Show 116 – Clean power & audio quality with Ralph Skelton and more!

This week we talk to Ralph Skelton about the impact of your electrical system on audio quality. In the Rapid Fire section we talk about: Mixing vocals with pre-mixed/mastered tracks; Favorite Drum library; and Mixing with Headphones.
Also joining us this week for discussion is Cory from Createmusictips.blogspot.com

Download Show #116

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Equi=Tech Technical articles
Rane Article Library and Pro Audio Reference
Recommended polish for electrical connections: Flitz and Caig

18 thoughts on “Show 116 – Clean power & audio quality with Ralph Skelton and more!

  1. Hey folks, I didn’t mention that when I brought up compressing on the way in, I was talking about using a hardware compressor before the signal hits the converters. Jon’s comments about the pointlessness of compressing with software were right on.

  2. Electricity… I am now cowering under my desk staring across the room at my series of powerbars powering my shtuff. Is it possible to make that episode sort of not exist anymore, like the 13th floor, so I can sleep at night? I think I’m gonna grab my acoustic guitar now and walk out into the woods and just let it rest on some mossy area, just listen to it with my eyes, not touching it though, don’t want to cause a static spark or something.

  3. Is the reflection filter thing you were talking about that one that’s like a curved metal screen with a microphone mount? It all bolts onto the stand? When i looked at it I thought that thing was supposed to create a reflection of the sound source timed to phase out against the back of the capsule. Theoretically enhancing the cardioid patern, adding more rear rejection with a phase trick. Seemed weird, like the distance would have to be tuned to the general frequency response of the source (skipping the phase math) as in, tuned for vocal, not much else.
    Did I give them too much credit? Is it really just a bafle?

    Oh and Cory; didnt think of this when you were asking on twitter but try listening to the backing track in A-B while you dial in the vocal reverb and space to get a better idea of the ambience you need to match.

  4. Also, is that polish you used for cleaning connectors isopropyl alchohol? Or is there more to it? I’m sure buying a good product will be worth the small cost, and will go a long way if there is some chemical reason, but rubbing alchohol from the local hardware store goes onto q-tips just as easy and doesn’t need to be ordered online, eh?

  5. Ow ow ow!!! My head is killing me.

    This is worse than the brain freeze I got from drinking a milkshake yesterday.

    That was way too much GOOD information that I can’t possibly remember. I would love to have this transcribed for future reference – can you guys dig into your stockpile of donations and make that happen? 😉

    Cheers, D

  6. Justin, the A-B suggestion is a great idea that I’ve recently stumbled onto by studying instrumentals and acapellas separately and then together. What’s cool is that the two don’t always match up as much as I thought they would.

  7. Wow, good show. I haven’t gotten such an audio hard-on since Jon’s segment on metering!

    So I have a question. Maybe I dozed off during this portion of the power-grid-improvement segment, but if you’re going all the way back to the breaker box, what’s the point of a Furman? Or, more hopefully, if I have a Furman, can I avoid replacing, polishing, and magnetically shielding my wall sockets?!?! Isn’t that the what a Furman is for?

    Also, could Ralph indicate whether or not a UPS backup cleans the power at all (similar to a Furman)?

    I’m bumping up my donation to $3 for this episode: Ride the Lightening!

    -James

  8. For James (comment 7). The Furman products range from simple outlet boxes to more complex isolation transformers and Voltage-Correction units. Some will reduce the noises and variations of voltage on the line, but, the only power conditioners that truly isolate your gear from the ills of the primary source and feed lines are Power Re-Generators.
    These units use the source power grid only to charge batteries. The power stored in the batteries is then used to generate a new and isolated mains voltage. This is similar to “always in-line” UPS systems. UPS units that only protect against short term power outages do not fix anything that is wrong in the primary system except for EMI/RFI noises. No Power Conditioner fixes loose, dirty or improper connections.

    For Justin (comment 4) Isopropyl Alcohol is a great choice for quick fix maintenance. Use only 99% pure Isopropyl. FLitz metal polish (which is available from any ACE HARDWARE)was used in the experiment and is my favorite treatment for Nickel-plated phone and male-xlr connectors. I have used it (with great attention to detail and clean-up)to restore patch-bays and clean the jacks on effects pedals. Flitz does wonders on all forms of AC power plugs, Speak-on connectors, banana jacks and spade lugs. For Gold plated connections, I use Isopropyl and CAIG PRO-GOLD contact cleaner. For connections that I have difficulty polishing, I use CAIG DEOXIT.

    Be warned! Once you polish a 1/4 phone plug with Flitz and get dazzled by the shine, you will start trying to polosh everything!

    Ralph

  9. First of all, I can’t thank you guys enough for the wealth of knowledge you provide. I have spent many years perfecting my song writing and now I’m putting that same effort into making them sound the way they do in my head. Every episode I get one step closer to that sound. Thats why your show is what keeps me going.

    Now my question is;
    In show 116, there was mention of matching the metals of the plugs with the metals of the connectors they go in, for example, nickel plugs in nickel connectors and gold in gold.

    As i’m soldering my cables with new plugs, Does it matter if one end of a cable has a gold plug and the other end of that same cable is a nickel plug?

    My Motu ultralite interface has gold connectors that I’m trying to route to various pedals with nickel connectors.

    Is modding my pedals with gold connectors the best option in terms of sound?

    THANKS again!

  10. Another question;

    Now I’m building a reflection filter box that I will sing or play an acoustic guitar into the open side. I want to get as close as I can to that tight vocal booth sound, without lugging my rack equiptment into a studio everytime. I have an inexpensive 12″x 12″ cube wood box from ikea and was planning on putting dynamat extreme sound damping insulation in it. (cheapest on amazon.com)

    Dynamat worked great to insulate my car from even the deep outside rumble.

    This seems like the best dampening material for this and other applications like killing that noisy computer fan, but you guys didn’t mention it.
    What do you think?

    I use to get great results when I had a walk in closet full of clothes, which i covered with moving blankets. I suggest this to anyone with such luxories. It’s quick and easy to go from choosing what I want to wear at tonight’s gig, to recording my next hit. It also costs next to nothing.

    Thanks again!

  11. and yet another question;

    Can you recomend of some good open back headphones for mixing? It was mentioned in the show that there are some, but no specific model number. Ronan’s recording show got me to buy some Shure SRH840’s, which is a pleasure while I’m tracking, but maybe somewhat misleading while mixing. The hard fact of living in an apartement is that I can’t always mix with real monitors. I would love to mix in a fancy acoustically treated studio all the time, but the wife wants me home.

    Would putting an spl meter in each earcup of my headphones work to calibrate the levels like you would with monitors? I assume consistant volumes is key to getting use to how your headphones sound as well.

    Thanks again and again and again!

  12. Hey Phishy.

    I love AKG K701’s – brilliant set of pro cans and probably my favourites. Very very comfortable. Sound fantastic

    I also rather like the “New” KRK KSN8400.. Note these are closed back not open back. Slightly different sound than the K701’s (not only because they are closed back but also because of the way they are designed etc) but actually closer to my monitors in sound & very comfortable to wear and I love the sound.

    Steve

  13. I concur. What an amzing amount of information. Not exactly sure of the cost-benefit ratio for something like this…….but good information.

    In my home studio, I came across some cubicle walls on craigslist, five bucks per side. I purchased three of them, and fashioned them into a vocal booth. the sound is so dead in there, it’s amazing, and for fifteen bucks. Highly reccomend it.

  14. Re: Show 116

    Just catching up on a few older episodes. I am just starting construction on a new home studio. Further to Ralph’s comments, I have 2 very quick questions:

    1. Ralph referred to Arrow Hart marine-grade plugs. I assumed he was talking about female 110-V A/C wall receptacles, but perhaps I was wrong. Are you able to provide more specifics about which plugs he was talking about using?

    2. I am pulling 10-2 copper wire from a a 20-amp circuit on the panel (~20′) to my Furman 20-amp balanced power conditioner. Ralph referred to twisting the wire. 10-2 is normally twisted wire. Do you know if Ralph was talking about cutting the insulation/jacket off the wire and twisting the power and neutral (and loosely wrapping the ground around the twist) in the wall between plugs, or from the panel, or did I misunderstand his intentions?

    Wanna do the right thing, but stay safe. All help truly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Gary Cable

  15. Hi guys,

    I received a direct reply from Ralph Skelton to my inquiries, and I reproduce that here in case it may be helpful to anyone else.

    Thanks!
    Gary Cable

    “Hi Gary,
    Yes, I was referring to the Arrow Hart Marine and Corrosion resistant line of connectors. The 15amp 125VAC straight blade receptacle can be ordered in Grey 5262CRGY or Yellow 5262CRY. I prefer using 20amp rated devices, which allows me to use a more secure plug. The numbers change to 5362CRGY and 5362CRY. I order from http://www.teksupply.com

    If your 10-2 is normally twisted, nothing else needs to be done. I also recommend rigid conduit or steel flex conduit. I never use Romex. I always use THNN 600V 10awg stranded wire. I twist the Neutral, Hot and ground 1-turn per 6 inches as it is pulled into the conduit. (there is valid argument for solid copper but I prefer the sound of the systems when I use the stranded, just my preference) Always use the 600 volt rated wire as the jacket exhibits less capacitance in the wire groupings.

    For any Balanced Transformer, the ground return to the source panel should be as heavy as you can make it. I always change the source input cable to 10awg and use a locking plug and receptacle. Code says 12awg which is what Equitech and Furman use on the 20amp units, but the 10awg always improves the noise floor and dynamics of the system.

    Polishing all bare copper before terminating and polishing all AC plug blades are worth while finishing touches. I use FLITZ metal polish. http://www.flitz.com.

    Hope this helps,
    Ralph”

  16. Re: the Arrow Hart plugs and receptacles that Ralph Skelton recommended, I just wanted to let you know that Teksupply advise me that they no longer carry those products. From what I gather they Arrow Hart are part of the Cooper Industries group, and on their site there is a link to search for US dealers in your state.

    http://webtools.cooperindustries.com/wiringDevices/whereToBuy/index.cfm

    Since I am in Canada I am ordering the products through Eecol Electric.

    Cheers,
    Gary Cable

  17. Hi,
    I was dicovering this great webpage.
    I am setting up my room here in Germany. ( Chassis Circuit for 230 VAC, 16 amp, 3-wire, 1-phase situation/ http://techpubs.sgi.com/library/tpl/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?coll=hdwr&db=bks&fname=/SGI_Admin/OrOn2_SitePrep/apb.html

    My question is; What has to change concerning Ralphs suggestions, dealing here with 230V/16 A? I have a diffrent starting situation in the chain. Do I have to pull two lines of 460 ( because I do not deal with 120V)….? (29.35 min in the interview)

    Thank you for your attention

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