Friday, January 25, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 3

Heyyy!! I didn't get lost. Not only didn't I get lost but I confidently walked straight to the class. This was really good news for me as I was running late and was quite worried that I would be late for class. We started this session out by burning up some song tracks to CD so that everyone had some material to work with. They were burnt at 4x so that it would be a nice deep burn.

While the CD's were burning we entered a discussion about analog versus digital. Upon discussion we quickly realised that even though we all had a basic idea of what the two technologies were, we were not able to quickly describe them. In analog recording systems, the continuously varying amplitude of the sound waveform is translated to a continuously varying level of magnetism, LP groove amplitude, etc. In contrast, with digital audio encoding, discrete (noncontinuous) time sampling and amplitude quantization is required, a process that breaks the originally continuous and smooth waveform into a staircase or other pattern of pulses. The instructor went on to mention that "The Principles of Digital Audio by Ken Pohlmann" was a really good read for anyone that wants to get in depth information about digital audio and it's origins. I found a summary of this book here

After a short break we began discussing a bit about frequencies of instruments and why it is important to know them. Basically it is important to know the frequencies so that through the use of EQ you can increase (amplify) or decrease (attenuate) the corresponding frequency allowing for the instruments to sound better in the mix. We briefly talked about impedance which is basically resistance. High impedance cables are intended for short distance of under 15 feet. By contrast low impedance cables allow for an audio signal to travel a lot further without introducing signal loss. It is important to select the appropriate cable for the task at hand.

"Enough of the theory stuff" says the instructor and off to the control room we go. We begin with a quick review of the Roland DAW. When quickly moved on to the steps required to route a signal to the Roland DAW and onwards to the Peavey console. We setup the a computer to loop a song for continuous playback which would be used as a quick and easy sound source. We grabbed a SM57 from the mic closed and set it up about 12" directly in front of the computer. We then plugged it into the closest wall plate. Once this was done we returned to the control room to route the signal into the DAW and console. Once all the routing was physically connected we began working with the Roland DAW routing so that we could forward the signal to the console. I will stop writing here as there would be too many steps to list.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yamaha F-310

While I'm doing all this blogging I might as well bring you up to speed on my guitars. I've been playing guitar for about 6 years now but actually my very first guitar was a 3/4 size acoustic guitar when I was 9. I briefly took some lessons but it wasn't until quite recently that I started playing again. Ha, what do you call a 30 year absence anyway?

My next guitar was a Yamaha F-310 that was originally bought for my wife but instead ended up kicking off one hell of a gear addiction.
I originally thought that I'd create a blog about my Audio Engineering sessions but really, all this other gear plays an important part in the scope of AE.
More guitars to come in future posts.

Seagull S-12

My latest aquisition was this Seagull S-12, 12-String acoustic guitar. Shown here with the Fishman pickup that I installed. Actually the Fishman is pretty cool. It basically just clamps onto the edge of the soundhole. It has two watch batteries which according to Fishman, will last for 3 years. It was really easy to install. A couple of screw clamps to hold it in place. A jack is installed in place of the regular strap button. Very clean look.

If you can believe it, I bought this guitar in the US for cheaper than I could in Canada. Now then, this is rather strange since it is MADE IN CANADA!! The rising Canadian dollar did me well this time around.

Epiphone Valve Jr.

This past weekend I decided to reward myself for not smoking. From the money I have saved from smoking for 2 weeks, I managed to buy this Epiphone Valve Jr amp. I love this thing. Nothing like pushing tubes past their breaking point! As you can see it has 1 knob, from loud to louder.

This new amp is a welcome addition to my studio and share the duties with my Traynor YCV40. I really like this amp as well but it is simply too loud for the size of room that we play in. I can't push it too that sweet spot without it being too loud for the room.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 2

I got lost again! Well, not really but still don't know my way around the school. I ended up being one of the first to arrive. I got there in time to see some band members loading up our isolation booth with instruments!! Band dudes! Get out of our room. I didn't say it but I sure was thinking it.

The instructor arrived right on time and after a bit of chit chat he talked about one of his students that brought in his SAW system. Built with a Asus MB, SATA drives, Lightpipe and a Frontier interface. We didn't get a chance to see it or discuss it much more. Sounded interesting and I'd like to learn more about it.

We checked out a ProTools system. It was an older 001 running with PT 5.01. Quickly went over the interface. 2 mic pres, and 6 analogue ins. We opened up a project and did a basic mixing

Into the control room we go. We spend a bit more time on the board this time. First off we learnt a bit about the board itself. This is a 32x16x32 board meaning, 32 input channels, 16 sub channels and 32 monitor channels.

We then went on to reading the meters. The meters read voltage with 1.23 volts = 0 on the meters. This is considered pro standard. 0 being optimum. In comparison, VU meters on a consumer cassette deck only require 0.316 volts to be at optimum. Because of this variation, it is important to watch that you don't overdrive consumer level products with the board. He went on to say that broadcast standard requires 1.96 volts = 0.

We also found out that 0 on the board is equal to -20 on the Tascams. Another way to look at it is, 0 = full scale on a digital syatem which equals +20 on the board.

Next up... the Roland V-Studio 2480. This is a DAW unit with 8 preamps and 16 inputs. It will record up to 96k - 24 bit. It can be connected to a pc through the use of Roland R-bus PCI cards (up to 2). It has a built in CD burner and a 80 gig drive partitioned into 6 drives. It uses native compression (MTP) to save space on the drive.

AT this point there would be way too much to describe in this blog as we dove into the DAW quite a bit. If you want to learn more about the Roland you are going to have to RTFM. Basically it was pointed out that we are going to be using this piece of equipment at lot in this semester.

I guess that is about it for this week. Bye for now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Audio Engineering Session 1

I left home early so that I would have plenty of time to check things out at the college (never been there before). Parking wasn't a problem at all. (due to the fact that this is an evening course I'm sure). So off I go into the school. Wow, its big. I see that there is a large lobby with 3 wings. Cool cause I know that it is in the 3rd wing. Signs are everywhere to guide me. Room 3825 is just over there through the doors on the right, I say to myself. Found the room pretty quickly but it started to feel kinda strange. There is no studio here and why are there a bunch of people talking about physics. Hmmm... Back to the front lobby I go. Quickly spotted the general information area and found out the guy gave me the WRONG ROOM NUMBER! It was actually 3285. Now it is getting close to the time the class starts and I still don't know where the room is. Well, eventually I found the room with about 5 minutes to spare. Two students were already there. Four more arrived to make a total of 7 in our class.

We grab some chairs and start our session in the live room.

The teacher introduced himself and asked a couple of basic questions like, how did you hear about us etc. He moved onto the session pretty much right away. He showed us some cable types and began talking about what it takes to make a good recording. "Good musician+good room+good instrument+good engineer=proffessional product". "But how do you define a good instrument", he says. He then used drums as an example. How do you know a good drum kit? By the way it sounds, and general reputation. He went on to say that a good drummer can make a crappy kit sound good.

On to learning about SPL and decibels. Here is the basic breakdown;
-To increase the volume units (VU) by 3 dB, 10x the energy is required. To increase by another 3 dB, 20x required. To increase yet another 3 dB to make a total of a 9 dB increase requires 40x the energy etc. It is an exponential scale.

Here are some quick info bits on dB.
74 dB is conversation level. This is based on the phone system. It was a comfortable volume to speak to someone on the other end of a phone.
118 dB is the threshold of feeling.
130-140 dB is the threshold of pain
Ambient noise is around 25-35 dB.

After a quick break we went into the control room. He introduced us to the equipment which included a Peavey 1600 32 channel console, Avalon pres, Focusrite, Tascam and some really nice vintage Tannoy monitors and a set of Genelecs. A Roland DAW was hooked up to a set or Roland monitors as well. Too much stuff to list so I will try and get some pictures next week.

EDIT: These pictures were taken during the second session but I thought it would be appropriate to update this post rather than start a new one.

Introduction of myself and the course

I have been a recording and creating music for the past 6 years. I am mostly self taught with the help of many great sites on the internet. I am in a band called The London Project and I record all of our stuff in my home studio. You can listen to our latest music at

I have been interested in music all my life. I guess what started it all was a Christmas present when I was 9 (35 years ago). A cassette recorder and 3 tapes; Nazereth Rampant, Gordon Lightfoots Greatest Hits and The Stampeders. It came with a couple of blank tapes as well as a microphone. Didn't take long before I was recording my voice doing hockey broadcast impersonations.

A few years later I began collecting LP's. I still have most of them (about 500 in total). I eventually used my knowledge of music to get me some DJ work. Spun the platters just for fun at company parties etc. while going to college to learn Graphic Design. My graphic knowledge launched a career in the Trade Show and Signage industry. Working daily on computers lead me down the Information Technology path which is what I currently do for a living.

I selected this particular course as it was in the evenings and would allow me to keep working.

The course is broken down into six levels. The first three levels are grouped together and teach you recording fundamentals. Rather than listing what the literature says about what we will be doing, I will write separate blogs on what we were actually taught.

I hope you find these blogs helpfull. I'm not the greatest writer but I will try to keep you entertained.