Non-technical Issues

Which is Better?

I needed a few more long-run mic cables for a session the other day, so I dropped by my local large chain music store.  I poked around the cable section, but only found upper end cables that would run me $60 a piece or more.  A salesperson spots me and asks if I need any help.

Me: “Say, do you have anything 50 feet long that’s less expensive?  Maybe a store brand or something?”

Salesperson: “For longer lengths you don’t want to buy lower end cables.  For shorter lengths they are ok, but the cheaper, longer length cables are especially susceptible to degradation.”

Aside from the always irritating suggestion that I don’t want what I just asked for, the salesperson makes a pretty good case.*  What’s an audio engineer on a budget to do?

Whether we’re starting your own shop or just maintaining a hobby, we’re consistently faced with how to spend our modest gear budget.  Do we buy the cheap stuff (the low-end 50′ cable) or buy the higher-end stuff but with less features (a better cable that’s 20′)?

The problem is matter of perspective.  Go ahead and pick the cable that will give you the least amount of degradation . . . just be sure your definition of ‘degradation’ is large enough.

The cheap 50′ cable will introduce a little noise or smear the frequency response.  I’d call that degradation.  A 25′ cable at the same price will introduce less noise, less smear, but it also won’t reach all the way to my bedroom, where it needs to be to get a decent amount of isolation . . . which can cause a lot of problems during mixing and post processing.  I’d call that degradation, too.

Its easy to let the promise of perfection lure you away from the perfectly usable and economical  solution or workaround you were headed for.  Don’t let it.

*Assuming they are right about longer runs of cheaper cable degrading a signal, which they are . . . sort of.  A post on this in the near future.


Rehearsing for Cowards? Don’t Kid Yourself.

If you’ve not read anything by Seth Godin, consider doing so.  While I disagree with him in this particular instance, I find myself agreeing with and learning from him far more often (every other time he’s opened his mouth or put pen to paper).

Now that the praise is out of the way . . .

A recent post of his – Rehearsing is for Cowards – got me thinking that, no, rehearsing is most decidedly not for cowards.

I think I understand what Seth is saying when he says you shouldn’t ‘rehearse,’ you should ‘explore’.  Well, sure.  Whenever you’re practicing your mind should be open to change and new ideas. During a live performance the spontaneous energy of your audience and the performers can push your show in a different but more engaging direction than you had originally intended.  Insisting that your performance and the performances of those around you be exactly the same every time is doing yourself a disservice.  But there’s somthing about his language (“repetition,” “regurgitation”) that I feel casts good old woodshedding in a negative way (which it doesn’t deserve).

Consider the following:


Too Many Plugins

It’s time for me to come clean.

I have too many plugins.

A couple years ago, when freeware plugin creation became very popular, I developed a very bad habit.  When I saw a plugin that I liked, or thought might work in a new and interesting way, I would immediately download it.  Then I would usually find every other plugin by that creator and download it, also.  Then I would separate the effects from the instruments and organize them by creator.  And then I told myself that I would use it later. (more…)