• On Mic Preamps

    I recently rewired my home studio and added the capacity to include some outboard gear in the process. Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing some recordings to work out the kinks and get set up to record a new batch of originals that I’ve been working on. As is inevitable once my recording setup reaches a good spot, I stumble across some article or YouTube video where I see some new piece of gear and the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) immediately kicks in.

    This time around it was mic preamps. Particularly the Avalon VT-737. There’s no way I’d spend that kind of money, but once you start thinking about gear like that it’s amazing how quickly you can convince yourself you need something almost as good or at least better than what you’ve got.

    This lead me to a deep dive on mic preamps, doing some listening comparisons of recordings as part of reviews folks have done online and, more relevant, comparing the pre-amps my Audient (which has the same pre-amps that Audient uses in their consoles) vs the pre-amp in my Behringer ADA8200, which are, well, utilitarian to say the least.

    Audient’s console. My ID 22 has the same preamp (and same great-feeling volume knob)

    So here’s where I landed:

    If the priority is “clean” amplification and you don’t need tons of gain (meaning, you’re not trying to capture the sound of a butterfly flapping its wings) you can get away with some pretty pedestrian gear. Meaning, while there was a subtle difference between my Audient and Behringer as far as clean gain goes, it was really only noticeable when I needed a lot of gain from the preamp. If I was sending in a pretty good, loud signal (e.g. mic’ing an amplifier), I think I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could hear a difference between the Audient and the Behringer.

    Sound on Sound did a pretty good analysis of a ton of mic preamps and compared the resulting wav files and then did anonymous testing and the reviewers couldn’t hear a difference between mic pre amps of various price points, either. That said, they were recording a keyboard, not a human voice. They did so to get a consistent signal for the testing, but I imagine had they recorded something like a human voice or a cello or fiddle there would likely be some minor subjective differences between the mic pre amps when sending a clean signal—but minor and subject are the key points here.

    As I started digging into the reviews and working with my own gear, I realized something really important: while many preamps are very similar (regardless of tech or price point) when they’re generating a clean or distortion free signal, they are HUGELY difference in how they sound when they are overdriven. Meaning, if I nudged the Behringer pre’s just a smidge above their comfort level with my WA-87 microphone it turned my voice into this buzzy garbage. Clearly distorted and overdriven. The Audient is a totally different story. Somewhere between clean and overdriven with the Audient pre amp is this really amazing spot where the sound just sounds bigger or more saturated without the annoying buzz. I couldn’t find that sweet spot anywhere with the Behinger.

    I imagine with a tube pre amp, that sweet spot is not only wider but capable of more varying degrees of saturation given the forgiveness of tubes. (As an aside: I remember back in the day I had a CD player that had a tube preamp built into its signal chain. I now realize that the tube in the preamp was useless unless it was being overdriven just a smidge and given how much the audiophile magazines like numbers when it comes to CD players, especially clean/non-distortion numbers, that the tube was probably not being leveraged enough or even at all! Would have been a great hack to see how it sounded with a smidge hotter signal.)

    So, a sweet solid state pre-amp or a really nice tube preamp, is only doing its do its best work if it is being nudged a bit beyond its comfort zone. Any preamp can get good and clean, or at least a lot of cheap preamps can, but what makes a good preamp is its ability to give you a great sound when you push it a little out of its comfort zone.

    I remember doing a long string of vocal recordings in my home studio and then putting on Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger and just having my jaw drop at the way his vocals sound on that record. Willie, of course, has probably my favorite voice of any singer, ever. But that said, now that I listen to that recording with this knowledge in mind, I would bet that some of that saturation is coming from the super subtle distortion being introduced into the chain by a tube pre-amp.

    This is all to say, now that I’ve stopped worrying about meters and lights with my Audient preamp and started using my ears instead, I wish I could go back and record everything I’ve every recorded. Or at least every vocal. Live and learn.

  • Prompt: Write me a powershell script to run on a MICROSOFT Windows device that returns the enabled TLS versions.
    ChatGPT: (copy script, run): You’re running v. 1.2 (true!)
    MICROSOFT’S CoPilot (copy script/run): You don’t have any TLS (false!)
    Copilot, why you so dumb?

  • Dreary gray winter day, I’m looking out my window at the melting remains of last week’s snow. Need to turn around the energy for the afternoon’s projects, time to pull in the heavyweights: Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben. https://album.link/i/1600510419

  • Guitar Resources page

    I’m building out a page with resources I use for learning/practicing guitar but as I’m building it I’m thinking it would be much better with a database on the backend to store this information rather than just writing a bunch of text.

    I feel like there’s got to be a way to do this (sql backend) in WordPress and then figure out a way to neatly display the data on a WordPress page somehow. If I could do that I think I’d be way more likely to keep it up to date. time to go spelunking in the WordPress plugins!

  • Started listening to The Practice of Practice, trying to add a bit more structure to my practice sessions to make the best of my limited time. Verdict is still out. Audiobook has had several glitches in the first 30 minutes or so but looks like good material will be covered: https://thepracticeofpractice.com

  • Currently listening to this gem by Asleep at the Wheel. After a morning working on chord substitutions, there’s nothing like some western swing to illustrate just how many voicings you can fit into some simple changes. These Western swing cats were geniuses.

  • Seeing so many folks posting about their Apple Vision orders. Channelling my inner Steve Ballmer (who was notoriously wrong about the iPhone), I hate this thing and hopes it’s a flop. I don’t want to live in a world where these things are as ubiquitous as iPhones. Looking down at your phone while you talk to me is one thing. Pretending to look at me while we talk is even worse.

  • Nextcloud for bands

    Playing in a band generates all sorts of files that you want to share with your band mates, from live show recordings, videos, promo materials, charts, etc. Some of us were getting tired of shelling out the money to Dropbox to accommodate this sharing. So, this past weekend I spun up a self hosted Nextcloud for sharing audio with the guys in Kül d’Sack. No reason for us collectively as a band to be spending $400+/yr to share files.

    In no particular order, here are some tips or lessons from my experience building up Nextcloud:

    • I first tried to do this on a Raspberry Pi 3 B+. I’m pretty handy with the platform but even so, as I started getting into the weeds, i realized it would be much easier to execute some of the install on an old Mac mini that I had laying around.
    • Note to self: I’m sure the Mac Mini is probably drawing more power than the rpi. I’d love to know what the difference is on operating costs.
    • This past year I’ve gotten much better with understanding Docker, so I knew I wanted to do this with Docker, behind an nginx reverse proxy (as I already have that set up as a reverse proxy for a few other self-hosted services.) After futzing around a bit with various docker-config files, I opted for the Nextcloud All in One (AIO) installer. Compared to other methods for getting Nextcloud running in Docker, this is hands-down the easiest, most user-friendly way. I’ve yet to see any disadvantages to using the AOI.
    • Hint: If you’ve got a big old drive that you want to dedicate to your Nextcloud for file storage, set your Nextcloud data directory before running the AIO installer. The AIO instance is arguably more secure because it can’t hit anything on the filesystem outside of the Docker container by default, but I had a very tough time trying to give it access to other volumes on my Mac after I clicked install. In the end, I just reinstalled and specified a large drive as the Nextcloud data dir.
    • To help with network performance while transfering data locally, I setup https://github.com/pi-hole/docker-pi-hole and created a local DNS entry so that traffic isn’t going out and back.

    The steps are to get the AIO installer running in Docker and then the AIO installer kicks off a bunch of new containers once you configure the install preferences through a web browser. Like I said, much easier than other methods. Here’s the command I used to spin up the AIO installer:

    For Mac, running behind a reverse proxy

    sudo docker run \
    –init \
    –sig-proxy=false \
    –name nextcloud-aio-mastercontainer \
    –restart always \
    –publish 8080:8080 \
    –env APACHE_PORT=11000 \
    –env NEXTCLOUD_DATADIR=”/Volumes/Mini1TBStorage/nextcloud_data” \
    –volume nextcloud_aio_mastercontainer:/mnt/docker-aio-config \
    –volume /var/run/docker.sock.raw:/var/run/docker.sock:ro \

    Another important note, when you’re first installing Nextcloud from the AIO installer, you can’t refer to it by the hostname assigned for reverse proxying, instead you need to refer to it by the local IP address. Meaning, I kicked off the installer Docker and tried to hit the URL of the reverse proxy that was sending traffic to the Mac Mini and it failed. I had to address the Mac Mini directly with its local IP address. During the install, the install process runs some tests to make sure your reverse proxy is set up correctly, which is pretty cool.

    So far I’ve just added the guys in the band to a group and shared out a folder to that group and am currently syncing our Dropbox data down to my Nextcloud folder on my desktop using rsync. Once we all get comfortable with the new system, I may send that rsync in both directions or something similar if/when we decide to fully transistion off of Dropbox.

    We had a few 2GB+ files in Dropbox that took a long time to sync to Nextcloud but smaller files (anything under a GB) went through very quickly.

    Another advantage about self-hosting is that I should be able to mount my Nextcloud backup in such a way that it will get backed up to my Backblaze backup.

    Nextcloud also has some contact and calendar tools built in to it. We haven’t talked about leveraging those yet but anyone who’s played in a band knows what a pain in the ass it is to track everyone’s availability for gigs, contacts at local bars, etc. So Nextcloud seems purpose-built for some of this stuff.

    I am curious to see what the hit is on my network performance if we’re regularly sending stems back and forth my home network. Will see. I plan on reporting back in a few weeks.

  • This has got to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard. Unbelievable. Bloody pigs mask?

    eBay will pay a $3 million criminal penalty for a harassment and intimidation campaign targeting a Massachusetts-based couple who ran a newsletter that was sometimes critical of the company.
    — Read on www.cnn.com/2024/01/11/business/ebay-cyberstalking-settlement/index.html

  • Recipe Cruft-Cleaner

    I’m not so much of a recipe-using cook, but sometimes I like to review several recipes when I’m making something to get ideas for spice/ingredients that I might not be thinking of incorporating into my version or to get an idea of different cooking times, etc.

    The bloat of online recipe sites don’t help with this. Looking for a recipe online is a frustrating exercise in clicking a bunch of popup ads and scrolling four miles down the page past where the author strains to relate the recipe to their favorite TV show and how they they passed their driver’s exam before offering up the actual recipe.

    I’d never heard of https://cooked.wiki until someone alerted me to the cool feature of prepending “cooked.wiki/” to the front of any online recipe and it gives you a new page with just the recipe and ingredients. Try it. Google for a recipe, open the link, then prepend “cooked.wiki/” to the front of the https:// in your address bar and hit Enter. Super helpful.

    Given that I’m usually on my iPad or iPhone when I’m in the kitchen looking for inspirado, copy/pasting is a challenge so here’s a shortcut that does the hard part. When looking at recipe on your iOS device, click the share button (see photos for before and after), select “Recipe Wizard” et voila enjoy.

Current Spins

Top Albums


Reading Notes

  • Unable, then, to see the world because I have forgotten the way of being in the world that enables vision in the deepest sense, I […]
  • Suppose Bob writes an email to Sue, who has no existing business relationship with Bob, asking her to draw a picture of a polar bear […]
  • The large majority of the world’s decaffeination still happens through chemical-based processes that use things like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. I don’t know what […]
  • All the forces at play within us and without seem to be centrifugal forces, pulling us apart. I remain interested in understanding the nature of […]
  • FWIW, my Emacs of the moment is emacs-plus@29 installed by Homebrew: brew install emacs-plus@29 –with-mailutils –with-xwidgets \ –with-imagemagick –with-native-comp Source: Browsing in Emacs – Volume […]

Saved Links

  • Great resource, teachers, charts, tools. #music #guitar #bluegrass — Direct link
  • US-based non-profit organization and public charity dedicated to fostering authentic Daoist study and practice and to preserving and transmitting traditional Daoist culture — Direct link
  • It’s no mystery why Marc Andreessen thinks people like him should be in charge. But how did he get so many of the rest of us to sign on? #Andreessen #Computers #Democracy #HNWI;Wealth;Billionaires;1 #Income #Industry #Inequality #Internet #Jobs #L #Marc #Percent #Tech #and #the — Direct link
  • Prominent crypto venture capitalist Chris Dixon provides an unconvincing bible for blockchain solutionists. — Direct link
  • What Can I Do about the Climate Emergency? (A LOT! HERE’S HOW!) Everybody’s practical guide to what they can do against climate chaos and for a just and thriving natural and human world — Direct link
  • tutorials on reverb with the LX480 — Direct link
  • Move and resize windows in macOS using keyboard shortcuts or snap areas – makes me realize how much I'm under-utilizing mosaic. — Direct link
  • Simple and powerful keyboard enhancement on macOS — Direct link
  • Echo is a node script to post new items from an RSS feed to various services including Micro.blog and Mastodon. Checkout the readme on GitHub for installation instructions. Use the forms below to generate your config. — Direct link
  • Through tools like ChatGPT, anyone can conjure up rewritten Wikipedia articles, essays, code, poetry, and more with just a few prompts. This "democratisation" of content creation is pitched as The Great Promise to empower voices previously unheard. But democratisation is, arguably, a misnomer. It suggests an egalitarian shift in the power dynamics of content creation, purportedly enabling a more diverse range of voices to be heard. This perspective – at best, blindly idealistic and, at worst, cynically manipulative – fails to acknowledge the underlying complexities and potential pitfalls of an AI-dominated internet. It assumes equal access to and understanding of […]