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Native Instruments Dialog Fail MkII

Cool! Thanks for the advice, Battery! I will do that!


Native Instruments Dialog Fail

Don’t know what I like better: The hedging of bets, or the lack of punctuation. Feels like a disgruntled text message.


This Picture Will Make Your Mixes Sound Better


To experience the magic for yourself, first set up this image to be your computer’s screen saver1, with either a hot corner or keyboard shortcut to trigger it. Then, whenever you need to get a fresh perspective on a mix, fire up the darkness.2

I’ll give you five bucks if your mix doesn’t instantly reveal itself (for better or for worse). Just as we “eat with our eyes,” this little trick makes it quite obvious that we hear with them as well. There’s something almost magical that happens when the pixelated waveforms disappear, as if the sound suddenly starts coming not from your DAW, but from directly from the speakers. The best part: Years after I’ve started using this brain hack, it still works.

  1. Of course, this assumes you’re mixing in front of a computer—an increasingly safe bet these days.
  2. Yes, you could just turn off your monitor, but I, like many, prefer to work fast and from the gut when I’m mixing—so the four second lag it takes to power on my Dell display to tweak that guitar EQ is a first world bummer I can do without. Also: iMacs and laptops would otherwise be outta luck.

Sibelius Outcasts Up The Ante

Didn’t see this twist coming:

Our mission is simple: to create a next-generation application that meets the needs of today’s composers, arrangers, engravers, copyists, publishers, teachers and students. We know we have a big mountain to climb: we’re starting work on a new professional-level application for Windows and Mac (and hopefully mobile devices later on) and looking to bring it into a crowded market that already has two very capable and mature competitors, not to mention an explosion of new products that exploit mobile devices and the web.

(Via Peter Kirn.)

ABX Whiskey Testing

Marvel Bar’s Pip Hanson is obsessed and skeptical, and that’s a wonderful thing if you’re fond of whiskey:

Since then they’ve been quietly growing their whiskey collection, which now exceeds 150. As they’ve done with all of their spirits, they’ve only added a whiskey to their list based on its performance in blind tastings. “As it turns out, some of the stuff we like is very obscure and some of it is very mainstream,” says Hanson.

The list is currently heavy on bourbon and scotch, with a dozen ryes and a few Japanese single malts in the mix. The trick for Hanson became how to present them all with the same thoughtful and detailed manner they use for mixed drinks. So he undertook an excruciating quest to catalog all of his whiskeys’ manufacturing details.

It has resulted in one of the most data-rich spirit lists we’ve seen anywhere in town. Marvel now chronicles each whiskey along with details including how long it was aged, the grains in the mashbill, the toast level on its barrels, its proof, and who distills it. They’re attempting to strike at the heart of connoisseurship: to give people enough information to help them figure out what they like and what they don’t.

“It’s hard to understand whiskey if you don’t know how it’s made,” says Hanson. “We wanted to cut through the marketing stories where they aren’t relevant, instead focusing on what goes in to them and how that affects them… mashbill information, sherry finishes or peat levels, or if it’s chill-filtered. That’s the info that helps us wrap our heads around these whiskeys, not a label note that says it tastes like honeysuckle.”

Neil Young, Meet Harry Nyquist

Christopher “Monty” Montgomery on why 192 kHz is the opposite of a good idea:

Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness…even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example.

Analog vs. Digital? You’re Missing the Point

A thoughtful and novel take from PBS on the never-ending audio format debate. (In fact, this whole series looks pretty promising.)

Keep the performance in play

John Hampton (not to be confused with Scott Hampton) in Tape Op, on the extra-sonic benefits of analog recording:

Going back to analog is making me a happy guy…. For performers with analog it’s, “Guess what dude, you have to sing it.” I’m not going to cut and paste your vocal. You have to sing it.

Scott Solter in Trust Me I’m a Scientist:

Solter, who has worked extensively with analog tape, praises the inherent restrictions of that medium. “You have to start making confident, and in some cases, final decisions in the moment as you’re working; Things like submixing, to free up new tracks, really cause people to live very clearly in the moment with the work that they’re doing.”

“Sometimes the computer, because you can keep documenting without any consequence, pushes a lot of crucial decision-making back in the process. Then, all of a sudden, you get to mixing, and you’ve got, like, 80 tracks…There’s something cool about really committing to stuff…It makes people pay attention—it really does. It’s kind of sad that it’s taken on a negative quality – [when I] think it’s actually a positive quality.”

He remembers an anecdote about composer Morton Feldman, who, late in his career, did all his composing in pen. “It made him think longer and harder about the decisions he was making.”

Like I said: The biggest advantage of recording to tape comes from the commitment to performance (and decision making) that it demands. But how can those of us without a Studer sitting in the corner get some of those benefits? One idea: Throw playlists/take management out the window, turn off your big screen, and control everything with something like this. Or even simpler: Remove your inserts and sends from your mix window view, throw your edit window on a second screen, then turn that screen off.

It’s The Little Things In Life

I spend most of my days in Pro Tools, but more and more often I’ve been firing up Ableton Live when a project calls for the kind of compositional workflow that it inspires.

Ableton Live External Audio EffectI recently fired up the External Audio Effect device for the first time in a long time, and was kindly reminded why I love Ableton: Even though they often throw in the kitchen sink features-wise, it rarely feels that way. Compared to a plain jane, zero-options hardware insert in Pro Tools, Ableton’s implementation literally has infinitely more features, yet because of the logical and minimalist UI, it never feels bloated or overkill.

Separate ins and outs, built-in peak values, phase invert, hardware latency compensation, dry/wet control, pre- and post-insert gain—all in one small, simple package. Avid: I don’t know much about AAX development, but this seems like the kind of thing you could whip up in a day (after all, it’s basically a mash-up of Trim and Time Adjuster, plus a dry/wet knob), and I guarantee your users would love it.

Practice Makes Better

Larry Crane in Tape Op:

Do people assume that the studio can “do more” for them these days? I think so. Even an artist who might scoff at highly polished, edited, Auto-Tuned “pop star” vocals might keep the concept that we can “fix everything in a computer” in his or her thoughts. Thus, in many people’s minds, the professional recording studio has become a place where magic really does happen, or at least the potential for magic could happen. But I find that most people I record really do want to hone their craft, give performances, and create compelling art. Sure, in most cases we could “get it done” with the (Pro) tools at hand, but what kind of document is that? A series of ragged performances stitched together with creative edits and pitch alteration? Why not start with a compelling performance? I can guarantee that listeners will know the difference and positively respond to the latter.

Beyond the artistic concerns Larry cites, fixing things with a computer mouse is also simply a waste of time and money (not to mention incredibly boring). Whenever I’m working with a new band or artist, I try to impress upon them that every hour they spend preparing (whether at home, in front of an audience, or even—gasp!—in private lessons) will save them at least the same amount of time in the studio. And just because it’s possible to fix things after the fact when recording in a DAW, do whatever it takes to trick yourself into thinking otherwise. I’ve always believed that the biggest sonic benefit of recording to tape comes from the commitment to performance that it demands.