Me in Studio B

Me in Studio B
If you were googling Undertone Audio and found my blog here, well...welcome! You should visit the official website, undertoneaudio.com, but here you can follow my adventures as the crew and I build these mixing consoles, EQs and other oddities. Some, most or all of my work wouldn't be very interesting to a lot of people, but for recording junkies who get excited about vintage German tube mics, cool, eccentric compressors, studio history and some of the fun ins and outs of studio life, this could be for you. Hey, make it your home page and impress chicks! I can be reached at mw@undertoneaudio.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

EQ Instructional Videos

Here is an instructional on the EQ's features in three parts:

First, here are UTA EQ basics


Part 2 EQ Flexibility


Part 3 Notch Mode


Next we will have an introduction to our compressor... the UnFAIRCHILD!
Cheers,
MW

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New Products Page on Undertone Audio Website

Cian added this http://www.undertoneaudio.com/products.html. The EQ instuctional video will be up very soon.

MW

New Spanish Blog... Again

Here is a link to the new Spanish version of the blog (blog en español) http://lasaventurasdemikedeundertoneaudio.blogspot.com/. It's going to take awhile for me to get it caught up, but it's going to be a lot better.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog en español moving

The page on which I was posting the Spanish blog seems to have reached it's capacity. I'm going to set up a complete new Spanish blog with a link and I'll try to get this done quickly. In the mean time, the blog en español is going to be a little behind... sorry

MW

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Like us on Facebook and Ask Eric on Gearslutz

The Undertone Audio Facebook page has been up for awhile, but neglected, so we are going to be more active with posting on there, so be sure to "like" us http://www.facebook.com/pages/Undertone-Audio/168127246534869.

Eric now has his own section on Gearslutz where you can ask him questions http://www.gearslutz.com/board/q-eric-valentine/. Eric, who spent last weekend in Yosemite, had ordered cans of Bear Repellent spray. The cans didn't arrive until after he came back, so now they can be used as Roger Repellent:

Greg Koller and Britt Daniel (Spoon) were in Studio A with me on Monday, mixing a song for Handsome Furs. It was a fun session, cool song and Greg treated me to Sushi Hiroba for dinner!

More test drive sessions this week and Eric starts a big project next week, which will have to be kept a secret until later.

Cian gave me a copy of the photo used on Taking Back Sunday's special edition album cover -close up of Studio B's master section with custom THG knobs. I had posted a shot of this before, but this is much better:

He also found a fun shot of Eric and I from the AES show last November.


Cian just returned to work today after spending three weeks in Africa filming a documentary, we are happy to have him back and he updated the Undertone Audio website... now there is material to listen to in the "Hear it" section http://www.undertoneaudio.com/hearit.html.

As far as me and yummy food goes, I'm on a diet now... so there shouldn't be anything too exciting to write about for awhile, unless you want to see pictures of my Slim Fast bars.

MW

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmageddon Overrated

In case you didn't know, the 405 freeway was shut down this weekend between the 101 and 10 freeways. That stretch of the 405 is extremely busy, it's a route between the west side and the valley and it's near the airport. We were warned way ahead of time and we feared that the entire city would become one giant traffic jam called, "Carmageddon," but it has been pretty quiet and light all weekend.

Lately I've been working on the 24 channel console and trying to keep on top of vendors and parts for that and the EQs.

I've been putting together mics with David and Sean over at Bock Audio and doing more work for the guys at Capitol. I did an inventory of the wiring and patchbays I've done for them... I knew it was a lot, but it is a massive amount of stuff and more on the way.

Trevor and I recently installed new pots on Eric's Brian Setzer model Gretsch. That was interesting, because it's a hollow body -the only way to get the old pots out and new ones in was to tie them and their hardware onto string and pull them through the "f" holes. It's an old luthier trick that Trevor researched.

Someone started a new thread on Gearslutz about the production on the Taking Back Sunday record and Eric has been sharing in depth information about the process, answering people's questions http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/624071-eric-valentine-new-taking-back-sunday-self-titled.html.

Greg Koller will be in Studio A tomorrow for a mix and David Bock will be test driving that console on Saturday. He will be using 2" tape from 1985, so we have been baking them before we put them up on the machines. These sessions are going to be fun.

MW

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Taking Back Sunday Publicity

The music video that was shot in the studio for Taking Back Sunday's "Faith" is out and there are familiar shots of the Studio A tracking room and the lounge. They put in a very funny tribute to Guns n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" video and look closely in that scene, there is an advertisement for the new record on the back of the bus... fun stuff. I remember seeing a guy in a cat costume, that's something you don't see everyday, but no shots of consoles and I didn't get to make a cameo... too bad, but they did get porn stars in this video:


Mix magazine did an article about the new record http://www.mixonline.com/recording/artists_engineers_producers/taking_back_sunday/

Here is a quote from Eric from that article:

“I was tinkering with bits of the circuitry in the console and was able to make some refinements through the process. I have a feeling the tinkering will probably never stop.”

Yes, I can confirm that first hand, the tinkering must never stop. If it does, bad things could happen to us all...

The compressor is finished, now we are getting into the finished product and I am happy to announce that the research and development for the rackmount mic pre/EQ is done... parts have been arriving, I'm testing VU meters and we will have them available very soon. If you want to be on the waiting list, contact us.

I've been doing that, putting together more 251s with David and Sean over at Bock Audio and I've been at Capitol with Greg Koller, working on the new set up over there. Tim O'Sullivan from Capitol Studios has been in giving me a hand with the work load lately, John Musgrave (also from Capitol) came by to visit yesterday -that was great to see him, I hadn't seen him in nearly twenty years, since the old, long gone Conway days, and engineer Chris Baseford came over to see the studio and have lunch.

Roger the Destructor should be here this afternoon to do more work on the 24 channel console's input modules, so my peace is going to be shattered soon enough. At least I got to eat my sandwich and write my blog entry before the chaos begins.

Kate, I don't know your last name, sorry, down in beautiful Australia, is our reader of the month. By the way, Kate, are you Sexy_Bounce, or is that someone else?

Goodday mates,
MW

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Questions and Answers

Our friend Mauricio in Bogotá emailed me awhile ago with good questions regarding recording. There were a lot of them, some I didn't have a good answer for and thought it would be better to pass those on, but I wanted to share a few of them. 

If you track/mix with lots of Neve preamps, versus, say, SSL preamps, is the difference going to be huge?

The designs are very different; SSL uses an integrated op amp and I'm pretty sure there is no output transformer while Neve (the modern stuff is so different from the vintage stuff, so I want to compare the classic era) used a discrete (meaning individual components), class A design with both an input transformer and a huge output transformer. The way the amplifiers function and the way they color the sound is completely different. It also depends on what you are recording, which mic is being used and how it will ultimately blend in the mix. One of the key points is "lots of" because there is an accumulative effect when using multiple amounts of the same thing, although Eric points out that the difference is going to be much more subtle in terms of mic pres compared to mixing on one console verses another, where so many interstage transformers, coupling caps and other amplifiers may be in the signal path.

I attended a seminar where Horacio Malvicino was the speaker. He has worked for SSL and has done many installs. He said that when you are soldering, you should put the gun under the XLR pin and wait for it to heat up, instead of putting it directly on the cable, is there any reason for that?

Horacio is absolutely right. When soldering properly, a chemical reaction happens; molecules in the connector's surface will bond to those of the wire. Solder itself is a bad conductor, even though solder and the flux in it can cause shorts. It is important to heat up the connector pin when you are soldering as well as when you tin it. Two of the most common problems resulting from improper solder technique are solder bridges (meaning the wire isn't touching the connector... it's just sitting in a pool of solder) and cold solder joints. Cold solder joints can be caused by blowing on it as it cools, not heating enough and oxidized connectors and wire. I found this great instructional video on soldering http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_NU2ruzyc4.

I always see NS10s positioned horizontally on the console, I've tried it but I prefer to place them vertically, the sound is more coherent phase-wise. Do people place them horizontally because the console bridges are just too high? This is kind of a dumb question, but I'm curious.

People place them horizontally because meter bridges are too high, they are used to listening to them that way and in some rooms, the monitors sitting on the meter bridge can block the mains.

Some people say X gear is more "3D" than Y gear. Can this be explained electronically or is it more on the esoteric/subjective side of things?

Sometimes it's esoteric, sometimes it's scientific, but it is almost always subjective. People have their vocabulary for describing what they are hearing... if they specifically describe the low end as being more defined or there seems to be more "punch," but when someone uses "3D" or "wider" to describe how a mix is sounding using such and such piece of expensive stereo something... that is a red flag. There could be serious phase problems. This is exactly what was at the heart of the recent internal/external clock Gearslutz.com slug fest. One gentleman early on in that thread described the differences between two files as being, "In one you are in the room listening to the music, in the other you are not" and he boldly stated he could pick it out in six seconds each time. He came to the studio, took a blind listening test nine times and scored roughly 55%, which on a grading scale is a fail. He was surprised, but he was very humble about it and shared the results online.

Cheers,
MW

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trevor to the Rescue

On Friday night we went to see Taking Back Sunday at the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. and the band was great. Good show, intense and a lot of fun, but if you have seen them live, you know that Adam Lazarra likes to jump off the stage and sing somewhere else in the venue... the bar, in the back... the crowd freaks out and he likes to climb things. That night, he climbed up to the second floor balcony while he was singing, put a foot/ankle in a lighting rig to support himself and all of a sudden needed help. He reached a hand up for someone to grab him... anyone and this was happening in front of our table upstairs. Trevor grabbed him by one hand and pulled him up to safety. Adam didn't realize who it was until he had a chance to look at him... Trevor saved the night.

Taking Back Sunday, by the way, released the new album last Tuesday. Get it on CD and support the home team.

The special package cover is a close up shot of the Studio B console's master section with a burned CD of the album sitting on it.
I'll try to get a better shot of that to post.

Roger is doing better now... if you read my last post you know that he came down with a sudden, very scary case of amnesia. His memory came back and now it's Roger as usual.

I mentioned that Eric started a thread on gearslutz about blind listening tests and applying that to comparing internal/external clocks. There were people who chimed in who had very insightful, intelligent posts. There were a hand full of people who couldn't quite understand the point. There was some disappointing behavior from one or two people who should know better and finally, there was some absolute stupidity.

It is widely known that heated discussions on forums, in particular, Gearslutz, can quickly develop into childish name calling. Sadly, if you read through that thread you will find some of the worst, belligerent ranting. It's interesting how people will behave one way while having a discussion, even an argument, in person, but when someone is online and somewhat anonymous, they will go to great lengths to attack anyone and destroy their own credibility. At one point, I think around page nine or ten, it gets bizarre, then it just kept getting worse. http://www.gearslutz.com/board/high-end/622491-antelope-trinity-10m-vs-internal-clock-comparison.html

One of the main points of the tread is to listen without influence of marketing hype or other kinds of suggestion and if people, regardless of how experienced their ears are, will be unpleasantly surprised by just how unable they will be to pick out differences, despite the wild claims. In one post, someone had mentioned the McGurk Effect. This was discovered in the seventies and is demonstrated in this video. If you listen with your eyes open, your vision can lead your brain to misinterpret the auditory information. Listen to the man say, "Bah Bah Bah" with your eyes closed for the entire duration, then listen while watching. Now apply that to your approach to critical listening with music and recording gear.



We have since had discussions about the importance of listening to your mixes, A/B tests, etc. with your eyes closed. It goes without saying that people today are too dependent on looking at waveforms on a computer monitor. As a friend of mine recently said, "The listening audience doesn't get a copy of your desktop to look at when they hear your mixes."

We have been dealing with parts for the rackmount units and we continued with research and development for UTA. The new faceplates for the 24 channel console are back and they look absolutely amazing. Matt's sessions have been going on in Studio B and I spent time over at Bock Audio this week putting together 251s and 241s.

David Bock had read my blog about swapping out CK12 capsules in Eric's vintage 251 and pointed out something very interesting that I did not know; the CK12 in the 414s, C12s and ELA M251s are not exactly alike... there were variations, for example, the thickness of the back plates. The 251 in question now has a CK12 from a vintage 414, but it sounds absolutely amazing and is the most popular mic in the house. However, if the mic is going to be sold eventually, we will replace the original capsule and let any buyer know what exactly has been done to it.

We have been discussing what we want to do later this year to bring Undertone Audio to more people and it is exciting. I will announce it later when we are ready.

Cheers,
MW