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Episodes 21 through 30

Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed

Updated 10 December 2020

copyright 2020 Douglas W. Fearn

Episode 30  -  My Recording Career, Part 1: Early Influenes and first studio         Nov 18, 2020

This two-part episode tells the story of my life in recording. It  starts out with the musical and electronic experiences that shaped my  career and then describes the process of learning about recording and  the many disciplines required. I explain how my first studio was  constructed and the challenges I faced and mostly overcame. I trace the  steady increase in track count -- this was in the days of tape, of  course -- and the transition from analog to digital.

Throughout, I describe the experiences that changed my approach to recording.

Part 1 ends in 1973, when my studio was 8-track.

Many elements of this story could be expanded into an episode of its own. If you would like to hear more about an aspect, please let me know.

Thank you for all your great comments and feedback. This episode was the  result of listener feedback. If you have comments, questions, or  suggestions for future episodes, please contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

This podcast was recorded with an AEA R44CXE microphone into a D.W. Fearn  VT-2 mic preamp, into a VT-4 Equalizer and VT-7 Compressor. The  converter is a Merging Technologies Hapi and the software is Pyramix.  The original recording was made at 96kHz sample rate, 24-bit PCM.

You can subscribe to this podcast through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and many other podcast providers.

Episode 29 - The D.W. Fearn VT-7 Compressor                                                October 13, 2020

The VT-7 Compressor has an interesting backstory,  including a Nashville dinner with my friend, Cranesong’s Dave Hill back  in 2003.

In this episode, I tell the story of how the VT-7 came  about, and explain how a pulse-width modulator (PWM) compressor works  and why it is an excellent way to create a versatile compressor/limiter. I also go through the history of the compressor and the various methods used over the years.

The operation of the controls on the VT-7 are described, with some ideas on how best to set them for a given compression task.

The VT-7 has become an indispensable tool for many of the world’s top  recordists, mixers, and mastering engineers. It is often used in  conjunction with the VT-5 Equalizer, on the mix bus, or in the mastering chain.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I always appreciate hearing from you. Send me email at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

And if you have friends who would find this podcast interesting, please pass along the link to them.

Don’t forget that you can use a podcast app, like Apple Podcasts and many  others, to automatically notify you when a new episode is available,  and/or automatically download each episode.

Episode 27  -  The VT-5 Equalizer: Design and Use                  September 27, 2020

In this episode, I describe how the D.W. Fearn VT-4 and VT-5 Equalizers came about. I start with some history of equalization,  and then my experiences with various eqs and how that influenced the  design of the VT-5.

I talk about the design process, including the reasoning behind the choices I made in the frequencies and the curves,  and the design of the amplifiers in the VT-5. Then I explain how I use  the VT-5 on the sessions I do, which is not meant to be a tutorial on  equalizing, since everyone has a different style, but as an illustration of one approach to using the equalizer.

In 2020, we made some  internal changes to the VT-5, which does not change the sound of it at  all, but did allow us to eliminate the small, low-speed cooling fan.

A plug-in version of the VT-5 is available from Acustica Audio, and I explain the design process behind it Learn more at http://www.acustica-audio.com/store/t/acqua/equalizer/ruby.

The VT-5 has become an indispensable tool for many engineers, mixers, and  mastering facilities. I originally designed it to fill I need I had, and it has been very gratifying to see the acceptance it has gained in the  music recording world.

Episode 26  -  Joe Tarsia, founder of Sigma Sound Studios                         September 13, 2020

Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia was responsible for a huge number of hit records, starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 21st century. Eventually Sigma had two studios in Philadelphia and  three in New York.

Joe Tarsia founded Sigma in 1968 but his career as an engineer goes back to the 1950s at Cameo Parkway Records. He  started in a mono studio, using very few microphones, hardly any  outboard gear, and recording to tape. He has lived through the evolution to stereo and multitrack tape and from mono vinyl records through the  CD and into the digital age.

I sat down with Joe in January of  2019 at his home and recorded our conversation using a Flea M49 in the  bidirectional position, to a Tascam DR-100 portable recorder.
A slightly longer version of this interview is available on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMwTQ8XhY9c

The video includes many still photos taken at Sigma, thanks to former Sigma engineer Arthur Stoppe.

This is an important part of our recording heritage, and I urge any of you  who have access to pioneers like Joe Tarsia to take the time to capture  their history.

Thank you for listening to this and the previous 25 episodes.

Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Email me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com
And if you find this podcast useful, please share it with others that you think would enjoy listening. Thanks.

Episode 25  -  Improving Your Audio For the World of Virtual Communications
                                                                                                                                       September 4, 2020

During the Covid pandemic, most of us have had to shift to the virtual world for our conversations, presentations, classes, and committee meetings.

One thing that I notice is that almost  everyone has bad audio. Not just low fidelity (that’s intrinsic in the  on-line medium), but audio with poor intelligibility due to bad mics,  bad mic technique, poor-sounding rooms, and extraneous noise.

I  compiled a few suggestions on how you can improve your virtual audio and made it into this short podcast episode. I also talk a bit about  improving the video component.

None of these suggestions cost a lot of money. Some actually cost nothing.

It looks like we will be interacting with each other through Zoom and  Skype (and others) for the foreseeable future, so it pays to put a  little effort into making the best of this technology.

And I  suspect that we will be doing a lot more of this virtual communication  even after the pandemic is under control, so it is worth sharpening your skills in the realm.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. You can always reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

About half of the listeners use Apple Podcasts to listen to this podcast, and adding in the listeners who use Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and others bring that method of consuming the podcast up to about 80%. One  advantage of Apple and other podcast providers is that you can subscribe to my podcast and receive notification of new episodes, and even  automatically download each episode if you wish.

For those of you  who prefer to be on my email list, just send me email with a request and I’ll add you to the list. I send out one email for each new episode,  with a link.

I am gratified by the large number of listeners, but I suspect you know others who would like My Take On Music Recording. Please send them a link. And any mention you make on social media is also helpful.


Episode 21  -  Mix Engineer Mike Miller                                                             August 2, 2020

Mike Miller is a great example of the latest generation of recording mixers. Mike started as a musician, playing piano at age  4, later switched to guitar and as a teenager he began touring with  bands whose members were much older. Recording with those bands  introduced Mike to the studio and he was instantly captivated and knew  that was what he wanted to do.

His early success as a producer  doing most of the tasks involved in making records eventually led him to specialize in mixing. Mike started out in his home town of Rochester,  NY, not noted as a recording center, but he was able to capture success  there. Eventually, however, he needed to move to cities where the  business was, including, New York and Los Angeles. He has moved to LA  and developed relationships with many people in the music business who  were impressed by his talent and ambition. They offered him advice and  guidance, and Mike feels that it is important to pass that knowledge  along to those who are just starting out.

Mike recorded his side  of the conversation in his studio in Los Angeles using a Flea 47  microphone into a Hazelrigg Industries VLC mic preamp, and recorded to  Pro Tools. My side was recorded in my studio in Pennsylvania using a  Flea 49 mic into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, Merging Technologies  converter and recorded in Pyramix. The final 24-bit, 96kHz PCM recording was processed through individual VT-4 equalizers and and VT-7  Compressor.

Thanks to all of you who have dropped me notes about this podcast. Those has been very valuable to me. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com, or through my podcast web site, https://www.dougfearn.com

Episode 22  -  Microphone Preamplifiers: how I designed the D.W. Fearn preamps and how you can get the most out of them

August 14, 2020

Microphone preamplifiers are essential for almost all  recording. In this episode, I look at the requirements for a quality  preamp, and how preamps are designed and used.

Although this focuses on the D.W. Fearn VT-1, VT-2, and VT-24 mic preamps, the principles are applicable to any preamp.

We look at the extreme range of levels a preamp has to deal with, and the  techniques used to accommodate this range. Why is there a 20dB pad on  most preamps, and how best to use it (or not)? Many modern mics have a  transformerless out, and a non-standard output impedance. How do we deal with that?

Do mic preamps introduce distortion? What kinds? And which add to the sound and which distortions are annoying?

How does phase shift through the mic preamp affect the sound? What can be done in the design process to minimize phase shift?

How do we use the "Phase" (polarity) switch on a mic input, and where is it most useful?

What exactly is “phantom power?” How did that come about? What are the advantages, disadvantages, and potential problems?

Using a mic preamp on a mix buss is also covered, along with the special requirements for that application.

How about installation of your outboard preamp? What do you need to  consider in cooling, wiring, and AC power in order to get the maximum  audio quality?

How can mic patch panels create potential serious  problems, not only for the audio quality but also for the safety of your expensive microphones?

I take you through the history of the  design of the VT-1 preamp, which is the basis for all the D.W. Fearn mic preamps and also influences the sound of our equalizers and compressor.

Understanding some of the technical details will help you to use your preamps better. I avoid a lot of technical jargon and theory, and just focus on the  aspects that will be helpful for most recording engineers.

Thanks  to everyone who has contacted me with your comments and suggestions. I  have already added some topics for future episodes, based on listener  feedback. You can contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

Episode 23  -  Jason Miles, Producer, Synthesizer programmer, and Keyboard player       Aug 21, 2020

I’ve known Jason Miles for over 20 years and I learn  new things from him every time we talk. Jason is a keyboard player,  synthesizer programmer from the earliest days of the Moog synthesizer,  and a Grammy-winning producer.

He has worked with artists such as  Miles, Davis, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Sting,  Chaka Chan, Suzy Boggess, David Sanborn, and many others.

In this  interview, Jason talks about how he got started playing music and how  that lead into his pioneering work with creative synthesizer  programming, and playing on many albums. He has performed along with  many major artists in places like Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Capetown South Africa Jazz Festival. He has a new record out, the  proceeds of which will help support people in the music business who  have limited income during the Covid pandemic. Jason also has a one-man  music and storytelling show.

Listen to Jason tell the stories  about how he broke into the highest levels of the record business, and  how he re-invented himself through the decades. He is always learning  and embracing new music and new technology. It’s a fascinating story.


Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate them. You can reach me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com, or through my podcast web site, https://dougfearn.com/

Episode 24  -  What Flying Taught Me About Recording                         August 28, 2020

At first glance, you would think that flying an  airplane and recording music would have very little in common. And it’s  true that there is not a whole lot that directly translates from one to  the other.

But there are many aspects of learning to fly, and  constantly working to perfect and extend your flying skills, that have a parallel in recording.

In this episode, I explain some of the  fundamentals of flying, how my recording career helped me in mastering  those skills, and how my audio background helped me in the airplane.  Dealing with airplanes also taught me things that were helpful in  designing and manufacturing professional audio equipment.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions. You can contact me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com or through my podcast web site dougfearn.com

Episode 28  -  Tony Maserati, Mix Engineer                          October 6, 2020

This conversation with mixing engineer Tony Maserati is a little different from most of the other interviews I have done on the podcast. It is mostly just Tony and me having a very informal chat  about the things that are important to us, both in our professional  lives, but also in life in general.

If you want to see the impressive list of artists that Tony has worked with in his career, go to tonymaserati.com

You will see artists ranging from James Brown to David Bowie, Queen Latifa  to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, that Tony has recorded, produced, or mixed.

He is best known as a go-to mixer at the highest levels in the music  business. Tony is also noted for his appearances on Mix With the  Masters.

Our conversation is unstructured, and a bit longer than  most of the podcast episodes, so you might want to check out specific  sections, like:

03:17   Moving back to Upstate NY from LA and living in the country

22:46   Recording today with remote musicians adding parts

26:43   Recording and mixing are two different skills

39:47   What problems Tony finds in the tracks he is sent to mix

43:40   Advice for people who want to get into the recording/mixing business

58:24   Tony’s approach to mixing

Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. You can email me at dwfearn@dwfearn.com

Thank you for all the comments you have sent me. I appreciate them all. And  thanks for passing along info about this podcast to your friends and  colleagues who you think would find it useful.