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Monday, September 13, 2004

MP3 recorder woes

The gig went extremely well. I'll put a post up about it soon. It was especially cool to play with Steve Cohen. We sounded a little like Blues Traveller. (Actually, is that good?) Definitely interesting to hear how the addition of one player can make these old songs, that I've been playing for years, sound so different.

Actually I'm posting to rant about MP3 recorders. In the old days, we would bring a boom box to a gig, plop it down in the audience, and press record. More often than not, it made a pretty decent recording.

As we got more sophisticated, we brought DAT recorders to gigs, and plugged them into the mixing boards. That gave us crystal clear sound, but usually a bad mix: too heavy on vocals, light on drums and bass.

Even more recently, we used MiniDisk recorders, which to date have given the best sound, but they're expensive, have unique media, and you still have to convert to analog and then reencode to digital to get them onto the computer, so not much better than cassette tape in my book.

A few weeks ago, I played a Kumzitz and had it recorded by one of the Kollel Rebbes on his iRiver (I haven't figured out why he has one and I don't). He gave me a CD last week, and the sound was great. You could hear my guitar playing, and the singing, and the mix was clear without hiss.

My daughter recently purchased a Dell Digital Jukebox to store her massive collection of crappy music that she doesn't want me to hear (actually that's a joke; she has surprisingly good taste in music). It has the option to do "voice" recording through a built-in mic, so I thought, "Let's give it a try" and record the gig.

We put it on and left it by the sound man, far enough away so that it wouldn't be overpowered by the stage speakers.

The quality was poor. There was an intermittent crackling which occurred presumably whenever the levels peaked. This wasn't the distortion you usually get with signal overload. It's a harsh crackle overlying the music, like the sound you get with a loose wire. It mostly occurred over the vocals. So it's not too good for live recordings.

But that's not what pisses me off.

I took the little box over to my computer and hooked up the USB cable. I tried to download the file from the Jukebox onto the computer, to see if I could fiddle with noise reduction and salvage the recording. Guess what? You can't download off of that thing. All you can do is upload songs to it, or erase songs from it. What good is a voice recording function if you can only listen to it on the device itself? I tried every menu in the proprietary software, then I went to some other programs to try to interact with it, but it's invisible to most. Windows Media player only allows upload to the the device.

The only rationale that I can come up with for the omission of this obviously needed function is the prevention of piracy. You know, so I can't upload a song from my computer and then download it from the Jukebox onto someone else's. But come on, how hard would be to just burn a disk or put a pirated song on a minidrive? All this does is inconvenience people like me, who want to use it for legitimate purposes.

My friend from the Kollel also recorded part of the show on his iRiver. I'll wait and see how that turned out.

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