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Progress and Doubt

So I am listening to the news and all this hullabaloo about issues the instantly undrivable Toyota cars and as the story unravels it seems to be steering in the direction of two primary issues. First, there are cars that are doing something that the driver does not want, I.E. accelerating without being told to do so. The second issue arising is related to the cars not doing as they are in instructed, I.E. continuing forward when instructed to stop.

Now answer me this. We keep hearing reports that the acceleration issue is related to throttle linkage. Hmmm, does that make sense? How does a mechanical connection decide on its own to accelerate and tell the car to move faster? Hmmm. Now there are reports of a computer processor causing delayed braking on Prius models that actually do make sense and it is beginning to sound a bit familiar. Something about software and glitch and delay. Hmmmm, that has never happened before, oh wait, except everyday on just about everything computery I own. Could it be that cars are finally catching up to where our laptops have already gone and our digi live sound boards are deep into going? That wonderful digi ether world where our actions are analyzed and what actually occurs is some mathematical processed interpretation that we cross our fingers will actually occur in a timely manner? It is true that no longer does stepping on a gas pedal actually move a mechanical butterfly in a carburetor but instead initiates whole series of calculations and e-decisions which arrange a multitude of things in such a way as to hopefully inspire the car to move in a forwardly direction. Not unlike our new world of audio where the actual audio signals no longer need to even enter the knob and fader units we use to control them. Boot-up times and turning a knob results in stair steps of audible gradations after waiting that awkward fraction of a second for the console to get done calculating what it is you asked it to do.

Don't get me wrong, I love my laptop and rely on my cell phone with a smile. But would I use either of them to control the brakes or accelerator in my car? Perhaps I would but that would indeed add a new dynamic of cautious awareness to get my head around. And what about our non life and death world of audio? I must admit that as one who still is holding on to enjoying the fading world of analog mixing, I smile knowing that arbitrary acceleration and braking while awaiting a software update are two issues I do not have to worry about happening mid rock show.

Ok, enough useless but fun babbling, lets get on to the important stuff. There are so many concepts I have wanted to unravel and yet never had a method of documenting and demonstrating them that is enjoyable and easily shareable. In my latest video adventure I figured out a simple way to demonstrate the difference between pickup patterns of some popular vocal mics. I have been using om7's for years on artists that stay on top of the mic (sing with their lips against the mic grill). I have read and heard some pretty interesting and colorful opinions and comments on why one mic is better or worse than another but rarely are these opinions qualified with supporting facts. Also, recently I have spent some time and effort developing and manufacturing an adaptor to mate Audix mic capsules with Shure wireless transmitters. Why? Well, I made a video that answers that question.

Also, I have two more videos up from the Mighty Headphone Quest showing the low frequency volume testing on some of the cans. I have it narrowed down to three pairs so far but new headphones to test are still trickling in.

And oh, thank you Matt and Paul

for taking care of me at the Musicares gig.

I reluctantly forgive you for putting me on a PM5D because as much as I hate to admit it and find them no fun to mix on, it was the right tool for the job with so many bands, it just made sense to roll digi. It was only one song but it was also the first show with Chili Peppers rocking the new guitar player Josh. All good, this is going to be cool, cant wait till the show hits the road though it will be a while.

Finally for today, say hey to my new roommate Bones

Ok, off to ponder my next adventure.

DR

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Anonymous on :

"I smile knowing that arbitrary acceleration and braking while awaiting a software update are two issues I do not have to worry about happening mid rock show." Strange as I have experienced just that it is no fun having a faulty fader on an analog mixing console when the level goes to +10dB or disappears altogether on bad spots on the fader.

LUCIANO LUGGREN on :

Hey Dave, check the electronics in a f1 car. They use electronics to control throttle and clutch. I think it´s a matter of design. http://www.f1technical.net/articles/65 Pardon my english. Spanish speaker here. Greetings from Argentina. P.S.: Toyota left the category in 2009, ja

Rich on :

I'm inclined to agree with Luciano. The fault of these electronic systems is poor design. All major airliners have been fly-by-wire for many years now (at least 20). I believe many modern big rigs also implement electronic throttle control. The drive-by-wire concept is reliable, it just requires proper implementation. If a car unintentionally accelerates, I think the reaction of most people would be to step on the brake. The computer could monitor for this condition. "Hey, the brake and accelerator are being pressed at the same time, something's not right, I better reduce engine power". But obviously Toyota's system doesn't do this. From what I understand of the Toyota situation, the acceleration came after the driver let their foot of the gas pedal. It was stuck in position that the foot left it in, hence the acceleration. I've seen diagrams of the pedal assembly showing the supposed culprit of the problem, a friction system designed to give the pedal a proper 'feel'. I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, and upon seeing the diagram, my initial thought was "That looks like a kind of crappy design, I can see how it might stick." Granted, there's probably come confirmation bias in that thought, but I'm convinced the problem at its core is mechanical. Interestingly, I had a sticky accelerator problem in my 1994 Ford Ranger, which uses mechanical linkages for the gas pedal. Of course, since I drive a manual transmission, my reaction to my increasing speed was just to push in the clutch pedal. No worries about careening out of control. Sorry for being so long winded!

Dave Rat on :

Hello Rich and Luciano, I agree as well that poor and unfinished design is more than likely the issue. and I am not against the influx of computers into my world I actually embrace and enjoy a tremendous amount of technology and fully agree that mechanical issues are plentiful in non digi gear. I guess the underlying point I am trying to make is that while reading the news about Toyota I flashed a glimpse of my world divided in to two. There are the things like my laptop, cell phone and digital mixing boards where the control over them is an instruction set of hidden commands. I wait for them to boot up and they need batteries and storage mediums to operate and so they do not forget how to function properly. Then there are the things like surfing, skateboarding, motorcycle riding, fishing and other things I enjoy where control is directly felt and connected. Where they 'are what they are' rather some malleable transformable entity who's function is one software instruction set away away from working perfectly or being useless. Mixing rock shows for me for many years has been a directly felt and connected sensation that I truly enjoy not unlike motorcycle riding and snowboarding and every nuance of the control, the sensation of mixing in the dark, by pure sound and feel is something I truly love to do. When I turn a knob, the reaction is definitive and maybe it is a dirty fader but never is there a software stutter or hesitation. With current analog gear, we buy it and it tends to work as it does and it then deteriorates mechanically over time becoming less usable. With current digi gear it is released full of bugs and glitches and hopefully a series of software updates make it more and more usable. And over time the lines will blur and digi control will become perfected to the point hopefully where we can not tell or feel the difference.

Dmitriy on :

Hello Dave! Thank you for your educational experiments. I have your blog in my livejournal friend list via RSS and it's really great to read about all this stuff. I just have a question about the vocal mic test. When you analyze how the mic reacts to the sounds from the back you only mention the room impact, but not the feedback. Whet signal comes from the opposite side of the mic it goes in opposite phase, so the feedback is reduced, and the mic can be driven to higher levels. What about the difference of all the tested mics on this parameter, the feedback stabillity?

Dave Rat on :

The fact that the back of the mic is out of phase (polarity) really makes no real difference with vocal mics. You can test this by reversing the phase switch on your mixing board and then check to see if you get more or less feedback. What you will most likely find is that the feedback changes slightly in tone but polarity (phase) does not alter feedback stabiliy much if at all. The mics that pick up less sound from the rear will feedback less when the monitors are located in the zone where the mic has improved rejection. But, there are other factors to consider. Primarily any reflections off of the face of the performer or any resonant chamber created by their mouth while speaking or singing will alter the feedback stability so the advantages in feedback stability are diluted a bit. As a general rule, if a mic has greater rear rejection, it will be easier to get louder in the monitors than a mis with less rear rejection, assuming the monitors are located in the area where the mic's rejection pattern is greater.

B Rad on :

Cool stuff to see what is actually happening than taking someones word on how the mics relate to eachother. Any thoughts on say Shures KSM9 and feedback rejection? Specifically of the Shure label up, or KSM9 label up? From our reps they've always told us if were having troubles with wedges (after wedge placement), is to just rotate the mic in the clip, and most (if not all) of the time it does the trick.

Dave Rat on :

I actually tested a KSM9 and did not include it due to the youtube 10 minute video time limit. I did not test rotating the mic though I did test rear rejection and found between the Sennheiser 865 and Nueman 105

Justin on :

Hi Dave, this has been a great series of posts on the headphones. I had a pair of Shures on order but cancelled that after you initailly scrapped them, awaiting your outcome, but am glad to see them back in the mix. Have you used either of the Shure/680/2000 in a live sound environment yet? Do you have any concerns about long term availabiltiy of the Ultrasones or the Denons? Thanks again for all your hard work!

Dave Rat on :

Predicting long term availability is beyond the scope of my adventurers. The all around absolute best I have tested are the Denon D-5000's with the D2000's a close second. For a foldable headphone the Ultrasone 780's are really nice and have a very distinct top end clarity. The Shure's are darker but heavier, rugged and the removable cable and spare earmuffs are quite cool. All of the above are considerable improvements over the V6's in the low end, the shure's are close in the highs to the V6's and the Ultrasone's and Denon's are considerably better in the highs.

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