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Chasing Gremlins

It sure is tough to stay happy, healthy and also sane all at the same time. Surfing helps, audio nerdery helps, actually going to the market and buying edible food helps. And most recently I started running in mornings till it got all soggy out there. Three songs on a random play list till I make the U turn. I really love not knowing how far or long the run will be as I head to the mystery turning point yet to be determined. Some days are 20 minute jogs and some are 40 and it is a great pre surf way to start the day.

Ha! Though I did not find much gear wise at NAMM to get excited about, I did find Keith Morris!

Wow, has it really been over 30 years since I first met him with Black Flag rehearsing at the church in Hermosa. Yikes!

I have been doing my best to try and get my head around making some more youtube video's. There are so many concepts in the sound world that just do not translate when put into words and articles yet when demonstrated in a way that it can be seen and heard, it all comes together. So my goal is to come up with some simple clear demo's on various sound subjects and also try and debunk a few absurdities I see floating around.

I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past decade working on the MicroWedge series of monitors. There are a lot of wedges out there with various feature sets yet my experience indicates that most monitor wedge designs miss the most critical point. Monitors spend much of their working lives near open mics trying to get loud without feeding back. While monitor tuning can not be effectively eliminated with today's technology, I believe it is a huge asset to have wedges that actually get really loud and sound great right out of the box. So I have spent all this time and effort getting MicroWedges to to do exactly that and yet I really have had no way of easily demonstrating that advantage without personally doing side by side demo's next to other wedges. So what I did was get the today's best of the best, top requested world class monitors to compare: a D&B Audiotechnik M2 and an L-Acoustics 115XT HiQ and did my best to do an unbiased comparison demo video:

Also, in my quest for the best live sound headphones I keep running across some pretty interesting concepts and my curiousness inspires me to do a bit of credibility checking.

And if you are in the mood for a dabble into some babble and passionate claims of deep unsubstantiated knowledge - http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/how-bright-ultrasone-pro-900-a-396267/

Oh, and I am still seeking the ideal live sound headphones and will have another installment as soon as a few more pairs arrive. It is looking more like an ongoing adventure rather than a "find a winner" scenario. The V6, 7506's and Sennheiser HD280's are nice units but I am considering them to be the baseline ones to beat. The Sennheiser HD25II's and Sony MDR V600's both look quite good on the RTA but they just do not have the power and clarity I am getting out of the Ultrasone HFI-680's and Denon AH-D2000. But don't take my word on that, as I am pondering a way to test and demonstrate it rather than merely offering an opinion. So far I have been eliminating based on frequency response, which I believe to be a valid first step. Hey, if the phones can't reproduce all the frequencies at a relatively similar volume, can they really provide an accurate reference point? The tricky part now is to find a simple clear test that clearly demonstrates the sonic issues I am hearing.

Cool link of the day:

Thank you Maija. And the movie is produced by super cool surf friend, Takuji!

Simplicity, Complexity and Believability

So as part of the Mighty Headphone Quest, I guess I am going to have the Mighty Headphone Sell Off.

I had to buy several pairs to get them tested and here are the first two and though they did not make the cut for the application I have outlined in this quest, they are still quite good and well loved headphones. A brand new till I opened them pair of Sony MDR-7509's and a brand new till I opened them pair of Grado SR60i open ear. If any bloggery friends buy them, we will toss in a Rat shirt and some stickers as well. They are up on ebay but just send us a note if ya win 'em and we'll hook you up.

Sony MDR-7509HD

Grado SR60i

Ok on to the more mundane. Simplicity, Complexity and Believability. I have been thinking a bit more as I try and hack away the cobwebs of complexity and I think I may be gaining some momentum. The desire to overcomplicate and mask clarity is irresistible, especially when it fills wallets. I do not believe it is tough, though. I believe when accomplishing the purest task is a formidable challenge, that to mask various levels of failure, distractions are introduced in order to overcomplicate something that is easily observed when left in it's simplest state.

So as I dig around in the vast diversity of products available. Each product is claiming to have some group of assets that are superior in some way to the asset group of the other products. Maybe one pair has a certain combination of is cheaper or lighter, more comfy, stylish, durable, louder, flexible, available, socially conscience in the manufacture or whatever and on and on and on and I know that the importance of sound really depends on the application intended, budget allotted and expectations that are set. But unlike price or weight or looks, sound quality opinions have somehow has taken on this supernatural aura that requires elite audio monks from the netherworld of golden ears and fuzzy logic. And ears golden as they may be, maybe, just maybe, at least, at minimum, if the sound that comes out is somewhat close to the sound that goes in, perhaps that may be a good place to start? And when I find perfect sound, I will know it. I will not need magic ears or special wires or voodoo crap of any sort at all. I will merely close my eyes and be completely unable to distinguish between where I am and whatever elsewhere the music has taken me. Everything else is just a feature or preference.

And does anyone know the model # of these Sony mystery headphones?

Dave Rat

Connections and Battles

So I have been working on a few new projects, one is an Audix to Shure Adapter that allows an Audix wireless mic capsule to mount onto a Shure wireless transmitter. The concept originated from our friend George Squires that mixes monitors for REM. Though Audix makes a wireless unit, it just is not of the caliber of the deep pockets Shure products. While Shure makes many very high quality mics, they just do not make a high gain before feedback mic that can keep up with the some of the Audix offerings. So, when you have a band that relies on the assets of an Audix mic yet needs wireless, it has been a bit of an issue. Switching to a different mic type mid show when the singer wants to wireless wander really sucks. So we made a couple prototypes for REM's last tour but they were just metal threaded adaptors and needed to be soldered to work. Now we have made a batch that just screws right on and allows any Audix capsule make a connection with any Shure transmitter. If you are interested, there is more info at http://www.ratsound.com/soundtools/

Okey Dokey Smokey. Plants not Animals!

Speaking of making connections and solutions, though I never mentioned it, for the past two years I have been battling a miserable on and off increasing bummer of a building sinus issue. It started pretty mellow and gradually built into headaches, blurry vision, light sensitivity and constant sleepless pressure that left me always tired and never fully coherent feeling. Five doctors, 2 MRI's and a Cat scan, antibiotics, a pile of natural based neti pot concoctions, cameras in the head, steroids, hot steam and on and on and on. That helpless unsolvable dredge of a feeling where everyday feels like rubbing bicycle brakes on an uphill pedal. Aaaargh! So once again I reach one of the many, "Hey, wait a minute, this is just not right, this is not normal, I must attack once again" points, calling the doctor, fed up I tell them I want to go the hospital or whatever this takes. So they give me an appointment right now and less than 30 minutes later I am in the his office hearing the same old rap. "Hmmm, yes, hmmm, ok, well I am going to prescribe blah blah blah." Hey wait, that's what you and every other doc has told me before but with no other immediate option I humor the response and whilst I try and form a new plan. But this time he says something different. "Hmmm, it's not bacterial, so antibiotics wont help, it's fungal based." Going to give you a seven day prescription that should clear it up. Oooooh, fungal is plant, and all this time everything has been focused on fighting little critters as bacteria is animal. Well new is good and worth a shot I guess, so I get to the pharmacy and they hand me these packets of huh? "For Vaginal Yeast Infections!" Yikes, that caught me off guard and sent me mind a wandering. I did a bit of research and found:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990910080344.htm

That was 4 days ago and though I am not fully head pressure free, damn I feel a million times better like I no longer live my life walking around in a bowl of jello with spike in my cheek. I just hope it lasts but for now I am sure happier.

Lets see what else. The Mighty Headphone Quest continues and I have put up a few Youtube videos on the subject. You may notice a bit of difference in the readings as I have switched to a different microphone that is smaller and seem to read the HF a bit better on some headphones. It is interesting how some of the headphones are really sensitive to slight placement variations while others are not.

Hey, I have been getting requests to test some more headphone models which I will gladly do. But, since I do not have an unlimited budget on this and getting demo's can be tough with companies Rat is not a dealer for, I figured I would send a shot out:

If you have a pair of headphones you feel are worthy contenders and do not mind sending them to me for a 4 or 5 days, I will add them into the test mix and youtube the results. And thank you Bob Rice for the Sony MDR-7509 non HD's!

More audio nerdery! Hurray! Want a super cool free downloadable sine wave generator? Check out

http://www.tucows.com/preview/502787

Or how about a free version of Electri-Q' - posihfopit edition' is a simple, intuitive, but powerful minimum phase EQ?

http://www.aixcoustic.com/index.php/Electri-Q-posihfopit/30/0/

Or perhaps a parametric graphic equalizer with excellent response all the way up to Nyquist?

http://magnus.smartelectronix.com/#NyquistEq

And nothing like a trip to the beach with the pooch to bring a smile.

Dave Rat

Oh, and since not everything can always run smoothly and issues are bound to occur, please view the following instructional video teaching advanced troublshooting techniques.

And double oh, Greg Cameron sent me this link to a Pro Sound News article on Blink 182.

http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/newbay/prosound_200912/#/60