Monday
Aug022010

« The Digital Audio Deep End »

Apple logic pro is my present recorder used for podcasts.Podcasting using Apple Logic ProYou'd think a guy like me who had a history in audio would just take to this like a duck to quacking, but I'm not so sure about that. It is hard to overstate what a love affair I had with my VS-880, making it do stuff that people don't expect of 8-track recorders. In some ways I feel that that is plenty of technology for me. It was, after all, the machine on which I did my most creative work, and certainly the most complete sounding stuff. I didn't buy it knowing an awful lot about audio, so it was right-scaled for me, and though there was a learning curve, it helped me produce results for the odd sort of music I recorded.

A long time ago, back in 1995 when I was doing my first all solo project, a thing done on cassettes with just a couple stereo machines and a mic that was mixed in as a new input, Marty Eldridge of Rockola told me I should really be using ProTools to do what I was doing. Of course at the time, PT was waaaay prohibitively expensive for a guy who used probably all of about $1000 worth of recording gear (and that is stretching it). I knew nothing about computers then and didn't care to. Finally a few years later, Tom Griesgraber got himself into a ProTools Digi001 system which, after my glory days of VS-880 use and the attempted upscaling to a VS-2480 for about a year, I decided to get, having finally been on the computer long enough to think I could go for it.

But that story has been dribbled out over these pages for nearly a decade now; not having real knobs or switches is odd for a guy who came into this stuff enjoying that tactile approach as a major part of playing parts and recording them with those effects and processing characteristics printed to the recording on the way in. But I have wanted to streamline and get closer to a natural sound so the stripped front end of a digital workstation was appealing. But life was changing and little time did I have to give to master the stuff like I did on the VS-880. Some of my ProTools era stuff has a dose of the old Hog Heaven sound, and actually a lot of it is captured better. But I always liked a rich mix, calling freely on effects to create an atmosphere. I totally admire guys who can get dry tracks and make them kick, but that isn't quite my style. Interestingly, I've read one criticism of Peter Gabriel's second record that took issue with Robert Fripp's over-adherence to dry tracks, totally missing the richness that characterizes PG's sonic landscape; like, PG uses the quality of sound to convey a musical atmosphere as much as any lyric or tempo or harmony.

And so it is with me.

ProTools has been a big disappointment for me. I've produced just a handful of demos that even hint at what I would like to have accomplished on that rig. But the pitfalls of life had as much to do with that as the frustrations with the gear itself. Losing my studio has sort of put the nail in the coffin for my recording life. Being married with a partner who wants to get some sleep and have a relationship is also one big reason for letting it all fade. Not having a dedicated space to wail has something to do with it.

But humming along in the background for some years has been various digital audio editing work—for several years I edited sermons and church service audio, and have over four years of that material to cite as what I've been doing in audio. Lately I've been recording podcast material, requiring a pretty simple rig, but one that even ProTools couldn't seem to hack, which leaves me dumbfounded considering the hours and hours of jam sessions I recorded back in Hog Heaven in 2002-3.

So I am about to embark on digital audio studio mk3 (Roland VS; ProTools on G4s; iMac and Logic). I just now bought a Focusrite Saffire Pro so that I can get stuff into the computer by FireWire. It is a whole new paradigm for me on this computer. The Saffire is a good solid front end, and it also allows me a versatile combination of a number of channels from my Mackie mixer, and an 8 channel DigiMax ADAT preamp. That is to say, a range of channels that have some EQ or limiting on the way in. It even has SPDIF in so I can finally copy my DAT tapes into the computer and have a whole store of material that has gone unheard for years, simply because the DAT has not been set up since oh, 2006 or so.

The immediate task before me is to learn how to route Skype calls/chat connections into a recording program so we can draw upon distant voices for our JEM podcast, occasionally interviewing people out of the area. For the podcast audio, I find that both Peak and Garage Band output podcast XML data, so that helps.

So here I am, all dressed up and ready to go. Anyone want to record some stuff?

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