Great interview with legendary genius Arif Mardin [“Mix Interview,” October 2005]! He and his brother helped shape much of the music I listened to while growing up in New York City. His special mention of Tom Dowd showed the respect for another genius I once had the pleasure of spending a brilliant afternoon with in Miami, listening to him tell of days and nights recording with the Mardin brothers.
GOLDEN EARS INTO THE GOLDEN YEARS
As an audio engineer involved in the research and development of technology for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, I'm always delighted to see the pro sound and recording industry address the important topic of hearing loss. In the July  issue of [“Insider Audio”], the author recounts a discussion with his audiologist about the value of equalizing sound to compensate for hearing loss. Unfortunately, the conclusions are both confusing and misleading. Perhaps the problem is that audiologists and audio engineers do not speak the same language.
The audiologist [Dr. Chris Halpin] is quoted as stating, “In sensory hearing loss from age or exposure to noise, the apparent loudness does not shift with thresholds. You just lose the quiet tones.” Naturally, the audiologist is thinking about pure tone audiometric testing. Audio engineers think about the full spectrum of musical sound. If the mixing engineer/producer has a hearing loss of 60 dB at 8 kHz in both ears, then his/her mix will probably reflect this. If left alone to do the mix, relying on listening to a monitor system that is more or less “flat,” it could very well turn out to be an overly “bright” mix. So, is there value in correcting a sound system to fit the listener/mixers' hearing capabilities? I think so.
I invite all readers past the age of 40 to equalize a good pair of headphones for a perceived flat response from 20 to 15k Hz. I use a ⅓-octave stereo EQ and an old mix reference test CD with ⅓-octave test tones. Doing one ear at time, start at 1 kHz, setting a comfortable level. Go through all the tones and adjust the corresponding EQ adjustment for approximate equal loudness relative to 1 kHz. Don't be surprised if you run out of adjusting room at the high frequencies!
Play a CD of which you are very familiar. Switching the EQ in and out is a very revealing experience! The subtle high-end sounds of triangles, cymbal brushes, tambourines, xylophones and other acoustic instruments emerge from the mix in proper balance.
There is so much that we do not know about sound and perception. There are “deaf” musicians such as Evelyn Glennie who seem to function quite well by “feeling” the music. There are also theories that suggest the neural pathways that carry high-frequency information in the ear-brain connection atrophy when they are no longer being used by those of us who have high-frequency hearing losses. Check out Dr. Alfred Tomatis (www.tomatis.com) and his research that shows the ear to be responsible for so much more than just hearing. For myself, I notice feeling energized after an “equalized listening session,” sort of like stepping out of a steamy shower into a cool, dry room.
As the population of audio pros ages and continues to work in this field, the subject of hearing loss and what can be done to [prevent it when possible and assist those who are affected by it] will become increasingly critical. I hope that Mix will continue to cover this subject, along with helpful bits for the younger generation on how they can protect what they have — while they still have it!
Oval Window Audio
TIP FROM AN AVALON INSIDER
I'd like to point out one inaccuracy in the “All Access” report on The Roots' San Francisco show in the August 2005 issue.
The Grand Ballroom, currently operated by Another Planet Entertainment, was not the historic Avalon Ballroom. The Grand is in the Regency Center, which was originally built as a Masonic Lodge facility. The room now called The Grand was from the late '60s, a movie theater called The Regency. Its entrance was on Van Ness Avenue. The Avalon, whose entrance was around the corner on Sutter Street, was, after its days as the Family Dog's dance palace, also converted to cinema use and dubbed the Regency II during its 30 years or so as a movie theater. This is probably the source of the confusion.
The room now called The Grand was still in use as a meeting place by the Masonic Order in the '60s and, except for one Mothers of Invention/Lenny Bruce show produced by Bill Graham, was not used as a rock venue during the Fillmore/Avalon era.
Avalon Ballroom sound guy, 1968-'69
Thanks for the article on Toto's “Africa” in the August 2005 “Classic Tracks.” It's awesome to read such an informative piece on such a great band. It's too bad that they don't get the press or the recognition they deserve, especially in this country. Having been a fan since 1978 (at the ripe old age of 10), I just recently had a chance to see the band in concert for the first time a couple of months ago. They didn't disappoint after all these years of waiting to see them.
One minor glitch in your article is that the picture you showed of them wasn't the lineup of the band at the time of that record. Joseph Williams and Mike Porcaro weren't in the band then. I encourage anybody out there to check out the SACD 5.1 mix of Toto IV!
Jason Scott Alexander's “The Audio Pipeline” [October 2005] was a valuable survey of digital audio interconnects, but he omitted External Serial ATA, or eSATA, which essentially adds more robust cables and connectors to the SATA spec and allows cable lengths of up to 2 meters.
eSATA would enable things like my hypothetical “invisible” desktop computer: Picture a Mac Mini, but with the hard drive located in the power supply brick on the floor. The remaining components could be packed into an enclosure slim enough to be attached to the back of a flat-screen monitor via Velcro™, completely out of sight.
Shared Media Licensing Inc.
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