Sunday, December 29, 2013

Old Cans vs. New Cans

I was fixing up some old headphones today and I noticed something odd. All of the old sets I have, like 70's-ish, have actual speakers in them. Like big ass speakers with magnets hanging off the back and everything. Imagine the speakers in your guitar cab or home stereo, like those. All of the newer, post 90's sets, have these shitty little flat things that have no style at all. Plastic fantastic man. Where's all the metal at? You can see what I mean in the photos.

The only thing I needed to fix on the old sets was the glue. Being 30 years old or so, the glue holding the speaker to the frame had wasted away. So I just threw some shoe goo on there and put 'em back together. The set in the photos is from Sears and they needed some new ear cushions as well. I stole the new set from some shitty chinese cans I bought a few years back. Don't buy those. They suck magnificently. Truly horrible, for real. Trust me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pedals: For more than just guitar

Last night I was mixing a few tracks and decided to try out the ol' Boss CS-2 pedal as an insert on the hi-hat track. Worked out great. I think I'm going to start trying out a lot more compressor pedals on things other than guitar or bass. For someone who doesn't have the money to buy one, let alone many, nice ($) studio compressors, this is the ticket. If you have an outboard mixer it's real easy, just get one of these cables and plug it into the insert on a channel. Then send the "Tip" to input on the pedal and the "Ring" to the output. "Ring Returns" is always a helpful thing to remember. If you don't have and/or want to buy an insert cable, you can just use the "insert" on the mixer as a direct out with a regular cable, then run the output of the pedal back to another channel. Works the same, only you use up two channels, which can be a bitch if you are mixing a lot of stuff off the board.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Drum Tuning is a Pain in the Ass

I have never been much of a drummer, but I always get drumming duty by default somehow so I've been trying to learn all the shit a drummer needs to know about drums. It's a pain in the ass. The good thing is it will not only help me to drum better, but help me to record drums better as well. So that's nice.

This Tape Op article does the trick fairly well

And here is a pretty rad video from the dudes at Preservation Sound. I dig it.

And these Bob Gatzen jams are cool too. I like the way this guy talks, he's got a chill vibe.

My only issue with a lot of these drum tuning tutorial kinda things is that they all focus on making everything sound like shit that's already been done. I mean I get that the usual approach is learn the rules, then break the rules, but I'd like to see a little more breaking going on. Or at least weird tuning or something. I tuned my snare drum so it sounded like total shit and was making this weird sort of middle eastern-y ringing sound the other day and I gotta say, that was real cool. Not for every session, but a cool sound for one or two songs for sure. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

DIY Variable Impedance Mic Input Transformer

So this is basically this thing but made out of shit I had laying around on the bench. I added an old Stromberg Carlson mic input/step-up transformer I took out of a broken old tube pa mixer. Doesn't really change the wiring layout at all, you just add the trafo in before the xlr out. The VU meter I got out of an old broken reel-to-reel someone gave me a while back. I added in a TRS jack on the side so I could use it as an insert on a mixer, that just goes through the trafo though, no variable impedance. It actually works really well on guitars surprisingly, but when using it with the mic input, I like it better on vocals. Radio Shack project case, one of the black plastic ones, I used some huge old screws for the cover though, gives it a bit more of a vintage feel. I like those black plastic cases, call me crazy. Oh yeah the knob is an old bakelite, also from that mic mixer, I think.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DIY Microphone Case

Hwhipped this up out of an old steel case for some 8mm home movie lights. Found it in the garbage. The lights still work great, but I don't really need a travel case for some giant floodlamps I will barely ever use, if at all. All I did was snap off the little metal brackets for the lights that were inside, just two of them, so that the case was empty inside. Then I just used the foam holders that came with the mics, stuffed them inside and stashed the original cardboard boxes for safe keeping. I added a little extra chunk of foam to fill it out, and some for the inside of the lid to keep everything snug. It's just regular couch cushion foam kinda stuff, my wife had extra from a craft project she was doing. All it needs now is a stencil of "Ron's Wrecker" on there. I'll get around to it. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Fuzz

The Fuzz. Built this one using almost all junk parts from old crap I had kickin' around. I think the old caps sound killer. I never understood how some folks can't hear a difference in the type of cap. This thing rips. It's just a basic fuzz face kinda thing, circuit wise. Two transistors, some capacitors and resistors, couple of pots, etc. I used like six old resistors to make one 80K though, just soldered them in series. I didn't have the right value available. You can do that and it works just fine. It's just a radio shack project enclosure, I kinda like these crappy little aluminum ones though. Maybe that's just me.

MixTape Volume One - #1 - OK



Kay Archtop Project Guitar

Probably try and post update photos every now and then on this one, as it progresses. Late 50's Kay archtop guitar. Neck is loose and needs to be re-glued, other than that it's damn good shape though. Just needs a little tlc. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Workbench

My workbench. The actual table is really rad, I found it on the side of the road in the snow, it was all fucked up. Obviously handmade, and not with fancy tools and/or materials, which is exactly the way I like shit. It's been through the ringer and has some serious history, why would you throw something like that out? People just want fancy slicked up yuppie shit, that's why. It has a vice made of two huge blocks of wood on the side, the screw/handle parts are made from an old broom handle and plumbing fixtures. Awesome. All I did was stain the fuck out of it and throw a few screws in the right places to sturdy it up. Little cabinet thing on the left is an old army engineers box, weighs a ton. It had the dude's initials stenciled on it, so I just put mine underneath his and left them there. Also found in the street. People have no respect for karma/history/their elders/patina/etc. One man's trash I guess....

Just got some nice waxed/cloth covered wire from Antique Electronic Supply too, it's on the left there, the green stuff. Comes in different colors too. Very good shit. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

RMGI tape

Love this tape. RMG International. You can get pretty much any size you need over at Full Compass. I use an old Sony reel to reel, 1/4" tape, 7" reels, mostly for bouncing finished tracks. Send 'em over to this and then back into the computer, warm 'em up a bit. Record with the noise suppress on and then take it off for playback, sounds killer. I was using some nos unbranded tape I got off ebay forever ago and man oh man can you hear the difference with this. Smokey black out reel color and it even smells good! 

Shure M267 Mic Mixer

Shure M267 mic mixer. I use this guy a lot for drums, which I almost always record in mono anyway, then maybe double the track in the mixer with a direct out if I feel so inclined. Or use a figure 8 pattern mic as the overhead and do a little M/S action with that track. Anyway, the limiters on these old shure mic mixers are KILLER, I think. People pay big bucks for the "Level Loc" limiters... and these are almost exactly the same thing, made by the same company... but you can get them for $25 or so. Just saying, if you like trashy blown out brick wall limiting for drums might wanna give one a hwhirl.

DIY reverb box

Reverb box. The actual tank is from an old Gulbransen organ and says "Folded line reverberation device, made by beautiful girls in Milton, Wis under controlled atmosphere conditions". Awesome. The wooden box is from a fancy bottle of whiskey. All the jacks and pots I scrapped out of old gear and the knobs are from an old stereo receiver. I just wired it up to a little 1W headphone amp to control the levels going in and out. Really helps being able to adjust the input on the box, you can hit the springs hard for more of a slapback-y distorted vibe, or go easy and get that classic spring verb sound. Added an extra led so it has two now, I always do that.

Here's a few shots of the guts so you can see my shitty wiring/soldering.

The headphone amp you just wire so that it's "Input>Left In>LeftOut>Verb In". Then do the opposite for the right channel, so "Verb Out>Right In>Right Out>Output". Make sense? It works, that's all I know.

TOTAL COST: $5 (You get two of those amps for ten bucks, and I'm going to use the other one for something else...)

NFB - Glenn Gould "On the Record"

Very cool short film here, with some excellent footage of Glenn Gould in the Columbia Records recording studio. Lots of mic and tape pron.

DIY Dynamic Mic

This is a microphone I made out of "garbage" I had laying around. The shell is an old bicycle headlight. The xlr connector and step-up transformer I knabbed out of an old Stromberg Carlson tube pa amp that was beyond repair. The grill is from an old radiator cover, like for a house, found it in my basement. Rubber washer is for plumbing use normally, does the job. Used an omni-directional dynamic element from an Optimus (Radio Shack) mic I've had forever. The element sounds like shit, but it works. This thing is LOUD. The step-up trafo really makes a huge difference. The other day I added some foam around the element, behind the grill and that made it sound much more like a regular mic and not so washed/verbed out. I think before the element was picking up the sound bouncing around inside the shell, which was cool, but a bit too odd.