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Why Retro? Why Now?


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There is something to be said for have that 'tactile' feel. I think about how some of us have the 'USB' mixer so that we can move faders with our fingers, instead of the mouse or even using our fingers on a touch screen. Maybe because I am 'of a certain age' I enjoy the feel of some things. I could make drum sounds in the box, but would rather learn to play a bodhran instead. I would rather turn a volume knob than use a mouse to move a graphical slider. As with most things there is a trade off between virtual and real. For example, I could never afford the 'stock' plugins in Sonar as hardware devices. But where I can put some 'real' object in use, I'll try to do it.

 

So I don't think it is so much retro as much as it is having too much 'virtual' and not enough 'real' in our daily lives. Something tells me as Virtual Reality becomes mainstream it may cause some folks to take another look at 'real experiences' (for example, a VR hike in the woods versus an actual hike in the woods). It will no doubt be interesting to see where all of this leads.

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If anyone can hear the difference and identify it consistently in double-blind listening tests, I'd be extremely surprised.

 

IMHO, we need to file this one under "snake oil."

I'd say $495 for a single wooden 'audiophile' gear knob might qualify as essential extract of snake oil. A single dab will empty your wallet. And maybe then some.

 

I'm pretty sure that products like this are from folks like us who have so often joked about how, if we had a brain in our heads, we'd give up recording and audio engineering and start making audiophoole market products. Repurposed power line stand-offs sold at as cable lifters, etc.

 

http://audiophilereview.com/cables/cable-lifters-redux-part-1-of-2.html

Edited by blue2blue
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If anyone can hear the difference and identify it consistently in double-blind listening tests, I'd be extremely surprised.

 

IMHO, we need to file this one under "snake oil."

O, ye of little faith...

 

Wooden knobs are JUST as important as this crucial product class:

 

Audiophile Review: Cable Lifters Redux (Part 1 of 2)

 

Did you ever hear of a thing called "radio"? Or another one called "television"?

 

Do you believe in them? What would you think of someone who DOESN'T?

lift3a.jpg The reason that I ask is that, while few people, if any, deny that radio and television work, there are LOTS of people who think - and are quite vociferous in insisting - that cable lifters are THE looniest of all loony High End tweaks. Even so, all broadcast communications (anything "wireless" at all, including not just radio and TV, but your TV's remote control, your cellphone, the wireless handset for your home phone, and the Wi-Fi connection for your computer) derive from exactly the same field theory that makes cable lifters work.

 

 

PS... it took me a while to find the Silver Rock Potentiometers that the $495 wooden pot knobs in Phil's post were 'designed' to complement (because -- of course -- "the micro vibrations created by the volume pots and knobs find their way into the delicate signal path and cause degradation (Bad vibrations equal bad sound). With the signature knobs micro vibrations from the C37 concept of wood, bronze and the lacquer itself compensate for the volume pots and provide (Good Vibrations) our ear/brain combination like to hear?way better sound!!")

 

http://www.audio-consulting.ch/?Prod...ilver_Rock_TVC

 

There always is one optimum for a given problem. It costs tremendous amounts of time to find it, but this is the only way to make real progress. If you want a cheap solution for your potentiometer in your sound system, then use carbon pots.

They are more neutral than the expensive plastic ones and of course much cheaper.

If however you want the best possible solution to your potentiometer problem, then you should try our silver wired transformer - potentiometer that really is a world apart from other volume setting devices.

Oh, yeah, I find that my plastic-wound potentiometers are FAR more effective -- at least when turned to their lowest point: - Inf. Unfortunately, they seem to maintain that total attenuation across their entire range of adjustment. But for stopping current flow, you cannot beat plastic!

 

They also make 'transformer' potentiometers.

Edited by blue2blue
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Thanks.

 

I realized that back in the late 1960s when we were the warm up band for headliner acts. I wondered why they played mostly their old stuff and only a teaser of the album they were out there actually promoting.

 

And I think your additional comments are right on.

 

I have two Parker Guitars (DF/Maxxfly models). They are lighter than a Strat, more comfortable than a Strat, better balance than a Strat, stay in tune better than a Strat, sound like a Strat but with the piezo under the bridge that can be blended with the mag pups are more versatile than a Strat, have hardened stainless steel frets, and I can't think of anything a Strat does better.

 

I tried a Strat and didn't bond with it. Too heavy (I switch instruments all night), too short of a neck radius, and it didn't stay in tune as well as my Gibson (not a fair comparison, my Gibson didn't have a whammy bar). The Parker, even with the whammy in floating mode stays in tune all night, and sometimes after moving and setting up for the next gig, it's still in tune or only needs a touch up on a string or two.

 

Yet with the lack of big-name stars playing a Parker (mostly sponsorship) not enough people bought them and the USA factory finally went under. People see their idols playing a particular instrument, and they want one just like it. Perhaps there is a feeling of memory and association there.

 

When I first started playing guitar (it's my 7th instrument) I wanted one with dozens of switches and knobs on them, like the ones I saw the English bands playing at the time.

 

Now I have a guitar with one volume, one tone, and one piezo/mag balance knob. Fewer knobs make for more time with hands on the strings and frets.

 

And look, those old Sure mics from the '50s with modern guts are back in style.

 

So why not Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Isao Tomita twisty knobs and massive control panels? I admit, if I was a better keyboardist, I'd want one.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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I think we all yearn for a sense of permanence in this transient and untouchable digital age. We want to touch the music which vinyl allows. We also want an authentic aural experience and getting back to old instruments and tubes allows for that.

 

For me, the purchase of the Prophet 6 last year was about accessibility and yes, analog sound. Granted, I think plugs and VIs are getting closer and closer but the truth is, mousing around on a computer screen is just not as fun or as intuitive as grabbing a dedicated knob.

 

I think this explains the return to retro craze we`re currently experiencing.

 

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I think plugs and VIs are getting closer and closer but the truth is, mousing around on a computer screen is just not as fun or as intuitive as grabbing a dedicated knob.

 

I think this explains the return to retro craze we`re currently experiencing.

 

But is there really a craze for returning to knobs? Certainly not a very big one. A retro craze that I'd like to see flourish is the concept of recording a band as a band. DAWs have become dominant because it lets a soloist record a full band project involving no one but him or herself . . . for really cheap. I can't imagine that sort of user going thorugh the agony of finding musicians to play his songs, and then setting up a studio full of mics to record them. So, no retro there.

 

I agree that a soloist building up his project by playing or programming one track at a time can probably have more fun mixing it on a real console, but then, since he's creating the song a track at a time, there may not be anything left to do by the time mixdown comes around than set the panning and click the Play button.

 

 

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That is absolutely, certifiably BRILLIANT. There's even a physiological basis for that statement. I don't remember the details, but there was a paper about how memory is like a three-dimensional matrix, and music can access sections relatively easily.

 

I wonder if having a physical experience with retro things "cements" memories of things we've seen, but not experienced. For example, if you've seen pictures of Keith Emerson with his giant Moog modular that you remember, playing with a modular gives extra meaning to that memory. Hmmm...

 

 

There's definitely an element of truth to that...being able to actually play the instruments that our hero's played or still play has an undefinable attraction. As a teen I worked my ass off to afford a Ric 4001. When I finally got it, I was disappointed to find that somehow I still didn't sound like Chris Squire. That's when I first heard the term "tone is in the fingers" and the point really hit home about not blaming the tools for the resulting work.

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But is there really a craze for returning to knobs? Certainly not a very big one. A retro craze that I'd like to see flourish is the concept of recording a band as a band.

 

 

It's been my preferred way of working throughout the DAW era. If given the option, I always try to at least get the band playing together for the rhythm tracks and then do the lead overdubs, vocals, etc.

 

Just because a DAW has the tools to let you slice and dice everything or do everything one part at a time doesn't mean you have to use them on everything - as always, it's a decision. And frankly, doing an album solo was a decision that could have been made (and in some cases, it was) during the analog multitrack era. McCartney's first solo album is, for all intents and purposes, a true "solo" record, with him playing most of the parts himself.

 

What I'd be more interested in is hearing more humanity on records. Not just programming things (which is okay for some things IMHO) but playing them whenever possible... and leaving some of the natural timing and feel intact instead of trying to edit it into a false perfection.

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It's been my preferred way of working throughout the DAW era. If given the option, I always try to at least get the band playing together for the rhythm tracks and then do the lead overdubs, vocals, etc.

 

Just because a DAW has the tools to let you slice and dice everything or do everything one part at a time doesn't mean you have to use them on everything - as always, it's a decision. And frankly, doing an album solo was a decision that could have been made (and in some cases, it was) during the analog multitrack era. McCartney's first solo album is, for all intents and purposes, a true "solo" record, with him playing most of the parts himself.

 

What I'd be more interested in is hearing more humanity on records. Not just programming things (which is okay for some things IMHO) but playing them whenever possible... and leaving some of the natural timing and feel intact instead of trying to edit it into a false perfection.

 

I miss the subtle "mistakes" and the even the big flubs that sometimes made it into a track. Musicians are people, and even the very best of the best screw up now and then...and it's fun to hear how they can often make them sound intentional...or just seeing a glance across the stage followed by a grin. Today's recordings are totally devoid of that humanity.

 

By extension, for many of us the appeal of vinyl has a lot to do with what isn't even music...the little pops and clicks and hiss that means you're about to hear something awesome (when the word had real meaning), you're between awesome, or you've heard something awesome. There's a subtle coarse "edge" to digital music that some can't sense, but some can, and it tends to grate on me just a little. Vinyl through analog is less fatiguing for reasons I can't explain.

 

There's a place for all of the various forms of technology. It's great that the old stuff isn't completely gone. It's amazing what has come out in the last few decades. It pays to embrace it all.

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It's been my preferred way of working throughout the DAW era. If given the option, I always try to at least get the band playing together for the rhythm tracks and then do the lead overdubs, vocals, etc.

 

Me, too. I use a console when I record, even when recording into a DAW. Mostly I use the computer as a recorder, an editor, and occasionally a signal processor. For me, a console is much quicker to work with than fooling with an on-screen mixer. On the few occasions where I've had a console that can control a DAW mixer, whenever I've tried that, I always get distracted by looking at the computer screen to make sure I'm doing the right thing. It never seems to be becoming second nature to me to ignore a computer screen if there's one there.

 

Just because a DAW has the tools to let you slice and dice everything or do everything one part at a time doesn't mean you have to use them on everything - as always, it's a decision.

 

As long as I get to make that decision. A DAW (assuming with the right hardware) can give me six stereo headphone mixes, so I can satisfy everyone in the band who wants something different - if we want to spend a couple of hours just fooling with a headphone mix. With the console, I'll offer them two independent mono mixes or the control room mix in stereo. I don't have the kind of clients who won't work with one of those choices.

 

And frankly, doing an album solo was a decision that could have been made (and in some cases, it was) during the analog multitrack era. McCartney's first solo album is, for all intents and purposes, a true "solo" record, with him playing most of the parts himself.

 

McCartney's good enough to be able to do that. A guy who's a bank clerk by day and by nigit is a drummer who plays guitar, bass, sax, harmonica, trumpet, sings, and writes songs can do it too, but probably not very well, and not very efficiently. He's best to just do the whole project himself. Either he'll get better at it or he'll figure out that he really makes better music when he's playing in a band.

 

I read an article in Recording a couple of months back about how to put some life into programmed drums. Geez, he works really hard at it. He really understands what makes good drumming (which this old time banjo player has no clue about) and hand picks every sound from several different sets, using a few different drum programs - and that's just for one song. I think the point of that article is that today there's a wide choice of sampled drum sounds that are very well recorded and very well played, and that you don't need a great studio to get good drum sounds. But you still need to be able to think like a drummer plays and manually tweak every hit to make it sound like it was played, not just copied and pasted.

 

 

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But is there really a craze for returning to knobs? Certainly not a very big one.

 

Some with recording with a DAW, but in a big big way with synthesizers.

 

A retro craze that I'd like to see flourish is the concept of recording a band as a band.

 

That would be great.

 

I miss recordings that feature musicians playing, musicians going for it during a recording. I'll hear these pop or rock songs in a gym, and I'll sometimes think, "Okay, this is really catchy. I might actually like it if I could hear musicians playing." Hearing someone's DAW playing just doesn't have that same feel. :D

 

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There is something about a band and vocalist recording at the same time. The energy passed back and forth, the interplay between the musicians and singers and other subtle things make for an excellent recording if done right.

 

It's the way we used to do it, very retro. (1) learn your part before going into the studio so you can be a 'one take jake' (2) play it in front of an audience until you are comfortable with it, but not enough times so you are too comfortable with it (3) go in the studio, so everyone can see and hear everyone else, preferably at night (I think we play better at night) and have fun recording.

 

It may not be sonic perfection, but it can be something that one-track-at a time cannot duplicate.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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But is there really a craze for returning to knobs? Certainly not a very big one. A retro craze that I'd like to see flourish is the concept of recording a band as a band. DAWs have become dominant because it lets a soloist record a full band project involving no one but him or herself . . . for really cheap. I can't imagine that sort of user going thorugh the agony of finding musicians to play his songs, and then setting up a studio full of mics to record them. So, no retro there.

 

I agree that a soloist building up his project by playing or programming one track at a time can probably have more fun mixing it on a real console, but then, since he's creating the song a track at a time, there may not be anything left to do by the time mixdown comes around than set the panning and click the Play button.

 

 

I was referring more to the retro craze in keyboards. Should have been more specific.

 

I don`t know if we`ll ever see a resurgence in bands as long as digital makes everything so convenient and cheap. Unfortunately.

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I was referring more to the retro craze in keyboards. Should have been more specific.

 

I don`t know if we`ll ever see a resurgence in bands as long as digital makes everything so convenient and cheap. Unfortunately.

 

I definitely agree with you and Ken given the recent flood (or at least heavy downpour) of synthesizers, with or without keyboards, that have hands-on analog type controls. But self-contained recording consoles, at least in the under $10k range, are few and far between. I'm talking about recording consoles here, not PA mixers. I can make do with a Mackie Onyx in the studio, but it's not the same as working on my Soundcraft - except that the Soundcraft is worn out and never was as quiet as the Mackie. Somebody, give me a new one, please.

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You have a Soundcraft 600, right Mike? I used to use one of those all the time when I worked at Media Sound years ago... it's a good board. Have you ever considered having it rebuilt / recapped? Jim Williams at Audio Upgrades works on them, and does mods on them too, which could help take care of the noise. I think he does a mic / line input mod too so the line inputs are true balanced ins that don't run through the mic pre with a 20dB pad like they do stock. Not sure what it would cost, but it might be worth looking into.

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You have a Soundcraft 600' date=' right Mike? I used to use one of those all the time when I worked at Media Sound years ago... it's a good board. Have you ever considered having it rebuilt / recapped? Jim Williams at Audio Upgrades works on them, and does mods on them too, which could help take care of the noise. I think he does a mic / line input mod too so the line inputs are true balanced ins that don't run through the mic pre with a 20dB pad like they do stock. Not sure what it would cost, but it might be worth looking into.[/quote']

 

I could recap it myself, but pots and switches can't be replaced easily (or at all) and they're all scratchy and intermittent now. I have to "fix" it just about every time I want to use it. And the cost and bother of shipping it back and forth across the country just doesn't seem to be worth while. Too bad there isn't a famous engineer who can't do a session without his custom Soundcraft 600 channel strip. I could sell it for parts. ;)

 

I don't really have a problem with using the mic inputs as line inputs. They're nice, low noise amplifiers and have a proper differential input. You'd need a buffer to get a low gain line input, and what's the difference between a buffer and a mic preamp other than gain? (well, sort of).

 

I've had my eye on the Allen & Heath GS-R24 since I reviewed the ZED-R16. I liked that R16 a lot, but it was missing a few things that I still wanted in a recording console (meter bridge, for one), and I liked the idea that its inputs and outputs were so flexible. With analog, Firewire, and ADAT optical I/O, I could use it interchangeably with a lot of hardware that I already own and want to continue using. When I had my remote truck, I needed the 24 mic inputs occasionally, though I don't have need for them now - I don't own that many mics that I'd want to use all at the same time - but I'd still like to be able to mix 24 tracks on real faders.

 

I don't really care whether the guts are analog or digital. I'm not that kind of fussy. But when they build digital consoles, they leave most of the controls out since it's "easy" to share one set of controls with all channels at the press of a button. But I just don't like working that way. So I guess I'm just on the "retro" side.

 

 

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A lot of older stuff sounds great because they made it a certain way, and that way is very appealing, romantic, and great sounding to our ears. A lot of it is physical because some of us get tired of using things with a mouse, and would rather use something that is more electro-mechanical. Some of us might want something that is physical instead of using MP3s. Some might prefer a well-crafted hand-made instrument instead of a mass-produced one.

 

That in fact is what I meant by vintage gear having "Mojo'. Something that's more emotionally appealing to a user. I didn't include computer based music but I suppose you could if you wanted to. My focus was on Old hardware vs new hardware and the extent allot vintage gear gets over hyped.

 

An analogy could be made vintage gear is an old friend and new gear as being a stranger. Both may say the same things in the same way but you trust the old friend to elevate you emotionally over the stranger which you haven't fully connected to yet and therefore don't know its full potential.

 

I combine vintage and new as most do. I like the fact I have room to explore the new and find new sounds to work with. Once I know a piece of gears potential it becomes vintage to me (even its a relatively new piece of gear). Its a matter of predictability, knowing its fullest potential, not its age that makes it useful and gives it mojo for me. For others it may be other things that give them an emotional connection but I do suspect predictability is a big part of that, even if it produces predictably lower quality and even poor technical results.

 

Creating good music is first and foremost an emotional expression, not a technical exhibit. If connecting to a vintage piece of gear gets you where you want to be, power to you for allowing it to help you make that leap, but I will maintain, its not a pure source of creative energy. Physical things are not alive and can not give you emotions. Any kind of feeling you have for them is a reflection or projection of ones self and learning to unlock those good vibes (Mojo) can be done without the aid of a physical object, old or new.

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...and you never know what form that mojo will take. When Waves did an emulation of the Aphex Aural Exciter, I asked why they included a switch to put the inherent noise in there...wouldn't you want to get rid of it? They said that in blind listening tests, people said something sounded "wrong" about the version with the noise switched off although they couldn't put their finger on why. Hey, at least they made it switchable for people like me...

 

 

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...and you never know what form that mojo will take. When Waves did an emulation of the Aphex Aural Exciter, I asked why they included a switch to put the inherent noise in there...wouldn't you want to get rid of it?

 

Noise is organic. Most tape simulator plug-ins have wow and flutter (that you can turn on or off), and I remember a couple of guys who were making a Leslie-like cabinet that was built like a real piece of furniture, had good bearings on the shafts, and a high quality power amplifier - with a knob that added hum for authenticity.

 

 

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