Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beaker Street Comment

Here is a comment that is sooooooooo true:

I'll bet I know why there were a bunch of hits on the blogsite...the realism of the broadcast & airchecks, and along with the memories, the "pop" of the needle as it played through the quiet spot on the King Crimson selection!

Listening to today's Beaker Street feels so....well, sterile...CD's leave something to be desired where memories are revived....Bud, Mobile, AL

Thanks Bud, all of us old timers were so glad to see CDs come along, that we overlooked the cold digital sound.

We were also glad to see solid state replace noisy tubes and A.C. hum. Now the hip thing seems to be vinyl coming back and folks paying a fortune for tube amplifiers.

I guess "the sound" was really good after all.


Anonymous said...

There are some songs on Beaker Street that are still played on albums. If you listen closely, you can hear the needle touching the record. When Beaker Street moved to The Point 94.1 in March,
a turntable was purchased to play the old albums.

Anonymous said...

Hi A.J.,

First, thanks for all the recent airchecks! Your efforts at preserving this
material are truly appreciated.

Some 40 (!) years ago, I listened to Beaker Street almost nightly
(never even thought about taping it!),and the airchecks bring back
a lot of memories. What struck me from listening to the airchecks
was how mysterious and new both the music and Clyde Clifford sounded.
There was something special happening here....

Regarding Bud's comment about CDs, well, I agree that CDs sounded lousy
till the late 90s, when engineers finally figured out how to master the
things properly. I bought LPs up to a few years ago, but now I feel OK
with CDs. (I kept my vinyl and turntables and do have a tube amp, by the
way --- the amp heats my basement in the winter!)

Regarding the current Beaker Street show, well, I faithfully listen every Sunday,
and Clyde and his playlist have evolved, like all of us --- it really is that Clyde
and all of us have ``grown up'' together, and it's absolutely great that the show
is still going and that we have the web stream to substitute for the AM signal.
(I'm hoping that Clyde will keep going into his 80s just like Danny Williams at KOMA!)

By the way, when Clyde's show moved from the ClearChannel feed at Magic 105
to KKPT's, the sound went from ``cold FM stereo'' to mono, and it sounds
like listening to AM again! The fact that Clyde is broadcasting from the old KAAY
building helps the ``karma'', too.

Have a good Memorial Weekend, and I'll be checking in on WLS on Monday....

Best regards,
Dave Schmidt
Manhattan, KS

The Mighty Favog said...

CDs used to have an edge in sound -- at least over typical lightweight vinyl pressings of the late '70s and 1980s. LPs just got to the point where it was a totally hit-and-miss proposition whether you'd get a good pressing.

Since the mid- to late '90s, though, I'll take a well-pressed LP over a rock or pop CD anyday. The digital loudness wars have obliterated any advantage CDs might have had in distortion, frequency response and lack of surface noise.

Frankly, 7 out of 10 CDs sound like hell today, and that's just because of mastering insanity. Nothing like ripping a CD to your hard drive, opening up the WAV files in Adobe Audition and having them all look like bright green 2-by-4s.

Also, when you're putting a bunch of music on hard drive from various sources (and eras) -- including vinyl -- the over-the-top hard limiting and compression of contemporary digital material makes it a challenge to maintain a relatively consistent average loudness.

All your vinyl has to be hard limited to the upper edge of good sound (which makes click-and-pop removal critical), and most of your newer CDs have to be toned way down. What a pain.

Lately, I find I've been buying a lot more new vinyl than I have CDs. What goes around. . . .

As far as tube sound goes . . . I love me some vacuum-tube audio. It really is warmer -- which I understand has everything to do with how tubes distort when you get to the clipping threshold.

I have a couple of project studios here at home, and all of my mikes are run through those affordable little vacuum-tube preamps . . . with the output gain turned up somewhat shy of 11.

My main mike is a Studio Projects C-1, which is sort of a low-price Chinese knockoff of a Neumann U-87, and which sounds almost as good. With the tube preamp and some judicious basic EQ on the front end and on the audio-editor end, the results can be darned impressive.

Now, if someone would like to donate a vintage McIntosh tube amp to a worthy cause, the gift would be most appreciated. ;-) Right now, I use a Harman/Kardon 330c ($40 on eBay) and a pair of EV Sentry 100A speakers for monitoring.

Anyway, I've gone on long enough. But the beauty of inexpensive modern gear is that, now, you can put together a production studio just a versatile as any radio station's in a spare room at home . . . and you can do it for less than $3,000 if you know what to get second-hand.

And it's going to sound every bit as good as what comes out of most radio stations -- and better than many, if you know what you're doing.

If you'd like to hear what comes out of my humble back-room studio, you can go here.