change to get the price down (how does it differ from an Ampex 400C-8)? The biggest changes are obvious – no balanced inputs and outputs, signal levels are -10 dBu instead of +4 dBu, narrow track format, single tape speed of 15-ips only, no constant tension tape drive, one-piece design instead of multiple pieces, lighter-weight (less durable) construction, simplified signal control protocols, no front-panel adjustments, and ½-inch tape instead of 1-inch tape. The TASCAM uses IEC EQ, whereas most Ampex 400 series use NAB. This is a good change, the IEC EQ gives clearer bass with the narrow track format of the TASCAM.

What performance differences exist between the TASCAM and Ampex recorders? Interestingly, THD, frequency response and flutter-and-wow are nearly identical. The TASCAM is about 2 dB noisier, mostly in the bass region and its headroom is +9 dB compared to +12 for the Ampex. This in practice isn’t that important. Bass crosstalk is worse for the TASCAM than the Ampex, but midrange and treble crosstalk are nearly identical. The 38’s lack of a constant-tension tape drive means that fast-forward and rewinding results in sloppy tape pack, which can cause tape edge curl over time. Interfacing the 38 to Dolby Noise Reduction is problematic, but not a real issue.

How do I get big label sound from the TASCAM 80-8 or 38? Carefully plan your tracking. Follow these tips:

1. Keep levels between -7 dB and -0 dB on peaks depending on the sound. Treble sounds like cymbals should be kept between -7 and -3 dB, but bass and midrange sounds can be pushed to -3 db to 0 db. DO NOT “PUSH THE TAPE HARD” to create warmth and “tape compression” for guitar tracks. No one ever did this back the analog days, and any claims they did are an urban legend originating in magazine interviews. The recording engineer’s objective is clear, noiseless, undistorted sound, and excessive tape levels never sound good.

2. Don’t put two or more bass sounds on adjacent tracks because of crosstalk issues, this prevents muddy bass and gives the deck great bass clarity. For example, don’t put bass guitar on Track 1 and kick drum on Track 2.

3. Use Tracks 1 and 8 only for midrange or bass sounds whenever possible. This is because tape curl problems can cause loss of level and highs on tracks 1 and 8, which are along the tape edges.

4. High-pass (use a bass cut) on tracks with vocals, guitars, or other midrange and treble instruments during mixdown. This minimizes the effect of crosstalk on your mix and improves clarity by preventing muddiness.

5. Minimize rewinding and fast-forwarding the tape because this can cause tape curl from the sloppy tape packing. If you have to, okay, but after you’re done for the day rewind the tape fully then play the tape until it runs out, and store in the “tails-out” position. This minimizes tape curl.

6. Keep the tape path clean and demagnetized. Do it at the end of the day, or every 8-hours, whichever occurs first.

7. Use only good quality tape, because tape dropouts are a bigger issue with narrow track recorders than wide track recorders. Don’t touch the tape with bare fingers, your skin oil will degrade the tape and cause dropouts.

8. Obviously, minimize overdubs or ping-ponging (bouncing) tracks,. But you should do that anyway, regardless of how god the recorder.

Okay, recording fanatics, now go out and buy a TASCAM 80-8 or 38 - then make some great music with it! Show them whose boss!

Some thoughts about Colonel Billy.

"I don't measure an amp's success by how loud he plays but by how much tone he drips when over-driven." --Colonel Billy

Recently, I had an inquiry from a guitarist who plays a Traynor amplifier asking about one of my 12-inch AlNiCo guitar speakers, known as "Colonel Billy." I remember those Traynor amps when they were new. Great amplifiers, and actually those Altec speakers used by Traynor were wonderful. They were one of the few 6BQ5/EL84 amps I liked, punchier than a Vox AC15 and a lot more reliable. By the way, I've just released a ceramic magnet version of Colonel Billy that is a bit brighter, and very articulate, moderate headroom with moderate breakup (it's  start to break up right about the point that a pair of 6BQ5/EL84 begins to near overdrive). Great for "country pickin'" or for more dynamic and articulate rhythm. $175.00, shipping included. Both speakers are individually hand-made then broken in for 40 hours, so they're all loosened up and ready to play out of the box.

Brightness in a full-range or extended range speaker (most guitar speakers are actually extended range woofers) is determined by: the complex ratios among the voice coil's inductance, DC resistance and moving mass; whether the voice coil is over-hung or under-hung (and by how much), voice coil diameter as a ratio to cone diameter, how the voice coil attaches to the cone, voice coil former length, the cone's shape, weight and profile; dust cap shape, weight, material and how the voice coil is attached to the cone; surround stiffness, spider stiffness, and (to a very lesser extent) magnet strength in the air gap structure.

So, you cannot generalize that AlNiCo is brighter than ceramic. Some of the brightest 12-inch speakers ever made were the E-V 12-inch extended range speakers of the 1960s, or 1970s-era Foster and Creedence extended range woofers: they were ceramic.

The different magnets affect magnet strength for a given size or mass of magnet. Generally, Ceramics magnets are weakest, so they result in lower-sensitivity speakers, or in higher distortion speaker motors -- unless you use HUGE ceramic magnets. Think of some of those 1970s-era JBL, Cetec-Gauss and higher end Eminence models (the ones with the square magnets).

I start out designing with my own magnet, a hybrid AlNiCo/Neodymium design, when I want high sensitivity, very late onset of break-up, and fast transient response (think high-end sound re-enforcement or commercial theater speakers). I then go to AlNiCo when I want traditional sensitivity, late onset of break-up, and typical transient response. Ceramic magnets give me a thicker, richer tone, medium breakup, with only slightly less sensitivity. Thus, I can get a wide range of tone from the same cone assembly, voice coil and dust cap.

At this point, let me tell you a dirty secret that amp and speaker companies won't tell you: 90% of your tone is in your fingers, the rest is the guitar itself, the speaker, the amp, and to a very little extent the amplifier's tubes, transistors or integrated circuits.

Knowing that, I draw from my main experience, which is studio monitors, commercial theater and high-end sound re-enforcement speakers, to create "tone" by manipulating the onset of distortion (by setting gap length, voice coil length, cone rigidity and voice coil attachment), the height of that response peak that occurs between 1 kHz and 3 kHz - which I call the "tone spike" - (voice coil reactance, dust cap shape and cone profile), and transient response (ratio of motor strength to cone moving-mass [cone weight and suspension compliance]). The speaker starts out as a hi-fi woofer, not as a cheap speaker which is the traditional approach.

So, not knowing how an individual fingers their guitar, or their style of playing, or the effects they use (and how they use them), so it's hard for me to be 100% certain which of he two to recommend to someone. It's like asking if a restaurant's vanilla shake is better than their chocolate shake -- depends on your tastes (I prefer strawberry, so neither for me!)

Both models have about the same frequency response, but the "tone spike" is 3 dB higher for the ceramic magnet model, the ceramic has a "thicker" tone that isn't quite as revealing of detail, and distortion sets in earlier for the ceramic. Why? The weaker magnet doesn't damp resonance as much as the AlNiCo, its voice coil is adjusted to leave the air gap earlier, and the motor is weaker because of the ceramic magnet. The AlNiCo version has a tone spike of 4 dB, the ceramic 7 dB

I personally like both equally for amps like the Traynor, Vox AC15 & AC 30, Brauner, Brociner, Heath, Eico, Amplifier Corporation of America, Bogen, Challenger, MASCO, Voice of Music, Silvertone, Lectrosonic, Revox, Grundig, Valco and those weird British amps that have two 6-inch and one 8-inch (or two 6x9), or any amp made before 1980 that uses 6BQ5/EL84, 6V6GT, 50L6, 25L6, 6BM8, 6N7, 50EH6, and 6HU8/ELL80. It comes down to what effects you prefer and your style of playing.

For your own education, go to Eminence's web site and look at the frequency response graphs and compare how they poetically describe the speakers' "tone." About the only difference you'll see is the height and width of the "tone spike," the height of that response peak that occurs between 1 kHz and 3 kHz, which varies between about 4 dB to as much as 12 dB! A high spike is described as "more bite" or "more aggressive" while a small spike is more smooth, or more natural. This is what passes for "tone" in a traditional speaker; it in essence pre-equalize the speaker to bring out the sound of typical electric guitar pickups. Humbuckers usually -- note: usually, not always -- sound best with tone spikes between 5 and 9 dB, single coils sound best with tone spikes of 4 to 7 dB. If you're playing heavy metal or the like, you want to tone spike to resemble Mount Everest.

Oddly, the absence of any tone spike at all is desirable for those who play acoustics, or who use many effects, especially distortion/overdrive/fuzz. (I think I'm the only one who make music instrument speakers with flat frequency response, no "tone spike.")

As a shameless plug, I'm working on new book on speaker design scheduled for this fall. It will present the pros and cons of each design approach, a method for helping you decide which design is best for your use, and it will include some nice DIY designs that use commonly available parts. I dislike books who, either subtly or blatantly, suggest "the one best way" to design a speaker, which, so far, is every book I've read.

Have analog, will travel. Have analog, will travel. Have analog, will travel.

So why do I own the analog recorders I have?

Well, I chose my analog recorders on the basis of portability, then I make any modifications require to upgrade the sound to be indistinguishable from a full-sized studio recorder. This lets me take “big label sound” around to digital-only studios rehearsal spaces, live performances, houses of worship, or over to a friend’s house for a jam session. It’s hard to move an 8-channel recorder that is the size of an office desk and that weighs 300 pounds.

So, presently, here’s my present lineup of modified portable(ish) analog recorders:

Ampex 602
Magnecorder PT-63J
Nakamichi 550 (yes, it’s a stereo cassette, but with reel-to-reel sound)
Revox A77-HS “suitcase model” (15 ips speed).
Revox A77 Dolby
Revox B77-HS
Teac A3440
Teac TASCAM 80-8
Uher 4000 Report L

In particular, the 1/2-inch format Teac TASCAM 80-8 was intended to give the sound of a 1970s-era Ampex 1”-format 8-channel recorder in a small size. They succeeded. True, you do have to take care regarding its limited bass-frequency crosstalk, and the lack of balanced inputs and outputs restricts cable length, but the 80-8’s overall sound quality is the same as a full sized Ampex. Good job, TASCAM!

Killing Music softly

#1 Thing that Angers Me In The Music Biz: Exploitative booking agents who rip off their clients.

Don't these bloodsuckers get it?

Music doesn't appear from nothingness, it comes from the heart and soul of a musician!

You rip-off the musicians, you're killing the music.

Then where are you?

Listening to silence.

Star Wreck

I admit, I never was much of a Star Trek fan. The only time I watched it was when friends came by and wanted to turn it on. I never had the heart to tell them it turned me off.

The premise is ridiculous: you send the Captain and the most senior officers into the most-dangerous situations first. Nope, that's what Ensigns and Second Lieutenants are for, guys.

The various “Next Generation" series are embarrassing. I actually feel sorry for the actors doomed to appear in it. Each of the characters are juvenile, the officers throw tantrums and lose their cool routinely -- just one instance of such behavior is a career-ending event in the real world -- and everyone sits around whining about every little trivia of life. The villains are one-dimensional parodies based on pop culture stereotypes: warmongering Klingons, Cardassians and other species; xenophobic Romulans, greedy Ferengi who are a snaggle-toothed, big-eared mockery of business executives; Neo-Nazi robot-conversions of humans (the Borg) who seem a bit too much like Doctor Who’s Cybermen, but far less interesting. Worse, the series disgraces the memories of the truly brave Maquis with their pale imitation, obviously written by someone who never lived in an oppressed nation and whose knowledge of freedom fighters comes mainly from World War II-era black-and-white movies and episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. Add to the nauseating mix a goo creaturee whose face looks like a melted mannequin, another character who is a bad imitation of native Americans ripped from the pages of stale 1950s-era B-Western movie scripts, and an overwrought imitation of Lost In Space without a fun robot, loveable-yet-conniving passenger and kitschy 1960s smoke-and-sparks special effects.

Meanwhile the android does a hippie-like navel-searching self-indulgence for his "humanity." Dude, you're an android with a bad paint job, you'll never be human, give it up: just network with the toaster and tell it to make mine dark but not burned!

The whole franchise felt to me like it was written by twelve-year-old boys.