I have been subscribing to EM for more than two years now, and I was particularly pleased to note the section on SMFs of Christian hymns in the November 1999 issue ("What's New: Sound Advice"). I am a musician and a Christian worker, and I appreciate the effort on the part of the publishers to include this section of the musical community. There is an entire group of excellent musicians and electronics users in the Christian music world, and the popular press seldom pays any attention to them. Perhaps you could explore areas of the Christian music industry and highlight some of its artists in a future issue. I believe this will stimulate and not reduce magazine sales, as it will attract the thousands of Christian musicians around today.
David LawrenceAbundant Life MinistriesCincinnati, OH
UNEVEN EQUAL TIMEThe EQ article in your October issue was hilarious.
Joe Hardyvia e-mail
I just finished reading Jeff Casey's "Equal Time" article (October 1999), and I have to say that anyone interested in understanding the art of EQ should not read this article. From its opening premise-that EQ can substitute for capturing a pristine performance, a perfectly tuned instrument, the proper acoustic environment, or good microphones-to the 14 totally useless and bizarre tips, this article is full of erroneous information.
I have been playing and recording music for more than 30 years; for the past 25 I have been doing audio and video engineering, band demos, and audio for video, and recording original music. I don't know who Jeff or the two other gentlemen are, but this article is full of narrow-use, extreme ideas. I would love to hear some mixes using these concepts. They wouldn't work well for most of the music that I know of or listen to.
I won't go into all of the items I find amiss, but I will delve into one, the Bass Guitar section. Bass is my main instrument. I don't know of any music in which a bass with the low end rolled off at 100 Hz and the top rolled off at 520 Hz would be considered as having a rich, fat, full tone. On a four-string bass, the low E's fundamental is 40 Hz, and it's lower for a five- or six-string. There is a lot of harmonic content well above 730 Hz, especially with round wound strings and active basses.
Some great articles about EQ have been published throughout the years, but this isn't one of them. It just gives strange EQ settings from three people and has no real-world, useful information.
Rick Boganvia e-mail
Jeff Casey's article "Equal Time" was an extremely informative look at how the pros get such great sounds with simple EQ tools. It's the kind of article that will always be open on my desk when I'm mixing. Thanks for the tips!
However, the six Ensoniq PARIS screen shots were a complete waste of space. PARIS is a great system, but surely you could have found something with a more descriptive EQ interface. It was a bad and obviously biased decision to use the PARIS EQ strips as figures for the article. Something a little more descriptive, like the Cubase VST EQ interface, would have been more appropriate. Or even better, graphical EQ curves. It's a shame that all your readers will have to go out and buy a PARIS manual just to find out what you were talking about.
Christopher Thompsonvia e-mail
Joe, Rick, and Christopher-Neither Jeff Casey, the two engineers he interviewed (Derek Martin and Greg Petricelli), nor the editors who worked on the article would assert that fixing a poor recording is better than recording your tracks properly to start with. As Jeff points out in his introduction, sometimes you don't have the mic you'd like to use for a particular track, or the acoustic space is flawed, or an instrument is of less-than-stellar quality, and you have to make do. EQ is one tool you can use to correct the problems at mixdown. Other times, people bring tracks to you for mixdown, and you have to deal with whatever they bring you. EQ can help there, too. Obviously, if you can get it right from the start, there's nothing to fix, and life is grand.
Casey, Martin, and Petricelli suggested some techniques that surprised me and that I probably would not use. But they clearly have had success using them. Nobody is fool enough to claim that this article is sacred scripture that holds the answers to life, the universe, and everything. You can take what you think is of value-and I agree with Christopher that the article did present some valuable ideas-and leave the rest or modify it to suit you.
As far as using PARIS for the screen shots, we actually did try to use several other host programs and EQ plug-ins with more graphical interfaces. But we ran into problems because several of the techniques presented required a 4-band parametric that could be set very precisely, without rounding off the values (as many of the plug-ins did). PARIS offered that; the others we tried did not. Admittedly, given more time, we could have kept searching.
However, the values in the PARIS displays (gain in dB, Q factor, and frequency in Hz) were not PARIS- specific and could translate to other systems, including hardware. In the caption for Fig. 4 (the first PARIS screen shot in the article), we specified what each parameter value meant.-Steve O.
NT SOLUTIONSIn the October 1999 "Letters: Partitioning Dilemmas," you responded to Bill Rogers, saying that "Windows NT cannot recognize FAT32 drives." This is true only if one restricts oneself to Microsoft-only products. A software company called Winternals Software (www.winternals.com) produces a very high-quality driver called FAT32 for NT 4.0. I've been using it continuously for about six months with no difficulties whatsoever. This is a godsend for my triple-boot system (Windows 95, Win 98, NT). Winternals also produces NTFS for Win 98, which I have not used.
A minor point: you say that once one reformats for FAT32, one can't go back to FAT. There is at least one way to go back: buy PartitionMagic 4.0 and run the "convert FAT32 to FAT" operation.
Jim BartramOakland, CA
RAZOR-SHARP HEARINGThe article titled "Razor's Edge" (May 1999) by Jeff Casey states that the resolution of human hearing is 3 dB. I have had a number of hearty chuckles over this statement with mixing and mastering engineers while producing album projects and going back and forth over the merits of 11/42 dB changes. Finally I thought I would ask you: was it a typo? (0.3 dB perhaps?)
David Pascalvia e-mail
David-Actually, the resolution of human hearing (which is also called the just noticeable difference or jnd) with respect to changes in intensity is much more complex than a simple, constant number of decibels. Rather, it depends on the frequency and initial intensity of the stimulus (not to mention the variations in hearing ability from one individual to another).
According to Alan M. Richards in his book Basic Experimentation in Psychoacoustics, the jnd is 3 to 7 dB or more at low intensities (say, 5 dB above an individual's threshold of hearing), depending on the frequency. In general, the jnd for low frequencies at low intensities is greater than it is for higher frequencies at low intensities, although this is not a linear relationship. For example, the jnd is 3 dB for frequencies between 1 and 4 kHz at 5 dB above threshold, but it is 5 dB for 10 kHz at 5 dB above threshold. The jnd is 8 dB for 35 Hz at 5 dB above threshold.
As the intensity increases to about 50 dB above an individual's threshold of hearing, the jnd falls to well below 1 dB for almost all frequencies. This corresponds to most studio mixing situations, in which the material is typically more than 50 dB above the threshold of hearing. About the only time that you have very low-volume material is during a fade-out ending, in which case the jnd is significantly higher than 1 dB.-Scott W.