Amplification: The Big 3

What To Look For When Thinking About Amps

So there comes a time in every player’s life where their present (or completely lacking) amplification device is no longer satisfying or fitting with their needs. Welcome to the never-ending downward spiral of gear-aholics. Now that you have recognized the problem and are looking for a solution, you have to know where to start. Hopefully this post will help both beginners and the seasoned player alike.

Welcome To The Partay…

One thing to keep in mind when amp shopping, is that there is, generally speaking (and this is a generalization), THREE different types of guitar amps. Easy right? Well, kinda. Lets go over the main three and hopefully that will give you and idea of what I’m talking about.

Marshall

Marshall Amplification has been a mainstay name for electric guitar players since almost the birth of Rock n’ Roll. Marshall has represented a powerhouse for rock guitarists. Their designs (although at first borrowed from Leo Fender’s work) have been used to achieve legendary tones by everyone from The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Van Halen, ACDC, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Guns N’ Roses, Cream, did I mention ACDC?… Literally the list will go on forever. Characterized by their overdrive tones, the Marshall name is almost synonymous with the quintessential sound of rock.

Vox

Vox Amplification, as it is no surprise, is also legendary in the guitar amp world. Its chime, and unique overdrive has been utilized by many famous guitarists including The Edge of U2, Brian May of Queen, The Beatles, and literally thousands of others. This amps, as well as Marshalls originally hail from England and have a unique sound and feel that is all their own. The AC30 is Vox’s flagship and perhaps most famous amp. It is known to get a deep chiming tone, making for rich sounding clean/slightly overdriven tones as well as classic grinding overdrive.

Fender

Fender Musical Instruments Corp. is unique in this list because they are famous for two reasons. One is their amps but the other is for their guitars. Boasting the initial design and manufacturing of such classics like the Stratocaster (Strat for short) and the Telecaster (You guessed it Tele for short), as well as a myriad of others, Fender has already secured for itself a place in electric guitar lore. However, if that wasn’t already enough, they also have their amps.

Leo Fender, the original designer and builder of both the guitars and amps, was said to hate distortion. Therefore, he designed his amps to be predominately “clean” machines. As you may guess, this is mainly what Fender amps are known for, their clean tone. Their sound can be generally characterized as spanky, snappy, and responsive. However, many fender amps also break up quite nicely and can give a very unique overdriven sound albiet, many must be turned up to extremely loud levels to get you there. Classic sounds to think of would be those of The Beach Boys, The Beatles (also), Brain Setzer, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others.

So Why Only 3?

Thats a great question! If you have been saying to yourself, “This guy is a moron because there are literally thousands of different amp brands out there”, then I ask you for a moment to explain myself and my seeming gross negligence of the facts.

While there are many, many brands out there, most of them are variations or direct copies of the circuits contained in the above amps. Many manufacturers boast by saying that their amps are one-of-a-kind designs while many are, for the most part, not being completely honest. That is not to say that these other amps are by any means inferior to the Big 3, because many are quite literally better built and have useful modifications/”upgrades”.

The main point of this post is to describe the three main and classic designs so you can say to yourself, “I’m looking for an amp that can give me some blackface cleans (meaning Fender style from the era in the 60’s where their amps had black control plates)”, or “I think I would be into something with a nice Plexi-style overdrive (referring to the Marshall era of amps that were designed on plexiglass turret boards).” Hopefully that makes sense. If not, comment and maybe I’ll put together a list of popular production and boutique amps and their corresponding Big 3 inspiration.

All Created Equal? Nope.

With such a pedigree, its natural to get on the train and grab one of these amps, plug in, and think you have those tones at your fingertips. In the beginning, these amps were what is known in guitar circles as “handwired”. This means that they were assembled by hand through the use of turret-board construction (or point-to-point as it is sometimes referred to as, although not true point-to-point as is the case with amps like Matchless). Here is a picture to demonstrate:

This is what the inside of the above Marshall amp looks like. It’s a block era JTM45. Now for reference, here is what the insides of a Soldano SLO look like:

You might notice the use of a circuit board in the SLO versus that in the JTM45. This is usually what guitarists are referring to when the say something is “handwired”.

The Final Countdown

Here are some links to check out what I believe could be considered some standard tones for each amp in question:

Marshall

Vox

Fender

Hopefully this will give you an idea of what to look for. With each choice, there are strengths and weaknesses. There is no wrong choice, just different and, at times, better for some applications. Some general things to think about is what are you looking to do? Use pedals or run straight into an amp? Are you a cleanish country guy or a dirty rocker? Ambient sounds or a more literal defined player?

The Final Word(s)

Your amp will help establish your identity as much or more than any piece of gear that you will buy. Think about what you want to be and try out a lot of different things! I’ll be chiming in with more specific amp and pedal reviews. I’ll investigate high gain channel switchers and boutique, non-master volume, single channel deals. Boutique gear as well as production lines. If your on a quest, you’ll get there. Just keep learning and trying. Hopefully I’ll be able to help you along the way.

-CF

Home Studio Construction and the Ever Increasing Mobility of Recording or “The Indie Guide to Getting a Great Sounding Studio”

 

Up Up and Away

This past couple weeks I have sold some surplus guitar equipment and decided to put the money to work in my home project studio. So what have I done? Well a couple of things actually…

DAWson’s Creek…or Some Other More Witty Title Here

For starters, I changed (upgraded?) my DAW from Pro Tools 8 to Logic 9. I have been working with Logic now for the past 6 months and I have to say that it is completely superior in terms of original sound recording. Pro Tools has an edge in editing but Logic rules for recording music. Also, its an Apple product and while many may dismiss this as the accolades of a Mac fanboi, it does run a lot smoother and doesn’t require a proprietary interface to open and work (yeah yeah I know PT 9 doesn’t now either but can we all say late to the game Avid?). This was step on to upgrading and next comes…

Outside of the Box

Okay. One word. Spectrasonics. I bought Omisphere and Trilian. They are both state of the art, industry leading plugins that sound absolutely incredible and are extremely powerful. I love them. I adore them. And you should as well. However, if you think I’m just in the honeymoon phase (which I’m not because I’ve been also using Omnisphere for the past 6 months) click on this link and be blown away by the number of huge mega-budget films have used their stuff: Spectrasonics.

I’ll be writing a more in depth review and analysis on both of these plugins shortly but suffice to say, there is more than enough videos on their website to make you consider cashing in the considerable pile of coin required to get these. But, if you want to sound high-end production, you need the products that can get you that super polished, hi fidelity sound.

One Last Caveat of Splendid Spectacularism

This actually will be on topic eventually but not at first. I have resisted buying an iPad. And before you scream Mac-crazed-zombie-disciple-communist once again at the tops of your lungs, hear me out.

I have an iPhone and a Mac Book Pro. I’m hard pressed to understand what I would do with an iPad that I can’t accomplish with my phone or trusty MBP that I’m typing on as we speak. However, I may have found a reason. Spectrasonics has also developed an app that turns the iPad into a controller for Omnisphere. You can alter parameters, use the iPad’s touch capabilities to manipulate modulation, and a host of other things. That’s some cool, space age, my car flies, and I have a robot butler stuff. On top of that, I could also use it as a remote for Logic and that is a cool perk as well. All this cool stuff is enough to make me want to put down the guitar, buy some more keyboard stuff and become a key player. Almost. Actually no.

-CF

Mobility: The Future of Audio Production

Welcome To The Revolution

Personal Computer Imagined for 2015 circa. 1950s

It’s coming. And in many ways it’s already here. Mobile phones, mobile computers, iPad, iPhone, Macbook Air. Everything is going streamlined and it’s all coming to your recording studio. The future of recording and musical production is mobility for spontaneous and direct integration of creativity to actuality.  I’ve seen the future and it’s bright indeed. Through this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the very cutting edge in mobile audio production and go even further into the

Reality of Personal Computing 2010.

(supposed) outer realm of possibility.

Brought To You By: Cloud Computing!

This new wave of musical mobility is brought to you by one of your local buzzwords. Cloud Computing.  Cloud computing, for those of you who haven’t heard yet, basically means mobile remote desktops. Software and storage will be handled through online servers and less through personal devices. What does this have to do with mobile audio production you say? Plenty. It’s my proposal that this new wave of technology is the fuel that is going to fire the recording overhaul that’s coming. The groundwork was laid with more accessible personal recording and now its being taken to the next natural place,complete mobility. Cloud computing takes the processing strain off of our devices of choice and allows us to do more with less.

Towards Infinity…


Right now, there is a plethora of programs are being, and have already been released, that allow the user to take audio production on the road without trailers full of equipment. Programs like iRig, Studio Track, iElectribe, Groovemaker, and a host of others have been developed specifically for mobile use yet retain the power of many studio applications. One particular product from Propellerhead called Rebirth, has been recently added to the iPad in a new form from its iPhone counterpart. On their website they state,

“ReBirth is back! Propellerhead Software’s legendary Techno Micro Composer has been resurrected and customized for the iPad. ReBirth faithfully emulates dance music’s three backbone devices: The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines. Combine these with FX units, fully featured pattern sequencers and a gorgeous-looking interface and you’re ready to make killer tracks on your iPad. Share your music with friends on Facebook, Twitter and more using the built-in sharing features.”

You can see where this is going. Companies are thinking mobile and sharing. It’s a small step but the strides are getting longer and are picking up pace.

Below is a video demonstrating Rebirth.

The Next video below is a promotion for the new iRig system for iPad. This is the new cutting edge in mobility for guitar players. Check it out!

Programmers over at Apple have also been hard at work developing ways for the

Wireless Midi Control For Your DAW

iPad to talk to your recording computer. Now, they have set up the iPad to act as a midi controller for Logic. It acts as a touchscreen interface that can be changed for different uses making it extremely flexible as a controlling device.

Products like these are merely demonstrating the untapped potential of devices like the iPad and are hinting at what might be possible in the near future.

…And Beyond

So what does this mean for us? I think we will find this explosion in mobility to be a future game-changer. Think about it. Limitless freedom to explore your creativity wherever you are… and with whoever, wherever they are. Mobile audio production means maximum collaboration as well. Tying into cloud computing, it may be possible in the future to have you guitarist in London, your drummer in New York, and your bassist in Los Angeles while you are doing the keys in Chicago, in the airport waiting for your flight.

I also think we will start to see live music production effected by these new devices and apps. Some have already started to adopt the new kids on the block. Lonnie Lazar, blogger at Cult of Mac, discusses a NY dj’s use of the iPad and writes,

“NY-based DJ Rana Sobhany is fully committed to Apple’s mobile hardware — iPads and iPhones — as thetechnology that will be used to create the next generation of mobile music production. Her website Destroy the Silence chronicles her iPad Music Experiment and is filled with audio and video clips showing how the author and former instrumental musician is warping the boundaries of nightclub and dance floor music production.”

Here is a working musician embracing mobility and new production concepts. I think we can expect plenty more as it becomes a more and more accepted practice in the music world.

Next, I think we will also see new kinds of companies developing that will feature more software and storage licensing then outright purchasing. Websites like box.net already offer storage capabilities so you can access your data from anywhere but take that a step beyond. A recording studio that features remote access of recording software and plugins with master data storage on site. That way, you can access and mix or master a project while adding bits and pieces along the way from wherever you are. No more purchasing expensive studio time and having to block out your schedule. Record on your own time, at your leisure.

Just Audio?

Nope. Not by a longshot. You could expand all the above concepts to include all forms of production from audio, to video, graphics. Software libraries could spring up and offer tiered access plans that a user could purchase to fit their needs. Be it on a program by program basis or in more bulk bundling. This would create win win scenarios for both parties. Sustainable income for the company and products at prices that individuals could afford.

Leaving it Open

Sometimes it seems unbelievable that we are where we are today but believe it because it’s happened. The future is now and we have to be ready for it. As the innovators and shakers of tomorrow we need to be thinking about what that day will look like and figure out how to get their first. The future. It’s our unique gift. One that those before us could only dream of but we get to see it. I’m hoping that the next couple of blogs will aid in pushing the envelope further in your mind as they do in mine. Where is this all going? What could be after whatever comes next? Let’s make it happen.

CF

And for your further learning pleasure…

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The New World Order: Guitar Amp Modeling?

Not Just a 24 Hour Sound Flu…

One thing we know for sure. The digital age is here to stay. Things have changed all around us. But there are those select clans out there that still resist the new age. Thats right. Guitar players.

At a time when everything is going digitally modeled, guitarists have largely decided to not jump on the wagon but stay where they are with vacuum tubes in

The higher the bit-rate, the closer it is to the analog waveform

hand. Many players were immediately turned off by subpar sounds without even a serious thought of walking down that path. But since the digital man is up and walking now everywhere else, I thought it was time to break out the flashlights and explore deeper into the cave of digital modeling and see if there is a future after all.

SOUND: The First Frontier Since You Came Into This World Screaming Your Head Off

Sound, not just guitar sound, mainly all looks the same as a waveform. You have the intitial transient or attack that happens when a snare drum is first hit or a guitar string plucked. It is here that most of the treble information of the tone is kept. This attack portion of the waveform is then followed by the sustain section,

A Soundwave measured on an Oscilloscope

then decay, and then release respectively. In each of these parts, the sound of the instrument undergoes changes in frequency (the rate at witch a soundwave completes one cycle in a second). The frequency is what are ears hear as pitch. The higher the rate of cycles per second means a higher pitch and vise versa.

Why Are You Telling Me This Boring Stuff?

Why is this information about sound important? Its important because this interaction with molecules both in the air and through the circuit of an exquisite vacuum tube guitar amp is exactly what a digital modeler has to recreate. As you can imagine, there are a lot of physics that go into this.

As I have researched this topic, not much can be found as t the specifics of how companies go about this process. Which makes sense, because that is how they compete. However, we can discuss what we know (or Google has access to, which is everything). We know how sound is manipulated in tube circuitry verses how it is amplified in solid state circuitry. This will give us a better idea what is going on with our guitar signal and also clue us in on some of the hurdles digital modeling has been trying to jump over the past few years.

So Whats What Around Here?

Here is the fastest, most tried and true way to find out what you have rocking out behind you. Look in the back of your amp. Solid state circuitry are guitar amps that don’t have those glowing glass, lightbulb looking things in the back of them. So what are those glowing tubes of mystery for you might ask?

How Do Tubes Work?

Tube amps, use their vacuum tubes to amplify current through the use of the filament heating up and causing electrons to become charged. Skipping a bunch of technical jargon and mathematics, the end result is a larger current being run to a transducer (thats a speaker to you and me). Solid state amplifiers use transistors instead of tubes. The difference is the distortion.

Forever Flawed or Just Fundamentally Different?

Solid state amplification produces what is known as odd order harmonics whereas tube amps create those of the even order variety. The bottom line is that

Solid State

even order are generally thought to be more pleasing to the human ear than odd order. This is a problem for those who are trying to create accurate sounding digital representation of analog sounds. There are just inherently different characteristics in the two forms. Founder and President of Valve Amplification company, Kevin Hayes addresses these differences in distortion by noting that,

“Tube amplifiers (generate) mainly second-order harmonics plus small amounts of other low-order even harmonics (fourth, sixth and so on). Second-order harmonic distortion… is difficult for a human being to detect. Moreover, what can be heard tends to sound pleasant.

Transistor amplifiers… generate higher-order harmonics (ninth, tenth, eleventh and so on), which are much easier to hear. Worse, the odd-order ones sound bad. So it is possible to have a transistor amplifier whose total harmonic distortion – as measured by laboratory instruments – is significantly lower than that of a comparable tube amplifier but that nonetheless sounds worse… total harmonic distortion is not a particularly good way to compare amplifiers based on fundamentally different technology,”

Is Digital Doomed?

Does this mean that digital modeling will never work. Some say yes. Others say no. Regardless of who is right, and we may never know, I have gathered some information on some of the major players out there and there efforts to sell us their snake oil wares with fancy new innovations.

Software Modeling

Software only systems have some of the most mountainous sonic geography to climb over. Unlike there hardware plus software, digital compatriots, they must rely on complete signal processing through programming. Thats tough.

-AmpliTube

AmpliTube 3 is the newest guitar emulation software from IK Multimedia. It is a standalone program that offers 31 amp simulations, 46 speaker cab choices, and 51 different stompboxes. AmpliTube also boasts on it’s website that,

“AmpliTube 3 gear models give you THE most realistic playing feel — not just the tones — but the actual dynamic response of their hardware counterparts.”

AmpliTube represents the new wave of software based modeling that creates a convenient and comparably affordable solution for home studios and guitarists alike to have a wide range of usable guitar tones without breaking the bank. It also enables inexperienced musicians to craft decent tones reminiscent of big budget studios without needing a dedicated recording space and expensive microphones.

Hardware and Software Modeling

There is a distinct advantage from an engineering perspective to a hardware and software marriage in order to produce quality “fake” guitar sounds. The hardware insures quality a/d conversion as well as certain physical circuit paths that can be used in conjunction with programming in order to create more realistic sounds. Cliff Chase, owner of Fractal Audio and a veteran guitarist of 25 years states,

“The other big factor is just simply the quality of the components and of the algorithms. With this much compute power we don’t need to skimp on our algorithms.”

However there is a drawback, proprietary equipment equals greater cost to us. The typical issue in life. All solutions can be found, for the right price.

Axe-FX

The new kid on the block. Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx system is quite literally one of the most if not THE most advanced guitar modeling system on the planet. Fractal Audio combines their hardware with over 70 different amp types, 39 different cabinet choices, and 10 various microphone simulations to get out the scalpel and surgically carve out your tone. In addition to this, they offer a plethora of modeled stompboxes at your disposal. Axe-FX has a host of big name guitar players and producers that have boarded the digital spaceship on this one and that must be a testimony to its realistic guitar tones. Dweezil Zappa, son of the famous musical visionary Frank Zappa states,

“The Axe-Fx is a brilliant invention. You can recreate any classic tone with exacting precision as well as make your own signature sound.”

Producer, engineer, and musician Kevin Antreassian talks about recording sessions in an interview and says,

“I’ve had players come in with Soldano SLO 100′s which is almost a $3K amp, who then hear the emulation of it on my Axe-FX Ultra and end up just using that for their record, no joke.”

Its hard to argue with how compelling the new Axe-FX is. Don’t believe me? Here is a video clip of session man Pete Thorn strutting his stuff.

The Rock Bottom Line

Guitar modeling has made some massive strides in not just the tones that are being reproduced, but also the flexibility and intricacy that it taking place in order to get those sounds. For the guitarist it means more colors to paint with on the pallete. Some may still argue that those colors will never be as vivid as the ones coming from a tube amp, but I would say to that person, there was a time when that was said about digital recording

Things To Come

Over the next few blogs, I am going to see if we can delve deeper into the future of signal processing and also maybe throw in some more in depth gear reviews along the way. As always feel free to hit me up with any questions, concerns, etc.

-CF

For those interested in more information:

Kevin Antreassian Interview

Cliff Chase Interview

Valve Amplification

AmpliTube

Axe-Fx

How Tubes Work

Cloud Neutrality

Coming Soon to the Internet Near You

It’s coming. Cloud Computing and Net Neutrality have become major buzzwords lately and rightfully so. With the addition of Google TV and Apple TV, what we are witnessing is the birth and evolution of a new era for consumers. Complete digitalization of media. Cloud Computing is basically a concept where no real amounts of data are stored on an individuals computer. Rather, a server online houses information that can be accessed at any time from anywhere, effectively making it almost ludicrously easy to become exceptionably mobile. Sounds like a good thing? It can be. But it also can not be. While mobility and flexibility is upgraded to new heights, we can also expect some worry about data security and paper trails. With complete digitalization, there are no longer hard copies of data laying around or storage on personal hard drives for backups if there is a system crash. In addition to this, what happens if a server crashes and you lose all of your stored items? What could a failsafe plan be? Can there even be a comprehensive one? So much still needs to be figured out with this upcoming technology. Eric Knorr, blogger for Infoworld states that,

“Cloud computing is at an early stage, with a motley crew of providers large and small delivering a slew of cloud-based services, from full-blown applications to storage services to spam filtering.”

Some new kids on the block

Google and Apple TV play their own part in this game with this concept of digitally downloaded content that is or isn’t stored on the device (depending on which one you purchase). Google reveals its endgame for its new product by telling consumers that,

“One of our goals with Google TV is to finally open up the living room and enable new innovation from content creators, programmers, developers and advertisers. By bringing Google Chrome and access to the entire Internet, you can easily navigate to thousands of websites to watch your favorite web videos, play Flash games, view photos, read movie reviews or chat with friends—all on the big screen.”

These new products open the door even wider for the forthcoming age of Cloud Computing to run in. In many ways, the cloud computing gives us access to untold amounts of information and media but on the other, unforeseen risks and pitfalls. No matter what your stance is on the topic, its probably a moot point because, ready or not, here it comes. Of course, with the writing on the wall with cloud computing, the final place to look for controversy is Net Neutrality.

Neutrality or not?

Net Neutrality brings up the legality of bandwidth usage and whether or not a telecommunications company can or should regulate access to certain internet functions to consumers using their

Net Neutrality. Breaking a potential corporate stranglehold?

service. If they would be allowed to do this, the could effectively block the usage of certain competitors and regulate how fast access can be gained and used by certain sites. This could create a complication for Cloud Computing and other developments further on down the road if companies were to even implement a “tiered” system where users would have to buy into a different level of service if they wished to access certain features of the internet.

So what does this all mean?

In keeping in line with this blog, what does all this mean for the audio engineer and artist. In short, a lot. We are just now getting used to the digital distribution and recording of music but with Cloud Computing and Net Neutrality, we can expect even more changes to come. Imagine recording sessions being saved to servers online instead of put to tape like in the old days. It is the complete 180 degree turn. Absolutely no hard product or even storage on a physical device in the creator’s hands. If you were to record in this way, distribute only digital copies, and collect all of your money through online bank transfers, you could potentially release and collect money on an album without ever holding it in your hands. On top of this, recording software could be used through licensing instead of purchase. An engineer or artist could pay a fee to access software from a server and use it only for the sessions they need it for. This creates a whole new approach for the software industry. Essentially, new companies could spring up that are just libraries of plugins and apps designed to be a sort of Blockbuster for engineers. Why spend $500 on a plugin when you can rent it for $50 and use it on your latest project. Or even suppose that you needed a plugin just to do some post-recording editing and you don’t have that particular plugin? Problem solved with a online based plugin library.

I’ll let you all mull over that one for awhile as I am just starting to weigh the magnitude of the situation myself. Cheers.

CF

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A Short Jaunt Through The History of Recorded Sound

In the Beginning…

Recorded sound has sculpted and guided our way of life. Events like Pearl Harbor and the Hindenburg disaster were burned even more into the history of America and the world because the events and their backlash, the emotions and thoughts, the voices of those affected the way only the individuals who have witnessed them can be have been recorded. The sounds, timbres of these voices give greater insight into the times and the attitudes of a bygone generation. Furthermore, not just tragedy but times of happiness have also been captured that stir in us the feelings of those who experienced them firsthand. The surrender of Axis forces to the allies, The Ed Sullivan show, the British Invasion with The Beatles and The Who. Timeless songs and rock in roll classics that have become standards in songwriting and culture have become so solidified that it is hard to even think about our existence without them. Recoded sound, the art of its process, and the technology of its reproduction has birthed many major industries and more than played it’s role in developing our present society and the future to come.

Up and Running

We have come a long way since the first recorded sound and its primitive first steps out of the muck into its new and continually evolving state. It has been long held that Thomas Edison was the first to record sound but this is not actually true. A frenchman named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in actuality was the first. However, it was Thomas Edison with his famous wax cylinder that was the first to succeed at recording and playing it back. From there, even though it was thought to be a novelty, an industry was brought about. Before recoded sound, if someone wanted to hear a song, it had to be played by a musician but that was a thing of the past. Once people realized it wasn’t just a novelty, competetors did all the could to figure out how to outsell and outperform eachother. These battles led to the first signing of recording artists in order to gurantee exclusive rights to popular singers and musicians. The world was starting to see glimmers of its first rock stars in these early stages.

Edison's wax cylinder invention

A luxury once enjoyed…

What was once novelty became mainstream and what becomes mainstream becomes big business. David Morton, a recoded sound historian writes on his site,

“Soon, three companies (Edison, Victor, and Columbia) were the Big Three in the record and record player businesses in the United States, while HMV and the various subsidiaries set up by Edison and Columbia dominated the market in Europe. They were selling about 3 million records a year by 1900 in the U.S. alone. The success of the record industry during the next two decades was phenomenal. Soon, the record industry was one of the most important in the world.”

With sales like this, the world was taking notice of this new media. Soon, artists were seeking out the best places to get the sound they heard in their heads. A simple recording was no longer enough. The consuming public had begun to develop certain production and quality expectations. The race for the best sounding record had begun and labels were willing to pay for those who held the keys. Not just the music industry was born here, but also the recording and playback industries. Format wars, and platform competitions erupted. Labels were willing to drop large amounts of money in order to guarantee hit records because hits equaled even larger sums coming back. Promotion of artists became important for widespread sales, the entertainment industry was built on recorded sound not just from musicians but also for motion pictures. All aspects of the industry became geared around this once “novelty”.

Summarizing the Summary

That is the short version of why we are where we are today. Big business and big money but the game is still changing. Before digitalization and software, everything was analog. Studios would have to forward massive amounts of capital in order to build a recoding space adequate for high production value. Entire rooms were designed specifically for the reverb properties they would create. If you wanted “that” sound, you had to go to that studio to get it. In these days, sound was proprietary. The cost of buy in was prohibitive for almost all, and for many artists, recording your own album was a distant dream. The costs of entering into a studio was astronomical as well. Time was expensive. Engineers were expensive. Tape was expensive. Mastering, editing, mixing, all of this added to the bottom line very quickly.

The New Spin

However, things have changed. With the development of digital modeling, manufacturing techniques, and distribution, recording sound has become accessible to almost anyone. Even capturing a professional product is exponentially lower than it was even 20 years ago. The magazine Electronic Musician recently pressed in article where two writers and engineers for the publication were given $5000 dollars to setup a DAW based home recording studio. They conclude that,

“A $5,000 budget is big enough to let me build a versatile Mac-based studio. Whether it’s for synth-based work, recording vocals and acoustic instruments, designing sounds, or mixing down live recordings, the basic requirements are the same: a computer with lots of RAM, recording software, an audio interface, a mixer, effects and dynamics processors, microphones, headphones, and a pair of monitor speakers.”

Example of a home studio setup

With this low of a startup cost, many bands and artists are aspiring to do most if not all of their recording in house and skip the non returnable costs of outsourced studio recording. If the intention is to be able to take your time and craft your product, many have found that the attraction of new wave of high quality, yet comparably inexpensive systems is hard to ignore. A bonus to purchasing equipment rather than renting is that it is the artists to own forever as well as sell to recoup costs if need be.

Final Thoughts…

It is my goal with this blog to, overtime, delve deeper into the technology and art of home recording as well as the future of digital modeling and software on the industry. Throughout there will be spatterings of other tidbits here and there but thats what a blog is for.

-CF


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