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

Archives: 2005

December 15, 2005

Nady RSM-1 Ribbon Mic

by Chris Randall

So, Santa Claus brought me one of these Nady RSM-1 ribbon mics for Christmas. I was, like, "well, how bad can a $129 ribbon mic be?" The answer is "not bad at all."

I've been fooling with this thing all day, and my belief is that, as long as you don't have any moral qualms about buying a cheap-ass rebranded Chinese microphone, this bad boy is well worth the money. It's rather bottom heavy, as ribbons are prone to be. Works really well on voice and guitar, the usual ribbon staples. I don't have a drum set in my studio to test it out on overheads or whatever, but for vocals, it's money well spent. I mean, any mic that works okay at all for $130 is a steal, and this one sounds quite good. Quite frankly, I'd have a hard time coming up with anything bad to say about it at all, let alone at its price point.

So, a strong "buy" recommendation from AI Headquarters on this.

December 15, 2005

The 4/4/4 Rule

by Chris Randall

No, it doesn't have anything to do with time signatures. Wilson inquired the following in the Sound Lab Mini Synth comments: " do [you] find time for such projects? I know you have a job, a wife, make and record music, write a blog, play video games... so how do you fit it all in? Seems like I barely have enough time for the job, the music, and the girlfriend. I'm curious as to how you manage your time." I'll answer here, because it might be an interesting topic of conversation, as I know a lot of professionals read this site, and I myself am curious.

The first thing to note is that I have two "jobs." My main source of income, first and foremost, is making music. Make no mistake; writing songs is not a hobby for me. My ASCAP checks are how I pay my rent and bills. My wife runs our record label, so I don't have to deal with that, for the most part, but a constant steady output of music is required to make a living when you're not on a major.

Audio Damage, which is my other "job," is actually starting to eclipse music making, in both time and income. However, it's only really time consuming for me when we're designing a new plug-in. Adam does the lion's share of the coding; I do the user interface and the editor, then write the presets, while he does everything in between. I also do all the support and the business side of things. So it evens out in time spent, but his comes all in one chunk, while mine is a more consistent daily regimen. 90% of the support involves answering the same questions over and over again, so that's not too taxing, time-wise. Tedious more than anything else.

So, keep in mind that when you work a normal 8-hour-a-day job, you also spend an hour getting ready and going to work, and an hour coming home and reorienting yourself to not being at work. So an 8-hour-a-day job actually takes at least 10 hours out of your day. If you sleep 8 hours, that only leaves 6 for everything else, and that's not enough. You have to spend those 6 hours coming up with reasons to go back to work the next day, in my limited experience on the subject.

When you're self-employed, there's a real danger of spending 20-hour days on your pet project, to the detriment of everything else. This is not only a recipe for burning out, but it actually hinders the process. So I practice what I call the 4/4/4 rule. I NEVER allow myself to work more than four consecutive hours on a single project. So my day will be split up in to four hours of working on Audio Damage graphics or whatever, four hours of writing music, four hours of working on some DIY thing, and then the rest of the day, I'll read or watch TV with my wife or something. As long as I do that, I'm able to keep things in their compartments, and no one thing takes over my day and becomes too much like real work.

The final key is that I never spend more than 12 hours a day working, period. Even if I disregard the other rule, and don't limit myself to 4 hours on a single project, I still never work more than 12 hours in a day, even if I have to force myself to stop.

I don't know if this is illuminating or helpful in any way, but if you're curious as to why it seems like I'm a monkey on meth, that's how I pull it off.

December 15, 2005

A reader question...

by Chris Randall

D'Macinnon writes:

I'm looking for a 24/96 or better capable USB recording interface/mic pre combo that's under a grand and has good ad converters and a good sound. I need it to be somewhat portable because I'm going to use it with a laptop that I'm hauling to record someone's piano. It's not really feasable for me to haul my entire recording rig over there or to move their piano so that's why I'm looking into a solution for portable tracking.

So how 'bout it? The first thing that came to mind for me was the Apogee Mini-Me, but that's over his budget, at $1300 or so. I think the Mini-Me is just about the most expensive USB interface there is, so pretty much anything else would work. As I'm strictly Firewire these days, I don't have a good opinion on this. Anyone have some input as to what the best USB interface for under a grand is?

December 14, 2005

Novachord Restoration...

by Chris Randall

In case you haven't been following this on Analog Heaven, or one of the many other mailing lists and forums it's appeared in, Paul Cirocco of CMS just finished his complete restoration of a Novachord, and has fully documented the process.

For those of you not in the know, the Novachord is generally accepted to be the first commercially-available synthesizer. It is tube-based and polyphonic. Check out the MP3s at the bottom of the resto page and prepare to be floored. This thing sounds good. Paul has said he'll be offering a complete sample CD for sale once he assembles same, so be on the lookout for that.

December 14, 2005

Sound Lab Mini Synth, Pt. 2

by Chris Randall

Quite a bit of progress on my Music From Outer Space Sound Lab Mini Synth today. I started stuffing the PCB, and after a couple hours I have all the resistors and most of the capacitors in, as well as all the sockets for the ICs. There's a lot of components on this little guy. I'd liken it to about the same amount of soldering as a PAiA Fatman.

I got a nice plastic enclosure at Fry's for it; I just need to paint it and make a decal for the front panel, and that'll be done. So, I guess a couple more four-hour days and it'll be done.


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