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- Word from the Prez: Get yourself listed on SPARS WEBSITE
- REWIND: An evening with the legendary RUPERT NEVE at MAYNE STAGE
- PENSADO'S PLACE Audio expertise on the internet
- EARS BOOK CLUB reviews "How Does It Sound Now? Legendary Engineers and Vintage Gear" and
“Crank It Up, Live Sound Secrets of The Top Tour Engineers”
- AES Chicago Section June 2011 Meeting Notice
- And more EARS in the news...
EARS logo

(The LJETPRO) Allen-Leake
Danny (The URBAN G) Leake

Volume 26, Number 5 • May, 2011

President – Blaise Barton
Vice President – Reid Hyams
Secretary – Bob Vodick
Treasurer – Eric Roth





TUESDAY, MAY 31st 2011 7:30p.m.
1240 N. HOMAN CHICAGO, IL 60651
(773) 489-4830

Specimen HQ Ian Schneller
(1) Specimen HQ, located in Humboldt Park, (2) Ian Schneller shaping stock for a new bass

As Chicagoans, we are very fortunate to live in a culturally and artistically rich town amongst many artists, tinkerers, and dreamers. A shining star and local hero among these visionaries is Ian Schneller, founder of Specimen who for decades has been dreaming up and building the most creative and unusual musical instruments, amps and reproducers seen anywhere. Specimen's 5000 square foot shop in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood provides the workspace for such dream instruments and houses an amazing collection of tools, jigs, and parts with plenty of room to spare. It is here that Ian and his staff of technicians invent, design and build superior quality electric guitars, ukuleles, lutes, basses, violins and mandolins as well as elegant tube amps for instruments and Hi-Fi stereo systems and audiophile speaker systems.

    Ian Schneller with large Horn Speaker
Ian Scneller with big Horn SpeakerThis month EARS will venture into the realm of Specimen's creative workings and will meet and discuss with Ian in person. Many thanks to both Ian and Nadine Schneller for taking time out of their busy work flow to host EARS at Specimen. A testament to the build quality and curio of these products is evident in Specimen's list of clients that range from multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird to Chicago's own Rise Against. Musician Jack White recently ordered one of each of everything made by Specimen.....that should keep Ian and his staff busy for a while. Ian has been in collaboration with Andrew Bird on several projects recently including the Sonic Arboretum's debut at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, featuring a solo performance by Andrew and a virtual "arboretum" of horn speakers placed around the performance space. The horn speakers are also featured here in a performance by Andrew when he appeared as musical guest on David Letterman.

More about Specimen products and services.....

aluminum ukelele Electric Tiple Thin Front Electric Lute Peanut Guitar
A small sampling of Specimen's instruments:
(1) Aluminum Ukelele, (2) Electric Tiple, (3) Aluminum Guitar, (4) Electric Lute, (5) Peanut Guitar


All of Specimens instruments are handcrafted using traditional techniques (hand rasping and carving, etc., no CNC machines) and have a classic nitro-cellulose finish like that found on most high-end custom guitars. For the most part, none of the guitars feature an adjustable truss rod as this is the preferred format. In the case of commissioned instruments, Specimen is happy to use the customer's preferred choice of truss rod, hardware, finish, etc. They also provide consultation and recommendations. Most of the instruments are custom electric guitars and basses created from traditional materials, but some also feature unusual materials such as as phenolic, aluminum, bell brass, masonite, and exotic woods.

 Some Specimens are one-of-a-kind instruments created either to fulfill a commission or Specimen's own interests, while others have developed into standard models. Custom guitars like the Pippin, Maxwell and Luddite became a series of electric guitars built around common design features. The Aluminum Series includes instruments made from machined aluminum and includes guitars, basses, ukuleles, and mandolas. The Ukulele series includes electric ukuleles ranging from traditional to modern. And the Singletons are unique one-of-a-kind instruments including an electric upright bass, electric violin, electric tiple, mandolin, and guitars inspired by the 1960s Silvertone.

New Fifty--50 watt tube amp Petimor amp
Red Hi Fi Subwoffer with satellites
Specimen amps and speakers clockwise from top left:
(1) "Fifty Watt" guitar amp, (2) Petimor guitar amps, (3) Hi Fi stereo amp and 300 watt subwoofer,
(4) Little Horn speakers with 50 watt subwoofer

Tube Amps:

The inside of a Specimen tube amp conspicuously lacks such superfluous accessories as channel switching, effects loops, master volume, complex equalization circuits, extra gain stages, and distortion channels. This minimalist design effectively shortens the signal path, leaving far fewer places for failure to occur.

Ian and Andrew Bird Arboretum Joe Principe of Rise Against
(1) Ian with Andrew Bird and the Janus 1 spinning horn speaker
(2) Horn Speakers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, August 5, 2010 with performance by Andrew Bird
(3) Joe Principe of Rise Against with his Specimen aluminum bass guitar

Little Horn Loudspeakers:

Resembling a colorful old-school Victrola phonograph, another unique product created by Specimen are the Little Horn Loudspeakers. Although they appear to be ripped out of the pages of a Dr. Suess book, they’re no fantasy. Like Specimen instruments, each is carefully handcrafted. The Little Horns can be used with almost any stereo system, and are also uniquely suited to low-power (10-watts or less per channel) single-ended triode (SET) tube amplifiers— a standard for audiophiles everywhere. These speakers can be paired with Specimen's matching stereo tube amplifier to create a unique ensemble that an iPod or other sound source can be plugged directly into. Or for a minimalist setup, the Little Horns can be paired up with Specimen's satellite/sub-woofer. Its a small, 11-inch cube containing a 50-watt sub-woofer and two 25-watt satellite feeds for the Little Horns.

Guitar Making class Student building guitar Learn to build tube amps
Students learn the art of guitar and amp making at Specimen

Chicago School of Guitar Making:

In August 2005, Specimen Guitar Shop opened The Chicago School of Guitar Making, the only school in Chicago where students can learn guitar repair and building from a professional luthier. They are also the only school teaching the craft of tube amplifier building.  The school is located in the spacious guitar shop and outfitted with individual workbenches custom-made for the students. They have a fully-equipped wood and metal shop, and a wealth of tools and supplies available for student use. All courses are taught by Ian Schneller. Since 2005 more than 1000 students have enrolled in the school.

Expert Repair Services:

Since 1986 Specimen has been repairing instruments and amplifiers as well.....anything with strings or tubes! This includes guitars, basses, mandolins, violins, banjos, cellos, upright basses, and more. Musicians from Chicagoland and around the world bring their gear to Specimen where they stock replacement parts, many brand name pickups, and have an enormous supply of esoteric used and vintage parts. Specimen is known for a quick turnaround—1 week or less for setups and basic amp repairs—and they can do RUSH service (24-hour turnaround) when timing is critical. All estimates are free.

Specimen logo

See you at Specimen!


- There is plenty of street parking on Homan and surrounding side streets.
- The meeting is open to non-members and members alike.
- There will be NO food available at this meeting. Show up hungry and you will go hungry.
- Adult beverages provided courtesy of EARS.
- 7:30 p.m. Start time
EARS wants YOU as a member.

If you have considered joining EARS, this is an excellent opportunity. We are working hard to bring more events like this to our members..... and your membership makes it possible. It's easy to join, click the red button below to join online OR you can join at the meeting when you arrive.
Thanks from EARS and hope to see you at Specimen!

Join/ Renew EARS button
EARS is proudly sponsored by

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A Word From the Prez...

Hello EARS Gang,

Hope you had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend and got to spend time with the people you care about the most.

Tonight's meeting at Ian Schneller's Specimen promises to be a very memorable event and hope you can make it out.

Our trusty EARDRUM co-editors Fran and Danny have come up with another great edition and have created a new section entitled "THE BEAT: IN AND AROUND CHICAGO'S AUDIO SCENE". I encourage you send them your info about the projects you have been working on. We all want to know what you've been up to lately.

I would also encourage EARS members to consider placing a listing in the SPARS Directory. SPARS (Society of Professional Audio Recording Services) has very generously offered to allow EARS members the opportunity to be listed on their website. A SPARS listing can also benefit from their high Google rank. As always, you do not need to be a SPARS member to be listed (although they are always pleased to have new members). To get listed, go to

Thanks and see you soon!

Warm Regards,
Blaise Barton
EARS President


Rupert Neve via Skype EARS members enjoying Mayne Stage
(1) The iconic and irrepressible Rupert Neve addressed the April 26 event at Chicago’s Mayne Stage Theatre via the miracle of Skype; (2) More than 75 engineers, producers, and audio pros attended the “members-only” event.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 –

“It was a dark, dark, moonless night, fraught with danger”…. Oh, no it wasn’t! It was a clear, beautiful night when EARS convened at The Mayne Stage for a Skype meeting with the great audio legend Rupert Neve: console designer and audio inventor extraordinaire. It was a well attended meeting of around 75 members. The meeting began -- in the beautifully-appointed lounge area of Mayne Stage -- with massive networking fueled by a sumptuous spread (Yum!) laid out by Mayne Stage’s ACT One Pub. Then our illustrious El Presidente, Blaise Barton, welcomed everyone and got things rolling. Ensconced in his study, Rupert (through the power of Skype) proceeded to enthrall the audience with tales of his fledgling entree into the world of audio via radio repair; the invention of some of his most important products; and the perfection of his audio art. There was great humor in a lot of his stories and his insights on audio perfection were very interesting.

Eric Roth greeting members Atendees Schmoozing in Act One bar
(1) EARS Treasurer Eric Roth greeted each member upon arrival; (2) Attendees “smooze” at the bar and noshed on a wonderful palate of hors ‘oeuvres prior to Mr. Neve’s presentation.

Later during the meeting there were questions and answers from the audience. After Rupert signed off we were given a speech by Jonathan Pines, Director of Strategic Operations of Fingerprint Audio and Rupert Neve Designs. Josh Thomas, Director of Sales and Strategic Allegiances at Rupert Neve Designs, then took the helm discussing Rupert’s new designs like the 5088 console and the Portico modules. Josh, a former Chicagoan, also had gear for the audience to check out. The networking continued as members broke into different cliques to discuss and digest the information they had just absorbed. Other members were treated to a technical tour of The Mayne Stage. This included the Meyer PA system, the Digidesign Venue FOH console, and the Protools HD recording system that is set up in a separate room and can be used to record any show appearing onstage. The Mayne Stage is full service performance venue with a serious backline collection for putting on shows. Add the convenience of the ACT One Pub and you have recipe for great concerts.

Blaise BArton kicks off the meeting Jonothan Pines
(1) EARS President Blaise Barton kicks off the meeting (2) Jonathan Pines discusses Rupert Neve designs and strategy.

Neve Portico gear on display Jonothan Pines, Josh Thomas, and Kevon Smith
(1) Some of Rupert Neve Designs newer gear; (2) Jonathan Pines and Josh Thomas share a moment with longtime engineer/producer & EARS member Kevon Smith.

We would like to thank Blaise Barton, Chris Ritter, Kat Krzynowek, Tim Schoen, and the rest of the EARS staff for putting together such a fine meeting.

Danny Leake & Fran Allen-Leake
EARDRUM Co-Editors

Audio Expertise on the Internet:

Pensando's Place
Pensado’s Place

Last week I was sitting around listening to Music at Soundscape Studios with Mike Kolar, the Owner/Chief Engineer, when he asked me if I had seen “Pensado’s Place”. I had no idea what he was talking about.

I knew Don Pensado from his Hit Record work (Christina Aguilera, Elton John, Mya, Pink, etc.) but I didn’t know he had an Internet show. The show consists of Don, his manager (Herb Trawick), his assistant (Zan Zakari) discussing the Art of Recording/Mixing. It also has interviews with World Class Engineers discussing their craft. Mike and I watched an interview with Bruce Swedien and it was fascinating. We watched it on YouTube but if you watch it in real time you can ask questions of the interviewees. I have seen at least 15 of the episodes and they covered topics like buss compression, plug-ins that were used on hits, techniques used, etc. Some of the Engineers interviewed included Tony Maserati, Manny Marroquin, Ed Seay, and Ed Cherney. There was even an episode interviewing assistant engineers on how they got their gigs and how they do their job.

I highly recommend it.

You can keep up with Pensado’s Place on
Facebook --
and YouTube

Do a Google search and catch it in real time. You won’t be disappointed.

Danny Leake

EARS book club logo

This month’s Book Club review reflects the Studio Side AND the Live Side of time. On the studio side, “How Does It Sound Now?, Legendary Engineers and Vintage Gear” by Gary Gottleib, Forward by Phil Ramone. (Hal Leonard Publishing, 2010). On the Live side, “Crank It Up, Live Sound Secrets of The Top Tour Engineers” by Clive Young. (Hal Leonard Publishing, 2004)

“Crank It Up” is filled with interviews with some of the top live mixers out there. Clive Young is a Senior Editor at Pro Sound News. The book is broken into categories; Classic Rock, Country, Pop, Jazz and Modern Rock. They are then broken down by artists and their Engineers; Aerosmith (John Ebdon), Elton John (Clive Franks), Paul McCartney (Paul “Bab” Boothroyd), Fleetwood Mac (Dave Natale), The Rolling Stones (Robbie McGrath), The Dixie Chicks (Fern Alvarez), Beyoncé (Rick Camp), Madonna (Dave Knob), Tony Bennett (Tom Young), Sade (Howard Page), Bruce Springsteen (John Cooper) and many, many more. The interviews go into the needs of the different artists (The Rolling Stones didn’t care about “big drum sounds”, they just wanted as full of an R&B pocket as possible for their sound.), different philosophies (With the Dixie Chicks, “A true singer doesn’t need reverb. I keep it dry so everything is intelligible. At the end of the day it is all about three chicks singing”.), and sidebars that tell a little about how the engineer got into this field. Other sidebars talk of specialized techniques (“I put all the drums down a subgroup, super compress it and bring it up with the uncompressed tracks for more detail and volume”.) and contain some very humorous stories. In a lot of the chapters there are things for people who want to know how Class A shows are put together; stage-plots and input lists. Want to know how many inputs it takes to put together a Fleetwood Mac? This is your book. There also is a listing of system engineers, PAs used, FOH effects used, etc. I would have killed for a book like this when I first started doing live mixing. I recommend this book highly for people who want to know about the “Live Side of Town”.

“How Does It Sound Now?” is book of interviews written by Gary Gottleib (a former Engineer/Producer who is now the professor of Audio Production at Webster University in St. Louis). It features engineers like Alan Parsons, Ed Cherney, Chuck Ainley, Geoff Emerick, Bob Ludwig, Jim Reeves, Frank Fillipetti, Bob Clearmountain, Phil Ramone….and Danny Leake. Yes, I was one of the interviewees and before there are screams of “conflict of interest”, I DON”T CARE! This is a great read for people those who want to get into the head of serious audio people. I know for a fact that my taped interview was not heavily edited and that it pretty much really represented me, warts and all. I have to consider that the others interviews are similar to mine. Most of the interviews start with the interviewee talking about where he or she was born, how they got started in audio, and then going into their philosophies, techniques, and in some cases, where they think our industry is going. Some of the stories of how these people got into this industry are very illuminating in how similar they are. After reading a bunch of these interviews I can really appreciate it when people describe audio engineers as “Brothers in Arms”. (“Sisters” too.) There are the usual “Digital vs Analog” arguments, microphone techniques, processing techniques; among the Mastering Engineers there are discussions concerning specialized monitoring, the “Loudness Wars”, and “Hardware vs Software” arguments. There are a lot of musical styles and philosophies being covered: (Rock, Country, Rockabilly, Soul, Jazz, etc.) In the “Vintage Gear” parts everyone discusses gear that was important to them in the beginning and what that gear means to them now if anything at all. I enjoyed this book immensely and not just because I was one of the interviewees. I enjoyed the insight it gave me into engineers that I highly respected. I can’t recommend this book highly enough for people wanting to know what makes people like us tick.

Danny Leake
EARDRUM Co- Editor


AES logo AES Chicago Section June 2011 Meeting Notice

Please forward this notice to interested friends and colleagues. Members and nonmembers are welcome.

Not a member of the AES? For information about joining, go to

The next meeting of the Chicago Section of the Audio Engineering Society will be held at 7:30pm on Wednesday, June 8th, 2011, at Shure Incorporated in Niles. Members and non-members are welcome.

The HTML version will be available soon at our Chicago Section website:

TOPIC: Larry Crane: A Life of Recording Gear Mistrust (and Lust)...
PRESENTER: Larry Crane
DATE: Wednesday, June 8, 2011
TIME: 7:30pm; dinner (optional) at 6:30pm
LOCATION:Shure Incorporated, 5800 W. Touhy Ave, Niles, IL 60714
When arriving by car, approach from the east by heading west on Touhy, then turn right into the parking lot just east of the Shure building, which is on the corner of Touhy and Lehigh. DO NOT turn left into parking lot from Touhy heading east, as this is illegal and you may get a traffic ticket. Enter at the employee entrance on the east side of the building and register at the guard desk. A valid driver's license must be presented at the guard desk when registering.

DINNER: Dinner (optional but please RSVP) will begin at 6:30pm.

Reservation required, contact Treasurer Teri Grossheim at by Tuesday, June 7th.

Jimmy John’s sandwiches will be provided. Let Teri know if you have a preference for no-cheese and/or vegetarian.

Price is $10 for non-members and $8 for members and students.


Larry Crane will discuss his relationship to recording equipment through the years. Many times he has perceived this gear as a necessary evil, a burden, a coveted desire, and at points something that bores him to tears to talk about. Equipment has let him down and also performed miracles. Thoughts about how different recording setups enhanced or detracted from the recording experience will be presented. Various pieces of recording equipment will be considered with the songs recorded on them heard. It’s all about his journey capturing music with the gear at hand, slowly finding out what gear sounds better and learning what really matters when setting out to make quality recordings.


Larry Crane is the editor and founder of Tape Op Magazine (founded 1996), owner of Jackpot! Recording Studio (started in 1997), a freelance engineer who has worked across the US and internationally, and an archivist for the Estate of Elliott Smith. Tape Op Magazine is currently the largest circulation recording magazine in the world and is published in the US and UK. Jackpot! Recording Studio, Inc. is a busy studio in Portland, Oregon, where he's worked with artists like Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Jenny Lewis, M. Ward, Go-Betweens, Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus, Quasi, Richmond Fontaine and more. He's spoken on and moderated panels about recording for TapeOpCon, SXSW, NXNW, NARAS, and CMJ. He has worked in the past as a record label owner, radio station music director, DJ, record distributor sales, freelance music journalist and bass player. For more information, please click on the following links:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011: Wes Dooley will give a presentation at Shure Incorporated.

A LinkedIn group has been created for the AES Chicago Section. If you are interested in joining this group, search groups on for “Chicago AES”.

We REALLY have to stop meeting like this At Left:
Jack LeTourneau & Harry (mf) Brotman

We REALLY have to stop meeting like this!!          


Illinois Fran Allen-Leake’s LJet Productions will again partner with Lynn Orman’s Orman Music Media Group to produce the 4th Annual Welcome Home Celebration for the August 23- 25 Illinois Warrior Summit and Midwest Valor Games. Hosted by The Illinois Supporting All Veterans Equally (ISAVE) and partnered by both the Federal and Illinois Departments of Veteran Affairs, State of Illinois, City of Chicago, Chicago Park District and other organizations, the event will kick-off at Chicago’s Soldier Field and will include performances by national acts, as well as local favorites spanning several music genres. Designed as a Thank You and Welcome Home to our troops, the event is open to all U.S. veterans and their families. Website and artist information will be forthcoming.

Harry Brotman Former EARS's President Harry Brotman is knee deep in recording and mixing these days. Here's a sampling of what's happening in "Harry's World":

Working on: Jeanna Salzer Trio (Benito - producer); Bamfest Volume II (Jack LTLI Le Tourneau -
producer); Stuart Anthony (Joe Puerta - producer); Tommy Ford & the Dazzling No Ones (Jack LTLI Le
Tourneau - producer).
Final Mixing @ Harry's Sonic Bistro II - Milwaukee: Tiffany Terry (Ayinde Garry - producer), Voodoo
(remix for movie soundtrack, H(mf)B - producer); King Washington (a Cagefight! production).
Harry Brotman mixing @ Woodland Audio/Video: Ten Eyes Wide (Grindhouse trailer, Gordon Rinda -

JoyRide studio logo Ears Prez Blaise Barton’s JoyRide Studio is likewise “making the doughnuts” on the following projects:

Chicago Blues Living History Volume 2 --Following on the success of the Grammy nominated CBLH vol. 1, this time around the group invites special guests Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim, and Ronnie Baker Brooks to play with the core members; Billy Branch, John Primer, Lurrie Bell, and Billy Boy Arnold. Once again the production/ engineering team of Larry Skoller and Blaise Barton recorded, mixed, and mastered the album at JoyRide Studio. The album is set to release in the U.S. in June 2011. To check out the boys in action, visit

Katie Todd--Returning from Lilith Fair and starting work on her fourth studio album, singer/songwriter/pianist Katie Todd returns to Joyride Studio to work with producer/engineer Brian Leach with a new lineup of musicians and some fun rollicking new songs. To watch a video of Katie and the band’s antics at JoyRide Studio, visit:

Tommy Castro -- Award-winning blues and R&B guitarist/singer/songwriter Tommy Castro has become the honorary Captain of The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises, where famous blues stars perform together on the open seas of the Pacific and the Caribbean. Inspired by the thrilling, no-holds-barred jam sessions on the ship, Castro decided to bring the excitement and musical spontaneity of these gigs on the road with a live album from Alligator Records, produced by Bruce Iglauer and mixed by Blaise Barton at JoyRide Studio. To see Tommy in action live at the Filmore visit:

Darling - Tracking and mixing a new record with producer/engineer/impresario Brian Leach is Darling --A young 4-piece from Chicago that play an intelligent, melancholic pop loaded with lush harmonies and moving soundscapes. Their sound touches upon the blissfully, sorrowful notes of Jeff Buckley mixed with the deeply layered textures of Television. For an in-depth interview with this exciting new group and Radio Free Chicago, visit:

Lurrie Bell -- Following on the heels of the widely acclaimed album "Let's Talk About Love" and the Grammy nominated Chicago Blues Living History volume 1, veteran bluesman Lurrie Bell returns to JoyRide Studio, only this time to record a collection of deep gospel songs selected by Lurrie and veteran producer/harp player Matthew Skoller. In discussing the project, Lurrie explains that since he was a child going to church, it has always been his desire to record these songs in his own voice. Lurrie is joined by by special guests Joe Louis Walker and drummer Kenny Smith, the project is engineered by Blaise Barton.

Heritage Blues Orchestra --With a distinctly contemporary and adventurous vision, Heritage Blues Orchestra takes its audience on a rare musical ride. The group carries us over the main highways as well as the dusty backroads of the American south while weaving its way to the crossroads where blues in the roots of early Jazz were born. Producer Larry Skoller (producer of the Grammy nominated Chicago Blues Living History) recorded the tracks in NYC and brought the project back to Chicago to mix and master at JoyRide Studio with engineer Blaise Barton. To see a live performance of this incredible group, visit

Kerry J Haps Kerry J Haps -

Danny Leake of Urban Guerilla Engineers is mastering S. Joel Norman's debut: The Playground Fence, for EARS' own Kerry J Haps and Hey, Darlin' Records.

Magnifying Glass We Want to Know…

What have you been working on lately (and with whom?!) Do you have an idea for an article in an upcoming EARDRUM? Do you have a tech tip? How about an idea for an EARS event? Don’t be shy… contact us:

Fran Allen-Leake, LJet Productons – 312.405.4335 or e-mail

Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers –312.310.0475 or e-mail eardrum.editor@ears-

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Look for the New EARS Website!! – COMING SOON!!

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