• About
  • First time here?
  • Sitemap
  • Archives
  • Categories
  • Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

    Hi-Fi Entry Point: The Marantz HD-440s


    2014 - 10.25

    Marantz HD440s rightyThe other day at work I was talking with a coworker about stereo equipment and the brand Marantz came up.  I wanted to show him what their amplifiers look like so I did a Google image search for the word Marantz and what do you know, a photo that I took came up in the first couple pages of results!  That’s pretty neat, I thought.  Maybe I ought to post more photos of cool audio equipment that’s made its way into my house.  And thusly begins the first in a series of posts…

    First up is another piece of Marantz gear, the HD-440 speakers.  These actually belong to the drummer I jam with.  He scored them locally for $50 with worn out foam on the woofers.  We spent a couple hours drinking beer and re-foaming them and viola, pretty damn good speakers on the cheap.  They look pretty svelte too, as you can see in the pics.  Those aluminum trim pieces really make them look great with the grilles off.

    While we had the woofers removed for refoaming we took a peek inside.  There’s a lot of foam batting and the crossover consists of two large capacitors, that’s it.  Clearly the Marantz engineers were thinking ‘let’s use good components but use as few parts as possible’.  Since there are only caps that means neither the woofer nor the midrange have a high-cut filter.  They must have purposely selected drivers that had roll-offs close to the capacitor high-pass frequencies.  Either that or they depended on a summed response where the two drivers would combine to form a mostly flat curve.

    This was also my first time trying to re-foam an old woofer.  It wasn’t very hard although it was time consuming.  We also used scotch tape to try pulling out the dustcaps which had been pressed inward.  It worked decent on the woofer but the high range woofer had a dustcap made of fiberous material that started to lose some strands even from the light tug of scotch tape so we quickly gave up on that idea.  I would do a refoam operation again if I found some speakers which I knew were oldies-but-goodies and just needed a new surround to make their triumphant return to greatness.  As with the HD-440s…

    Marantz HD-440

    Great things have small beginnings


    2014 - 10.18

    So since I gave the green speakers to my brother, I’ve really been missing the sonic sweetness of their tweeter, the ScanSpeak D2606.  It’s part of their discovery series line, which aims to set some aggressively low price points for ScanSpeak drivers which are typically audiophile-expensive.  Pretty big deal to me then, that I’ve decided to construct a new set of speakers using the same tweet, paired with a 5.25″ Midwoofer also from the ScanSpeak discovery series.  It’ll be a small-sized bookshelf with an f3 of around 80Hz.  Not impressive in terms of bass extension but these will be paired with a powered sub eventually and 90Hz or so is a good range for the low end to be taken over by a fat power amp.  More details on this project as I progress.  This post is the genesis…

    ScanSpeak D2606 & 15W/8434G00

    Deep downtempo


    2014 - 10.14

    So I heard this song “Radio Juju” by Daniel Masson on SOMA.FM Groove Salad a while back and just rediscovered it.  Really feeling the minimal, almost background house vibe and the absolute wash of deep soundscapey elements that fade on top of one another, working in a hypnotic and creamy pad tone, some selectively-matched tribal sounds (I think?) that fit well with a rhodes, dialed all the way back on the tone bars who lays down the most interesting chords on display here.

    The guitar at the end is both anthemic and haunting with the telephone-EQ delay chasing right behind the melody.  And the French dude ends it just how it begins with what sounds like morning rainforest in an reverb-chamber.  That, dear readers, is how you make a real downtempo gem.

    A King from Cleveland, ’67


    2014 - 08.26

    So maybe a year ago my mom bought an old King brand cornet at a farm auction.  I recently got it serviced at last and resolved some odd tuning issue it had.  And I gotta say, this thing is hot.  Maybe it’s just been a long time since I’ve played on any new instrument especially at length but man, this horn is really a breath of fresh air.  One with an awesome high range too.

    King Cornet.  Tasty.

     

    Hail to the King, Bb

    Latest Hot Track Obsession


    2014 - 07.15

    Here’s a tune I’ve been listening to a lot lately: “C130″ by the band Brownout.

    Seems these guys were trying to make something that sounds as big as a C-130 Hercules aircraft, shown here fighting forest fires.  And I’d say they succeeded, in a genre you could justifiably call Cinematic Funk.  It’s pretty huge.

    c-130-2

    I like to play trumpet and it sounds like this


    2014 - 06.28

    So I’m in a band and it’s called “100% Juice” and I think it’s preaaatty cool.  If you like improvised, funky music or electrified horns, I think this is worth your listening time.  I will post more as we create more.

    So far there are 5 tracks up on our Soundcloud although we’ve been playing for over a year now.  We’re selective like that?  The track “Freeze Pop” was recorded using a multi-track interface, the Tascam US-2000.  I’m quite jazzed about the prospects of using this thing to make progressively better and better recordings of the music we’ve been making.

    I will also mention here that if you REALLY like it, there is a continuously rotating directory which hosts our latest and greatest jams in long form, unabridged format, accessible as zip files.  These are also the high-fidelity, sonically-best way of listening to us.  You will hear a clear difference versus the streaming version.  These can be found here:

    http://www.microcosmologist.com/juice/

    Reason Synchronous Video Tutorial


    2014 - 06.18

    I made this video so I may as well post it here… it’s a video tutorial on using the Propellerhead Rack Extension “Synchronous” in Reason 7.1 to make glitch percussion.  If you know what some or most of that sentence means, definitely check this out:

     

    I also made a shorter version, since this video was created for a contest, and (naturally) AFTER I made the above one, I figured out there was a 5 minute time restriction.  The short version is here.

     

    Saturday Brunch with The New Mastersounds


    2014 - 04.28

    The New Mastersounds at International Fest in Houston TX.  World Music... well they are from Europe I guess!

    Simon at IF“At this point we’re just making shit up.  I don’t even know what song we were playing there,” jokes Simon Allen from behind the drums as they wrap up an impromptu reggae detour lasting a couple minutes or so.  Midway through Simon had broken into what I’d describe as a dancehall or Caribbean type beat which is something I’ve never heard them do.  Having seen this band enough times to lose count, it was one of the more interesting moments in the show for me.  Rushing out the door to get there, I had debated bringing along my Zoom H4 audio recorder to tape the show but decided not to at the last second since I was pressed for time and wasn’t sure where the windscreen was.  Maybe about 3 tunes in I came to regret that decision; despite my familiarity with their catalog, the brits had again managed to step outside my expectations and bust out some new tricks.

    International Fest in Houston was this weekend and as Eddie noted toward the end of their performance, the first time that The New Mastersounds had visited “H-Town” as an audience member instructed them to call it.  They took a certain pleasure intoning this moniker in the most deliberately anglicized accent they could muster.  Eddie was sporting an off-white suit and Pete (who was announced in a nasal-sounding voice as “Peter” at all times during the show) wore a Brooklyn Bowl shirt, which I thought was pretty cool.  Weather was humid and what you’d call “pretty warm” here in Texas.  Thrice the band saw fit to comment on how hot they thought it was even though as their introducing stage manger explained, “this isn’t even the real heat yet.”

    It was a smooth Mastersounds.  Very much a groovy, jazz-in-the-park style performance, which I enjoyed.  There were two things of particular interest in the set: one, where a solo Eddie Roberts on guitar began their tune “Thermal Bad” stretching in a delicate, bare setting all the way until the B section arrived.  Typically this is a super rocking number, so it was intriguing to hear them give a wholly different take on it.  And sure, they took it there eventually.   But this show wasn’t about the meltdown, it was far more focused on the slow builds and the clear, thoughtful solo, delivered to an audience who had recently finished up a casual afternoon brunch and drank that Saturday coffee as I had.

    Joe Tatton on the keys took it into dreamy, full-on Mister-Rogers-Feeds-The-Fish Mode on the rhodes, drifting our minds off into the sky with those delays and open spaces in his phrasing.  There were some bursts of that dexterity he likes to keep hidden in reserve, and some eyebrow-tilting jaunts into the ‘out’ keys, but for the most part, he kept the dial locked on Spacey.  Which is perfectly fine by me since he doubtlessly excels in that realm.  Similarly, Eddie Roberts showed us in a few brief flourishes that “yeah, I could burn it down if I really wanted to, but hey it’s just our first date here, Houston, and I wanna take it nice and easy you know?  Make it special?”

    The second point of interest was a very gentle and chilled version of “Summercamp.”  The original tune is already laid back as-is, but this live version subtracted the driving percussion during the melody, instead seeing Simon mirroring its rhythm with light taps on the cymbals.  For me this was the coolest part of the show since Summercamp is one of my favorite joints off their most recent two albums and two, it’s always neat to see musicians taking a familiar song and going new directions with it.  Hopefully they return to Houston sooner than later…

    Dat Suit

    Carl’s Last Interview


    2013 - 12.25

    Check out this cool downtempo track:

    ok, and also, it is past high time that I give a shout out to Groove Salad internet radio from Soma FM.   I heard the above track there, as well as the mind-blowing downtempo masterpiece Music for Space Tourism.  I’ve been a fan for nearly 10 years now and they hold it down.  Microcosmologist Official Recommendation tag for them!

    Fixin Up Some-a-Them Vintage ‘lectronics From The Texas Countryside


    2013 - 07.05

    This week I welcomed another neat vintage piece of gear to the collection, the Panasonic RA-6600. Featuring an 8-track recorder. 8-track, kids! It’s like cassette but bigger! I bought this puppy for $20 from an oddball fellow with a loud-mouthed pet bird way out in the Texas countryside. His girlfriend, who had been sunbathing in the back yard, walked through the living room in a bikini and said sorry. Dude responed “ain’t like this feller’s never been to a beach before!” I tell you I felt right at home.

    Anyway at the time I bought it he said he thought it wasn’t working due to blown fuses on the back. Well, I replaced the fuses, still no dice. I noticed that the speaker cones would move all the way out to their max position when I hooked everything up and turned her on. That means DC voltage was going out the speaker terminals, thereby a blown transistor on the power amp section. Fortunately, this receiver uses a modular power amp design, so I just got on eBay and found a replacement STK-040, which clocks in at a devastating 10 watts RMS.

    Opened it up and removed the old power amp with the help of me mate Vincente and discovered that the solder pads fall right off the 1970s PCB. Hmmm. Can’t solder anything into a circuit without solder pads. I put up a thread about it on a forum, and the helpful folks at all about circuits said hey no problem, just add some extra wires that follow the traces and connect to the next component lead. DUH! So I added the wires and bam, the right channel started working! The taste of sweet half-success!

    I was feeling happy, having replaced the modular power amp and fixed the right channel, but also feeling a little daunted by the prospect of trying to troubleshoot the left channel which was still out. If it wasn’t the power amp, it could be something much trickier to locate. Hmmm. The Panasonic, along with a whole mess of tools and other junk, cluttered up my dining room table for a few weeks. My buddy who helped me install the modular power amp came back for another visit last weekend and we had sat down to chow on some tasty salmon burger action.

    I had turned on the radio because it was there, and there was a blues station on. My buddy, a guitarist, decided he wanted to hear this better, so he turned up the volume a bit. A ferocious crackle came from the dead channel… followed by music! Apparently Vince has got the magic touch?!

    I had previously tried working the volume control around, wondering if the potentiometer might be dirty, but I didn’t get any crackles at that time. Guess I just didn’t try long enough. Or maybe that inital round of deox-it had a delayed effect? Sweeeet. While the unit was apart I gave the volume pot a good blast of deox-it, and the crackles seem to have gone away. Also replaced the burnt out bulb and the dials light up now too. So it’s seemingly 100% now! I don’t have any 8-tracks to test out the player, but maybe I might get on eBay and pick some up soon. It’d be pretty neat to make some 8-track tapes…..