All things Sound
For Sony Walkman’s 30th anniversary, 13-year old Scott Campbell tries it for a week. Hilarious for us oldsters to see our old fave equipment through a young-person’s eyes.
My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.
He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.
Size? cumbersome. Handy belt-clip, but with that weight? (you hafta read the article to find out its effect for current 13 year olds).
When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.
Though one teacher got nostalgic. Two tantalizing questions:
How long did it take for Campbell to figure out that there was a side B to this tape?
And how did he create his own impromptu “Shuffle” effect?
You hafta read the article to find out the ...Read More
Am currently working hard to prepare for Friday’s “Birthing Digital” workshop at USC for the Southwest Oral History Association conference. What equipment am I bringing? Here’s a list.
YES, you can still sign up! (late fee waived!)
- Two Mac Laptops to demo and test all the direct-to-computer tools
- USB mic
- 2 USB Audio Interfaces: Edirol’s and M-Audio’s
- No wait, make that three. Creative Lab’s EEMU USB Audio Interface
- iPod Nano and Belkin TuneTalk, plus Belkin GoStudio. Or, everything you wanted to know about turning your iPod into an audio studio (or quick, stealthy recorder)
- M-Audio Microtrack II Portable Digital Recorder
- Samson’s Zoom Handy H2 Portable Digital Recorder*
- Marantz PMD 620 Portable Digital Recorder*
- LiveScribe Pulse Pen
- Possibly a Tascam portable recorder
- My own portable recording kit, as written about here
*A couple of these will be for sale, (very) gently used, in about 3 weeks’ ...Read More
In L.A. Friday, March 27, I’ll be presenting a workshop called for “Birthing Digital: Portable Digital Audio Recorders” for the Southwest Oral History Association’s Conference that afternoon. Location: USC. Register: Cost: SOHA members $35, Non-Members $50, Students $20. (+online registration fees). Short description: When an audio recording is initially stored as bits, bytes, ones and zeroes, it’s called “born digital.” The birthing begins with two people having a conversation. It ends with a digital audio file. This 3-hour workshop focuses on what happens in between. It’s part theory, part show and tell, and part practice using a glorious array of portable audio recorders.
An overview of the most common routes to go from spoken word to audio file. It will provide a framework to understand the myriad portable audio recorders available on the market. There will also be an introduction to some basics of audio, digital sampling, file formats, and concepts that underlie best recording practices.
The Show and Tell:
A look at many of the common portable audio recorders. Recorder types will include portable flash memory, portable internal micro-drives, direct-to-CD, recording pens, components that connect microphone directly to computer, and add-on components that extend functionality of common audio devices such as certain ...Read More
A Gallery of Custom Tape Decks, wherein Jeff Jacobs restores old audio technology as art, via BoingBoing Gadgets. I love the meta-line here. Jacobs restores tape decks, which I think of as tools for restoring (and digitizing) audio. If tape decks are art, then there’s a ton of art at Richard Hess’s audio tape restoration studio! In decades to come, when those machines grow ever scarcer, the BoingBoing post points to another source to find those long-obsolete tape decks of the world: the personal collections of geeks.
Dr West, I presume. How do I know it? Kareem told me. That Kareem. The Basketball Kareem. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his blog. No kidding. Quoth Kareem: “In 1962, Dr. [James] West and his partner Gerhard Sessler invented the electret microphone used in almost 90% of all microphones built today — over 1 billion a year.”
Electret (also called “condenser”) microphones are the type generally used in lavalier (or lapel) microphones. (Hello every TV anchor and guest in recent history. How do we hear you? It’s electret!) Electret mics are used in all mini-sized microphones.
I love how I came to learn of Dr. West, electret mic’s co-inventor. Though I have passing awareness (heh. pun unintended) of Pro Basketball, and have heard the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I read a local (L.A.) blog by Tony Pierce, who became the blog editor at the L.A. Times, and though I saw an announcement that he got Kareem to start blogging, I had no idea. I yawned, oh, it’s a sports blog. Whatever. Didn’t even click ...Read More
The recording was a bootlegged Woodie Guthrie live concert. 1949. Original format is something called a wire recording – which predates widespread use of the magnetic tape recorder. Getting a 50+ year old format to playback while making a recording off it was quite an effort. The Woody Guthrie Live Wire album won a Grammy was for “Best Historical Album” – the mathematics involved was to use ambient noise in the recording to re-set the tempo after portions were stretched and broken.
Shortly after September 11, 2001, a small, heavy package wrapped in brown paper arrived in the mail at the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City. Inside was a mess of wires.
Guthrie’s daughter Nora eventually figured out that the suspicious package wasn’t a bomb, but rather a recording of her father on a device that predated magnetic tape. After a year of searching, she managed to track down someone with the equipment to play it.
What she finally heard was a bootleg recording of her father singing a live performance in 1949. It was the first time she had ever heard him perform in front of a live audience. He had developed Huntington’s chorea and stopped performing when she was a ...Read More
Oryoki’s First Impressions of the Marantz PMD620 (plus responses). It seems as though the preamps are better than expected.
The preamp specifications Marantz publishes for the PMD620 are similar to the specs of the PMD660 recorder. This is not a good sign, because the PMD660 is (correctly) criticized as having relatively high self-noise and poor performance when recording loud material.
However, in my brief tests the PMD620 sounded better than the specs might suggest.
The built-in mics are adequate. They have a somewhat better sound when you point the top of the mic at the subject, holding the recorder as if it were a TV remote control. The sound is thinner and brighter when you point the front or back of the recorder at the subject (this points the top of the recorder and the mics at the ceiling)....Read More
Covina library has digital storytelling station to collect stories about city’s 125-year history. Cool. It’s local, very local. I’ll go and see. It’s from a grant award. If it goes well, more of these may pop up in libraries in the State of California.
After winning a competitive grant from the California State Library this summer, the Covina Public Library received a “digital storytelling station,” a massive cabinet full of digital equipment valued at about $3,000.
The equipment, which includes a new Apple iMac computer, a digital camera, a printer, a scanner, a tape deck, a record player and a DVD player, was awarded to the library with the hope of documenting Covina’s history through the eyes of those who lived it.
“We are very excited about this great library program that uses cutting-edge information technology to explore and preserve California’s untold history,” said Susan Hildreth, state librarian of California. “We look ...Read More
Kenneth Harbaugh reflects on stories his grandfather told him about World War 2. (links goes to page on NPR with link to 3+ minute audio file). Harbaugh describes being a young kid listening to the humorous twists to his grandfather’s stories (“War, for all I knew, was fun”), and then, as they both got older, the stories took on a different meaning.
When I was nine, my family visited the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg, near where the Battle of the Bulge took place. I had never seen my grandfather cry before. But watching his face as “Taps” was played, I finally made the connection between the tales he told and the real cost of his war. I began to ask for the other stories, as much as I knew they might terrify me.
Besides being just a good story about a grandson and grandfather, two other things about this audio essay struck me:
The stories change over time, as the listener grows old enough to hear the more difficult parts of someone’s life story. And, for all I know, the aging witness to past events wants to pass ...Read More
Ontario, CA – Marantz unveiled its PMD620, a new handheld solid state SD-Flash memory recorder, due to ship in November for a street price of $399. [Click image to enlarge] UPDATE: It’s Shipping!!!
The Marantz PMD620 will record in WAV or MP3 file formats (16 or 24 bit resolution) from its two built-in omnidirectional mics or a plug-in external microphone. It can record in mono or stereo. It stores recordings on SD memory.
It is powered by two AA batteries (recorders that take standard batteries make better field recorders, since you can buy fresh batteries anywhere; custom batteries present more of a problem). The Marantz representative plugged something into its side which I assumed to be AC power, but I didn’t ask.
I did plug in my own headphones and external microphone to try it out. Alas for the noisy trade show room; I couldn’t really hear the sound quality (this was ...Read More
Audio gadgets, workflows, meeting people, and stories. PodcampSoCal was a good day yesterday. I was expecting to have different breakout regions in the room, but we all followed a single track together as one room. I saw several Zoom Handy H2s set up on small tripods, recording the proceedings. And one or two Zoom H4, too. Looks like I’ll be turning from The War and what’s your story to an audio geek gadget maven for the next day or so. The agenda was full and continuous I didn’t get a chance to ask people what their experience was like using their various recorders. But I’ll be at the show Friday and Saturday, so I hope to do that then.
Oh, and family stories did come up; I managed to get myself on the agenda at day’s end and spoke of the Veterans History Project. One guy, Dan Bach (he produces a math show and wore a tee shirt filled with lovely graphic symbolic goodness related to prime numbers), mentioned his dad during the Q & A: A WWII vet, a prisoner of war who received his purple heart 60-some years later. Perhaps I heard about him in the news? Just looked it up, and here’s the story of Leo Bach. He was at Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed, and he was shot down over Germany. I told him, you gotta interview your dad; this field kit has your name on it (I only had a handful of Veteran History Project field ...Read More
I downloaded Listen & Type last night. It’s a handy transcription tool for Mac OS (Shareware. $15. 20 days’ tryout time). I’ve mentioned it before. But oh, it bears mentioning again. (Later today I’ll post the results of that transcription session). It takes a few minutes to adjust to after launch, but then you’re up and runni– er, typing.
When you first launch Listen & Type, an Open dialog box appears, directing you to open a sound or movie file. (Listen & Type works with any media file that QuickTime can work with.)
Once you locate and open your media file, a new window appears, with playback controller and a small button labeled “Front.” Here’s the part that makes the app both tricky and wonderful: The window with the sound file floats above other windows on your screen. Once you click anywhere on the screen after it first opens, the Listen & Type window, though floating on top, is not the “active” window. Open up any text editor and that window is active. You can type to transcribe the speech while using a set ...Read More
The Samson Zoom Handy H2, the new portable digital recorder, is finally shipping. Street price just under $200. This is a combination of low-cost and high-quality (recording uncompressed audio in WAV files). I just heard from someone who ordered it –the person sounded very happy thus far. I’ll see if I can get more of a report.
You can use the Zoom Handy H2 as a standalone recorder, or else use it as a USB microphone and plug it straight into your computer to record onto your hard disk drive. The portable method will allow you to record for a good while; The Zoom H2 Handy will take the newer type of 4GB SD flash memory cards (its older sibling, the H4, takes only 2 GB)
Check out the equipment store for with other equipment and supplies for recording and preserving spoken word stories.
Related: Earlier post about Zoom Handy H2 with description
First discs rolled off presses August 17, 1982. So, if digital lasts forever.. or 5 years, whichever comes first, CDs may (may!) last forever.
The news story follows the way that CDs changed the music industry.. the rise.. and, with other digital formats, the fall. But the part that interests me the most are the techno-geeky deets about how the CD came to be, well, the CD:
Yet it had been a risky technical endeavor to attempt to bring digital audio to the masses, said Pieter Kramer, the head of the optical research group at Philips’ labs in the Netherlands in the 1970s.
“When we started there was nothing in place,” he told The Associated Press at Philips’ corporate museum in Eindhoven.
The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. And the lasers were ...Read More
I’ve been finalizing an Audio CD of a 1980-era recording that my Mom gave to me. (For her birthday). I’m making copies for her and for a brothers and a coupla cousins that will be at a family gathering. The “think long term” mindset has dug in and changed the way I mark CDs and my other “metadata” (data about the data) that I’m including with the CD. The recording came to me with some gaps in info, a generation and family branch removed, so I’m learning by doing and trying to create as dense a nugget of info to pass on to others with the CD as I can.
I was amused by a little in-situ metadata that was part of the recording itself, identifying who the main speakers are. The original recording was made by my grandfather’s cousin, Bud or George (I hafta ask my Mom again. I wasn’t there, I don’t know. Have never met either.) It opens with my grandpa telling a story. At the end, the narrator’s voice comes on and says, “That was Bruce B[ family name].” My great uncle, his brother, also told a story. The narrator identified him, too. It’s obvious he made this recording for his side of the family, and identified the speakers on the other side—that would be my side. I, of course recognize the voices that he identified, and am frustrated by ...Read More