33 And A Third

Brew your own mp3s for pennies! The nuts & bolts of transferring a music collection from vinyl record albums to mp3. With a heavy dose of Garage Rock, 60s R & B, Classic Country, and groovy hits from our dusty record bins.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Quiet! We're Broadcastin' Here!

I have a ton of songs on my computer...last count: 3,938. Figure a half a pound a song, you're talking literally almost a ton of songs. The little Sony speakers that came with my "emachine" (what a great name, bet someone in Marketing got a corner office for that) are dandy for what they are. But they can't compare with my stereo speakers. In the living room. Ten feet away.
So the cure for that was to run a cable from my computer sound card to an input in the stereo tuner. Now I could listen to my computer music library on my stereo. A sweet solution! Except that I kept tripping on the cable. The kids kept tripping on the cable. The dog was tripping on the cable and the cat was chewing on the cable. No moron me, I realized I needed to go wireless with this project.
Down at Best Buy I told them what I wanted to do...get from my sound card to my stereo with no wires. The helpful salesdude wanted to sell me the latest wireless router with bluetooth and sound scrubbers and frequency fribbulators and the whole thing would only run about $150. As I told the dude, "I wouldn't mind you ripping me off if you were on commission, but I find it offensive that you'd do it for slightly more than minimum wage."
I got to wandering around the store, and over in the ipod section I found the solution. Almost. What they had was a little battery operated fm transmitter that would plug into the headphone jack and transmit to any FM radio. Hot dang I said, that's what I need. Except the battery part, because I wanted something I wouldn't have to fiddle with down the road. I asked the sales dude if they made such a thing that ran on normal American electricity and he directed me to the latest wireless router with bluetooth and sound scrubbers and frequency fribbulators.
I left Best Buy in disgust...a '73 Chevy Disgust that I got from my dead aunt.
The SF-150...Sweet Solution
Later on at home, I did some internet surfing to find a solution. Should have done that to begin with and never strayed into the brick and mortar world. What I found was the Arkon SoundFeeder, the SF-150. This was perfect...it plugs into the computer soundcard and broadcasts the signal to any nearby FM radio. Its tuneable so you can set it to an unused frequency with no interference from a broadcast station...I like 92.7. And best of all, its powered by a plug to a USB port! Heck, I didn't even know USB ports had power to them!
Under 25 bucks and it works like a gem. The range is excellent...my bedroom clock radio, 50-60 feet away, picks up the signal crystal clear. Now I just leave my computer music playing all the time. I turn down the computer's Sony speakers and turn up the stereo. Or if I'm in the kitchen I turn on that radio. Even my car in the garage can pick up the signal. Woo-Hoo, I'm a radio station! When do I get my free records?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Church of Rock & Roll

On this beautiful Sunday morning I want to take the opportunity to reaffirm my belief that 99-percent of the love, peace and happiness in the world is contained within the grooves of the standard Long Playing Record. May it rest in peace.The Little Country Church of Rock & Roll
I've long held this belief, at least since I was a small boy, when I would listen with enraptured ears to my Mother's copy of the soundtrack to the "King & I". My Father wisely removed that record from the house, but I continued in my beliefs. But, much like the Prodigal Son (which I've always thought would make a good name for a band..."And now, let's welcome them back to the stage, 'The Prodigal Sons'!"...meanwhile over at the bar..."yea, I'd like a Fatted Calf, water back."), I strayed from my beliefs. First came the short-lived temptation of 8-Track tapes. Then the slightly more satisfying experiments with Cassette tapes. And finally the total surrender to the demon hell of CDs.
In my particular case I think the biggest temptation of the CD was the 40 to 60 minute length plus the ability to program sequential discs...no longer would I have to get up every 20 minutes to turn the record over. I could load up the 5-disc player and let it run.The Lasagna of Rock & Roll
I can hear you out there starting to whisper the "L" word...that's right, Lasagna. Over the years too much lasagna had enlarged my ass to the point where I could no longer get up off the couch to turn a record over. Sad but true.
Anyway, back to this fine Sunday morning and my reaffirmation of the power of the LP. I give full credit to Audacity and ClickRepair, my two favorite programs for tranferring my record collection to mp3. These two programs have made it possible for me to reacquaint myself with hundreds of albums that I had put away like children's toys.
And the best part: I have about 3,000 mp3 files on my computer. Songs I love, songs I like, songs that are OK, but no songs I don't like. I can set my music playback software (I use SonicStage) to shuffle and the songs just play. And play. And play. I figure I can go about 6 days without repeating a song...except for the 5 or 6 versions of "Tallahassee Lassie" that I have. Plus, I have a small FM transmitter (the SoundFeeder SF-150) hooked to my sound card so I can listen to my music in any room of the house.
So get out in the garage today and rescue the boxes of records you packed away years ago. It is all still there in the grooves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Review: Golden Records

I'm already on record with Audacity being my favorite software for recording audio files. If I'm recording an album with some pops and clicks I then save the Audacity file to wav and run it through ClickRepair. I'll then save my repaired wav file as mp3s. This makes for some nice clean audio, but it also means spending at least 80 minutes to record a 40 minute album...first 40 tracking the album and second 40 in ClickRepair.
I wanted to give NCH Swift Sound's new software a try, it's called Golden Records (Golden v1.05) and features real-time click removal.Box Full of Digital Product
It's actually pretty dandy software which records your audio feed from your stereo and automatically breaks it into tracks with trimmed ends. While recording it has some noise suppression utilities that treat the incoming signal. This would cut my time spent recording an album in half! Cool!
I had to transfer Three Dog Night's Golden Biscuits to mp3, so that was my test disk with my freshly downloaded Golden Records software. I'm happy to report that the click suppression part of the software is very good, removing all the background crackle and 90 percent of the clicks. Not as incredible as ClickRepair, but still very good with no distortion. Recall that this album has some fairly quiet passages, and Golden Record's noise suppression utility handled them with no problem.
What was a problem for me, though, was setting the input levels so that the software knew where to break between cuts and when to start the next cut. I fiddled with it for a couple of hours and continued to end up with bit and pieces of songs broken up into individual mp3s. Even if I did get the software to break at the end of a song, any excessive background noise and it would take that to be the beginning of the next cut. The attached help file was no help and any online manual was non-existant. I was working with the free trial download, so maybe the full program includes an additional help file. Doubt it though.
I still like Golden Records for recording one long declicked file, which I can open in Audacity to break into individual cuts. That alone cuts my recording time in half.


Three Dog Night - Eli's Coming

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This Is Your Brain On Music

I walked into a room and two scientists were talking. And the first scientist said...actually I have no idea what the first scientist said. When I hear two scientists talking I leave the room. Quickly.Itchy Brains
But the scientists over at physorg.com have an interesting article on a Dartmouth study which finds, among other things, that a catchy song will make your brain itch. Doesn't even have to be a song you enjoy. Nope, it'll make your brain itch and the "only way the itch can be scratched is by listening to the song." Over and over again.
Cliff Richard used to make my brain itch all the time in the seventies. Hall & Oates always had catchy songs, but the king of music brain itch was Cliff Richard. There was an Australian band, Sherbet, that probably sent the Aussie kids into repeated brain itching deliriums, but they only had one shot at it here in the US.
Get ready to scratch.


Cliff Richard - Wired For Sound
Sherbet - Howzat

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sleep On It

When I was a kid I had a dandy little "pillow speaker"...a small speaker
in a hard plastic shell that you could slide under your pillow and plug
into the earphone jack of a transistor radio. A wonderful invention that allowed me to listen to the radio till all hours without alerting the parents. They of course never understoodthe importance of catching the KOMA skywave that came bouncing in after sundown.
So I love the new offering over at Linen 'n Things...the Cozy Tunes Pillow. Nothing better than nodding off while the rock rolls on. Pretty good idea for a Father's Day gift too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nervous Kats & Kitties

It seems sometimes, no matter what fancy footwork you employ, you just can't help but step in a big, hot, steaming pile of good fortune. I know! It happened to me!
There was a time when a band could become quite large in their own small world. Back before the homogenized national media and the national merchandisers a band could play every weekend and build legions of fans, but remain remain virtually unknown outside their local market.
In my neighborhood that band was Bailey's Nervous Kats. These guys owned northern California in the late '50's and early '60's. They packed 'em in from Sacramento to the Oregon border. Of course I was a baby, so I only know what the old-timers tell me. And many of them had measurable brain-loss in the sixties. Ace Records (one of the world's great record labels, based out of London) has a wonderful CD of 26 Nervous Kat cuts, well worth owning.Nervous Kats Rule!
But for me, nothing works like the real thing. Which brings us back to my unavoidable good fortune. Yesterday, while thumbing through a box of dusty 45s over at the house of a collector friend, this cat jumped right up into my hand.
"Dude!" I said, "This is Bailey's Nervous Kats!" To which the owner of the box of records replied, "So, you want it? Take it."
As a general rule we don't take in strays anymore...we already have enough cats. But this sweet kitty came home with me.


Bailey's Nervous Kats f/ Robert Smith - Traveling Sam

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Digital Audio Recording

If you're transferring your old albums to digital, the first step is recording the audio onto your hard drive. The software I use for this is Audacity, a free, open source software for recording and editing sound files. I don't require much of the software...I lay down a simple stereo track, trim the dead-air from the beginning and end, adjust the levels, and export as an mp3. And Audacity is more than up to that. Plus there are some extra functions such as hiss removal, noise reduction, equalization, compression, etc. These you really won't have to mess with if you're starting with clean vinyl, which is always desirable.
Christmas Morning Sound Board, I Wish!
Is Audacity up to recording the latest project from your garage band? Some would say no. They'd tell you to go with Adobe Audition or Sony Sound Forge. That is quality software, but it's also 200-300 dollars. Which the band may not have in the budget.
In a previous life I was in the radio business, and the digital audio recording software we were using as recent as ten years ago was on-par with Audacity. It can be a little clumsy at times, but once you learn the program you can do some wonderful things. Just remember that The Beatles recorded Strawberry Fields Forever on a couple of banked 4-channel Ampex tape machines. Spend your money on a new amp or cleaner mics.
You can find Audacity at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ (uncompensated link)


The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever

Kicking Ass & Taking Names

Registered the blog at Technorati.com this morning. I'm not really sure what that will accomplish, but it seemed like something that a lot of other bloggers have done. And in fine lemming fashion I determined that I probably should too. Upon signing up I discovered that 33AAT ranked an impressive #1,370,014 in popularity. Not bad for a week's work. There must be a billion blogs, and I'm in the top 1.4 million!Wolfman, My Hero
It was of course with giddy anticipation that I checked back this evening to see if the blog-gods had blessed me with a massive influx of popularity. Oh man, if I could just get down to a six-figure score. My current popularity rank, as of 12:35 AM, is #1,370,677. Passed by 663 loser blogs. It's just like high school again.


The Guess Who - Clap For The Wolfman

Saturday, June 03, 2006

School's Out And The Learning Begins

It's graduation time around here. My son will be one of those shuffling across the stage and tripping down the steps onto new adventures. School's Out shout the boys. but the joke's on them. Gonna cut off their hair, and sell them a suit, and send them to work In Tall Buildings.


Alice Cooper - School's Out
John Hartford - In Tall Buildings

Saturday Scavengings

I enjoy Saturday morning garage sales. Chance to get out the house. Meet
some neighbors. Buy their stuff for less than it's worth. Hopefully,
much less.
I picked up some records...a Righteous Brothers album on Verve, that could
be good. Found the Johnny Nash Hold Me Tight album on JAD. That was a
brand-new sound for most of us in 1968...the first infusion of reggae into
American pop music.
But best find this morning was a sweet mid-50s Phillips console radio with
turntable in a very nice small cherry cabinet. Got the AM. Got the Shortwave.
Got the Ship-To-Shore Band. I've been listening for an hour and haven't heard
any sailors. I think I'll leave the radio part intact, and add an FM receiver, a
CD player, and maybe some sort of mp3 input like an ipod docking station.
That would be cool. Advice from anyone who has ever updated a console is

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Gotta Love Them Algorithms

I can't say enough good things about a $25 piece of shareware called ClickRepair. It is an absolutely incredible program developed by an Australian mathematician to remove pops and clicks from your sound files. I would explain how it works, but it's all about algorithms, and I was sick the day we discussed that in math class. I just know that it is simple to operate and works better than anything out there.

Case in point, my toasted copy of The Delicates - Black And White Thunderbird, some great girlgroup pop from 1959. My original Unart 45 is wondrously trashed, with serious clicks and crackle and pops all the way through. It's unlistenable. So I give it a soapy water wash, record it onto Audacity, save as a wave file and then ClickRepair does its magic. I set the controls for maximum repair, which I actually thought would do too much damage to the musical information to make a saveable copy. But it was awesome. The clicks and crackles were gone and more importantly, the music was intact. There were still some relics in the form of background noise, but this I could remove 90-percent of with Audacity's Noise Removal function. If you're saving your records to digital you got to have ClickRepair. You can download a free 15-day fully functional trial version at http://wwwmaths.anu.edu.au/~briand/sound/
Also added to the Radio.Blog Player is another great T-Bird song - Jaguar And Thunderbird from Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders' 1965 The Game Of Love album. And continuing in our Fordfest, an mp3 I snagged the other day of Kelly Carkson's Go, the theme of Ford's new Bold campaign.


The Delicates - Black And White Thunderbird
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders - Jaguar And Thunderbird
Kelly Clarkson - Go

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Money's No Object

I think I get a pretty good sound from my set-up, which is by no means a high-dollar affair. For a turntable I have a 20 -year-old Kenwood KD 64F...a mid-level unit with linear tracking. Nothing fancy. Could probably buy one used for $10. I run into my old Yamaha receiver that I've had forever. Patch out of the headphone jack and into the line input of my computer's sound card. I record it on some dandy free multitrack software from Audacity. Get a basic set-up like that and you can make mp3s all day.
I stopped into the neighborhood second-hand store today. Primary purpose was the search for some picture frames for a new project. Of course, my eyes popped when I saw the new box of old records they had acquired. Turned out to be mostly Southern Baptist gospel though, so no big excitement for me. But about halfway through the box was a real nice copy of the 1969 debut album from It's A Beautiful Day, featuring White Bird. I've always thought that was one of the prettiest songs of its era and I love the cover art. Got it home and dropped a needle on it. Wonderful. Well worth the quarter I spent for it.


It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird

Down on Sixth Street

We're all happy to see that What Made Milwaukee Famous has landed a spot on this year's Lollapalooza in Chicago. They've been a big favorite around the house since we stumbled upon the Trying To Never Catch-up album last year. WMMF is an Austin band, entirely too unknown. At least on the west coast.
I'm not sure what the connection is, but the band's name comes from a Jerry Lee Lewis cut from the sixties. Never one of my favorites by The Killer, but we'll put it up for those unfamiliar.


What Made Milwaukee Famous - Almost Always Never
Jerry Lee Lewis - What's Made Milwaukee Famous