Archive for December, 2013

economies of scale in gear

Y’know, a quality rigid microphone case, with lots of padding and room for accessories – that’ll set you back a good $30-$40. And unless you buy one already matched with your gear, you’ll have to cut the foam to suit your application yourself.

On the other hand, a quality compact pistol case from a reputable maker? That’ll cost as little as $9.

Guess what I did?

Welcome to economies of scale. You’re welcome.

alternate tunings

Been fiddling with the new pre-amp and ribbon microphone I built. Also with alternate tunings; I’ve found that tuning up a half-step really resonates my zouk; I’ll be doing that on the soundtrack album for Something’s Coming.

Reminder: everything on Bandcamp is still set to pay-what-you-like download. Grab while grabbing is good! Some of you have been and some of you have thrown tip money too, for which I think you muchly. ^_^

I also found that dropping three steps but keeping the high string on E on the zouk results in kind of an E sus 2 opening tuning; it interacts interestingly playing against a mandolin in standard tuning. I made a quick recording of a simple progression – it’s rough, but you get the idea.

That’s recorded on the ribbon microphone and new pre-amp, too if you’re wondering what those sound like. I’ve no idea how to use this mic to best effect yet, but I’m liking the sound so far.

i would like to hope this could work

I’d like to hope this glass-window noise-cancellation device could work. It’s only a prototype right now, and I really have to wonder how much of that is purely-computer-prototype vs. actually extant. I tried to make something like it, once, using purely analogue circuitry, and utterly – and I do mean utterly – failed.

But wouldn’t that be nice? Damn.

and sometimes the mistletoe explodes

I swear to you, I am not reorienting the compass in this video. I’m keeping it as much at the same angle relative to the room walls as I can.


there y’are

I guess the mistletoe is gonna explode again, too.

I know about metal effect on compasses, but this looks more like every piece of metal in my studio is magnetic now. Honestly – these mic stands are magnetic enough to use the compass to identify their poles. My shock mounts, too. And I think I can feel the magnetic attraction to my wire-cutters on some of them.

Is that normal? It doesn’t seem like it could be normal, because I don’t see how anyone could use high-gain preamps and cables. I remove the mic stands; no radio on the pre-amp. I bring one back: radio on the pre-amp. Magnetic induction, somehow.

I am officially at a loss.

grab while the grabbing is good

Y’know what? All my Bandcamp downloads are now set to pay what you like, including zero. Also including one MILLION dollars, but I suspect most people are more interested in the zero part.

Physical CDs are discounted, too.

I did this for the Scalzi crowd a few days ago; some of them have been taking advantage of it, and you should get a turn. G’wan, download, hit the tip jar if you want, and if you don’t – I’m a supervillain. Who’m I to judge? XD

ribbon mic buildout

I’m still chasing down radio-frequency interference ghosts in the preamp – yes, I am still the Ghost Host – but I did promise a ribbon microphone build post! And the microphone seems to be behaving fine, so why not?

First, you should know what a ribbon microphone is. It’s the first truly high-fidelity microphone design; those RCA diamond-shaped microphones you seen in old films? Ribbon microphones.

Yep, these things

They’re the only high-fidelity microphone you can make at home, if you have all the parts; there are no active components. They’ve never fallen completely out of use, having a characteristic sound which is particularly good for strings, classical instruments, and, curiously, metal; recently, they’ve come back into fashion.

Perhaps you see my attraction.

The active element is a nonmagnetic conductive ribbon, corrugated, and stretched between two high-power natural magnets. The vibration that sound waves in the air induce in the ribbon creates an electrical current, which is your signal. It’s a very low power signal, and the ribbon is crazy thin, making the microphone very delicate – I won’t be taking this microphone out.

So let’s make one! This one’s built from an Austin Microphones kit, but you can just get the design plans and roll your own parts list if you want. Read more

omg you guys

Someone on Facebook semi-accidentally pointed me to the first photo I put up of my studio. Welcome back to 2009:


July 2009

SO EMPTY. So unconditioned! So… echoey! It didn’t take me long to start building more sound baffles, I remember that.

I particularly like the weights set. In case, you know, I needed to do some sets between… sets. XD

Here’s the same room now, three full-length albums, an EP, and a couple of singles later:

November 2013 (enlarge)

i am the ghost host

I just spent the whole day – daytime day, I quit at dinner – rewiring my studio to better isolate the AC power lines from everything else, because it’s pretty clear at this point that our AC power is just scary with RFI, and the new high-gain preamp is AC all the way to its motherboard, unlike everything else, which is DC power once you get past the adaptors.

Result? All this did NOT A FUCKING THING for the high-gain preamp. In fact, it’s worse tonight. Enough that were I trying to use it, it’d be difficult and I’d have to be stupidly careful with cable placement, or something, and hope I get lucky.

At that point I thought I’d achieved nothing at all, and had in fact fucked it up somehow – which didn’t make any sense but that’s never stopped me before – until then I poked at my primary input board for semi-unrelated reasons, and HOLY HOPPING CHRIST ON A POGO STICK the difference.

SO MUCH QUIETER so much quieter

Even at max gain, zero input shows up as zero on my main input board. It’s not actually zero – I can hear it – but it’s too far down to light the metres, which puts it at somewhere around -75db.

So at least I didn’t fuck things up. That is a thing which is good to know. I actually achieved my design goal for the rewiring, to a surprising – nay, astonishing – degree of success!

And it did absolutely fuck all for the problem.


I’m still sure AC Power is a problem though, because if I plug the preamp straight into the wall, the RF pick up is REALLY LOUD; through a computer power strip (which filters, some) it’s less; through the battery-backup and power strip, less still. I suppose it’s possible there’s another reason for that, but I don’t know what it would be.

eta: I took apart the preamp, convinced myself of a few problems, maybe improved it, maybe the RFI just calmed down a bit on its own. Who knows? Here’s a recording of a suboptimal cable position after the resoldering. That’s boosted all to hell, of course; at normal recording levels, it’s inaudible, but I hate that it can be found. It’s also still cable-position-dependent. I tested literally every cable I have; this was the most RF-resistant one. If I have it on the right side of the mic stand, it sounds like this. On the left: no audible signal.

eta2: I opened up the case again and twisted the internal side of the AC power lead (9v AC) as tightly as I thought I could get away with. The test afterwards contained far lower RFI than previous tests, but that’s not necessarily meaningful – it’s a different time of day. (All my previous daytime tests have been mid-afternoon.)

That said, for the first time, there was no sign at all of KUOW 94.9, which may be a first. And I didn’t hear BBC World Service in there either. I was picking up KIRO, dimly – but I don’t know whether I was picking up the AM or FM station. Most of the time they have separate programming, but they simulcast during Seahawks handegg, from pregame through post, and that’s what was on. And I had to dig at it to get that much, which is actually good – if I can’t stop it entirely, I can at least make it something you really have to work to find.

So, yeah. Ongoing. I think that twisting the internal AC power lead bumped it down another level. But I’m not sure. It gives me some hope that the RFI chokes I’ve ordered might help.

Fucking ghosts.

chasing ghosts

I was picking up radio on the ribbon mic’s pre-amp, at really high amplification gain. Ribbon mics need tremendous gain, because the base signal is so low, which meant this mattered. It wasn’t enough to appear in most – emphasis on most – recording situations, but I didn’t want it at all, because it indicates a potential circuit problem.

For the record, you start listening to EMF noise boosted by 96 to 142db (from extremely low levels), and you start chasing some serious fuckin’ ghosts. Somebody get me a skiffy channel show, stat.

Anyway, earlier in the day, I’d gone through all my patch cables, isolating the most RF-tight via comparative testing. It was a pretty big range. But even the best ones were still picking up some of that radio sound, and with some work, I could get it in clearly – tho’ always at extremely low levels.

Now, before I set about finding my best patch cables, I’d isolated out the microphone connection, to reduce complexity and eliminate other noise sources.

This is called a Null Signal Wire.

Turns out, a 3mm run of unshielded null signal wire can bring up a surprisingly durable amount of RF, in the form of BBC World Service on shortwave. Pulled that back out, popped in a microphone cable (connected to the ribbon mic): no more radio.

The goofy thing is that Cascadia is notorious for shitty shortwave reception. I can’t get BBC World Service reliably on my shortwave radio. AND YET.

At least it’s sorted, now. I still need to evaluate a few more cables, but the explanation is in hand, and that’s the important thing.

a new low in social network rigging

So over on Tumblr, I got a new follower, maksimoqqoman. And despite the crappy username, I thought I’d check it out. It brings up a possibly-relevant promoter’s page, which is all well and good, despite for the autoplaying music video, but whatever.

Then pops up a modal dialogue box saying “Check out some great artists below,” with a single “close” X in the upper right and no other controls, and the rest of the page is locked out. Fine, annoying, but you get a lot of that brick-wall experience these days. It makes me very unlikely to look at your site again, but whatevs.

Sigh, another brick wall frontpage

THEN it gets good, because the “close” X? It’s not actually a close. IT’S A HIDDEN FACEBOOK LIKE FOR AN UNRELATED POLITICAL GROUP. Which I discover as soon as I try to close it.

fuuuuuuuuuck youuuuuuuuuu

Am I, like, the last to know about this? Because there are not enough efs and uuuuuus for this situation. There just aren’t.

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