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Back Again

Back Again

First Blink 182, now Soundgarden, hey I am the reunion guy! Oh, if you are in to the sound nerdery stuff, I have been pretty good about getting videos up on youtube about various sound world things. I really try and cover subjects or explanation that are off the beaten path. Check out either http://www.youtube.com/user/www73171 or http://daverat.com/ if you are into that kind of stuff.

Oh and while I am doing shameless plugs, if you need any sound or video gear, give Daniella or John Karr a shout and they will hook you up.  Rat keeps low sales margins, will gladly give you real world advice and if you ever have any issue with anything we sell ya, we will take care of it and get you dialed in and happy.

Finally the first batch of Rat NL4 Sniffers are coming in next week and though I have not seen the production final, the photos I've seen are really cool.  The web site is still being worked on but to check out the products as they become available take a peek at http://soundtools.com/  

OK, time for some ramblings and adventures

**** Back in the Day ****

Rewind twenty years back to the most grueling non Black Flag tour I have traveled. Three of us across on the bench seat of rented bobtail truck, following the band busses and hauling the monitor rig and FOH drive.

Danzig, Soundgarden, Corrosion of Conformity, Warrior Soul after Boston
07/27/90 Santa Monica Civic, Los Angeles, CA
07/28/90 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
07/29/90 Wilson Theater, Fresno, CA
07/31/90 Horticultural Center, Salt Lake City, UT
08/01/90 C.I. Sports Complex, Denver, CO
08/03/90 Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL
08/04/90 Central Park Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI
08/05/90 First Avenue Club, Minneapolis, MN
08/07/90 Mississippi Nights, St. Louis, MO
08/08/90 Bogart's, Cincinnati, OH
08/10/90 Latin Quarter, Detroit, MI
08/11/90 Agora, Cleveland, OH
08/12/90 Metropol , Pittsburgh, PA
08/13/90 Concert Hall, Toronto, Canada (cancelled)
08/15/90 Citi/Axis, Boston, MA
08/17/90 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
08/18/90 Airport Music Hall, Allentown, PA
08/19/90 Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA
08/21/90 Ritchie Coliseum, College Park, MD
08/22/90 The Boathouse, Norfolk, VA
08/24/90 Huger Street Concert Hall, Columbia, SC
08/25/90 Center Stage, Atlanta, GA
08/27/90 Houston, TX
08/28/90 San Antonio, TX
08/29/90 Unicorn, Dallas, TX
08/31/90 Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, AZ
09/01/90 UCSD, San Diego, CA

I was doing monitors and Danzig was easily the worst artist to work with, still to this day, that I have ever encountered. That said, misery in retrospect is always a great story and there were some really memorable times. Us soundies, Brandon, Karrie and I had an ongoing battle with the backline/merch truck. I think Brandon sent me this pic a while back.

 

I remember threading a bass string through a six pack of empty beer cans and attaching the contraption via another bass string around the exhaust pipe of their truck and then using some gaff tape to hold the cans against the muffler. A few miles out on the freeway at 3 am, the gaff tape melts, the cans drop and drag and bounce and we honk and zoom by with huge smiles.they pull over on a pitch black highway to the mysterious clanging sound.

At another gig they trapped poor Brandon in the back of our truck and sealed the door right after tossing in a brick of firecracker. We heard this banging sound and opened the truck to a huge smoke plume and a human comes coughing out. Tiger balm on their truck seat, an Estes Rocket launcher fuse attached to an M70 attached to the dome light in their truck and on and on the pranks went. Glenn Danzig once took a swing at me mid show, the feisty little fighter he is. And everyday we found endless amusement in the eight foot high drum riser with a giant foam skull that had lights behind the eyes, we called it "Bullwinkle."

Anyway, for as much as Danzig was comic humor with a bad attitude, Soundgarden was pure heavy intense power and awesome to watch and cool people. We got on great with COC and Warrior Soul. After the tour we all went our separate ways, Rat Sound was really not very big at the time and Soundgarden took off and went with Showco for sound for the next twenty years.

So here I am two decades later doing front of house rather than monitors and mixing one of the early bands that took a chance and took a little punk rock sound company on tour with them.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Sound Tip!

Ok, all you soundies should know that when setting up your main PA if you put all the subs stage center, you get pretty much an omni pattern or a fairly even coverage left to right but it tends to over sub woof the band. With newer cardioid setups you can reduce the 'band kill' a bit but still having the band 3 feet from subs that are trying to shoot low end hundreds of feet is bound to cause issues.

Here is a plot of two low sources spaced about 18"

So we space our main PA subs out and put a pile stage left and a pile stage right. This gets the subs father from the band but gives us a a power alley down the middle and reduces the low end off to the sides. While practical, their are several undesirable side effects like the creation of a power alley and diminishing low end off to the sides. If you have been following this blog you will know it is something I have spent much time on.

Ok, now check this out! First the good news; here is one of those rare things in our sound world that is super easy, has no real negative side effects and improves the quality of what we are trying to achieve. That bad news? All you front of house engineers do not get to enjoy it because it is a stage monitor tip. Think about the coverage pattern of two spaced subs, hot in the center, quieter off to the sides, where would that be useful?

How about drum fill? Rather than stacking two subs directly behind the drummer, what is you spaced those two subs apart and put one on either side? Then your sub response would look more like the plot below:

Now, with the drummer in the perfect hot spot. and the rear lobe fairly harmlessly behind the drummer, we now get a bit less bleed into the drums and less bleed to other parts of the stage. Pretty much you would be intentionally creating a power alley just for the drummer. Want to take the concept further? Use three subs. One behind the drummer and one to each side. Either physically place them equidistant from the drummer or if space behind is an issue, use time delay on the rear sub so all three subs are timed to hit the drummer at the same time.

The cool part about the triple setup is it creates a perfectly timed focal point of low end on the drummer but the low end tapers off as you get further down stage as well, reducing the drum sub level heard by the singer.

The effect of this is not overly dramatic but it is audible, usable and another useful tool to add to your sound tool box.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

I am actually in Scotland right now, out with Blink 182 doing production rehearsals. I will try and get caught up on more of the Soundgarden adventure and will have plenty on Blink to come as well, but for now, how about some pictures?

I actually have quite a bit to do mixing soundgarden so I did not really have a chance to shoot show pics without screwing a cue, but here is the pre show Vic Theater

So though I do not do it often anymore, this Soundgarden gig was just myself as a sound engineer and every bit of gear was supplied by other vendors. For the monitor rig and FOH drive, I had the great pleasure of working with Carlson Audio. They did a wonderful job and best of all I had the honor of long time friend Allan Bagley as my FOH tech. Thank you Allan!

Whenever possible I try and carry extra subs. Even if I just use them as an effect, having a bit of nitro boost never hurts. For Soundgarden at Lollapalooza I pondered this for a bit, hmmm, what can I do that is kind of cool and unique? Hmmm, oh I know, what about giving some quad 21" subs a try? A few phone calls and Hello Cleveland! Thank you Ryan McCauley and all for making this happen.

How were they? Well, keep in mind the Clair I5 rig had 24 subs already which worked quite well. I used the McCauley's as Infra-Subs and eight of these 500 pound monsters, each on its own 14000 watt Lab Gruppen, put up a solid match for SPL and definitely hit some lower frequencies. Ooooh, I love playing with big toys!

Here is a shot from stage of FOH mix during the wee hours of our 7 am line check load in.

And back the other way

I watched a bit of Wolfmother and that is about all I got around to shooting

And to try and end up in the current time frame, this is my sound world for the Blink 182 non-festival gigs. Notice the compact XL4. Other than a couple of Rat racks, this one is all SSE gear from the UK.

Ok, off to go sort out some crazy mechanical spinning drum riser. Let me ask you this. How do you run a snake to a spinning turntable drum riser that flips end over end? Hmmm, good question and Steve Walsh and I are knee deep in unraveling this conundrum. Will let ya know as soon as we figure it out and also know if it works :)

Dave Rat

Important Things and Stuff

Well it has been a while since I posted, not for lack of desire but rather lack of focus. Like the stock market or surfable waves, so goes inspirations and distractions. Anyway here's what I got. I did three low tech scruffy youtube videos, this time talking about optimizing mic polarity for monitors and front of house for live shows.

Part 1 covers setting kick polarity as well as the rest of the drum kit to align with the drum fill and increase volume and reduce feedback.

Covers setting polarity of bass mics, DI's and in ear monitors to line up with the monitor wedge system polarity. Also a bit about the effects of delay caused by digital console on in ear setups.

Covering polarity of main PA versus monitors, conventional and cardioid sub and polarity of polar patterns

And now for some less techie stuff, check out this bike. Ooooh! Anyone know who makes these things?

My little pooch Bones is doing well, super pal and jogging partner that I clocked at 20 miles per hour, boy can he run!

Here are what I consider to be my super cool mixing essentials. I brought this in to the Roxy to mix some Chris Cornell solo shows.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

The secret to the Lexicon PCM60 sound is the analog front end. Basically you can get a nice reverb sound from these but they really light up when you hit them hard and clip the input. What happens is that the clipping adds a bit of distortion to the signal that then gets fed into the reverb causing a rich thicker sound when used on drums. So even though there is only 4 room sizes, 4 reverb time and 2 types, that added dynamic of adding the input crunch, adds a whole new dimension of sounds. Oh, and also, the input distortion is so rich that I actually use the PCM60 as a distortion effect on vocals with the reverb mix knob dialled to direct. And it is the best vocal distortion effect I have found.

The DPR404 is just simple, compact and a very usable compressor unit. The key to a good comp? The meters actually look like what you hear it doing.

The H3500 is awesome because you can around the presets and saved memories in a snap. I just memorize my program #s and punch them in on the keypad. None of this "button hold down crap" to change parameters either, just spin the wheel. Great for vocal thickening, autopanner, long delays, and pretty much all I need for everything vocal (except distortion).

The Denon D2000 headphones are my now go to winner of the Mighty Headphone Quest I blogged about and I don't leave home without them.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Oh, and speaking of super cool, my 14 year old daughters are pure awesome! As you can see their exuberance that I dragged them into Home Depot, they are my pals, part time roommates and best friends all rolled into two.

Hey, so you fire up your PA and much to your dismay you find one of your cone speakers has developed a rip. Aaargh! Need to make it through a gig? Or maybe it was just a wayward screwdriver, either way, here is the glue ya want to fix it. Available at most auto parts stores, this is nearly identical to the glue used when the speaker was assembled. If you can, patch from the back to minimize ugliness. It dries pliable and super strong and very quickly.

MicroSubs are doing great! Pearl Jam and Limp Bizkit both are using them on current tours as drum subs and we are getting rave reviews. Here you can see one of the engineering models with the Rat Cover we made.

I took this a few months back when I mixed Soundgarden at the Showbox in Seattle. I hate saying this but 'you should have been there!' It was goosebump awesome! There are some pretty good youtube videos of the show floating around that are worth checking out.

And speaking of exciting, here is a pic of the inner sanctum of Red Hot Chili Peppers rehearsals. They are rocking an all MicroWedge 12 setup and all the wedges are being run in passive mode! I cant tell ya much but I can tell ya that I am super excited about what I have heard and can not wait till tour.

And speaking of MicroWedges, here is Chris Cornell's stage setup for the Roxy shows. These were also run in passive mode. Oh, so easy! A Lab Gruppen 6400 runs 2 mixes no processor and a MicroWedge in Passive mode will beat most biamped and fully processed wedges out there, I did not even use 1/3 octave EQ's as the channel EQ was more than enough to get them louder than needed.

So I am at E3, the big Gaming convention doing some mixing and what do I see? Hey, a Rat Trap 5 caster plate! Relabeled and being used for a non Rat Trap 5 application. IU thought about doing the "hey that's mine" but decided that we have enough spares and I really did not want to lug it around all day. Consider it a gift AVP.

So what have I been doing these last fem months other than the above? Well, surfing of course with the C-Street 7 am crew that is actually now the 7:30 am crew. Which lately, due to the fact that the wave height to human size ratio has been a bit low, I think the surf observation crew, may be more appropriate.

Another tough surf day.

Oh, we finally have MicroWedge tripod stands available that fit both the MicroWedge 12 and MicroWedge 15. Here is the series of prototypes starting with the Radian version on the left and the final version with reversible plate on the right. If ya need these, give the Rat Shop a shout and talk to John Karr.

I am saddened to say that those of you following the Free the Tree movement of 10's and 10's of people, http://www.facebook.com/?ref=mb&sk=messages#!/pages/Free-the-Tree/309695452220?ref=ts

that the tree is finally free, though not in the manner we hoped or expected. Capital punishment for it's crimes has been handed down. No trial, no appeal.

Finally, if you own a sound company or any type of rental company for that matter, I am sure you run into the "should we buy the gear? Subhire it? Is Lease better than getting a loan? How will this effect our income? Our cashflow? How long to recoupe? and so on. So, I created a simple Rent versus Purchase calculator. Just plug in the purchase price and how much it would cost to subhire the gear, how many rental week you predict it will work and a few other numbers and it should ghelp a bit with the decision. It is in Excel and there is a link to download it below though at some point I hope to post a functioning web version.

Rental vs Lease-Purchase_blog

Rock on and till sooner or later,

Dave Rat

The Miserable Road to Success with a Smile

Rat gets about 2 to 3 inquiries a day from humans looking to work for Rat.  That equates to about a 1000 a year.  I must say it is one of the most difficult things I deal with and though I try to respond to all the ones that come to me personally, I must admit that when I get busy and I have 20 or so backed up in my in box, more than a few get lost in the mix, for that I apologize.  I am truly honored and appreciate the interest in working for Rat.  I also fully support the concept of following your dream and doing all you can to get there.  So it is really tough to respond to these requests.  While I do not want to disregard the inquiries, Rat rarely hires new people except if we meet them and are impressed by their work ethic, skills and we also are in need of adding someone and the person comes highly recommended by someone that already works with us.


So I have been pondering the answer to the question "How do I get in to the pro sound business and get to work for a company such as Rat?"  And what I am realizing is that if your plan is to try and get hired by a sound company supplying systems to highly desirable bands and tours, you will first need a stellar skill set, reputation, work ethic and have some highly respected people that are willing to recommend you.

But the quandary is "How do I develop that skill set if I cannot get hired to prove myself?" Excellent point and one that I face myself over and over with each new level not only as a tech and an engineer but also as a sound rental business as well. I did not get here by walking into a killer gig.  I did not reach this point by expecting someone to hire me based on my potential. I did not look for 'getting lucky' and in general I avoid the whole lottery success concept.

While those rolling the dice for a shortcut to happiness are plentiful, it is the ones willing to build their happiness that are desirable.

I chose to work very hard for a very long time and definitely grueling beyond anything I would ever expect from someone else. So the answer is simple.  "Do your time,  earn your credibility, establish yourself as one of the best at what you decide to do."  Whether that means digging the trenches in audio boot camp of misery or studying software and specifications and mastering the mental side of in this highly competitive industry, it is those that are most willing to push the hardest that are most likely to come out on top.  And by pushing the hardest I am talking about pushing to the point of obsession, borderline insanity and when everyone else throws in the towel for the day, you just getting warmed up. Being willing to forgo the luxuries like nights off and sleep and all the other stuff that so many normal people enjoy.  Most people will not gravitate to the top, most people will settle for mediocrity and that's why it is called mediocrity, because that is the realm that the majority reach, and there is nothing wrong with that, it just is not the path that will most likely get to traveling the world with rock bands as a successful sound human.

So when you can answer the questions with confidence and credibility: "what makes you exceptional?"  "What have you done that is above and beyond to develop your skills?"  "Can you truly say that no matter how bad it gets, that you've already voluntarily been through worse?" It is then that you are at the point where you should be able to pull the gigs that you dream of pulling.  Until then, get in those trenches and have a blast kicking ass on the most grueling gigs you can get your hands on.  Trust me, it builds character and if nothing else it will make for some great road stories when reach the next level.

Well, post Coachella haze and all went quite well. Memories of the volcano and desert sun fade, and little by little as I eradicate desert dust from my clothes and everything else I brought for the ride.This was the year of delay clusters and regionalizing the coverage into expandable/contractable real time coverage areas.

It's been a while since I blogged as my focus time has been limited a bit by the many adventures surrounding. So here are some photos I have collected. I actually took most of the pics this year on my phone and sent them to Daniella and they were uploaded here:

http://tinyurl.com/2v7vqzt

Ok, so lets go wander around the festival!

Jay-Z sound check Thursday night

Looks like a bit of console pollution

They actually broke down the entire main stage and all the delay clusters and reset them elsewhere for Stagecoach.

Enter Stagecoach

And I must admit it was a long two weeks but awesome fun and so happy to get back home

DR

Are we bored yet?

The question is not "whether or not it occurs", but rather "is the occurrence relevant?" Theoretically dropping a single grain of sand upon the ground will shift the earth's path in an equal and opposite direction. This we know and can calculate with extreme levels of perfect prediction, but should we actually concern ourselves with walking so softly for fear of knocking the earth from orbit? Relevance.

Is the battle against global warming relevant? Is it winnable? Is it truly that surprising that humans of power become infatuated with conquests whether they be our president, a golfer or mechanic? Go stop go stop go stop. Heroes and fools and the difference is only whether we agree with the obsession at hand. Does it really matter if we skip a meal or a red light, make our bed or change the oil in our car?

And as perplexing as it seems the common thread remains 'is the occurrence relevant' "to me?" And of course the perspective of ramification must be taken into account.

And speaking of relevance. Lets take a dive into the insignificance of the world of sound and the meaningless focus on one of the few things in life that vanishes when you hit the 'pause' button. Stopping time gives a perfect picture and perfect silence. Sound is and requires time. Sound is serial while vision is parallel. And live sound is just about as serial as it gets. And pondering over the years the many ways to optimize that ever so complex and enjoyable connection between the music as it is created and the the ears immersed in absorption, I have found that my importance is magnified by the less I need to do. The perfect piece of audio gear is so transparent that it's existence is never heard. Hmmmm, I wonder if in the bigger picture I count as a piece of audio gear?

Anyway, regardless of your opinions on those matters, I thought I would share some things I have unraveled that may be helpful in to sound humans piloting audio now that I am increasingly getting my head around around my natural reluctance to be on video. I am finding the visual medium much more effective in communicating certain concepts for the exact reasons that sound is so challenging to explain. So here is a bit about my approach to mixing live shows.

and lately one of my favorite things to do has been working on little projects like the NL4 an NL8 testers as well as a whole bunch more. Here is a bit on the very first in the series:

And since speakers and dynamic mics are exactly the same but just differing sizes, that means just a voltage presented to a speaker makes it move, moving a speaker makes voltage. Here is video showing how to use that aspect to check continuity of a speaker with any piece of metal big enough to reach both terminals

Ha! It is all about boredom avoidance and perhaps maybe a bit about not forgetting the things that are enjoyable to remember.

On some other fronts, Coachella is coming up fast and last I heard Rat has 7 semi's heading to the desert. Heck, I did not know we even had that much gear. I do know I agreed we buy a Midas Pro6

16 more K1, I actually think Rat is the first company worldwide to put in a second order for the Maserati of sound systems. And speaking of sexy rides, check out the new Rat truck

that is 3000 pounds lighter which means we can actually get 10,000 pounds of gear in a bobtail without being over weight, I mean how crazy stupid is the whole box truck thing? 26,000 pound weight limit and 20,000 pound trucks on 32,000 pound capable chassis. So We were like, "Hey, how about we order us up a light weight truck and nearly double the capacity?", Pure rocket science I tell ya, though nowhere near as good as it could be if the truck makers were half as on the ball as the speaker manufacturers.

And so, now off to pretending I know the business side of things. (Don't buy it, I am just a knucklehead sound guy in disguise!)

Two years ago January, Rat saw nothing but haze in financial workload future and went into that caution mode when danger is abound, as will Rats do. I can say it is refreshing to see blue skies ahead as it seems the bumpy roads are behind us, at least for the time being. So then I thought to take a gander at a not really related angle but interesting none the less. Hey, just to get some perspective and relevance on all the chatter and did a google search on "national debt by year" and this came up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms

http://zfacts.com/p/318.html

I don't know what will happen next but I have a pretty good idea and my bet is that the national debt will slow its Bush era acceleration while domestic product increases and we see something like the Truman, Carter, Clinton reversals over the next several years. But hey, though I could be wrong I found this a comforting in some odd way. I guess the question remains, about relevance and what to concern ourselves with, meanwhile never forget that random ignorant panic is always an option.:)

Cool cool, enough for now. I hope to get back to my less serious more wandery self soon enough as it looks like I may have a new sound gig that I am excited about. But that will have to wait. And most of all I truly hope that the info I am sharing is as useful or interesting as the responses I get make me happy.

DR

The Quandary of Doubt

A bloggery post about the the seriousness of science and figuring out what is important and while listening to the morning news, I hear:

Light Drinking Might Help Keep Women Slim

and they go on to give their findings of the 19,220 women studied and how a link is found between moderate drinking and not gaining weight. The study's author Dr. Lu Wang, an epidemiologist with the division of preventive medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston states several possible reasons including:

"Among women, those who regularly consume light-to-moderate alcohol usually have a lower energy intake from non-alcohol sources. On the other hand, alcohol intake tends to induce increased energy expenditure beyond energy contents of the consumed alcohol in women. Taken together, regular alcohol consumption in light-to-moderate amount may lead to a net energy loss among women."

Hmmmm, Really? Oh my, what have they discovered? I wonder what kind of increased energy expenditure it could be? Perhaps that explains the plethora of 2am female joggers and crowded ladies night at fitness gyms after the bars close.

So while pondering scientific studies may as well dive back into unraveling more in the wonderful world of sound.

Hey, is anyone interested in an NL4 tester version of the Rat Sniffer? The prototype is done and it is a two ended tester that checks for every fault in NL4 cables. Like the Rat Sniffer, this is a field use product that allows you to test NL4 cables when the cable ends are located at a distance from each other.

These are high quality machined aluminum and based on the same patented circuit utilized in the Rat Sniffer testers and tests for every possible short, open and miss-wire ALL GREEN = CABLE IS GOOD. No on off switch to worry about and they use the same 12 volt replaceable remote key chain alarm battery as the Rat Sniffer as well.. I am trying to gauge how many to make on this first order so if you are interested let me know. I am going to make first production run of US made custom machined units priced at $120 per send receive pair plus a free rat shirt and serial numbered warranty card for helping me get these things rolling. Soon to follow will be an NL8 version an then a Cacom unit as well. Also, if you do buy them and don't love them, send them back and Rat will do a full refund.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

So I am watching this AES panel video on the perceptions hearing

http://www.audiodesignline.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222700732

and as much as I agree with the discrediting of scammers, and the undermining of audio voodoo, I also prickle at the arrogance of assumptions. Especially when what starts out as a clear and believable scientific observation becomes blurred as opinions of perception leak in. I so agree with keeping things in perspective which of course involves first establishing a well grounded and valid viewpoint to start with.

Let me clarify perspectives. On one hand we have the perspective of believers, 'the anything is possible crowd,' where the sky is not the limit, possibilities are endless and whether the concepts are repeatable or provable is not near as important as the fact that they were written, thought or spoken. On the other side we have the perspective of huddling skeptics, the self proclaimed 'investigators of verifiable proof' building the world of science, based on identifying dependable repeatable concepts from which real-world functioning successes can be built.

Both the believers and the skeptics inspire massive rivers of money flowing to support their respective causes. Both construct items of perceived value and usefulness. Both sell or pass freely their thoughts and revelations to attract others to swallow and follow. Whether it is a crystal that heals, an automobile that transports or a process of thought that helps one navigate one's life, they are both trains of thought with long and twisted histories peppered with successes and misconceptions over the years. Due to their differences in perspective, neither is able to truly resolve the expertise of the other. The pure skeptic can no more prove a certain type of music is beautiful than a pure believer can construct a cell phone that actually functions.

It is easy to to understand why science is useful and easy to feel why adding the complexities of beauty and art improves our lives beyond the monotony of what is purely utilitarian.

So what is the problem?

It is the middle ground, that gray area between fact and recreation where science encounters discomfort. The things we purely feel or think we know that science has yet to be able to adequately encompass.

The credibility of science comes into question when we are told that something can't be heard yet we do hear something. In our own confusion when we believe we have taken every variable into account only to find the most remarkable surprises still remain. These false assumptions are the feeding ground for the tangled garden of ideas for believers in magic and mystery. The Skeptics are doing all they can to excavate and form clean rows of well organized thoughts while the Believers immerse in weaving fact and fiction into complex and intoxicating stories and patterns. And yet a third perspective exists wherein both viewpoints are viewed as desirable, sellable, marketable and therefore useful.

Regardless of the propagation of education, I will personally make the jump to the conclusion that our world will always contain some balance or ratio of Believers and Skeptics. It is impossible to live our lives without the rules of science, just as it is impossible to live without the influences or art, pleasure and those magical stories affecting our lives. So let me call the beliefs that have a low level of probability and are grounded in floating perceptions, 'art.' I will refer to the beliefs that have high degree of provability and therefore probability, 'science.' It is when one side denies the relevance, the importance and/or the necessity of the other that voids are created allowing pseudo-science and other forms blurred perspective to gain traction. When art attacks science or visa-versa it just undermines it's own integrity. To tell an amazing story is one thing, to claim it is true is another. To measure the various nuances in sound is one thing, to claim it can or can not be heard is another.

So just as I laugh at the absurdity that people actually buy colored stones to tape to their audio cables in ignorance of the astronomical improbability that there will be any form of realizable alteration of the sound, I also believe that it is the failure of the science world to embrace the unknown that allows this ignorance to fester. And yes, science does try to quantify the importance and realities of art, and the world of art-thought tries to encompass science as well. Science teaches us that there are things that are known and things that are not yet known. Art teaches us there are things we 'know' and feel that defy definition.

We feel, yet science is typically by nature methodical and cold. The attractions to the warmth of mystery inspires the desire to circumvent being characterized and labeled as a predictable reproducing food eater. We know in our minds that we see, feel and hear so much more than even the most complex analysis system seems account for. Science's downplay of the cumbersome and its inability to adequately explain everything leaves the door ajar for people that will believe anything. Not that they wouldn't grab bit or real info, twist and run with it anyway

So anyway, back to the video. I am watching and enjoying the clarifications on human perceptions yet as and as the video progresses to the "what we can and can not hear" I find myself feeling swindled a bit and tempted to jump to conclusions and thinking that if the power of suggestion can inspire us to hear things that are not there, would not the opposite also be true? As the various sounds are played, are we convincing ourselves we can't hear them? What about cumulative effects of several independently inaudible aspects combining? Just as it is important not to jump to the assumption I can hear something, it is equally important not to jump write off something as audible or relevant without doing due diligence. In the end though, and in defence of the demo, a clear point was repetitively made; "this is just to help keep things in perspective" and with that I concur.

And with that lets take a big huge step back and ask ourselves "What would this accurate audio reproduction sound like if perfected?" How can we determine what is or is not important for audio accuracy if we have yet to create audio accuracy? Whether $10,000 audio cables are used or 192K converters and razor flat mics, the real story is that at the end of the day has anyone ever heard a recording played back where you tried to search around the room to find where the live band was hiding? How come we can know there is a garage band rehearsing a block away and when you sit dead center in front of the best sound systems money can buy and close your eyes, the best we can get is a descriptive range of similarities to live?

What if one side or the other was truly able to prove their position? What if those pricey cable companies with colored rocks put together a system that when turned on, you would swear up and down that there are actual musicians in the room. Would it sell systems? Would it sell cables? If they could do it do you think they would? Would that not be a game changer? Then they could show that vinyl is more realistic than CD's, or that it no longer sounded exactly real without the faster D to A converters or fancy power cords. The room would not matter, just as the room does not matter with that garage band. "Oh, you were playing live in a crappy room so I thought you were a recording" Yeah, right.. Has anyone ever heard sound reproduction so clear that you were unable to tell it was not in real time? I haven't but when and if I do, it may be a good place to start testing truly whether some of these products and concepts actually function.

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Oh, check out these pages

Play this auditory illusion over and over and it should sound like it keep rising in tone:

http://www.moillusions.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/shepards.mp3

And some more illusions and an interview with Poppy Crum who rocked one of the more fun presentations and clearly has one of the the coolest names ever!

http://www.cogito.org/interviews/InterviewsDetail.aspx?ContentID=17862

A bit more about James "JJ" Johnston:

http://home.comcast.net/~retired_old_jj/

And Ethan Winer

http://www.ethanwiner.com/audiophoolery.html

And finally in my long winded word wanders it looks like Coachella adventure is coming up quick. Oooooh big huge audio playground!

Dave Rat

The Unfree Tree

Oh the joys of re realizing the same thing over and over again. I have the attention span of a windshield wiper. As if it is some great revelation I was out surfing this morning and pondering the less than thrilling weight of affairs of many of the projects in which I am immersed and then it dawns upon me. Heck, it is just winter darn it. I know this, I always know this, Winter is slow, sluggish resistive and lackluster for a touring rock n roll human, except for surfing and the snow sports. Anyway, I guess another way to look at it is I can feel the excitement of summer rock shows and general happiness looking and it makes me happy.

Occasionally in life we stumble across things that touch our hearts and bring us great concern. While driving home the other day I was shocked and dismayed to see this:

Yes, Share the Road! What the hell are they thinking? Road sharing is stupid. Oh wait, no, that's was not it. Oh that's right, it's the Unfree Tree! Truly a travestree. Caged and no longer free to roam and hunt it will surely starve to death. What crime could this tree have committed to deserve this? I don't know, but I do know that I had no choice other than to do what I am sure everyone of you is thinking right now. WE MUST HELP FREE THIS TREE!

So with the help of my daughters we started a Free the Tree page on Facebook. http://tinyurl.com/yz4j5nv Though we have no idea how it will help nor a plan or strategy whatsoever, if you feel so inspired, please join to help save the Unfree Tree!

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

In case ya have not noticed, the cold, yes cold! it gets down to the low 50's here sometimes at night, weather has me spending more time indoors protected from those fierce elements. And what better to to do with some shacked up home time than to pull out the video camera and the power tool and spend some quality time undressing a few of the hottest wedge monitors on the market.

And if that is not enough, I had a great time playing Lego blocks with the new final production model EAW MicroSubs that arrived last week.

Hey, check out the mysterious ne L-Acoustics box called KARA

KARA

I guess the big debut is going to be at MusikMesse Frankfurt. Is what I see a mini K1 version as dV-Dosc is a mini V-Dosc? oooooh!

Ok, let me ask you this. How many of you know the difference between a 'Free Field' and a 'Random Incidence' measurement microphone?

http://tinyurl.com/yzql4wf

Ha, some tweaky stuff going on there! And to think that a cheap mic and an old sketchy RTA is more than enough resolution to easily weed out 90% of the headphones I tested.

I thought this was a quite credible and convincing test of doppler versus phase distortion that seemed to coincide with the simple testing I did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-XPawd5unk

**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****

Can O Worms

As much as I enjoy new adventures, it is just such a can o worms. So we have been looking for awhile to revamp the Rat Sound web site which is in dire need of a face lift. We actually have started the project twice with two different web designers and I guess a combination of cumbersome and bad luck have us still in limbo. So frustrated as I am I decide "hey, I will just catch up a bit on web site skills and dial in something till we can get her done right." Heck, just deciding what we want is a major challenge.

Anyway, so I buy a few books yesterday and dive into the sore eye screen stare while fumbling pages both paper and web. Wow, I don't know if I am happy stunned happy or just so lost in the ether world that it no longer matters. Either way, I have been using the daverat.com page as a test bed and there is some really cool stuff out there, though I am not sure I really know how a lot of it works.

What I think I know is that I was able to copy bits of code and embed my twitter site using a profile widget so that my last 4 tweets are shown. Using Feedburner's BuzzBoost I was able to embed this blog, and the Rat Sound Message Board such that the most recent posts are shown and automatically updated. I found that I could create a custom Youtube video player that auto updates and drop it into the page as well. 

If all works as precariously planned there is a bucket brigade of events all now interlinked where soon after I post this blog, feedburner will grab it and generate a tweet which should be grabbed by myspace and facebook updating my status as well as send off stuff to various unknown locations related to whatever those little check boxes I was having a party clicking upon. Why you wonder, or maybe that is me wondering. I can honestly say I do not really know other than the nerdiness of seeing if it all works. To spend massive amounts of time in order to save barely any. Or perhaps I just like opening big cans of worms just to see where they go.

And I am sure that all this is just elemental kids stuff but none the less, it bends my mind in knots and I am only on day 1 though not sure how long I will last. Oh I so crave the relaxing peaceful sensation of mixing a great big giant rock show.

The Mighty Headphone Quest

Is winding down as I settle in on three so far. I have a few more still coming in but for now the Denon AH-D5000 and Denon AH-D2000

are my favorites. Big, no folding expensive headphones that truly do sound impressive. Ha, isn't that just my luck, figures that the best headphones I can find are in the Denon consumer line that Rat Sound does not even have a dealership for. Oh well, I never would let that bias the testing anyway so it is actually kind of cool. In second slot and a bit more reasonably priced are the The Ultrasone HFI-680's

and they scored really high with clean HF, solid LF and they fold up as well. And darn it, Rat did not sell those either, but the folks at Ultrasone are super cool and we worked it out a to be an Ultrasone dealer now. The Shure SRH-840's came up well as well. Spare earmuffs, removable cable and foldable, they are a bit dark sounding but robustly built and solid.

I also did stumble across something I thought was interesting. If I turn up sound in one ear and leave the other ear off on some headphones I hear some sound in the ear that is of and in other headphones I do not. Furthermore, the sound I do hear, though low volume, it is not great sounding and tends to be distant and resonant. I hope to do a test and measure it. I am thinking possible factors are with whether they use 3 or 4 wires from the connector, wire length and wire thickness used in relation to driver impedance.

Ok, so what next. Oh, here is a video I put up a while ago and what is really whacky is if you look at the comments people leave me.

Ok, I am soooo curious to see if this whole posting thing works like a domino chain or a house of cards. Oh and if you have comments or suggestions, love to hear them!

Dave Rat

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