Ka Runs Like a Wheel...

04 Nov 2019

Endings… and Beginnings

I’m trying to come up with the words to intro this blog post, but I find myself struggling. The struggle comes from trying to balance the two sides of A) wanting to maximize the quality of my content and B) just getting something written down to ensure that I can get this post done in the time available to me. The spirit of this post that I want to convey is the cyclical nature of life. Endings often lead to beginnings. The case that I’m speaking of this time is the music project I’ve been working on for the bulk of the past 6 months. So, without further ado…

Track 2/2

After rolling through the 2nd and 3rd tracks with relative quickness, there’s been a bit of delay getting to the last track of this 4-track project. Mainly I was waiting for the guitar samples being provided by my brother. However, life is also busy, and my newly added DIY distractions haven’t helped matters.

That all being said, I think my brain never stopped working in the background. After getting the sample stems from my brother this week, I was able to process them and piece together this track in two short sessions. Naturally, there’s some fine tuning to go through, but I’m already really pleased with the results so far. In a way, I think there was a benefit to having some time off. That allowed me to reflect on what I’ve done so far as well as check out other sources of inspiration that can influence the way forward. Yet another reminder that good things can’t be rushed. The lesson of practicing patience is something that continually pops up. Maybe one day, I’ll learn it for good.

If all goes well, I imagine that by the time I come back with another blog post, I’ll be posting with a link to the finished product. It’s bittersweet, as the whole process has been fun and rewarding. I’ve learned a lot along the way. However, I’m excited to be able to publish something as “complete”, and I have plenty of ideas to work on for the next project. That next project, by the way, will likely be pretty different from this one. It’s been fun working on ambient music, and I’ll definitely come back to this genre, but my heart lies with the beats that get you moving. I think it’s time to flesh out some of these 128 bpm sketches that I’ve built over the year.

500 Series Progress

When I last updated, I mentioned that I found a 500 series case that seemed like the perfect unit for my needs. Well, as it turns out, it’s more of a case where I made a hasty, impulsive decision that I regret. In my excitement at finding a 500 series case that has an integrated USB audio interface, I didn’t take the time to look into the details of the operation, especially of the audio interface side. I received the unit a few weeks ago and though it had a few scratches, it was in otherwise fine shape. It’s very compact, smaller than I thought it would be, which is a plus! Feeling pretty good, I plugged it in for a quick test and immediately discovered an issue that I think is going to make this case a no-go for me. I was hoping that the onboard audio interface connections, namely the headphone outs and main outs would function without needing to be routed through a DAW (or, at least, my computer). I have come to learn that this feature is called “direct monitoring” and is not always a feature found in audio interfaces. The main reason I want this feature is that I want to be able to route audio through the rack, but not have the added steps of starting a computer, DAW, configuring the I/O, etc. before starting on a jam or other music project. With the limited times I get to play with the full setup, I need to be able to fire things up and be up and running in a minute. It should be possible to turn this case around without losing too much (if anything), so that’s a bit of a relief. It’s back to the drawing board as far as the case situation is concerned. As of this writing, it doesn’t appear that an all-in-one solution exists. I’m likely going to have to get a suitable audio interface and maintain a small 500 series case through which to route my audio.

In the meantime, I decided that a pair of mic preamp kits was the way to go for my first modules. Part of that decision was driven by cost (found a solid coupon code online), and part of that was the products in question had a nice feature set. Not only were they designed to be able to handle line level loads (important due to mainly working with synths), but they also have an integrated VU meter to monitor the input level. Add to that, quality components and a good reputation and I was sold. After receiving the two “Lola” kits from Hairball Audio, I was extremely impressed. I have built a lot of DIY eurorack kits and other synth kits over the years, but these kits really take the cake when it comes to quality build instructions and how well they are packed in organized baggies and boxes. Very high marks from me, Haiball! At the moment, I’m about 95% done with the first preamp. Apart from one hiccup (more later), the build is going smoothly, and I’m taking my time, trying to enjoy the process. I saved the discrete op-amps (DOA) for last, as they had the tightest layout, requiring extra caution. I got to the last components on the first DOA and accidentally inserted it 180 degrees from the way it’s supposed to go in (i.e. I put it in backwards). Fortunately, there are two of these components, otherwise I might not have caught this error before first use and potentially frying the DOA. It was painstaking, but I was able to carefully and methodically desolder the component without damaging the solder pads. I was also able to clean the area and reinstall the DOA without too much trouble. I haven’t had a chance to build the other DOA (two per preamp), but I hope that by the time I post again, I’ll have good news that I was successful in this repair (and the overall build). I really should have taken some pictures of the build progress. I’ll take some photos as I build the 2nd preamp, and include those in the next post. Despite the bonehead error, I’m still having fun, and I’m excited about getting a chance to trying these preamps out in my signal chain. Now, about that case…

An Aside About Dreams

I had a weird dream last night that involved a house. A strange, yet familiar house. It was a dream that happened in an early sleep cycle, so I’m surprised that I still remember it. I wonder if that’s a feature of early sleep-cycle dreams, or just the subject matter. The more I think about it, the more I realize that dreams that involve houses tend to be very vivid for me. In an instant, I can recall two other different dreams that involved houses. In typing that sentence, there were flashes of yet another house dream. How interesting. Now, I’m not really one to put much weight into the meaning of dreams, because I generally believe that dreams are a mechanism for your brain to make sense of what’s going on in your life at any given moment. However, this recurring theme could be interesting to explore, even if just for fun. These dreams are never nightmares, but they often involve unusual or bizarre situations that should clue me in to the fact that it’s a dream and not reality. Last night’s dream was no different. This house was definitely my house, but it had a very quirky layout, and it seemed either incomplete, or in transition – as if we had only moved in a few weeks ago. As I was exploring the house, I found a hallway that ended in a landing that overlooked a level below with more doors. For some odd reason, this lower level was not ours, it was someone else’s house. Kinda like a duplex, but not in any normal way. Other than that, I can remember finding little nooks that were filled with old things, like antique knick-knacks and curios (in other words, junk!).