President/Editor/Publisher: Kerry J Haps
Vice-President: Michael Kolar
Secretary: Chris Cwiak

Volume 24 Number 4
April 2009

EARS meets at Joyride Recording Studio

3028 W. Chicago Ave

Tuesday, April 28th, 7:30pm


Hey Hey!

EARS meets this month at Blaise Barton and Brian Leach's JoyRide Recording Studio. Blaise's connection to EARS goes back to his days at Acme with our own founder, Mike Rasfeld. Today, he and Brian run JoyRide, an amazing recording and mastering facility in Humbolt Park. Check out the website and you'll quickly see why this is going to be a great meeting. They've got a seriously cool room set up in a very unique way and a client list and discography to show that there's success in this joy... Liz Phair, Local H, Ike Reilly, the Katie Todd Band, and Blues 'til the cows come home. Now, if none of that grabs you, consider that Blaise has two tracks on the latest Dylan record. This is serious music recording. I'm pretty excited to see this space and spend some quality time with Blaise and Brian. I hope you'll join us. Blaise is truly excited to host us and has asked Dan Scalpone of GC Pro to bring along a thing or two to demo. As always, bring a track or two you're working on, if you dare, or an interesting new piece of gear. 

It's near the intersection of Sacramento and Chicago ave. The phone number is 773-533-1880. You can park on Chicago ave, or on Sacramento. For public transportation, take the Green line, get off at California, walk north to Chicago ave, then west 2 blocks to Sacramento OR exit the Blue line at Chicago and take the Chicago ave bus west to Sacramento. -KJH

Recap/Appreciation File

EARS MEETING AT Backthird Audio 3/31/09

As our host, Benjie Hughes so aptly put it, "(ear-related pun here) Last night we had the pleasure of hosting EARS, the Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago, for their monthly get-together. [Editors note: No, no, Benjie, the pleasure was all ours!] Mixes were test-driven. Acoustic treatments were debated. Sandwiches were consumed. And - as was to be expected - I learned a little something more about my own recording rig. As we've learned at "The Guild" [Editor's note: "The Guild" is a very cool monthly get-together that Benjie organizes] there are few things as consoling as getting together with people who share your particular obsession - you almost feel ordinary." It was, indeed, a good time. As can be expected so far from downtown, it was a smallish turnout, but that didn't stop it from being another great EARS meeting. Benjie's got a good thing going. It's a little bit of his very cool space, a little bit of the financial underpinnings of a wedding and events band business, and a whole lot of his clever, industrious, hard working and persistent pursuit of the thing we all love... Music. Thanks and an EARS cheer to Benjie Hughes (and those who made the trek to Aurora for another great EARS night). -KJH

Next Month

Keep that last Tuesday, the 26th of May set aside for Dan Scalpone's Studio 11. - KJH


Other Upcoming Meetings
I just can't resist putting in a teaser that we've got some really amazing things lining up for the upcoming months. Seriously. Good times lie ahead. - KJH

Where's the Beef? (Sorry, only Veggie Burgers this month.)

Very sorry, but there's no beef on the grill this month and I simply do not have time to work anything up myself. Thanks again to Messrs. Powell, Leake, and Terry for their recent submissions and do know that we're glad to receive any content you'd like to offer. -KJH

MT's Magical Mystery Tip (formerly MT's Tech Tip)
I've recently found an overlooked bottleneck that's being taken for granted by seemingly most artists and frequently many modern engineers - amp speakers. Why do they have the tones they do? Why is a ceramic speaker like syrup and Alnico like a bell and a field coil like a crystal ball? What is going to be what in the swiss army knife? Just as there's freedom with different strings on a guitar, there should be freedom with what kind of speakers get used with which amp.
Speakers are very simple creatures. There's a giant metal basket and magnet, a small, lightweight voice coil consisting of ultra thin wire wrapped thousands of times (like a reverse pickup of sorts) around a former, a paper ring usually 1.5" diameter and 1.125" deep. This is glued very strongly to the spider and the cone. The cone projects the sound; the spider is underneath it to maintain a reflexivity and 'bounce-back', like a spring. The two leads from the amplifier are soldered to terminals on the basket, which connect to the voice coil.

The wattage of what the speaker can take is related to the build of the voice coil. That's it. A 100w speaker simply has a dense, very hearty construction using more modern voice coil materials, like aluminum or nomex, where the same speaker with a lightweight paper voice coil can only handle 15W. In my experience, the paper voice coil, which seemingly is only hand made by a few boutique amp companies, is lightest and very, very sensitive. The cone ribs and weight play a factor - paper, pulp, seamed, unseamed - all contribute to harmonic content and directivity. When paired up with the old, fragile, lightweight paper cones, the speaker 'opens up' the amp to new high frequencies and a very '3D' sound! However, if I really cranked a Twin Reverb through them, they might last 5 minutes before that thin wire in the voice coil heats up and melts. 'Harmonic' and sensitive can come from 'dainty' and 'featherweight' in speakers, but seems to come at a cost. Low end is defined and tight, however not very large. A dramatic example: you don't catch an Ampeg cabinet loaded with non-ribbed cones and paper voice coils.

Nomex is a flame resistant material developed by DuPont in the early 60's, and bears a very close resemblance to Kevlar. It's a little heavier, but without the frailty and flammability of paper, the voice coil can be 'beefed up' and built with bigger parts to be able to handle wattages 35-45W and up to around 100w. The sensitivity we have with modern day speakers can be said to mostly come from a nomex voice coil.

Kapton is another DuPont product, a polymer that's very stable on a wide range of temperatures, but seems to have poor resistance to mechanical wear and/or friction. It's very plastic-like - used on the outside of space suits. See what I'm getting at? Paper is 'airy', because that's what paper is; Kapton is 'better' but a little unreal and 'plastic' because of that; etc etc.

Aluminum can really handle some wattage and heat like Kapton can - even past 100W. High fequencies have a crispness and 'pinpoint accuracy' that can be either pleasing and precise or harsh and needle-like, all depending on the instrument and application. I get the feeling of machines and metal when the voice coil acts with robot-like functionality.

Although I directly heard all of these differences in tone when I compared, say, a vintage aluminum voice coil JBL speaker to a Jensen C12N in a guitar amp, which is Kapton based, I didn't 'feel' the science and reason underneath it. Learning more didn't jade me, or make me believe one was 'better' or 'worse', despite tradeoffs being present. Gathering information with the tools we use halps us 'feel' them more. When we know how something ticks, we know how to make it 'talk' back. Next month: Magnets and sizes! - Marshall Terry


Suggestions Welcome!

 There are endless good reasons to band together here as EARS. It can be whatever we want it to be. If you have any ideas for the EARdrum, our website, or future meetings, please email us. We still have a lot of great meeting plans lining up, some website plans, and a lot of good fresh energy and hopes for a more vibrant, participatory EARS, so of course we're very interested in your input on everything EARS. Please! :) - KJH
Our Archives are again up to date. Check out the website for that and more EARS info. Also, I'd like to complete our files with the pre-2001 EARdrums. By my calculations we're missing the first 16 years! (Now minus that first one.) I know Timothy Powell has a year or so on his Metro-Mobile website but that still leaves a lot missing. If you happen to have your old paper copies or files you could get to me, I would love to get them online for posterity. Let me know. - KJH

A note about our Website
I've noticed that it doesn't automatically update in some web browsers. If you're looking for something (such as the latest EARdrum) and it looks like old info, try reloading the page. -KJH

Another note about our Website, and our Logo

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that it's time for a bit of updating. We think EARS deserves a bit of a makeover and can't help but wonder who among us might actually double as a professional designer but with the necessary sensitivity to our audio world. Drop us a note if you'd like to consider helping us out with a new look for the website, logo, etc. -KJH


Thanks to all who support EARS through paying their dues. Just as a reminder, they're due yearly by the October meeting and this is a prerequisite for voting and joining us for the Holiday Party and BBQ in August (and occasionally things like the Grammy Party), but they're always welcome. Dues checks (or cash, but no credit cards) for $25.00 can be made out to EARS and given to any of our officers or sent to the following address:

Engineering and Recording Society of Chicago, C/O Eric Roth, Treasurer, PO Box 98, Highland Park, IL 60035-0098 - KJH
A (few) (more) word(s) from the Prez...

or “Springs is for Reverbs and where would we be without a little Feedback...”
How y'all doin'? Spring is in the air. The temperatures are warming up. It makes me want to trim my beard, cut the hair a little shorter, and get outdoors to maybe lose a few of those pounds I put on for hibernating. I'm putting the final touches on the album I've been working on for what seems like an eternity and quickly approaching Commencement weekend when I'll say goodbye to another great crop of students and quickly realize anew how quiet the campus is through the summer. I've even just finished a great book, the kind that makes you want to read it over again, the kind that makes you wonder what else is out there like it. This time around it's not classic Russian literature or, on the other extreme, Bob Katz' Mastering Audio, but a different sort of book, Temples of Sound. I can't recommend it highly enough. Speaking of Temples of Sound, EARS has some great things on the horizon that I can't wait to solidify and announce. If all goes as we hope, we'd like to see you all at one or two of those Temples in the coming months.  

I mentioned last month the great customer service I received for my Focal Twin6 Bes and I should probably mention them again as the story wasn't quite yet over. Let's just say that, if you should pick up a pair, do what you can to get consecutive serial numbers if you care at all about their drivers looking close to similar. Also, handle them with kid gloves. The wood veneer on these things is very easily scratched. At one point I had 6 of these in my possession, just trying to get a pair that looked alike and weren't scratched up. All along Focal took good care of me and made sure I was a happy customer, and I am. These things sound amazing and now look as alike as the award winning Doublemint Twins about to graduate from Wheaton's Conservatory of Music - both harpists. (By the way... I can't believe how time has flown by and it's looking like I'll miss my chance to do a stereo recording with matched mics, matched pres, and even more importantly, matched harpists! It's really the only way to get true stereo imaging...)

Now, last month we asked you to give us some feedback. In fact, we ask for your input each month in the form of a "Suggestions Welcome!", but in this case I tried to reinforce it in my little end-rant. I have to say I'm a little disappointed in the relative lack of response. This month a couple of situations came up that made me want to persist on the subject. 

What do you do when you're not happy with something in EARS? Do you point out your concern or do you just quietly fade away from involvement? I hope the former. I hope you'll let us know. How else are we to know how EARS could serve you better? What do you do when you're not happy with someone in EARS? Do you disappear and forever hold a grudge that it's just not worth coming out to meetings if that guy might be there? I nope not. I hope you just get that much more determined to be a positive influence on this fine organization. We gotta proactively make this thing what we want it to be. EARS cannot afford us all sitting and watching it happen, we need to take an active concern. If you think there are too many amateurs in our membership, talk to your professional friends about making time for a meeting a little more often. If you think we're too snobbish and not speaking to the beginners or the more casual hobbyists, voice that opinion. We're listening. And if you find a certain type of mentality too prevalent amongst our membership, it wouldn't take that much to balance it out with like-minded friends by simply inviting them. EARS consists largely of the people we reach out to and the priorities we've set. 

I'm pretty proud of the fact that we've increased our membership during my tenure, I'm also fairly delighted to see such a broad range of interested parties, members coming to us from all sorts of backgrounds, each looking for something different but together making for a great cross-section of perspectives. I've had a lot of people comment on the fact that it seems like EARS has been renewed a bit in recent years, like the general vibe has become more positive, but I still get people telling me that they haven't been to an EARS meeting in years because they just got sick of all the backbiting and infighting or that they've been coming but are just about sick of so-and-so. I can't help but think the only real solution is to simply do what you can to bring more of what you like to the table to counter what you can't stand. Think about it. How many like-minded friends would it take to significantly change a small organization like ours? Let's crank it up a little, people. Let's see what happens if we add a little squeal to the sound of one hand clapping. That and a little more reverb (but never in the cans!) and we just might have something. 

I'll look forward to seeing as many of you as can possibly make it to JoyRide this month. I can't wait to have a closer look at their space and hear some good Mike Rasfeld and Bob Dylan stories from Blaise Barton. 

At your service,
Kerry J Haps



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