Schtuff – hardware

By , 2009 August 19 5:08 pm

First published on MySpace on Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Well it’s been entirely *too* long since I entered anything here. Maybe I’ll talk about my equipment, in the hopes that it helps out some other musician.

Upon deciding to get involved in the SL music scene, I figured there was gonna be a lot to learn (true that). Accordingly, I consciously went for a stripped down rig. In this manner, I could concentrate on getting used to being in the metaverse without having to think about what my gear was doing.

Part of this decision was to strip down to guitar and voice initially.

So then I turned to my bone pile of equipment. I had two acoustic sound sources, so I naturally thought towards two mics – one for guitar and one for voice. I love the sound of stereo micing on the guitar, but that comes with its own set of compromises that I’ll get into some other time.

With two mics active, I needed to be careful about cross bleed – guitar in the vox mic, and vox in the guitar mic. This can lead to phase cancellation, leading to a ‘swimmy’ or ‘hollow’ sound. Based upon this, I decided each mic needed to be a cardioid (hyper or supercardioid would be even better). Omnis were right out because of cross bleed, and figure eights would pick up too much of my computer’s fan.

Digging in the currently unused mic pile, I came up with an Audio Technica AT4031 Small Diaphragm Condenser (SDC), and a Audio Technica AT4040 Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC). Excellent! Neither are my favorite mics for either guitar or voice, but neither one sucks, either. I allocated the SDC to the guitar, and the LDC to voice.

Both these mics are plugged into a Mackie MS1202 mixer – also from the collection of seldom used stuff. This gives me usable preamps for the mics, along with rudimentary EQ (just bass and treble for each). I have voice panned hard left, and guitar panned hard right (more on this later…).

The stereo outputs of the mixer are fed into a Tascam US-122 USB-attached audio interface. This is in turn plugged into my computer.

I also drive a set of headphones from the US-122. This allows me to monitor the signal at the last possible link in the chain that does not exhibit latency.

The US-122 also includes mic preamps. I could have eliminated the mixer, and plugged the mics directly into the US-122. However, the mixer gives me several benefits. First and foremost, it has handy knobs for all functions. The US-122 has gain knobs, but the size and shape aren’t freindly to my fingers. Plus, no EQ, no auxes (unused currently, but they will be soon), and fixed pan (hard right & left).

Most importantly, however, the mixer includes a pair of 12-segment meters, which allow me to keep a handle on my signal. In this manner, I can send a good strong signal inworld, with no fear of distortion issues. I have calibrated my levels throughout my entire signal chain (including the software) so that everything runs out of headroom at the same level. As all components clip at the same point, the meters on the mixer allow me to keep tabs on the headroom throughout the entire system.

Well, lessee… staying focused on the hardware at this point, that’s about it. No, wait. A good sturdy mic stand. In my case, an Atlas MS-20 with a K&M boom. Also both from my bone pile. And something I actually purchased for this gig – an Atlas CO-1B swivel adapter clamp. This allows me to clamp another boom onto the shaft about halfway up the mic stand. This way, I have 2 mics on one stand.

That’s it except one last accessory – a small bit of pantyhose stretched over a coat hanger bent into a 4″ circle. This sits between my mouth and the AT4040 mic, and acts as a pop filter – stopping the sound from popping on “B” and “P” consonants.

Now having documented all this, it’ll likely change drastically over the next few gigs. I’m comfortable enough inworld running the UI, that I feel I can get more complicated with the gear. When I change, I’ll let you know. And, we’ll talk about software another day, too.

- peace out
8:55 AM


By , 2009 August 19 5:04 pm

Before starting this blog, I had a myspace page, where I placed a couple of blog entries. Err… I *still* have a myspace – see the blogroll for a link.

In the interest of bringing it all together, I’ll pull over some of those posts over here.

umm… so what’s a hackintosh?

By , 2009 August 7 4:18 pm

Since my last post (The TC Saga), I’ve gotten a number of inquiries essentially wondering ‘what the heck is a hackintosh?’ [why email? an inline comment may make more sense - ed.]

Simply put, a hackintosh is a computer, running Apple’s OS X, but made out of non-Apple, off the shelf, commodity PC parts.

This was made possible when Apple decided to dump the PowerPC architecture for Intel processors,arranged in configurations much as any other garden variety PC running Windows, Linux, OpenSolaris, or other OS.

Well, it was really made possible when a community of hackers realized the implications of Apple’s decision. This community is known as the OS X 86 community. These are the people that built the code necessary to accomplish this interesting task.

Since this architectural change, the primary technical difference between an Apple and a generic ‘white box’ system is that the low level system firmware in the Apple case is something called ‘EFI’ (Extensible Firmware Interface), while a generic white box machine employs ‘BIOS’ (Basic Input/Output System). A hackintosh uses the system BIOS to load from disk and execute a chunk of code that implements EFI. Once EFI is loaded, then OS X can load. This can be accomplished either by a hacked version of the OS X kernel, or by a modified system bootloader.

Note that EFI is not Apple technology. It was actually developed by Intel, as a ‘next-generation’ technology to accompany Itanium based systems.

So what does this all mean in practical terms? For a hardware investment of a couple hundred dollars, plus some parts from my computing junk bonepile, plus a software investment of a retail copy of OS X and iLife, I have the functional equivalent of a fairly snappy new Mac.

Yes, it runs GarageBand. Yes, it runs the Mac port of Reaper. Yes, it talks to my Tascam US-122 audio interface. Yes, it runs SecondLife. In fact, I am now composing this blog within Safari on my hackintosh.

As always, if this floats your interest, feel free to comment.

The TC Saga

By , 2009 July 15 4:40 pm

So after working with TC Electronics’ tech support for over three months, they finally asked me to send my Konnekt Live to them for repair. How’d we arrive at this point?

Some time ago, I decided I’d be happier if I upgraded my audio interface. Ever the gear slut, I convinced myself that my lowly old Tascam US-122 was a limiting factor on my performances. The limitations that I perceive include:

  • large latency – prevents monitoring of ‘in the box’ effects
  • limited to two channels in, two channels out
  • sound quality is — eh — OK

Accordingly, I decided to procure a TC Electronics Konnekt Live. The benefits that I was expecting included:

  • lowered latency – enough to monitor from DAW
  • double the analog channel IO count (4 in, 4 out)
  • addition of SPDIF IO and adat IO
  • better preamps
  • hardware DSP – both reverb and compression

Better gear, better sound, better performance, right?

Unfortunately, it refuses to work with not only my main DAW, but pretty much with any of my other computers.

At TC TS’ troubleshooting suggestions, I have been through service packs, Microsoft hotfixes, OS reinstalls, multiple driver and application versions, multiple FireWire cards, multiple FireWire cables, ad nauseum. The end result has always been BSOD on the computer (Blue Screen Of Death – windows crashing entirely, and self-rebooting).

‘Tis truly a shame – in the couple minutes before BSOD, the unit does indeed sound absolutely glorious. Like, to the point that a casual listener would notice a distinct improvement. (as much as I obsess over gear, new acquisitions usually lead to gains barely discernible to the average listener).

In all fairness, the unit *seemed* to work on my Hackintosh, but that was just a quick check. It may have failed with a longer test.

It’s now at TC’s US service depot. I’ll update when I get it back.

Krell steps up to the mic, and yells Hellooooo Cleveland!

By , 2009 July 14 8:42 pm

Whaddayaknow? I’ve got my own blog!

I’ll post from time to time about music, technology, tools of note, and (second) life in general. Other metaverses will likely be explored as well.

Join me on my mad journey through uncharted territories. We’ll figure it out together. As the human dons the character of transhuman, will the musician don the cloak of mixedmediaist? Maybe the craftsman will metamorphose into an actual artist!?

Too early to tell, but it oughta be a wild ride (or is that too archaic a metaphor when perceived motion does not require physical displacement?).

Panorama Theme by Themocracy