Friday, December 4, 2009

Product Review: Blue Omnimouse Microphone

I'll admit that I'm sort of agnostic when it comes to Blue's products. I'm not a fan of the Blueberry, the Mouse, the Kiwi, the Dragonfly, or Blue's landmark mic, the Bottle with its stock capsule. However, the OmniMouse sold me. Blue recommends this mic for Decca tree classical recording situations, but I've found it to be useful and interesting on a variety of projects, from vocals to room mic'ing. According to the Blue specs, the B4 capsule is a small element "true pressure omni capsule." According to a conversation I had with one of Blue's engineers, "small" means approximately 3/4" to Blue. Based on my experience, I would have suspected something about that size might be hidden inside the Omni's rotating capsule housing.

For one, the "omni" quality of this mic is mildly directional. There is no noticable bass-boosting proximity effect, but there is some high frequency directional character. That is probably partially due to the large housing ring that surrounds the capsule, focusing some of the 2kHz and above information into what becomes a hyper-cardioid pattern at 16kHz. You can easily hear this effect by rotating the element while recording a moderately broadband signal, like an acoustic guitar. A more omnidirectional omni would produce unnoticable frequency variations under these conditions, but the OmniMouse is not specially omnidirectional.

That's not all bad. If I wanted an instrumentation omni, I'd buy a small capsule unit with a small body. I was looking for a musical tool when I purchased a trio of OmniMice (Mouses?) to stuff into a Decca tree. The biggest surprise was in how beautifully this mic reproduces a near-field vocal. I hadn't planned on using it for that application, but after accidentally trying it on a voice, I've used it often ever since on male and female lead vocals. In several recording sessions, I've received raving responses from vocalists and voice-over artists after they've heard the playback from the OmniMouse. I've also used the OmniMouse in conjunction with a Royer R122 in M/S configuration to pickup a horn section and that was about as realistic a section as I've ever recorded. It just jumped into the mix with depth and width, far more interestingly than with either a U87 or a C414ULS in omni mode.

Once I realized this was a more versatile tool than I'd anticipated, I began to use it on all kinds of acoustic sources; from studio group voices to acoustic guitar to solo flute and classical cello. I have yet to find an application where I've been disappointed by the OmniMouse and I can't recommend this mic too strongly. Now I wonder if I'd like the Bottle with the B4 capsule?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Friend, Indeed

I've been putting this off for an unreasonable time. A friend, Mark Amundson, died in early September. He was 49. It's still hard to imagine that he's not on the other end of the phone or email, waiting to explain some complicate problem in simple terms that even I can understand. I'm getting used to people older than me dying, but I will never get used the deaths of people I once considered to be "kids." Mark was a dozen years younger than me and while he was infinitely wiser, kinder, more educated, and smarter than me, I still think of him as a kid.

Mark and I met while we both worked for Guidant, a medical device company. We hit it off immediately, in spite of disagreeing about almost everything outside of musical equipment design. We ate lunch often and he gave me an incredible collection of insights into the audio equipment industry and big time pro live sound.

Bill Evans did a much better job of writing about Mark Amundson's life, personality, and contributions than I can hope to accomplish. Bill's obituary, Music and Order, described Mark as "both liked and respected by both the industry and the [FOH] readers." I can vouch for that. Mark was an extraordinary engineer and technician. He was a generous, insightful friend. He loved music, musicians, and was practically compulsive in his desire to share what he knew (or wanted to know) about music, audio equipment design, and live music reinforcement. He sometimes introduced me to his friends as "the guy I hire to run sound when I'm on stage," which was an incredible compliment and an overwhelming endorsement considering that I ran sound one time for a band he was in and my end of the show was unremarkable. He was being typically generous and I will always appreciate his generosity.

Once, when I was beating him up for reviews in FOH that were uniformly positive and uninformative, he told me I needed to "read between the lines" for his real opinion of those products he was less than impressed with. I replied, "what's between the lines is white space." His answer was a long explanation of how modern publishing works. He explained that readers provide absolutely none of the money required to publish a magazine and that manufacturers and, worse, publicity agents have long, long memories and are particularly brutal on writers who tell the truth. Not long after that discussion, Mark tailed back his product reviews. He told me, about a year later, that he'd lost his ability to believe in readers' capacity to read "between the lines."

In person, Mark didn't talk between the lines. He was opinionated and exceptionally well-informed, but he was always hopeful that even the worst companies would do better if he just tried to help them see the error in their ways. He exhibited that patience with me, too; for the same reasons. I abused our friendship several times when I asked him to talk to my live sound classes at the school where I work. He not only put together a terrific presentation, every time, but he gave me PowerPoint slides of his presentation so that I could use that data in future classes. He never wanted to repeat himself, so he expected not just my students to "get" what he talked about, he expected me to take advantage of his gratis work and to benefit from it.

His ability to explain complicated, often mathematical, audio problems was beyond anything I've experienced in my formal education. I use his work, his explanations, every semester in my classes and it always provides breakthrough insights in my students' understanding of our subjects. It will be impossible to replace Mark as a resource for questions I will always have about audio design, component design, and music reinforcement.

More important, it will be impossible to replace Mark's friendship. I've never known anyone like him.

Here are a few of his articles and insights:
Live Sound: Theory & Practice
Poor Man's Power Distribution
Speaker Cables — You Get What You Pay For
Turn It Up! No, Down! No, Up! No. . .
Mic Selection and Placement

The Price of Complexity

A young friend and I often get into an argument about 1960-1980 rock & roll bands. He's a Led Zep fanatic. I liked the Who and was bored with most of the Zep's output. Partially, it's a matter of taste. Partially, it's a matter of perspective. Mostly, it's something for us to talk about when we're bored. However, yesterday's argument about "kids' music" produced something new for me.

He really objected to the idea that R&R is kids' music because, according to him, a lot older people are getting into the music and sticking with it longer. Cute, don't you think? I don't know how any 20-something can claim his generation is sticking with R&R longer than his parents' generation who are, apparently, going to go to their graves listening to the same crap they listened to when they were 19. Even worse, we're going to go down the tubes making our kids listen to that crap. Try to find a radio station that isn't playing 30-year-old R&R. Good luck.

That's not the point of this rant, though. The point is that, about half-way into our usual routine, I realized that 25 (or 30) is the new 15-19. This morning, I realized why.

A significant portion of our culture is dedicated to convincing its children to stay children long past puberty, long past the normal age of separation, mating, and starting a family, and well beyond when any traditional human would be a good way into adulthood. No, it's not because we live so much longer.

Steve Wozniak was 26 and an accomplished, employed (by HP) engineer when he started Apple, Inc. with his 21-year-old friend (at the time) Steve Jobs (who was still living in his parent's home). Jobs was (and may still be) the posterboy for the youth culture, but Wozniak was a more traditional young adult. [As a side-note, Jobs engineering-background claim-to-fame came when he conned Wozniak into doing a design job he'd been hired to do for Atari, split the bonus with Wozniak, and claimed he was a "real engineer" for doing the job. Sales as design, I guess.] Bill Gates (15) and Paul Allen (17) started their first commercial computer programming venture writing code for traffic control systems and moved to New Mexico five years later to start Microsoft. Eric Buell was a full-time engineering student and motorcycle mechanic in his early 20's. Greg Mackie was 17 when he began his career as an engineer and started his first audio products company. Sure, this short list if overstuffed with non-typical successes, but the list of young adults making their way before they are middle-aged goes on for millions of Boomers. Go back another generation and you're looking at a majority of young men who were out their parent's door and on their own in their teens. Today, it appears to be rare to find a young person who can live independently before 30 (or 40).

I work for a school that jammed with 20-something kids who are no closer to being self-supporting than they were when they were 10. They are "pursuing their dream" of collecting student loans and parental rent payments without a clue as to how they are going to begin life as an adult. Daniel Quinn, in his book Ishmael, described our child-adult extended education system as a glorified babysitting service that exists to keep the young out of the workplace as long as possible, because they are unnecessary. There are more than enough unemployed and underemployed adults in the que, without adding to that waiting list by releasing young adults into the workplace competition at the time in their lives when they are more than capable of competing for jobs. So, we convince kids they need a college education so they will be able to manage a coffee shop or a big box store department of 10 menial-labor employees, sell cars or stocks, or even do entry-level work as an engineer. Hell, Wozniak got his EECU degree from UC Berkeley in 1986, more than 10 years after he founded Apple, Inc. His biggest academic difficulty was refraining himself from correcting his professors when what they taught was either wrong or obsolete.

Finally, to the point of this rant, one reason that kids stay kids well beyond reasonable expectations is that our culture has become over-complicated. No 20-year-old is likely to start a computer company today, even if 20-year-olds are able to understand the hardware or software as thoroughly as did Wozniak or Jobs. Computer systems are so much more complex than they were in 1976 that building them from a garage is a ridiculous proposition. John Britten and Eric Buell's early success as motorcycle builders suggests that driven and radically talented young men can do some astounding things in this area. Buell's recent situation may pour a little water on that fire, though. Areas where a young person can feel like there is new ground to be broken and where the necessary tools and technology are not overwhelming are few and, for me, unimaginably far between. Maybe that's always been true, but I doubt it.

Maybe the real problem is that our education system is pointing itself too high on the cultural totem pole. Since the purpose in education is to prepare kids to become adults, our system is working hard to produce employees for jobs that probably won't exist by the time a kid is ready to find work. To quote Daniel Quinn's proposed evaluation of one portion of our 3 R's education system, "Two classes of 30 kids, taught identically and given the identical text materials throughout their school experience, but one class is given no instruction in reading at all and the other is given the usual instruction. Call it the Quinn Conjecture: both classes will test the same on reading skills at the end of twelve years. I feel safe in making this conjecture because ultimately kids learn to read the same way they learn to speak, by hanging around people who read and by wanting to be able to do what these people do."

That is a self-defeating purpose for a system that pretends to be useful. If kids are going to learn to read and write and use mathematics on their own, or not, because it is a useful and necessary tool, teaching these things is bound to be frustrating and disappointing. And it is.

Not being satisfied to criticise, but stuck with an irritating tendency to look for a solution, Quinn continued his speculation with, "It occurred to me at this time to ask this question: Instead of spending two or three years teaching children things they will inevitably learn anyway, why not teach them some things they will not inevitably learn and that they would actually enjoy learning at this age? How to navigate by the stars, for example. How to tan a hide. How to distinguish edible foods from inedible foods. How to build a shelter from scratch. How to make tools from scratch. How to make a canoe. How to track animals--all the forgotten but still valuable skills that our civilization is actually built on."

Even more to the point, K-12 school classes that include tool building and use would be equally valuable. Those shop or auto mechanics classes that we Boomers often ridiculed as being "trade school" education values are exactly the kinds of skills that modern kids lack. They are also the source of inspiration and competence for anyone who is inclined to want to build something. Those of us who suffered the tradesman's discipline in shop class also learned to respect tools and the things they can accomplish, even if we sucked at using the tools as apprentice/students. One or two generations earlier than my own, an apprentice might be whipped for breaking a valuable tool, we got off easy with a few swats from a well-designed paddle. The paddle my shop instructor threatened to use was made from local maple and was drilled to reduce wind resistance. I don't remember seeing it used, but it is still in my mind's eye hanging from the instructor's office wall. If I ever need one, I know how to build it.

My first technical jobs were nothing more than apprentice positions that only paid a living wage if I was willing to work 70-80 hours a week. My later engineering classes were a poor substitute for the education I received in my first 4 years as a working technician. Disconnected theory is way less useful than practically applied reason and experience. My first technical employer was a god of reason and experience and self-education. He expected the same from me.

Music and audio products are a terrific opportunity for the kind of cultural education that Quinn is talking about. Audio design incorporates a lot that is found in modern technology and that interests kids--electronics, computer science, mechanics, transducers, physics, & music--and they are small, reasonably cost effective, and accessible. Maybe we ought to be encouraging our schools to dump their science programs and take up recording and live audio engineering programs? Kids who know how things work, how to build things, and how to use them are economic weapons against cultural obsolescence.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Les Paul died today, of "complications of pneumonia." He died at White Plains Hospital surrounded by his friends and family. He had been ill since 2006, although he still made it to his regular nightclub gigs. He was 94. A gentle, thoughtful, friendly man who had a knack for invention and tinkering, Les Paul will be missed by music lovers everywhere.

I met and spoke with Les Paul at a NAMM show in the early 1980s. He was playing at the Gibson booth with his friends, Tommy Tedesco, Howard Roberts, and Herb Ellis. Howard died in 1992. Tommy died in 1997. Herb is 88, but he's still at it. Those three guitarists were the motivation, education, and inspiration for my own guitar playing, such as it is. Roberts and Tedesco jumped the stage and vanished without even acknowleging the audience. Ellis moved off with some friends and guitar dealers, doing his bit to promote Gibson's Epiphone division. Les stayed at his stool and talked with anyone who wanted to say "hello." He was a very friendly, gentle man and he made an impression with me that will stick for life. That experience and others made the NAMM show my all time favorite trade show.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Drinking Apple's Kool-Aid

In 1999, Apple released OS 10.0 (in market-eese, OS X). I acquired my first Mac in 2000 and it came with OS X 10.1. The reason I dipped into Apple's user-hostile world was because I had been unable to find a reliable Windows-based nonlinear video editor. I'd tried several, including several versions of Adobe's Premier, and every attempt was met with frustration, failure, and non-functional features. Hell, Adobe promised that Premier would be able to communicate with Firewire DV video cameras across three versions of the program. Each time, Adobe came up with another excuse and another useless program. Finally, I accepted that Final Cut v3.0 was the best option available and started campaigning to have someone else buy a Mac for me. In the end, a television station I worked for bought me a G4 and the State of Minnesota bought my software as part of an audio project I did for the DPS and the station.

Over the next eight months, I dove into Final Cut and OS X and became something of a fan of my new system; right up until my OS support guy installed OS X v10.3.6 and I lost eight months of work. He'd done everything the way Apple designed it, but something about the way the old system had been installed was incompatible with the new OS and that caused the backup system to be incompatible with either the old OS of the new OS and every bit of my work was lost. He was embarrassed. I was pissed off. Between the two of us, I was in worse shape. For almost two years, my G4 sat mostly idle in my basement while I was stuck working in the station's dinky, crappy-sounding edit rooms and wrestling with my school's Pro Tools/Mac stations and all of their buggy features.

I was inspired, during all of this funtime, to discover for myself why so few virus authors bother with writing bugs for the Mac: "why bother, Apple will write one and build so many into the next version of OS X." In fact, watching Apple users convulsively reboot programs and their computers every few moments is a weird demonstration of human denial. "I never have to reboot my Mac," users will tell me while they wait for their Mac to reboot. It's freakin' weird, at the least.

Windows users are less deluded, I think. Most of us hate Microsoft, generally, and Bill Gates, personally. We're aware of the system's many problems, the likelihood that a Russian virus author can steal our identities and personal fortune every time we buy a book on Amazon.com, the fact that only an idiot would upgrade to Vista or Windows 7 until the OS has seen at least one significant Service Pack (to use Microsquash's odd designation for "massive bug fix"), and we realize that backing up our data on multiple storage systems is barely protection against the inevitable death of everything we own on magnetic storage media.

I can't remember ever hearing a Microsoft user rant about Bill Gate's magical powers of marketing wizardry, even though Microsoft operating system and Office owns around 93% of the personal computer market. Steve Jobs, with his paltry 3-5% of that same market is regularly worshiped by Apple's Kool-Aid'ers as "a marketing wizard." This is the same "wizard" who needed a $150 million "investment" from Microsoft and a dramatic upgrade in Office for the Mac in 1997 to save Apple from vanishing into Osborne/Atari/Compaq history. Of course, Microsoft was worried about becoming a monopoly and getting the AT&T Breakup treatment from the Justice Department. Microsoft was not worried about serious competiton from the computer "for the rest of us."

When I bought my Mac, the only bits of software I installed on the machine were Cubase 3.0 and Pro Tools v6.4. The school where I teach is a Mac-centric place and I needed to know how to use the software the school used if I wanted to work there. Cubase runs on both Windows and Macs, but it runs a lot more reliably on Windows. Pro Tools also runs on both systems, but that older verison was remarkably similar to a virus installation on Windows while running fairly reliably on a Mac. ("Fairly reliable" means not as reliably as location recording requires, but better than a total disaster.) A company, later purchased by Adobe, made a program called "CoolEdit Pro" and that was the most reliable recording program I'd used at that time. Cakewalk's Sonar had the kind of features that programs like Logic and Pro Tools v8.0 have now, but it was also insanely, frustratingly unreliable.

At the same time, I knew several professional studios that had no intention of upgrading to future versions of Mac OS or Pro Tools because they were satisfied with their functioning systems and watched with amazement at the rest of us who upgraded and lost all function with the various random, user-useless OS and program upgrades. I wrote an article at about that time that posed the question, "every software company in the industry went broke and vanished tomorrow, who would that inconvenience?" I'm still waiting for an answer. Around that same time, Microsoft was lamenting the fact that a majority of its business users were not only slow to adapt XP, but many were chugging along with Windows for Workgroups v3.11 and hadn 't even considered Win95 or 98 as a worthwhile "upgrade."

My latest bitch about the Mac is the every-edition pointless change of mind about the ideal disk format. OS 9 recommended "Mac OS Standard"for backwards compatibility and "Mac OS Standard" (HFS) for forward compatibility. OS X 10.0-10.2 recommended Mac OS Extended because of the "advantage" of built-in disk optimization. 10.3 recommendations were "Mac OS Standard (plain old HFS) is no longer a disk format option, only HFS+ (with or without journaling) and UFS." About half of the 10.4 "updates" were catestrophic viruses that could cause all manner of lost information, but Apple still recommended HFS+ formatting. OS 10.5 absolutely forbids installation of the OS on any disk that is HFS formatted and requires the user to reformat the drive for OS installation. With all of this yanking around, not a single user benefit was derived for moving from one non-standard system to the next. It's just Apple's way of reminding us that we're suckers for drinking their Kool-Aid.

With every pointless, feature-less, system-slowing Apple OS upgrade comes the obsolescence of most of our programs, plug-ins, and the opportunity for massive file loss and storage system damage; all the characteristics of a virus infection. You gotta love that. Yet, Apple fanatics view each of these likely catastrophes as the "coming of the savior." I have to wonder if the primary requirement for being an Apple customer is having a memory shorter than a working-class Republican Party member?

Every marketing con-artist in the history of humanity has been looking for customers like this--wealthy, gullible, and forgetful--and Apple has found a way to make this clan identify, personally, with their products. The only other brand I know of with such committed customers is Harley Davidson. Come to think of it, those two companies have a lot in common. Think about it.

The longer I own Apple products, the less I like them. Apple’s bug-filled, over-priced, mid-tech, low-reliability, planned-obsolescent products are the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern technology. No other company has gone so far providing so little value, outside of ENRON or Citibank. Even those companies finally lost credibility when their management and “products” were found to be worthless. When Apple’s products fail to provide the promised value, Apple comes out with the next generation of crap and their shortsighted fanatical Kool-Aid drinkers dive into the punch bowl as if they’d developed a taste for technical cyanide.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Little Feat at the Fitz (October 24th, 2008)

I wrote this a while back and didn't have enough interest in the finished product to find a home for it. So, I'm moving the file to this blog and off of my hard drive.

Little Feat at the Fitz (October 24th, 2008)

Back in my cover band musician days, Little Feat was one of the bands I most liked covering. Little Feat’s songs were rhythmic, infectious, melodic, and fun to play. If a musician had jam-band inclinations, the music suited that style. If you were more inclined toward quick and clean three-minute pop tunes, that worked, too. When guitarist-singer-songwriter Lowell George overdosed and died, I stopped paying attention to Little Feat, but after a brief period of unsuccessful solo careers, the remaining members returned to the band and have been touring and recording ever since (Bill Payne released a solo CD in 2005 and Little Feat’s last studio CD was Down Upon the Suwannee River in 2003). They aren't the same band and they haven't shown the level of innovation that George inspired since their prime time days, but they aren't bad.

The band consists of Paul Barrere: lead and backing vocals, guitar; Sam Clayton: percussion, backing vocals; Kenny Gradney: bass; Richie Hayward: drums, backing vocals; Shaun Murphy: lead and backing vocals, percussion; Bill Payne: keyboards, lead and backing vocals; Fred Tackett: guitar, mandolin, trumpet, backing vocals.

Paul Barrere still dredges up the same kind of vocal energy that made him famous in the golden years of Little Feat. Shaun Murphy is pretty good in her backup vocal capacity, but here Broadway-style lead singing excursions are a poor match to the limited talents of whoever was running the Fitzgerald's FOH mix. There were moments of “my mother-in-law's voice” often inspiring deeper penetration of my hearing protection. At least a couple of times, I hut myself trying to get the damn earplugs jammed deep enough to provide a sufficient audible shelter when Murphy's voice screeched over the top of the mix. Billy Payne was in limited voice that night. He could sing, but he didn't sound much like Billy Payne. Maybe that too was the fault of the FOH mix.

As best I can recall, the following tunes made up the set: Hate To Lose Your Lovin', One Clear Moment > Jam > Just Another Sunday, Down On The Farm > Candyman > Down On The Farm, Don't Ya Just Know It, Fat Man In The Bathtub > Get Up Stand Up > Fat Man In The Bathtub, Willin' > Don't Bogart That Joint > Willin', This Land Is Your Land, Spanish Moon, On Your Way Down, Let It Roll, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don't Fail Me Now.

As usual, the FOH mix was overbearing at the beginning of the show; possibly because the fill muzak was so loud that the engineer was hearing-damaged before the show started. We had great 1st balcony seats, but the mix was intolerable in that location. So, we shifted to the 2nd balcony where it was worse. Eventually, we filtered down to the lower level and took up seats that had been vacated by deaf people who rushed the stage in hopes of finishing off their already traumatized hearing capacity. There wasn't a good fidelity seat in the house, so moving only changed the spectrum of upper-midrange distortion and grossly over-used subwoofer-ness.

As usual, I don't know what the FOH goofball was going for, but it wasn't anything that resembled a musical representation of this once-great band's discography. The Fitzgerald offers a decent selection of beer and mixed drinks. I suspect that partaking in large quantities of alcohol would have enhanced my appreciation of the aural mess. It night was a disappointment, though. I've worked and spectated several musical events in the Fitz that were incredible. The venue wasn't at fault and anyone who has attended a Prairie Home Companion Show knows how good the room can sound, in any seat. It was a great opportunity for a band once known for quality and innovation to show off some of those traits. Instead, I was reminded that the past should usually be left for memories and that I should never leave home without my industrial strength earplugs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Killing Music Loudly

This blog (http://wirebenderaudio.blogspot.com/) is an experiment in communications, which I guess is true for all of this kind of self-aggrandizing, self-marketing drivel. However, what I'd really like to do with Wirebender Audio Rants is to discuss some aspects of professional audio in an open, honest venue (which is why Anonymous Users may post replies here) where we can say what we think without disturbing our professional standings. In other words, if you can't really hear the difference between a real 1176 and a virtual 1176, you can simply say that here, anonymously, and stand back and watch the fur fly.

Google only allows for 10 subscribers, I'm going to be varying the mail-out list for the blog, often. If you are interested in the subject and want to get into this discussion, please go to the blog address and sign on as one of the Wirebender "Ranters." The motivations for creating this blog came last night during the usual ear-punishment some call "live music." As I was being beaten into a coma by overbearing subwoofers, knife-like HF and midrange horns, and a mix that would make a deaf person cringe and an otherwise excellent Dinkytown club, I started thinking about what I would do to the inventor of the subwoofer if I could catch him in a dark alley. Sometimes, I think that same punishment ought to be dealt to all of the inventors of amplified music products, but that's another subject. If there are any classes of invention undeserving of patent protection, it would be weapons, medical devices and drugs, and high power musical amplification products. The first and the last because of their undeniable detriment to progress and the security of the planet and the middle . . . usually for the same reason.

During my years at QSC Audio, I did hundreds of ABX tests on a variety of audio equipment and designs. In the future, I hope to do a whole lot more of the same when I get my new ABX tester built. One of the first things we discovered doing those tests was how fragile and unpredictable the human ear is. Since statistics demonstrates that a significant number of "true" results are necessary to prove a test, we quickly learned that the volume level of any test had to be kept low for accurate results. Pushing the level above 85-90dBSPL quickly turned the best ears into consistently indiscriminant tools. A testee who might have gone 10 for 10 at 85dBSPL would drop to 50% accuracy at 95dBSPL after only 5 attempts.

My conclusion was that the hearing mechanism both fatigues and self-protects, causing a loss of accuracy in high volume conditions. Twenty years later, I find that my tolerance for grossly out-of-balance mixes is considerably lowered. Part of that lack of tolerance is because I know it will only get worse as the night goes on. A FOH engineer who might be reasonably conscientious about muting unused open mics at the beginning of the show will completely forget about those phase-distorting sources after 10 minutes of 125dBSPL noise exposure. 30 minutes into that kind of show, the subwoofers are dominating the sound field, punctuated by screeching upper mids. Any subtlety in the mix will be gone along with the FOH engineer’s hearing.

The longer the FOH engineer has worked this way, career-wise, the less likely it will be that I can tolerate his work. As much as I love music, including pop music, it has become almost impossible for me to enjoy live performance because of the deafening (literally) SPL that live engineers think I need to experience. In 2008, I went to six live performances (outside of my school events) and enjoyed exactly one of those performances (including school events) because of excessive noise exposure.

It would be interesting to know why FOH engineers think all music lovers need to be punished for the crime of submitting themselves to a show.

Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.