The Day MP3 Died

On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS terminated. News release here.

Although I cut most of my CD library in AAC — somewhat redundant now that I rarely even see a CD anymore — I still cut mp3s when working on studio projects. I suspect the format will live on for many, many years.

Ears to Hear

But in actuality, the difference is very difficult to discern. Couple that with a range in the quality of soundcards and speakers, and it’s almost impossible for the average listener to pick which is which. Can you tell the difference?

Spotify has a test for you to tell the difference between lossy and lossless audio. Verge has the test here.

I gave it my best shot. I wish I could say I got them all first try. I listened to them on my tablet. Almost impossible to discern any meaningful differences. Same for my laptop speakers.

What was annoying? It was even hard to tell the differences on my studio monitors.

Perhaps that is why most people are not at all concerned about listening to compressed music. The differences are not all that great particularly when played back on lower quality sound cards and speakers.

Poor Man’s Acoustic Bass Pickup

AcousticBassMic

I am only a few weeks away from our big concert of the year, Celebrate Christmas. This will be our eighth year presenting this concert to our community in Kingston. Our team gets together this weekend for our first of three rehearsals.

We will be doing a jazz set as part of the program this year. Out of the roughly 20 songs, 4 will be in this genre. I have a jazz box that I will be using for the event. I rented an upright acoustic bass for my son to use. However, the instrument was not equipped with a pickup.

What to do?

I came across several suggestions that are a variation of the picture above: suspend a microphone underneath the back of the bridge and point the capsule towards the neck. Some people even use rubber bands to hold the microphone in place.

Several gigging bassists told me to use a very basic stage mic, the Shure SM-57. The proximity effect of these mics adds a great colour to how the sound of the instrument is captured.

I will be trying this technique out later this week.

Hopefully it will do the job.

Renovation Work

RenoProject

In what passes for spare time these days, I have been busily engaged helping our church renovate the main auditorium. I had worked on the main front of house system several years back. The above shot shows the progress that we have been making on the stage.

This time, the list of audio/visual improvements for the auditorium was pretty extensive:

  • New stage lighting with three rows of lights, 12 LED Par fixtures and 4 LED Ellipsoidal fixtures
  • New DMX controllable LED house lights
  • New lighting controller
  • New stage curtains (not up when the above photo was taken)
  • New projection system for the front of house, 2 16×9 screens and 2 high performance projectors
  • Projection system for the back of house, 1 4×3 screen and 1 projector
  • Complete rewiring of the electrical system for the entire auditorium
  • New audio/visual booth
  • New digital audio console

And lots of wiring, programming and software updates for the various digital controllers and computers that support the programs we hold at our church.

This has been a big project and there is still a lot to do before we reopen the auditorium next week. Looks like my labour day weekend holds a lot of labour.

X32 Console

We are doing some improvements to the AV system at our church including a new sound console. I did an overview video of the new board for our team of volunteers.

Very impressive advances in digital consoles over a fairly short period of time. This particular board packs a lot of punch for the money.

My First Studio

I kept all of it. Every brochure and quote. On every bit of equipment I thought I would need to open a recording studio. Back in 1979.

418 pages.

I scanned it all into Evernote. I figured that if I had kept it for almost 40 years, I should have it in my digital box of memories.

The cost of recording technology in the 1970s was so expensive. My plan was to open an 8-track recording studio.

Yes. Eight mighty tracks of analog tape bliss.

I never did so, thankfully. The bottom of the recording market literally disappeared with project studios and then home studios.

My weapon of choice back then? The Otari MX7800.

OtariMX7800

You can pick one up now for under a thousand dollars like this one that recently closed on eBay.

UsedOtari

My current Pro Tools HD rig can handle 256 tracks. Maybe a touch more powerful than the MX7800.

Times change.

The console that I wanted to get back then was a Soundcraft Series 400.

Soundcraft400

You can also pick up a newer model of the 400 for under a thousand dollars as well.

UsedSeries400B

Much better time of life to get into recording gear.

 

Logic Pro X

LogicNew

I have been on Pro Tools for a long time. Since 1997.

It is pretty much the standard DAW for the recording industry. And I am quite invested in the platform both from a software and hardware perspective.

This is a shot of my current Pro Tools HD rig which includes the usual hardware dongles (HD interfaces and IO) as well as a hardware controller (D-Command).

pro tools rig

I am running Pro Tools 10.3.9. And I am stuck.

This version of Pro Tools is running on an unsupported release of Mac OS X. And this version of Pro Tools is now 2 major point releases backdated.

To move the platform forward would require a complete overhaul of the computer, operating system, and a significant investment in shifting to a software subscription model. The days are also numbered on how much longer Avid will continue to support the D-Command console.

I am not a fan of software subscriptions. It is a way for software companies to shift from perpetual licenses that you can buy and hold to a monthly payment that literally holds you captive to a license that you can only ever rent.

So, I did something that I did not think I would ever do. I decided to try out a different DAW for a change.

I am trying out Logic Pro X.

Basically, I am taking some of my recent Pro Tools sessions and I am working them up under Logic. Just to see how far off this platform might be from Pro Tools. To confirm whether the Pro Tools lock-in is really justified. To confirm that I can hear differences in how the Pro Tools DAW operates compared to something like Logic.

I’ll get a better sense of its strengths and limitations over the next few months. I don’t have an active mix project underway right now so it gives me a chance to try out something new.