Evolving Technology. Here at HC, my colleagues and I review a lot of gear, and it’s encouraging to see regular, unrelenting progress made in technology, design, and overall sound quality across the board. I don’t think it’s selective memory to say that gear is just a whole lot better now than it was in decades past. We almost never see something that’s a “total dog.”
A total dog presents the reviewer with a conundrum: You question why you’re wasting keystrokes and other people’s eyeballs on something no one should buy. Or something that was released with some profoundly deal-killing flaw that will be fixed in an upgrade. But that just doesn’t happen anymore. Only very rarely must a piece of gear be reviewed that is both a Dubious Thing and a Thing Which Cannot Be Ignored. There are examples of Things Which Cannot Be Ignored in other arenas—such as the release of a new Woody Allen film or a Van Halen album—but gear doesn’t fall into that category. It's always good, it seems. Even when a new release is controversial (for example, grousing about what long-awaited Pro Tools wishlist item wasn't included), updates never go backward in terms of improvements or features.
My favorite example of a new technology where nothing seems to be going wrong, and where every released model drives the field forward, is high-quality handheld recorders. These things are truly portable, because they are battery powered, can be operated with one hand and deliver 24-bit/96kHz sound. And they’ve exploded in the past few years in a way no other paradigm, software- or hardware-based, has.
To truly appreciate this development, it helps to have lived through the era when cassettes transitioned to MiniDiscs. These were the bad old days where you just could not get decent sound in a small-scale environment. Cassettes were portable but horrible. DATs were never portable (and plagued with copy-protection issues), so it was Sony’s MiniDisc technology that provided stereo and mulitrack technology in small-scale digital format, finally rescuing people from noisy cassettes.
But it was a clumsy medium. A MiniDisc was, after all, just a small optical disc, and people sensed that it was a clever and kludgy take on backward-looking technology. Though Tascam, Sony, and Yamaha each had several multi-track models in their line, you sensed it was a short-lived, transitional phase. Enough people resisted so that, sure enough and soon enough, it went away.
By contrast, consider how many companies already have offerings in high-quality handhelds: Alesis, Edirol, Korg, Marantz, M-Audio, Olympus, Roland, Sony, Tascam, Yamaha, and Zoom. Each has released portable audio recorders (some with multiple entries) that make all kinds of small-scale production possible. You have to dig really deep—and that’s part of the fun, of course—to find one that wouldn’t suit your needs or doesn’t have the features you want. Most buyers just pick one and it serves them well. They’ll never even miss the perceived benefits in a competing unit unless they A/B’d them in a systematic way or evaluated them under laboratory conditions.
While a tip of the hat must go to all these companies, amidst their collective efforts in advancing the portable recorder industry as a whole, one company’s innovation really stands out: Roland’s CS-10EM. This is a set of earbuds with small, powered stereo microphones on the outsides of the earpieces. The cord has two ends: one to plug into the recorder’s headphone/ear jack, the other into the mic jack. Through an internal setting on the recorder, you can power these little condenser mics, which take up no more room than the buds themselves. You don’t even notice the microphone part (see photo above), but having mics sticking out of your ears approximates the audio practice known as binaural recording, where the recorder hears exactly what your ears do, and with wider separation than a single mic housing or even onboard mics can provide. What's more, you don't miss any any of the action. I recorded a performance of Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall in New York City this way when I was testing them. Sure, I got some harsh stares (people probably thought I was listening to a ball game), but it worked amazingly well, and it didn't detract from the sonic quality of the performance one bit.
There are more benefits to this system, too. If you need to record a telephone conversation, you can just insert the buds in your ears and hold the phone as you normally would. Incredibly, you hear the sound not from the phone’s speaker, but coming from the phone into the mic, down into the recorder, and back out the input monitor circuitry into your earbuds. It’s more controllable that way and great for noisy environments. I’ve actually used these buds for close-miking (a person talking, an elevator speaker) by holding one bud up to the source while keeping the other in my ear. Looks weird, but works well. I’m hoping “powered bud-mics” will become a standard feature on other recorders, and not just for Roland’s. It’s an example of one company staying competitive with the state of the industry while going the extra mile to throw in a little innovation and uniqueness.
|This Week on HC|
Clicking on News takes you to our dedicated News page, and there are two differences with the way the news is displayed here versus on the home page. For one, each news item includes a few lines of the actual story itself, giving you a better idea of what’s behind the headline. This is handy if the headline itself isn’t meaningful to you, or if you’re trying to gauge the relevance of the item before you click. We know you're busy!Another difference in the News page, is that you can go backward in time by clicking on previous pages (the higher-numbered numerals appearing between the words “Previous” and “Next.” Missed a couple of days, either in sequence or sporadically? The News page allows you step back sequentially, so that no important release can squeak by you because of the distractions your busy schedule throws at you.
By Craig Anderton
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This near-coincident stereo miking technique offers natural sound, and wider stereo imaging, than XY placement
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|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
Sony’s newest wireless microphone series combines ease of use, superb RF transmission reliability and high sound quality into four affordable and highly flexible packages.
This bundle serves up all the flavors of the cartoon music you grew up with, along with massive, epic sounding action movie soundtracks, and the beautiful and exotic sounds found in Arabic music.
By combining a dual 12-inch bass horn-loaded with a single 21-inch direct radiating cone speaker, SUB.two produces crisp, powerful concursion at 80 Hz and deep, warm lows down to 20 Hz.
DigiTech’s next-generation Whammy pedal, features chordal Whammy pitch-shifting, additional Whammy intervals and true bypass operation.
A collection of classical pieces from 8 of the world's greatest classical composers taught through a heavy metal perspective in both standard notation and TAB.
Guitar Center’s newest Danbury location features showrooms for customers equipped with the latest products for musicians—from guitars, amplifiers, percussion instruments and keyboards to live sound, DJ, lighting and recording equipment.
The TightFuzz includes a Tone control to tame the fuzzy edges and the Tight control, a mainstay of Amptweaker pedals, which varies the pick attack from smooth and thick to tight and aggressive.
The Meridian Black Raven kit is the first in a series of “Player Designed” kits with features directly filling the needs of the modern rock drummer.
Enhanced app from Hal Leonard now offers .PDF import, push notifications and more
StageSource L3m combines multi-function design with Smart Speaker modes and digital networking for the widest variety of live sound applications.
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Forumites contribute tips & tricks for setting up, maintaining and repairing guitars—everything from changing strings to shimming worn nut slots to removing stuck knobs and bridge pins.
The best part about these kinds of threads isn’t just the opinions, but all the embedded videos presented to back up those opinions. Enjoy!
Check out the link . . . then check out the comments from the Music Biz community.
So how do you approach a venue about getting a gig? The Solo and Duo Acts forum does a lot of this, and offers some valuable advice.
There’s a long tradition of weird and whacky guitar designs that can trace its roots back to at least the 1960s and some of the more offbeat offerings from brands like Kay, Eko, Harmony, Silvertone, Guyatone, and Teisco. Even larger companies such as Epiphone and Yamaha occasionally release similarly weird designs. Looking for something off the beaten path? This thread’s for you.
Slate’s new plug-in is getting quite the buzz. Do they live up to the hype? And there’s also a bigger picture: Is it possible—or even desirable—to try and emulate the “real world”?
All amps (including guitar amps) can run hot, especially if the ambient temperature is also hot (e.g., an outdoor gig or inside a club where the AC is on the fritz). Whatever the cause, it’s good practice to dissipate your amp heat with a fan—and this thread discusses some easy and inexpensive solutions.
As it turns out, there are quite a few options . . . but as usual, what’s best for any individual depends on exactly what they need. Guitar only? Mics too? USB or FireWire? Get some answers here.
A fascinating look at effects pedals being used to create music and sound on their own—not merely manipulating and modifying the signal from an instrument. Check out self-oscillation, feedback loops, drones, and other alternative techniques and approaches to using effects.
Step up, bass players . . . how well do you know your basses? Take this test, and find out.
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Editorial Craig Anderton, Editor in Chief • Jon Chappell, Senior Editor • Phil O’Keefe, Associate Editor • Chris Loeffler, Reviews Editor
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