Category Archives: Gear

No Blues for Me

bluesjr.jpgI walked into Blue Note Music on Telegraph in Berkeley the other day. I was there to get a 1/4″ to RCA adapter chord. With this chord I planned to plug my Behringer mixer into the M-Audio Omni Studio and finally do some recording off the CDj.

They didn’t have the chord.

Instead I walked out with an amp like the one pictured here, the Fender “Blues Jr.” The price of the amp was considerably more money than the chord would have cost.

Still, the amp was a recent return by someone with back problems (it’s not that heavy) and was therefore over 20% less than it is typically priced. It is in perfectly new shape with 4 years and 9 months left on the factory warranty. It’s pure tubes. It’s pure beauty. It was lust at first sight.

CDj’ing will have to wait. I’m going to be a hippie for just a little longer.

It was an impulse buy but it’s only the second amp I’ve bought since I overpaid for that Marshall at Guitar Center on Hollywood in LA in 1977. I treated that amp like shit but this one is different. I’m going to be very, very good to this one because, apparently, it can kill you.

Spike the Mbox

spike.PNGElvis Costello once said the album title “Spike The Entertainer” was not an eponym, but a call to action.

That thing to the right that looks like it should be a cable joint tester is actually called Spike. My guess is that it’s supposed to be driven through the heart of Mbox, the low-end ProTools box.

Spike is part of a reach-for-the-moon grab by Mackie, the mixer guys, but it requires software. You know, like a sequencer. So they bought Tracktion. Um, OK, they didn’t exactly buy it. They will “assume worldwide distribution and marketing efforts for Tracktion™ software.” Which is French for “we assume worldwide collection of revenues and as for reporting bugs, well, keep reporting that shit to the poor overwhelmed sod sitting in his bathrobe (or less) at the laptop on a TV tray in the middle of his one-room over-hoarded flat in Liverpool.”

Sorry if this entry looks like a lowly excuse to post that ridiculous picture. It is.

DAW Back Up

In an update to all the other updates about my new OmniStudio USB and it’s drivers, I have to say that even though I felt I had extensive “proof” that the M-Audio drivers tore apart my system, in fact I now revise my findings to say they revealed the age of my system and problems not seen before. Whatever it interacted (conspired ?) with to ruin my New Year is as gone as 2003.
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Building a Home Recording Studio For Dummies

Are you ready to trade up your Audigy card and Band in a Box for the next level of recording equipment? Maybe you’re thinking about owning the ultimate piece of gear: your own actual recording studio. Well you don’t have to be Paul Allen to get a completely professional level recording studio up and running.

So, how do you make an Abbey Road in your mom’s garage with 10 minutes of reading and a weekend?
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10k RPM Drives

What is the most important hardware performance metric for a DAW?

Some people might be surprised to know that I value hard disk RPM over CPU speed and RAM. Of course there are minimum standards for all three that make a DAW usable depending on your host software and plugins. I’ve stated here that my setup falls over when I try to use the Ozone plugins. I’ve done just fine with anything over 1Ghz for CPU and 512 Mg of RAM.

But no matter what I can not live below 7200 RPM hard disk. On any budget I will sacrifice CPU and memory to get all disks in the system up to 7200.

(Slightly off topic: one “optimization” I have found is that data on the first half of the disk tends to be accessed faster than the second half, so I try to keep the disk with all my loops, samples and recorded takes no more than half full at any given time. I have never checked this out with the disk-access gurus I used to know, it could very well be a figmant of my imagination, but it seems to work for me.)

And now, here come the 10k RPM drives and the brave souls who forge the way with new hardware like John Ludwig. Realistically, it will be a year or two and a lot more mainstreaming to get me to jump into these drives. Besides waiting for the scary price points to come down from the heavans, I remember very, very well the pain of driver mismatch hell when 7200 was the breakthrough speed in consumer drives and I would like to avoid living on that bleeding edge for a while.

OmniStudio USB Drivers Ruined My Day

[UPDATE 1/5/2004 11:42PM PST]… Please see here for the latest.

I’ll have a lot more to say shortly but I have just spent the last three days proving to myself that the XP drivers for my new OmniStudio USB by M-Audio corrupted my system and I had to go to extreme measures to remove the problem.

I highly recommend that anybody considering buying this hardware learn about XP’s Restore points and use them judiciously when installing the drivers.

Repeat: the XP drivers for M-Audio’s OmniStudio USB corrupted my system. Badly.

[UPDATE 1/1/2004 2:22PM PST]

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Beer in Your CD Spinner?

What to do when a beer falls into your top loading CDj? [This is good.]

I wish I had a snarky comment here but I actually feel for the guy and despite the rediculous situation, he actually kept a pretty cool head about the whole thing.

In case you’re wondering what this is even about, in the last few years DJing has been slowly evolving away from vinyl and toward specialized CD version of turntables. You can find a decent, objective discussion of the hardware here.

I recently inherited the CDN-88 from my son who graduated to vinyl (you read that correctly) and I’ll probably be putting it to use soon enough.

Guitar Center vs. the Internet

(a.k.a. Why the ads on this site don’t necessarily suck…)

You know, both items I just bought from GC, the MIDI controller and the USB sound card where priced substantially higher than what I found a few days later on the web.

Actually I found them using the Google Ads links on these pages — when Google indexes these pages they match up keywords for the ads, so when I write an entry about

KORG Music Production Station

, about 14 hours later there will be ads from online vendors showing up in the ad tray on the right of this page.

Every time you click on one of those links, Google keeps track of that and at the end of the month compensates me — but that’s beside the point. (Right?) The main point is that GC is a lousy place to gauge prices and I’ve known this for 30 years (I bought overpaid for my first Marshall amp there in ’77) but this last week was especially striking:

I bought the Evolution MIDI controller for $240, the next day I posted something about it here, the day after that I saw an add for it on the post page and followed the link. They were selling it for $30 less. I print out the ad, go back to GC and as I’m telling the salesman what’s up I look up to see the controller has been marked up to $299 (!).

They have a web connection there and if you give them the URL they will go and check and refund the money (in reverse-credit) on the spot if the site checks out. This is cool. I think. It’s more like a shell game. These people can’t check online for a price before they put the price tags out??


And the OmniStudio USB system? It was $70 less online. Ugh.

If you do end up buying at GC anyway, make sure to check the shipping in the online case because the GC salesmen will say “You would have to paying shipping” to jack the price back up but in many, many cases nowadays, the shipping is free on high ticket items.

This site is a big fat sell-out for me, but I’m having fun and people are telling me they are finding pieces of it useful. If you click on the ads on this site, it doesn’t cost you anything, you’re supporting this site (assuming you care about that) and beating back the sleazoids. Even if you don’t use this site, fergodzsake, don’t be a sucker at GC. I’ve already done that enough for both of us.