Archive for the ‘No music’ Category

Blur 21: First Impressions

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Quick review-type-thing for those with short attention spans: the Blur 21 box set is as awesome as it is huge (and in case you didn’t know, it’s freakin’ huge). So if you like Blur, you should probably just go ahead and buy it. If you want to know what makes it so awesome (and in some cases, a little less than awesome) feel free to read on. However, I want to note that this is not a full-on review of the box set. This thing is huge (seriously, I’m going to use that word a lot to describe this beast) and I haven’t had time to absorb it all, so I don’t think it’s fair to call this a review because of that. Like the headline says, these are my first impressions of the box, nothing more nothing less.

Now let’s do this.

Sound Quality
Since an alarming number of people come to this blog to find out about this stuff, I suppose I’ll cut right to the chase and start with my findings about the quality of the remaster.

According to the promotional materials for Blur 21, only the first five CDs have been “remastered.” As longtime readers of my blog know, “remastered” more often than not really means “take out the dynamic range and compress the song so its all a loud pile of shit.” So how do the remastered Blur CDs make out? Well, see for yourself. Below are screen captures of waveforms from five songs, one from each remastered CD. In each capture the top waveform is from the original non-remastered version of the album, while the bottom is taken from the remastered edition. Below each screen capture are measures of each version’s dynamic range (the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a recording). The higher a dynamic range, the more of a difference. For the most part a  higher dynamic range is better.

There’s No Other WayOriginal – 11
New – 7

Chemical World
Original – 12
New – 9

Girls & Boys
Original – 13
New – 9

Country House
Original – 10
New –  8

Song 2
Original –  8
New –  8

In some cases those look like some pretty drastic differences, and they are. However, I really can’t hear that much of a difference or any kind of degradation in quality. I think that’s because that, even though the remastered versions are louder, there’s no clipping and nothing is distorted or chopped off for the sake of loudness. Much like the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream remaster, it appears the Blur albums were taken to their absolute limit of loudness without causing distortion. It’s kind of pointless, but like I said, I really can’t hear that much of a difference. I’m sure there are hardcore Blur fans who will be outraged by this, but sorry, I’m not one of them.

Presentation
When I first saw promotional materials for the Blur 21 box I was less than impressed. It just seemed like a tiny blue box with a silver Blur logo on it. Not at all cool looking. Well, I was wrong. Turns out it’s a giant blue box with a silver Blur logo on it. This thing does house a 7″ single (more on that in a bit) so to fit that thing in there the entire box has to be 7″ x 7″ x 7″. That doesn’t sound that big, but trust me, this is one hefty looking cube of music. It’s going to hold its own on my record shelf next to my LP box sets. Opening it up and emptying it out really shows how big it is.

The inside of the box is laid out rather well also, with the CDs arranged nicely in a little rack in the center, with the 7″ single and an awesome hardcover book that covers everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Blur stashed away on the side. Very slick.

 

One of the odder inclusions with the set is a card with a download code.  The code gives you access to PDFs of the complete catalog of Blur fanclub newsletters, which is cute, as well as downloads to every CD in the set, which is…kind of strange and pointless. I mean, they’re CDs. Why do I need a download code? But hey, it’s convenient I guess if you want to own the box set and never ever actually take the CDs out the shrink rap (although you’d still need to open the DVD case if you wanted to watch those).

To be honest, if you never did open the CDs, you wouldn’t be missing much, each album (along with it’s bonus disc) is held in a plain reproduction case with no notable linear notes aside from the tracklistings, which can also be found in the hardcover book. I saw some commenters on another site complaining about this, but it really doesn’t bother me.

What’s In The Box!
Damn near everything. Seriously. This box includes all seven proper Blur albums, each with their own bonus disc of added songs. In addition to that, four CDs filled with even more bonus tracks in the form of rarities, B-sides, demos, alternate versions and remixes are also included. All in all that’s 282 songs of Blur; 18 hours and 41 minutes of Britpop joy. And that’s not even counting the stuff that’s on the 3 included DVDs, which are full of concert footage and promotional videos that are worth watching.  And let’s not forget the 7″ single, which includes the never-before-released “Superman,” a song from the 1989 when the band was still called Seymour. What more could a fan want? Well, since you asked…

What’s Not In The Box?
While a lot of great mixes did make it onto the set, quite a few didn’t make the cut. The remixes to “Bang” are absent as are remixes to other Leisure-era tracks “High Cool” and “Bad Day,” among others.

Additionally, the Japanese imports Bustin’ + Dronin’ and Live At Budokan are missing in action. While Bustin’ + Dronin’ is now easily available in the states and in the UK, the Budokan album remains out of print outside of Japan, so its inclusion here would have been nice. Live at Hyde Park is also nowhere to be found, but like Bustin’ + Dronin’, that’s easy to find on its own in most territories.

Conclusion
Time, and repeated listens, will tell if this box set truly is a must buy. I still can’t taken the whole thing in, and I may be missing mastering errors and other issues that seem to plague remasters and re-issues as of late. But as far as none of those rear their ugly heads, I think it’s safe for me to say that this is a must buy set for any Blur fan, it’s simply stellar. Yeah, the remaster may not be perfect, but it’s good enough, and the bonus tracks and other goodies more than make up for it.

Seriously, this thing is wicked awesome.

Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot Deluxe Edition Review

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Pisces Iscariot was first released in 1994. Primarily a B-sides and outtakes collection, it lacks the cohesion and tightness that other Pumpkins albums of the era have, but it’s still a quality collection of excellent tunes nonetheless. While the album is probably not anyone’s favorite Smashing Pumpkins record, it does have plenty of tracks that remain standouts in the Pumpkins’ repertoire to this day, including the band’s classic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” the hard-rocking “Frail & Bedazzled” and the legendary epic face-melting shredfest that is “Starla.”

Even though Pisces Iscariot is “just” a b-sides compilation, Billy Corgan still decided that it should be part of his massive re-issue campaign which to date has already seen excellent three-disc (2 CD/1 DVD ) re-releases of the band’s first two albums; Gish and Siamese Dream.

In my reviews for those re-issues I noted that not only were the remasters decent (although not optimal) but that the deluxe editions of the albums included a good selection of excellent demos, b-sides and other rarities that fans of the groups should enjoy. I gave both my wholehearted endorsement.

I don’t think I can do the same for Pisces Iscariot.

Oh boy, this one is really a mixed bag. Where do I begin?

Disc 2 of the collection is probably what fans of the band are interested in the most, as it’s where most of the previously unheard material is held, so I suppose I’ll start there. The packaging for the album describes the second disc a collection of “17 previously unreleased or alternative versions of Pisces era songs.” But that’s a lie. Only nine of the tracks on disc two are in fact previously unreleased, the rest are culled from singles, compilations or the Earphoria album (which is weird since that’s still in print).

Those nine tracks are good though, and should be of interest to most Pumpkins fans. Highlights include the quiet “Blissed,” which is exceptionally beautiful, and unexpected covers of “Cinnamon Girl” and “Venus In Furs.” And while they have been previously released, it’s a safe bet that most fans haven’t heard quality rarities like “Glynis” or”Jackie Blue” so it’s nice to see them finally see a release on a proper Pumpkins album. They deserve to be heard by a wider audience.

But then again, so did “Honey Spider II” and “Not Worth Asking” two rarities that were included on a bonus 7″ on some editions of the original Pisces Iscariot. Why were they excluded? It’s so random. And where is “Bullet Train To Osaka,” the b-side to “I Am One?” The 15-minute long “Why Am I So Tired” should have been cut to make room for these genuine rarities. It’s on Earphoria. There’s no reason for it to be here. Especially considering how it was “remastered.”

About the remaster, it’s another Bob “I’m against the Loudness Wars until someone pays me” Ludwig job, so it’s not great. It’s not bad either, but it’s certainly less than ideal. Just like the remasters for Gish and Siamese Dream, everything on Pisces Iscariot has fallen victim to the Loudness Wars. Although some songs have made it out better than others.

Nearly all the quiet tracks are fine, it would be really hard to make something like “Landslide” too loud, so I’m going to focus on the more rocking numbers from Pisces.

Each of the following are images of the waveforms from selected tracks. The original version is on top, the remastered version on the bottom. Below each image is a measure of each version’s dynamic range, which is the difference between the quietest and loudest parts of a recording. When a remaster decreases the dynamic range of a song, then its actively making it sound worse.

 

Frail And Bedazzled
Original - 10
Remaster  - 8

Starla
Original – 11
New – 9

La Dolly Vita
Original – 11
New –  8

So all the tracks on Pisces have made it through the remastering process with some of their dynamic range stripped away in lieu of making them as loud as possible. Just like Gish and Siamese Dream though, the difference is barely noticeable. At least I didn’t detect any audible distortion in any of the tracks and they don’t have a “wall of noise” feel to them like the remaster of Nevermind did. The album is totally listenable in its remastered form, but if you have the original you should probably hang on to it.

The second disc is more a mixed bag. The quiet songs made it out fine, but the louder tunes seem to have been over-compressed to a much more noticeable degree. Here are some comparisons of tracks on the second disc that have been previously released. Just like the other comparisons, the originals are on top, while the remastered versions are on the bottom.

Glynis
Original –  10
Remaster –  7

Slunk
Original – 8
Remaster – 5

Why Am I So Tired?
Original – 13
Remaster – 7

“Glynis” goes from 10 to 7 and “Slunk” also drops down three, from an already noisy 8 to a boisterously loud 5, but the real crime here is the needless butchering of “Why Am I So Tired.” It loses nearly half of its dynamic range! And Check out the clipping.

See where the waveform flattens out? That’s where music is actually being lost so the album can be made louder. Pointless.

The song sounds different now, it’s like a wall of noise that drowns out the music buried within. It’s actually tiring to hear (Why Am Is So Tired? Because your song is too damn loud Billy). Thankfully I still have the properly mastered version on Earphoria.

On a most positive note, the box also features a DVD of an early live footage of the group, which includes an entire performance for a cable access show in 1988 and some various live clips from ’89 to ’94. Most are taken from videotape, so they don’t look good, but at least they sound great. I’m actually ripping all the tracks off the DVD and converting them to MP3 because I like them so much.

And finally, there’s even a reproduction of the band’s demo tape, which is actually on a cassette tape.

Okay, I get it. Cassettes are “cute” and retro at the moment. People have developed some strange nostalgia for cassette culture and that’s great. I’m not going to fault anyone for looking back at something that made them happy when they were growing up.

But…cassettes sound like garbage! They’re worthless, dead pieces of technology that no one should be forced to deal with ever again. And who the hell still has a tape deck? The majority of people who buy this box set are never going to get to listen to this tape. And if they do, they’ll just be bummed at how crappy it sounds. Because cassettes sound like crap! At the very least it should have included a download card.

Oh wait it did, but only if you bought the album direct from the Smashing Pumpkins website. Because fuck record stores I guess.

And to top it all off, the tape is ugly.

So, is this set worth getting? Well, even with all its faults I still think it’s worth picking up for the previously unreleased tunes and the live footage, which is really something special. It’s just a downer that the set is “good enough” when it really had the potential to be great.

It does make me worry about the upcoming deluxe reissue of Melon Collie. If Billy fucks that one up I hope someone punches him in his little bald head.

Update
As various commentors have, well, commented, there are additional problems with this remaster.

The above image is taken from the waveform for “Pissant.” See that part that looks like a square wave? That’s a mastering error. These are the kind of things that should be caught before the album comes out. Bob Ludwig strikes again.

There are also other problems, which you can read about in the comments, perhaps you may want to stay clear of this one for now until they (hopefully) get worked out.

And if anyone wants to complain about this to Bob Ludwig or Billy Corgan on Twitter, please do. I would, but they both blocked me! I assumed Bob blocked me for this, and I think Billy blocked me when I attacked him for his transphobic bullshit.

 

Amon Tobin Box Set: Unscrewed

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

So I got this in the mail last week.

 

For those who may not recognize it, this is the new Amon Tobin box set from Ninja Tune. Amon Tobin is an electronic musician from Brazil, whose body of work is an impressive collection that touches upon a variety of genres, including IDM, drum and bass, hip-hop and even ambient. He’s diverse.

He’s also apparently incredibly productive. This box set, which is comprised almost entirely of unreleased material, features seven CDs, 2 DVDs, and 6 10″ LPs of content. In addition to that, the download code for the LPs also includes several bonus tracks and remixes that they couldn’t squeeze into the box. Not including the DVDs, that’s 160 tracks of music, 10 hours of stuff. And at $120 bucks, that’s one hell of a deal.

But I don’t really want to talk about the music (it’s all pretty great) what I want to show-off here is the box set itself, because it’s nuts. In case you couldn’t tell from that first pic, the entire thing is set up like some sort of industrial press (why Trent Reznor didn’t think of this first is beyond me).  So, instead of simply opening the box set like any other super deluxe edition, you have to unscrew it.

Sure, it may not be practical or make sense, but it looks dope.

 

As you can tell from that pic, thankfully the box set has butterfly washers, so you don’t need any special wrench or screwdriver to pry it open (although how awesome would that have been!) The screws don’t need to held in that tight, so the washers come off with minimal effort.

 

How much would is suck to lose one of these?

 

The presentation remains pretty stellar even after the screws are removed and the box opened. Lying right on top is a folded poster. Which is cool, but not the best, the major creases really take away from it as a piece.

 

Not really framing material.

 

It picks up though. From there we get to the real meat of the content, the seven CDs and two DVDs. They’re presented on three carboard platters, which are way more sturdy than they look.

Do your best to ignore the reflection of the Foo Fighters poster.

 

On the back of each platter/base/whatever are tracklistings for each disc.

 

Simple and minimalist, like everything else in the box.

 

The packaging for the LPs is similar, the only difference is that the sleeves are black.

 

The records themselves are typical, 10" records. No need to focus on them.

 

At the very bottom of the box are four more pieces of art, all of which are way more interesting than the larger, folded poster that is at the top of the set.

 

The vague sci-fi motifs are common in most of Amon Tobin's work.

In all my years of record collecting, I’ve never seen a package as unique and interesting as this one. I think there are a few left on Ninja Tune’s site, so if you got the bucks, I recommend picking it up.

The Lost Turntable Guide To Recording Vinyl

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Well, here it is! The long-awaited, long-overdue and just plain long Lost Turntable Guide to Recording Vinyl.

What took so long? (And why is it so damn long?)

Well, what I thought was going to be a quick cut-and-dry “how to” guide slowly began to morph, mutate and altogether spin out of control. When I first started writing this thing I thought it was just going to be nothing more than some tips and tricks on recording records. But then I decided I should expand it to be a more conclusive guide covering the entire vinyl ripping process, but once I got there I realized that I had include sections on hardware and software too…

So yeah, things kind of got out of hand. But here it is! Split into four convienent and hopefully easy-to-understand chapters.

Chapter one deals strictly with hardware. Turntable, pre-amps, cartridges. I go over my recommendations and what I think you should look for when choosing gear.

Chapter two is all about software, the recording and restoration software that I think is must-have if you want to do this right.

Chapter three is an in-depth step-by-step guide showing what I do when I record vinyl. It’s only 100% applicable if you’re using the exact same equipment and software as I am, but even if you’re not it should help you out a bit.

And finally chapter four is where I offer some tips, tricks and links that didn’t fit anywhere else.

So without further ado…an introduction.

Introductions and Disclaimers

Before I really get going, there are two things I want to get out of the way.

First, I’ve been recording vinyl for six years now. I learned as I went, making a ton of mistakes along the way. And I’m fairly certain I’m not done making mistakes. So if at anytime during this guide you think I’m full of it, or doing something horribly wrong, I very well might be. Let me know! Just don’t be a jerk about it. I’m always looking for ways to make my rips better, so any polite and constructive criticism is welcome.

Second, this is not a guide on how to record vinyl “on the cheap” or “fast and easy.” This is a guide on how to record vinyl properly, with high-quality results that are worthy of being in your MP3 collection. You can’t do that quickly, easily, or inexpensively. Not including my computer, my final cost for my set-up, which includes my turntable, cartridge, pre-amp and recording/restoration software cost me over $600, and that’s substantially cheaper than what many “audiophiles” pay for their set-ups. It sucks, but this isn’t an endeavor for those who aren’t willing to spend a bit of cash. Sorry.

Okay, now that I have that stuff out of the way…let’s do this!

 

Chapter 1 – Hardware

 

Turntables
This part is pretty important, so you might want to take notes.

If you ask me, there’s only one turntable in the world worth getting (more on it in a bit). However, I realize that not everyone has the same tastes as me, so before I offer my singular recommendation, let me extend a few general tips you should keep in mind when picking a deck.

First of all, always avoid USB turntables. Almost all of them are abominations that can neither effectively play nor record vinyl.

Why?

First of all, most use ceramic needles. In addition to sounding horrible, these things destroy records. They’re outdated garbage, keep them away from your vinyl.

Secondly, many use built-in pre-amps (a pre-amp boosts your phono signal so it can be heard properly), and those just don’t cut it when it comes to sound quality. Your music will sound muffled, muddled and altogether bad. Whenever I go back to recordings I made using my old ION USB turntable, I can’t believe how hideous they sound. It’s like they were recorded underwater.

Finally, recording straight from a turntable to your computer via a USB port isn’t as easy as it might seem. You’ll get a lot of interference from the electronics in the turntable, and the process itself takes a lot out of your computer’s resources. It’s just not worth the hassle.  Get a real turntable, you can hook it up to your PC with little effort.

With that out of the way, the biggest decision you’ll have to make when choosing a turntable is whether you want a  belt-drive or direct-drive model.

With a belt-drive turntable, the motor is connected to a belt, which in turn is connected to the platter. The motor spins the belt, and the belt spins the platter. On a direct-drive turntable, the motor is connected directly to the platter (typically underneath), spinning it directly.

Which usually sounds better? It’s a contentious subject. Some believe that direct-drive turntables can create a noticeable “hum” in your recordings.  Others, myself included, don’t like belt-drive tables because they don’t always spin at the right speed. Belts wear down over time, and a worn down belt will cause your turntable to spin too fast (audiophiles call this “flutter”). It’s the kind of thing that you never notice at first, it only comes to your attention after you’ve recorded half-a-dozen records at slightly the wrong speed. It can be maddening.

On the other hand, I’ve never heard any noticeable “hum” coming from any medium-to-high-end direct-drive turntable I’ve owned, and they always spin at precisely the right speed. I’ve been told that super-high-end belt-drive decks, ones that cost upwards of a grand, don’t have problems with flutter, but I’ve never wanted to spend enough money to find out. I would recommend a direct-drive deck, for ripping vinyl it’s almost always a safer bet. In fact I would recommend one direct-drive turntable in particular, the  Technics SL-1200.

My Technics SL-1210 MK2. Yes, I know it’s dusty. No, you can’t have it.

In all honesty, if you want a turntable that sounds great, runs great and even looks pretty damn great, then just get a Technics. There’s a reason why nearly every turntable on the market today is trying to emulate the look and feel of the Technics SL-1200. It’s because they’re some of the best turntables ever made. Sadly, Panasonic shut down production of the Technics line a few years ago, so you probably won’t be able to find a new one at a fair price. Don’t let that stop you though, since the Technics 1200 was one of the most popular turntables of all time, you can usually find one used online for less than $300 if you know where to look online. I picked one up on Craigslist for $300 and it was worth every penny.

 

Cartridges
While I have no problem recommending just one turntable, I can’t do the same with cartridges. There are just too many out there that it’s impossible for to keep track. The best advice I can give you when choosing a cartridge is to do your research. Different cartridges work better with different turntables. So go to Google and search for something like “best cartridge for [turntable model]” and see what comes up. Check out AudioKarma, that’s my go to message board for this stuff (although most people there will tell you that direct-drive decks are the devil). The audiophile message board nerds who talk about this stuff are usually good sources. Just don’t spend over $150-$200 for a cartridge if you’re just getting into vinyl, you should be able to find a decent one for between $70-$100.

Me personally, I play all my records using a Nagaoka MP-110 cartridge. From everything I’ve read, it comes highly rated for Technics SL-1200 turntables, and is fairly priced at around $100. Of all the cartridges I’ve used it has the best stereo separation and the best tracking; it also doesn’t amplify bass or polish the audio in anyway, it just plays the records accurately and beautifully.

All that, and it’s pretty too.

 

Conversely, I recommend you avoid the Ortofon Arkiv (lousy tracking, too sensitive), DarkHorse Sanyo (horrible all around) and the Stanton Groovemaster (too damn heavy and loud). But once again, that only goes for the Technics SL-1200 and for recording vinyl, results may vary with other kinds of turntables.

No matter what cartridge you end up going with, I suggest buying it from The Needle Doctor, the best site for turntable supplies on the Internet.

102/24/13 Update
While I still recommend the Nagoka MP-110 for most systems, I recently discovered that for whatever reason, the cartridge did not play nice with my new computer. I don’t know why and I can’t explain it, but for some reason when I upgraded my computer all my recordings became muddled. When I replaced my cartridge with another model, the problem disappeared!

If you find yourself with this problem, then I recommend the Audio Technica 120E/T. It’s also about $100, and gives a sound that is nearly identical to how the MP-110 used to sound on my system.

 

Pre-amp/Soundcard
Often overlooked, a phono pre-amp is a vital part of any turntable system. These special amplifiers are made with turntables in mind, and raise the levels of a turntable signal to the proper volume/EQ settings that make it possible for you to hear your records at a comfortable volume. If your turntable doesn’t have an internal pre-amp (and it shouldn’t, those suck) you will need a pre-amp in order to listen to and record your LPs.

In addition to a pre-amp, you’ll also probably need an external soundcard, unless your internal card has a line-input. And even if it does, it’s still not a bad idea to get an external soundcard. Most internal cards just aren’t cut out for recording from a line signal. It’s hard to explain, and I don’t entirely understand it, but I was never happy with the results whenever I tried to record vinyl using my internal soundcard. Everything always sounded like half the treble was missing.

Fortunately, you don’t need to buy both an external soundcard and a pre-amp, as there are a lot of pre-amps made today that function as both. I’ve used a few, and the one I’ve gotten the best results with is the  ART USB PhonoPlus v2 Computer Audio Interface.

This thing is a godsend. It requires no drivers, has optional built-in hum removal (great for tape recording or if your system has a lot of R/F interference) and it only takes a few minutes to set up (which I’ll get to in another section). I really cannot recommend this thing enough, nor can I say enough good things about it.

Conversely, I can’t say enough bad things about any external soundcard made by M-Audio. While these guys make great professional-grade (translation: incredibly expensive) hardware, their entry-level stuff consistently proved itself to be completely worthless to me. It never works right, requires a ridiculous amount of drivers, and it even crashed my system to the point where I had to re-install Windows 7. If you have a choice between an M-Audio soundcard and getting punched in the gut, I recommend the gutpunch.

…moving on.

 

Chapter  2 – Software

Recording/Basic Editing Software
There are a lot of ways to go here. Some people really like Audacity, and it’s really hard to argue with free and open-source…unless you’re me.

I’m not a fan of that program, I find it clunky, hard to understand, and needlessly complicated. It’s also a resource hog and slows down my system whenever I’m working with it. I avoid it. My own personal preference for recording and basic editing software is Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio. It’s probably a little over-powered for what I do, but it works, it doesn’t slow down my system, and it’s easy to use. Those are three very big selling points for me. It’s also great for whenever I do want to do something a little more complicated with my audio files, such as adjusting the EQ settings or fiddling with the playback speed.

Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio also gets a ton of little things right. It’s ultra-versatile, allowing you to record in quality as high as 32-bit/192,000 Hz audio, and you can save in just about any format you could desire, including WAV, MP3, FLAC and even OGG. It also allows you to zoom in and out of an audio file by using your mouse’s scroll wheel (something Audacity cannot do), which is incredibly handy when removing pops and cracks from a recording. It’s also very efficient and fast, I can edit and save a file in Sound Forge in about half the time it takes me to do so in Audacity. So, yeah, it might not be free, but my time is worth the money.

 

Click Removal
No matter how good your system, no matter how clean your records, you will hear the occasional snap, crackle or pop in your recordings. There’s nothing you can do about it. However, you can remove most of them with the help of the right click removal software. Ever since vinyl has come back a ton of programs have appeared on the market claiming to be able to restore even the most haggard of records to near-CD quality. For the most part, these programs are hogwash. Either they don’t remove enough of the clicks and pops, or they remove all of them at the expense of the overall fidelity of your music.

To date, I have only found one program that can easily remove most pops and clicks from a recording while not affecting the quality of the recording. That program is ClickRepair. Setting it up can be a bit of a bother (I’ll get to in my next section), but once you figure out how it works it can be a real life saver. ClickRepair has saved recordings that I thought were lost causes. It costs $45, but it’s totally worth it in my opinion.. But if you’re hesitant to spend the dough without giving it a test drive, a trial version is available at the official website as well.

 

Hum/Noise Removal
Sometimes when you’re listening to vinly you might pick up a kind of hum or hiss that’s omnipresent over your entire recording. Typically it’s radio frequency (R/F) interference. If you have a decent turntable and pre-amp, then you shouldn’t be having this problem. Before you go the software route, try moving your equipment around; hook it up to a different power outlet; or try some different cables.

However, not all hiss and hum is caused by R/F interference, some records are just naturally noisy. It can be especially annoying if the music on the album is quiet (Tangerine Dream albums have this problem far too often). If that’s the case, then you might have to go the software route to scrub your recordings free of hum and hiss. One program I’ve found that can do this pretty well is the iZotope Music and Speech Cleaner. While it doesn’t work miracles, it does a good job of removing these incredibly annoying noises on exceptionally quiet records. Like ClickRepair, iZotope’s Music and Speech Cleaner isn’t free, but there is a trial version available for you to check out before you shell out the bucks.

 

ID3 Tagging
ID3 tags are metadata on an MP3 file that tell you the name of the track, what album it’s from, the artist and so on. For years, I just used iTunes for this, until I discovered that for some reason iTunes does not like creating ID3 tags for songs I ripped from vinyl. Why? I have no idea. But whenever I had to rebuild my library, any ID3 tag I created in iTunes came out broken, song titles would vanish, genres would change, it was a mess. Now, the only thing I use iTunes for is to number the tracks after I give them ID3 tags.

For everything else I use MP3Tag. It’s free, works like a charm, and has a ton of batch editing features that make tagging large groups of files a breeze. I love it.

Okay, now that you know what hardware and software I use, it’s time for me to show you how I use it!

 

Chapter 3 – The Walkthrough

As I said before, this walkthrough only details how I do this using my equipment and nothing else. That’s all I know, so that’s all I can give. If you want help with other kinds of pre-amps, turntables or software, I can’t help you. Sorry.

So let’s get started.

As I said before, I do all my recording on Sony Sound Forge, but before I commit to a recording, I make sure all my setting are accurate. To do this, I start a recording that I will not save, and drop the needle somewhere in the middle of the record. I try to find an especially loud part to check the levels.

Red is bad, that means my levels are too high, which will lead to clipping and distorted sound. I have to go into Windows’ audio settings and make some minor adjustments.

To do this, I right-click on the speaker in the task-bar and select “Recording Devices” from the pop-up menu that appears.

I select my turntable from the list that appears, most systems will identify it as a “USB Audio CODEC.”

Windows adds a lot of gain to a turntable signal, I take it all the way down to “2″ and then click “OK.” Now I can head back into Sound Forge and see how my levels look.

Bars Are Green, The signal is clean.

Next up, I make sure that my pre-amp isn’t doing some clipping of it’s own. The ART V2 has gain controls on it, complete with a monitoring light that tells you if the gain is too high. While I rarely need to adjust my Windows volume settings, I often have to change my gain settings on my pre-amp, as some records can be much quieter than others. You always want to have as much gain as possible without the signal going into the red, this cuts down on hiss and other line noise that can be a real pain to get rid of later.

To make sure the pre-amp is set up right, I once again drop the needle on a loud section of the record and look at the signal light. I adjust the gain settings until it is as loud as it can be without the signal going into the red.

Remember, red is bad! To fix this, I turn the knob next to the signal light to the left.

Green is good! Most albums are fine with a gain of around -2, but for some quieter albums I crank it up a bit.

 

After that’s all set, I can move onto actually recording and listening to my record, which for the purposes of this example will be Polyrock’s 1980 self-titled debut.

I usually record one record at a time. Some people will stop a recording after each side as to keep the size of the audio files down. I usually don’t find that necessary, but whatever floats your boat is fine.

After I’m done recording the album I hit stop in Sound Forge, and I’m presented with a waveform of the album.

 

Polyrock – in waveform

 

Now, before I do anything I save it as a WAV file. Most sound editing programs like ClickRepair can only read WAV files, so its best to save them in that format. I don’t convert my recordings to MP3 until I’m done doing everything else.

After I save the file as a WAV I open it in ClickRepair to clean it up a bit. ClickRepair is an amazing program that can work wonders, but not at the default settings. For ClickRepair to work right, without any noticeable distortion or unwanted sound removal, I always tone it down a bit by adjusting the following settings, which were suggested to me from Paul at Burning The Ground:

Slide the DeClick bar all the way down to 10, and enable “Pitch Protection.”

Turn off DeCrackle. You’ll never need it.

Then I run ClickRepair on auto. Some people use it manually, but honestly, I don’t know how, and even if I did, that seems like it would take forever.

ClickRepair doesn’t overwrite the original file, instead it saves a copy with a “CR” suffix added to the file name. After it’s done running, I open that file, along with the original, in Sound Forge and compare them. If I see any major differences between the files’ waveforms, I listen to compare and make sure no music has been removed along with the clicks. I would say that 99 times out of a 100, there are no problems. But if I’m recording drum and bass, glitch (obivously) or anything that actually incorporates the sound of a record click into the song, then ClickRepair might have a problem with it. In those cases, I usually go back to the original file and manually edit it. It’s actually easier than it sounds. All I do is zoom in until I am able to highlight the defect and nothing else and then I just delete it. These clicks are usually less than a tenth of a second long. I don’t lose any music when I delete them, just the defect.

(If there’s any hum or hiss in the recording, this is when I go into iZotope to try and fix that. Since that program is 100% idiot-proof, and I almost never use it, I’m not going to go into that.)

Now the file is declicked to the best of my ability, but there’s one problem left I need to tend to.

If you look closely, you may notice that the right audio channel is just a hair quieter than the left channel. This is a problem that I’ve run into with many turntables and cartridges over the years. Truth be told, it’s not much of an issue. The difference between the volumes is actually barely noticeable, if at all. However, since it is a fixable problem, I usually take care of it. While the difference in volume can vary from album to album, I’ve found that a volume of change 115% usually takes care of it. This is how I take care of that:

First, I double-click on the left audio channel to select it.

Then I go to “Process” and then “Volume” to open up this menu. I adjust the bar so it’s increasing the volume by 1.25 dB (115%).

It’s never perfect, but it’s usually good enough,and your ear won’t be able to tell the difference anyways.

Now to make one more volume change. While there’s nothing wrong with the recording as it stands now, it’s a little too quiet, especially when you compare it to newer songs, which are far too loud. While I don’t want to equalize my recordings to match the over-compressed volume of those new recordings, it wouldn’t hurt to boost them a bit by going back into the volume adjustment settings.

200% sounds like a lot, but it’s usually fine.

The Results: Loud. But not too loud.

 

Now that reocrding has been cleaned and adjusted to the best of my ability, it’s time for me to cut it up into individual tracks by selecting them one at a time; pressing “CTRL+X” to cut them out of the audio file; opening a new audio file; and then pressing “CTRL+V” to paste the song into that new file. Then I save the file.

 

Enough choices for you?

I’m old school and stick with MP3s, but if you’re super-concerned with audio quality, then you can always go FLAC. As far as my MP3 settings go, I always save at 320Kpbs and at 44,1000 Hz. I’m sure some audiophiles out there are screaming at me right now, but I’ve tried higher sample rates and other formats, I honestly couldn’t hear a difference. Sound Forge also lets you choose encoding speed. Go for quality over speed every time.

My custom MP3 encoding settings. I’ve never heard a difference between Joint and regular stereo, so don’t ask me about it.

When I save the songs, I make sure that I save them in the proper directory in my iTunes library (artist name/album name). As far as file names go, I just name them the title of the song. This comes in handy for the next step, editing the files’ ID3 tags.

 

As I said before, I do all my tagging in MP3Tag. I love its interface. After I drag the songs I want to tag into the program window,  I just have to do the following:

Once I have the songs highlighted, I click on the “Filename – Tag” button.

A closer look at the “filename – tag” button.

The “filename – tag” button creates an ID3 tag based on the filename. Since my filenames are the song titles, I just set the parameter “%title%” and it fills in the title field with the filename.

With all the songs still highlighted, I add the album, artist, genre and release year info.

MP3TAG is kind of a pain when it comes to track numbers, so I do that part in iTunes, after I’ve imported them into my library. And in case you’re wondering, I import my tracks into iTunes by creating a new playlist and dragging the songs into it. From there I can go into the song information, add track numbers, and make any other minor adjustments might be needed.

And that’s it! I now have my album recording, cleaned up, converted and tagged, ready for listening. Recording time not included, it usually takes me about 15-20 per LP, with 12″ singles and 45s taking no more than 10 minutes. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, some albums are so scratchy that I have to clean them manually, and if a record has a skip in it that’s a whole other beast. But for the most part it’s not that time-consuming, it only becomes a chore when I let 20 recordings sit on my hard drive for a week and I have to plow through them all in one sitting.  Even then, I find the process oddly soothing, like its something I can do to shut my brain off from the outside world and just zone out on for a bit.

 

Chapter 4 – Addendum/Tips

Properly Set Up Your Turntable
You could have a $100,000 turntable with a $10,000 cartridge, but it will all be for naught if you don’t set it up right. I almost wrote a guide for this as well, but there are a ton of them on the Internet already. Here’s a good one that should explain everything you need to know.

Clean Your Records!
If you’re buying used records, then you need to do your cartridge a favor and clean those bad boys before you plop them on your turntable. A record may look clean, but there could be boundless amounts of gunk, dirt, dust and grime hidden in its grooves. Not only does all that make your recordings sound worse, but it can even damage your records. You want to clean your records, and the best way to do that is with some sort of record-cleaning machine.  A lot of people recommend high-end motor-powered machines that can cost hundreds of dollars, but I don’t think you need to go that crazy. I use the Spin Clean Record Cleaner. It’s only $80, and it works wonders. You can find out more about it on their official website.

Some Records Just Sound Horrible
Vinyl is a physical medium, and with that comes physical flaws that cannot always be avoided or fixed. Scratches, warps and other signs of wear and tear are a way of life when you’re buying used records. But don’t assume that all new records are going to be flawless either. For example, I have never heard a 12″ single of the Eurythmics “Right By Your Side” that didn’t sound mis-pressed; I have three copies of the single to Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” that all skip in the exact same place; and my copy of The Chemistry of Common Life by Fucked Up came with a loud pop on the title track.

It sucks, but these things happen. Learn to live with them, fix them when you can, and don’t let your head explode worrying about them. Trust me. It’s for the best.

Don’t Get Discouraged!
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can offer. If you really want to record your records and you’re having a lot of problems getting everything to sound right – don’t give up! It took me years to really get my act together when it came to recording vinyl, and I’m still learning stuff every time I check out an audiophile message board or visit other MP3 blogs who do the same thing I do. Just keep at it, and you’ll get better!

And if you really love your music and the sound of vinyl, it’s totally worth it.

 

Record Store Day, Kickstarter, Limited Editions and Manufactured Rarity – Screwing Over Fans for a Quick Buck

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Allow me to present a hypothetical situation:

Say you’re a Flaming Lips fan. For months you’ve heard about this crazy Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends album that features collaborations from everyone from Chris Martin and Bon Iver to Prefuse 73 and Ke$ha. You want it badly. It’s announced that the album will be a Record Store Day exclusive. You get to your local record store an hour before they open and find that there’s already a line around the block. You wait regardless. When you finally make your way inside the store you find out that they sold out within minutes. Now if you want one you have to go to eBay and shell out $100.

Another hypothetical problem:

You love Amanda Palmer. You find out that in a few weeks, Amanda Palmer and her husband Neil Gaiman will be releasing a live CD. The release date comes, but you discover that the album isn’t available for you yet. It’s only available for those who backed its release on Kickstarter. You would have done that if you had the money at the time, or if you followed Amanda or Neil on Twitter, but you’re not up on such things. As such, now you have to wait an unspecified amount of time to get the album. But then it turns up online illegally. Now instead of gladly handing over money for the album, you just download it. You make a promise to yourself to buy it when it does come out officially, but by the time it does you’ve lost interest. You have your music, but Palmer and Gaiman didn’t get a dime, and the sour experience of being screwed over and treated like a second-class fan probably sticks with you.

And a  final hypothetical dilemma, I promise:

You LOVE Pearl Jam. You’ve seen them live over 10 times, own all their albums on vinyl (which isn’t easy) and you’re even a member of the their fanclub. But their fanclub is poorly organized, and you never get the email about a deluxe 3-disc edition of their documentary PJ20. By the time you do catch word about it, it’s sold out. The two discs of exclusive content aren’t made available anywhere else (except for iTunes, and only for Americans). You try eBay, but you see that the few copies that make it there are being sold for over $300-$500. Dejected, you just download it illegally. During this whole process, the band and the fanclub, who claim to care about fans more than any other organization, completely ignore you.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

In recent years, artists and labels (both big and small) have turned to limited editions as a way to entice people into buying physical product. Record Store Day is the biggest example of this, but examples like the other two I gave are just as common. They do this because their margins (the difference between the cost of production and the price they sell it for) are always higher with a physical product. And since they’re dealing with fans who by their very nature have a collector’s mindset, the very act of limiting the supply increases the demand. In fact, it increases the demand so much so that the demand ends up outweighing the supply exponentially. The labels win, they get their money, and the few fans that are lucky enough to snag their ultra-mega-limited edition item win as well. But everyone else just gets screwed.

Now, sometimes it’s not that bad. In some cases, the limited edition is just an alternate format or packaged edition of an already available product, such as a colored LP or alternate cover. It looks really cool, but the content is the same.  The fan that scored with the limited release has the same music/video content as the person who could only make out with the regular version. No one is out anything major.

But what if the limited edition has music or video content that can only be found on that limited edition? Those fans want that content, that’s why they’re fans. I don’t know about you, but when I truly love a band with every fiber of my being, I want everything they put out. I want the version of the album with the bonus tracks, I want the import singles with the remixes, I want the EP that only came out in Japan. I want it all. But when you make an item limited to such an extreme like they seem to be doing these days, this becomes nearly impossible.

And I’m not saying that limited editions with exclusive content are by nature a bad thing. Sometimes they’re a necessity.  For example, Amon Tobin is releasing a limited edition box set filled with LPs, CDs and DVDs that will all have never-before-released content exclusive to the box set. However, that “limited edition” box set is limited to a not-that-limited 4,000 copies. For an artist as niche as Amon Tobin, that’s actually a pretty hefty number for a box set that costs $200. Everyone who really cares about it will be able to get it. I’m willing to bet that Tobin, along with the production people at his label, Nina Tune, got together and figured out exactly how many to make so everyone who really wanted one would be able to get it, while not leaving themselves with much in the way of surplus along the way.

But if you’re the Flaming Lips, you have more fans than the few thousand that will be able to get the album on Record Store Day. If you’re Amanda Palmer you have more fans than the few that knew about Kickstarter when you launched that campaign. And if you’re Pearl Jam, then you definitely have more fans willing to buy a 3-disc box set of your movie than the very few that you made available. In these cases, what’s the point? How is it a benefit the fan to force them to either spend way too much money on eBay to get what they want or to steal it online? How does that help them? Better yet, how does that help you, the artist? You don’t get any of that money (unless your Jack White and you’re selling your own stuff on eBay, classy). As an artist making music in 2012, you should be ecstatic that anyone will buy your music, and you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so.  The only people whose lives are being made easier with all this bullshit is the speculator.

Speculators aren’t fans. They are people who buy a product with the sole intent of selling it at an inflated value. It’s like daytrading, only with collectibles. Speculators love shit like limited editions and Record Store Day exclusives, because a lot of them have inside tracks to get the stuff that’s in most demand before they’re actually available to the public. This year I heard about many RSD exclusives reaching eBay before this Saturday. You think the people posting those auctions were customers who got lucky? They weren’t. They were record store owners and employees looking to make a quick buck by screwing over their customers and going directly to the secondary market.

That’s horrible, but can you blame them?  Because if history is any indication, the majority of stuff that came out this Record Store Day won’t be worth much more than retail in just six months time. That right, that super-limited edition 7″ single you bought with no intention of ever playing because you thought it might be worth a mint in a few years? You’ll probably be lucky to get what you paid for it three years from now. These releases rarely have staying power, it’s probably because 90% of RSD “exclusives” are either only timed exclusives, or get re-released digitally or on other formats within months of their RSD release. It’s hard for something to maintain its value when the one thing that gave it value in the first place, a false sense of rarity, is removed.

That’s great for people like me, who actually want to buy and hold on to stuff, but bad news for probably a good percentage of assholes who buy this stuff, who are only in it for money that they think they’ll get later on. So not only are these super-limited editions bad for bands and their fans, but their even worthless to the majority of speculators who buy them as well.

But what about the record stores themselves? Isn’t that who Record Store Day is really supposed to benefit? Well, call me a cynical asshole (seriously, it’s cool, you wouldn’t be the first), but I fail to see how one day of crazy business is going to save a record store. The kids going to their local record stores to pick up these limited editions items aren’t the kind of people who are going to back to their record store to buy a non-limited edition item. Record Store Day is for record collectors. Record stores are for music lovers, and the stores, labels and artists should be trying harder to find (or create) the latter, instead of catering to the fickle tastes of the former.

Strut Records: Ripping You Off With Laziness

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

I planned on a best/worst of the year list tonight, but something irked me so bad that I had to push that post back a few days.

Last week I bought Fac.Dance, a compilation by Strut Records that features many rare and hard-to-find dance tracks from Factory Records. Many of them are out-of-print and have never seen the light of day either digitally or on CD. I should have loved the record, but Strut had to go and fuck it all up.

I bought the album on vinyl in a 2LP set, it is also available as a 2CD set and digitally. Both the CD and digital versions include 24 tracks. However, the the vinyl version only has twelve songs.  While it does also include a download code, that code only gives you the 12 tracks that are on the LPs, and not the complete digital or CD versions of the album.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, you will be.

In addition that rip-off, all three versions have slightly different tracklistings. “Wild Party” and “Knife Slits Water (12″ mix”) by A Certain Ratio are only on the CD version; while “Black Water” by Kalima and “Motherland” by Royal Family And The Poor are only on the digital version. Furthermore, “Pretenders of Love” by Shark Vegas is on the LP version and digital version, but not on the CD version. If you want all the songs, you’ll have to buy the 2CD version, and then buy the digital exclusive tracks individually.

But why? Why does the vinyl version get the shaft? And why are their subtle differences between the digital and CD releases.

Well, I asked Strut’s Twitter account those very questions. According to them,  it was a licensing issue. Different versions have different songs because they could not “license every track in each format.”

But why not include a complete digital download with the 2LP version? Well, for that, they also hide behind the vague cover of “rights issues,” saying that they could not include those songs as “free content” because they did not own them.

Now, I’m sorry, but who said anything about free? The 2LP version costs significantly more than both the 2CD version and the digital version. Why not eat some of that profit by providing the album on CD, or including a complete download code (not for FREE, but as part of the cost).

Shit, you could probably even raise the price of the 2LP set to offset the difference. People like me would still buy it anyway.

It gets worse! Strut’s incompetence does not end there!

Until I pointed it out to them via Twitter, their store page for Fac.Dance featured the 2CD tracklist no matter which version you chose to buy. That omission has been corrected, but the page is still littered with errors and other confusing anomalies.

The digital version that Strut is showcasing on that page only has 17 tracks. Meanwhile, the digital version that Amazon is selling has 24. It should also be mentioned that the 17 track version that Strut is selling directly costs MORE than the 24 track version currently on sale at Amazon.

There is also a mistake on Strut’s website in regards to the 2CD version. Their store claims that the opening track of the second CD is New Order’s “Confusion.” However, if you go to THIS page at Strut’s website, that song is absent from the tracklist entirely. On that same page, “Time” by Minny Pops is labeled as a digital exclusive even thought it is on the CD tracklisting.

I probably spent more time writing and editing this rant than Strut did writing and editing their copy for the Fac.Dance release. Their “effort” in promoting and compiling this album reeks of laziness and corporate greed. I will never buy a Strut album again, and I suggest you exercise caution if you are considering doing so.

And on that note, Merry Christmas! I’ll see you all next week.

Being a Fan is a Losing Battle: Pearl Jam, Selling Out and Sell Outs

Friday, October 21st, 2011

I’ve been told by many people that I like music too much. My usual response is “that’s not possible.” But today I think they may be right. If I don’t like music too much, I definitely expect too much from the people who make it, the people who give me one of my few sources of joy and happiness (in case you’re wondering, my other sources of happiness are kung fu movies, sushi, root beer and vodka – sometimes all at once).

I love a lot of bands and I don’t really have a favorite, but whenever I’m pressed to pick on I usually say Pearl Jam, although my fandom with Pearl Jam kind of came about in an odd way.

I was in junior high when Ten first came out and I liked it enough, but by the time Vitalogy was released I had pretty much lost interest in the group. That’s about when I discovered electronic music, and that consumed my popular music interest for a few years.

I didn’t fall in love with Pearl Jam until 2000, when they released live albums for all of their concerts in an effort to combat high-priced, shitty sounding bootlegs. I borrowed a few from a friend who was a die-hard Pearl Jam fanatic and quickly re-discovered the group. By the time I was done listening to all the albums my friend had, I was floored.

I was amazed to hear how different their setlists were from night to night. I loved how open they were to fan interaction and spontaneity. They always sounded like they were having a blast no matter how late into the tour it was. Most importantly though, they sounded fucking AMAZING. I couldn’t believe a band like Pearl Jam, a band that really had nothing left to prove, could consistently hit it out of the park almost every night.

It was then that I became hooked. I bought as many of the live CDs as I could. I joined Ten Club, the official Pearl Jam fan club. I even followed them on tour whenever they came to my neck of the woods. Since 2000 I’ve seen the group over 10 times, far more than any other band.

I have a framed copy of Yield on my wall in my living room for fuck’s sake. It’s an unhealthy obsession.

And Pearl Jam wasn’t just a great live band that put out great records (Binaural is a great, underrated album, check it out) but they also seemed to care about important shit. While so many other bands of the 90s seemed to sell out their indie ideals as soon as the money started to roll in, Pearl Jam seemed to hold on to them as best they could. They released their concerts on CD not to make money, but to save fans from buying crap bootlegs; they played important benefits shows and spoke out on important causes; they never wrote songs that objectified women or glorified violence. It’s a hard quality to quantify, but they seemed to “get it.”

In 2009, they got a lot of shit when they announced that their album Backspacer would be a Target exclusive release. It sounded like they were selling out their ideals for a quick buck, but when the band had a chance to explain themselves it didn’t look nearly as bad. (I even defended the band for doing it.)

It turned out that the album was only a “big box” exclusive for Target. This meant that while other national chains like Best Buy and Wal-Mart wouldn’t be able to carry it, local independent stores (and iTunes) would have the album for sale. And of course you could still get it at the band’s official website on both CD and vinyl. Pearl Jam gets paid, indie stores don’t get screwed, and the fans get the CD at a fair price. Everyone wins. And the album was pretty damn good too, their best in years.

Pearl Jam turned 20 this year (and I feel old). The band had a lot of festivities to celebrate. There was the huge PJ20 concert in Wisconsin, a small Canadian tour, and a movie called PJ20 directed by Cameron Crowe. It had a super-limited theatrical run, so I was excited to buy it when it came out on Blu-ray, which I was sure would have a ton of bonus features. Eventually, a special “Limited Edition” 3 disc Blu-ray set was announced at the website for $80. I didn’t mind that price, but at the time I was still financially recovering from Outside Lands and couldn’t afford it. So I decided to hold off for a bit.

Mistake on my part, because, unlike many of the other products Pearl Jam markets as a “Limited Edition,” this actually was. Now they are both sold out. Why the hell the band would decide to make THAT limited and not the 80 billion other things that they say are limited but actually aren’t just doesn’t make any sense. It’s even more confusing when you consider they announced the very expensive set right after the PJ20 concert and the Canadian tour, so die-hard fans who follow the band on tour were probably strapped for cash.

This is manufactured rarity and I hate it with every fiber of my being. It’s quickly becoming a problem in the music industry that’s driving me batshit bonkers. I get that some things are only going to be available in limited quantities, but it’s not the sort of thing that should be purposely planned if the band or label can avoid it, because it accomplishes nothing. All it does is anger fans who are unable to buy something the second it is announced, and create a sick secondary market where assholes who bought multiple copies can pawn theirs on eBay for hundreds of dollars over the original price. It also takes money away from the band, don’t they want supply to meet demand? That means more money! I’m sure someone out there thinks that it helps fight piracy by encouraging fans to buy physical products, but guess what? Since I can’t buy that three-disc set I’m most likely going to download it off a torrent site or borrow it from someone who does have it and rip my own copy.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and the aspect about the PJ20 Blu-ray release that bothers me least.

So, I lost the chance to buy the Deluxe Edition, okay, so can I buy the standard edition Blu-ray at their website?

Nope.

How about at an indpendent record store, or online at Amazon or another store?

Nope.

Where can I buy it?

Best fucking Buy.

That’s right. The Blu-ray of PJ20 is a timed Best Buy exclusive. If you want it before Christmas then you have to go to Best Buy to get it. No alternatives.

Let’s go back in time a bit, back when Pearl Jam announced that deal with Target. In an interview on the matter, Eddie said this:

“”We’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and we’ve done it in a way that we think will be good for everybody. I can’t think of anything we’ve ever done without putting it through our own personal moral barometer. Target has passed for us. The fans just have to trust us.”

The band’s manager, Kelly Curtis, also had a lot to say on the topic:

“We’ll have a lot of partners…Target ended up allowing us to have other partners. We’ll be able to take care of all levels of the Pearl Jam fan…Target was cool enough to realize that little independent record stores are not their competition.”

“I make decisions around the band’s business that are consistent with their overall philosophy,” said Curtis, “which is to sell music in a way that’s accessible and affordable to their fans, on every distribution platform that their fans access music, and in a way that takes care of the little guys. I wanted our plan to be multi-dimensional to address old and modern ways of fans accessing music. It will allow all of our fans to have the same access.”

Who is this deal good for? It’s good for the band, of course, because they get money. But independent record stores get fucked, They miss out on a huge music release during the holiday season. And fans who actually care about corporate responsibility (something the band used to spout about a lot) and don’t want to support Best Buy because of all the sick, disgusting and horrible things they have done to consumers over the years, then they’re just fuck out of luck too aren’t they? They pass the band’s moral barometer? A company that has actually been fined by the government for illegal business practices is okay with Pearl Jam? What the fuck happened to their morals then?

But wait, there’s more!

Earlier this year the band released an amazing Super Deluxe box set of Vs. and Vitalogy. It had both albums on CD and vinyl as well as bonus tracks, a live concert and so much more. It’s a great set for both hardcore and casual fans alike. I, like many Pearl Jam fans, bought it the second I could afford to.

Well, apparently the band had some extras lying around that they wanted to get rid of, because they re-released the box set with this added bit in the description:

▪ THE FIRST 500 TO ORDER, beginning 10/19/11, WILL RECEIVE THE “LIVE FROM THE MOORE” VAULT SHOW #1 CD THAT MEMBERS RECEIVED AT ALPINE VALLEY
▪ YOU COULD RECEIVE ONE OF 8 SIGNED SUPER DELUXE COPIES (RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED)

So hey, if you’re a die-hard fan then you’re a sucker! You should have waited a few months so you can get even more music (in the form of a super-rare CD!) and a chance of an autograph! Loser! But hey, if you want to buy it again no one is stopping you!

What. The. Fuck.

In one hand you have the Blu-ray and DVD box sets. If you didn’t order them right away then you’re an idiot. You’re never gong to get that again (unless the band re-issues it AFTER the Best Buy exclusive deal for the single-disc version ends). You know, after everyone bought it so they can double-dip.

In the other hand, you have this box set. If you ordered that too soon then you’re an idiot and you won’t get the really cool and hard-to-find content.

Ugh.

When people say I care too much about music, I think this must be what they mean. I care about not only the music, but the people who make it. I want them not to be the scum of the earth, or at least be consistent about it.

If Aerosmith did this, no one would care; because they’ve never ranted about the evils of corporate greed and the importance of independent record stores. When you have no ideals, then you really can’t sell out.

But when you do have ideals, or at least make it appear that you do, then I guess the only place you can go is down.

No music tonight. I was going to put up some rare Pearl Jam (because I have TONS) but I really don’t feel like listening to a bunch of hypocrites right now.

The Nevermind Remaster: Further Analysis

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

My post on the Nevermind Super Deluxe Edition debacle has officially become the most popular post on The Lost Turntable, thanks to it spreading like wildfire on Facebook and being picked up by Fark yesterday.

Of course, with popularity comes criticism.

The biggest complaint of my post was that I didn’t rip the CD myself. Many people here, and on Fark, have claimed that an improper rip can result in a distorted/over-compressed file.

While ripping at a low bitrate can cause distortion and decreased fidelity, it really doesn’t make the waveform LOUDER. But since so many people like to complain (it is the Internet after all) here’s a comparison of “Aneurysm.” One is taken from from my copy of the Super Deluxe Edition, and the other was purchased from iTunes:

They’re identical, and much louder than the original:

Music on iTunes is encoded in the M4A format at 256kpbs. I’m not a fan of the M4A format, but it wouldn’t cause audio compression like that. It’s at the source. It’s on the master.

Also, I’m not the only person who noticed this.

It’s not even a new phenomenon when it comes to Nirvana recordings. All of the following were taken from my own personal CD collection.

“Curmudgeon” – Original B-side version vs. the With The Lights Out version (which is slightly different, but I believe it’s the same recording)

For some reason I have misplaced my original copy of Breed, and I don’t think you’ll be swayed by my vinyl rip. Here’s how “Negative Creep” looks on the 20th Anniversay Edition. I can assure you that the original CD pressing was not this loud:

As you can see, this is not a new problem with Nirvana remasters. I can assume that the butchered remaster of In Utero is already done and ready to assault our ears in 2013.

If you want a great example showing how bad these remasters sound, check out this video comparing the original version of “Curmudgeon” versus the WTLO remaster from 2004.

My bottom line remains the same: this “remaster” is shit and makes the music sound worse. Don’t buy it. The word is still out on the vinyl version though. My copy is coming on Tuesday, I’ll give you all a full report then.

No new music for now. Hopefully I’ll have a new, non-Nirvana, post tonight.

Do It Big Tickets Sucks

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Tonight there are two posts. One without music and one with. I don’t want to sully the music with tonight’s little diatribe. If you only come here for the tunes then just skip this post all together.

I hate the fact that I have to moderate my comment section. I wish people could just post away on there. But that can’t happen. I first had to enable comment moderation because of some random sick fucker posting stuff I won’t get into. But I had to keep it up because I get an insane amount of spam comments. They’re all the same, something like “I love your blog. What do you think of RANDOM GENERATED PRODUCT” with a link to a shit site. They are incredibly annoying.

I’ve been getting a ton recently from one site. I seemingly can’t reject them as fast as they show up. It’s maddening. Now, I’m sure these asshole WANT me to mention their site, because they want hits. Well I am going to mention their site, but not in the way they want.

Now, no matter what you do, DON’T GO TO THIS SITE for reasons that will become abundantly clear in the coming paragraphs.

The site spamming my blog is Do It Big Tickets. They’re scalpers. I fucking hate scalpers. I really fucking hate how scalping is somehow legal now, but that’s not the point of this rant. If Do It Big Tickets wants to make money by being the scum sucking cockmongers of the live music industry, then more power to them. But Do It Big Tickets should know that spamming other sites comment section is not an effective or ethical way to shill their useless site on the masses.

They don’t even do it right! The comments are lame, generic and don’t even mention the site’s name. I write SEO (Search Engine Optimized) content for a living, and let me tell you, these comments would never do a good job at generating hits or improve search results.

Maybe I should show them how it’s done then…

Are you looking for someone to rob you, pour sugar in your gas tank and punch your dog in the face? The go to Do It Big Tickets! Do It Big Tickets is your number one source for unethical business practices, shoddy customer service and infated ticket prices. In fact, Do it Big Tickets is the number one site on the internet for illegal business practices and price gauging. Want to see your favorite band for an affordable price? You can’t! Because Do It Big Tickets hates you. Remember, if you want to pay too much for tickets, get ripped off and treated like shit then Do It Big Tickets is the site for you!

Now, that is SEO content. See how often I mentioned the site’s name, usually next to words liek “scam,” “illegal” and “price gauging”? That might help influence search results. Having their name in the title of this post certainly will. It’s done wonders for Pitchfork Editor Scott Plagenoef search results (see the fifth one down) and those who want to know if Sting is a pussy.

Man I’m glad this site isn’t read by anyone. Because that was incredibly unprofessional and immature.