Monday, August 31, 2009

George Martin Featured on BBC Radio 2

Since it's essentially Beatles month here at The Audio Explorer, I thought I'd link a very interesting program from BBC Radio 2 where record producers are featured. This week, it's George Martin talking shop about recording The Beatles, and of course there are clips of current engineers discussing briefly new technologies used in the upcoming remasters.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Both myself and my blogmate have been anxiously awaiting the release of The Beatles remasters box sets, particularly the mono set since they were announced. For those not aware the mono boxed set is limited to 10,000 copies in the United States and is already sold out. Now being "limited edition" means nothing in and of itself however, since it is of limited appeal there is every chance that it will go out of print. So why all of the the excitement for the mono set?

George Martin and The Beatles spent days, sometimes weeks mixing the mono version of most of their albums. The stereo mixes were done usually by an assistant engineer. Sometimes it was even worse, the stereo mix was done by an apprentice engineer. Paul McCartney briefly mentions this in the extra material on The Beatles Anthology DVDs. Saying roughly, "the stereo mixes were done one day while we (George Martin, the producer and The Beatles) were at lunch." With the exceptions of "Yellow Submarine", "Let It Be", and "Abbey Road" the mono mix was the baby. The stereo mix was the bastard redheaded stepchild at best.

At first blush this sounds like a massive oversight. But as Mr. McCartney goes on to point out ". . . ninety-Eight percent of people were listening in mono." Stereo was new, many thought it was a fad and wouldn't last. Many Hi-Fi enthusiasts resisted it in the beginning. It meant a serious amount of money needed to be spent. They were forced to buy another amplifier, another speaker, a new preamplifier, and a new turntable.

Will the sound live up to the expectations? If the review on Tone Audio is any indication the answer is a resounding YES! Also of interest is an ongoing thread on the Steve Hoffman forum. Amazon has some interesting podcasts on the remasters on the right hand side of the page. In addition to two 10 minute interviews with two of the engineers involved in the 4 year project there are there are numerous half minute samples of various Beatles songs to enjoy until the sets ship. September 9th can't arrive fast enough!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

8-Bit Miles Davis

Do you like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, but can't stand all that analog fidelity or unencumbered studio ambiance. Then look no further than Kind of Bloop.

The listening room of George Cardas

Enjoy a quick video that presents a snapshot of George Cardas' listening room. What I find refreshing is that he could have any equipment that he wants, yet his system is very tasteful. If I'm not mistaken that looks like a double pair of Magnepan MG3.6. Those particular Maggies are one of the very best values in high end audio. For less than $5,000 they will easily compete with anything in the world when it comes to transparency in the midrange and extension in the high frequencies.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kind Of Blue

Recently Miles Davis' seminal "Kind Of Blue" album turned fifty years old. It's quite possibly the most re-issued and praised jazz album of all time. The vast majority those accolades are richly deserved. Nearly any jazz fan that wasn't being a pretentious ass would recommend it as one of the ten best jazz albums for people looking to get into the genre. The work has been endlessly analyzed but that analysis hasn't stripped of any of it's power or magic. It's hard to put a finger on what makes it so special, but that's how it often is with things that transcend their genres and become part of popular culture.

Monday, August 17, 2009

. . .to boldly go . . .

This photo is all over the internet and I have one major question. Does the Wow and Flutter make every singer sound like William Shatner? Sadly, for many Star Trek fans this isn't available but I'm sure that some Enterprising (sorry I couldn't resist) fan will make one in his parent's basement. Hopefully, Paramount won't sue him when he does.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Legend Gone

Sadly many people haven't heard of Les Paul. In addition to being a great guitarist he was a great innovator and even an inventor. He invented the solid body electric guitar, thus greatly reducing the problem of feedback on stage. He also invented the idea of over-dubbing allowing one musician to record many parts for a single work. Not to mention his innovation of synchronizing a number of recording machines to allow for multi-track recording, thus making mixing after the performance possible. Modern recordings simply couldn't exist without his vision.

Les Paul (1915 - 2009)

Les Paul may not be the most celebrated guitarist of all time, but there is little doubt that he was the most important. Having not only paved the way for virtually every rock and jazz guitar player with his invetion of the modern electric guitar, he was also equally, if not more so, influential in the world of studio recording with the invention of multi tracking, overdubbing and other tape effects; all of which are still widely used today.

The Gibson Les Paul, a guitar so iconic it is rivaled only by the Fender Stratocaster, was designed in collaboration with Les and Gibson. While he may not have literally designed the entire instrument he made famous, Gibson recognized Les not only invented the technology, but through his own fame gained as a musician, made the electric guitar widely popular.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Guy Fletcher's Diaries

Below is a link to the professional diary of Guy Fletcher, a veteran keyboardist who has worked with Mark Knopfler (among many others) since the Dire Straits days and on every solo album thereafter. I find these posts to be very interesting, especially the technical notes and photos from the recording sessions of Knopfler's recent records.

Some highlights include seeing vintage EMI tube desks and tape machines still being used by Knopfler and his long-time engineer, Chuck Ainlay. Also, don't miss the pictures of George Martin stopping by to visit the sessions and to show off iPhone pictures from his frequent trips to Montserrat, or indeed, the revelation that Big George actually owns an iPhone.