new hardware


Have you heard the saying, "Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans"? I think that's what's happened to me in the last year since I last posted here. I used to work for Adelphia (news), which, poor choices made by management aside, was the best job I've ever had. I was a senior network engineer covering Ohio and parts of four surrounding states. I was both challenged and productive. My superiors were bright, honest and fair, and my peers always supportive. This was a very happy combination, professionally. We built and managed a remarkable network serving millions of people. For a few years in my life, I was happy. However, the people whom all we employees relied on did some very bad things, and were ultimately convicted of fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to prison in 2005. It seems they will finally go to prison, as they continue to fight the sentence, even today believing that they did no wrong. Myself, I think that taking over two billion dollars and then trying to hide that fact (how do you hide that much? how do you even spend that much?) and even after being convicted and sentenced to prison, still think you didn't do anything wrong, can only be a result of greed and ego on an unimaginable scale. It's not at all a pleasant thing to think about, for me.

The resulting bankruptcy resulted in tens of thousands of families living in real uncertainty as we all waited for the courts to decide what the fate of Adelphia would be. Adelphia was mostly sold to Time-Warner and Comcast. Some people were let go, but many were kept. I ended up at a desk job in Columbus, in optical transport. This is where I am now, and it consumes all my time.

Yes, I miss working for Adelphia, but now I have new challenges. Some of those challenges are: how to keep my pipe organ in good shape (impossible), finish the restoration of the Estey Style-T reed organ I have been working on for a year, and most importantly, how to keep up what I love most, music and recording.

Unfortunately for my dear reader, keeping this blog up-to-date (upgrades included!) has been pretty much dead last on my list. So that's why there's been nothing here for nearly the last year.

However, I do have a new toy. I have a Fostex FR-2. I bought it a few weeks ago. I was recording a hymn sing with over 300 strong singers. I was recording using the Marantz PMD-660. The AT4050/cm5 microphones did so well (bless them) that they completely overloaded the mic pre-amps in the PMD660. What a shame! That was pretty much an unforgivable sin for the PMD660. As much as it pains me to part with hard-earned savings, I plunked down a few bucks on an FR-2. Don't get me wrong, the PMD660 is extremely worthwhile for certain applications, and I will continue using it. It is small, light and very useful.

Aside from having far superior mic pre-amps, the FR-2 has the ability to record at up to 192kHz and at 24 bit quantization. The benefits of recording at 24 bits were never so clear to me as they were after I made my first field recording with it. So, yes, I have a sound sample for you. It was recorded at 44.1kHz, at 24 bits. I normalized the whole file and then dithered it to 16 bits. There was nothing else done to the wave file. I wish it was longer, but I want only to demonstrate the FR-2, not give away the lovely anthem performed by my client.

FR2-sample.ogg, vorbis encoded, 664kB, 0:34

I don't believe I've ever mentioned this here before: I'd like to offer my recording services to you. No matter who you are, I believe I am prepared to produce for you you the finest recordings possible. I record choirs, accompanied and unaccompanied, and pipe organs exclusively. I rarely do anything else. I believe that, as a musician, I bring a unique sensitivity to the demands that music of that type present to the recording engineer. If you want to hear more of my work, or have a discussion, I encourage you to please email me at andrew "at" noisefloor.org. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to record for you. If you send me mail, be patient. I do want to hear from you, but may not be able to reply immediately.

Thanks for listening!

After many years of planning, this past August I traveled to a secluded spot on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. One of my main goals while there was to capture the sound of the surf, and to use various mics and so forth to see what I liked best.

I took with me my newest toy: a Marantz PMD660 solid state recorder. This particular unit being newer than Marantz's earlier release of the product, I am told, has fairly good pre-amps. In any case, I had a lot of fun with it. I also dragged along some mics: AT4050/cm5, Behringer measurement mics (super el-cheapos, but very functional), AT822 (I still think the 822 is a fantastic value) and a pair of AE5100s, which I like for some purposes. They are a little bright for me. Maybe I am a little too used to the 4050s.

And so I can now present some results.

Track 1 was made with the Behringer mics, located at least 50 yards from the surf. The surf was quite strong, too. Interestingly, it isn't all that easy to tell how far away the mics are. You can hear some birds singing, maybe even some hummingbirds, and locusts as well. You might hear some thumping. That is me walking across the deck. In later sessions, I dug out some shock mounts to reduce that. All of the recordings were made with the mics in ORTF spacing, with the exception of the AT822, which is a single-unit stereo mic, and has the capsules fixed in an X-Y position. (Which, generally, I am not fond of unless used for close work.) The stereo image in this track is lacking a little for sure, because the Behringer mics are omnidirectionals, and are in an ORTF arrangement! That is something that virtually all audio engineers will tell you is completely incorrect, but – what the heck, I was experimenting.

TRACK_01_STRONG_SURF_16-33.ogg, vorbis encoded, 17.4MB, 16:09

Track 2 was made with the AT822, located about 50 yards or more from the rather strong surf. The 822 has a few very noticable peaks in the treble. I am not sure if it is a help or not. In any case, it's easy to reduce in post production. I left it untouched here. Again, this sounds a LOT closer to the shore than 50 yards, but trust me, they were probably 60 or 70 yards away. You can hear that the stereo image is kinda flat. That, I think, is the result of X-Y spacing used at a distance. This track can be played in a loop. I tried to make sure that the loop sounds seamless.

TRACK02_SHORE_LOOP_01_2-52.ogg, vorbis encoded, 3.08MB, 2:50

Track 3 was made at the end of my two weeks in Michigan, with the AE5100s. These were very reasonably priced, considering their quality, I think. These mics were placed about 3 meters from the surf at about head height. The resulting stereo image captured by these cardioid mics in ORTF arrangement is very good. This track is cropped so that if played in a loop it is seamless. Note that this track is over fifty megabytes long and will certainly take a few minutes to download. The surf was much lower than previous days, but there are times when the wind did kick up quite well; I guess about 15 to 20 MPH. It was very strong. The windscreens on the 5100s are effective, but even at that strength of wind, you will hear some rumble at times (about 6:30 in, for example.)

TRACK03_SHORE_LOOP_03_45-50.ogg, vorbis encoded, 52.0MB, 45:07

Of course, I did make some recordings using the 4050s, but I didn't have any wind screens for them, and boy howdy, they do NOT like even the slightest breeze. And I can tell you, there was almost always a strong wind at the lakeshore. Maybe I'll crop a sample down just so you can hear it anyway, for the sake of comparison. The sound quality was good, of course, but the wind completely obliterated the sound when it kicked up.

I also made a good deal of ambient recording in the cabin, etc. I took home about 7 gigabytes of wave files! I intend on posting some of that, too. Then you will be able to hear my family arguing about all kinds of tedious crap in between heated games of Scrabble. OH, the joys of the family vacation. In case any of them are reading this, I have to say I am very glad they were all there, I rarely see them, so it's all good, really.

Sorry I don't have any visuals for you. My camera died shortly before I left on vacation.
Andrew

The past few months, I have been having a great deal of fun with two pieces of gear that go great together. One is the iriver hp-140 mp3 player/recorder. The other is an Audio Technica AT822 battery operated microphone. These two devices together are the greatest pieces of technology to enter my life. The iriver hp120 and 140 are 20 and 40 gigabyte multi-codec players and recorders. They have 1/8th inch input and output, as well as optical in and out. They are also equipped with a USB interface. The recorder can record with many varieties of mp3 compression and bitrates. It can also record 14.4kHz WAV files. The inputs are very quiet, even at full gain (+48dB)

HERE is a page with pics and soundclips.