Our Motown Heritage (Part 43)
The Clippers
by Robert Dennis




Defeating Latency In The M-Box
The Pro Tools M-Box is known for its low price, but latency can get in the way of using it for recording sessions or overdubs. Bob discusses how to use it for these functions without hearing any latency.


Generation Loss
By: Daniel & Robert Dennis  
A big limitation on analog audio vs. digital audio comes in the form of generation loss. This is explained here. There are also things to watch out for in digital audio too.
- Daniel Dennis

Peak Vs. Average
In the last tip we covered overload - but overload can mean different things when talking about digital equipment vs. analog equipment. What kind of meter does your gear have?
- Daniel Dennis 


A Mastering Outline
Modern analysis and processing tools suggest updated mastering methods. Bob outlines, step by step, how he approaches mastering today using the WaveLab and Ozone software.


No, Not the clippers!! The 1960's Motown developed a reputation for high standards in recording and music. Technical engineering was no exception and the shop supervisor kept the standards high with his clippers.

In 1963, my first job at Motown was as an electronic technician/draftsman.  My educational qualification for the job was that I had attended a trade high school (Cass Technical High School).  In school I had taken 8 courses in electronics and four in drafting.  The school I went to had high standards but nothing like the standards that I encountered at the Motown engineering shop. 

A case in point was the standards that they used for making and maintaining the microphone cords.  Motown made their own cords out of premium cable and the best connectors. 

One of the easiest ways to stop a session cold is to have a microphone cable not work in a session.  When this kind of thing happens, the engineer has to run around switching mic cables to find out which one failed and replace it.  This process could take a half hour or more to get the session back up and running.  Motown, in basic sessions wanted to get 4 tunes cut in three hours, and things like failing microphone cables could mean that you got only 2 or 3 done - yet the costs to the company were the same.

By time I got to Motown (late 1963) the company had enough recording scheduled to keep three studios busy, yet they only had one studio.  They got their work done by operating the studio in 3 shifts, 22 hours a day, allowing 2 hours for maintenance.  Reliability was a key to their success. 

Microphone cables in most studios really get a lot of wear and tear and are constantly being walked over by musicians and engineers - not a good thing for reliability.  To help this situation the engineering department ran mic cables from the console through the ceiling and the cables came down right where the would be used.  Each stand had a shorter cable installed on it so that when the microphone was plugged in, it never touched the floor and therefore couldn't be stepped on, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1 - Motown Mic Setup

The cable that was used for the microphone cords had a thick rubber jacket with a tight braded shield around the inner conductors.  To replace the end, you needed to strip back the jacket (without cutting any little strand from the shield), unbraid the shield, cut the inner conductors to exact length, form them to go exactly into the thermals of the connector.  None of those small strands that formed the shield could be out of place or broken off.  I think you can get the idea that there were strict standards for the technician doing the repair.

When a technician finished, he went to the shop foreman, who took it apart and inspected it.  If it wasn't up to standard in any way, he took a set of wire clippers out of his desk and cut the cable at the microphone connector.  He then handed it back to the technician and said, "Try again!".  The first time I put a connector on a mic cable, it was cut off five times.


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