I started my vacation last week. I am not going anywhere because we decided to install a swimming pool in the backyard. That little project successfully depleted the summer vacation funds and more.
I have been doing quite a bit of recording work despite the need for some time off. The weather has been so poor in this part of the country that I have not felt the urge to go to beaches or to engage in other outdoor activities. I had quite a bit of work to do on a few projects and so I have spent most of my vacation time slugging away in the control room.
I had treated my studio DAW with upgrades from Quiet PC. Although the control room computers are in an insulated and soundproofed machine room they still emit a fair bit of noise. I installed new power supplies and cpu coolers and I insulated the computer cases with sound dampening material. The net result is that the computers are very quiet.
My office computer roars like a jet airplane.
I had to do a forced upgrade to the office computer when a power supply went south causing the processor to do a thermal meltdown. I replaced the processor, motherboard, memory and upgraded the hard disk.
The computer has an Enermax PSU, a stock Intel CPU cooler, a case fan as well as other assorted peripherals (video card, hard disk drives, CDR, etc.). I measured the noise level of the computer and, at idle, it produces over 58dBA of noise. It also happens to be a fairly broadband noise pitched at just the right amplitude and set of frequencies to be exceptionally annoying. I have to put the computer on standby once I leave the office because the noise level permeates the rest of the building.
I broke down yesterday and contacted the folks at Quiet PC to help me out. I have ordered a Zalman ZM400A 400 watt noiseless power supply, an Arctic Cooling Super Silent 4ProL CPU cooler, and an AcoustiFan Noiseless Computer Case fan. Each item in isolation produces about 20dBA of noise. Every 10dBA rise in SPL is perceived as a doubling of the noise level so you can imagine how much quieter those items will be over the current 58dBA. I’m not sure which piece is the loudest right now. It seems to be a contest between the case fan and the CPU cooler.
Although I could take the case fan out, the CPU cooler fan, which is currently rotating at about 3,000 rpm, would quickly rise to 5,000+ rpm to maintain acceptable thermal levels. Either way, these new generation processors from Intel run loud and hot.
You can learn more about making your computer operate with less noise at the silent pc forum. There is a great primer just off the home page called: Noise in Computing: A Primer for PC Silencers.
I needed to find a concert grand in a hurry to retake a piano track. The original track was fine from a performance perspective however the vocalist wanted the arrangement down a tone.
I decided to try Lydian Sound for a couple of reasons. Obviously, they had a nice Yamaha C7F II Concert Grand Piano. They have a great equipment list and competitive rates. They also had some time available when I needed it. And their studio is only about 15 minutes away from mine.
I could not arrange for the vocalist to join the tracking session and so I asked another artist that I have been working with to help me track a guide vocal for the session. He has been spending the past six months working in my studio. After the session he told me that my studio definitely has a better atmosphere. I told him that there were definitely a few pieces of gear at Lydian that I would love to have in my rack.
Although not specifically mentioned in the 10 commandments I have to believe that gear envy is a sin. I must not lust over another studio’s equipment.
I enjoyed the afternoon tracking at Lydian. The staff were friendly and professional.
It’s funny the differences that I noticed.
I keep the Pro Tools platform in my own studio very close to the Digidesign release schedule. I am currently running 6.4. However, Lydian is running 5.x. They could not read the Pro Tools session file that I brought over because of their backdated release. No real issue as we simply created a new session file and dragged over the original audio takes from my CD.
I also like to keep the Pro Tools monitor panels in a forward facing orientation to the talent. At Lydian, the Pro Tools monitor is on a wheel cart behind the engineer’s seat. This means that the engineer has to constantly turn back and forth to attend to the session. Seemed to be much more work particularly when we started punches.
For those of you who might not be familiar with the studio jargon a punch is a way of correcting minor flaws in a performance by redoing a small part of the music. Much like using a word processor to correct a spelling mistake. You find the mistake and you type over it. In audio engineering we call that a punch. You can rest assured that I did not hit anyone during the session yesterday.
I really liked the monitor system at Lydian. They have a custom headphone monitor system for the talent. Direct control over levels by the artists and performers. Really nice system.
Here is another photo of the tracking area at Lydian.
The summer in Ontario that wasn’t. This will likely go down as one of the coolest and wettest summers in many years. All the better to work on the recording studio tan.
I officially entered the crunch zone. This is the zone where you know you have way too many commitments and not enough time.
One of the projects I am working on needed some last minute reworking. Specifically, one of the tracks was recorded in a key that was later determined to be too high for the vocalist. I scrambled Saturday to find an available studio with a decent concert grand to retake the piano. Then I scrambled on Tuesday to find a session player who could show up for the session on Thursday. Today I spent most of the morning charting up the new tracks. I estimate that this minor hiccup in preproduction will wind up taking roughly 15 hours of my direct time and around $500 dollars in studio related costs for the two hours that it will take the pianist to recut the song.
For those of you about to go in to a recording studio allow me to give you some helpful advice: make sure you pick the right key for your song 😉
I will be tracking at Lydian Sound tomorrow afternoon. First time that I have been in their room so I am looking forward to seeing the studio firsthand. I’ll give you my impressions tomorrow.
Still waiting for the Apple G5 to arrive. It has been on order for over 3 weeks now. I guess Apple must build them by hand. Just as well really. I do not have enough cycles to migrate the main Digital Audio Workstation this week.
Just brought the new system home and everything is fine. The cause of all of this angst? The Zero Insertion Force CPU mount is not totally zero insertion force. The service technician told me that the CPU was slightly off on one side and that this was the source of all of my troubles. He told me that he often applies a slight amount of pressure on each corner of the chip to ensure that it is seated properly.
Thankfully, the unit is healthy and I have begun the journey of rebuilding the machine. My original estimate of taking a day to get the machine back in service is obviously too optimistic. I should be pretty much back in play after two days.
I also have a session tomorrow and I can return to my passion of recording audio as opposed to taming the technology.
The saga on the overheated office computer continues. Yesterday I began the process of rebuilding that system.
I gathered all of my requisite parts from Logic Computer Warehouse in Markham: P4 3Ghz processor. Check. ASUS P4P800 SE mobo. Check. Dual Channel 512MB RAM. Check. 120 GB Hard Drive (as I feared, I have to rebuild the system from scratch… there goes a day!). Check.
Spent an hour or so last night swapping out the old mobo and related components and, after carefully examining all connections, I powered the new system.
No POST. No video. The mobo goes green. This indicates that the board is receiving power. The CPU fan turns. The various drives go green. But after that? Nothing.
Worked on it until 2am. Prowled the ASUS motherboard forums to gain some insight. Not surprisingly a lot of people experience this kind of fun. I am taking it back to the dealer this morning because I am not prepared to spend this kind of time troubleshooting the problem. From the various postings on the P4P800 boot issues it could be bad RAM or a bad mobo.
Still waiting for my Mac to arrive for the studio DAW. I wonder if my experience with that platform will be any better.
I have a workhorse computer in my office. A 1.6GHz Pentium 4 machine. I assembled this machine a few years back. I used an ASUS P4B motherboard, a stock Intel cooler for the CPU and whatever cheap power supply that came with the case. There were other items in the machine such as Firewire, AGP video card, hard disks, CDR, etc.
The machine stays on 24/7 and it has done so since I put it in service a couple of years back. At least until Tuesday. Just before a 7:00pm recording session the machine did a hard stop. Just died. I noticed that there was a significant amount of heat coming from the machine. And, sure enough, the power supply fan had siezed. This caused the CPU to overheat because of the dramatic increase in ambient heat. The Pentium 4 chips will actually clock down, literally slow the processor down, to combat the heat. But, the combination of motherboard sensor and overwhelming heat caused a system halt to occur.
Fortunately, I had a spare Enermax 450 watt power supply. Why I did not install this power supply in the first place I do not know. I delayed the session start by thirty minutes as I had actually intended to print off some project plans for the client. I quickly replaced the power supply and all seemed resolved.
So it seemed.
Yesterday, I noticed that the machine was literally unusable. Sluggish. Unresponsive. I rebooted the machine and entered the BIOS diagnostics to take a look at the temperature readings. The CPU, at idle, was registering 61 degrees Celsius! Way too hot for this class of processor at idle. I tried replacing the CPU cooler with a higher efficiency system to no avail. Although the temperature came down somewhat, the chip no longer performs. Thermal damage obviously toasted the processor.
I have blocked off a day to rebuild this machine. Given my prior experience this is what it takes to fix a computer. I have to replace the processor, motherboard and memory. The processor because the P4 1.6 is no longer available. I’ll try and get a Northwood P4 at the 3GHz or better level. The Prescotts are said to have thermal issues and I really do not want a repeat of heat related problems.
Since the processor wants an 800 FSB I have no choice but to ditch the P4B motherboard. I’ll throw in a P4P800SE motherboard with the Intel 865PE chipset. And, because the memory chips are different, I’ll need to throw in a gig of high performance memory.
My only question mark is whether I can get away with remounting the original hard drive and repairing the Windows XP install. I hope so. It is such a pain to reinstall a boatload of applications.
Statistics Canada does a periodic survey of the Canadian Sound Recording Industry. You can see part of their survey results here.
Some interesting data. In 1992/93 there were 187 companies that responded to the survey. During that year there were 6,271 new releases and roughly 10% of those releases had Canadian content or were recorded by Canadian artists. The industry realized about 828 million dollars of revenue with a profit margin of 16.5%.
The most recent survey in 2000 reported on 331 companies. Number of new releases stayed pretty much the same. Canadian content had increased significantly to 15.5% and total industry revenue was up to 1.4 billion dollars. Profit margins declined to 11.9%.
Those of us who track this industry are quite aware of the significant decline in CD sales over the past four years. There are still some healthy businesses out there but it remains a highly competitive market with very thin margins.
As a footnote to my previous post I have included a shot of Lydian Sound. This is another high quality studio in the Toronto area. Some of you were surprised that Canada had so many high-end studios. Alas, I have merely scratched the surface for you. Although CDs are a tough business, someone has to record all those DVDs Canadian consumers are buying in record numbers.
I know. It was not Whisperwood Recording Studios. Nope. That Canadian Music Week Award went to the crew at Metalworks in Toronto. If you want to have a glimpse at some of the best recording studios in Canada then look no further than the following facilities. All of them are stunning, world class studios.