Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MacOSX Leopard BSOD

My newly installed MacOSX 10.5 Leopard operating system just showed me a BSOD: Blue Screen Of Death, while I tried to connect to some Windows machine over SMB protocol. Here how it looks like in Finder's Quick View:


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mixing Hardware: Yamaha MW8 CX

Another piece of hardware just arrived today:

I've researched what kind of mixing hardware fits the best and found that this one feels really good at small recording studio.

  • Ridiculously small price for such brilliant quality. Surprised indeed.
  • Comes with Cubase AI4 for Mac (Windoze too, if so) and connects easily. Cubase AI4 seems to be way better sequencer in terms of "ease of use" than even Logic Express. You just connect cables, you just run it and it just works (unlike Logic Express).
  • Very lightweight, can be mounted on stand (very useful).
  • Clean, nice effects built-in with possibility to connect external module for master effect and two insertion effects for two monaural channels.

  • Lightweight case might be easily broken on gigs. Be careful.
  • No FireWire. USB bit slow and eats CPU on your machine.
  • 8th channel does not have middle frequency equalizer.

But for me it is the very optimal piece of hardware: light, cheap and nice quality with good effects. Nothing more is needed for small studio recordings.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Anti-Vibration Stage for Your e-Drums


Two days before I've purchased my e-drum kit, I had to build an anti-vibration stage for them. Otherwise I shall had to sit in Lotus figure and repeat the mantra of the following: "Drums are not for apartments, drums are not for apartments...". Here I want to show what I've got and what is the final result of my personal research, experiments and calculations...

The Problem And The Destination

No one else instrument in entire World can be so dynamic as drums and percussion. It is possible to produce dynamic range from PPPP (illimitato pianissimo) even lighter than ice crystal sounds itself, up to FFFF (pazzo fortissimo) and blow away somebody along with the chair. There is no any other instrument available to produce this range of dynamics.

With the pianissimo performance everything OK: you simply touch things very gently. No suffering to neighbors downstairs. But what about fortissimo or just good fat forte as usual? Then you are doomed to forte your neighbors hard, which will not be enjoyable for them indeed.

Also keep in mind, that electric kit is only relatively silent. If on stage and turned off, then yes — perfectly silent. But if somebody is sleeping and you can hear a mosquito flying somewhere, then e-drum is definitely noisy and will raise up everybody around. You have real kick pedals, real hi-hat, real cymbals, real pads for real hits from real sticks. Mesh-heads solute problem only 40% or even less: still you have rubber cymbals, still your hardware transfers vibration downstairs, still kick-pedal shakes the floor and still nasty hi-hat shakes your downstairs neighbor's piece.

Now, the problem is to prevent your room shaking and your neighbors crying, while still allow all that bulky expensive hardware to produce the range of dynamics, what it is actually designed for...

My apartments has relatively tiny walls between neighbors, paper walls between rooms and building is made monolithic concrete (often earthquakes in Tokyo won't allow make it from bricks). Each concrete apartments are very good to collect and transfer any kind of sound everywhere anytime. If you are living in more sound-proof apartments, then you are even luckier than me. If you live in less sound proof apartments (wooden house, for example), then you are... well... less luckier than me. In other words, there is always enough room to improve this assembly.

Before You Do

Go to your neighbors and tell them what you already bought (on purpose omitting the word "electric" to let they accept shock in place) tell them what you are going to do (probably till that time they will understand already). Yes, the law is on your side and basically you can ignore them totally. But it is rude, not friendly and actually does not means that you are an a-hole who wants to screw up tired neighbors. Be kind to people and people will be kind to you. Go tell them when you are going to play and when you are going to finish. Keep the time and schedule accurately.

But don't be over-kind to them: otherwise they will suspect for you are extremely bad. :-)

The Recipe

The stage I've built exclusively for my drum-kit and fits well for it. However, if you have another kit featuring another size of the stage, you have to try to adjust size yourself, but I think it still applicable for mostly any popular drum kit. This stage is NOT applicable for kits on original hardware (components are mounted on their own stands), but only for "one-piece" frame-based mounted systems.

Here is parts required (metrics, sorry USA reader):
  • 6 bath mats, 85x60 cm with grid of holes on them. You will appreciate it later or make holes yourself, which is probably not what you want to do.
  • 9 bicycle tubes, 40 cm in diameter.
  • 3 foam-rubber pieces 60x60 with sound-absorption surface (preferred, but not necessary). A bunch of toilet sponges is good enough, if it is so critical to get right one. :-)
  • 12 light rubber pieces 120x120x25 mm of each. Rubber shall be like a sponge with a microscopic cells, light in weight but very hard to be compressed to solid stage.
  • 80 m of plastic rope.
  • One Japanese tatami 190x80 cm or approximately same size piece of thick plywood.
  • Soft floor foam cover. I used cork puzzles with foamish base.
  • A striped carpet.
  • 4 striped rubber disks, 10 cm in diameter.
  • Double-sided glue ribbon to join rubber elements together.
  • An iPod with headphones, lot of patience and two different hands (left and right), properly placed as originally designed by God. :-)
Remember: soft materials absorbs sound, hard — opposite, transfers them. Empty spaces generates resonance and reinforces the sound. In this situation you have to choose materials, that will keep their condition under heavy pressure of kit itself and hairy legs of fat John playing it, excited. :-)

OK, Let's Go Do It

First, put floor cover on the place where you want to install your drum kit. I've been used it double for the place where stage is going to be placed.

Here how bath mat looks like from the bottom side. It is very good to have such kind of surface, because it will remarkably reduce physical contact with the surface underneath, thus reduces the waves of the vibration.

Here how bath mat looks like from the top. Notice grid of holes. You will really need almost all of them.

Now, join 3 bath mat into one piece, using plastic rope. Do it tightly, but not much, to do not hurt the mat itself. Repeat the same procedure for another 3 bath mats. So finishing this step you will end up with two big and relatively soft platforms.

In the next step you are going to put some ugly guts in between of them.

Inflate bicycle tubes to reasonable condition and tightly mount them as shown on picture, using plastic rope. Tubes shall be mounted quite tightly to prevent stage flow after it build, but do not overdo it either, since it will reduce soundproofing (vibration proofing, actually).

Now put rubber-foam in between the spaces. It will prevent your stage to sound as yet another drum. :-) — remember what I said about empty closed space?

Now, remember those 12 light rubber pieces 120x120x25 mm of each? Group them by two, joining with double-side glue ribbon and make 6 "legs". Put them two in the middle (to support kick-pedal) and four on each corner, fixating with the same double-side ribbon, preventing them float inside the construction. This will make tatami (or piece of plywood) lay solid on top of this thing and also prevent shaking snare and hi-hat, while playing. Picture below does not shows them since it was done after an update of the stage, but you may understand it easily.

Put another 3-mat joined piece on top of this, making Big Mac hamburger-like thing and sew together with the plastic rope, as on picture. It will prevent disassembling of the stage, while playing.

Put a carpet on top of it. Carpet will do two functions: will hide ugly blue bath mat with guts inside from choosy eyes and also will reduce sound resonance from your kit to bath mats. Here you go:


Now put two front legs of the frame (pads side) of the kit on the stage and two legs (from drummer side) out the stage. Put those 4 rubber disks underneath the legs of the frame. Maybe additional something underneath those legs might be needed, if your drum kit wants to be tall. Stage is 12 cm tall, which is not so thin. Chair might be put on something similar, like custom wooden platform, specially for throne only (50x50x12 cm) — it is very easy to assemble from the already done parts in any DIY shop.

Entire price for this stage: approximately $270 USD.


So far, neighbors confirmed very-very-very a little sound from kick and hi-hat while playing wild, if they very carefully trying to catch the sound. Snare and hi-hat does not shakes at all even during double-bass, following Mike Portnoy. Stage is pretty solid for that.

If you want and stay calm, then everything is possible.

Enjoy and have a lot of fun, happily drumming! :-)

Roland Drum Kit

The news

Recently I've got my "Roland TD-20 Pro" drum kit. Finally!.. 8-)

Why "Roland"

The decision was made actually after really long research and sniffing around over all kits available. Basically there was two kits competitive against each other: Roland V-Drums and Yamaha DTX. Everything else is just really a joke in compare to those two.

I used many ways and criteria shuffling together to find the kit: get features first, then price; get price first, then features and so on. At the very end of each iteration I always end up with Roland — wanted it or not.

It is the very true: you get exactly what you pay for. If you pay a little, you will get cheap thing and as result you will barely enjoy cheap stuff. Roland kit is great example of this rule. This kit offers you excellent design and extremely close feeling to real acoustic kit. It is built that solid and pads are mostly metallic.

Sound is very natural and really very close to real acoustic kit. Once you close your eyes and listening, you will have hard time to distinguish it from real drums. Pads are very responsive and never (again: NEVER) cross-talk to each other, no matter how strongly I hit them. Even I hit stand — it still never cause a cross-talk from one pad to another. Sweet.

Hi-hat is a killer of all other manufacturer's hi-hats. Here is nothing much to say: simply resembles real hi-hat with real touch and feel. Apart from you can open/close it, you can also tightly close it (sound changes as on real hi-hat) and you can semi-open it, or open for 3/4 or 1/4... It all realistic. If you play very sensitive jazz or you need semi-opened hi-hat for your hard rock — you will understand what I am talking about.

Cymbals are awesome. They are very responsive. They never overlap each other's sound. Their bell/bow/edge/chop techniques are just natural in its behavior.

Mesh pads itself feels like real drums. I expected a bit effect of "tennis racket", when stick is bounced back too fast and too strongly. However, it is not like this at all. Amazed.

Why not something else

So the only competitor from other companies was the only one line of e-drums: "Yamaha DTX". I've tried shortly look at Alesis and other vendors, but left those products very shortly.

Seriously reviewed was three models: DTXPlorer, DTXPress III and DTXPress IV. I have to say, for it is not bad kits either if you looking with policy of "price first, then features". All DTX modules are really sophisticated, having nice and clean interface to operate them. You can never read any documentation about the module synth and just start working with that very quickly.

DTXPlorer. Very basic. Pads are single-triggered, except hi-hat, double-triggered. Module is very simple, sounds are basic, editing is minimal.

DTXPress III/IV. Still basic. Pads are same as DTXPlorer, just snare is tree-zone pad. However, I disliked "natural" hi-hat of Yamaha DTXPress IV. First, it is too noisy as for practice — neighbors will not enjoy your playing, I am sure. I also not-so-much liked snare. Snares are zone-defined, not trigger-driven, where different sounds are mixing together to produce third sound in result, depending on the velocity of the triggers on the pad. It means, that you can attach different waves to different zones and whatever you play — they will respond with originally attached sounds. This is cool, cheap hack to simulate rim-shots and so forth, but yet not enough to feel real drum kit, if you need to...

Additionally, DTXPress IV expected to be better than DTXPress III, as never version of the same level. However, the MIDI is only "OUT", but "IN" — gone in piece... How to trigger this kit from an external sequencer?!

DTXPress III actually discontinued...

DTXTreme II. Discontinued. I never been able to find this one somewhere and put my sticks on it. But as far as I can see, hi-hat is the same, all pads are three-zones triggers and sounds are pretty same as in DTXPress IV, with the only ability to make samples. This winter Yamaha maybe will introduce any better kit?

My personal overall summary for all existing Yamaha drums are below.

  • Pads has nice responsive rubber.
  • Nice sounds.
  • I love those large cymbals! I want them for same size for Roland kit! Why Roland makes cymbals so ridiculously small in diameter? 15" for Ride? 8" for Dark China?.. You kiddin me?...
  • Pretty cheap!
  • Very noisy kick pad.
  • Very-very noisy tom pads.
  • Very-very-very noisy hi-hat pad.
  • Sounds still has plastic taste at their background and, frankly, too "Nintendoish". So far...
  • No MIDI "IN", only MIDI "OUT". That sucks.
  • Quite minimum in editing sounds, quite small memory.
  • 32 note polyphony sounds sad. Even after editing the kit to increase polyphony, still when I've played DTX IV, I found that in some cases next sound erases previous one. So if to hit a cymbal (crash or chine, for example) strong-then-weak, it is quite often happes then previous strong sound was totally erased by following weak one. That sucks too.
  • Who use those GMs?..
If you:
  1. Living in your own house
  2. Need a kit for just practice or not serious gigs
  3. Consider a price first of all and looking for "cheap first"
...then DTX line is for you. It is good kit for beginners and advanced hobbyists.


The very top minority is kit's price. Yes, it is expensive. It is VERY expensive...

Another minority that this kit is not an "unfold-connect-play" while assembling it. For me, to assemble mine, took "just" 7 hours in a raw from the pile of new boxes brought from the shop, to end up with clean room and assembled kit working. Size of this hardware is also not small. Drum set is quite bulky to move, heavy to drag and big enough to occupy majority of the space in the room. Once installed, forget about beautiful feel of your well-designed room: kit widely contains massive amount of black striped pieces of rubber, blocks of metal, heavy-looking main frame for all pads and quite bulky synthesizer (drums brain). All these details will strike out your home feelings entirely. If you are married: try setup your wife to do not enter your room ever (for her own safety to do not get shocked). :-)

Maybe some more minority will be synthesizer navigation and how it works. For me, who IT guy, it is well-understandable and pretty fine. But for those, who not "well-computerized" this module might look bit odd and difficult to learn. Navigation is not that simple and module itself is not that intuitive to understand without reading the manual. Good side of this module that it can do really a lot! — exactly enough for upcoming 5-10 years to work with.

Well, but majority of the instrument is actually everything else you can think about. This electric kit brings you much more that you can expect from an electric kit actually.

Moreover, if you want really good kit, you will spend approximately same amount of money for same real custom acoustic kit, frankly talking. Along with the disadvantage practicing at home for the acoustic kit is actually an acoustic kit, you will also have to beer with the fact for acoustic cymbals are changing their sound with the time, cracks etc. To get same amount of sounds, you will need to buy new apartment only for the kit and running around, while performing. :-)


Roland kit is pricey. But if you look for professional e-kit for gigs, quiet home practicing, studio records, live perfomance — there is nothing else better-or-same... Roland kit is winner here, hands down.