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Friday, 5 January 2018

Mid-season images (3 days of fog)

The last few days saw this place mired in a near-constant fog. And while immersed in that fog, I took some photos.

above the fog 1




frosted branches

late afternoon lights

                                               above the fog 2


above the fog 2 panorama

C~ Soundscapes

Friday, 10 November 2017

Featuring a victory for today, in stereo

Unbeknownst to the world before now, while working on For the Continuum, my had-been-crapping-out-for-years subwoofer / sound system base crapped-out a bit more and stopped feeding audio from one speaker channel, so that while finishing editing and mixing of the track I could only hear one side of the stereo mix. I just ran with it, put everything in mono, and then moved things to wherever I felt they should be.

So, since sometime after June 22 and until today, I'd been utilizing a little trick that worked to give me pseudo stereo sound: By pulling the power connector jack half-way out of the jack, sound would return to both speakers. However, it wouldn't be the full sound. It was missing some layers of playing audio completely, seemingly arbitrarily. So, I don't know what it was doing, but if Mono is a 1-point audio setup, and Stereo is a 2-point audio setup, then I guess what I was getting was like a 1.5-point audio setup.

Today I listened to the For the Continuum mix from a full stereo setup for the first time, and I think it sounds OK. I was able to do that because, also today, I finally felt like taking a go at fixing the audio system, and had an idea of what I might be able to do to do so. Basically, I took things apart, desoldered some parts, swapped some parts, soldered things back in place, and put it all back together. The result was success, and now this thing is performing as it hasn't been for years.

I didn't really take pictures of the fixing process, but the problematic connectors were under that metal shield, which itself was difficult to get out. But, cutting and melting the glue holding that PCB in place, and finding the secret hidden nut and removing it, and then yanking hard with some pliers all contributed to eventual success in opening that mystery box of malfunction up to being repaired.

In celebration of my fixing this old piece of now-working audio-enabler, I set up my SM57 and MD 421 microphones and checked out Cubase, which I hadn't loaded up since finishing For the Continuum. And see how aligned I had those mics positioned from the speaker cones on first try:

Phase status: perfection.

Testing the phase and sound, I recorded while I briefly strummed some chords, notes, melody pieces, and switched various pedals on and off. If you want to hear some of the sounds I had on tap for this process, you can, because I uploaded them.

Let's see if I can recall which pedals are used where. In addition to whatever is written below, each segment is EQ'd with MXR 10-band EQ, using some BOSS CS-3 and PS-5 pedal touches.

(0:00) 1. clean guitar
(0:45) 2. Electro Harmonix Cock Fight
(1:23) 3. Tubescreamer clone, RAT clone, OD-1 setting on JMP-1
(2:00) 4. Tubescreamer clone, BOSS MT-2... not sure what else.
(3:05) 5. NYC Big Muff, op-amp Big Muff

Well, I'm uncertain about 3 and 4. But the others are exact. Fun.

Btw, I'm aware that I haven't yet completed and put out Burst of Stars as I had intended to. Which I'm sorry for, for myself and for anyone waiting for it. I haven't the money for a drums take for it, and so I think I'm going to leave it as is, for now... which I guess I have a good head start on doing.

If you haven't already given it a listen, I recommend doing so. Some of the best guitar tones I've put together are in it, and I think the music is pretty powerful:

C~ Soundscapes

Friday, 27 October 2017

Small photo update to previous post

Just a small notice: I added a couple of pictures to the previous post. Taken from the same general time, but I had moved them into a different folder from the others and just spotted them again now.

C~ Soundscapes

Friday, 20 October 2017

End of season images

These are some photos and video I took at the end of September, and in October.


Celestial antipodes

Inlet Overview

Red in Green

Scenic power plant

I think I may have posted a pic of this power plant before, but if so, I don't remember in which post to verify. So, regardless, voila.

There's an early X-Files episode that features Mulder running through this power plant at night.

Visiting bear scavenging the bird feeder for birds (probably not)

This black bear showed up at my place a couple of days in a row. He took down a bird-feeder, ate as much as he could get out of it, and rolled around a bit, playing with it.

C~ Soundscapes

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Enter the mighty Crate GX-15R

Another piece of cool gear I acquired recently, is a Crate GX-15R practice amp.

The convenience of a relatively low-volume, small, tubeless practice amp is something I should have capitalized on a long time before now, because it is often making the difference between me playing and not playing.

I've had an interest in picking up a small "practice" amp, and also this particular amp for a while. I did previously buy a Crate GT-65 from somebody selling theirs through Craigslist, but, well... it was busted.

I spent a bit of time looking into what the problem might be, and it could be something simple (blown output transistor(s) are suspected), but the cost of getting the amp on a tech's bench to be looked at would be as much as I paid for it - and that would still leave me not knowing whether it was indeed a simple and cheap fix or not.

I let the seller know it wasn't working, and they offered to return my money and did through Paypal, leaving the amp with me till it would become convenient for them to pick it up. That was 6 months ago, so I figure it's abandoned, and I might as well look into fixing it, myself.

Anyway, I more recently spotted a Crate GX-15R on Craigslist for the inviting price of $50 CND (~$40 USD). This is the Crate amp I would prefer to have because of its use by the Smashing Pumpkins on their album Machina (and I've read a claim on, I think, the Gear Slutz forum that somebody talked to a MCIS engineer who told them it was also slipped into mixes on that album... though, I have not heard that claim anywhere else), and also live. And, what do you know, I'm a fan of classic SP music.

BTW, the timing of my spotting this GX-15R amp on Craigslist coincided with the Billy Corgan Reverb shop opening up, where BC was selling two of his own G-15R amps - one for $200, and the other for $6,000. Regarding the prices, I don't know why. Maybe one was used on the album and the other wasn't.

So, I really wanted The $50 CND Craigslist one, and I contacted the seller right away. But, my first (maybe bad) instinct was to try to haggle on the price, so I sent a text offering $40 CND. Then, I didn't hear anything for a couple of days, and I panicked thinking I lowballed them, and that it was dumb because I really want this amp, and I haven't seen it show up on Craigslist often, and this listing was really cheap, so I sent another text basically saying 'I'll give the $50 for it, just tell me when I can pick it up'.

Seller responded, and turns out they were out of town for a couple of days - probably.

When I was picking up the amp, I made a joke about missing my chance to haggle on the price, and the seller responded, 'well, here you can have this pedal', and threw a Punch Factory Optical Compressor on top of the amp while I was holding it, ready to leave.

I must be great at jokes. I was eager to buy the amp, regardless, but, awesome.

This is the only "practice" amp I've played, but I think its sound rocks. Except maybe for the reverb. So, the GX-15 part of it rocks. And the R part of it is still nice to have.

Here are a couple of videos I made after getting the amp. It's basically just the guitar going into the amp - only slightly boosted with a BOSS compressor out front. I also usually leave a BOSS PS-5 running subtly in front of the compressor, so it could be that it was running for these recordings.

The first one I recorded with my phone next to the amp, with the amp turned down a lot - but clearly not enough, since the amp's sound keeps choking out the phone's microphone. I flip through all of my guitar's pickups while playing. The second video is demo of how the amp sounds when using its speaker-out connector to hook it up to my 4x12 Marshall cabinet, which I believe should have G12T-75 speakers in it. I recorded it with a Zoom Q2HD camera.

C~ Soundscapes

Monday, 4 September 2017

Super mega awesome mondo new old stock Digitech DHP-55 day

Buying new old stock (NOS) is a thing with music equipment, and it refers to buying never-used old stock for products that are no longer available to buy, making them old stock that is still new. Usually, the term NOS is used to refer to vacuum tubes which are no longer manufactured (and in some cases haven't been manufactured for half a century or more), but which some people still have old stock of available for sale, and often at extremely exquisite prices.

I bought a Digitech DHP-55 effects processor a while ago, hoping to get one than runs on the v2.00 or higher firmware, though that earlier one that I bought ended up having v1.04 firmware.

The absolute latest firmware for the Digitech DHP-55 is v2.04. But anything above v2.00 apparently has some added delay, reverb, and filter effect parameters and improved MIDI controls, which are features I was interested in. v2.xx also has extra effects presets that aren't in the earlier version units.

I thought I'd leave it at that, but recently I saw this Reverb listing for a "Mint" condition Digitech DHP-55 for $150 USD, shipping from Canada (where I live). The listing had just been posted, and I saw it because I was signed up for email notifications. That deal sounded awesome enough that I decided to buy it, and figured I'll sell whichever of the two DHP-55s I'd have that had the lower firmware.

Also, the listing had just been posted. I saw it because I was signed up for "Digitech DHP-55" email notifications. It probably wasn't going to stay around long regardless of who bought it.

I received it today, and found that it had the original, untouched shrink wrap still on it.

When I moved the unit around, I heard some rattling coming from inside the chassis, so I opened it up, and discovered these loose washer nuts in it, and also a small plastic piece. No idea what they were doing in there, as it doesn't look like they're needed anywhere. Anyway, I removed those bonus items and proceeded with my review of the unit.

While the chassis was open, I saw that the firmware chips have v2.03 stickers printed on them.

So, I set the unit up for use, and turned it on. Powering it up, the LCD screen confirms it is running on the v2.03 firmware. Also, there are, as of yet, no custom user presets: All of the "User A" presets are identical to the factory "Mono" presets, and all the "User B" presets are identical to the factory "Stereo" presets - keeping with the NOS (new old stock) theme by showing that this unit has never been configured before.

I don't know what the range of years is that the DHP-55 was produced within (the LCD copyright date is different on both of my units, so that isn't a clue), but a sticker on this one shows that it's a 1997 production unit, making it 20 years old at the time of its first power-up.

Also notable about this unit's having been kept in its shrink wrap is that its faceplate has not started to push away from the chassis, as is common with the long-used specimens of this unit.

The new, v2.03 DHP-55's faceplate (palm prints because it is hot and humid here today):

My older, v1.04 DHP-55's faceplate:

On top of being an ideal unit, it was also priced just slightly on the lower side of what these units have been going for used. So, getting an unused one for the price is awesome. I even think that I'll be easily able to sell my older unit for a bit higher of a price than I bought this one for, and recoup the entire cost of this new one after paying listing fees.

The seller is a music shop in Ontario. Maybe they had the device sitting in warehouse storage and just came across it, and wanted to offload it to free up inventory space.

Whatever the story, I'm glad I found and bought it, and I'm going to enjoy using it.

C~ Soundscapes

Saturday, 12 August 2017

More pedal power for my rig

One of the most recent pedals to be added to my arsenal is this clone of a 1970's op-amp Big Muff.

I completed this pedal some months ago, and I had started working on it a long time before that. But I stalled its assemblage at the point when I decided that I wanted to make a couple modifications to the build, and couldn't immediately do so.

I had soldered in the two IC chips / op amps, yet then decided I wanted to make one of them removable so that I could try different op amps in its spot. Different models of op amps produce different slightly tonal characteristics.

pictured - an op amp

For example, I think that the only difference between the original op-amp Big Muff and this recent modified clone of it:

... is that the original uses the RC4558 op amp chip, whereas the Eye See Pi modified clone of the original uses an BA4558 op amp chip, which I think gives it a bit darker of a sound, and slightly different distortion characteristic.

So, I decided to remove the relevant op-amp and to install an IC chip holder that I could install in its place and then swap different op-amps in and out of. And I destroyed the original op-amp in the process - which didn't surprise me, and also wasn't a big deal since I already had to order the IC chip holder and other op-amps I wanted to use, anyways. I just ordered another of the original op-amp along with those other things.

The other modification I wanted to add to the pedal is a mid frequency-scoop switch, like there was on the original op-amp Big Muff pedals, and also like there is for that Eye See Pi pedal. The Big Muff has a pretty large mid frequency-scoop by default, and the switch gives an added option to take most of that mid-scoop away. I think the switch should be included in the pedal kit by default, since it was part of the original production run (though not the later production run), and I've personally found the modified no-scoop setting to be the one that I'm using a lot more.

Installing the switch was pretty simple, and just required a precision drilling of a 1/4" hole to fit a toggle switch through, and a couple of wires and resistors to connect each side of the switch to the pedal's PCB. I also placed some electrical tape between the switch components and the PCB.

So, I had this pedal sitting in a semi-completed state on my desk for probably many months until I decided to initiate those modifications - and then I finished it up quickly.

dramatic re-enactment of the alleged desk (actually, just not cleaned up yet at the time of its photographic capture)

There was a problem with the pedal when I was first testing it out, being that the emitted sound would not stay entirely on while the pedal was engaged, but would flicker on and off. So, I opened up the pedal again, and looked for shorts, particularly where I'd installed the mid-scoop switch. But found nothing wrong there.

However, I noticed large amounts of flux residue around the potentiometer leads, which can cause a short, so cleaned it away using isopropyl alcohol-soaked Q-tip / cotton swap / cotton buds, and, thankfully, that solved the issue. Since then, the pedal has operated perfectly.

After testing out the 3 op-amps I ordered, RC4558, BA4558, and BC4558P, I've ended up keeping in the original RC4558. Of course, I can swap it out for one of the others at any time.

C~ Soundscapes