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Back Page Blog: An Introduction

Mix's new technology editors, Mike Levine and Steve La Cerra, introduce themselves.

Yes, we are fully aware of the irony in naming a print-based column after a popular format for opinion from the online world. That’s the point. Much of the daily and weekly Mix coverage has migrated to “digital-first,” and much of that content gets pushed along, to be replaced by the next day’s news. Even with robust search functions, readers might miss some good writing and commentary unless a friend “likes” it and sends it along.

So when our longtime technology editor and Tech Talk columnist Kevin Becka left last month for a new gig, Mix hired two veteran pro audio journalists to replace him and begin weekly blogs. Mike Levine (Technology Editor—Studio) and Steve La Cerra (Technology Editor—Live Sound) have been at it a month now, and below are some excerpts from their initial posts, along with their first choices for Product of the Week.

Please watch this space moving forward, as we will provide a sampling of commentary from all over the industry in the months to come. For now, some introductions.

Mike Levine: Mix Studio

Who I Am: I’ve had a double-track career, one part as a journalist and the other as a musician, composer and producer. I’ve had a home studio since the days of 4-track cassette recorders, and I remember back when MIDI was still novel, the Akai S950 was cutting-edge hardware, and the floppy disk was the primary vehicle for data storage.

I’ve composed tracks for many commercials and TV shows, have been in touring bands, played in a Broadway pit orchestra, and now do a lot of mixing and producing (as well as live performing). As a result, I approach my music journalism from the point of view of a participant. And even after so many years of writing about gear, I still get excited by cool new technology and products.

Product of the Week: Steinberg UR-RT Interfaces: The name Neve is a magical one that invokes visions of warm, analog circuitry, large-format consoles and stellar-sounding preamps and EQs. Steinberg is hoping to evoke some of that magic with its new UR-RT audio interfaces for Mac/Win and iOS, made in collaboration with Rupert Neve Designs and Steinberg’s parent company, Yamaha.

On Subscription Models: It takes a mental adjustment to stop thinking of your software as something you own, like your microphones or audio interface, and to consider it a service that you pay for. Some advocates of subscriptions respond to that concern by saying that you never really owned your software anyway, you just licensed it. That might be technically true, but if I’m renting my DAW on a monthly basis and I run into hard times financially, I don’t want it to get shut off like my electricity would be if I didn’t pay the bill. If I buy my DAW—i.e., purchase a “perpetual license”—I can always use it, and I will never lose access to my music even if I go through a period of financial distress.

• Mix Studio Blog: To Subscribe, or Not to Subscribe, by Mike Levine, April 10, 2018
Mix Studio Blog: Can’t See the Forest for the Digital Trees, by Mike Levine, April 17, 2018
Mix Studio Blog: Dour DAWs and Dracula, by Mike Levine, April 24, 2018
Mix Studio Blog: Hear Today, Not Tomorrow, by Mike Levine, May 1, 2018

Steve La Cerra: Mix Live

My First Big Gig: The show was at the Brickyard at Indianapolis, and we were opening for Cheap Trick. It was a complete disaster. No soundcheck, mispatched lines from the stage to FOH, and no set list. (At the time the band usually called audibles.) Rick was screaming at me at front-of-house during the show, and with a song-and-a-half remaining in the set, I discovered that Allen Lanier’s guitar was coming down the hi-hat channel. No wonder I couldn’t find it! It was the first time I mixed on a Yamaha PM3000, and I remember clearly how I couldn’t rest my hands on the wrist pad because it was scorching hot and the gear had been in the sun all day (it was a daytime show). Good grief. I was sure I’d be sent home, pronto.

Product of the Week: Shure SM58: When was the last time you gave some respect to the Shure SM58? It’s been around longer than many of the musicians who use it. You beat it up on a nightly basis and it comes back for more. It’s completely reliable and you know exactly what to expect from it. You can drop it in water, and when it’s dry, it will still work. It might even work while it’s wet. I placed one on a mic stand the other day and thought, “Have I ever done a gig without at least one Shure SM58?” I don’t think so.

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On Teaching Students to Listen: And I’ll be damned if these kids didn’t flip out when we listened. We started with YouTube. “But it says ‘high res audio file,’” one of them said. “The internet also says it’ll snow tomorrow, too. In Hawaii,” I retorted. Absolute garbage. Then we’d listen on Spotify. A bit better. Then we’d listen to a 44.1/16-bit file from a CD or the transfer from vinyl. The general reaction when they heard the 44.1/16-bit files and the vinyl transfers was somewhere between jaws dropping and “What the $%^&!?” Yeah, that’s right. Listen to those background vocals on “Black Cow” or that kick drum on “Purple Rain.” If you can’t hear them, how you gonna duplicate them? 

• Mix Live: A New Blog for Touring and Live Sound Pros, by Steve La Cerra, April 5, 2018
Mix Live: How Are Your Networking Skills?, by Steve La Cerra, April 12, 2018
Mix Live: Life’s Too Short, by Steve La Cerra, April 19, 2018
High-Res… Why Not?, by Steve La Cerra, April 26, 2018