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Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column
by Thad Brown
|. . . And To All A Good Night
Ho Ho Ho, and a bottle of Lagavulin. We're feeling the holiday cheer here at xlr8yourmac. Nary a "bah, humbug" to be found, just a bunch of shiny happy holiday cheerful faces and CD burners for all the good girls and boys. The bad boys and girls will be getting Win3.1 and DOS boot floppies in their stockings, but they are few and far between. I have been too busy to finish the software reviews I have been working on, so here are a few tidbits, including a POSITIVE section about Apple.
Last Minute Gifts for Your Audio Dweeb
Of course I finished all of my Christmas months ago, but if any of you out there are scrambling for things to buy your audio nerd loved one or boss, here are a few ideas. For me, just a Neve and a dozen or so Focusrite outboard rack units and I'll suffer through whatever ties people think I need. Or maybe a Les Paul. Gold Top. With P-90s. Trust me, what follows are all things that every audio person could put to use some way or another.
If you have a budding recording engineer in the basement, still using the built in audio on the Mac with two microphones, get Santa to spring for a compressor or microphone preamp. The Presonus Blue Max is a great starter. It sounds great and is stupid simple to use, it even has presets. Another unit I have not personally used but have heard raves about it the Real Nice Compressor from FMR. Some dynamics control under the tree will make for optimal levels all year long. A couple of good microphone preamps will also help clean up a critical part of the audio signal path. Try the Tube MP isn't in a gazillion project studios because it sucks, nor are all those functional mic pres from Symetrix in thousands of racks because they sound lousy. Can't ever go wrong with clean gain, I assure you. If you have a few more pennies to spend, think about a Joe Meek voice box or compressor.
Maybe the person on your list has been much more nice than naughty, but thinks that microphones are just for old fogies with long hair and guitars. For the samplehead techno freak, pick up a soft synth or hip new plug-in. Chances are they already have Recycle and Rebirth from Propellerheads, but if they don't they will love you for it. The Vibra 9000 from Koblo will put a smile on a face on the morning of the 25th, as will the new vocoder plug-in from Prosoniq, and that plug-in will work both in you VST savvy app and as a stand alone processor.
Perhaps Santa needs to find a microphone for the little boys and girls, but just doesn't know which one to pick. Audio-Technica has made some impressive moves into the project studio world with very good mics for not so much cash. Their 30 Series mics will do astonishing things for the money. I use the small omni condenser all the time. If you have a few extra bucks bump up to the 40 series and expect better cookies and milk to be left out next year. If live playing is the plan for next year, you can't go wrong with anything from Audix, so pick your OM Series price point and keep feedback lower until New Years 2000.
All of this stuff us pretty easily available, and a trip to your local giant corporate chain store with some of this info off of the web should yield excellent results.
My Present to Apple
Regular readers know that I complain constantly about what I see as the depressingly anti-capitalistic and anti-tweaker attitude of Apple. In keeping with the holiday cheer theme of this column, here is the next year of Mac audio as seen through rosy colored glasses, and after a half dozen cups of egg nog and a hot buttered rum.
Apple releases new Macs early 1999. They are fast, look good, and the gain stage in the audio input is defeatable. Apple makes a ton of money off of them, and a theme begins to become obvious. The knife in the back of the cloners was truly a depseration measure to get the bottom line back in order, and lessons have been learned about price and quality. Firewire brings cheaper and easier connection for external drives and I/O devices. Market share surges, and the tide begins to flow back towards Apple with audio people. Windows users convert to Mac, not the other way around. This market share in the audio production brings hardware manufacturers around; audio and DSP cards are not released without Mac support. The PCI expansion chassis works seamlessly with the new Macs so the Pro Tools folks are happy. We rejoice and are exceeding glad.
Quicktime becomes the default way to deliver all manner of multimedia content, on the web, on DVD-ROM, to a cable box, or whatever. Apple decides that after years of having content designed on a small number of Macs and delivered to an ocean of PCs, they want a taste of the other side of the fence. Now multimedia authors can work easily on a Mac, and know that their creations will tranlsate platforms seamlessly. Apple makes unspeakable amounts of money not by building the internet box, or set top box, or cell phone--but rather by helping all this stuff talk to each other. As users become accustomed to Quicktime and other Apple technologies, they start to think of Apple as the better way to get internet access and multimedia. Apple leverages Quicktime into cosumer sales and keeps their edge in authoring, and then gives me a P1 for free.
Later in the year, the hope of native audio is realized with OS X and the G4 boxes. For Christmas next year, I get a new Mac with OS X and a quad G4 card and Cubase 5.0. For $1899, I can finally do the full digital studio in a box thing, and for less than anything similar could be done on a PC. OS X multitasking is so booty shaking good that I can start SonicWORX (2.0, now very script savvy) running on a few files, then switch back to another worspace to edit another file, while running a page layout app in a third workspace with a slip card for a CD.
Finally, with the bottom line in order, market share going in the right direction, quality control still high, Apple decides to slowly move back into the world of aggressive competition. The BeOS returns to the PowerPC, and sensible moves are made to open up hardware competition again. Stock prices remain high, 25% of new machines are Macs, Quicktime rules the web, and only masochists do audio on Intel. All is once again right with the world, the sun returns after the solstice of 1999, global warming is debunked. The Packers win the Super Bowl, the NBA learns its lesson, and MP3 files actually sound good.
Tonight I'm Going To Party Like Its 1999
I'm on vacation for a little while. Don't know how much updating of this page I will have time to do. There's a ton of unanswered mail in the grendelnet.com account, so I'll try to get that done. In any case, big stuff coming up next year, so drive safe, celebrate, and remember, friends don't let friends use bad compressors.
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