guitaristthe music is what I wrote, Leonard-Cohenesque endless whining, harmless, fateful, nonsense. ... Please note that while MP3 is capable of brilliant crystalline CD-like quality, here I have striven for the encoder level “broken AM radio”, a work still in progress — but then again, since I got my own personal music gadget sometime in the Clinton adminstration, and listened to them with headphones, it’s not so bad! ... After all, I recorded them with headphones; I didn’t bother with any stinking near-field monitors....

iuma pageWell look here these poor folk => what provided access to my legions of fans at fell on hard times long ago, and/or turned to the dark side. ... Ah it was sweet while it lasted; fortunately in the turning years, ISPs have discovered untold realms of extra web space, so I went back to the way the Deity intended and provide individual links for each song. You can download those — right-click, “save link as” — to listen at your leisure, or for all I know clicking or double-clicking will stream them; the earth moves beneath our feet even as we ponder. ... Well actually that works pretty-good on our giant big-pipe cable modems; only a few years ago these MP3 files used to be so big, and now they’re just a few megabytes....

I wouldn’t want anyone to think I didn’t appreciate Iuma’s efforts. Back in the day of the frenzy — and for a time afterwards! — Iuma would send me these pitiful yearly ~50¢ checks so I wouldn’t sneak off to a competing MP3 community.

... So anyway, this page contains thoughtful commentary, pictures, life-story, tech notes, etc. — and now, once again, as it was before, genuine links to MP3s!



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This c&w number’ll get your feet a tappin’ and your hand a reachin’ for the razor blade. Synopsis: The artist argues with God. • Words & music copyright © 1992 j.g. owen



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Stat stat this guy needs resuscitation; this is so cheery it makes freight look positively gay. Our story so far: The artist interrogates himself or perhaps random strangers. • Words & music copyright © 1986 j.g. owen

You can do it when you will;
I don’t know why you stay here still.
You feel at home in empty rooms;
you don’t want to leave too soon;
you know everything so well.

2. e d c e
I don’t have a tale to tell;
I could never make it sell.
And I always thought it ends itself;
I never knew I’d have to help;
I never knew you very well.

I didn’t know what you would do;
I always thought we’d see it through;
you said we’d have to wait and see;
and now you’re finished and we’re free.

You and I, we’ve had our fun;
but the game is gone ... it’s done.
We know the moves too well, it’s done.
I know the rules too well, I’ve won.

Where are you going to go?
You know I’ll miss you even though
you told me stories every time;
but I loved your every line;
and I believed you every time.

But who knows what is true?
It all depends on what you do.
It all depends on who you know.
Starting with me I suppose.

7. e d c e
Do you think we’ll meet again?
Have a drink before the end?
Tell the same old well-worn lies?
Dream a dream, have a cry?
Do you know how to say goodbye?

8.g g e d c e?
Who are you waiting for?
Who will promise something more?
Who is waiting with a prize?
Who will always hold you tight?
Who will be here in the night?

9. repeat 1 more or less:::::
I can do it when I will.
I don’t know why I stay here still.
I feel at home in empty rooms.
I don’t want to leave too soon.
I know everything too well....

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The artist discusses with his brother the latter’s war service; a conversation that never occurred and almost certainly couldn’t’ve, at least not sober. ... Anyway it’s my political song, and also a sad object lesson in the abuse of compression. • Words & music copyright © 1980.

The Messenger

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The artist stops arguing with strangers, relatives, and deities, and complains about his girlfriend, apparently using a microphone from Woolworths. ... Actually it isn’t bad; biography / slice-of-life from a particular time. • Words & music copyright © 1988, 1989 j.g. owen

The Messenger


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So so sad; he just can’t get along no matter how hard he wonders. Executive action summary: guy’s girlfriend will not explain herself — or him, the sky above etc. • Words & music copyright © 1986, 1987 j.g. owen • The notes are in the source file for my own wretched ridiculous MIDI music player / sequencer / something, which probably in 1985 was running on a particularly-malevolent mp/m system or perhaps a cp/m Kaypro or probably both at one time or another.....

: >>>>>>> why2.mid 10/8/87c Copyright (c) 1986,1987
J.G. Owen
9/13/86: apx. creation.
9/25: add ins. solo interludes etc.
use linking for drums.
9/26: itrumpet or something.
10/1: new stops.
7/28/87: new compiler.
8/1: remove sysreset from myexit.
8/9: modify for new mc time syntax (tick, note.)
8/15: menus.
the “- !wombat” nonsense is debug comments;
i.e., search and replace to “: !wombat”.
9/18: new music syntax.
10/8: revise control system; see \midi\doc\perfor.not.

a a a ag f e f
you know you never asked me why....
(am) F
a g f e f e d c

g g g f e d e
tho’ you know you really could.... (should?)
G e
b a g f e d c b

e e e f e ddd c? d
you know i’ve done what i think i could...
a d
a g f e d c b a

d d e d d c b c
and you do what you think you should.
G am dm g7 (am F)
g f e d c b a g f e d c (b a g f f)?

there’s a wind within (around?) our lives
and it blows us where it will.
we can try and hold on tight;
we can try standing still.

but you told me not to cry....
you told me it’s alright....
(but) we can’t be what we want....
you never told me why.


we never learned the words....
we never learned the song
i know it doesn’t go like this....
i guess we got it wrong.

but you never asked me why....
(i guess) you don’t want to know....
what it’s all about
and why we let it go.

you never asked me why..
tho’ you know you really could....
you know i’ve done what i think i could...
and you’ve done what you think you should.


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Well he’s back to arguing with God; this is that existential despair we’ve heard so much about, here it is in living broken-AM-radio stereo sound. Bottom line: The Devil has the people by the throat in the American Century. • Words & music copyright © 1990 j.g. owen

anyway music

Owen’s Musical Tips ’n’ Tricks

The short story is you get hold of the free Audacity (well, maybe), plug a microphone or some other audio source into your computer input(s), click the record button in Audacity, and rock on! ... I mean, there are a few fiddly details, a random assortment of the most unimportant of which I will treat here, but that’s the basic shtick. ... Of course I used a ridiculous assortment of primitive tools back in the days before the internet....

& MP3 ...

Audacity and other audio programs wouldn’t save/export to MP3 until I got them a DLL, usually “Lame” I think, whose authors are typically on the lam from giant monopolistic record companies who for some reason object to us stealing their music and strewing it across the starry web, and consequently throw lawyers at the mp3 perpetrators, and I wound up going to a German site somewhere around to get their offering, which has something to do with Linux. I copied lame_enc.dll into the Audacity program directory, and then I think I still had to tell Audacity where it was somehow with some arcane setting, and then I could joyously “export” to MP3.

... And if you like really bad MP3 try this, a 60k section of my freight with an 8k “bit rate”. ... It’s so bad, it’s good; it’s like independent space-alien flute players have joined the ensemble....

Brand Name Complaints and Recommendations

I am hardly an expert, but I am also not a suck-up music magazine so I can write what I think, based on nearly complete ignorance leavened with bitter experience....

I probably won’t buy another Fostex product. Actually I still have a giant Fostex-branded mixer which is OK — well, its phantom power seems to be 24 volts instead of the average 48 — but my Fostex R8 reel-to-reel tape recorder, aside from the plastic wheels falling-off in the end times, also came equipped with — extra charge — a totally useless undocumented MIDI / synchronization unit. These gadgets were supposed to record a sync track that at playback time could send MIDI timing signals so you could play your MIDI orchestra in sync with a recorded vocal or whatever. I suspect none of these things worked; anyway, I never got one to work, but especially the Fostex....

My Korg Poly-800, one of the early MIDI synthesizers, was apparently their practice model which I kind-of resented when they released a working “Mk II” soon after. ... But I noodle it occasionally because it has a really cute chuffy flute stop. And anyway I’m probably behind the curve; in modern times, it’s a revered early synthesizer because people can pick it up cheap used — so many were sold — and it’s got analog VCOs; digitally-controlled, but so cool analog sound, or so say the purest adepts. ... But of course you’re supposed to save/restore the mostly-unexciting programs with a cassette recorder (but they claim they can use computer WAV files today); the “Mk II” apparently had SysEx. ... And in latter days (at least @ 2/13) was featured in the Brit FutureMusic mag’s inspiring & silly monthly “Gear Chart” as an “eBay Classic Retro Find”! ... The same section also had the Alesis 3630 compressor, pretty-much the goto machine in the attic laboratory and which may still be available in this vale of tears, ~$100 @ amazon — oops no mas Tue 12/31/13; you’ve missed your chance....

And everybody loves Korg’s “Kaoss” pad, except me. ... And recently I got a Korg nanoKontrol because it’s so cute — and cheap! $40! Probably because the new breathtaking white version is here, but this one is bluer, and has more controls! — Nine faders! Which I just realized is because there are nine drawbars on the canonical Hammond organ! The newer white unit shamefully has only eight. ... But it’s the same old Korg: the web site was unable to find the editor software — without which it is useless — but googling found it in the UK, and the result seemed to work, or at least claimed the device was there. ... So it feels just like old times! I mean, their USA web site was like the music magazines’, chronically clueless. ... But wait! ... This thoughtful reviewer used to complain about how “the box says ’USB cable included’ but no cable!” — and cynical hateful carper that I am, I was wrong! ... I bought two more of ’em, ’cause they’re still so cute, and $30 each at some dubious online source, and bothered to open the other end of the stupid little box — and there was the little white USB cable all the time! ... No wonder the boxes had those fingernail-breaking tabs on both ends! ... And the Korg software found all three of ’em; oh such ravishing joy....

Musicians Friend and the TC-1S

... I buy things through Musicians Friend occasionally — but I watch them very carefully. ... I bought an admirable Yamaha electronic piano through them a decade or two ago, but the unit was delivered to my back porch without notice in an almost-destroyed cardboard box. I didn’t buy anything from them for a while but then in a moment of weakness tried to purchase a cute tube amplifier on sale and they literally shipped me an empty box — and even after I made them take it back, they tried to charge me for shipping. ... So they must be watched....

Then at 8/9/14 I was tempted by some unutterably-cute Tascam TC-1S guitar tuners on sale for $9.99 at the Friend; it was a reputable brand, and so I bought two! And was entertainingly rewarded for my folly by the ever-scammy Friend indeed, who somehow forgot to mention in their web puffery that this was a special guitar tuner; as the box says, it’s a “portable tuner for the planet-conscious musician”, yes by golly, it’s a solar guitar tuner! Musicians Friend actually says so in the old-reliable small type way down below the picture, but Tascam’s product box of course features it: “SOLAR TUNER” it says, in the biggest type. “Clip the TC-1S to your gig bag”, it says, and someone will steal it — no, it doesn’t say that actually, they claim that’ll keep it charged all the time, assuming you’re one of the rare light-seeking guitarists. ... Tascam has assisted Musicians Friend to induce the average musician to return the thing when, after paying the standard price of $25, he sees the box and gets outraged right-away, and then he presses the button with the international symbol for circle and line and it won’t turn on! ... Because, as we ancients know from a lifetime of misadventure, with a planet-conscious gadget you have to hold-down the power button for a second or so, ’cause without that the stupid thing’ll turn-on by itself and drain the pitiful charge. ... And then Tascam’s hidden the alternate mini-USB charging port inside the beautifully-colored rubbery plastic cover, and they don’t mention it on the box; perhaps it’s a desperate afterthought? ... I mean it is all in the pitiful pamphlet-manual if I’d read it, after the warnings about using the device underwater, buried between the ideographs and serbo-croatian. ... But it is a remarkable tour-de-force of unintentional / intentional rascality (Tascam versus its dubious Friend)....

A Theremini & Sweetwater seemed OK compared to Musicians Friend, at least I bought my Nord C2 pedals there and they sent me no ravaged packaging or sneaky junk. ... Guy did call me up for a few months, even ’though I gave ’em a phony #, with two area code digits switched; something a robot would never figure out — mostly ’cause they don’t care — but a human could, so someone might call me in case my precious pedals did lose their way; and this guy figured it out, as I patiently explained to him after he complained. ... Actually they call me to this day, years later....

And then they sent me a ravishingly beautiful giant catalog which I perused for a day or two and on 3/3/14 was unbearably tempted by the Moog Theremini therein: it has pitch-correction so you can sound like a musical scale instead of a sick animal! ... Anyway I bit, ordered it, and the email confirmation of my order seemed copacetic, until a pitiful sales engineer left a phone message — ’cause I don’t talk on no telephone, at least if I can help it — that this marvelous device would only be available sometime around May, presumably the same year but who’s counting?

Tiny Print

Neither the jewel-like glowing catalog entry, nor the check-out procedure after I clicked the prominent “add to cart” and laboriously filled-in addresses and credit card info, nor the resulting email confirmation, mentioned this minor out-of-stock detail. When I went back and looked, the web puff did have some tiny disclaimer type and there you are! — careful careful, read the tiny type! ... Or take your cranky business elsewhere....

Any Theremin

And then, later, it occurred to me I could just take any spare theremin — perhaps the duck reserve’s beloved/despised Southwest Technical Products Company kit I bashed together so long ago, or the almost-equally-annoying Grand Moog Etherwave — and put it through some kind of “autotune” gadget, perhaps Reaper’s “Reatune” VST, and get a comparable effect! ... So that really queered the deal for me; that and unenthusiastic online reviews among other things complaining about the cheesy plasticky quality, which I’m confident my SWTPC unit can easily match, although it must do so with a cardboardy wood-like substance. Notably, however, theSWTPC theremin came without any bottom on the case — after all, see the promo illustration <=: don’t see any bottom there, do you?! ... Match that, pitiful Sweetwater theremini!

Amazon Theremini

So Sweetwater managed to burn off my theremini lust ... although I bought the thing a year or so later, @ Amazon, for $230 versus the non-existent Sweetware intro $300. ... And it was very nice, really, once I figured-out I had to hold-down setup to get it to play anything but bat squeaks. The machine briefly flashes a message to that effect, but since you’re probably plugging-in the adapter — no power switch — you won’t see that — oh how I wrong thee sweet little theremini! There’s a lovely power switch hidden on the back, where the adapter plugs-in. ... And it did require a eurotrash mic adapter. But still, quite lovely; reverb / effects / debris fun. And it’s not really so cheesy plasticky; about the quality of a $100 plastic keyboard w/pads, rather than the two or $300 flavor, but still — it’s a Theremini! I suspect it’s the theremin category killer, no matter how the æsthetes moan....

Antique Scammery

Anyway, I was thinking it’s entirely possible I’ve been dealing with non-existent product scams since before the pitiful Sweetwater sales engineer was born! ... It’s so easy: just put a nice 4-color picture in the catalog and away we go, no muss no fuss. By the time somebody buys it, heck, it might be in stock; I mean, anything could happen, and otherwise it can always be refunded whenever you can get around to it. If the customer pesters you enough. ... And anyway, the rotten competition does it — but actually Musicians Friend, to my considerable surprise, didn’t; at least with the lovely Theremini (probably just an oversight). ... While Sweetwater did cancel my imaginary purchase immediately after I called them on the 800 number, their “contact Sweetwater email” page was broken: after I pressed “submit” I got a blank screen and the URL looked like a php script error. So in the email I didn’t send — twice! — I thanked Sweetwater for reminding me why I preferred to deal with Amazon....

I Am Cruel

It feels sort of crude to beat-up on these pitiful merchants just because they indulge in the amusing bit of fraud. It’s like on every page they have a “shop @ Amazon” ad. ... And both Musicians Friend and Sweetwater are originally catalog stores — but I suppose that’s where their proud tradition of puffery originates, and they were dragged kicking and whining into the internet era. ... Whatever; I will not shirk my moral responsibility and the titillating good fun of holding them up to my vivid transparent beam of truth. ... And on that uplifting note, I feel I must give an honorable mention here to Sony. Back before the CDs entirely keeled-over, I concocted a marvelous plan to mix CDs of Bach’s Orgelbuchlein with George Wright’s theater organ, for nap time in the attic wonderland, and all would have gone so well except the Sony 5-CD player would reliably skip the Bach in random shuffle play! It would play Bach when specifically requested, but in random order only George Wright, which could be kind of gratifying to the hovering spirit of the theater organ genius, or maybe not. ... This is not my first brush with Sony’s ingenious design incompetence, but perhaps one of the most original in a not-humdrum selection....

Good guys?

My favorite gadget mart today is of course, me and the rest of the human race and perhaps nearby star systems. ... And my favorite brand is bound to be Nord, which supplied my beautiful baroque organ. ... Another premium brand is Roland which also usually costs more, but I would say they have a conscientious attitude towards producing products that work....

On the cheap and cheerful side, I’ve bought quite a few Behringer toys and never felt I was getting cheated; even ’though none of their little mixers will sit on a flat surface without wobbling, the products are cheap-enough so it doesn’t sting. Although the Behringer studio monitors have tested my faith; and their UCA222 USB audio seemingly misbehaved. ... And it’s not really a defect, but while resurrecting my beloved Nord Imperium, I discovered the power supplies for the numerous Behringer mixers I’ve acquired over the years, while looking the same, aren’t. My assortment has the same electrical specs and proprietary DIN-style connector except for a variable plastic “key”, some thin, some fat. Behringer appears to “upgrade” their mixer line with new models superceding the old every 6 months or so, and now I suspect each one has a different plastic key.

I don’t think I’ve ever been annoyed by Yamaha or Casio; for keyboards (the kind with built-in speakers), I think Yamaha’s better. ... And while I was distracted, these things have apparently evolved into “arranger” keyboards, at least the Yamaha flavor has; and Roland has one; for $1ks of course. These are despised by “real” US bands and music industry professional insiders, ’cause of their obvious one-man-band cheap-joint stigmata, but supposedly Europe and points east won’t leave home without ’em, and Keyboard magazine had a 1/16 category puff, which continued in subsequent issues until they left this vale of tears for the starry internet....

I’ve got mixed results with Zoom; their “H2” little recorder is lovely, and I finally actually used it for something almost non-trival; but their supremely cute R16 eight-channel recorder / DAW companion seemed to have a nasty whine on one of the monitor channels, making it unusable for that purpose anyway ... but it might’ve been a wicked USB power supply....

And I suppose honorable mention should go to Applied Research and Technology better known by the cute acronym A.R.T. ... I bought a few of their ridiculous tube preamps, which worked OK although I’ve hardly ever used them, but they have a beautiful glowing 12AX7 tube and a grill in the metal case so you can see it glow, and only cost $30! ... But be sure to plug-in a mic when you try it; I vaguely recall it was fairly noisy when nothing’s plugged-in. ... SOS reviewed the A.R.T. HQ231 31-band graphic equalizer with feedback control (7/14 page 94) which appears to be a clone of the FBQ3102 I decommissioned a year or so ago, yet the poor magazine claims it’s without peer! I guess they meant none that cost £460. And maybe A.R.T. had Behringer build it, but that’s just speculation. ... When I looked for “equalizers and feedback controllers” on Amazon, the woods are full of ’em no matter what SOS thinks, and I don’t suppose Behringer built them all....

Sound on Sound Magazine

Speaking of suck-up magazines, I really must recommend Sound on Sound, with which I have spent many happy hours. They have incredibly detailed puffs of musical products that go on for pages — they’re no more honest than the rest, but with so much text they can’t help occasionally telling the truth. And I must say, their scriveners seem to have some actual knowledge of the subject (often), which is by no means a certainty or even likelihood elsewhere. ... I always prefer expert lies. ... They probably deploy a stupid pay wall around their web site, which you can pay vast sums to avoid and read the tasty puffery....

The DAW Report

SOSs “DAW Power User” special edition (early 2011) was commendable; not supposed to be a survey but more official tips ’n’ tricks reprints, but still providing a lot of insight, some intentional, into the assorted DAWs’ excuses and MOs. ... I’ve distilled my canny conclusions derived from perusing this thing and and of course the starry firmament + abysmal ignorance into a handy chart:

DAWs: green prices are amazon or other reliable indicator @ 7/17; rest are totally bogus, and all are subject to change hourly; and note that sometimes the product’ll be available cheaper than amazon at some other dodgy location like the official website. [windows only]: Windows-only. [windows only]: Mac-only.
reason 8 $400 Animated cables!
pro tools $700?

That “$700” is probably the last sighting at Amazon. A Sweetwater catalog I just got (~6/15) had the ever-inspiring “Call for pricing options” — which is to say, the revered scammy extremely professional super software is entering ... The Priceless Zone (reverby echo delay). ...

In its glory days Pro Tools officiated at the funeral of popular music, requiring vast expensive hardware to work its magic, but still a low-rent innovation since the alternative was ridiculously-skilled guys with magnetic tape and razor blades. I have a theory it was the socialist subsidy of the BBC — who apparently employed herds of such guys, paid by radio license fees — that was at least partly responsible for the towering success of British rock; everyone knows they made better records. ... Anyway, poor Pro Tools held on to a hardware linkage as the usual extortionate copy protection racket, until they had to give it up with version 9. ... But I vaguely gather that with version 11 they’ve pitifully reverted to new and amazingly creative scammy linkages again. ... And then around 2/14 the parent Avid was delisted from the NASDAQ; they’ve since been reinstated and of course everyone involved has assured us it’s was just one of those technical glitches and everything’s safe as houses, so go ahead and invest your studio in it, nothing can go wrong....

ableton live $500-800

The beloved glorified drum machine. Tip ’n’ trick: in my very limited “Lite” experience, the built-in help was obviously superior to two store-bought books....

steinberg cubase pro 8.5 $490-580  
Cakewalk (née sonar x3 producer née Cakewalk) FREE!

[windows only]It was back at amazon, I guess after the Gibson acquisition. ... There were cheaper training-wheels editions; and it had some kind of subscription / pay-as-you-got scheme which I found too complicated to figure-out, not that I tried very hard. ... But now Wed 1/10/18 7:11 am it is gone forever, actually as of 11/17/17,  and their musical savant industry maven Craig Anderton will have to find another job. 

So my heart does not ache, although Cakewalk was my first DAW and, therefore, aroused my first DAW-related hysterical fury, particularly when I found out I couldn't upgrade my kiddie-wheels package because the gonif Cakewalk guy made some slimey deal with whoever I bought it from. ... But, RIP. ... The "cakewalk geek" 2015 ad image => was probably the best thing they ever did. 

... Although @ 4/18 there are harmless murmurings about an acquisition and free resurrection. ... 7/18. Well I did manage to get it; google for "Bandlab Cakewalk". I had to sign-up for something with my junk email address and get some stupid extra program, but eventually I got the real thing and it is beautiful beyond compare ... and doubtless just as confusing as my beloved Reaper....

apple garage band $15? $0? [mac only] They only work on Apple computers of course; not our beloved windows. And they’re both available at the App store only — but note the logic pro price reduction from $450! ... The users mutter of dumbing-down, and “garage band pro”....
apple logic pro X $200?
motu digital performer 9 $500 Shamefully I’ve neglected to indicate motu only runs on Macs! At least until the promised version 8, which supposedly will run great on Windows too — well Amazon used to say the “Windows version will be available to all registered DP8 users in the near future” but @ 12/15 version 9 is “currently unavailable” there. ... Motu’s web site claims 9.5 is available for Windows, and you can download a demo....
cockos reaper $225/$60 Commercial/non-commercial$ @ website, download. ... It seems just as incomprehensible as the others, and obviously cheaper — well, except for the free ones, which now includes Cakewalk.
LMMS Linux MultiMedia Studio $0 [windows only] ... Well also Linux for you fans out there. ... Supposedly works kind-of like “FL” aka “Fruity Loops” — I just read these things — and is free free FREE and actually seemed to work here in Windows.
Fruity Loops Studio 12 / Image Line $200 producer edition Speaking of Fruity Loops, these days it goes by the tasteful sobriquet “Image Line FL”. Back in the day it was the leader in urban music. ... Mac promises sprang eternal, and now you can download it, demo or full....

... I was thinking, as I am wont to do occasionally, how a while ago making a rough price chart as above would have been difficult or impossible. Because everything was secret; hidden. ... In those dark days heroic characters like the Reaper people had no chance at all. And there is a definite trend in these dark latter days to hide behind subscription/download schemes and avoid raw hurtful prices.

Copy Protection

All these programs — well, except LMMS — are copy-protected, often euphemized as DRM (when everybody knows what it means, we can move on to ever more duplicitous fictions, perhaps UPM for User Protection Mode; or the CDI Child Danger Inhibition system).

Reaper seems to have a relatively innocuous license-key arrangement. The more-secure high-toned expensive strategies involve dedicated USB “dongle” hardware; the absolutely worst are computer-id/phone-home scams which are usually designed to be confused with simple license key schemes. But id/phone-home software contacts the vendor via the internet and typically concocts a “signature” of the computer you’re installing-on so you don’t sneak around and install it somewhere else without falling before them in worship and adoration. ... Such systems are of course totally reliable, inasmuch as software and particularly DAW companies never go out of business or just wonky, and will always be there when you need them, for instance to revive some precious piece of music after your old computer explodes.[3] ... So if I can’t completely install the product with my wireless off, ethernet disconnected, I trash can it. ... Sadly this applies to virtually all of Apple’s products these days, but I can’t see that as a reason to ignore the menace....


Speaking of your friendly neighborhood copy protection monolith, I upgraded my GarageBand at the magical new OS X “App Store” for $15!!! Talk about cheap! ... It just downloaded the 1 or 2 gigs of stuff over an hour or so, and there it was all shiny and new. ... But the only previous garage band project I did, just a silly little noodle where I was educating myself in what “loop” means — was broken. Gone with the windows! Heartlessly destroyed by the brutal $15 App Store app! ... (Which turned into a shocking undisclosed $16.29 when taxes were included.) I’m not sure what this means, really, but I do know I would never entrust any kind of work I really desired to see again to something I got downloaded / copy-protected so very very securely — from my neighborhood App Store. ... Of course I shouldn’t’ve upgraded anything in the middle of even a noodle, copy-protection or no. ... Nevertheless, if you’ve got a mac and have any interest at all in the Art of the DAW, you should visit the App Store — well, if you have a credit card you don’t mind telling them about — and get the $15 or so garageband upgrade.[2]

... Reverberation ...

The entire history of the human race for thousands of years could be summarized as “things get cheaper”. To the eternal consternation of the buggie-whip technicians, stuff always seems to cost less. ... For me, reverb is the key recording feature of that nature. I personally built a thing out of wood with at least two mechanical spring reverbs, after whatever wretched piece of junk I was using proved unsatisfactory. I don’t recall if I ever actually recorded anything with it — I’ve always been more of a lurker, shunning actual stuff — but the labor was significant. ... And I knew my pitiful musical effusions would sound so fantastically glorious if I just had decent reverb; I could taste it, in those ancient days. ... Now the DAW magazines seem to go out of their way to snoot at reverb as just another effect. ... But it wasn’t, then; it was electronic beauty.... And still is, for me....

A while ago, I got tired of my Alesis Microverb II, whose sin was a volume control occasionally so spontaneously noisy it’d fail to pass signal. This particular potentiometer offended in this way of old, and I actually pestered the company a decade ago or so to send me another, which they very obligingly did and I proceeded to solder it in, but it apparently was original equipment and the fault persisted. ... Anyway, I replaced the Alesis with a Behringer “mini FEX800” which is immensely more talented with more controls, and whose propaganda notes somewhere they use high-quality potentiometers (but it is not without its problems). ... In the distant days of my spring reverbs, studios had such magical digital devices, but you needed security clearance to get near them. ... Now, it is undeniably true that any bedroom can easily contain better equipment than the best studios of the 60s, 70s, and probably 80s/90s. Which is to say, evil cheapo electronics wrecked the recording business. ... Oh yes it did...

And a lot of things sound really awful without reverb; my pitiful little Akai MPKmini keyboard thing through the Reaper ReaSynth, for instance. Everything sounds, as a late friend used to say, “like a harmonica”. ... Until I hooked-up the “big” rig with the Behringer fex800, and it was a whole new harmonica! ... The immensely-improved latency through an e-mu 404 the LOL gave me around the same time probably helped too....

The End Times

Recently I realized that the hobbyist reverb gadgets I find so endearing are an endangered species! ... Some German electronic musician on a British music magazine DVD was explaining how he used a cheap (Alesis) “Picoverb” for his stage show, nevertheless displaying signs of not wanting to be tagged as someone who used a cheap hobbyist reverb — but indeed, Alesis makes the picoverb no more! Nor my microverb either, nor the nanoverb. Searching amazon for “alesis reverb” at 8/17 got nothing — even my beloved midiverb4 is no longer for sale. “Reverb” alone gets about 5,000 pedals, numerous rack mount components, etc. “Reverb processor” produces a more likely bunch, but no Alesis; about 3 Behringers, including the FEX800. Mostly Lexicons; but I didn’t like the Lexicon I tried. ... But anyway, the Nanoverb stank....

Mon 9/18/17: And then the Behringer FEX800 sank beneath the waves. ... So I bought an emergency bunch: along with a used Midiverb and FEX800, I got the remaining for-sale product, a new FX2000 Behringer. And realized the heart-chilling existential significance: no one’s recording in their bedroom filled with electronic boxes; that age is past. They’ll use a gadget/laptop that’ll do the beloved minimal drum-machine-type activities anywhere. The rest of the music biz has sunk to providing live concert sound, presumably mostly through computers, since that’d be cheapest/highest quality. ... RIP my beloved reverb boxes — although to be sure, there are still the 5 million guitar pedals. ... Well I suppose I should admit that the Lexicons are still going strong but the one I tried was far less than inspiring; probably didn’t pay enough....

The Mysteries of Reverb Levels

One of the problems I had with the mixers in my day was using the channel “aux send” to go out to a reverb box, and getting it back via the “aux return” — which is what is universally advised by professional experts, for the mixers and the DAWs that followed. With this technique, each channel will get as much or little reverb as you want, by adjusting the send volume on the channel send, and a precious resource — the reverberation — is conserved. As opposed to having a separate reverb for each channel; even in a DAW, this can be wasteful.

But when I tinkered with Reaper, the technique did indeed work, or not, just like my mixer — I could turn-up the send, and everything would distort from too-high levels, so I’d adjust the master volume down, but that wasn’t quite right, and changing the reverb setting required constant adjustments. ... On the other hand, the reverb hardware (and VSTs usually) comes with a “wet/dry” control, as does much of the software, so if you are a primitive tasteless simple-minded person you can just feed the output of your mixer or DAW into it, and then turn that knob, and the levels work pretty good; more reverb, less original sound, and visa versa — who knew? Maybe they’re designed to work that way!?!? ... Years ago I adopted this crass approach with my monitor hi-fi set, just sticking a hardware reverb between the mixer and the hifi, and adjusting the reverb knob for how-much.

... So I tried the same thing in Reaper, sticking the reverb effect on the “master” “fx”, and while the free “Kjaerhus Audio Classic Reverb” I got somewhere from the reaper site is probably not as ravishing as my precious hobby hardware, the result was still what I craved. ... And then Sound on Sound reported on a resurrected BBC technique that fixes the aux send problem — and demonstrates that it was a problem, despite all those expert recommendations. ... Of course, in keeping with my low-brow tendencies, I want a nice “wet” reverb; I want the caves to echo! ... I suspect in actual real-life concerts, or at any rate classical concerts, a large component of sound reaching the audience is in fact reflected sound: the original sound isn’t that loud, and halls are large.

The Beautiful Mixers

I was confused by them from the start. These wonderful machines are always depicted at the heart of the recording process — still, even today 9/17! — like the book there — which is a frequently-entertaining insider odyssey through the British rock ’n’ roll biz. When Mr. Brown’s story starts in 1967, the beautiful mixers were perhaps less beautiful, but with one or 2-track tapes, whatever mixing there was would be during recording. ... But he gets to 16 tracks pretty quick, whereupon most of the mixing occurs after taping, in the “mixdown” as we seasoned professionals call it. ... Even I had an 8-track recorder. But I also had this image of something complicated going-on with the mixer at the time of recording and along with pathological laziness that pretty-much put the kibosh on my exalted career as a home studio entrepreneur. ... Well, that “something complicated” was probably during dubbing, but then only to appease the annoyed musicians who expect to hear what’s going on....

I’ve seen puffs of the book in DAW magazines, and they never mentioned the best part, Brown’s opinion about “mixing in the box” — recording your “beats” or whatever into the computer, and never leaving until a glorious MP3 emerges, more-or-less — on this he is apostate; he does not hide his contempt! ... It was better in his day — the 70s, apparently — when he got magic spontaneity from musicians, occasionally allowed to lay down a few precious tracks in simultaneous music-making, which would emerge as glorious boxes of tape once Phill & co. got through dubbing-in practically everything else that mattered — backing vocals, lead vocal, instrumental riffs, effects — in the following weeks and months or years....

Mixer Audio Transformers

They were on all the inputs in the Golden Age; now they aren’t — unless they’re the super-expensive top-drawer exquisite boutiquey flavor. ... I’ve accepted this as just another amazing barnacle of the still-astonishingly-lucrative music biz, but I realized recently that these revered vintage mixers with their incredible “characterful” transformers — and the XLR plugs/cables for that matter — reduced hum. ... Because they couldn’t do it any other way! ... To a great extent, because of the tubes! ... I can remember how the new snazzy transistor equipment right away had less hum! ... If you had hum in a transistor amplifier, it was broken; but in a tube amplifier, it was normal. ... OF COURSE! ... But today they BS about it so relentlessly, when it was really a crutch, something they had to do, so recordings wouldn’t sound like mother’s table radio buzzing all the time drowning out the music. Or like a telecaster. ... And the “characterful” transformers? ... It was the best they could do....

I was alive, children, when they were getting rid of interstage audio transformer in primitive transistor circuits — because of bad frequency response! ... Well, also cost; they were only there because the transistors were so expensive. ... Today I actually use $25 Behringer HD400 “hum destroyer” transformer gadgets in my home electronic organ installation; but they are modern units with excellent frequency response, not “characterful” at all....

Room to Record

The wonderful cheap electronics of our age appear to have doomed recording studios — but not so fast: there’s still one thing you can’t get in your bedroom, and that’s space. If you want to record more than one or two musicians, you need it, and your bedroom doesn’t have it. An obvious result of this simple truth is the popularity of “electronica” which is stuff that could be produced on a motor scooter “in the box”. ... But pop hits still seem to include alarming shreds of human debris, and they need room to record. ... Another thing in short supply in the average human bedroom is quiet. So the recording studio with a large noise-proofed room is still an unbeatable component of at least some kinds of music — denoted by the technical term “expensive”....

The Beat Goes On ...

Another thing I’ve always suspected and now know for sure — from a few Reaper example projects if nothing else: today’s popular music is a mechanical and soulless plague because of the relentless “click track”! ... They actually perform to a metronome: there’s an electronic rhythm enforcer in every DAW, often provided to the “musicians” as an actual ticking noise, the better to adhere to the rigid beat. ... SOS magazine confirmed this in an article describing the ridiculously complicated ways you could do without it — with the latest, most expensive software, to be sure. ... And then also with the reasonably-priced Reaper, in a later issue! — but still immensely intricate....

In my fervid denunciation of click tracks, I suppose I should note that many of my exquisitely-beautiful songs above were in fact contrived with robotic rhythm; in some cases constructed with primitive tools, making them all the more robotic.

Drum ’n’ Bass

The music technology publications and, apparently, what’s left of the actual pop musicians, are obsessed with drums. We’re all supposed to know how to set-up 15 microphones to record a drum “kit”. Half the technology involved in our wonderful computer recording studio DAWs turns-out, to my considerable surprise, to be gadgets that manipulate percussion sequences which, along with clever monstrous synthesizer bass lines, are the accomplished master’s purview. ... But in the world most people know, we make jokes about how stupid bass players and drummers are; the endless stories about the spontaneous combustion of drummers. ... The absolute standard of modern music — celebrity — obviously discriminates against these individuals. Does anybody even know what Mick Jagger plays? ... Well you careful fans do — apparently, guitar? ... and tambourine — but the information has little currency, and while more people know which Beatle played what, Ringo Starr is notoriously the drummer. ... And actual contemporary pop, even rap and all the derivative hip hop house blah blah etc., still idealizes the vocalist! ... I mean, somebody must show-up somewhere just for the bass player or the rhythm machines. ... And supposedly the kids love their “raves”, which appear to consist entirely of electronic noise. ... Well, + narcotics....

The Super-Bass of the Moog

And then I realized whilst purusing the almost-totally-meretricious but-amusing Computer Music magazine, that the reason the Moog and other early synths are still cherished as such supreme bass machines is because they were the first keyboard electronic oscillators the fevered children encountered, and of course an electronic oscillator makes better bass than the pitiful vibrating strings of an electric bass guitar, passed through whatever wretched pickup coils it was equipped-with. There was nothing particularly bassy about the Moog, or all the other early synths who are comparably nominated for transcendent bass production; these machines, like the average test oscillator, just didn’t have obvious holes in the audio spectrum, including the bass region. And it was hard to play test oscillators....

The Beat Box of Loops

Which would be all these glorified drum machines and iThing apps with buttons what the kids make their beats with. But Wikipedia claims it’s some sort of hiphop vocal percussion technique, but admits it used to mean “drum machine”. Obviously. ... ’Though when I google for “korg beat box” I find iElectribe et al, so I still think it means “super drum machine” and then I realized the beloved Ableton Live is one of ’em! ... Indeed the entire industry of selling stuff to us craven music fan boys seems united in the effort to obscure the fact that all these “beat machines” — apparently an approved euphemism — are glorified drum machines / samplers. And, recently, GarageBand’s “Live Loops” feature — catchy name; wonder where they got the idea?

I spent a week — of idle inquiry to be sure — ascertaining what happens when you click one of the magic squares in an Ableton Live “session” — that a sample plays, timed to the beat. Just like pressing the buttons on numerous iThing gadgets including iElectribe. Actually the sample is usually a loop although typically they call it a “clip” or some other obscurity, although I think some “hits” aka drum noises aren’t looped. ... The common characteristic of all these things is a rhythm machine + other noises which will automatically be looped on the beat so you don’t sound like a drunken idiot. ... Which ever-growing swarm of gadgets are almost exclusively responsible for pop music as we know it, in an endless elaboration of the click track.

... Then I saw in SOS 1/14 how Timbaland (a person) was “going into the vocal booth and doing beatbox tracks”, so the usage is current; but without the space after the adjective. But then in Computer Music 1/14 page 25 Beardyman (another person) is referred to as the “king of UK beatboxing” also without the space but they don’t appear to be referring to his microphonic skills since they list five favorite softwares including the “Beardytron_5000 MkII”. ... So I guess I’m safe if I use the term, with or without a space, to describe the swarming dubious gadgets....

Ableton Live 10: stupidville migration

Actually of course I only have the kiddy-wheels intro “lite” freebie something, and I installed it when they sent me an email, into my antique Windows 7 system, and it was like the poor germans went to stupidville! They must’ve hired too many muricans; it was like a Usux™ installation! ... 1.8Gb! 15 minutes at least; appeared to hang-up repeatedly, with a frozen progress bar, still and silent. And of course, when it finally started, it went full screen with a modal dialogue in front, demanding I register — which, for a normal person, could’ve been difficult without access to any other software. ... Fortunately I’m not from stupidville, and I could alt tab to something useful, like my password manager for instance. ... Sad. ... And then they neglected to install a desktop icon; I actually had to search in Windows 7’s “programs” menu to find the thing. ... But it still plays its lovely beats, once settled down....

The Beat Box Gadgets

One of the profound modern trends is the proliferation of button boxes so that people can control Ableton Live and play EDM in the with-it up-to-date style. What’s ridiculous is the obvious mismatch: they’re trying to control software with a cute lights-up gadget obviously ill-suited to the task — but because it’s music software it’ll be OK. Despite the years and centuries devoted by the human race to the control of music with keyboards and, in recent centuries, the mixers and other obvious electronic-type controls, the colorful buttons are nevertheless de rigueur. ... Surely because the “music” lacks some qualities it used to have — like harmony, melody, variation — but also it seems that “software is hard” and if somehow the operator can just do it with buttons, it’ll be EZ! ... The height of this absurdity is most of these button boxes have featured modes with which to play tunes — because you know the old black & whites are so yesterday, man — but I suspect they feel guilty about abandoning the entire musical universe with the exception of the holy beat....

The Korg EMX1

Amongst the beat boxes, surely the 11/03 EMX1 deserves a special place, at least for its two 12AX7 vacuum tubes. ... The closest I came to this inspiring device was my 2011 $22 “iElectribe” iPAD app which is strange & lovely — poking-up a “drive” “button” makes the imaginary tubes glow hotter and the thumping more distorted. ... But now in the fullness of the weary passing years (@ 3/18) I bought a $300 (used-of-course) actual EMX1 @, and that <= is its picture, showing a few missing knobs which’ll just enhance its stylishness for me. And it was £579 in the day! — which’d be $1,318.37 in real money, threading the 2003-era pounds through various tedious web sites. So I will be totally content with whatever dubious debris shows-up — not. ... & it was wunnerful! “Shawn’s Gear Shop” seems to have done good — although I had to get the manual and figure out to restore factory settings, so I could play the demos. However, the beautiful tubes do not light-up in a fiery glow like the ipad app, which I suppose would require incinerating the 12AX7 plates, but they do seem to generate the desirable lovable distortion and I have achieved a milestone in pointless machine antiquity....

Touch Screens

And while I’m lambasting everything, let me express my veritably supernatural enthusiasm for touch screens + music. Never mind the weary years moving those silly faders and knobs around, let’s just touch the magic glass and be so serene kids! ... The iPad of course has taken over the music industry already: no DJ or EDM lunatic can be seen on any stage without at least one of the things, and maybe an iphone or two. ... But how about big time mixing, like the astonishing Raven — the world’s biggest touch screen? — which will doubtless soon obsolete boring buttons and faders — although it still retains a few mechanical gadgets for old times’ sake — so that mankind can at last enjoy the transcendent functionality I’ve already achieved with virtual touch screen technology. ... So chic so organic so relentlessly confusing! ... I mean, how ’bout the wildly-successful Windows 8, so touchy ’n’ all?!?!?!


And I will also heap abuse on these swarms of software instruments and for that matter the hardware ones too. I mean, it’s wonderful that one can play chords on something that sounds like a dying cheetah, but does this really improve the music? ... Of course I’ve never understood the metal, and the rock before it, with the exclusion of an odd bit of blues band, and I don’t like loud noise, but even given all that, I can’t believe anyone can really tell the difference between these wildly-proliferating supposedly-breathtaking “lead” sounds, other than the pitiful keyboardists who commit them on innocent audiences, and I suspect even they’re faking it.

It’s particularly galling to have all these precious virtual renditions of the supposedly great analog synthesizers of yore! ... I was there for the creation myth, I soldered my own PAIA crate together with despair and profanities — a genuine patch-cord job; it only made sounds about 1 out of 10 tries! — but then it sometimes worked, enough so that I recorded my very own string quartet on it with a 4-track tape recorder, and the result probably sounded better than me playing the melodica, and not that much better. Any modern $50 keyboard’s violin stop could beat it; heck my Casio CZ101 would’ve been an immense improvement — as heard on my not-as-antique pop-hit-like Why above. ... Actually, the CZ101 can produce musical sounds! That was its special talent in those dark days, when that was still regarded as desirable. The unit’s been revived in a VSTi emulation, but naturally they don’t even bother emulating the original admirable trumpets and flutes, but use it to make your so-desirable synthey outer-space noises et al.

I believe the fetishizing of these wretched bleeps and boops is a symptom of the absolute poverty of modern popular music, and I don’t see any sales or ratings to suggest otherwise. ... Except of course the continued success of the instrument industry, that sells these gadgets to nostalgic boomers and other lost souls. ... Recently, I downloaded a demo of the “u-he Bazille”, a VSTi of a modular synth with cables I could drag, although they didn’t wiggle like Reason’s. ... But it still sounds like harmonicas! The “wobble” presets were good, because in the endless Brit magazine coverage and even their online/DVD audio samples, they never admitted it was bass + ridiculous tremolo; I suspected as much, but now the Bazille confirms. ...

So I guess I’ve totally missed the boat here, and still don’t understand kids today. ... But the Bazille comes with its own emulated spring reverb, so it needn’t sound totally harmonica. ... But as wickedly pointless as the Bazille is, it costs $130 if I want to get rid of occasional “clicky LP” copy protection noises, and — Lo! — there is a free modular VSTi the Kamioooka, whose cables wiggle with wild abandon! — so I can relive all the pointless futility of my golden years without the poignant smell of burning tantulum capacitors....

What Does It All Mean?

The best and brightest new studio hardware in SOS magazine is boutiquey $tuff made with transistors or tubes or at least looks like that — VU meters! — and all the DAWs look like hardware mixing equipment, which the young people using them today might never’ve touched! ... The “Reason” DAW was a big hit because you plug in simulated cables that wiggle!

So I would suggest the entertainment industry is entertaining itself. ... Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Heaven forfend! — 90% of my historic Computer Attic was pretty-much useless junk — historically unused! — what I got because it was so overwhelmingly cute. ... So it’s all showbiz; excluding, I’m afraid, the usual work product, which still sounds like harmonicas. ... On drugs, to be sure. ... Except the beat boxes don’t sound like harmonicas, but more the dulcet tones of children + percussion....

Nothing Works

After many a summer I tried to connect my beloved 2011 Zoom R16 recorder USB audio interface to the beautiful Audacity &/or Reaper. After a day or two, I’ve learned that it’ll probably never connect to Audacity, and my hopes for Reaper are not high. Basically, it’s very complicated and the necessary information is scarce @ the sacred google oracle ... this for an eight or 9-year old gadget. And of course getting reaper to record a track at all has always been a challenge, but I assume that’s just the miracle of DAWs in general. ... Add-in the copy extortion common to the more expensive DAWs, and it’s amazing anything ever works. ... And, as I discovered, it doesn’t....

This is pretty-much the norm in the caring helping the-kids-are-alright constantly flogging music racket. And as long as I enjoy myself inhaling the spectacle, everything’s seraphic. ... But I must be very careful and not to try to use anything. ... I enjoy Craig Anderton’s monthly puff of the now-renamed-Cakewalk DAW in Sound on Sound mag, and since the thing became free I thought I’d try some of the beautiful things he depicted therein. ... Not a trace of course; didn’t look anything like his beautiful illustrations. I’m sure if I’d just delved for a couple of days or weeks I could’ve figured it all out — of course — but it just confirms what I knew of old, that any magazine article about any technical topic will usually be total c--p — at least, every URL will be broken, and many described features non-existent ... & if we go to the trolls, that’d be my technical ineptitude. ... Must be — for everyone else in the known universe, it all works perfect!

... And so the winding years dance on, and the music biz runs out of suckers customers, and the prices go up up up — just like the wondrous photography racket. It is the age of beautiful mendacity, ravishing scams. ... But I did finally get the R16 working with Reaper. You plug the R16 into the USB, no power-supply, power “off”, then the LCD lights up and you press the keypad Enter until it stops doing stuff. Then if you’re lucky, you can configure Reaper’s options / preferences like the beautiful picture. Note my added red rectangle around the “last” inputs, set to the R16’s “input 8”. The reaper record input drop-down list — i.e., on the Reaper track — shows eight “input”s I believe (without numbers that is; you guess). If you want to hear stuff with this setup, you’d probably have to plug in to the R16’s outputs — and why not you lucky adept!?!?

& Audacity Doesn’t Work

Spending some time in this exciting stroll down memory lane, I could’ve sworn Audacity used to work. It pretty-much doesn’t today (8/18) when I wanted to edit the most common audio format in the universe, a Microsoft WAV file. Can’t do that with Audacity. It wants you to make a project, and save millions of files that’ll make the project work great. Except I couldn’t open one of the resulting projects in my Windows 7 system anyway, ’cause some magic permissions were wrong or it was Tuesday or whatever. I mean, it’s possible to “export” the WAV file and audacity’ll condescend to do that, but it’ll still natter at you constantly about the project file you should’ve been using which of course doesn’t work. ... But it is $0. ... And then in a subsequent catastrophe I tried to save a file and it wouldn’t because it was Tuesday or something. Apparently the revered Audacity has evolved to piece of doo-doo; probably works great on the Mac! ... Well, really, mustn’t be harsh. I mean I just tried it again and of course it works great! No problemo! ... It’s only when you’ve been whacking at it for half an hour that it’ll decide it shouldn’t save anything no matter what.

... I just tried my Goldwave audio editor — who, sadly, expects you to pay him $45; I paid him $15 in 1995, and have been getting free updates ever since! — and it appears to be able to load and save a WAV file, so that’s probably where I’ll turn next decade when I need this functionality again. Of course Goldwave makes no pretense of seeing ASIO USB whatever; I just crudely plugged a spare Behringer mixer into the PC’s line-in inputs and after the usual sturm und drang — obligatory broken test equipment, etc. — it worked great!

Everything’s Broken

But then again, all the gadgets — the computers, the phones — have trained their customers to avoid the new model / operating system / whatever — it always works different than whatever was before, and usually worse. Too many people have “upgraded” their debris by now, and they will exert considerable effort — as will I — to avoid repeating the experience. ... Smart vendors....

The Aphex Aural Exciter et al

I got one of these in 2001 but never turned it on until Mon 3/3/14, and it sux, so to speak. Sweeping the “Tune” control sounds like sweeping the “hi” frequency in a parametric equalizer and while I don’t doubt there’s more to it, that’s what it sounds like, to me. Wikipedia explains the effect was introduced in the 70s and perhaps in those dark days many rock ’n’ roll studios didn’t have parametric equalizers. It was supposedly used to enhance “dull ... analog reel-to-reel tape recordings that ... lost their ’sparkle’ due to repeated overdubs” and it is said to be able to do that without adding too much noise, like an EQ supposedly would. And then a “Val Garay” interview (p 46 TapeOp 3/16) says (on p 47) it was designed for live sound. “I’m the one who got him [i.e intrepid inventor] to try it on records”, claims Garay. ... Whatever. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be doing today, or in 2001, ’though; I just got it ’cause it was on sale and I thought it was dumb, with its obscene name — I think there was some EDMesque guy who exploited that. ... Speaking of which, my unit comes with the extra “Big Bottom” effect no extra charge, which sounds like some run-of-the-mill bass distortion or who knows....

And then there’s the “BBE Sonic Maximizer” I foolishly acquired, and which appears to do the same thing; indeed when I googled “exciter maxmizer” the first page included at least three “sonic maximizer vs. aural exciter” debates, + an exciting Sound On Sound article from 1995, “How Enhancers Work” covering the same stuff. ... Fascinating; while apparently I am now in possession of the two major flavors of obsolete dubious tone controls, a third contender is the “SPL Vitalizer”, and there are others, stretching off to the far horizons, but many I believe are no longer with us — but then, like the magazines translating to the higher realm of the internet (aka “going out of business”), these effects are sometimes reincarnated in various software gadgets. ... The wonderful knowledgeable folk on the internet forums are generally quite spiteful about these things, which is probably a point in their favor....

But I pulled the Maximizer after a few hours. I mean, a fellow recommended it, and the 11 reviews on Amazon were all 5 star, so I figured it might improve my ridiculous virtual organ system in unimaginable ways. But I already have perfectly adequate tone controls on a Behringer mixer or two, not to mention my Feedback Destroyer — incidentally there’s a Behringer Exciter! — and I got the impression even with the maximizer processing button “off”, it was doing something to the sound I didn’t like — nothing esoteric, more like screwing-up the level staging, and perhaps shaving off a bit of the low end. ... Now that I’ve bothered reading up, all the less scurrilous innernet chitter agrees the effect is useful mostly for old cruddy audio — tape, cassettes, maybe live DJing — and while my stuff may be cruddy, it’s not old....

However the Maximizer still makes an excellent “riser” for my more useful gadgets above it; maybe I’ll stick the Aural Exciter under it, and get more height! ... But sadly the Exciter is even less talented; it has one of these short minimalist cases, which you can readily see in the pictures above when you figure they’re both the same width. So I stuck it near the top of the ziggurat, which at least gets my M-Audio/MIDI “component” interface gadget up higher. And it adds more silliness to my equipment; like those fake amplifier stacks <=, the stigmata of the Age of Rock, which continues in its pitiful bedraggled latter-day state even as I blather....

The PeakLimiter Program

This little soliloquy has been here for a decade (I bought the PeakLimiter software 5/15/00!), and it is still a dark secret in the informative and insightful music magazines. I actually saw a guy supposedly ask a question about the very topic — in Recording magazine — and all he got was the party-line: excessive “loudness” compression is bad, no one should ever do it and the kids don’t really like it — except they always buy the more compressed louder music, but that’s terrible terrible. And in a fascinating SOS profile, some producer/mixer guy said all that, and also the same for “autotune”, the no-doubt annoying mechanical pitch correction used by our crack modern vocalists and instrumentalists!? — and all of the guitar players also use a little machine to tune their guitars! ... One of these wretched magazines actually published some sort of inside-baseball anecdote about how something “wasn’t right” at a session, until they discovered one of the guy’s guitar tuning machine was a little off! ... These are truly miraculous times....

waveformsAnyway, PeakLimiter makes WAV files louder. A kindly German concocted useful programs and PeakLimiter was one of them, but sadly all long gone; presumably the Loudness Police came a knock knock knocking. So now only I can make my files tastelessly loud. ... Anyway, it takes a waveform like the top and makes it like the bottom; obviously a fatter, happier, louder, waveform. I assume most pop music gets processed this way which, in dutiful restraint of trade, is why the music mags preserve such rigorous omerta.

The “trick” is those little vertical lines in the top uncompressed sample; those are momentary peaks. In the old days, you’d crank up your volume anyways, and nobody’d care as the thoughtful tube circuits / tape obligingly squashed that stuff mostly unnoticeably, or even adding some tasty distortion beloved of rock ’n’ rollers. But digital makes very ugly noises if you do that, so you must keep the level below all peaks, no matter how short-lived. What Digital taketh, Digital giveth, when it feels like it, and Peak Limiter does what thousands of tube / transistor / analog compressor/limiters have done in the past, but it does it much better, probably because at the least it has the advantage of seeing the future — it processes a file, and can look ahead as far as it wants; “look ahead limiter” is the detestable category here — and actually I suspect the capability is available from the usual suspects, but naturally not so advertised; I read somewhere one of Reaper’s limiter VSTs has a look-ahead control. ... Yeah Reaper’s “JS: masterLimiter” has “Look Ahead”....

Whatever, Peak Limiter produced a good-sounding version of the file with a 2x higher average level. This of course is always desirable, to overcome acres of noise, MP3 processing, and then the 3-inch speakers and reproduction systems of the average music consumer; not to mention annoying competing music.

This situation isn’t helped by the all-but-universal magazine assurance that compression is an artistic effect, like reverberation — which indeed is a prominent usage in the exciting modern musical world, while they’re so assiduously suppressing the loudness thing. ... They seem unaware that but a few years ago one stuck a compressor/limiter in front of every tape recorder to avoid expensive level mistakes. Even in classical music, I believe; it’s costly to bring all those guys back! ... And in fact I did this very thing a few years ago; not the classical musicians, but transferring an old reel-to-reel tape to Audacity, and I just feel bad if such a gadget isn’t in place. ... Although digital head room is so much better, usually just recording it quieter assures that nothing bad happens.

Automobile Noise!

And then the other day I realized this whole bizarre loudness-wars thing — it’s probably just the kids trying to hear the music in their cars! ... Which, in our wonderful opulent age, are practically everywhere, in the land of the free anyway. ... And of course any other loud precincts they frequent. I compress my classical music so I can listen to it in the living room softly without blasting me out of the couch for the tutti. And I know classical music disappears in the average automobile without compression; are the kids supposed to buy the pure decent uncompressed stuff and a rolls royce?

Sound flies?

... Indeed, after writing the above words of solemn wisdom 5 million years ago, I recently (2015) had an adventure with my “SoundFly” car radio transmitter SD music player, whose transmitter wasn’t apparently loud enough to cut through various wandering stations as I drive the car into different places. The SoundFly provides me soothing baroque and renaissance a capella music seasoned by a bit of George Wright theater organ but I would drive somewhere and some pernicious local station would well-up and I’d have to change the frequency, requiring the assistance of my sullen uncooperative co-pilot. ... But all this was before I found the “dynamic audio booster” — the compression feature of the unit, which is toggled by pressing the MENU key five times and then the “next” (right arrow) key. Once turned on, it makes the beautiful songs of religious sorrow much louder, greatly reducing inteference noise. ... So take that, loudness police. ... And just because it was so helpful, I finally scanned the stupid but essential tiny manual here....

The Loudness Police Are Here

This just in: 2/14 Sound on Sound magazine reports “The End of the Loudness War?” when the kindly government at last forces everybody to be nice so we can all get along (my rough translation of the technical gobbledygook). And the holy quest is so important that the kindly SOS scriveners have rewritten audio history! ... It seems that in the golden “all-analogue days” a technical thingey called “headroom” “was able to accommodate musical peaks without clipping ... retaining the ability to accommodate musical dynamics” — which leaves the impression that this brick-wall limiting stuff was just our evil era, a touching sentiment so ridiculously untrue it’s hardly even wrong. Obviously the 12-year-old writing this bilge never heard AM radio back in the day, where the stations limited the music within an inch of its pitiful lo-fi life, even if the producers didn’t; which they did....

But there’s more! It seems “the converters in early CD mastering ... weren’t as good as they really should have been, and to maximize audio quality, the signal levels had to peak close to 0dBFS”, which is a rather ornate restatement of a cherished audio wacko cult belief easily falsifiable by simply listening to early CDs. Some stank, as did many LPs, particularly pop records, but most classical CDs at any rate sounded much better then the comparable LPs, which was why consumers — including me — flocked to them even ’though the CDs typically cost more....

Our New Overlords

But I, for one, am looking forward to our new loudness overlords, as they patrol the airwaves ever vigilantly, swatting down inappropriate loudness with tough penalties and shaming public exposure. Of course it’ll work perfectly, the outmoded competitive advantage of louder broadcast music will slink into the wicked past, a brave new world of moderate rock ’n’ roll will dawn, and the metal shredder will lie down with the folkie....

System Oh-So-Exclusive

The MIDI “sysex” codes are much more snooty then the average, which are all pretty insider nerdy. But excitingly, I’ve learned something, maybe, at last: most gadgets — synthesizers, equalizers, whatever — apparently won’t produce their precious system exclusive MIDI messages in respone to a MIDI command, but must be physically poked-at by the device’s human slave. Or receive the stupid thing neither. ... I guess I was spoiled by the CZ101, which must’ve produced sysex messages on command, or my antique librarians would’ve never flown. And they did, probably, once upon a time — oh I vaguely recall the cz101 had an intricate dedicated mechanism for changing the voices individually....

But apparently the average gadgets evolved so you have to press a button — probably 37 of ’em, in an intricate sequence — to produce the precious bytes of power. ... But note, my children, so to speak — this is a secret of the hermetic Gods of Nerdery, and so no web site will ever disclose or in any way suggest it. ... Particularly those that purport to offer “librarian” software for various gadgets. No, the strict Rules of Stupidity require that I must find it out for myself, over and over again, because it is knowledge too stupid to repeat, and must be guarded forever by the Stern Keepers of Secret Stupidity — against whom the gods themselves strive in vain (Schiller)....

The Great Reaper and Its Faults

My experiences with Reaper have not been without travail, and after a year or two I don’t think I will ever become an adept — or even use the thing more than a few times a year. And actually I’m sure of that, since I finally (8/18) actually tried, and couldn’t. ... Only $60, this week only, non-commercial use, and I think you can use the free demo for quite a while before it becomes totally intractable. And the copy extortion is, today only, a mild magic number scheme....


Really Not Ready for Prime Time: The Endless Takes

But really, sadly I never used it enough to notice, but apparently it’s got a wonderful super “take” system so you can record 5,000 “takes” of some audio source on a single track. It’s truly heart-rending to read the pitiful pleas of a guy who just wanted to record on a track, “punch-in” stuff he wanted to change, recording over whatever was there before, and not have 5,000 takes. ... Since I’d be one of those guys if I ever recorded anything, I was thrilled to read the explanations from all the Reaper fanboys about how, sure you could dispense with the take system if you just altered everything in the program in mysterious incomprehensible ways which they of course would never do — that is, you can’t turn-off the take system.

And when I got only a little into the thing, it really got just as I’ve always promised: ridiculously-incomprehensible. For instance, to delete a segment of a track, I selected part of the track by dragging the mouse, hit the DEL key, and the part that wasn’t selected was deleted! ... Kuel, huh? ... And the entire caring wacko Reaper community will never never admit anything, because that’d suggest they weren’t super competent experts.

... Ah well maybe I’ll try the free Cakewalk someday. Since I apparently know nothing about either one...

Missing Yellow Hints Fix

But now let us whine of historic faults obvious even to the total newbie, as I once was and apparently still am. ... The “tooltips” — the little yellow boxes that supposedly tell me about my mouse is hovering over — would disappear almost immediately which, I complained to the Reaper forum, was particularly unfortunate because I was so ignorant and without knowledge. ... So I was told I was asking things in the wrong place, you silly whimpering outsider, and it was bitter and dark, so then after a few months grieving I tried the right place, which wasn’t helpful either — well, eventually I fixed it myself, thank you very much....

I suspect this is related to the relatively recent installation which my fix tends to confirm; i.e., the new installation has to make a brand new reaper.ini file, while an upgrade will retain most of the existing file with, presumably, working antique entries. ... And with the rapid Reaper updating process that was many updates ago, and I’m not going to bother figuring-out if this fault is still around although if it is, new users may still find the fix useful — and me, of course, when I can’t remember....

Anyway, if your tooltips disappear (and you don’t want them to), the file “c:\Documents and Settings\Owner\Application Data\REAPER\REAPER.ini” — “owner” is what my walmart XP emachine sensibly defaulted the user to; your computer will undoubtedly be different — had this in it:


After saving a backup of the file, I edited it with my real ASCII programmer’s editor, and after some experimentation I made it say


and now my tooltips gloriously hang-around forever cluttering-up the screen like little rectangular yellow vagrants.

... But the Reaper people are sweet decent folk, nevertheless — although the usual gormless idiots appear to infest the forums. ... But the demo (used in the PDF manual) “All through the night” is not some raunchy rocker’s dementia, but a really lovely Welsh folksong — completely un-DAW-like, at least as I have come to know the art....


Whoa! ... Now I’m gonna get all Mr. Science here; on a 2nd machine where I had installed Reaper but not fought with it for hours trying to get “options / preferences” to do something for my disappearing tooltips, the “tooltipdelay” thing above wasn’t there — but the tooltips were still of the shy disappearing flavor. (Which to my trained computer scientist mind means the default ini file is bogus, comporting with my previous dubious speculation.) ... But adding a line with “tooltipdelay=0” right below “[reaper]” at the top of the file made them loiter decently, also.

BOOK: REAPER 4 Unleashed

by Geoffrey Francis, and an admirable investigation into the mildly-further reaches of Reaper. ... I didn’t get very far, but it is already a revelation, providing a guided tour (starting on page 13) to Reaper’s 5 million options / preferences. I was working through this, away from the console, highlighting particularly amusing sections; for example, clicking anything in Reaper by default moves the playback cursor (“head”) to where I clicked, which is often not what I want, and by golly, there’s a preference for that! ... Back in the lab, without the book at hand, I couldn’t remember what it was! ... There are, after all, five million of ’em.[1]

The trick here is anyone can tell you about the option; I just did, in the note. But there are five million! ... The book organizes them, and that makes all the difference, and is why we pay him the big bucks to tell us this stuff....

Graphics versus Sound

As I noted above, the Reaper ethos is not enchanted with the beautiful graphics images which accompany various other systems (i.e. like the minilab below). Reaper comes with a ton of VSTs, but they have minimal graphics. ... The point here is you only need enough graphics to operate the device; if anything, the sound can suffer from interference from too much cute graphics. The ReaEQ equalizer, for instance, has graphical draggable EQ points, because it’s much harder to use an EQ with numeric filled-in fields. But that’s about the best you get.

I used to be fully lined-up with such a stern philosophy, and while it’s perfectly true that when you buy one of these cute graphical VSTs, you’re often paying for the exquisite graphics, but I don’t regard that as such an unspeakable bad bargain these days; it’s show biz, you know? ... But I still won’t buy them, because of most of ’em are copy extorted....

Some Harmless Definitions

dBV, dBu, and dbFS, Comp. editor, EG, Loop, Scrubbing, Stab, Stem, Summing box, Latency....


1. Reaper’s preference to stop moving the playback cursor when I click anything is “Options / preferences / Audio / Playback”, “Seek playback when clicked”, and leave just “Top ruler” checked. At least I did that, and and now I feel so much better. ... You, of course, will do that, and then, forgetting, rant furiously about “why doesn’t it move the playback thingey when I clicked!?!?!?” — and I actually did that recently. ... But apparently I didn’t understand what it’s supposed to do and got annoyed all over; apparently it stops the playback from changing (what the option says of course) when one clicks; it doesn’t stop the enormous red cursor line from moving, seemingly randomly. No of course not we’d have to fly-in programmers from the coast to make that happen....

2. Do be sure and see my sensitive and thoughtful analysis of Beatmaker 2 for the iThings....

3. I’d like to mention other copy extortion suspects known to me, in a glorious dishonor roll; the good, the bad, but mostly The Ugly: The free version of Cubase that came with my Zoom R16 and 5 million other audio products was astonishingly invasive and stupid. Likewise, the “free” Kontakt Player; if that’s free, I’d hate to see the slave version. ... Both of these criminal conspiracies make no effort to determine why their potential victims evade them; I assume because they know why, and they figure it’s good, they’ve shown those nasty would-be thieves! ... Well they’ve shown me; I will only purchase a Steinberg (Cubase) or Native Instruments (Kontakt) product under provocation, and I wish to thank them for providing this relatively-inexpensive way of finding out just how awful dealing with them is....

And then in a fey mood, I actually downloaded the Slave Kontakt player again Wed 6/18/14, and played it half an hour or so with only one crash! .... The degradation seemed less extreme, and of course you have to reload the instrument every time you run the program — but even a brief VSTi experiment worked, with only one stuck note! ... Perhaps I can learn to love the chains. ... But I must confess in shame, I still don’t “get” the instruments....

The Good: The beautiful Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ has a USB key not without menace, but the demo is free of cost and degrading abuse (at least, intentional). ... Of course my beloved Reaper is OK....

The Fabulously Cute But Often Broken ~$100 Arturia Minilab and Its Existential Significance in Our World Today

It sings, it dances — actually it does very little except provide access to 5,000 antique synthesizer samples, through the “Analog Lab” product. Actually the unit, the software, and the web site totter on the edge of incoherence if not chaos, but of course they’re French. ... And this unit’s obsolete and there’s a new one....

And of course it’s a handy general-purpose tiny-key MIDI controller, but today we all have those falling out of our closets. No it’s those 5,000 synth sounds that make the cake, and it even has a “studio view” which highlights with a heavenly glow the chosen one, the particular ancient synth which will supposedly give voice after you click one of the selections. I of course actually have a studio with a fabulous collection of analog synths none of which appear in the Analog Lab, and mine sound just as bad. ... As a late dismissive friend put it, “they all sound like harmonicas” — and the Minilab doesn’t even come with reverb! — which I could cure by stuffing it as a VSTi into my revered Reaper DAW, although I fear to try after the hour or so of angst and chaos it took to get it making sounds in the Florida music room & duck reserve. ... Perhaps it’s all in aid of authenticity, but it came nowhere near the pain generated by my ultra-authentic PAIA synth, another no-show in the Analog Lab, which I cast away decades ago to some suffering pilgrim with the absolute restriction that they never ask me how it works. ... But now I understand why the magazine puffery is occasionally grumpy about these gadgets that come without effects — i.e. stuff that makes it listenable....


Do I feel cheated? ... Of course not! ... Here I have at my beck and call the astonishing noises of our times, arrayed in total random chaos. ... There is a “filter view” where one can select from about 50 attributes in 3 oddly-limited categories — “brass” but no “flutes” or “woodwinds”, so my chuffy Poly800 flute won’t appear, apparently, but then again it’s another no-show revered alte meister synth, and other than the filters, there appears to be no index or list or organizational principle of any kind for the 5,000 samples — other than scrolling through the whole thing and copying the names on the screen — not that most of them would help much anyway (“01-MultiSequence” anyone?), but I could’ve searched for “flute” in a text file. ... But I suppose it’s all part of the rigorous and savage copy restriction discipline which is always the prime directive of such things. ... So synth-away oh ancient tattered sampler! Sing of the obscure past and the awful future, with your blips and beeps tempered with strange spacey delays and wooshing.

... Then I thought the VSTi didn’t work, but it was just me; I hadn’t right-clicked the Reaper track meter and checked “monitor input” as I eventually determined by cunningly comparing it to a track with a VSTi that did work. ... Heck anyone could make that mistake — I have repeatedly, or anyway one of 500 just like it. ... Actually what I always forget is never never try and configure a new Reaper track; just copy a working one and alter it. ... Anyway I fixed my reverb problem by sticking a Behringer FEX800 on my monitor speakers, so all the computer bleeps and beeps will echo. ... Oh and here’s a funny: Arturia advises us to update our minilab firmware to overcome various and numerous faults to “Firmware (Latest)” but Arturia’s “MIDI Control Center” definitely shows my minilab is!...

The tottering MIDI

But that was 1/20/14; I left it alone so sad and troubled, and @ 4/13/14 it VSTied no more. No, wait; it did once. But then it stopped. I was raving and ranting here, but I think it’s fair to say it’s just junk. I mean on my first encounter today it MIDIed not, not to the sacred MIDIox, and not to Reaper. But then I ran the standalone program, and it MIDIed so happy and gay, like “what me MIDI?”. And then I went back to MIDIox and Reaper, and it would MIDI for them. But then it stopped, but just in Reaper. ... Somehow it managed to uncheck its entry in its own Reaper UI form. Or perhaps I did that, infuriated at its subtle jests, guided by unseen spirits, or perhaps it was just moon phase. ... I will now solemnly report that the Minilab worked the next day. Without abuse. Will it go for 3? ... Yes! Arturia Minilab has functioned as a VSTi for three days! Not entirely elapsed, but still on three different days! ... Go tell the people. ... The Fourth Day! A new frontier for French technology!

Sat 6/14/14: But then I left it alone too long, and it forgot its brains again, at least its stand-alone brains, and I had to patiently click the various menu buttons and select all anew its beloved minilab keyboard. ... Probably in the trackless days since last it ran I changed something, evil feckless user that I am. And subsequently it worked without protest in Reaper. So all is well until I leave it alone and afraid for another month. ... Well it’s survived until 9/3/14! Ship it!

Sat 6/6/15 6:36 am: Gee I’ve been reading these British EDM magazines so long I can actually recognize the models! And really, I wouldn’t want to have to adjust these ancient monsters to produce their oh-so-desirable patches, so I guess I prefer the edited/curated versions. I was reading Sound On Sound, for instance, about some tremendously successful fellow who bought his own antique Yamaha CS80, and I could wander right into the music room and play the indescribably-appealing samples. ... It makes me think....

No New Hardware Need Apply

But then I foolishly thought I’d upgrade the software and maybe get some wonderful “Solina” (a string machine?) samples. I’m not sure if I was upgrading the Minilab software or whatever, but after it took 5 minutes to download 2 megabytes of 303 megabytes or something, I cancelled. Which worked! And the minilab still worked, too! ... But now I only have four activations left, because I foolishly activated it, because they said I should. Before I went looking for trouble, I had no knowledge of such a thing, and I was irrefutably better-off. That is, the stupid thing isn’t transferable from machine to machine. So you can stuff that up your laptop. ... Although if I ever do try to install it somewhere else, I will religiously avoid their “software center” and/or online copy extortion features, unless they force me to use them.

— the ancient synthesist
Sat 6/16/15

The Fabulously Chic Owen Studio Compound ...

Nestled in a leafy corner of exclusive Long Island, Owen creates sonic masterpieces with little thought for the morrow, so free and gay....

Owen has numerous — well, 2 or three — ancient valueless synthesizers, and even a home-made surf/wind machine! ... Like a feature in a British music mag!

Like all incredibly creative modern musical artistes, Owen keeps a valuable antique mixer on hand — a genuine Fostex 454, prized by the subtlest studio magicians for its non-standard 24 volt phantom power, which imparts a mysterious “something” to the unfortunate condenser mics plugged into it. ... Owen would, if he ever mixed anything “in the box”, use it just as a summing mixer, of course, but in actuality it mostly functions as a giant paperweight; perhaps tying the room together....

For that antique tape quality, Owen might use the Sony 250, a prized hi-fi heirloom. ... The HP200 on the right conceivably could provide useful test signals — or authentic electronic boops! ... A picture of the beautiful VS840ex is behind the Sony.

... But the attic studio like all things must pass, and gave way at last to the ultra-fashionable duck reserve, with more (cheaper!) guitars, and olde worlde bricks....

“God sees you but he understands”

— an antique store plaque, in America