Spotify: A great tool for audio technicians and musicians

It’s becoming pretty popular, pretty quickly and if you haven’t tried it out yet, you should probably check it out.

For those of you who don’t know what Spotify is, it is a invitation based music service that allows you to access millions of songs that you can play whenever you feel like.  It’s like having an all-access, listen-only  pass to Amazon.com or iTunes for free!  Spotify launched in the US in July of 2011 but this Swedish based music service has been up and running overseas since 2008.  It took longer to release in the US because it took years to negotiate contracts with record labels and distributors.  It works on a invitation only basis so that they can monitor and control how many people sign up and how fast.

This is huge for musicians as well as audio engineers.  While I was in college, I was required to do a certain amount of critical listening to various types of music each week for applied lessons as well as other courses.  I started with borrowing stuff from friends, the library or using Pandora or Last.fm.  There’s only so much you can get without doing something illegal or breaking your bank.  Since I didn’t want to do either, I had to keep re-listening to things I had already heard.  Spotify is huge because you can pick whatever you want, whenever you want and listen to it for free.  It’s almost like what Lala used to be like before Apple killed it except you can listen to songs more the once with limitless options.

It is a great tool for musicians to diversity what they listen to as well as audio engineers to listen for inspiration and different mix ideas.  I believe this is critical in the development of musical chops regardless of musical direction or background.

Sign up to get a free invite today at www.spotify.com or subscribe to Spotify Premium starting at $4.99 per month.

Allen & Heath iLive review – Part 1: Hardware

The mixing console market is constantly changing and evolving with the advent of the digital console.  We all hear how much “better” digital consoles are and the power they have but many people get extremely nervous about making the switch.  We all have our system and method for doing things and any experienced audio engineer is comfortable and confident of what they can and cannot do on an analog console.  But, a digital console makes a lot of people nervous because of the lack of intuition or accessibility of controls.  When I first had the opportunity to mix on a digital console a few years back, I was nervous at first.  The lights and interface seemed intimidating but I soon became used to it.  The first digital console I mixed on, was the Allen and Heath iLive.

The Allen and Heath iLive digital mixing console is an extremely unique system.  The “brain” of the iLive that does all of the mixing and processing is the iDR stage box.  It may not look like it, but technically, that is the mixing console and that’s where the magic happens.  The control surfaces look more like what we know to be a mixing console but unlike a standard analog console, the iLive control surface is merely a remote control for the iDR stage rack which is connected by a single CAT5 cable.  The control surface does not pass any audio signal other then through the modest number of inputs that are in the back of the surface which are immediately converted to data and sent to the iDR rack.  One cool fact about this is that the iDR rack can fly solo WITHOUT a mix surface.  You can actually run your show, unplug or shut down your console and the iDR rack will keep running and passing audio.  You can even connect your laptop or iPad and take over the whole show.

There are currently seven different control surfaces to choose from including the R-series, T-series, and i-series.  These surfaces must be paired with any of six different stage boxes.  This creates an extremely flexible and highly configurable digital mixing system that can be modified and customized to fit any mixing situation.  This also creates added flexibility when using the iLive system for mixing both front of house and monitors together.  Your split snake is simply the CAT5 cable that runs everything else and easily gives you the power and flexibility of a standard setup without trouble of running a split snake or the mess of running a direct out snake back from FOH to feed an on-stage monitor console.

The R-series and T-series control surfaces have a fixed configuration of in’s and out’s.  All of the i-series control surfaces have six open card slots which can accommodate any six cards.  All of the iDR mix racks are fixed in configuration with one slot open for a card except the iDR-10 which is modular and can be completely configured based on the needs of the user.  One of my favorite cards is the new Mini Multi Out card.  I bought it because I need the ability to use Avioms with my iLive setup.  But the card has much more then just Aviom outputs including  iDR Hearbus and up to 24 channels of ADAT outputs.  In the settings, you can patch any channel into those ADAT outputs giving you a lot of options.

The surface itself is also extremely flexible.  You can arrange channels, groups, auxes, VCA’s and various other mix controls where every you want them.  Each “channel” on the control surface is simply that, a controller with a fader, a rotary encoder, and a few other function buttons.  The bottom line is that you can literally create you own custom control line up that suits your needs for your application.  This is also great for churches or any other application where you do not want to give users access to certain options or controls, simply remove them from the control surface.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Stay tuned for a second part to this review where I’ll dive in depth into the functionality and firmware of the surface itself.

Video from God Anthology Live at the Lincoln

A friend of mine named TJ Wallace created a video for a school project with some footage he shot at the God Anthology Live CD recording.  Check it out here:

TJ Wallace God Anthology Live

Hands-on review: JBL SRX728S dual 18″ subwoofer

It’s a few weeks old now but I wanted to post a link to the latest review of mine that www.musicgearreview.com published.  You can check my review of the JBL SRX728S subwoofer that I’m using at the National Community Church Barracks Row location by clicking here.

T-Mobile introduces new data plans…and does it right!

Today, I logged into my T-Mobile account to check on my usage and pay my bill and I noticed that pretty quietly changed their data plans.  They went live on July 24th but still looks quite different then most other carriers.

T-Mobile has seriously upgraded their networks with their 4G coverage.  Yes, there are people arguing as to whether it is actually 4G or 3.5G or something else but quite honestly, does it really matter what it’s called?  I’m interested in exactly how everything works on different carriers.  But I have heard (and read) about how some people say that one carrier is better then the other because it has “real 4G” and T-Mobile does not.  That’s kind of ridiculous to me.  I’m more concerned about the end result and speeds I’m getting from my network and whether I can do what I want to do or not.

I hate overages just like everyone else in the world.  Some carriers have chosen to charge more when you go over but honestly, I’d rather be throttled down to a slower speed and not get a surprise on my next bill.  That’s the path that T-Mobile has opted for.  They now have these options:

-Unlimited Simple = 200 MB of full speed data for $10 per month
-Unlimited Plus = 2 GB of full speed data for $20 per month
-Unlimited Premium = 5 GB of full speed data for $30 per month
-Unlimited Ultra = 10 GB of full speed data for $60 per month

After you’ve reached your quota for the month, you can either choose to upgrade to the next plan, or be throttled down to 2G speeds (roughly 300kbps peak speeds) for the rest of that billing cycle.

I’m totally cool with this for the time being.  I will be using the 5 GB per month plan because I like to stream music.  While, I’m driving, streaming music is basically all that I listen to with apps like Google Music Beta, Tinyshark, Audio Galaxy and occasionally Pandora to name a few.  Typically, I hover around 2-3 GB of bandwidth each month.  So, I  should be good and it’s still fairly affordable…more so then Verizon or AT&T.

If you feel like you are a user who will eat up more then 5 GB per month, you’ve actually go an option rather then being charged an overage based on how much you go over.  You can actually “plan” to use more…up to 10 GB to be exact.  And if you’re going to use more then 10 GB?  You’re nuts and need to get on WiFi more often.

Although, with the announcement of AT&T throttling their “unlimited” data plan holders who were supposedly “grandfathered in” makes me wonder a little bit about what’s going to transpire if and when AT&T closes the deal on the acquisition of T-Mobile USA.  I am very pleased with the speeds that I get on T-Mobile around the city in Washington DC around the Capitol as well as southeast DC and northeast where I live.  I’m even more satisfied with the speeds when I visit my family back home just outside of Philadelphia.  Hopefully, AT&T won’t ruin it…but they probably will.

Comments?  Questions?  Feel free to comment below or email me a jason@jasoncastellente.com.

Droid-themed XBOX 360 announced by Microsoft

I am a nerd; there’s no getting around that.  I’m also an Xbox guy.  This past week, Microsoft revealed a special edition of the new 360 design.  It’s got a matching Kinect sensor and is paired with the new Star Wars Kinect and Kinect Adventures game.  The console is designed like R2-D2 and the controller has the same vibe as C-3P0 as well as some Star Wars sound effects to go with it.  The tech specs also include a 320 GB hard drive and will retail for $449.  It’s consistent with the pricing that has been set with the latest 360 design but is still the highest priced Xbox currently on the market.  It’s cool if you’re a Star Wars geek, but since I’m more of a tech geek, I won’t be picking it up.  Still, it looks really cool.  Check it out!

Jason Yost Band and the New Rhythm Project

I just want to take a quick second to share an inspiring ministry started by one of my fellow co-workers at National Community Church.

Jason Yost serves in cultural ministries and music on staff at NCC .  Over the past eleven years, he has been privileged to travel and play music.  As God burdened his heart, he began to write music from the past eleven years of experience.  He has always wanted to record an album of his music and recently, everything fell into place.  Right now, you can support his CD recording process which, when released, all proceeds will go towards his recently launched an organization called the “New Rhythm Project” which is a child advocacy and adoption consulting group.  This ministry helps to fund adoptions and orphan care projects.

Today, his band website launched.  Check it out at http://www.jasonyostband.com/, read about what is going on, and prayerfully consider being a part of what God is doing through New Rhythm Project.

Preparations for the NCC God Anthology Live CD Recording

Over the past few weeks at National Community Church, we have been going through a series called “The God Anthology” which talks about some of the characteristics of God, who He is, and what He does.  We, as humans, want things our own way by nature.  Though that, we tend to create our own image of who we think God is or what He should or shouldn’t do…at least in our eyes.
Our series is based on understanding God in all of His fullness and by doing that, having a deeper relationship with God by knowing him.

As part of this series, our worship department here a NCC has been writing songs to go along with each attribute in the God Anthology and has introduced a new one each week.  You can check out our rough cuts as well as some videos of what we’re talking about at www.GodAnthology.com.  At the end of the series, we will be doing a live CD recording at the Lincoln Theater in Washington DC.  Steph Modder and Kurtis Parks will be leading in worship that night…I’m super excited.

We’ll be bringing in Danny Duncan from Vanguard Recording to track the event.  He has worked on projects with artists like Israel Houghton, Steven Curtis Chapman, dc Talk, CeCe Winans, TD Jakes, and Darwin Hobbs to name a few.  Also, playing bass as part of the concert is Akil Thompson who is currently touring with Jonny Lang.

It’s shaping up to be a cool night of worship.  I’ll be running FOH and coordinating the live production side of things along with the Lincoln Theater.  I know all of you audio guys are wondering what the FOH rig is going to be!!  So here it is:  we will be renting Martin Audio W8LC line arrays and flying 8 boxes per side along with 4 W8LS subwoofers.  They’ll be powered by Lab.Gruppin amps with XTA processing.  MHA Audio has provided audio with this rig and others to people like Carrie Underwood, Owl City, Usher, and a ton of others.  They’ll hand off a L-R-Sub send to the FOH which will be an Allen and Heath iLive.  There will be a passive 3-way split snake provided by Vanguard Recording which will feed their studio as well as my GL series monitor console.

As far as lighting is concerned, that’s still in the works.  Check back for more details.

The live CD recording at The Lincoln Theater is on August 3 @ 7:00pm.  It’s a free concert and should be awesome.  Super excited!!

My NEW blog

For the past year or so, I’ve always had my blog and my website.  Finally, I began thinking, why not migrate the two?  So, here it is.  The old blog address will redirect you to this one for about a year so if you subscribe, please make sure you change any subscription addresses or bookmarks so that you get direct to the correct website and RSS.

Enjoy it!!  Thanks for taking them time to listen!

I know I’ve been neglecting my blog…

This has been a crazy month with alot of things to do but also some time off from work to vacation in Pensacola, Florida with my family.  Also, I’ve been working alot of the implementation of new gear and training for it at NCC.  It’s great to have an intern working with the production department this summer.  It’s been awesome to have extra hands and ears working on things at NCC.

Tech guys might want to check out my latest article, a hands-on review of the Audix D6 on www.MusicGearReview.com.  Check it out here: http://www.musicgearreview.com/article-display/4176.html.

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