Two Little Known Yamaha FM Synths You Can Still Get For Cheap

  1. The Yamaha PSS-480 is a real FM synth (2 Op) that was marketed more as a toy than a real synth, but it is a real synth and you can store 5 custom patches. Even though it’s only 2 Op, it has a real charm and can make some pretty unique sounds. There’s also MIDI in and out, and 12 voice Polyphony. You can usually find them from $50 to $100. 
  2. The FB-01 is a monster of a synth in a tiny box. It’s a 4 Op FM synth, similar to the DX21, but relies on an external editor to edit patches. Fortunately there is one on sourceforge that runs on both Linux and Windows.  I just picked one of these sweet babies for only $45! 

Of course you can still pick up the Yamaha Reface DX at a good price if you want something new and compact. They are quite good at reproducing the Yamaha FM sounds and they’re under $300 brand new!

Reface DX

Best High End Drum Micing Kit

One of the most legendary microphones for recording drums is the Sennheiser MD421. But at nearly $400 a piece, just getting 3 tom mics will cost you $1200! Not all of us have that kind of scratch to blow. Plus you’d still need a snare mic, kick mic, and overheads. By the time you get done you’d probably throw down about $3000!

You don’t have to do that though to get a killer high-end mic setup for drums. If you have medium amounts of scratch to blow, the Sennheiser DRUMKIT600 Drum Microphone Package could be the best high quality drum microphone package for $1000 on the market.

You will get a complete setup for a 4 piece drum kit that includes 3 tom/snare mics, a kick drum mic and two condenser overheads. This kit will last you for years to come and is great for both live and studio use. All of the mics come packaged in foam encased, locking aluminum case. This way you can keep studiomates from “borrowing” your mics without permission 😉

Ride Cymbal Terms, What Do They Mean?

In my opinion choosing the right ride cymbal is one of the hardest cymbals to choose for your kit. There are so many sounds and one that doesn’t vibe well with your ears can quite literally ruin your fun playing.

There’s so many different sounds out there, and there’s so many terms used by people to describe them like, washy, pingy, dry, dark, clean, and more, then there’s also the bell sound which can greatly vary from ride to ride. Not to mention there can be a ride that is washy and dark, or a ride that’s dry and dark. However there most likely won’t be a ride that’s washy and pingy, but there can definitely be one that’s clear and pingy. Confused?

Let’s go into a little more detail as to what most people mean by using these terms.

  1. washy – washy usually refers to the attack as well as the sustain of the ride. For example when you hit it, the sound has little attack and a long sustain with a strong white noise sound. These types of rides are most similar to crashes. Examples of rides that could be described as washy are the Paiste PST7 Lite Ride or the Zildjian Sweet Ride. This sound is heard most often in 60s rock and some jazz and are usually light in weight. The bell sound can vary on a washy ride from strong to soft.
  2. pingy – pingy can be most easy be understood as the opposite of washy and are usually heavy in weight. When you hit the cymbal there is a strong attack (ping) sound. There’s still a long sustain, but with less white noise than a washy ride. There’s usually a noticeable note to the sustain. However this may not be the case if a ride is pingy, but dry. Some good examples of a pingy ride are a Paiste Alpha Metal Ride, and a Zildjian Megabell Ride
  3. dry – Unlike the first two examples dry almost only refers to the sustain of the cymbal. Dry means short sustain. Unfortunately the company Meinl has been trying to redefine the meaning of this term and produces a lot of cymbals under their “extra dry series”. These cymbals, even though excellent sounding are in actuality not dry at all. A more appropriate way to describe them would be dark and trashy. The term trashy does not mean bad, but refers to the sustain of the cymbal having a lot of dissonant undertones, much like a china cymbal giving them an almost gong-like quality. Zildjian are one of the only manufactures of true dry cymbals, like the K Custom Special Dry, or the Zildjian Earth Ride (which is also very pingy)
  4. dark – dark is quite popular these days. As I mentioned before, Meinl’s “extra dry” line, would be more appropriately described as “extra dark” but I guess from a marketing standpoint, there were already a lot of “extra dark” lines on the market, so they wanted to stand out, and it worked! However, dark usually refers to the pitch. It’s usually lower and trashier. The undertones are more dissonant and complex. This sound is very popular in all forms of music these days, though in the past it was more popular in Jazz. Good examples of dark rides are the Dream Energy Dark Matter Ride or the Meinl Extra Dry Ride

Anyway, I hope this helped you understand what people mean with these terms, and happy music making!

DIce OS Update 0.1.5

My latest DIce OS is now available for download. There’s been several great software additions such as, Autotalent (autotune plugin), Timemachine (simple jack audio recorder), MP3 Support, QMidiArp, QSampler, and Flowblade (great video editior), nm-applet (for managing wifi in IceWM), Thunar with Gnome Icons (for file management in IceWM.

Download the latest DIce OS here!

Learn more about DIce OS

iPhone X Planned Obsolescence

With the upcoming release of the iPhone X, and the recent release of the iPhone 8, the internet is once again buzzing with iPhone news, tech reviews of these new products, and talk of everyone saying how they want the new iPhone.

Let me clarify off the bat that I am not saying the iPhone X is a bad product. I honestly have no opinion of it because I haven’t used it. It is most likely a top notch product, which is usually the case for most Apple hardware. Now that I got that out of the way, and the reason why I’m bringing up the iPhone at all is to talk about Apple, who has to be one of the worst producers of planned obsolescence technology on the planet.

What is planned obsolescence? Well, during the 1920s and 30s manufactures started to realize that if they made products cheaper that didn’t last as long, they could make more money. Think this is a myth? It’s not, this has been researched, studied, and published that companies intentionally create products that either break or trick consumers into believing they need something new, more stylish, and more fashionable after a predetermined amount of time.

Apple likes to pretend they’re a green company with their new solar powered office. And while this is great, it hardly makes up for the billion iphones sold that have a lifespan of only 1 year, or more recently 6 months! Just take a look at the iPhone’s release history.

  • 2007 – iPhone
  • 2008 – iPhone 3G
  • 2009 – iPhone 3GS
  • 2010 – iPhone 4
  • 2011 – iPhone 4s
  • 2012 – iPhone 5
  • 2013 – iPhone 5c
  • 2013 – iPhone 5s
  • 2014 – iPhone 6
  • 2014 – iPhone 6 plus
  • 2015 – iPhone 6s
  • 2016 – iPhone SE
  • 2016 – iPhone 7
  • 2017 – iPhone 8
  • 2017 – iPhone X

That’s 15 iPhones in 10 years! Let’s take a look at this more closely, and just how completely insane this is. In the original iPhone there’s millions times more computing power there was in all of NASA at the time of the moon missions. and somehow people have been convinced that their iPhone that’s 8 months old useless or no longer desirable! There is something very very wrong with this.

Now let’s take a look at Apple’s computers. How many of you have tried to use a Macbook from 2008 and quickly realized how useless it seemed? A 2008 Macbook has more than adequate hardware to run on today’s internet, but due to the Mac OS release schedule and their absolute refusal to back support the hardware they make, if you’re hellbent on using Apple’s operating system, you’re shit out of luck.

Just take a look at the Mac OS history for the past 16 years:

  • Mac OS X 10.0 – code name “Cheetah”, released in 2001
  • Mac OS X 10.1 – code name “Puma”, released in 2001
  • Mac OS X 10.2 – also marketed as “Jaguar”, released in 2002
  • Mac OS X Panther – version 10.3, released in 2003
  • Mac OS X Tiger – version 10.4, released in 2005
  • Mac OS X Leopard – version 10.5, released in 2007
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard – version 10.6, released in 2009
  • Mac OS X Lion – version 10.7, released in 2011
  • OS X Mountain Lion – version 10.8, released in 2012
  • OS X Mavericks – version 10.9, released in 2013
  • OS X Yosemite – version 10.10, released in 2014
  • OS X El Capitan – version 10.11, released in 2015
  • macOS Sierra – version 10.12, released in 2016
  • macOS High Sierra – version 10.13, released in 2017

With Linux, at least on computers, you have way more of a lifespan for Apple’s products. I’m making this blog post on a 2007 black Macbook running the latest Ubuntu LTS system 16.04. I use this system every day for everything I do. Blogging, YouTube, Music Production, Video Editing, and photography. if you look at the amount of content I create, you can see that it works very well for me.

My DIce OS will also run just fine on older hardware. And so will many other variants of Linux. You can even get very old PPC, and 68k Macs up and running with Linux, though maybe not as well as post-2006 intel based ones. Still 11 years sure beats the 1 year that Apple wants you to use their products.

When you really think about it, what major improvements have been made on these products to justify so many upgrades? Let’s take a look at the early 2000s when high speed internet was starting to become widely available in the US. Back then a computer with an 800mhz CPU and 1 GB RAM was screaming fast. What could we do online? Well, we could send email, voice and text chat, watch videos, listen to music, play games, and buy stuff online. What can we do now? Well, we can send email, voice and text chat, watch videos, listen to music, play games, and buy stuff online. Albeit at higher screen resolutions and FPS, but still there have been very few major breakthroughs. A more unique and innovative approach in my opinion would have been for technology companies maximize usefulness with the existing hardware, rather than bloat new software to maximize usage of system resources or functionality.

Unfortunately, Apple hardware is so locked down that even if we wanted to put our own software on an iPhone to extend it’s life, we can’t, so with iPhones, they quite literally are throw-away items. The wastefulness of this is unfathomable. I’m not trying to guilt you into not buying and iPhone X, but if you do, maybe keep the one you have until it really is no longer functional, not just unfashionable.

If you have an old Macbook, don’t thow it away. Try installing Linux on it, or give it or sell it to someone who can use it. The way our society is functioning at this moment in time is not sustainable. Apple, despite their wannabe Green, Earth-Loving PR attempts, they are one of the worst contributors to the wastefulness.

Things you can do to help combat planned obsolescence

  1. do not buy products with short lifespans
  2. research and find ways to extend the life of the products you already own
  3. support companies that back-support their own products
  4. only buy new when function truly dies, not when they become unfashionable
  5. purchase refurbished products rather than new ones
  6. fix products when they break instead of buying new ones even when economically impractical
  7. when a product truly dies, recycle it, don’t just throw it in the trash