diary gear music

Recording and engineering

Yep, I’m working on some new song recordings and this time around I’ll be sharing engineering duties with my collaborator, which means that I am still doing much of it myself for pretty much the first time ever (oh YAY!). Aside from the fact that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (but hey I AM some kind of engineer, right? Pfft, I can figure this out!), it’s frustrating to have to make do with my extremely limited equipment and severely underpowered computer (a 1.5 GHz Powerbook G4 with a mere 1GB of RAM… sigh). Well I don’t really have any good software plugins anyway. And who knows, it may be interesting! I stand by the philosophy of “as long as it sounds good to me.”

Over the course of the last several months I have learned several things:

  • 2″ tape is awfully heavy!
  • Metric Halo’s Mobile I/O ULN-2 is way better than my old M-Audio Firewire 410. Considering the price difference it damned well better be! The pres sound really nice, however the stepped gain control knob is annoying. There’s something really nice about a continuous gain control knob. Oh well. I wish it had TOSLINK connectors in addition to coax and AES. And hmm I also wish it had separate headphone and monitor routing control. And while I’m at it I wish it were smaller and lighter than it is (it’s not quite 1U and is about 4 pounds). Anyway, other than all that it’s simple and easy to figure out and use. I like the meters up front. The software mixing console is nice and simple too… though I did find a couple of quirks that thankfully don’t affect usability: when you click on the block diagram it will continue to darken with each click and you can only fix this by quitting and reopening the console application; also you can’t get the console window back if you close it but don’t quit, unless you quit and reopen. Weird.
  • Ableton Live 5 is great for assembling loop-based music, but only REALLY nice once the samples are all nicely cut and faded perfect loops. The good: manipulating samples through warping and playing with the beat markers can make for some really cool sounds. The bad: not being able to do any fine-tuning/destructive edits within Ableton (I suppose rendering a sample is an okay workaround); not being able to snap to zero crossings (Ableton lets you fade the start and end points, but it’s something that’s either on or off); not being able to crossfade adjacent audio edits in the arrangement view. Hmm. I guess it’s REALLY not meant to be an editor. Complete takes are good anyway, right?

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