More Samson Rubicon 6a thoughts

As a followup to my first impressions of the Rubicons, I took a copy of the live set home with me and have been listening to it over the past couple days.

So, with a little bit of distance, I can say: man, that mix translated super well! The midrange and high-end balance and tones I heard in the control room are really close to what I heard at home. In this regard they definitely best the JBL LSR28p’s that we use as monitors (and, at about $2000 a pair, are 4 times more expensive).

The bass was a big exception to this, however. The bass response is definitely weak, and the mix came out slightly bass-heavy and a little muddy, particularly the bass guitar. Which is to be expected with 6.5 inch woofers; the graphs on the back of the monitors show they start to roll off at 100 Hz.

So.

Initial impression is favorable, tempered on both sides by realizing that for $450 there are gonna be some definite tradeoffs. (AKA there is no free lunch). The ADAM P11A’s are definitely superior, but they definitely cost like 5x as much.

We’ll see if a little time changes things, and also what the others think.

Handbook for Sound Engineers, 3rd Edition

Howard Tremain’s Audio Cyclopedia (sic) is a book that was really a Bible of audio engineering back it’s day, and even now is a gold mine of information. The 2nd edition was released in 1969, was *1700* pages (no joke!), and was comprised of 25 sections (some examples: “microphones”, “equalizers”, “sound mixers”, “vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes”, etc. etc.) Unfortunately it’s long out of print, though we do have copy at the station in the shop (and I have one that I very recently bought one used on ebay).

Well, want not dear friends, because the Handbook for Sound Engineers, 3rd Edition is the just-released third edition of the successor to the Audio Cyclopedia. Check out the link above for info; 1500+ pages, and it looks like it’s chock full of all the classic electronics info as well as modern computer and digital topics. You can also order on that page; it’s $80 regularly but they’re running a special offer of $64, shipping included, cause it was just released.

This sounds like a damn commercial, but I’m a customer too–I just ordered a copy of the new one. Bryan-nick-kyle: I totally recommend picking this up, what with Soldering Team starting up and all. It’s a really good investment.

Pipeline! Playlist 4-26-2005

Marissa Nadler “Mr John Lee (Velveteen Rose)”
Anaïs Mitchell “Two Houses”
Ashby “Little Voice”
the Charms “Don’t Bring It Down”
Blitzkrieg Bliss “Citadel”
Mary Timony “Friend to JC”
the Books “Smells Like Content”
the Dirty Projectors” “I Will Truck”
Reverend Glasseye “Sweet Sweet Countryman”
the Black Clouds “Black Cloud”
Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band “Oh Daddy Oh”
Dinosaur Jr “Repulsion”
Brian Michael Roff “The Best Is Yet to Come”
Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women “Life’s Assorted Lessons”

BIG BEAR live

Soltero “Ghost at the Foot of the Bed”
Mobius Band “City Vs. Country”
the Static Age “Vertigo

BIG BEAR interview

the Konks “Here She Comes”

Big Bear vs. the Samson Rubicon 6a — more impressions

Tonight I used the Rubicon 6a’s to mix the mighty Big Bear live on Pipeline!

Some background: these are brand new active monitors from Samson, featuring ribbon tweeters–and they retail for around $450 a pair. We’re reviewing them for Tape Op, and we have more than a month with them to figure them out. I personally am keenly interested: I’ve been a fan of speakers w/ ribbon elements for quite some time, and I reviewed the ADAM Audio P11A’s (which I loved!) for Tape Op a couple years ago.

Here’s what Bryan thought of them after he used them last week. And here are my impressions:

–As expected, they’re very detailed in the midrange, with really good imaging. Was either of these things stunning? Well, no. But they were damn good.

–They were very bright, which wasn’t too surprising, and they were certainly a bit harsh at times. In fact my ears were a bit fatigued after the live set, which ran only about 2 hours start to finish. Would I be able to work 6 or 8 hours with these monitors? I don’t know.

–There was a boost/cut knob for the tweeter– you can set it for -2dB, 0, +2, or +4. At a nominal mixing volume, the “0” setting was too bright, while the -2 db cut was too much. How ’bout a -1 dB cut as well?

–I listened to some CD’s through the monitors before mixing on them, and thought the low end sounded predictable, if not solid. The heat of battle proved somewhat differently: the low’s weren’t very defined or strong, resulting in a need to monitor at higher volumes (which surely contributed to fatigue–see above).

In addition, while the mids and highs translated quite well to other systems, the mix seemed just a bit bass-heavy. It sounds like there may be holes in the bass response: i’ll bring a signal generator down soon and see if that reveals anything.

More soon.

Pipeline! Playlist 4/19/5

Ashby “He Likes the Sound”
the Charms “Pussycat”
UV Protection “Cool Tall Buildings”
Phantom Buffalo “5 Charming Animals”

Mary Timony live & interview

Brian Michael Roff and the Deer “I Would Work If I Could”
Josh Ritter “Don’t Wake Jupiter”
the Texas Governor “Leave Your Life Behind You”
Big Bear “#4”
Laughing Light “The Study of Patterns”
Mahi Mahi “Acoustic Fence”

Joe Turner and the 7 Levels live

Mobius Band “Year of the President”

Pipeline! Playlist 4/12/5

Ashby “Troublemaker”
Mahi Mahi “(Re)Move Your Body”
the Texas Governor “Shortwave Radio”
Downbeat 5 “Dum Dum Ditty”
Bourbon Princess “Supergirl’s Complaint”
Mary Timony “Hard Times are Hard”
Edan “I See Colors”
Dirty Projectors “Jolly Jolly Jolly Ego”
the Books “Be Good to them Always”
Mobius Band “Starts Off With a Bang”
Ho-Ag “Golden All Night”
Scissormen “John the Revelator”
Big Bear “#6”
Anaïs Mitchell “A Hymn For the Exiled”
the Konks “Out of My Mind”

the Winterpills live

Alec K Redfearn and the Eyesores “The Bible Lite”
Turpentine Brothers “Wrong Night”

the Winterpills interview

the Information “Bright Lights”

Pipeline! Playlist 4/5/5

Soltero “Songs of the Season”
Dinosaur Jr “In a Jar”
Turpentine Brothers “Love Gone Bad”
the Konks “Let the Music Do the Talking”
the Dents “Too Much”
Bourbon Princess “So Much Time”
Anaïs Mitchell “The Belly and the Beast”
Dirty Projectors “I Sit on the Ridge at Dusk”
Mobius Band “Multiply”
Alec K Redfearn and the Eyesores “The Night it Rained Glass on Union St”
Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band “Oceans Condo III”
the Books “A Little Longing Goes Away”
Redbird “Lullaby”

Devil Music live

Urdog “Nepenthe”

Devil Music interview

Samson Rubicon 6a – first impressions

So Nick and I hooked up the new monitors tonight. I engineered the evening’s band (whose name I can’t remember) on them and also subjected them to all of Mclusky’s excellent third album as a point of reference. Some things I noticed:

– Holy motherfucking shit the mid-hi’s and hi’s are bright and clear. With the CD, I literally heard things I’d never heard when listening to it before (including on the old JBL monitors). This is my first experience with ribbon tweeters and I’m quite impressed.

– The speakers sounded a bit tinny out of the box. The back panels have knobs for a high-frequency shelf (-2 dB to +4 dB in 2 dB increments); knocking it down to -2 dB helped somewhat.

– Everything still sounds bassier than it should and the lows are still a little bit muddy. Since it’s more or less the same as it was with the old monitors I’m guessing it’s something with the room. No idea what to do about that except learn to listen around it (which we all already have, I guess).

Obviously the thing to really do is hook both sets of monitors up and a/b them with a well-known reference CD. We were tired though, so that didn’t happen. Maybe I’ll play with them later in the week if I get time.

Winter Pills

Note to future-Bryan: do NOT use hypercardioid mics on acoustic guitars in a full-band setting!

Second note to future-Bryan: That Sennheiser MD421 with the tone you’re so fond of is in fact hypercardioid, and not just cardioid as you’d previously believed.

The Winter Pills set should have been straightforward; electric and acoustic guitars, three vocalists, a drummer, and a bass player. The only wrinkle was that the bass player was without an amp and had to be DI’ed (through a standard transformer), but Nick and I were able to deal with that by compressing the hell out of the channel (DBX compressor with a ratio of something like 6:1 and no limiter) and boosting the midrange (~1-2 KHz) a bit.

The acoustic guitar we dealt with by DI’ing its internal pickup using the SansAmp (not a piece of equipment I’m very familiar with) and mic’ing it, then mixing/panning the two signals. As with the bass, the SansAmp got heavy compression as well as some reduced high-end via its EQ knobs to reduce the tinniness; at the end of the day it sounded pretty good. The mic was the aforementioned MD421, which I’ve used in more isolated situations to mic acoustic guitars with generally good results. The problem was that the hypercardioid pattern is basically a tight figure eight; the polar response around the front of the mic is very tight, but the tradeoff is that there’s a region directly behind the mic that picks up nearly as well as the front “hot spot”. Since I’d faced the 421 away from the drums and amps to reduce bleed (ha ha), that rear hot spot got almost as much drums as the front did guitar, resulting in lots of bleed and, in particular, an annoying high-mid pickup of the snare that I spent some time trying to notch out with little success. I eventually just dropped the 421 from the mix about halfway through the set, the SansAmp mercifully picked up the slack and sounded at least adequate, if not brilliant.

It should be noted that a soft-pan of the 421 and SansAmp channels sounded really nice with just the acoustic guitar playing; the warmer 421 balanced out the very crisp SansAmp output nicely, so I wouldn’t rule this combination out for solo-acoustic acts and the like (Kyle pointed out that the hypercardioid pattern can still pick up weird reflections from the wall behind it, but the wall closest to the door is pretty dead so that didn’t seem to be an issue). The 421 was aimed at about where the neck meets the guitar body, which in my experience is the sweet spot for that mic on acoustic guitars (one advantage of the hypercardioid pattern is that you can very precisely pinpoint different parts of the guitar to get a tinnier or boomier sound). For busier acts with acoustic guitars, the SR69 works perfectly well (lacks some character but it gets the job done) in my experience and has a regular old cardioid pattern.

In conclusion, you learn something new every week apparently. I still thought it sounded decent in spite of all that, but I was only half-awake to be honest (quiet bands again).