Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: August 2013

August 23, 2013

Let's Talk About Reel-To-Reel Decks...

by Chris Randall

I know this is a painful subject for the more modern amongst us, but feel free to step aside and let the old fogies go at it for a little while.

It is going to be a year or more before I can begin tilting at windmills in earnest, and in the meantime I'd like to do some experimenting and reminding myself of these techniques. While I know how to edit tape, make drum loops from tape, make "real" tape delay, all that jazz, it has been some years since I have exercised those particular muscles. While I already know what decks I'm getting for the Windmill (Otari MTR-10 with stereo 1/4" headstacks) I don't have the room in what will be my current space for those beasties, and I just want to have some fun.

So, in shopping about for smaller decks that might have the features that are necessary for What We Do, I landed on the Pioneer RT-701 as a possible candidate. These are readily available (there are several on eBay, and one on PHX Craigslist), reasonably priced, and appear to have the features we need in a very convenient form factor for the ultra-small studio I'll have for the next year. I have never seen one of these in real life, however, let alone used one.

My concern comes from the fact that these are direct drive. Nominally, in a situation where you'd be making tape loops and such-like, the pinch roller pulls the tape off the supply reel, and the take-up reel just has tension on it to ensure it, well, takes it up. So when you don't have a take-up reel (like when you're running tape loops) the device still operates correctly.

So, basically, can any AI readers verify that these will operate in the correct manner? That's the question. If not, suggestions as to another small form-factor (Gods forbid, even portable, aside from the too-spendy Nagra IV-S and its ilk) R2R that will fill the bill.

EDIT: It appears that deck does not have a cue mode, which makes it essentially useless for our needs. Back to the drawing board.

August 6, 2013

And The Baby Jesus Wept...

by Chris Randall

Okay, no apologies for the lack of posting. I told you in the last post but one that we had bought a house, and that, coupled with some Big News coming on the Audio Damage front in a short while, is currently demanding about 138% of my waking moments.

So the main reasons for this particular post are two-fold. First, I would like to get that neckbeard in the YouTube video screengrab below the fold, because I'm tired of seeing it. (Mission accomplished.) And second, I need to vent.

My wife has often told me, in our nearly 19 years of marriage, that if something's worth doing it is worth doing right. That has never been more apparent to me than now. While my discovery isn't specifically (or, well, even generally) music-related, the same precepts apply, as it turns out. I have occasionally taken on remix and production projects. It isn't something I terribly enjoy, and usually the benefactors of my tender ministrations don't enjoy it either. The reason for this is that if something is done half-assed or stupidly, I have a knack for letting the person that did it know. Come to find out, people don't really like being called stupid. Go figure.

But this house... it was built in 1967, and was "builder-grade" (which is Real-Estate language for "the bare minimum") for its time. In the 46 years between when it was built and when I acquired it, it had two owners. In that time, both owners did various upgrades and repairs. And in EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE that the opportunity presented itself, they took the path of least resistance. This has built up in four and a half decades to a rather ludicrous collection of half-assed bailing-wire-and-band-aids fixes and upgrades. The most egregious example is the $3000 worth of new granite countertops laid over the original particle board kitchen cabinetry. Today I discovered a pre-hung door frame that was held in place solely by the trim. (I was removing the trim prior to painting the room, and the door and frame literally fell out of the wall.) It goes on and on.

I fully expected this, and was aware of most of the problem "fixes" prior to purchasing the house. We got it for an excellent price, and it is in a good neighborhood; our fixes prior to moving in (which mostly consist of undoing the previous owners' errors and making all the doorknobs match) will increase its value by several tens of thousands of dollars, lubricated almost entirely by sweat. In short, I got what I paid for and will make a lot of money off this house; we wanted a mid-century modern Atomic Ranch that we could bring back to a modernized version of its original state, and build a ton of equity in the process, and for that particular want, we couldn't have done better.

However, let this be a lesson: if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. This house is like the difference between using a pre-made drum loop someone ginned up (no offense, Wade and Huggy; much love!!!), and taking the time to custom record and synthesize your drum sounds, with which you make a well-produced and nicely grooving rhythm part. Sure, the loop will work. But 46 years down the road, don't you wish somebody knew you took the time to do it right?

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