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Bring in the Noise
Mac Audio Column
by Thad Brown
|Choosing an audio system, and news from the audio world
Due to your audio columnists previously discussed poor implementation of multi-tasking, preemptive or otherwise, a bunch of verbiage is all going down at once. When nothing goes up on the page for a while, it's not because I quit following this stuff, it's because I don't have time to get it all together.
Musik Messe Events
Check this out folks, Harmony Central flew somebody to Europe for the Musik Messe! That's right, and airplane ticket to Frankfurt to cover an audio event. I couldn't get a bus ticket to Danbury. Sheesh. A little, late, but here's the xlr8 take on the two really big Mac events.
Emagic announced Logic Audio 4.0 and it looks pretty darn hip. Emagic is legendary for their implementation of TDM f/x within the Platinum version of Logic, and their users are true believers. My personal experience with Logic was that I found it about as easy to use and understand as emacs, but like emacs, the people who use it know what they are doing and produce great work. If you are considering switching sequencers, this new upgrade does look exciting, and they are also ready 100% for the Yamaha DSP Factory. By the way, I use vim
Emagic also announced their own hardware/software streaming technology, ESAI. This is in response to what they find lacking technically and corporately in ASIO from Steinberg. Sonorus jumped in with announced driver support, following their admirable but rare attitude that they will write a driver for anybody. "New Studi/o drivers for pressure cookers." Vote with your dollars with these guys.
TC Electronics has been producing top quality hardware DSP for years and years now. I remember reading about really nerdy guitar players using them during the dark days of "high tech" guitar equipment. Guitars are one of the rare places where I am a reactionary--give me a Tele and a Vox and a wah wah pedal. Anyway, back to TC. Like many a hardware vendor, they are trying to strike a balance between continuing to sell hardware and offering software versions of what they already do well in the non-virtual world. At Music Messe this year, they announced a Mac application dedicated to mastering/editing called Spark. Checck out the info here, and remember that TC also makes a native processing bundle that is not available for the Mac. It has a very good rep with PC users, so maybe this signals a change in their plans. I would certainly welcome that package on the Mac, and TC already makes a VST version of their native reverb program.
Why I Changed My Mind and Bought a PARIS
A few weeks ago, I was convinced I was going to buy a Yamaha DSP Factory and some outboard converters for my newly upgraded recording environment. One of my regular correspondents convinced/harassed me to consider PARIS from Ensoniq instead. I was convinced it was too expensive and that it wouldn't fit what I wanted in my system. In the end, I went with PARIS, and at the risk of narcissism I'll tell you folks why and how I came to that decision. I know I'll take some flak because at some points this will sound like add copy, but I think it's worthwhile for some people to read the thought process that I went through, even if the same process leads you to a different conclusion. Trust me folks, I paid for PARIS, PARIS isn't paying me.
First and foremost, it wasn't named the Vertically Integrated and Exceptional New Noises in Audio (VIENNA) or the Wildly Integrated and Exciting Noise (WIEN) system. I spent an impoverished year playing blues and freezing to death in Vienna, and that name just would not have been allowed near me. But nothing bad has ever happened to me in PARIS (most likely because I've never been there), so that's OK. What I wanted in my new setup was the ability track 16 mics at a time, top sound quality, and hardware DSP so that I could mix with some notion of the sound of the final product. As much as I believe in native processing and the "in the box" studio, I wasn't getting what I wanted, I needed some hardware DSP, particularly for reverbs. Those of you who don't do tons of audio work and think that a 300 Mhz G3 is fast, I suggest you try to find somebody to show you what a couple of reverbs will do to a G3. It's almost comical to watch a hot rod Mac suddenly act like an SE/30 running Photoshop 4.0.
Regular readers know that I have been talking about the Yamaha DSP Factory and the Creamware Pulsar for some time. The DSPF is finally getting Mac drivers and application support, while Mac Pulsar was Q3 and slipping last time anybody told me anything. What I had not realized was that PARIS Concept F/X sells for not much more than the Pulsar, though it is a good bit more expensive than the DSP Factory. When considered in context with the plan to be able to track 16 mics, I would need two DSP Factories (they only record 8 tracks at a time) and an ADAT card and external converters. When considered in that light, the DSPF looked good, but not as much cheaper than PARIS as I had previously thought. Remember here, folks, I wasn't even interested in anything without hardware DSP, no native processing only systems need apply. Not that the MOTU 2408 doesn't kick booty, but I don't have a lot of outboard f/x, so I want inside the box DSP.
The DSP Factory includes a lot more f/x, no doubt about it. It gives four bands of EQ per channel, dynamics processing on each channel, and a pair of REV500 quality DSP units. Nothing to sneeze at, I assure you. Drummers have fallen in love with 01V and 02R mixers, and the REV line is known for reverbs that sound great on drums. What PARIS has is DSP built in that can be used by any one of the plug-ins written for those DSP chips, and lots of EQ. It's not possible to get the same number of effects running on a PARIS, but to my ears, the effects are better sounding, particularly the reverbs which knocked me out. I guess they are lifted from some of the better Ensoniq hardware processors, and if they are, I'd like a few of them for outboard gear for live gigs as well. The EQ was also in favor of the PARIS. Like the DSP Factory, it is designed with the idea that each card can process 16 channels at a time (though PARIS allows "virtual mixes" so the DSP can be "printed" to one set of 16 tracks, and then they can be monitored while the DSP is applied to another 16 tracks), and each channel has four bands of EQ for 64 bands, and each one is available no matter what DSP is being used for other plug-ins. They sound really really good for digital, or rather, they just sound good. So, the PARIS f/x for me sounds better, but the DSPF sounds real good and has more sheer horsepower.
Then there is the question of software. With the DSPF I would use a sequencer for control of the card. Cubase is on its way with support, Performer and Logic are already there. Third parties may make something else. The thought of using a familiar set of tools is in many ways preferable to using a new app. This was a long hard part of the decision, particularly since I had just invested the time to learn Vision DSP for a review, now did I really want to learn a completely new app for audio? Ensoniq has a demo for download, it won't play anything back, but it's a good way to get a fell for the program. I downloaded it and tried it out, and in the end it was a real selling point and not a liability. As good as the audio chops are in the sequencers we have today, there was a distinct difference in power and feel with an app built from the ground up for audio. When working with Vision DSP for the review, I started to realize that after playing around with PARIS both V-DSP and Cubase started to feel like they were MIDI apps with audio bolted on at some point down the road. It's bolted pretty well, and Cubase in particular has the bolts screwed down real tight, but it's bolted nonetheless. Things like crossfades are always a little tricky with Cubase, but they are stupid simple and wicked fast with PARIS. The tools for editing are comprehensive and well designed. Little bits of audio can be stored in multiple clipboards, and pieces of audio can be returned to the exact place they were last with a special tool. Moving audio across tracks but keeping in the same spot in time is also simple with this same tool. Aux sends can be soloed at the send or return (huge advantage over any sequencer I have used), and can be pre or post fader, just like a "real" console, and this makes thing so much easier to figure out when mixing. That's sorta what is great about the PARIS software, it's a real console, it just happens to be in the computer and has this badass editor hooked up to it. It's a sign of how spoiled us digital types are that I consider it a total drag that I can't have the settings on one channel control both sides of a stereo file, like there are any analog consoles that do that that I could possibly afford.
So, I liked the app. Over time, it became obvious that I could learn it without too much trouble, and then I would be able to let my MIDI apps do MIDI as well as they do, and let my audio app do audio. It's not fun to switch apps, but they all just seem so much happier doing what the were designed to do.
So what had started out as, "I'm going to buy a DSP Factory" was now "I'm not sure what I'm going to buy." The next thing to consider is support and the company behind the stuff. Yamaha is actually a favorite of mine. They make very high quality equipment for fantastic prices. At different times in my life I have used or owned, Yamaha mixers, guitars, basses, amps, keyboards, speakers, stereo receivers, tape decks, CD players, and a PC sound card. I have nothing bad to say about any of them. That said, they are a big company launching a new product, so it wouldn't be surprising if there were some glitches along the way. PARIS is made by two companies, ID software for (surprise) the software and Ensoniq for the hardware and DSP algorithms. Ensoniq seems about average for the audio software world, better than Event, not as good as some others. ID, however, treats its users in a way that I have simply never seen before in any other software company. PARIS certainly went through a stage where some kinks were getting worked out, a search into the user newsgroup archives will confirm this, but considering those problems, it is astonishing how strongly the owners of PARIS systems feel about ID. The man in charge of crunching code is a regular and honest participant on the newsgroup, and the president of the company (Stephen St. Croix of Mix Magazine fame) also posts quite often. Many companies talk about support and treating their users as members of a community, but ID does it day in and day out. Not to say that Yamaha does not treat people right, but I haven't seen any senior officials posting to the DSP Factory list and asking for what people would like to see in the next update. In fact, I haven't seen anybody at all act like that in the music biz, software or hardware.
In addition to the way they treat their users on the newsgroup, I like the way they treat their users with product design. One of the big problems with the other man multi-track DAW out there is that they do little to support native processing, preferring that their users spend lots of cake on DSP chips instead. As a believer that some day most of this stuff will be done in software, and with a good chunk of cash invested in DSP software, I don't want to lock myself out from the future. ID built VST plug-in compatibility into PARIS, so the money is still well spent, and I can use the next cool toys as they come out. It's the best of both worlds, hardware DSP for real CPU killers like reverbs and basic stuff like EQ, and then native plug-ins for special effects and strangeness. Unlike a lot of DAW manufacturers, ID is not hiding its head in the sand as CPU bandwidth increases, they are adapting to the market. PARIS is also designed so that if you buy it you aren't screwed six months later when an upgrade is announced that involves sending back your hardware and paying a third or a half of the original cost. My system is the second cheapest, but I can add all the same stuff that goes with the most expensive system later on if I wish. The same control surface, the same I/O. So my money is as protected as it can be when it's spent on computer gear. Also, no matter what I decide to use for processing, native or hardware, in the long run I'll still need high quality converters for I/O and a good app.
But the final thing that sold me on PARIS was the sound quality. If you do a search in the archives of the news group and look at what PARIS users sell, it's amazing. Most of us recording types buy new expensive digital stuff, get it back home, and it just isn't quite what we had hoped. So off we go to buy a bunch of stuff with tubes and machined knobs to make it sound better. Many PARIS users start to sell some of this stuff off after then use PARIS, which to me is a real statement about sound quality. Here's another example, the following two posts came from the newsgroup in the past few months. They are from Brian Tankersly, and he's not making stuff up about being in those Neve rooms.
Since I've only had Paris about 3 months, I'm still getting over the
shock of how it sounds. The thrill is not gone yet. I don't like any
other piece of gear I own this much and I own a goodly pile of stuff.
For instance, today I pulled up the 48 track transfer of a pretty fat
six figure project I engineered and coproduced last year that has yet to
release. Cut hybrid analog 2" and Sony 48. The best players and studios
in town. I had mixed the record on a 60 input NeveVR Legend with flying
faders in a studio I know well. I've mixed a number of albums and
The Sony 48 track master was xfered into Paris digitally via an Otari
UFC-24 which translates the Sony Dash format to Adat lightpipe. As a
reference point, just the Otari box costs about what a Paris Bundle 2
does. The Sony went for around a couple hundred grand. The Neve, about
$350,000 I think. Nice stuff.
So I pull all 48 tracks up in Paris and go for a rough mix. And I ended
up beating my 12 hour/day long in a $1500/day studio final mix after
about 45 minutes of dinkin' around on Paris. It's ridiculous.
When something works this well, I just gotta say something. As a
reference point, I was fortunate enough to mix the Billboard #1 Country
record for this week (last week?), a duet with Sara Evans and Vince
Gill. I mixed it in a million dollar studio. I could beat that mix on
Paris right now. Definitely, not maybe.
For instance, today I pulled up the 48 track transfer of a pretty fat six figure project I engineered and coproduced last year that has yet to release. Cut hybrid analog 2" and Sony 48. The best players and studios in town. I had mixed the record on a 60 input NeveVR Legend with flying faders in a studio I know well. I've mixed a number of albums and singles there.
The Sony 48 track master was xfered into Paris digitally via an Otari UFC-24 which translates the Sony Dash format to Adat lightpipe. As a reference point, just the Otari box costs about what a Paris Bundle 2 does. The Sony went for around a couple hundred grand. The Neve, about $350,000 I think. Nice stuff.
So I pull all 48 tracks up in Paris and go for a rough mix. And I ended up beating my 12 hour/day long in a $1500/day studio final mix after about 45 minutes of dinkin' around on Paris. It's ridiculous.
When something works this well, I just gotta say something. As a reference point, I was fortunate enough to mix the Billboard #1 Country record for this week (last week?), a duet with Sara Evans and Vince Gill. I mixed it in a million dollar studio. I could beat that mix on Paris right now. Definitely, not maybe.
Regards, Brian T
When another reader asked what he really meant about the system, if it was sound quality or convenience or f/x or something else that made mixing on the system better than a tradition console/tape deck format, he wrote;
What I'm saying is two things. All else being equal, as in mike, mike
pre, outboard compressor, player/singer, etc., the following are true,
1. Recording straight into Paris sounds *at least* as good as recording
into a Sony48 track through my rackmount Apogee A/D converters.
2. Mixing in Paris sounds *at least* as good and probably better than
mixing on a six figure, name brand console which I do about 100 days a
year. This is simply not true of other DAWS, IMO. They don't sound bad,
just not as good as a real console. Paris does.
Will I start mixing in Paris non-stop? No. It will be a while before
some people get comfortable with that concept. It's funny, but the more
money someone is spending to make a record, the larger the real estate
they want to see on the console. Nine foot wide consoles just **look**
like they must sound better. Don't laugh, it's reality at this point.
I'm thinking if we could get some big '59 Cadillac fins hangin' off the
C16, it might be good. Seriously, motorised faders really would help
BUT, I will be mixing on Paris for as much of the time as I feel it's
not an issue for the client, simply because of the sound. And after a
while, people will get comfortable with the concept, especially if I can
manage to trip and fall on any more hits.
Is it faster? It is for me, especially when you can pop right back
whenever you want to.
Lastly, my advice is to get as much CPU power as you can afford and a
great compliment of Native plugins. For me, Paris EDS FX are like the
ones in a very good realworld console and NAtive plugins are like the
more exotic outboard compressors/EQs I patch in while mixing. I'm a
RenEQ and RenComp freak.
1. Recording straight into Paris sounds *at least* as good as recording into a Sony48 track through my rackmount Apogee A/D converters.
2. Mixing in Paris sounds *at least* as good and probably better than mixing on a six figure, name brand console which I do about 100 days a year. This is simply not true of other DAWS, IMO. They don't sound bad, just not as good as a real console. Paris does.
Will I start mixing in Paris non-stop? No. It will be a while before some people get comfortable with that concept. It's funny, but the more money someone is spending to make a record, the larger the real estate they want to see on the console. Nine foot wide consoles just **look** like they must sound better. Don't laugh, it's reality at this point. I'm thinking if we could get some big '59 Cadillac fins hangin' off the C16, it might be good. Seriously, motorised faders really would help there.
BUT, I will be mixing on Paris for as much of the time as I feel it's not an issue for the client, simply because of the sound. And after a while, people will get comfortable with the concept, especially if I can manage to trip and fall on any more hits.
Is it faster? It is for me, especially when you can pop right back whenever you want to.
Lastly, my advice is to get as much CPU power as you can afford and a great compliment of Native plugins. For me, Paris EDS FX are like the ones in a very good realworld console and NAtive plugins are like the more exotic outboard compressors/EQs I patch in while mixing. I'm a RenEQ and RenComp freak.
Regards, Brian T
Am I so stupid that I think that my mixes will now sound as good as Brian's? Of course not. If you gave him an 8 track cassette system and I got his PARIS, and we recorded and mixed the same performance, his would sound better. But statements like this from somebody who not only thinks that a Neve isn't somebody on "Party of Five" but actually uses the damn things regularly mean a lot. As I get better, the recording system won't hold me back, so I can do the best work I'm capable of.
PARIS is by now means perfect. Some things that most of us take for granted are surprisingly unavailable with PARIS. For instance, users of VST and most VST compatible apps are used to being able to "print" DSP onto a track faster than real time. Just push a button, and an "offline bounce" of the data is done with the DSP included. Not yet in PARIS, to do the same thing, you have to play back the whole file and record the tracks with the f/x onto new tracks. There are some bugs still, and there are features that many video/film people need that aren't there yet, but in the end, I thought that this system is going in the right direction, and has better sound quality than I can currently use.
So ID/Ensoniq got my money. I won't do a full review here, and I won't make this page a PARIS-centric page, I promise. It doesn't do MIDI, and it doesn't make those incredible burbling noises that the Vibra does. I've been breaking it in for a few weeks and getting a handle on the app, and I really like working with it. But it's just one piece of the puzzle for me, and I'm not here to tell anybody how to work. Hope this helps people a little bit.
The Non-Technical Side of MP3 Audio
A while back I wrote one of the early (and rather weak) columns about how MP3 auido and audio compression codecs in general work. In a few short months, that has become a bigger and bigger deal, as the hardware players have finally made their way into the hands of consumers. I have two real problems with MP3 audio, and neither is all that unique
First, MP3 audio is not CD quality, and even if it were, CD quality isn't anything to be too excited about anyway. Many folks correctly state that an MP3 of a song when played back on a built-in computer speaker or on cheap "multimedia" computer speakers is nearly indistinguishable from the original CD track. Well, I have heard a number of computer systems where I couldn't say for sure if a song was by the Clash or Joni Mitchell or a cassette release of baboons singing "California Dreaming." That might be a slight exaggeration, but not much. Computer companies spend nearly nothing on audio hardware for the machines they make, so the digital to analog converters and speakers in those systems are sketchy at best. I believe that on a solid playback system, practically everyone could hear the degradation of quality and detail in an MP3 when compared to a CD track of the same song. In addition, I am kept awake at night in fear that 15 years of listening to CDs has so distorted our conception of good sound that we may never recover. This probably isn't high on the list of societal concerns, but hey, we all have our quirks. CDs have many advantages over other formats, but sound quality is not one of them. But we have been told how wonderful they are, and after years and years we actually believe it, even though a comparison of a 24 bit digital or fresh vinyl pressing of the same music sounds incontrovertibly better than the 16 bit CD version. Ironically, in the past few months, dramatically better sounding 24 bit recording and playback equipment is finally coming to the consumer and semi-pro recording world, at just the time when MP3 is becoming a real force in the world of music distribution. Very very sad. Even more sad to me, is that after I have taken my music or somebody else's music and stuffed as much good sound as I can in each of those 16 bits on that CD, then somebody else takes that file and squashes it down to one twelfth of its CD size and says, "Hey, close enough." Of course, if they paid for it, that's their right, but to me it's sort of like somebody taking a book I wrote and tearing out a page here and there to make it easier to carry. It still tells the same story, right?
That last sentence also contains my second problem with the MP3 article, "if they paid for it" because more often than not they didn't. I am no friend of the RIAA or the record industry in general, and I sincerely believe that their real concern about web audio is that thanks to MP3s, suddenly any clown with a decent modem can rip off musicians, an activity that for years the record business has kept to itself. That said, anybody who has spent a few hours on Hotline or perusing the web knows that many people have thousands and thousands of MP3s ripped from commercially released CDs that they don't own. It's a fact, and I believe that the PRIMARY reason most people use MP3s is to get an acceptable quality copy of music they don't want to pay for. Personally, I am a civil libertarian, and I think that the tools to make and play back MP3s should be legal and as available as their programmers wish. There is nothing illegal about making a copy of a CD that you own to listen to it, and nothing should be allowed to restrict that right. But to me it's like drug paraphernalia, the waterbed shop may say that 3 foot bong is for smoking tobacco, but I ain't that dumb. There are certainly much more dangerous things than MP3 encoders available in this country (like guns, booze, pool cues, Ally McBeal, etc.), and they should be, but the fact remains that most of the people are "into" MP3s use them to get stuff they can't or won't pay for.
If somebody came to me and said they wanted to release music on the web, I would gladly work on getting a mix that would sound as good and possible through an MP3 encoder (In case anyone cares, the single reason that SoundEdit 16 should continue to exist is its MP3 encoder--Vastly superior to Audio Catalyst, MPecker, and the others), but I would tell him that if at all possible, use the MP3s as samples and try to convince people to buy CDs. In addition, everybody who brings audio to me gets a good clean 24 bit version of all of the files with the DSP, in other words, right before we save a dithered 16 bit copy. That way they can get customers or a real mastering house the 24 bit files I would mix down, leaving them protected for future release formats, and if they find somebody with a good computer and audio rig, they can hear how good (or bad, depending on the band) their music really can sound. The true promise of the web and music distribution is that it should allow many people with unusual tastes in music (or anything else for that matter) to find other people who are interested in the same things. The web is niche markets gone completely insane. If MP3s help the few hundred people in the world who truly love hearing the latest songs from a Korean Tranvestite Country/Funk trio called Stand By Your Man find each other, then I'm a happy man for each one of them, but if it becomes a way of life for listening to music, then we are all missing out terribly. For the first time in years, the quality of sound that a consumer can get is about to go through the roof, and I hope MP3 doesn't screw it up.
3D Audio and the Mac
After whining for months and months about the lack of interest and commitment from Apple for professional audio, they finally did something recently and I haven't covered it at all. Mike made a point of reminding me of this, because what Apple did has real impact for gamers. A few weeks ago, Apple announced that they were going to license 3D spatializing and bass enhancement technology. Many people, myself included, consider this kind of thing to be completely unrelated to making music and pro audio in general. After all, in my opinion, if there isn't enough bass in your sound system, get new speakers or a new amp or both. This attitude is a little silly though, as with many computer related things, games are where a lot of people start, and there is no shame in that.
So, let's start with this, why did they license this stuff to begin with? Well, the speakers that are internal in pretty much every computer made are completely awful and underpowered. They are generally a single driver that's about two and a half or three inches across and it's supposed to take some microscopic amount of power and reproduce every tone between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. Not an easy thing to do for three very expensive drivers and hundreds of watts of juice, so you can imagine how successful it is with a tiny little speaker. Thumping bass is particularly tricky for this kind of speaker, since bass frequencies are most demanding of "horsepower" in a speaker. Convincing low end involves moving lots of air molecules much greater distances than higher frequencies, this means more square inches of driver real estate and more power to move it. Bass enhancement schemes try to rectify this in various more or less successful ways. I hated absolutely ever last such scheme for years, until I heard the bass boost in a Mini Disc player from Sharp. I still leave it off, but the lowest setting actually did a good deal to aid the cheap ($40) headphones I use with my MD unit. It wasn't completely fake and phony and hyped sounding. The art to this seems to be in boosting the right frequencies, getting to much of the "mud" boosted just sounds awful, but boosting under a certain pitch is pointless because the speakers and phones aren't moving any air there anyway. I bet these guys get to know 100-300Hz really well.
The 3D end is even more tricky in a lot of ways. More than pretty much any other sense, sound is used to locate other objects and ourselves in space. Since we can hear things equally from any direction (unlike our sense of taste and sight and touch), it is a very good way to keep track of what is out there. Anybody know how this works mechanically? Our ears are spaced a certain distance apart, and as long as we don't spend too much time listening to Black Sabbath in high school, they should work about equally. Our brains are smart enough to determine that a single sound source coming from "hard left" by exploiting the distance between our ears. The sound arrives at our left ear a split second before it arrives at our right ear. By having a rough idea of how big our heads are, that distance lets our brains calculate the direction of a sound. This is one of the reasons that caves and empty basketball courts and swimming pools are such unnerving places. The hard flat surfaces bounce the sound around without absorbing much of it, so a sound that came from one source can arrive at roughly the same volume after bouncing off of a number of surfaces. This confuses our brains and makes it difficult to tell where a source is located.
Needless to say, this is very hard to replicate with just a pair of speakers. It's not so hard to do with headphones, if you mic things correctly. If you want to really bug yourself out, get a binaural nature recording. Binaural recordings are made by placing microphones exactly where our ears would be, and then they are played back on headphones. They can produce startling levels of reality, sort of like when people get airsick while sitting still in an IMAX theater. Binaural recording, however, does not paint a compelling sound stage when played through two speakers. The move to multiple speaker surround sound is one way (and for people like me, pretty much the only way) to get closer to this level or realism. It's fairly unlikely, however, that your average gamer will want to spend six or seven hundred dollars on a decent five speaker surround system, and if he or she did, it wouldn't do them much good, because games don't support 5.1 yet anyway, and they may never do so. Some smart computer audio dweebs figured out ways to generate very rough approximations of this with two speakers. This can be more of less successful depending on how it's done, and nor surprisingly, the better the basic speakers are that you are using, the more convincing and interesting this can be.
What does this mean for more music oriented types? Well, the first thing it means is that we shouldn't just scoff at it. Many very creative people have worked in game sound design, and even some hip electronic music types have done game sound, most notably Trent Reznor and the NIN group who worked on Quake. Second, we have to remember that like it or not, a lot of what we do will get played through these kind of systems. It's a fact. Third we have to remember that many people start making music with this kind of card, and that is a very very good thing. The sound on a computer with a shaky game card certainly isn't any worse than the cassette based four tracks I recorded on for years, in fact it's quite a bit better. It's often frustrating to be on a mailing list where people are discussing the minutiae of micing a hi hat when somebody bursts in and asks why his $60 Quakeblaster doesn't sound as good as the system that I spent two months salary on 'cause it's all digital anyway so it should sound the same, but we all start somewhere. The basic realization of the recording enthusiast is that, oh my god, you mean that I can record myself playing one part, then listen to that part again while I play something else, and then I can do that over an over until I have a whole song? The second critical realization is, oh my god, you mean to tell me that microphone costs more than my car? But in between those two inevitable locations will likely reside the sound card made for games that winds up being used for music. The more enticing and initially exciting that sound is, the better the world is, and the better music making becomes. So kudos to Apple for licensing this technology and making audio on a Mac a little more exciting for a consumer, now please put freakin' 24 bit S/PDIF I/O on the next generation Macs.
I'm Finally Building That PC
Way back when I started this column for Mike, I wrote about how many great audio apps are now PC only. The one I talked about there, Reality from Seer Systems, and another app called Gigasampler from Nemesys are now just too good to pass up any longer. Time to build the PC for sampling and some synthesis. In addition, the amount of work going on to make the BeOS into a legit audio platform can no longer be ignored. So, the computer closet will get a new member soon, if only because I need a much better way to sample, and the cost of a good hardware sampler is so much more than a Gigasampler in a PC. I won't talk about that much here unless people what me to, but I know it will be something of an adventure. I have no fear that I can have a cross platform network in my house, but a cross platform recording studio is a very different critter. This will likely leave me as such a computer dweeb that I'll be recording on three different computers at once, a Mac for audio on PARIS, a Mac synced to PARIS for sequencing, and a PC for sampling and some synthesis. Ignore these kind of tools at your own risk.
Another Record To Die For
The finest magazine about rock/pop/dance music in the world is Mojo. I read it all the time, and sometimes even buy it. It's British, it's funny, it's of a quality that should make anybody working for Spin or Rolling Stone cringe in shame. Really, it's written like the people who buy it can, well, read. Recently the cover article was about what they termed "the greatest soul record ever made" "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye. I'm not sure how much I like the "Let's get ready to rumble" sound or which is the greatest heavyweight soul record in history (and what about "Hot Buttered Soul" anyway, or the Staples) but I certainly wouldn't say it COULDN'T be the best ever. I discovered to my ultimate chagrin that I didn't own a copy of that record. If you find yourself in that same embarrassing state, I urge you to do something about it as quickly as possible. You'll be glad you did.
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