Archive for March, 2016

real things from fake worlds

Hiraikotsu – the giant boomerang from Inuyasha – ACTUALLY WORKS WHAT:

This isn’t as crazy as the actual working NausicaƤ glider, but it’s up there.

Also, if this isn’t the most Fallout 4 thing you’ve seen this week outside of the game, you have to tell me what is because damn:


Probably Brotherhood of Steel, could be supermutants

That’s from a book that’s just out, Abandoned in Place, about early space programme architecture that was, as per the title, abandoned in place when it got outdated or put out of use for good. All the photos in the preview are good, but I’d wondered where some of the source for Commonwealth tech came from, and I guess now we know.

tube-driven microphone preamp

Leannan Sidhe and I were kicking around at an estate sale – she was looking at some PA kit that had been advertised, turned out really not interesting – and I noticed a little neglected microphone pre-amp sitting in the corner. I’ve never bothered with separate microphone pre-amps, much less tube-driven ones, but I was curious about it.

So I went to the manager running the show, and said, “I don’t need this, but it might be fun to play with, what’s your best price?” And so I strolled off with it, and today I set up a pair of side-by-side M-Audio NOVA large-cap condenser microphones to make some simultaneous recordings. Both mics ended up going through my TASCAM interface, with one going through the tube preamp first, then to the TASCAM with the TASCAM’s gain cranked down to zero. The control mic gain on the TASCAM was set to match final recorded levels. A few samples are linked below.

First thing I noticed: jfc this thing has gain. If I need something LOUDed at the pickup level, I now have that piece of kit. I kind of had that kit already, but that was the ribbon-mic preamp I built specifically for the ribbon mic I built, and that can’t provide phantom power like this does. (And it shouldn’t; phantom power destroys some ribbon mics, including mine.)

The second thing I noticed is that… the difference is pretty subtle. I mean, I expected that. And part of that might’ve been having both lines going through the TASCAM at the end – but it had to go through something for digital conversion, or I can’t record.

In studio, I can hear small but audible differences. The TASCAM’s preamp seems to like mid-bass more than the ART TUBE MP. I think there’s a little quicker response in low base in the ART, in a way that I recall from tube amplification equipment like EICO and Dynaco gear.

Outside the studio, though – on a good consumer headset on my laptop? I’m not hearing much of any difference in 320kbps mp3. I think I’m hearing a little in uncompressed WAV files, but not a lot. That may be the laptop’s D/A converter, I don’t know. On the laptop speakers, I don’t hear anything different – though really that has to be expected.

Worth it? For what I paid, sure! I have a serious business gain DI/pre-amp out of it. Sound-wise? I dunno. I really do think there is some subtle difference and if I’m in an environment where I’m having to rein in mid-bass and pop the low end a bit, maybe it’d be better to do it with this thing than in equalisation later. Probably would be, in fact. But it has a pleasant enough sound to it, regardless. I’ll probably play with it on bass guitar, later.

Anwyay, here are some recordings – they’re edited so that consecutive repeated musical phrases alternate between the ART tube amp and the TASCAM interface’s built-in mic preamp. What do you think – do you hear anything?

Irish bouzouki: WAV mp3
Octave mandolin, tuned to open E5: WAV mp3
Bodhran, two different strikers (traditional, bamboo): WAV mp3

eta: I make a point of not talking American politics here much, but I do elsewhere, and watching the GOP’s civil war start in earnest is kind of neat.

also just caught up on venture brothers

Hey, if you haven’t been paying attention to the new year of The Venture Brothers, I just want to do you the favour of telling you to get back on that, because, no lie, they haven’t had writing this tight in forever. The move to New York, the fleet of new characters, the unforced but substantial shakeup of scenario have worked wonders. It’s not that it’s a different show, it’s not even going back to the show it was in 2003-2005, it’s more… a much-needed natural evolution for the better.

I don’t want to get into spoiler commentary in the main post, but Anna and I are actively making fan theories about what’s going to happen next, and making guesses about characters and character development, which is just… something which has not been a feature of this show for a while. I was a little worried by a couple of short scenes at the very beginning, but so far my fears have turned out to be totally unfounded.

Plus, they’ve got their dialogue patter magic back again. After the first two brilliant years, that did undergo – let’s face it – a bit of a decline. The production woes didn’t help anything, and the decision to spend a whole series writing about “beautiful failure” was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not a success.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – the show did improve generally after the lows of series three, which was mostly a write-off. (That awful episode where Dr. Venture wants to capture a gorilla to sell to a circus or something, mid-third-year? That’s the nadir right there, the “And the Children Shall Lead” of Venture Brothers. Just unwatchable.) Series four took real steps up back out of that pit, and there were very good episodes later in the run – “The Silent Partners” and “Pomp and Circuitry,” for example, and “Everybody Comes to Hank’s” is a standout. And series five started to get back into the swing of things, started to work pretty well out the gate.

But this is the year they’ve broken through, back to that level of excellence they showed the first two runs. This is a series where they’re just firing on all cylinders all the time. It started with last year’s single-episode hour-long special, “All This and Gargantua-2,” which succeeded on every level, and it’s been chugging full steam ahead ever since.

So – yeah! If you lost track of the show during the rights fight and the time in the wilderness, now’s a very good time to catch up. Start with “All This and Gargantua-2,” because it’s excellent, and because it should get you on the ground running for what’s going on now. And enjoy.

I have missed this show. Not just The Venture Brothers – I mean this writing, this level of The Venture Brothers. It’s so nice to have it back.

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