Dec 31

Solving Sneaky Audio Issues

Over the holidays, I’ve spent quite a bit of time tackling some very tricky audio issues in the rock lab. Issues that have been plaguing me for quite a while, but I didn’t have enough dedicated time to solve.

I have intentionally created an all-digital studio, and although I also have a turntable and LP’s because I love the sound of warm dynamics of analog, for the jams and recording that I do, the digital realm is infinitely more convenient…but it has it’s own set of challenges. 🙂

Challenge 1: Quiet Strat
Strat sounds awful via POD HD 500. My Red Strat (a Squier Stagemaster from the 90’s) is a Humbucker / Single / Single guitar, and has always sounded lovely and hollow like a typical Strat. But connected to the POD HD, it sounded weak and sad. I tried everything I could think of in the patch settings on the POD to get it to sound halfway decent, and it just never did. So I put it aside, and pulled out the Fretlight – it has fancy Shelby Designs pickups, so I figured it should sound fine. Nope. Same issue. I spent hours searching for pickups and such to find something decent…but just didn’t have the $$ to try it on a whim. So, I pulled out the blue Stagemaster (an Ibanez RG clone, Humbucker/Humbucker), on which I’d installed a Alumitone Deathbucker pickup. Sounded OK, but there were still issues. I put the whole thing aside for a couple days, and then came back and pulled the POD out and set it up out from under the desk. And lo and behold – the “Input Pad” switch was on. There was a similar switch on my old POD X3…and I had it on most of the time, but I hadn’t seen it on the HD500. They’d moved it to the top of the unit, I didn’t notice it since it was under the desk. I flipped it off of Pad and lo and behold everything sounded wonderful. Must be a stronger DB reduction than the X3 version was. Great! Except for this strange high-pitched ringing after every note.

Challenge 2: High-Pitched Ringing from POD HD 500
I have the POD connected to my MOTU 896mk3 via a S/PDIF digital cable. It saves me running more audio around, and bottom line the POD and the MOTU are both all-digital inside, so if I ran analog from the POD to the MOTU, it would be going Guitar (analog) -> POD (digital) -> Audio Cable (analog) -> MOTU Input (analog) -> MOTU mixer (digital). Saving a few A/D->D/A steps makes sense. Plus I get stereo with only one cable, and can record at very high sample rates if need be. However, there are some tricks to making S/PDIF sound right. Trick #1 is to make sure that the POD Output and the MOTU input are set to the same settings. Which I had done when originally setting it up. And if you don’t have it right, typically you hear nothing but horrible digital noise – so pretty obvious. In this case however, the settings on the MOTU side had changed (probably when I did a full reset on it a while back), and it was just slightly off – the MOTU side was at 44.1khz sample rate, and the POD at 48k. I flipped the MOTU to 48k, and voila – high-pitched ringing was gone. Looks like it was a subtle form of digital distortion. To figure this out, I listened to the guitar direct into the MOTU – no noise…I listened to the headphone output from the POD – no noise. So pretty much had to be the digital cable – checked both ends, and voila. Also, when the POD is not on (power unplugged), but the mixer is, I get whooshy digital noise coming into the cable. So I have to mute that input if the POD is unplugged.

One thing that kept eluding me here – since I run the Mac’s digital audio out into one of the ADAT ports on the MOTU via a TOSLINK cable, you have to use the Audio/MIDI Setup application on the Mac to make sure your sample rate from the Mac matches the MOTU as well, otherwise IT will have the strange distortion on it as well. Everything has to match! In my case, I set everything to 48k.

Challenge 3: DVI Audio Whine From Yamaha THR-10
I love the tones and feel of the Yamaha THR-10 – and it does have a USB output – but that output doesn’t play well with the MOTU mixer…unless I run some routing on the Mac side to take the USB audio and route it back into the mixer. Which I’ve done…and it just doesn’t sound right. So I’ve been running the headphone output of the THR into an analog input on the MOTU. When I run it with the power supply plugged into the THR, I hear the DVI Audio Whine from the various computer equipment through the headphone output. If I wasn’t having to amplify the output of the THR a bit (with the gain knob on the MOTU input channel) to get the levels to match, you’d probably never hear it, but with things turned up, it’s super-annoying. Bottom line, I need to run a balanced cable from the output of the THR into the MOTU to shield it from the RFI. However, the stereo headphone on the THR won’t support that. So I’ve ordered a unbalanced->balanced converter to try as a last resort. It will also be useful for connecting my turntable to the MOTU at some point, so it’s not a one-trick pony. 🙂

So there you go, three ‘simple’ problems that took me a dozen hours of hair pulling to sort through…I hope if you had any of these issues that this helped you!

Mar 20

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-20

Mar 13

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-13

  • I am saddened that when I finally get the time and my act together to watch the D&D ep of Community…it expires off of Hulu. #
  • I need to go back to remedial GIT merge school. #
  • Looking at how full my hard drive is, I'm starting to ponder how much I agree with Steve Jobs' statement about people wanting to own music. #
  • I just earned the 'Mardi Gras (2011)' badge on @untappd! http://untpd.it/BRdeu4 #mardigras #
  • Finished "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss. Excellent, but another clipped off ending! The next one will hopefully come soon… #
  • Feels like college; going to try and catch up on my drum practice after work and before my drum teacher shows up. 🙂 #
  • I love you, shuttle Discovery. #
  • I am considering inventing a silent cellphone-is-ringing implant. So I can tell my phone is ringing when I can't hear / feel it vibrate. #
  • Turned off/on on a schedule controlled from your phone. #
  • Might start with a wearable ring version and then go to the implant. 😛 #
  • I'm toying with the idea of roleplaying sprints for my next game. Timeboxed and focused, with unexpected element injections. #
  • Good golly – @doycet and @weedatheevil just realized they've been working in the same building for over a month but never saw each other! #
  • Drumming workout complete, time to pick up @CaptSpectacular ! #
  • From @CaptSpectacular: "That's not devoured! Devoured is 4 boxes of Thin Mints in 30 minutes." "You didn't!" "I soooo did." #teenyearscoming #
  • From @CaptSpectacular (after putting a quart of water into his instant oatmeal): "Not that bad. Tasteless and slimy, but not that bad!" #
  • After wandering around in LoTRO for many hours, @CaptSpectacular is now reading aloud from the Illustrated Guide to Tolkien…much "ohhh…" #
  • My convo topic: Chuck Norris facts are the modern version of the tales of Gilgamesh. #
Mar 06

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-03-06

  • I hope my mother appreciates the hangover I'm likely to have from Olive Garden wine. Happy birthday, mom! #
  • My 6-yo niece's quote of the day: "Brother, we should call our business "White Childrens' Lemonade!!!", or maybe "White Children Selling!" #
  • The feds have one more day to deposit my refund before I spring into utter panic mode. #
  • And this is me, keeping my promise. #
  • Now I know: "Your expected refund date has been changed due to processing delays. You should receive your refund by March 15, 2011." #
  • Uni study shows that bonuses don't make you work as hard as penalties:http://bit.ly/hBvvo1 #
  • Nope, don't need an iPad 2…waiting for the iPad 3 w/Retina Display… #
  • I've noticed lately that when I'm explaining things to people on the phone, I go into a weird trance, eyes rolled back, and so on. Creepy. #
  • Oh MOTU, you are going to make me buy a bunch of new cables to fit your XLR-only I/Os, aren't you? #
  • OK Cascade Microphones, you got me. Fat Head II's as drum overheads sound exactly like what I wanted out of the box. #
  • Here's to you Ronnie James Dio! We toast you with my Rock Band dual vocal / keyboard "performance"! #
  • Time for a Philly Cheesesteak in honor of @the_sara_a ! #
Feb 27

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-27

  • My research into the neuroscience of memory and cognition explains a lot of odd misunderstandings that seem to happen around me. #
  • …now I just have to translate that understanding into less feelings of frustation when they happen, and habits that make them less common. #
  • More psychological game ponderings. I'd like to see this research done for tabletop… http://bit.ly/hawLGq #
  • Rusted and Weathered. #
  • My smoked wheat #homebrew has gotten quite carbonated. Oh, and thanks for the free glass @newbelgium ! – http://twitpic.com/442th6 #
Feb 20

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-20

  • My horo today: "Know thyself" sounds simple, but disentangling your motives, thought processes, and spiritual longings can be challenging. #
  • Water failed in my office building this morning. Enjoyed many lovely walks for coffee and the restroom in our amazing Colorado weather. #
  • Seriously AppleTV, tonight is not the night to tell me it's going to take 3 hours to download Castle. #
  • "All good gameplay is hard work. And when we do hard work that we care about, we are priming our minds for happiness." – Reality is Broken #
  • Hmm – Facebook rewrote PHP as a C++ precompiler. Interesting? http://bit.ly/earih4 #
  • "Reality is Broken" musings: we are happier when working in what we choose than passive entertainment;hence Mystery/CSI/Jeopardy popularity? #
  • "Fiero" – triumph over adversity pride/joy. In all the years I've spent DMing, it's what I've always struggled to evoke… #
  • "Flow" – the hardest thing to achieve in tabletop vs computer games; especially with a very diverse player group. Snappiness of play is key. #
  • "Reality is Broken" has solidified my thoughts around why there is a constant parade of software development frameworks coming out daily. #
  • Software development has a much Flow and Fiero as games – IF you always know what to do next, and if you can test/reward yourself often. #
  • The best software development frameworks, like Django, make development addictive because it's hard to get totally stopped for long. #
  • Finished THE STRANGER! – http://twitpic.com/40wfvf #
  • I think I posted this before, but this Harvard Business Review article discusses happiness as overrated (I don't agree):http://bit.ly/9DbzQk #
  • 40MB Internet: @Kim_Stone and @CaptSpectacular can be MMOing upstairs, and I can be on Skype downstairs, and no one is the wiser. 🙂 #
Feb 13

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-13

  • If you folks haven't read Jane McGonigal's book "Reality is Broken"; you need to. http://amzn.to/eTJiyY #
  • We discussed her theories on one of our Tim/Brant/Meg/David mega-casts. What you can do with billions of datapoints of player behavior. #
  • And how that *could* be used to change the world for the better. #
  • I wish @azpeacemakers would release a remaster of "The Bottle & Fresh Horses". The songs are good, but the mix is nigh unlistenable. #
  • And 5 minutes after downloading the new Django 1.2.5, I find a bug with it. Back to 1.2.4! #
  • That said – I should write a blog post entitled "How to know if it's you or your library wherein the bug lies". 🙂 #
  • I just earned the 'Power Month' badge on @untappd! http://untpd.it/Wkmrsu #
  • I learned today that contrary to popular belief urologists have more fun, and deal with less poop than pediatricians. #
  • The wisdom of using @nlowell's book titles for @pb2dev automated code tests has into question after he renamed all his books on the site. 🙂 #
  • Beethoven's 9th is irrevocably associated with "A Clockwork Orange" for me, but I love it too much to hold that against it. #damnyoukubrick #
  • This week's @theeconomist article on 3D printing makes me wonder what it's prevalence will mean to the balance US vs Asian manufacturing. #
Sep 12

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-13

  • Well, @TRiNiTYBrewing had a lovely new keg of Russian River's Pliny the Elder on tap and waiting for me! Freshly tapped today! #
  • I am seriously hoping the 11yo didn't erase my camping pics to make more room for his "Boy chases squirrel" video masterpiece. #
  • Well, he didn't delete all the camping pics off the camera. Here is the infamous "Boy Chases Squirrel" Video, though:
    http://bit.ly/d1UhFd #
  • Had a great dentist visit with @bikodds . It's wonderful to look forward to visiting your dentist! #
  • Here's the camping trip highlight photos! http://bit.ly/dBUJPM #
  • Watched G.I. Joe on Streaming Netflix while working on computer stuffs. My eyes hurt a LOT from all the eyerolling. Fun, but, I mean, MAN! #
  • RT @jonathancoulton: Chose the Neumann TLM 49 yesterday for sweet delicious baritone crooniness. Cheapest one, turns out. [Tim: Still $1600] #
  • Time to make the code-nuts! Even though I'm not supposed to do such things these days at the day job, sometimes there's no one else! #
  • In case you missed it (like I almost did), the third book in @gailcarriger 's Soulless series is now available on Kindle! #
  • You can get a free preview of The Android Assassins – a Red Panda Pulp novel from Decoder Ring Theatre here! http://bit.ly/cKWE21 #
  • Going to bottle my Smoked Stash Cleaner #homebrew tonight! #
  • Well, coffee stout #homebrew even after a month in the bottles is still pretty tough. Smoked Stash Cleaner was very tasty out of fermenter! #
  • I wish that the next trend in internet time-and-money wasting micro games would be one that taught people how to get along with each other. #
  • Just combed the 3rd giant pile of fluff out of Yuki-cat in the last two days. Today, while wearing all black. http://plixi.com/p/44185919 #
  • Covered head to heel in paint. Primer does NOT want to come off! – http://twitpic.com/2n7mpz #
  • Project this week with jQuery/jQuery UI turned out well. Still dubious on hand-writing HTML/js in 2010. Is there a Python equiv of GWT? #
  • Also, Aptana 3's HTML editor seemed like a step backwards from Aptana 2…might just be the default settings being different… #
  • Discuss: DeNiro in "Brazil" vs. DeNiro in "Stardust". Which is the 'real' DeNiro? #
  • I only put cream in my coffee on weekends; today I stirred it in with a glass martini skewer. It seems significant, but I don't know why. #
  • I didn't go blind from drinking Hamm's last weekend, so my incantation must have worked! Now I can share this: http://plixi.com/p/44551932 #
  • At fancytiger.com on Broadway. From number of bored-and-lost-looking men wandering in here, they need a man-drop-off XBOX fun corner! #
  • Tonight's tasty hashbrown and smoked sausage meal brought to us by the letters 'Na', and the malty flavors of Red Hook brewing's Copper Ale. #
  • Hmm. New iPhone Game Center is interesting. Achievements for playing iPhone games a la XBOX live…clearly there is a market…. #
  • RT @bobbyowsinski: Pandora And The CD. http://bit.ly/xnQ1b [ The ironic fact that Pandora requires that all artists have a CD for sale ] #
  • This is what happens when you have a ridiciously over-affectionate Birman cat.Can't even raise your arm to eat! http://plixi.com/p/44750555 #
  • Ridiculously affectionate Birman cat + momentarily at-rest arm = you won't be raising that arm again to eat! http://flic.kr/p/8AksEj #
  • Of all the jobs that have gone or materially changed in the last 25 years, surly teen pushing the wide broom around the grocery isn't one. #
Dec 21

Tabletop RPGs: On Sportsmanship

One often overlooked aspect of play, especially competitive play, is Sportsmanship.  Role-Playing Games in general have a dubious relationship with Sportsmanship, as certain games emphasize an adversarial relationship between players, or between the players and the Game Master.  However, the mark of a truly great Role-Player is the abilty to Role-Play their character to the hilt, while still helping new players, bringing out shy players, and taking an appropriate share of the GM’s time.  This article discusses why good players fall short of great becuase of poor Sportsmanship.

But what is Sportsmanship in this context?

  • Share the table with your fellow players.  Even if your characters are at odds, you should not be.
  • Share the GM’s time.  Do not dominate the GM’s time – share!
  • Help newer players or shy players.  You should be working hard to bring out each other character’s relationship with your own.  A lot of great players spend more time talking to the other PCs than to the GM.
  • Help the GM.  Rules arguments, mustering arguments, and so forth don’t show good Sportsmanship.
  • Positive Attitude.  Excessive complaining, throwing things in anger, and so forth are not appropriate.
  • Go with the feel of the event.  If the event is Role-Playing focused, lay off the problem solving.  If the event is combat focused, lay off the unfocused Role-Playing.
  • Let people play. Let other players talk in character if they wish.  Out-Of-Character requests to “hurry up” are not appropriate.
  • If you sign up for an event, stay until the end.  We had one player show up for an event, even though he knew he would have to leave 20 minutes after it started.  Wha?
  • Focus on having a good time.  Some people get so focused on winning that they forget that they are there to have fun.  Continually ask yourself, “What could make this moment more fun?”
  • Play your character as written.  If your character says that you are indecisive and rely on others to advise you, don’t make all the decisions yourself.

I believe that players that focus on Fun and Sportsmanship will find themselves in the winner’s circle more often, and will engender much goodwill and great experiences.