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A Conversation with George Massenburg
Interviewed by Alan Han

Alan Han recently interviewed revered engineer and inventor George Massenburg. This is a must watch for anyone interested in recording and music, regardless of the level of experience.

With all the gear and techniques we employ, George cuts through to the heart and soul of making great music recordings.

Nystrum Guitars "Labella" Review
Andy Othling

We've been searching for versatile recording guitars, and landed on a model by Nystrum Guitars called the LaBella. We're deep into recording and explorations, and this guitar has come out shining. We have a report on the Nystrum LaBella in the works. In the meantime, Andy Othling did such a good job of showcasing this model, we thought we'd include his video review.

The LaBella was inspired by the Fender Custom Shop La Cabronita Especial. Here's the story behind the Cabronita, unveiled in 2009, and making waves through the guitar community.

Pressed to the Edge
Why Vinyl Hype is Destroying the Record

Originally appearing in Das Filter by Thaddeus Herrmann.

It's easy to get swept up in the hype—after all, this is surely a worthy alternative to streaming for the music fan with a fondness for physical objects. However, the vinyl boom is hiding problems that could have disastrous implications for popular culture. Vinyl production worldwide is currently operating way above its capacity, and expensive materials, expert knowledge and antiquated techniques have led to to supply shortages and quality problems.

Focal Twin6 Be

The Focal Twin6 Be's along with the smaller Solo 6 and Sub 6 are part of the SM6 line. This line is categorized as a reference analog series that was created for studios in search of monitors that reveal all information in the audio spectrum without any masking effect.

Manley Voxbox Combo

The Manley Voxbox is a 3U channel strip that the company's EveAnna Manley herself was behind creating. She basically wanted to get some of the great gear they already had and put it all in one box. There was just one thing, she wanted to make it better.

Thoughts on Varying Preamps

This is a topic that's obviously coming to a head over the last few years. And it's a dynamic that's moved from actual engineers to gear dealers and manufacturers. When people started putting project studios together - en masse - a little over ten years ago, I was definitely one of the loud mouths telling people that they really needed to invest in good preamps.

The All 57 Song

Kelly McGuire shows us that the proof is in the pudding. Kelly had been wanting to do an entire recording using only Shure SM57's as a challenge. The result is an excellent recording and performance of an original song, "Head Over Heels."

Oblique Strategies
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

Oblique Strategies originated as a deck of cards. They've been a popular tool for use in recording sessions, creative projects, and problem solving. Like throwing a Zen wrench into your process. Intended as an aid to boosting creativity, each card contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation. Whenever you're stuck you draw a card and ponder how it applies to your situation.

"These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear."

A simple and elegant online version is available at minimaldesign.net/os/. Apps available for Android and iPhone.

How architecture helped music evolve
David Byrne, TED Talks

As his career grew, David Byrne went from playing CBGB to Carnegie Hall. He asks: Does the venue make the music? From outdoor drumming to Wagnerian operas to arena rock, he explores how context has pushed musical innovation.

The Optimal Sample Rate for Quality Audio - Lavry White Paper.PDF
Dan Lavry, Lavry Engineering

Imagine that you and a friend were standing at the base of a lone hill in an otherwise flat plain, and you start walking up that hill towards the top. Now imagine that when you reach the top, your friend tries to convince you that you can go higher up the hill if you simply walked twice the distance forward from the base. You would probably pause for a moment, look around, and quickly realize that continuing forward would just take you back down the other side of the hill! This concept of an optimum is not hard to understand, but in digital audio circles more and more people are taking the word of their friend the salesman, who tells them to keep on walking.

The Vinyl Comeback
Triple J

While CD sales plummet, there has been a resurgence of vinyl album sales. Last year, vinyl albums sales grew 39 percent, with about 3.9 million albums being sold, and sales are up about 10 percent so far this year, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Microphone Graph
The sonic characteristics of microphones

We keep getting requests an in-progress microphone graph The Listening Sessions started a few years back. So, we thought we'd give it a more visible position here on the front page of Studio Reviews. In the last five years we've tested over 200 microphones. The mic graph is being updated on an ongoing basis as time permits.

Preamplifier Graph
The sonic characteristics of mic preamps

APS Klasik Active Studio Monitor Review

Pro Studio Reviews "Product of the Year 2016"

In the many months we used the Klasiks in a music production and mix role, we also tested the monitors with just about every kind of music we could throw at them. The rear-ported APS Klasik monitor boasts a mind-blowing frequency response of +/- 2 dB 35Hz - 25kHz.

Reference Music We Use For Gear Tests

Over the years, we've tested out most of the microphones and mic preamps on the market. We also tested several DACs and quite a few monitors. Recently, we've been focusing more on DACs, monitors, headphones, and various cables. In upcoming reviews there's mention of reference music used in the tests. I thought it was worth creating a separate article to note and provide the wide range of music we're throwing out in our tests. The music included is by no means all of what we use, but it represents a lot of the tracks, and gives the reasoning behind their purpose.

The Rise of Accurate Reference Monitors
The Danish Connection

Denmark has been called "the birthplace of the loudspeaker." And while there certainly have been discoveries and advancements from around the globe, no single geographical area and culture has contributed more to the advancement of the modern loudspeaker than the land from whence the Vikings came.

Getting Better A's to Your Gear Q's

In just about any area of endeavor, the quality of the answers, and even the qualifications of the people replying, is largely determined by the quality of the questions being asked. This article is a tool for you to migrate through the noisy, shark-infested clusterfuck of the online recording world, and to elicit qualified responses when asking questions about gear recommendations.

Reamping Guitars in Kuala Lumpur

Ronan was back in Kuala Lumpur to track vocals and electric guitars with the great Malaysian band, Tempered Mental, and made this video walking through the steps used to re-amp some of the guitars on this record.

Preamp Shootout With Drum Machine

Session Notes: Session 4 features a Korg Trinity Plus V3 sequence of an eight-measure drum beat using kicks, snare, hats and cymbals. At first we weren't quite sure what we would hear, but as we moved from mic pre to mic pre it became apparent that a programmed drum groove reveals much about individual preamps — as it allows for simultaneous presentation of the lows, mids and highs.

The purpose of this session is to listen to the different qualities of each preamp. The signal path is minimal and there was no dynamic processing — no EQ, compression or limiting — of any kind used on these tracks.

Web 3.0 Age of Expertise

If we're going to use information on the web about recording music, it's worth it - every now and then - to stop and examine and ask what we're doing.

I'm in agreement with Jason Calacanis, and others who seem to have a handle on things that the next revolution on the web - often called Web 3.0 - will be the "Age of Expertise." Blogging is Dead, and Why Stupid People Shouldn't Write, brings home the rise in noise on the internet in just about any area imaginable. Forums and blogs have allowed anyone to publish. And if it's about kitten pictures or the latest meme, that's one thing. But when it gets into areas of putting together a recording studio, upgrading some equipment, or production techniques, this is where it pays to qualify those who offer up advice and recommendations.

The "Over Production" Myth

In truth, there is no such thing as over-production, only appropriate and inappropriate production. To understand this, there must be consensus on the definition of the three issues at hand. What is production? What is appropriate production? What is inappropriate production?

The Les Pauls and Strats of the Mic World

Using the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster to establish some tonal differences that can be commonly identified, we can move into the world of microphones — where we find the same opposing and complementary designs in two classic mics, and all their later incarnations and knock-offs, from another pair of iconic companies: Neumann and AKG.

Home Studios are Killing Music

I get asked a lot by songwriters what gear they should buy, and I tell them a 4-track cassette or an old ADAT with a Mackie 1202 — and whatever they do, don't get a DAW. If you are a performing songwriter that puts a fancy studio in your home, if that does not stop your career dead in its tracks you are the exception and not the rule.

Mixing Digital to Sound More Analog

First of all, I would like to make it clear that I have only recently decided to forgive digital for how it sounds. Yes, I agree that digital is easier, more convenient, more stable of a storage medium and you can do very cool things that would be difficult or even impossible using analog. Unfortunately, I have always felt that analog technology better captured midrange nuances that are crucial to any voice or instrument's sound. So I worked harder because the sound was worth it.

WTF is Mastering?
Massive Mastering Interview

Dan Richards interviews John Scrip in-depth about mastering and why you shouldn't try this at home.

"Before someone smacks us with semantics, I suppose we should clear up the difference between mastering and premastering. Technically, mastering refers to producing the final version from which copies are made. Mastering has generally become accepted as the term used for the final manipulation of the recording — bringing it into its final "sound" if not quite its final state."

Audio Engineering as a Career

For those of you who are looking to get your foot in the door towards a career in audio engineering, you will find that getting your foot in the door will become a way of life for you if you're to have any chance of success working as an independent in the recording industry. You need to get into the mindset that you are the one who makes things happen.

The Secret to the Bonham Drum Sound

There is no greater truth in making records than this: "The recording is governed by the performance." This may seem obvious, but many times the implications of this are not. There are two main areas where this truth manifests itself. The first is in the emotional impact of the music and the second is in the sonic signature or sonic possibilities of a recording.

Johnny Graham Interview

Johnny Graham is most well-known as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire during the peak period of the group's career, 1972-1982. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from BET Network, and won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards.

In The Works

Upcoming reviews in the works...

Lipinski Sound L-70 Powered Monitors

Benchmark Media DAC2 DX

Mytek Digital Stereo192-DSD DAC

APS Klasik Active Monitors

Resonessence INVICTA DAC

Lavry DA11 DAC

Violectric V850 DAC

Violectric V100 Headphone Amp

Exogal Comet Plus DAC

Altmann Attraction DAC

Exasound E22 DAC

SPL Crimson USB Interface

Audient ID22 USB Interface

Nystrum Guitars LeBella Guitar

LA Sound Panels

Propellerheads Reason 8

Beyer DT 880 Pro Headphones

Beyer DT 990 Pro Headphones

Audeze LCD-XC Heaphones

Audeze LCD-X Headphones

iSK HD-9999 Headphones

iSK 2B Beauty Tube Mic

iSK Starlight Mic

AKG C414 XLS Mic

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