Letters to Mix

OPERATING SYSTEMS GO VROOM I wanted to comment on The NASCAR Studio [From the Editor, March 2006]. I mean no disrespect to editorial director George Petersen
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I wanted to comment on “The NASCAR Studio” [“From the Editor,” March 2006]. I mean no disrespect to editorial director George Petersen or to imply that his vision of a dedicated audio processor is uncommon or unreasonable, but I would say it is unrealistic. I often miss the simplicity of a dedicated machine, but the idea of a software-based studio functioning without Internet and word processing has been available since the early days of hard disk recording.

I also argue with characterizing operating systems as “bloat-ware.” In the past, the Mac OS suffered from this problem while still tethered to OS 9, but once you move to OS X alone, the system is incredibly smooth and stable. Windows will benefit once Microsoft releases its streamlined “Longhorn.” I would say the OS is more like the pit crew than the vehicle. You need the Internet to update and authorize software, get support access and buy microphones in the middle of the night. You need to synchronize dozens of files, calendars and messages to keep up with clients.

The new operating systems are complex and are not really designed to be modified in the way that earlier releases were. But like any well-calibrated machine, they run better if you don't start removing parts unless you really know what you're doing. Most of the resource-stealing options mentioned in your editorial can be turned off in the System Preferences. Print drivers and languages are small files and only impact the system if you activate them. Even my ancient, slow CPUs run unbelievably well as OS X — only machines. While I sometimes romanticize the days of my faithful tape machines, I also remember the cleaning, maintenance and splicing. Every recording mechanism is high maintenance. Yes, updating all the time is a hassle, but the stability of the media and the flexibility for editing and mixing are well worth it.
Todd Zimmerman
Studio 139

Dear Todd,
You bring up some excellent points. It's easy to romanticize about the “good old days” of analog tape — especially if you overlook the hassles of tape machine alignment and the inability to create true safety copies of sessions — and I wasn't suggesting we somehow go back to pure retro.

However, in the back of my mind, something just feels wrong when an OS install needs 13 languages, and Genie effects and cutesy animations seems to be part of the deal — even if most of these can be disabled. At the same time, I don't feel that the concept of a dedicated audio machine is unrealistic. In my studio, I have a very stable CPU that has never been on the Internet and does not have any non-audio/music applications. There are two other CPUs in the control room with Internet access and can download updates and software authorizations for transfer to the other audio machines; in fact, iLok makes the process very easy.

The studio depends on that audio machine, and the less extraneous stuff on there, the better. In the old days, a 24-track digital machine would set you back $125,000 or more, so in comparison, an investment in a second, clean CPU is pretty small indeed. — George Petersen

I wanted to say thanks very much for Stephen St.Croix's article “Life, Love and the Pursuit of More of It” [“The Fast Lane,” February 2006]. I work in the recording industry — selling, instructing and supporting all the new software/hardware stuff.

There was a point in my life where I was so obsessively excited about the technology, the possibilities and power of the music that I could create with this, that I've made it my living so I could always be a part of it and contribute something to it. Lately, though, things have changed and for many reasons, including the “ugly” side of the industry (illegal downloading/piracy, the demise of innovative radio — I could go on), I started to ask myself why I was bothering to stay in an industry that I was no longer excited about — losing my religion, so to speak. The article gave my head a good shake and made me realize that if I don't like what something I have always cherished is turning into, then bitching about it or straight-up quitting the game isn't helping anyone, least of all myself.

Thanks for helping me realize that I really am rather fortunate to have the career I have.

I finally got around to reading last month's Mix, and saw your letter, “Is Anybody Listening?” [“Feedback”] Kudos! A nice, concise and well-thought-out piece of writing. I've been walking around for at least two years trying to tell people that record sales are down not because of Internet piracy or file sharing, but because most of today's records sound like shit.

It is, however, extremely difficult — if not impossible — to fly in the face of the current accepted “wisdom” of how to make a final mix sound. And I believe that it starts even before the song is placed with an artist. I first ran up against this in 1998 when I had mixed several demos that were in contention for a major artist's next album. When the producer returned from his first meeting at Sony, he told me that they had played a bunch of CDs in the VP's office, and that when our CD came on, it was significantly lower (read: not as good) than as everyone else's, and that the Sony executive actually had to resort to adjusting the dreaded volume knob while listening to our demos. He was mortified. I had to reprint the mixes through a Finalizer. Nice and loud. No dynamic range. Perfect. Songs accepted.

And months later, the final mixes were judged against that demo. (Well, that was the one they loved, right?) How could the final sound not as good (read: lower) than the demo? Jeez.

That's why I still have [Pink Floyd's] Dark Side of the Moon in my car stereo so that while I'm driving home from yet another generally futile attempt to create something that will make you want to listen to it more than once, I can be reminded of why I wanted to do this for a living in the first place. Thanks for letting me know that I am in good company!

As always, Mix loves to hear from our readers about what they liked — and didn't like — about our articles. In this issue, we focus on finding the main revenue streams that are keeping the music business alive. Perhaps you know where the money is. Let us know by sending your thoughts to mixeditorial@penton.com.

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