Last month, while I was knocking around Berry Hill's recording scene, I was visiting with a producer friend when a guy bopped in to tell my friend about an open house for a new product called DAMSEL. The person who dropped in happened to be Tom Endres, engineer and co-owner with Mike Purcell of Digital Audio Miracles Inc., the creators of DAMSEL.
DAMSEL stands for Digital Audio Miracles Selective Equipment Liaison. Whew! In a nutshell, it is a Macintosh software-based utility designed to transfer files from a RADAR hard drive (Otari RADAR II and iZ RADAR 24 drives) without an extensive array of hardware.
Endres and Purcell, as it turns out, are two of the more in-demand people to do magic with ones and zeros in the Nashville area. They also are hard believers in RADAR converters, and that has led to a friendship and a developmental relationship with the folks at iZ.
“We, as engineers, try to use the best tool for the job,” says Endres. “Unfortunately, we often are forced to jump through hoops. Until we reach a point where everyone can ‘play nice,’ in regards to file and session formats, we need a viable way to move data without degradation. We need to be creative like we were with 2-inch!”
“Basically, DAMSEL translates proprietary RADAR projects to a common file format (SDII, Broadcast .WAV, .AIFF) on a destination device of your choice (currently large FireWire drives). Damsel does this bit flip exactly so that the translation is a perfect 1:1 copy of the original recorded information,” stated Purcell, when I went over to the open house at County Q Productions.
When I told an engineer friend of mine, who works with RADAR and Pro Tools extensively, he cut our conversation short and said, “Give me this guy's number. I would love to try something like that.”
In a typical transfer scenario, a RADAR is hooked up to a conversion box to go from TDIF (the standard digital output of RADAR II) to AES or Lightpipe. The crystal in the RADAR is controlling the clock rate, unless an external source such as a house clock is used. All of this clocking information must be passed correctly through these wires in order for the conversion process to occur and for the destination device to know how to re-assemble (re-record) the audio in the new digital format.
Just the act of passing through all of these wires can introduce jitter (a slight variation in the wordclock rate), which will degrade the quality of the audio and will not allow for accurate reproduction of what was originally recorded. In cases of extremely bad or wrong wordclock configurations, devices will not sync and clicks and pops can be introduced into the transferred material.
“DAMSEL avoids all of these problems that usually crop up in the hours when tech support is unavailable. The other highly appealing aspect of DAMSEL is that it gives you a bit-for-bit accurate copy of your original source material,” says Purcell. “Gone is the need for a pristine transfer environment [correct cabling impedance, lengths and runs, stable clock source, correct configuration of devices, etc.]. Most transfers also require someone who has at least a slight degree of proficiency with the digital transfer process, as trouble-shooting digital clocking issues is not an easy issue. DAMSEL only requires someone who can load a hard drive in a hot-swap bay and click a mouse.”
How fast is DAMSEL? From what I was told by the product's code geek Ron Jurincie, DAMSEL converts “approximately 30 seconds of audio in one second on a 2001 G4/466 outputting destination files that can be immediately imported into the DAW of choice. Additionally, DAMSEL easily batch-transfers multiple projects from a single RADAR drive.”
Judging from the people who attended the open house, the overall enthusiasm for DAMSEL is quite high, and Endres is excited about DAMSEL's future developments. “Bi-directionality will be the next implemented feature in DAMSEL Version 2.0. Just a few interface tweaks and it will be available soon as a free upgrade. This will allow users to translate bit-for-bit accurate conversion back to the proprietary RADAR audio-file format,” says Endres.
Endres and Purcell also serve on the NARAS subcommittee, working on archiving standards here in Nashville. For more information on DAMSEL and anything else these self-proclaimed “geeks” are undertaking, check out www.digitalaudiomiracles.com and www.dageek.com.
Between downtown Nashville and Berry Hill is a funky two-room studio called Hum Depot (www.humdepot.com) that is owned by studio session aces Greg Murrow, Tony Harrell and producer RS Field. It is one of those places a lot of cool artists and producers like to go to. The Hum Depot's clients have included Lucinda Williams, Ray Benson, the Dixie Chicks, ZZ Top, Steve Earle, Dan Baird, Steve Forbert, John Kilzer, Todd Snider, Raul Malo (The Mavericks), Steve Cropper, Radney Foster and Robbie Fulks. Producers who have worked there include Richard Bennett, RS Field, David Leonard, Rick Will, Joe Hardy, Chris Farren and Mike Utley.
The upstairs room is outfitted with a Neve 8232 32×24 recording console, a 24-track Sony APR-24 machine, and a solid assortment of vintage and new outboard gear. While Hum has its share of the popular digital gear, the folks there still value the classic stuff. In that spirit, the owners recently installed a 1972 24×16 API console in the downstairs room. Both rooms contain Pro Tools LE and Digital Performer V. 3.0.
“Basically, we wanted to create a really relaxed atmosphere that had a lot of great vintage gear. It's not your prim-and-proper studio,” says Harrell with a laugh. “It definitely has more of a ‘rock’ attitude.”
The most recent project there was a solo album to be released on the Fat Possom label for Widespread Panic keyboardist John “Jo Jo” Hermann. The sessions were engineered by Joey Turner. Cedric Burnside played drums, and Kenny Brown (both of whom play with North Mississippi blues legend RL Burnside) played guitars, while Glen Duncan overdubbed fiddle and mandolin and Nashville session singer Kim Keys sang background vocal parts.
The downstairs room is basically a nonisolated space with the console out on the floor. Its open layout was a primary attraction for Hermann when he set out to find a studio in Nashville. “Jo Jo chose the downstairs room, because it had the vibe and the fact that everyone was going to be in the same room,” says Joey Turner. “You see, in the downstairs room, there are no walls. It is open, and the control room and the tracking space are all one [space]. Everyone was standing around the console and cutting on headphones, and it was a real good-feeling situation.”
Asked how the tracks sounded, Turner says, “It is similar to Widespread in that it is really jam-oriented, but different in that it also has more of the North Mississippi Allstars because it is has more Southern blues-influenced rock to it, as well.”
Later in the day, when I was visiting with producer Jim Dickinson on the phone, he told me that his sons, Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, played on some of Hermann's album.
In the upstairs room, Pat Buchanan has been cutting his next solo effort. Buchanan is one of Nashville's finest electric guitarists, and that's saying a lot in a town loaded with them. While he seriously can play just about anything, he especially shines at the writing and playing of well-crafted pop rock, as well as being a good singer. Rusty McFarland is handling the engineering and playing bass, and Greg Murrow is laying down the drum grooves.
“We've already completed five tracks and getting ready to do the next five. Pat's covering everything from the rocking-est guitar noise to artsy Brit-pop and everything in between, and we are having a great time,” says McFarland.
Send your Nashville news to Rick Clark,MrBlurge@aol.com.