Category: Ramblings

I think it was when I heard Abbey Road Studios was up for sale. That triggered another momentary obsession with the Beatles yet again. Luckily, I was born just barely in time to catch the Beatles when they first hit the scene. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” is the first Beatles song I remember hearing, but it was “Help!” that really made a big impression on me. I just remember that it seemed like the song lasted about 5 seconds and I wanted to hear it over and over and over. I was six or seven and the weighty content of the song really didn’t make an impression – it was the sound! So lush, gritty, harmonious… like nothing I’d ever heard before. The guitars were so punchy and in your face. The vocal harmonies were so right. The song was so great.

I really wasn’t a big Beatles fan when I was growing up and it was happening live, but later in life, now that I’ve really heard the story and really had a chance to listen to the music it continues to blow me away. Sgt. Pepper stills sounds fresh and amazing forty plus years after its release. Most people don’t know that the Beach Boys actually played a subtle but significant role in the making of Sgt. Pepper, according to interviews by both Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. When Brian Wilson heard Rubber Soul he was motivated (in a competitive way) to create an album that topped it. That album was Pet Sounds. When the Beatles heard Pet Sounds they were, in turn, were motivated to try to out-do the Beach Boys. The result was Sgt. Pepper. We – the buying public – benefited most from that rivalry.

The Beatles changed music forever… duh. The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. They opened Pandora’s box for the rest of us and gave us a grand tour of the contents. I found this incredible Beatles video online: .   You should watch it… and try not to obsess, at least not in public.

The new Kenetek live sound console in use

Pro-Audio has entered a new era. After over 100 years of striving to make recordings sound *better*, we are now seeking ways to make them sound worse. This was brought to my attention when one of my clients wanted to know why the Kenetek compressor he bought from me didn’t distort when driven to clipping like the original design from almost 50 years ago. “That’s by design”, I told him. Until now, I’ve always worked hard to make the audio gear I design and build clean, quiet and crystal clear, but with character. But I now realize that what recording engineers and musicians want these days is not necessarily the cleanest and quietest. I find it ironic that we can now record at sampling frequencies higher than some radio frequency bands (192 kHz) with a dynamic range that extends to the threshold of pain (144 dB – 24 bits) with distortion figures less than 1 part in 10,000 (0.0001%) and people are looking to intentionally grunge up their recordings!

People want beer with no carbs in it. Food that tastes good but won’t kill you. “Good” noise without any of the “bad” noise. There are plug-ins galore that can add noise, pops, clicks and every kind of distortion known to man to a signal, and still maintain a 100 db+ signal to (bad) noise ratio. In this new age, boutique hardware is now following software plug-ins by offering knobs designed to *lower* the fidelity of the signals running through them.

People want gear they can mangle and abuse while trying to get sounds that have never been heard before out of it. That’s why the next generation of gear I’m building will have knobs to *increase* the amount of noise and distortion in the units. Give the people what they want. I’m even thinking of ways to add a “Suck” knob. Go figure. Lo-fi is the new Hi-Fi.