solarbird: (pingsearch)

So the new iPhone is out, and as predicted, it does away with the standard, unencumbered, unrestricted-by-patent 3.5mm audio connector. You can read about the release on BuzzFeed’s pretty decent writeup if you like. And this matters, even if you have an older phone, or an Android phone, because Apple is the kind of 10,000-pound-gorilla that can shape markets in this area. Even if you’re not an Apple user, this throws expectations around for the future.

There is an adaptor – really, a mini-interface-card disguised as a cable adaptor – to let you use 3.5mm devices with the lightning port. It has to contain a D/A converter and a small amplifier. One will be included with the new phones, and it costs $9 and doesn’t make your cable weird – it’s not some big block like the previous 30-pin to Lighting interface, and it’s not $30.

I have concerns about how good a job a $9-retail D/A converter and amp unit is doing to do at rendering quality audio. It will be very tempting to make it deliver “meh” quality output, and push people to new gear. That’s short-sighted, but let’s not pretend that stops anyone.

Countering that concern is the fact that at least at one point, Apple required a specific D/A converter for the Lightning audio standard: this one. I have no idea whether that’s still a requirement. But if it is, I’m willing to assume a baseline of competence for it – anything else would’ve been suicidal for the spec right out the gate.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about whether the new interface is built for digital rights management (DRM) as the long goal. I genuinely don’t think so, because it doesn’t really add much capability they don’t already have. Sooner or later, you have to go to analogue, and unless they want to remove the capability to connect to high-end audio equipment – and Bluetooth does not cut it for audiophiles, or necessarily even mid-philes – there has to be a way to hook up to standard, not-Apple gear.

You can’t get around that. Lest people forget, an Apple-provided solution for this already exists in the form of the dock – shown on the iPhone 7 front page, too. It’s not going away. And the reason it won’t go away is that while audiophiles are not a big market, they are exactly the kind of lifestyle market Apple wants and needs in order to support its brand, and more importantly, its markup. That’s not tech; that’s image management. Even without Steve, Apple knows its image.

Similarly, they can’t cut off concert musicians and DJs from plain old analogue output. There are too many audio pros out there using phones now, and while that market isn’t actually large, it’s a market Apple still invokes in image, and it’s too perceived as cool for Apple to throw overboard without throwing another serious wrench into its branding.

And frankly, with the recording industry betting what’s left of the farm on streaming, they don’t really don’t seem to care much about DRM on plain audio anymore. The RIAA destroyed the value of owning music, so from their point of view, who cares? Music is the billboard, not the product. I just really can’t see this as “HDMI for audio.”

So from a consumer standpoint, mostly I see “Apple has made your headphone cable annoying.” Even that’s assuming you’ve got your own headset and aren’t using the one Apple included, which most people do and will continue to do.

Now, this does get more complicated for musicians and DJs. Even if the included little cable adaptor is good – and let’s say it is straight up great – then you can’t trivially run the new devices on power and interface directly to performance gear anymore. That’s a headache. “Oh shit, I forgot to charge my phone” becomes a critical failure. Best case is you get a new device for that – and the dock is not suitable, you need something you can’t knock over or drop – which means one more damn thing to buy and carry around and/or lose.

Let’s also say you’re using some sort of audio software on the phone, and it doesn’t have a way to save files that you can transfer to other devices. (Even the software I have which does this doesn’t do it easily or well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass and I don’t do it. I use the headphone jack.) And a lot of software – like 8-bit emulator sequencers, and like Animoog, which I have actually used on multiple released tracks – just doesn’t do it. So that just got more annoying on newer hardware too. Another dock or another cable or another whatever. It’s one more step.

But, interestingly, not on the iPad. So far, I’ve heard no rumours that the iPad will drop the 3.5mm connector. And the iPad – particularly the iPad Pro – has very un-phonelike things like a keyboard case and special connector, and art stylus/pencil, and so on.

So what I’m thinking – particularly with the Pro – is that Apple is seeing a differentiation opportunity between “phone” and “pad,” and that they’re pushing “iPhone” to “purely consumption device,” paralleling their attempt to push “iPad” towards “creation device.” That’s not the actual usage out there – lots of people use the iPhone to make things – but it’s coherent market segmentation, and marketroids love their market segmentation.

Also, the iPad isn’t nearly as space-constrained as the iPhone. It’s just not comparable. On the iPhone, replacing that jack space with bigger battery and camera means vastly improved camera and about an hour extra battery life. On the iPad, it’s not a big enough percentage of space to care.

If the next generation of iPad keeps the 3.5mm analogue headphone jack – while adding support for the new Apple wireless headphone specs, of course – I’ll take that to be pretty solid supporting evidence. We’ll see.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-excited)

Up late last night in the Lair’s main studio, recording Kathryn Tewson on backing vocals for “We’re Not Friends.” She’s been singing since she was 14, and you may have heard her on things like Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, or the live performance of Lord of the Rings this year, she’s done some work for television, and she’s a member of both the Seattle Symphony Chorale and Opus 7. So while it’s rare for a supervillain to admit it, I am feeling seriously outclassed here. XD

She’s put a post up about the session on Facebook. I was really surprised that with all the work she’s done, she’s never worked with a close microphone before! But as someone from an overwhelmingly classical background (and enthusiastically of that school), it’s just not something they do. Her “bloom point” is something like 12 feet away? Which sounds like a beam origination point for some sort of superweapon but is actually where has various harmonics come together in a classical environment.


bloom point

I don’t see the difference, really.

By the way, close-mic being a new thing for her? You can’t tell from the recordings. I mean damn. And, for the record, she’s a joy to work with, so if you need somebody, go hire her.

Two more people left to record, both this week. SCHEDULE, MINIONS, SCHEDULE!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)

Recording today, no time to type much. I don’t write particularly topical music, because I guess I hate success? But I have a highly topical song and I want to get it out there.

Those who know what I mean when I say “this is another Mary Kaye and the Cosmetics song” will, um, know what I mean by that? Sure. That works. The rest of you will have to wait.

And honestly, I can write some difficult changes even into four chords, I’m just saying, and I don’t even know why. This is why it’s not out already. I’ve been practicing it for days.

Oh, separately, yesterday, I fixed the leaky valves in that barely-post-war not-yet-East-Germany-made Cajun accordian that I’ve had hanging around for a couple of years. Tim Walker – one of the GoHs at this past Rainbowcon, and who actually plays various kind of squeezeboxes for real – looked it over and gave me some tips. One disassembly and set of adjustments later, no more extraneous tones. Thanks, Tim!

The inside of this thing is amazingly clean, by the by, it’s like it got shipped off from the factory last week. DID I TAKE PHOTOS NO I DID NOT TAKE PHOTOS BECAUSE I DON’T EVEN KNOW. It’s approximately 70 years old, but you sure as hell wouldn’t know it from looking at it, not even on the inside.

Anyway, enough accordion, time for a more electric kind of loud. Let’s see if I can get some good takes today. Rrrarrrr.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (music)

Check this printed toy out. It doesn’t look like all that much for the first minute but the thing actually moves.

Recorded “scratch tracks” for “Supervillain For I Love You” yesterday, prep work for the big show at Conflikt in January. It’s basically so the other people who will be in the band for that show can learn it.

Also comped the bass tracks for “Thirteen.” This time bass tracks doesn’t mean multiple bass lines, tho’ you certainly know I’ve done that before. This time, it means one “dry” (no-effects) track and one “wet” (effects) track, which I then mix together in a ratio.

Normally the “wet” and “dry” are in one track, generated live via plugins. But in this case it’s actually two separate performances, because the effects I’m using – a really crunchy bass amp, an overdrive box, a little bit of old-school chorusing – are all external to my computer. So I’m treating the recording of that external-effected performance as an effect in and of itself, putting it in a separate recording track, and mixing with the “dry” bass guitar recording.

One neat side-benefit is that since once they’re both in the DAW they’re basically just two recordings, I can edit how long it takes each individual note’s instance of the “effect” to show up. It’s kind of like being able to set the pre-delay on a per note basis. I’m not doing much of that because in practice it’d be weird to do so, but there are a couple of places where it makes aural sense to loosen and tighten up the crunch timing. So hey, extra work, but bonus nonetheless!

Best part of this bass line tho’ is – well, there are two things. One: first recording of the Godin A5 Fretless that Anna got me for Bassmas last year. Two: crunky as fuck. Okay, so, three. Three things. Three: So goddamn deep. I am using all of this fifth string. Seriously, this entire bass line is being played on the bottom two strings of a five.

aw yeah. deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep bassing.


Use cyber2015 at checkout for 20% off all music, including Bone Walker, the long-list Grammy Award nominated album.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (hard-on-picks)

I grabbed this sign out of an office remodel a while ago – hey, Seattleites, guess where! – and added it to my studio door at the Lair last week:

I may be taking it a little too literally. These are picks after a couple of takes each of “Thirteen” today:


How many of these things am I gonna have to make to record this song?

I may have to upgrade my picks. I may need something a little more ruggedised, maybe something a bit more metal, like these:

Seriously, are those shiny or what? They’re from the GuitarPickCollection Etsy store. I’m not affiliated, the lead dev on Ardour just pointed me at them today and they are very, very pretty. He has a couple and reports they’re really smoothly polished, and are actually playable.

I think they’re kind of amazing. Not something I’d actually want to use; reviews of other metal picks say they’re great for lead work, but I need more flex than these would have. Even so, they’re amazing to look at.


Use cyber2015 at checkout for 20% off all music, including Bone Walker, the long-list Grammy Award nominated album. If you’re with the academy, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (assassin)

Today’s post was supposed to be about Montréal, but I’ve been too busy on Things What Aren’t Music, and that post will take a while! So it’ll be on Monday.

Until then, I have some cool things for you!

Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering talks about the loudness wars. If you don’t know what the loudness wars are, this article will tell you. I hate them and did not participate with Dick Tracy.

Glitch Textiles is an art project to create interesting images with broken digital cameras and turn those into fabric art. I think this is awesome. It’s a Kickstarter project, but the video, and many of the images in it, are really cool.

Stained glass dice lamps! On Etsy. I want the d20.

Meet Trapwire. Trapwire already knows you. And everything about you. Check page 19 for how proud they are about diligently investigating people for not taking the same tourist photos everyone else does.

Finally, if you’re in central Cascadia, this weekend is kind of amazing with bands which have played nwcMUSIC playing big shows:

  • Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps are appearing with SJ Tucker and Betsy Tinney in Kenmore on Friday night. Kenmore Community Club, 7:30pm. This is pretty much down the hill from my house, which I find kind of hilarious. lol, something to do in Kenmore. XD
  • The Doubleclicks (who went over GREAT last year and I hope to have them back) are teaming up with Vixy & Tony and playing Geek Girl Con on Saturday at 8:30. That’s downtown Seattle, at the convention centre.
  • Leannan Sidhe is playing with Heather and Ben at RoseWind Commons, Umatilla at Haines St., Port Townsend, Sunday at 7pm.
  • Finally, Heather and Ben have a show by themselves at Vancouver Pagan Pride, next Saturday (the 18th), Surrey, 3pm. Plus there’s a house concert later, details here: http://heatherdale.com/shows/upcomingshows

What’re you doing this weekend?

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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