How many of you have held a reel of 2” tape in your hands (or had one dropped on your toes)?  They were heavy (about 11 ½ lbs), and expensive.   They used to cost about $200 for enough 24 track tape to record about 16 ½ minutes of audio at 30 inches per second (ips). 33 minutes if you recorded at the noisier 15 ips. It wasn’t unusual for an album-length project to use thousands of dollars worth of 2” tape.

Storing them took a lot of space and care to prevent them from becoming unplayable after a few years.  If you wanted to make copies of the tapes for safekeeping it was expensive. Making safety copies added thousands to the budget.  The right time to make safety copies was at the end of the recording – when the budget had already been spent.  In most cases that meant that the multi-track tapes were never copied.  Instead, you hoped that nothing went wrong with the tapes and that the record label knew how to take care of them.  It turns out that isn’t always the case, as this article highlights:

https://globalnews.ca/news/5408445/universal-music-fire-alan-cross/

Reading about the haphazard care that some record labels take with the master recordings they own made me start thinking about the way studios, musicians and record labels are storing master recordings in the digital recording age.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say – the way they are not storing recordings.

These days most recordings are done in the digital domain and stored on hard drives.

The best data out there suggest that hard drives are likely to fail after 3 to 5 years (https://www.prosofteng.com/blog/how-long-do-hard-drives-last/).  However, it’s possible for any hard drive to fail even if it’s brand new.   That’s why we always recommend that the artists we work with back up any digital data as soon as possible.  Making a copy of your session to a separate hard drive significantly reduces the risk of losing all of your hard work.  Today a hard drive with enough storage capacity to hold multiple album-length recording projects can be purchased for less than $100.  Making safety copies of your music is cheap and fast compared to making analog tape copies, so it’s foolish to not do it!

As a case in point, I was working with a band that was recording to their own external hard drive.  We had been working all day and captured some great performances. The artist didn’t want to make a copy of the data to one of our drives as they were worried about possible leaks of their new songs, but they didn’t have a backup drive of their own either.  At the end of the session, they took their drive, with the only copy of their work on it, and left the studio.  The drive was dropped in the studio parking lot and hit the ground.  They immediately came back into the studio to check it, but unfortunately, it had been damaged by the impact and was not readable.  They decided to send it off to a data recovery service.  It ended up costing them more to recover some of the data than the entire original session had cost them.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

So what’s the best way to store digital data?

The standard for digital data preservation in most creative communities is based on recommendations from the Library of Congress (LOC).  They recommend that all digital projects should be stored in at least 2 different formats in 3 different locations.  What does that mean to you?

There are 3 formats commonly used for data storage: 1) Hard drives (internal and external) 2) Digital Tape (LTO is probably the most popular format for this) 3) Cloud storage or AML storage (Automated Media Library).  For cost reasons, the two formats that are more feasible for most artists are hard drives and cloud storage.

Make sure to have at least 2 different hard drives to store your project data on and keep them in different places.  (USB Flash drives are generally not a good choice for long term back up as they are more prone to environmental damage and subsequent failure than a good external drive.)  Keep in mind that even the best hard drives are likely to fail within 5 years, so plan to purchase new hard drives every few years and copy your projects to the new drives to keep them safe.

The second format and possible 3rd location could be any one of several cloud storage options.  Currently, Amazon, Apple, Backblaze, Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft all offer cloud storage options that may work for you.  These are good options for data security but will likely involve an annual storage fee that depends on the size of the recording project.

At Morrisound, we can and do offer to keep a temporary backup copy of your project data to give you some extra data safety while you make your long term backup plans.  Recording studios, in general, do not have the capacity to offer long term storage.  Most will offer to retain a copy of your project for a limited time.  Long term storage is the responsibility of the artist and/or their record label, not the studio.

Conclusion:

If you’re working on a recording project you know how much time and energy you’ve put into it.  Don’t take unnecessary risks with your hard work.  Invest a little time and money to safeguard your data by making and maintaining backup copies!  Copy your recording sessions to at least 2 different hard drives that you keep in different buildings (keep one at home and leave one with another band member, a Safe Deposit box or your Mom) and find a cloud service you can afford to save your final masters.

 

When Jim and I were playing in a band together during our college years, we had the chance to take our band into a recording studio to record some cover songs for our club demo, as well as take a stab at a couple of original songs.  We fell in love with the creative process.  Neither of us could think of much else for a long time after that experience.  We both decided that if we ever got the chance to somehow have our own recording studio we had to do it.

At the time (late 1970’s early 1980’s) there was no way put together a decent recording studio for less than a few hundred thousand dollars.  24 track reel-to-reel analog recorders were the state of the art – and cost in the neighborhood of $50k.  A recording console was a necessity – and cheap ones were close to $100,000.  Then you add the mics, cables, sound treatment, headphones, etc.  It was a big buy-in.

Fast forward a few years – I was working in Gulfport MS for DuPont as a chemical engineer.  Jim was working in Tampa at a music store and playing in a band.  I decided to try my hand at recording at my house.  I bought one of the best quality early versions of “home recording” tech available at that time – an Otari MX 5050 8-track ½” reel to reel tape recorder.  The recorder came in two pieces – the transport and the audio interfaces.  It was big and heavy, but it sounded great!

Otari MX 5050 8 Track

I also had to have a mixer with mic-preamps and routing to be able to send signals to and from this beast.  I chose a Tapco C-12 – mostly for its low cost, but also because it had a better reputation than almost anything else in that price range.

Tapco C-12 Mixer

 

Before long I was recording demos in a spare bedroom.   Jim took some time off and came to visit.  We had a great time making some really bad home recordings, but we decided that it was time to get serious about our dream of having a recording studio.  Our first step was to take my home studio out of my house and put it in a “Hi-Cube” van.  The Morrisound 8-track remote truck was born.

Tom starting the buildout.

Construction complete – ready for Gear.

Jim checking the wiring.

Morrisound Recording was ready for the road!  My relocated home studio opened the door for us to become one of the biggest studios in Florida a few years later.  Our first paid sessions were using this remote rig to record on location – we were in the process of building our 24 track room, but that would take us months to complete.

Today it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a home studio – a computer, a good microphone, and pre-amp with a decent interface and you’re ready to start recording.  We are still enthusiastic fans of artists having their own place to record and create.  We have always tried to find ways to help musicians get the best possible recording for their budget.   Today, much more than back when we started Morrisound, that means getting the most out of their home studio.  We have helped dozens of musicians put together the best equipment they can afford and get the biggest bang for their
buck.

We started Morrisound as a home studio because Jim and I were passionate about being a part of the creative process of making a record.  We still are.  If you want to know how to get the most out
of your home studio give us a call!

Over the past 15 or 20 years, the recording industry has undergone a paradigm shift, in process and procedures. 

In the past, a truly professional recording studio required many large, expensive equipment choices: multitrack tape machines ($55,000 or more, each the size of a washing machine, weighing in at around 400 or so pounds), large format mixing consoles (from $50,000 to $800,000 and more, up to 15 feet long and weighing as much as a small car), racks and racks of outboard processing gear (EQ’s, compressors, reverbs, delays and more, each likely ranging in the thousands of dollars).  Not to mention the physical, “brick and mortar” building for the studio itself.  Recording procedures were limited by the constraints of the technology available.  The traditional setup involved a studio room where the majority of the musicians would perform, some isolation rooms for separating individual players and singers, and a control room to contain and isolate the enormous amount of gear required.  Every session was preceded by an hour or so of tape machine cleaning and calibration, in addition to cabling and microphone setup and placement. 

Every session was followed by an hour or so of tearing down that same setup, coiling cables, labeling tapes, clearing console settings, and more.  The next session, we would do it all again, even though no two sessions were ever the same.  The physical limitations of the equipment and required methods meant that the engineering production staff and basically remained in the control room, observing the artist through large glass windows and/or CCTV cameras, and communicating through microphones and speakers, similar to using a two way radio.  If you had a session to record a single vocal track on one song, ALL of the studio was required, except the mics and cables for other players.  Obviously, this worked effectively, in spite of the inherent awkwardness of the methods.

Fast Forward to today’s methods.  Recording equipment has become smaller, cheaper, more portable, and more scalable.  When you need to record a single vocal track on one song, you now only need a single microphone, a microphone preamp, and an audio interface connected to a computer with quality software for that purpose.  As long as you can find a nice sounding room to work in, you can do this anywhere, the gear will fit in the front seat of your car, and could conceivably cost less than the cost of one channel of the conventional analog recording console.  Recording has come to the masses!

After Tom and I sold our 56th street studio, we still had many projects we were working on.  We had some good friends still in the studio business that provided working spaces for tracking, overdubbing and mixing while we searched for a building of some sort that we could operate from.  While we were looking, we ended up setting up a mixing facility in a living room.  Needless to say, that can make home life awkward…….   We also spent quite a bit more time working from our clients home studios.  Dozens of them.  Anyone who has gone to the expense of setting up a professional quality home recording system can confirm that it can be tremendously versatile and fun, even with the inherent limitations of the equipment and acoustic space. 

As we searched for a location and then created the next generation of Morrisound, we decided to try to incorporate into our design some of the inherent freedoms of the home recording revolution, while maintaining the technological sophistication required to provide the audio quality our clients have come to expect from us.  The result is what we believe is a great synergy of technology and relaxed comfort.  We still use a state of the art recording console, in this case, our Solid State Logic Duality, an extensive ProTools HDX system, and an extensive collection of outboard processing, but instead of completely isolating people from each other during the recording session, we placed the SSL directly in the main recording space.  Immediately, you can feel that communication, so important in today’s collaborative environment, is natural and comfortable.  Everyone involved in the session is in the same space, working towards the same goal: a great product.  We did still include several isolation areas in the interest of audio fidelity during larger sessions, but the results of this overall design, that we like to call “Immersive Recording” have been fantastic.  The old school “us versus them” recording studio setup has yielded to “We are all in this Together”.

One side benefit we didn’t really expect, is the advantage of mixing in a very large, great sounding space, substantially larger than the control rooms at almost every other studio we have ever recorded in, including our own 56th Street facility.  Mixes have been translating extremely well to real-world listening environments, from car stereos to earbuds.

I know I will always have a fondness and perhaps a certain nostalgia for “the way we used to do it”, but this new design has been invigorating and quite frankly, tremendously FUN!  We are really proud of the new Morrisound.  Make sure you give us a shout, come by and see our new, “Immersive Recording” facility.

The Neumann U 47 is without a doubt the most sought-after, legendary, and unfortunately rare microphone in the history of the recording arts.  Known primarily as a vocal mic, it is equally impressive at a wide variety of tasks: from acoustic guitar to upright bass to room sounds for everything from orchestration to drums.  The high end response is silky-smooth and the low frequency reproduction must be heard to be believed.

The history of these amazing mics begins at Georg Neumann GmbH as far back as 1928 with the production of the CVM 3 microphone, sometimes refered to as the “Neumann Bottle” mic and seen in historical films of speeches from that era.  During World War Two, the Neumann factory was bombed and they were forced to move to Thueringen, while their offices stayed in Berlin.  Eventually, in the 1950′s, the East German Government seized the factory and produced microphones there, at first under the “Neumann” name and then under the name “Microtech Gefell”.

Back in Berlin, the “actual” Neumann company, with the financial help of AEG Telefunken, was back inbusiness and began development of the U 47 in 1945.  The design was completed in time for the Berlin Radio trade show in 1947.  Early models have a Telefunken logo, while others were distributed by Siemens.  Eventually, Neumann took over sales and put their own name on the mics.

Before the U 47 appeared, the most popular mics for recording or broadcast were the RCA Ribbon style (more on Morrisound’s RCA Ribbon mics in another article!).  The U 47 had unmatched fidelity and presence, making it ideal for a recording and broadcast market with rapidly improving sound quality standards.

The letter “U” was used in the model name to represent a “plug-in” style vacuum tube, as opposed to “M” for a “soldered-in” type.   The U 47 was based on Telefunken’s VF-14 pentode steel tube developed for German field radios in World War Two and uses a single supply voltage.  The only similar replacement tube would be the EF-14 which uses the more common two-supply voltage design.  To use these tubes, a new power supply would need to be manufactured, meaning incompatibility with the supply for the standard U 47.  Telefunken kept the VF-14 in production until sometime in 1958.  By that time, Neumann was the only customer for these parts, so as Neumann ran through their stock of tubes, they began the design of the eventual successor, the U 67, in 1960.

The dbx company grew out of the need to reduce tape machine noise.  It was founded by David Blackmer and the first products used a solid-state voltage control amplifier (VCA) coupled with a RMS based detection and control circuit.  The idea was essentially to compress the dynamic range of the incoming audio signal, then record the result on tape.  At this point, the audio would exist on the tape as well as the inherent tape noise.  However, since the audio signal was compressed before it was recorded, the volume of the signal on tape was always relatively high.  Upon playback, the dbx system would “expand” the entire replay signal (noise included now) with essentially the reverse of the compression curve.  Now when the signal was quiet, the noise was expanded downward.  During louder passages, the noise was for all practical purposes “drowned out” by the original audio signal.  The system did not require elaborate input and output calibration, making it easier to use than the popular Dolby system.  Unfortunately, I have always felt that the dbx noise reduction system created too many noticeable artifacts, such as “pumping” and unnatural attack transients.

In 1976 someone must have convinced Mr. Blackmer to create a single ended compressor system.  This was probably offensive to his sensibilities, as he had created the company to make it possible to improve or at least maintain dynamic range in source material, and now he was trying to develop a system for squashing the dynamics.  His first product in this regard was the dbx 160.  This was a half wide rack piece with a VU meter for monitoring signal strength or gain reduction.  The only controls available were threshold, ratio and output gain.  We have several of these here at Morrisound and I find them powerful for drums and guitars.  They definitely impart a certain color and character to fast transient style material that I think is very cool.  I suppose my most common use for the 160 is to punch up a snare drum.  Must be heard!!!