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My Take on Music Recording is a podcast that covers many different aspects of the recording process, with a focus on the intersection of art and technology. Although recording is a technical process, it also involves music and musicians, working with engineers to create a satisfying experience for the listener.
Doug Fearn has made his living from professional audio since 1966 as a recording engineer, studio owner, record producer, and pro audio equipment designer and manufacturer.
21 - My Conversation with Mike Miller, Mix Engineer August 2, 2020
Mike Miller is a great example of the latest generation of recording mixers. Mike started as a musician, playing piano at age 4, later switched to guitar and as a teenager he began touring with bands whose members were much older. Recording with those bands introduced Mike to the studio and he was instantly captivated and knew that was what he wanted to do.
His early success as a producer doing most of the tasks involved in making records eventually led him to specialize in mixing. Mike started out in his home town of Rochester, NY, not noted as a recording center, but he was able to capture success there. Eventually, however, he needed to move to cities where the business was, including, New York and Los Angeles. He has moved to LA and developed relationships with many people in the music business who were impressed by his talent and ambition. They offered him advice and guidance, and Mike feels that it is important to pass that knowledge along to those who are just starting out.
Mike recorded his side of the conversation in his studio in Los Angeles using a Flea 47 microphone into a Hazelrigg Industries VLC mic preamp, and recorded to Pro Tools. My side was recorded in my studio in Pennsylvania using a Flea 49 mic into a D.W. Fearn VT-2 mic preamp, Merging Technologies converter and recorded in Pyramix. The final version was processed through individual VT-4 equalizers and and VT-7 Compressor.
Thanks to all of you who have dropped me notes about this podcast. Those has been very valuable to me. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my podcast web site, dougfearn.com
Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed
Updated 13 October 2020
copyright 2020 Douglas W. Fearn
Microphone preamplifiers are essential for almost all recording. In this episode, I look at the requirements for a quality preamp, and how preamps are designed and used.
Although this focuses on the D.W. Fearn VT-1, VT-2, and VT-24 mic preamps, the principles are applicable to any preamp.
We look at the extreme range of levels a preamp has to deal with, and the techniques used to accommodate this range.
Why is there a 20dB pad on most preamps, and how best to use it (or not)?
Many modern mics have a transformerless out, and a non-standard output impedance. How do we deal with that?
Do mic preamps introduce distortion? What kinds? And which add to the sound and which distortions are annoying?
How does phase shift through the mic preamp affect the sound? What can be done in the design process to minimize phase shift?
How do we use the "Phase" (polarity) switch on a mic input, and where is it most useful?
What exactly is “phantom power?” How did that come about? What are the advantages, disadvantages, and potential problems?
Using a mic preamp on a mix buss is also covered, along with the special requirements for that application.
How about installation of your outboard preamp? What do you need to consider in cooling, wiring, and AC power in order to get the maximum audio quality?
How can mic patch panels create potential serious problems, not only for the audio quality but also for the safety of your expensive microphones?
I take you through the history of the design of the VT-1 preamp, which is the basis for all the D.W. Fearn mic preamps and also influences the sound of our equalizers and compressor.
Understanding some of the technical details will help you to use your preamps better. I avoid a lot of technical jargon and theory, and just focus on the aspects that will be helpful for most recording engineers.
Thanks to everyone who has contacted me with your comments and suggestions. I have already added some topics for future episodes, based on listener feedback. You can contact me at email@example.com
23 - My Conversation with Jason Miles, Producer, Keyboard Player August 21, 2020
Jason is a keyboard player, synthesizer programmer from the earliest days of the Moog synthesizer, and a Grammy-winning producer.
He has worked with artists such as Miles, Davis, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Sting, Chaka Chan, Suzy Boggess, David Sanborn, and many others.
In this interview, Jason talks about how he got started playing music and how that lead into his pioneering work as a creative synthesist (one who programs synthesizers), not only programming but playing on many albums. He has performed along with many major artists in places like Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Capetown South Africa Jazz Festival. He has a new record out, the proceeds of which will help support people in the music business who have limited income during the Covid pandemic. Jason also has a one-man music and storytelling show.
Listen to Jason tell the stories about how he broke into the highest levels of the record business, and how he re-invented himself through the decades. He is always learning and embracing new music and new technology. It’s a fascinating story.
Visit Jason's web site:
Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I appreciate them. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
24 - What Flying Taught Me About Recording August 28, 2020
At first glance, you would think that flying an airplane and recording music would have very little in common. And it’s true that there is not a whole lot that directly translates from one to the other.
But there are many aspects of learning to fly, and constantly working to perfect and extend your flying skills, that have a parallel in recording.
In this episode, I explain some of the fundamentals of flying, how my recording career helped me in mastering those skills, and how my audio background helped me in the airplane. Dealing with airplanes also taught me things that were helpful in designing and manufacturing professional audio equipment.
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. You can contact me at email@example.com or through my podcast web site dougfearn.com
25 Improving Your Audio For the World of Virtual Communications September 4, 2020
During the Covid pandemic, most of us have had to shift to the virtual world for our conversations, presentations, classes, and committee meetings.
One thing that I notice is that almost everyone has bad audio. Not just low fidelity (that’s intrinsic in the on-line medium), but audio with poor intelligibility due to bad mics, bad mic technique, poor-sounding rooms, and extraneous noise.
I compiled a few suggestions on how you can improve your virtual audio and made it into this short podcast episode. I also talk a bit about improving the video component.
None of these suggestions cost a lot of money. Some actually cost nothing.
It looks like we will be interacting with each other through Zoom and Skype (and others) for the foreseeable future, so it pays to put a little effort into making the best of this technology.
And I suspect that we will be doing a lot more of this virtual communication even after the pandemic is under control, so it is worth sharpening your skills in the realm.
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About half of the listeners use Apple Podcasts to listen to this podcast, and adding in the listeners who use Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and others bring that method of consuming the podcast up to about 80%. One advantage of Apple and other podcast providers is that you can subscribe to my podcast and receive notification of new episodes, and even automatically download each episode if you wish.
For those of you who prefer to be on my email list, just send me email with a request and I’ll add you to the list. I send out one email for each new episode, with a link.
I am gratified by the large number of listeners, but I suspect you know others who would like My Take On Music Recording. Please send them a link. And any mention you make on social media is also helpful.
26 Joe Tarsia, founder of Sigma Sound Studios September 13, 2020
Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia was responsible for a huge number of hit records, starting in the 1960s and continuing into the 21st century. Eventually Sigma had two studios in Philadelphia and three in New York.
Joe Tarsia founded Sigma in 1968 but his career as an engineer goes back to the 1950s at Cameo Parkway Records. He started in a mono studio, using very few microphones, hardly any outboard gear, and recording to tape. He has lived through the evolution to stereo and multitrack tape and from mono vinyl records through the CD and into the digital age.
I sat down with Joe in January of 2019 at his home and recorded our conversation using a Flea M49 microphone in the bidirectional position, to a Tascam DR-100 portable recorder.
A slightly longer version of this interview is available on my YouTube channel at
The video includes many still photos taken at Sigma, thanks to former Sigma engineer Arthur Stoppe.
This is an important part of our recording heritage, and I urge any of you who have access to pioneers like Joe Tarsia to take the time to capture their history.
Thank you for listening to this and the previous 25 episodes.
Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Email me at email@example.com
27 - The VT-5 Equalizer: Design and Use Sept. 27, 2020
In this episode, I describe how the D.W. Fearn VT-4 and VT-5 Equalizers came about. I start with some history of equalization, and then my experiences with various eqs and how that influenced the design of the VT-5.
I talk about the design process, including the reasoning behind the choices I made in the frequencies and the curves, and the design of the amplifiers in the VT-5. Then I explain how I use the VT-5 on the sessions I do, which is not meant to be a tutorial on equalizing, since everyone has a different style, but as an illustration of one approach to using the equalizer.
In 2020, we made some internal changes to the VT-5, which does not change the sound of it at all, but did allow me to eliminate the small, low-speed cooling fan.
A plug-in version of the VT-5 is available from Acustica Audio, and I explain the design process behind it.
The VT-5 has become an indispensable tool for many engineers, mixers, and mastering facilities. I originally designed it to fill I need I had, and it has been very gratifying to see the acceptance it has gained in the music recording world.
For more information on the VT-5: http://dwfearn.com/wp/products/
Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
28 - Tony Maserati, Mix Engineer October 6, 2020
This conversation with mixing engineer Tony Maserati is a little different from most of the other interviews I have done on the podcast. It is mostly just Tony and me having a very informal chat about the things that are important to us, both in our professional lives, but also in life in general.
If you want to see the impressive list of artists that Tony has worked with in his career, go to tonymaserati.com
You will see artists ranging from James Brown to David Bowie, Queen Latifa to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, that Tony has recorded, produced, or mixed.
He is best known as a go-to mixer at the highest levels in the music business. Tony is also noted for his appearances on Mix With the Masters.
Our conversation is unstructured, and a bit longer than most of the podcast episodes, so you might want to check out specific sections, like:
03:17 Moving back to Upstate NY from LA and living in the country
22:46 Recording today with remote musicians adding parts
26:43 Recording and mixing are two different skills
39:47 What problems Tony finds in the tracks he is sent to mix
43:40 Advice for people who want to get into the recording/mixing business
58:24 Tony’s approach to mixing
Our conversation starts with me asking Tony how he likes being a first-time dad…
Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. You can email me at email@example.com
Thank you for all the comments you have sent me. I appreciate them all. And thanks for passing along info about this podcast to your friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.
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29 - The D.W. Fearn VT-7 Stereo Compressor October 13, 2020
The VT-7 Compressor has an interesting backstory, including a Nashville dinner with my friend, Cranesong’s Dave Hill back in 2003.
In this episode, I tell the story of how the VT-7 came about, and explain how a pulse-width modulator (PWM) compressor works and why it is an excellent way to create a versatile compressor/limiter. I also go through the history of the compressor and the various methods used over the years.
The operation of the controls on the VT-7 are described, with some ideas on how best to set them for a given compression task.
The VT-7 has become an indispensable tool for many of the world’s top recordists, mixers, and mastering engineers. It is often used in conjunction with the VT-5 Equalizer, on the mix bus, or in the mastering chain.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I always appreciate hearing from you. Send me email at email@example.com
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