Category: gear

Second Life doppelganger for Old Number Seven

By , 2009 December 3 12:43 am

So a while ago, I posted about a guitar that meatspace me has played from time to time for our SL gigs. You can find that post here. As it stands, Courtesan DeCuir has been after me for some time to get a new guitar. Courtesan is the Live Ambassador for OD Designs, who make some damn fine instruments. As I thought I may again be faced with meathead playing that guitar, I figured I’d commission OD to create an inwolrd inworld copy. I threw together some quick ideas, and sent them on to Ortho Vargas, the CEO of OD.

Well, as it turns out, OD was not interested in bringing a full custom job in house. However, Courtesan forwarded my inquiry to Reyrey Clawtooth of R & R Guitars. I knew Reyrey previously, as she often plays bass with Electric Brit, with whom I often share a stage. However, it had somehow previously escaped my attention that she was a guitar builder. My mistake.

Long story short, Reyrey took on the project, and delivered a guitar beyond my expectations, all at a very low price. Indeed, at a price about equivalent to a generic (though top quality) off-the-rack instrument.

Here is an excerpt from the original letter that started the project:

For whatever reason, I take some perverse pleasure in ensuring the guitar I play inworld is a close representation of the guitar being played by that other guy out in meatspace. The guitar I typically play inworld is a slightly modified KLP F512 — modified to be almost a dead ringer of the Guild F412 12-string jumbo acoustic in the RL.

I recently found myself controlled by that human while he was on the road. He doesn’t take his Guild on the road. Accordingly, it caused me some consternation to be stuck playing my KLP, while that human was playing a radiacally different axe.

It seems logical to assume that that guy will do this again in the future. So I’d like to acquire another doppleganger. The problem is that this second guitar is quite distinctive — a custom thingy. I’ve not seen anything like it inworld.

Accordingly, I’d like to explore the idea of commissioning a reproduction of the guitar in question. Of course, being your typical ignorant muso, I have no idea how much effort would go into such a thing, so I do not know where the cost/benefit analysis may pull me back to virtual earth. Perhaps I can describe it, and you can respond with what you may think practical.

So this is essentially an ‘acousticaster’:

- General body outline of a strat, though being fully hollow, it is not contoured in profile.
- Bookmatched spruce top, bookmatched maple back.
- 3 color sunburst top and back, dark (orangey-black) sides.
- Maple strat neck & fretboard, simple black dot inlays, small strat headstock shape.
- Figured rosewood  headstock overlay with bird inlay.
- Bill Lawrence pu in neck position (picture a black strat pu, but with no visible polepieces)
- Oval soundhole
- fairly simple glued-on tortoise pickguard
- bridge is typical steel string acoustic construction – simple rounded rectangle, bridge pins, bone saddle
- three black strat-style knobs on upper bout – on the the edge or side rather than on the face
- back signed in black Sharpie by John Elway (the football guy) and Debbie Davies (the blues gal)
- pick rash on the top

Let me know if you have any interest whatsoever in building such a thing. Maybe you can ballpark a L$ cost for various subsets of the above wish list. If you are interested I’ll have that human out in meatspace snap some shots of the physical guitar for your reference.

Again, see this post for the RL version.

And some pictures of the final result:

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars

The happy artist with his new toy.

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars

Detail from above

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars - signatures

Krell's Acousticaster by R & R Guitars - signatures

Even cloned Elway’s and Davies’ signatures!

Yup – slam dunk. Thanks Reyrey!

Edit 20091203 – spelling

Old Number 7

By , 2009 November 14 5:16 pm

Here’s some snapshots of a RL guitar that guy in meatspace recently played for one of my inworld gigs.  Kinda blurry — I just got a new cell phone, and I’m still learning the camera aspect of it.He calls it Old Number 7 because it’s been singed by John Elway — ex-#7 of the Denver Broncos. The other sig is rumored to be blueswoman Debbie Davies.

Also including one snap of the guitar meathead usually plays. You’ll no doubt note it bears a strong resemblance to the one I usually play.

mics and isolation

By , 2009 September 28 1:10 pm

I’m backfilling some older information here…

So I started listening to some of the multitrack recordings I made during inworld performances. The intent was to mix them down to yield a couple of demos. in the process, I wanted to add some reverb to the tracks, in order to add some natural ambiance.

Upon working with these one of these tracks, I wanted to add quite a bit of reverb on the guitar, and not quite so much on the voice.  In doing so, I discovered that, in my guitar track, there was almost as much voice as guitar. Accordingly, by sending the guitar track to the reverb, I was also getting substantial reverb on the voice. Not good.

Fortunately, there is very little guitar leakage into my voice mic.

You may recall a while back, when I described how I chose my mics specifically to minimize this leakage problem. I guess I should have tested the setup to make sure.

The guitar mic I had been using was an AT4031. This is a small diaphragm condenser from Audio-Technica that was discontinued shortly after its introduction. It was supplanted by the AT4041. These are both cardioid pickup pattern mics, meaning they tend to pick up sound from the front, not so much from the sides, and very little from the rear. However, I guess the mic’s side rejection is not enough to overcome the volume of my voice.

Digging back through the mics at hand, I came up with my StudioProjects C4 mics. Last time I sent these back for repair (long story for another day), SP sent back a pair of additional prototype Hypercardioid capsules. These are also nice small diaphragm condenser mics, much like the AT4031. However, with the hypercardioid capsule attached, the leakage from my voice into the guitar mic is attenuated considerably.

I also tried a large diaphragm condenser, set to figure-8 pattern. The leakage in this case was almost non-existent. However, with the mic placed well for a good timbre on the guitar, I keep banging the mic with my picking hand.

I guess it is time to hunt down an end-address mic with a figure-8 pattern. If anyone makes such a thing.

The TC Interface Lives!

By , 2009 September 24 5:37 pm

I need to update everyone on the status of my TC Electronic Konnekt Live computer audio interface.

When we last discussed this thing, it was at TC’s N American service depot. This was suggested by the TC TS department, when they were unable to guide me in getting the unit working on any of three computers.

Long story short, service found nothing wrong with the unit. They sent it back to me with no repair performed.

Shying from my Windows boxes, I tried it on my Hackintosh. Hey! It seems to work! After days of uptime, using it intermittently, I encountered no issues.

Encouraged by this, I got a different FireWire PCMCIA card from BestBuy. This was the Dynex DX-FC202 – their house brand. I used this in my IBM R40 laptop to try to connect to the Konnekt, instead of the integrated FireWire chip on the motherboard. Hey! This seems to work too! Curiously, the (non working) integrated chip is a TI chip, which is the solution recommended by TC. The chip in the working PCMCIA adapter is a Via chip, which TC says to stay away from. Whatever. At least it’s working. The particular chip is a Vendor ID 1106, Device ID 3044.

I’ve now been using this for several weeks with exactly zero BSODs. All is not wine and roses – there are still a few issues with the system. If I leave the TC mixer applet up for more than a couple of minutes, while running a DAW, it will lock up the audio subsystem. To get resolve this, I need to break the FireWire connection, kill the applet and the DAW, reconnect, then restart everything. Still, it’s a damn sight better than a BSOD. Plus, I can work around it by not leaving both the DAW and the applet up at the same time.

But hey – I’m working with it, and I’ve gotten rave reviews on the improved sound.

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

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.

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