Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eurodesk MX2442A Restoration: Part 1 - Disassembly

The next step was my favorite, and probably easiest; the Disassembly. I brought the board up to my kitchen table, the only place I had enough room, and even that's not enough! I started by removing each fader and knob one by one and placing them in a container. I thought that would be fast, but you soon realize there are more knobs and faders than you think! Finally I got everything off.
Then it was time to take the plastic trim panels off the sides and the small machine screws holding the circuit boards to the faceplate. I started left to right taking all the #1 screws out, and was having no problems. THEN I got to the screws by the master section. NONE of them would come out. All the screws started stripping. I finally did get one out, and I saw it wasn't a machine screw, but a self-tapping screw; like you'd use in wood. Like this:
So right there a red-flag went off. Why were every one of the screws a machine screw that threaded in nice and easy, then have a random self-tapping screw? Something was wrong.

So then I stood the unit on end to remove the screws holding the top of the board to the chassis. I put the mixer back on the table and the unit slid out of the chassis. So now I can see the back of the circuit boards, and I noticed this:

There were a total of 5 connectors unplugged! So basically channels 1-16 weren't getting any power. My first thought was, "That's it!! I am gonna plug these back in and it will work!". No. I did get some normal functionality back when I turned it on, but still nothing on the output or in the headphones. I can now get signal IN on channels 1-16, so that is a start. I also tried putting an AUX source in through the tape input, and I can hear it through the headphone jack, but it is extremely distorted. So at this point it is time to do two things. 1) get the screws out holding in the master section, and 2) start troubleshooting.

Next up, part 2 - troubleshooting.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eurodesk MX2442A Restoration: Prologue

During my daily cruise through the Craigslist, Musical Instruments section, I stumbled upon an ad for a 12 year old Eurodesk MX2442A. The seller was asking $50, because the mixer no longer had any output on the mains and they didn't want to invest in fixing it.

I can completely relate to the cost of repair / replacement. She might have spent a few hundred dollars in repair for a mixing board that is only worth maybe that in working condition, so it is a slippery slope. With that being said however, I have had decent luck in repairing Pro-Audio equipment in the past, especially pieces that are out of warranty and aren't a necessity to the studio. In this case, the mixing board was definitely NOT a necessity; more of a side-project. So my confidence was high, having just repaired an Alesis RA-300 studio power amp (also bought off craigslist), I thought I'd give this a go.

Now some background on the unit. It is a 24 channel Behringer Eurodesk MX2442A. It has 16 XLR inputs, 4 stereo inputs, 4 sub-groups and a Main out. It came with an external rack-mountable power supply and the original owner's manual (which has no value as far as repairs go). The chassis is in good shape and all the faders seem smooth. The knobs and plastic pieces are a bit worn, but if the repair is successful, they can be replaced for little cost and really give the board a fresh look.

So here is the initial diagnosis. I set up the board on a keyboard stand I had in the control room, plugged in the power supply and flipped the switch. All that happened was the clip and signal lights (red and green respectively) for channels 17-24 stayed illuminated, no matter what buttons were pressed, or knobs turned. Next I plugged in a microphone to channel 1 to see if I could get any signal on the channel. Nothing. Moved it down the line from channel 1 to 2 and repeat. Nothing. 3 to 4; nothing, and so on down the line. So no signal on any mic channel. So next step is to open this thing up and take a look at what surprises await inside.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Have All The Talented Artists Gone?

The other night I forced myself to watch the MTV VMAs.  Now I know what some of you might be thinking... What is MTV? What is a "music video"? Why would you do that to yourself?  Well I don't know what MTV is anymore, I didn't know anyone knew music videos still existed, and I don't know what made me actually sit through the almost two and a half hours of the "awards".  I did, however, learn quite a bit from watching the show.

I learned quite a bit about what the majority of the culture thinks about music as an art and what they think talent really is.  The majority of performers, groups, bands, "artists", or whatever you want to call them make me sick.  What happened to the days where artists actually CREATED their art?  Now we've become so complacent with what we get we don't even care if the person actually had a hand in crafting it or even perform it!  What we get is a bunch of bullshit thrown together that, by the end of the musical process, might not even be real.  Now I'm not an expert on pop radio, but I would venture to guess that almost 90% of the songs on pop radio don't have elements or instruments that people would say are "actual" musical instruments.  What we get is garbled samples that some other musician tolled over to make a great song or some electronic mess that is made to fake the sound of a real instrument.  Let's not forget that we then get auto-tuned vocals with so much studio magic put on them that we can't even tell if they are vocals to begin with.  Now don't get me wrong.  I like sampled hip-hop music and electronic music.  There is a place in music for electronic instruments, samples, and auto-tuning, but to get complete products by "artists" out there today full of this is complete crap.

The VMAs also saw Britney Spears get the Michael Jackson Lifetime Achievement Award.  Now before you think that is a joke it gets better.  Before giving the award out we saw a dance tribute for Brit Brit that was all pubescent girls in skimpy clothes doing her dance moves from all her videos.  So I guess the punchline was that we got little girls, in skimpy clothes, dancing for a woman who has always been criticized for being to sexy as an influence to little girls before she gets a lifetime achievement award named after an alleged child molester... ANYWAY... I am still amazed that anyone can think Brit Brit is an amazing "artist" and pays money to see her live.  She openly admitted that she would be lip-syncing on tour!  Why would anyone pay money to see someone stand on stage and pretend to sing when they could either sit at home and do the same or pay money to see someone ACTUALLY PERFORM THEIR SONGS!

The masses accept so much of what's fed to them that it makes my head spin.  Apparently it's okay to make fun of Rebecca Black (don't worry, I think it is HILARIOUS) but when a record label feeds us Kreayshawn people lap it up and think she's amazing and blow up her video to over 14 million views.  You want me to believe that pale little girl totes guns, steals cars, and smokes weed like a fiend?  IT'S SO FAKE!!!  She's just as fake as wanting me to believe that Chris Brown was singing during his "dance" performance, too.  At least Jay-Z and Kanye performed, but the "real excitement" they were showing just didn't feel real to me... it was BORING.  Lil' Wayne even got involved as his closer to the show saw him using live auto-tuned vocals (or he got an auto-tune implant in his throat so he sounds like that all the time) and even had him pick up a guitar, play some chords, then smash it... however I still don't remember hearing any live guitar.  It is disheartening to see these "artists" get this kind of exposure when others who are truly working, crafting, and perfecting their art get thrown to the curb.  However, there were some bright moments during the show.

I don't know anything about her music, what it sounds like, or how she normally performs, but Jessie J gets props from me.  She was the only one performing all night.  While it wasn't all that long on air, she performed with a live band every time MTV cut to commercial and wasn't auto-tuned... I even heard some rough, sour notes!  Now that's not good, but at least she was REAL ABOUT IT and couldn't hide behind some auto-tuned bullshit.  We also saw a hip-hop artist named Tyler, The Creator win an award for his video for Yonkers that's gotten some media attention.  While his hip-hop might not be everyone's cup of tea, he has been working at it pretty damn hard and he doesn't use all sampled beats.  They're simple, dark, dirty and grimy and he brings his vocals hard and real.  Perhaps some of the best performances of the night would go to Bruno Mars, Beyonce, and Adele.  While I'm not a massive Bruno Mars fan, he performed with Amy Winehouse's live band and sang one of her songs as a tribute; no auto-tune, no sampling, no electronics.  After announcing that she's pregnant earlier that night, Beyonce gets on stage, dances around, and belts out a song without having to lip-sync her way through it... then shows her "baby bump".  Adele got up on the stage with just a piano and belted out a song that was real, meaningful, and passionate.  THEY WERE REAL.  I even had to ask myself why Adele would lower herself to performing at such an event, but I'm glad I got to see someone on that stage perform with some heart and integrity.

All in all I think my beef is the fact that people today lap up whatever is presented to them and that is part of the problem.  So few people actually take the time to look for quality and real art in music and now it is the easiest time to do it.  Don't just accept what you're handed; you have to dig deeper and find the art and meaning behind the music and get the quality we all deserve when the labels and "musicians" want us to fork over our hard earned money for their product.  If the minority can influence the majority at all, there would have to be a change in what we are given.  We have to make the majority demand something more than the pills we're being forced to swallow.  It won't take a day, a week, or even a year.  It will take some time for there to be change, but until people can wake up and realize they're being handed meaningless "art" that has no substance at a poor quality true lovers of the art of music will suffer with what is being presented to the masses.  I've lived in the underground so long that I've dug in, but I'm getting tired of it.  Let's try to make a change.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Which one of these doesn't belong

It has become more apparent to me how important all aspects of your drum mix are when it comes to cohesion. You can have the best kick drum sound in the world, followed by killer, punchy toms, trailed by sweet, crisp overheads, but if your snare sounds flat and lifeless, the whole drum mix suffers. As we are all aware, in metal, the two most critical drum elements are the kick and snare; if one falls short, the other will follow.

I was having just this problem. I had a great kick drum I was consistently happy with, however, I couldn't get the snare to fit the music. Not even having 5 inserts, EQ, 2 reverbs, and parallel bus compression could make this snare sounds like it belongs; and that is KEY word - belong. When I soloed the snare it sounded fantastic, alittle cut on the EQ here, a limiting amp for snap, and a touch of reverb to round it out, but as soon as the solo was taken off, it was like the song fell apart. I tried every combination of plugins, reverbs and EQ, but to no avail. Again, it wasn't that the snare sounded bad in its own right, it just didnt fit the overall mix and vision for the band.

So I did what any good engineer or musician would do; got up and walked away. I came back a few hours later and decided to start over. So I went back to the sample we made of the drummers snare (used so there is no cymbal bleed), and thats when I realized you can't make something sound like something it is not. The band wanted a deep snare with body, and the sample I had was of a ringing snare with mostly top end. So I could only take that sample so far. I re-opened the track and popped in another snare sample for fun, and the song came back to life.

So thank you drumagog for saving me and my mix. I was finding it hard to mix anything else when the drums didn't sound together. It was like a roadblock. So after a frustrating evening, we are back on track!

On a side note, I will keep that snare sample in my back pocket for future use!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why We Do What We Do (At Least From My Perspective)

The other day I was down in a hole... yes, like the Alice In Chains song, and yes, quite literally.  You see I have another part time job doing construction work and this past week was full of digging trenches so I spent a lot of time down in a hole, which gave me some time to think about some of the projects we have going on at Ro3 Audio.  It also gave me a lot of time to think about why we do the things we do, because I honestly ask myself that question every time I go do my construction work.  

For me the construction work is all about the money.  Yea I get some physical activity out of the whole ordeal, but the money keeps me going back to work.  The hours are long, the temperatures always seem really high, the physical toll is incredible... but the money is my focus.  I need it, and without anything other way to pay my bills or rent right now I have to deal with it.  I show up, do as I am asked, finish the job for the day and collect my check at the end of the week.  For me my concern is getting paid.  To be honest I've had a lot of jobs like that over the years and I think that everyone does, but the money is the farthest thing from my mind when it comes to recording with clients.

Before taking on the task of working with Brian at Ro3 Audio, we had multiple discussions about what our goals and aspirations were when getting started.  Over the years I've visited friends at studios and heard others tell stories about their studio experiences.  The one thing I remember hearing from those people are the stories of how their engineer/producer/guy-behind-the-board was that they were simply a button pusher.  Each day they went into the studio the clock started and it was like watching the gas pump click away while you wait for it to stop and see how much you'll owe.  They'd record a take, the engineer would ask if it sounded good, they'd play it back, then when asked for an opinion the engineer would say it's fine and then say those magic three words, "Let's move on."  

That's the thing I find hard as an engineer.  The fact that someone asks how it sounds and an engineer would act so blasé when asked for feedback is mind blowing.  Those engineers were nothing but button pushers, people who couldn't wait for the clock to run out so they could get out of the studio and cash their check.  Those are the people we're trying NOT to be at Ro3 Audio.  While we realize that as engineers we're not there to rewrite a client's music, change their ideas, or force ours on them, we take pride in the fact that we are willing and ready to offer our ideas and opinions when asked from clients... sometimes even when we're not asked by our clients.  Our goal isn't to force ideas or rewrite what is brought to us, we just want to help our clients put the best product out as they possibly can, sonically and musically, because our name will be on that same product.  If our clients take our constructive criticism and use it to make them better, great.  If they ask for criticism, awesome.  If we give an idea and a client doesn't want to use it or even listen to it, that's fine too... it wouldn't be the first time.  We'll tow the line and be the engineers that our clients allow us to be, whether it be engineers/producers/guys-behind-the-board who give honest feedback and ideas or just push buttons.  Our goal isn't about inserting ourselves into a client's project, it's about standing out.

We honestly strive to be better than a lot of other studios out there who just want your checks.  We come from the NJ/NYC music scene and we want to give right back to it.  The whole goal shouldn't be about the money and it isn't.  Don't get me wrong, we do get monetary compensation but we're not looking to get rich.  We sink it right back into what we love by upgrading equipment to improve recordings and help out our clients.  It's really like a donation when it all gets broken down.  We're trying to make amateur bands sound professional on their amateur budgets, and we're more than willing to work with our clients on working with that budget.  We d this to help build back up a scene that seems like it might be dwindling sometimes in the NJ/NYC area, to help bands become better, to try to make a difference in our client's careers as musicians by delivering a quality product, and most importantly because WE LOVE DOING IT.  

We're not like some of the other studios who look to make bank as the engineers sit back and push buttons while the watch the clock.  We want to stand out from the rest by giving you a lot for what you can get in your budget because WE LOVE WHAT WE DO.  Spread the word, Ro3 Audio is here to stay and we're not going anywhere.  If you or someone you know are looking for what we offer please contact us at and we'll all benefit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mixing solo

We are in the process of finishing up recording an EP for the band A Striking Resemblance, and we are slowly, yes slowly, transitioning out of the tracking phase and into the mixing phase. I was working on getting the basic levels and inserts set for the drum tracks, guitars and bass and I realized two things. First, the importance of the preset. Talk about a time saver. In the DAW world, recording keeps getting easier and the preset is the "copy & paste" of consistency. When the track counts start getting high, and you are trying to get the parameters between songs in the same ballpark, creating presets makes it easy. They are great for EQ and inserts, but as far as levels go, each song is its own entity. Second; while mixing alone is fine for setting the basic levels, getting the compression, gates, and EQ setup, (presets) but having a second person come in and fine tune everything is crucial to making a good mix great. The band themselves provide important insight into how things are sounding, but sometimes an outside "voice" can be more objective. It is amazing what you hear differently when you come back to the same project weeks later.

So the lesson of the day is always mix with a friend, use presets, and take a day off! Your music will thank you later. Though don't forget to save your project before walking away, or you will be wondering what happened to the bass track weeks later.