Ethereality News & Weblog

September 29, 2007

One piece at a time

Filed under: Audio & Music,Latest Works,My Life/Musings,News,Photography — Rob Chang @ 7:47 pm

It’s been fun and frustrating upgrading the studio–one of those things where you just can’t rush any of it–from research, comparison shopping, placing orders, receiving shipments, checking for defects, returns/exchanges, hooking up each new piece, to experimenting with better placement within the studio. Anyway, I took some photos today–not the typical “here’s my studio layout” kind, but more of the “lavishing love and attention with my camera” kind:
studio pics
studio pics
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studio pics
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studio pics
studio pics
studio pics
studio pics

September 22, 2007

Klein + Hummel O 300D’s

Filed under: Audio & Music,My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 11:31 am

When I started my search for a killer pair of studio monitors years ago, I had no idea that it would eventually lead me to my current favorite piece of gear in the studio–the Klein + Hummel O 300D. Yep, I’ve gone and done it, and no, it did not cost me almost $7k (I was incredibly lucky to find a pair on ebay). It was listed for $3,000, and as I watched and watched, not a single person bid on it, so I went for it. Thank God it did not have a sensible reserve price, because anyone who knows anything about high-end gear knows that the 300D’s are a steal at $3,000. This past couple of years in general has been rough for me, and the 300D’s sure soothed the pain a bit. Just look at those soft curves on the waveguides:
Klein + Hummel O 300D

Here they are, sitting pretty in my studio (need to add some Auralex Mopads to cushion their bottoms):
Klein + Hummel O 300D

Here’s a Sound On Sound review that reads like a love letter. I generally prefer Hugh Robjohns’ reviews to Paul white’s , as Paul tends to be more cautious with negative remarks (for the sake of not pissing off the advertisers?).

You can find out more about the sexy Germans from Klein + Hummel’s website.

I’m not sure if I can add anything to Hugh’s review–he’s certainly heard a lot more high-end monitors in his career, so he’s bound to know a lot more. If he says the 300D’s are amazingly good, then who am I to argue? My own experience with them (after having had them for a few days) is that they are certainly very revealing, accurate, with an open soundstage, non-fatiguing, and have the cute little K+H red lights in the front that blinks if you overload the internal limiter–which I’ve yet done (I’m pretty sensible when it comes to monitoring levels–I try not to exceed 90db, and usually keep it at around 80db~87db). For such a small size, they definitely do deliver unbelievable big sound, yet remaining accurate and not hyped in any frequency range. I’ve thrown just about all kinds of recordings at it–classical, industrial, metal, electronic, jazz, vocals, rock, pop, film/game scores…etc and they have performed beautifully. They do reveal bad recordings for what they are though, whereas lesser monitors mask the shortcomings. I’ve listened to some of my own recent cues, and I’m hearing things that have changed my mind about how I should mix them. I don’t think I’ll be using the digital inputs, since I’ve read from other 300D owners that they aren’t really all that better than the analog inputs.

All in all, I’m just thrilled to have the 300D’s in my setup, and I’m also ecstatic over the killer price I got them for. I doubt I’d want to add the O 800 sub to them, since the 300D’s go pretty low already (definitely lower than the listed 40Hz, since it’s a closed enclosure and 40Hz is what’s rated as within the flat response range). Maybe if one day when I need a larger studio, I’d add the sub.

I want to give a shout out to Jeremy at Guitar Center’s San Jose branch. He was a very cool guy who helped me demo a bunch of monitors and allowed me to move them around (which the stores typically don’t allow) to get more accurate listening positions for A/B’ing different pairs.

I might have ended up with a pair of JBL LSR6328P’s if I didn’t see the 300D’s on ebay, since I was quite impressed with those during my last listening test there. The 6328’s blew the 4328’s out of the water (I had a good impression of the 4328’s until I heard the 6328’s), as they made the 4328’s sound almost timid and limp. The 6328’s had much nicer soundstage, and overall a lot more articulate and dynamic (not in a hyped way).

I got to test the new Mackie HR824 mkII’s while there too, and I was quite disappointed. The treble was rolled off and sounded like there was an invisible blanket over the high frequencies (maybe Mackie chose less fatigue over accuracy?). It’s still got that fat bottom end like the previous version, which may or may not be accurate, but for the bass heads, they’ll buy them just for that.

I got to hear one of the Blue Sky 2.1 systems (finally!), and they were definitely nice, but sounded like there was a hole missing in the frequency range (lower mid’s). It must be due to the crossover issues in the 2.1 setup.

The 300D’s weren’t my only recent ebay winning bids–I also nabbed a Kurzweil PC2X master controller keyboard:
Kurzweil PC2X
You can find more info at Kurzweil’s site.

I almost went for a CME UF-80, since I finally got to try one out at Leo’s Pro Audio (in Oakland) recently, and the action is not nearly as bad as some have claimed on the internet. In fact, it felt remarkably like the Kurzweil and Fatar’s piano action. I was going to get it because I wanted to connect a Yamaha BC3 (breath controller) to it, and it comes with the connection ready (otherwise you’d need to spend a couple hundred more just for a converter). But when I saw the PC2X on ebay, I had to go for it, since I could connect a ribbon controller to it, AND it’s got the breath controller port too, not to mention it comes with some pretty good sounds. My logic is that if I’m paying the same price, why not get something that actually makes a sound–I might find some presets I really like. I don’t need all the knobs and sliders on the UF-80 anyway, since I already have a Novation ReMOTE 25 SL. I ended up getting the PC2X for $711. Not too shabby at all.

I nabbed a few other items off ebay as well–a M-Audio 4×4 MIDI USB interface (my Midiman 1×1 is not going to cut it now that I’m adding more gear, since I don’t want to do too much chaining), and a Behringer Xenyx 1622FX mixer (please don’t groan. Not all Behringer products are crap. Plenty of Behringer’s products have gotten great reviews. Besides, if I hear any unwanted coloring/noise from the Xenyx, I’ll immediately get rid of it and get something more “respectable”).

All that remains is pretty much acoustic treatment. I’m willing to spend up to a couple of grand to treat my studio, but any more than that, I might have to consider the DIY solution. I’m currently looking at both Realtraps and Auralex solutions. I’m a lot more impressed with Realtraps so far, since their customer service is a lot more in-depth, and they are the one company that gets name-dropped constantly at high-end audio forums by reputable mastering engineers.

I’ll need a good all-around mic too, since I don’t have a decent one in the studio right now (just a couple of el cheapo’s). I haven’t had the need to record vocals or acoustic instruments for a long time now, but that’s going to change real soon. Maybe something like a Studio Projects C1, Shure Beta 87C, or RĂ˜DE NT1-A.

September 9, 2007

Before Sunrise

Filed under: Audio & Music,Film/TV/Animation — Rob Chang @ 2:11 pm

Elena and I finally got to see Before Sunrise (we watched the sequel, Before Sunset, previously), and we both agree that the second film is better. The first one is more idealistic and romantic, but at the same time, the emotional impact isn’t on the same level. In the sequel, they never even really touch each other in the entire film, but the emotional impact is far more real and mature, as they’ve had time to understand just how much that day they spent together has affected their lives. I guess it’s also because we are roughly the same age as the characters are in the sequel, so we relate to how much they’ve grown since the first film. I suppose if Elena and I had watched the first film when we were in our early twenties, we would’ve related to that film more. The beauty of the second film is also in that even after nine years, they are still so perfect for each other, despite having had more life experience since their day together nine years ago.

I’m sure this has happened to some of you before–you were in the market to get a (insert anything), and after some research, you felt like you’ve got it narrowed down to a few sensible candidates. Then came that fateful day when someone who knew quite a bit about the products you’ve been looking at innocently made the following remark:

“Well, if you don’t mind spending just a bit more, you can look at the higher-end manufacturers/models such as…”

And your response was, “Huh? I never heard of those companies before, and I’ve been researching for a while now.”

“Of course not. They are the higher end stuff–totally different league compared to what you’ve been looking at.”

If you controlled your curiosity at that point, your life would still be pretty normal, but as soon as you took a peek into the higher-end, the seemingly comfortable surrounding you live in suddenly unravels, and you realized you were living in a box, and outside of that box are the serious stuff. Respectable stuff. Stuff you now drool after because they are out of your reach.

And you can never go back once you decide you want to leave the box.

This happened to me recently, and I am, of course, talking about studio monitors (I already kind of went through that with Photography).

Until the fateful day, I would’ve been fine with a pair of Mackie HR824’s, or even JBL LSR4328P’s–and this isn’t to say they’re bad monitors, as they are actually quite good for their price range–but since having heard higher-end monitors like the Klein & Hummel O 300’s, Focal Solo 6’s, Digidesign RM2’s (which are essentially PMC’s technology), Dynaudio BM15A’s…etc, I would have a hard time going back. At the same time, we’re talking about up to four times the price though, not to mention the fact I still need to spend quite a bit on acoustic treatment–at least a grand or more (check out this demonstration of what acoustic treatment can do for you).

A quick summary of my recent listening tests (conducted at Cutting Edge Audio in San Francisco and Leo’s Pro Audio in Oakland):

Klein & Hummel O 300 – $4,000, or O 110 – $2,000
Buttery smooth and accurate. Probably too rich for my blood though (the 300). The 110 might be doable, but I’m afraid I’d want to add a sub to it and that’ll get expensive again.

Focal Solo 6 + Sub 6 – $3,500
Sounds very lush (especially on orchestral/vocals). I heard it without a sub, and it definitely needs one–at least when compared to the Dynaudio BM15A’s.

Digidesign RM2 – $3,500
The ATL technology works as advertised! At low levels the bass was still full bodied. Everything else about it really didn’t stand out all that much from the JBL LSR4328P’s I A/B’d against though, but the RM2’s also weren’t burned-in properly though (suggested time is 14 hours).

Have not heard, but am definitely interested. Should be similar to the RM2’s since both are PMC technology.

Dynaudio BM15A – $2,000
Very nice, but when compared to the Focal’s, they seemed a bit clinical in the orchestral/vocal area.

JBL LSR4328P – $1,450
Pretty amazing performer when pitted against more expensive monitors. Often it was hard to tell that the JBL’s were “inferior” in any way–whether in soundstage, frequency response, reaction time…etc. In fact it sounded very close to the BM15A’s and the RM2’s when I A/B’s with them. In some instances, the JBL’s actually had slightly better soundstage and clarity than the RM2’s (once again, the RM2’s were not burned in properly though). The onboard DSP calibration system is also a big bonus. I can totally use it in conjunction with acoustic treatment to get the desired accurate sound.

Mackie HR824 MKII – $1,200
I could always save some money and get these. They aren’t bad monitors–just not quite as good as the ones listed above (you get what you pay for). The rest of the money can all go to acoustic treatment.

It appears the the middle-of-the-road is always the most complicated. With el cheapo options, you don’t need to be picky. With super high-end options, you only have to consider the best of the best. It’s the middle range of the market that requires you to do a lot of research and choose which battles fight, and which ones to compromise on.

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