Nov. 16th, 2015

compilerbitch: That's me, that is! (Default)

Yamaha REV-5Thanks to the wonders of eBay bottom-feeding, I’ve welcomed home an old friend this weekend. It’s a slightly beaten up but fully working Yamaha REV-5 digital reverb of late 1980s vintage. It’s not one of the better known or most sought after reverbs from that period — for that you’re looking at a Lexicon, probably a PCM70 or PCM80, but the REV-5 is an overlooked gem in my not so humble opinion. It’s a truism that everyone hates everything on the internet, so you can find plenty of people dissing this particular device, but I think this is inappropriate.


Back when I had my for-real studio in the late ’80s, a REV-5 was my main reverb, with a couple of SPX-90s and an Alesis as backup. For the uninitiated, the REV-5 is a bit like an SPX-90 on steroids — much, much cleaner sounding and capable of being dialed up to super-dense or down to being very thin. It does all the things you’d want of a high-end reverb, realistically. You can dial in early reflections separately from the reverb tail, with direct control over the first three initial reflections. You can edit the amount of diffusion, and dial between a very even sounding (Yamaha-ish) tail and a more coloured Lexicon-ish tail. It can also do most of the SPX-90 tricks like chorus, flanging, symphonic, delays, gated and reverse reverbs, pitch shifting, etc., but at far higher audio quality. The front panel has a 3-band parametric (peaking, fixed Q, variable frequency) EQ that makes it trivial to fiddle with the frequency response. The user interface adds a lot more buttons relative to the SPX series, making it possible to directly enter parameters. You can also get one-button access to the 7 most commonly used factory or user patches.


I got change out of $100 for this thing. Just as the turn of the ’90s was the right time to buy analog synths, right now is the right time to build up a collection of rack gear as all of the larger old-skool studios are closing and/or shifting over to in-the-box or hybrid ProTools setups. I doubt the recording world will flip back to the old days of large consoles, but I have a gut feeling that as more and more people (like me, as it happens) have tried a heavily in-the-box approach for a while, they will want to go back to using more hardware.


I have to admit that part of this is because of bit rot. If you have an in-the-box recording setup, you’re stuck with the computer industry’s obsolescence cycle, so you can expect your investment to be largely obsolete within 5 years and probably completely unusable in 10. However, here I am fiddling around with a nearly 30 year old rack mount reverb unit that not only works perfectly but sounds better than just about any plugin-based reverb I’ve used.


I’m not really entirely buying the whole analog summing thing — though it may make a (very) small difference in some cases, I don’t really subscribe to the idea that it’s a good idea to drop a ton of money on something you can barely hear. Far better to spend that on something you really can hear, which is why ancient outboard gear is such a steal right now, particularly if you’re looking to avoid sounding exactly like everyone else with a copy of Ableton Live and NI Massive.


PS: I still want a Lexicon PCM70 or PCM 80. The eBay bottom feeding continues…




Please note: this was cross-posted from my main blog at http://www.mageofmachines.com/main/2015/11/15/welcoming-back-an-old-friend-yamaha-rev-5/ -- If you want me to definitely see your replies, please reply there rather than here.

#Uncategorized
compilerbitch: That's me, that is! (Default)

Over the last couple of years or so I’ve equipped a pretty decent electronics lab for cents on the dollar relative to how much ‘real people’ would spend — I’m now having a go at doing the same thing for building a hopefully pretty decent home studio setup for music production purposes.


More than one person has asked me how I manage to do this — I’ve picked up some truly ridiculous bargains — so I must be doing something right.



  1. Stop being nice. The first word of advice I’ll give is forget about notions of fairness or niceness. You don’t need to rip anyone off or steal anything from anyone. A trade on eBay is entirely fair because both sides have to agree. If you’re selling, a higher price is good, if you’re buying, a lower price is what you’re looking for, so don’t feel ashamed about that. It’s a game, it’s how the game is played, like it or not. Get over yourself. Look at it like this — you want to create a capability for yourself. It might be you want to build out your wood shop or machine shop, or build yourself a kickass gaming PC, or extend your Star Wars action figure collection. You have $X to spend. If you spend that like a real person and buy new, you might get 3 things for $X. If you buy used, you might get 10. But if you’re a true bottom-feeder, you might get 30 to 100. That’s getting on for two orders of magnitude leverage on $X — it’s not so much that you’ll save money, you probably won’t because if you’re like me you’re going to spend $X anyway — but what you get for your money will be drastically different.

  2. Do your homework. Make sure you know a fair bit about the thing you’re trying to buy. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest reason why people spend way more than they need to is just not having spent enough time figuring out what constitutes a reasonable price to pay for a particular item.

  3. Don’t be in a hurry. You might have decided that you want to buy a new keyboard. You’ve always had a hankering for a Yamaha DX7 Mk II, and nothing else will do. If that’s what you want, go for it, but use the techniques below to help you figure out how to get one (much) cheaper than you otherwise might. If you must must must have one right now, know that you’re probably going to spend 50% – 100% more than you probably need to. If you have the attitude that you want one some time in the next 2 to 3 months instead, you can wait for a better price to come up.

  4. Be flexible. Say, for example, that you want to buy a particular machine tool. You kind of want a particular De Walt, or some such, but something roughly equivalent from another brand is also acceptable. This greatly increases the pool of potential deals, which purely by statistics pushes down the price you’re likely to need to pay. If you want to be a super-duper bottom feeder, you might once every day or two look at every listing in a broad category, giving you the chance to snap up something you might not otherwise have thought of picking up right now for an insanely low price. It’s also usually worth the risk buying extremely cheap stuff from China — I’ve hardly ever had problems and saved a ton on money this way. Beware of fakes, however, and don’t buy anything that would be a serious problem or even a hazard to you if it either failed to materialize or turned out to be defective.

  5. Getting the best out of auctions. Not all eBay items are actually auctions — those that are accept bids up until a deadline, whereupon the highest bidder (assuming you’ve exceeded the reserve price) will get the deal. This kind of transaction is often the best way to get a really good deal, but it’s also an easy way to spend a buttload of money you don’t really need to if you don’t do your homework or (more typically) you get caught up in having to beat another bidder and let the price go too high. The trick here is always snipe. My advice is work out exactly what the most you’d pay for a thing would be, then bid that amount with about 5 seconds to go before the end of the auction. This has several advantages — most usefully, it avoids bidding wars, so you’re never tempted to bid higher because someone beat you, and it also avoids encouraging other people to start outbidding each other. You want to avoid pushing the price up, obviously, so this is the best way to do that. Also, only bidding your maximum has the advantage that you will lose the deal if the price goes up beyond an amount that would constitute a good deal for you.

  6. Look for auctions that end at stupid times. Trust me, you stand a way higher chance of winning a last second snipe bid if your potential competitors are in bed asleep. I bought a digital mixing console (Yamaha 02r) for $56 this way. Yes, fifty six dollars, an order of magnitude under the going rate.

  7. Add 1. This sounds stupid, but always add $1 to your bid price. This is basic psychology — people tend to bid in multiples of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, etc. If you add $1, that means that the three people who bid $100 will be beaten by your $101 last-second snipe and you’ll win the deal.

  8. Look for Buy-it-now or Best Offer. I have a personal liking for buy-it-now trades because they are quick and don’t require sniping, so the trick here is to search for the thing you want, sorted by price + shipping lowest first. Try to find a lower priced item with Best Offer enabled and just basically shamelessly lowball them. It’s amazingly common to find someone just say yes if they are desperate to make the deal. You have the opportunity to add a comment — now’s the time to exploit some mentioned failing (e.g., a big scratch, missing power supply, whatever) to push the price down.

  9. Look for recently listed Buy it Now at below-market prices. Very occasionally someone will list a buy-it-now item stupidly cheap. You can pretty much guarantee that some other bottom feeder will want it, so the trick is to get in early and act fast. You can do this by spamming a search looking for items as they are added — this works well if you are looking at items across a broad category. If you want something very specific, learn to create a query that will automatically email you when something is listed below the price you want to pay — when that email arrives, jump on eBay immediately and hit Buy it Now. I picked up a current model LeCroy differential amplifier in mint condition, new price nearly $6000 for $300 this way. I have no idea why it was listed at that price, and frankly didn’t care. It’s in my lab now.

  10. Learn the query language. The eBay search box has quite a bit of hidden functionality. You can, for example, use a query like, ‘(hp, tektronix, lecroy, fluke) (oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, dynamic signal analyzer, DSA) -manual -spare -calibration’ to show you all the oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers and DSAs listed that are made by HP, Tektronix, LeCroy or Fluke, whilst filtereing out spammy listings for manuals, spare parts and calibration services. In conjunction with stored queries that email you when they get a hit, this is true magic.

  11. Search for lots/multiple packs, etc. Many people skip over listings for multiples of something if they only want to buy one. This can be the very best stunt ever, because sometimes you can end up with 6 of something for less than you’d normally pay for 1. You can then sell off 5 of them, so you end up with the thing you wanted and a profit.

  12. Buy broken things. This option is best if you have a capability of fixing things either yourself or at low cost. Often, items will sell at a fraction of their usual eBay trade price if there is something wrong with them. This is the other really huge route to cost saving. Read the listing very carefully. Often, you find things listed as ‘can’t test’ because the person selling it knows little or nothing about it and is listing it as parts-or-not-working because they don’t want problems. ‘Powers up but now way to test’ or ‘Missing power supply, can’t test’ is music to my ears. Also, if you do your homework and know the usual failure modes of a particular item, having one up for sale presenting those symptoms is a sure bet because you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be able to fix it at a known cost. I’ll often Google for the service manual for a device before I bid on it so that I know I’ll be able to fix it. Some manufacturers are really good with that — Yamaha are awesome, as were HP and Tektronix in the older days. Others, e.g. TC Electronic, suck hugely and don’t even release schematics, so I’m much more careful. If you’re going to buy something broken, it’s wise to bear in mind that, if you can’t fix it, you might be wanting to resell it, so try to pay below-market (even for a broken item) if you possibly can so you end up not losing (much) money. I’ve been pretty lucky with this — of everything I’ve bought (easily over 100 items of lab gear, shop equipment and music gear), I’ve only ever had a couple of lemons, but it’s always worth being realistic that if you’re going to adopt the Way of the Cheapass, sometimes your eBay-fu will fail you.


I hope this helps, and good luck cheapassing your way to success! šŸ˜‰




Please note: this was cross-posted from my main blog at http://www.mageofmachines.com/main/2015/11/15/12-steps-to-successful-ebay-bottom-feeding/ -- If you want me to definitely see your replies, please reply there rather than here.

#Electronics, #MoMBlog, #Recording, #TestGear
compilerbitch: That's me, that is! (Default)

I was wondering whether to actually post about this or not, but like it or not, I think I pretty much have to do so.


I’m not exactly sure what caused this most recent transphobic crapstorm, but I suspect it was most likely the ugly defeat of the City of Houston’s HERO ballot measure. This was a right-wing photo opportunity for hate groups to openly walk around wearing T-shirts emblazoned with their transphobic crapulence. Not entirely surprisingly, the ballot measure was defeated. Let’s keep this in perspective: this was one city, admittedly a relatively progressive one, within a sea of good old boys, guns, oversized trucks and Confederate flags. This should really be an object lesson in exactly why it is that civil rights should not be decided by the popular vote, because as with so many similar cases in the past, all this proves is that the majority of people who can be whipped up sufficiently to rise from their pools of acquiescence to actually vote are mostly bigots.


Following shortly thereafter, a disgusting poll on change.org (no, I’m not linking it here because it doesn’t need my contribution to its Google page rank) went up that was exhorting major LGBT organizations to drop the T, becoming specifically LGB groups and explicitly excluding transgender people. I strongly suspect that its proposer is a right-wing sock puppet, but there are plenty of queer bigots out there so this may not necessarily be the case. This is really beyond belief. Trans people have had a long history of being in the front line of the fight for queer rights — we don’t get to hide or slink back into the woodwork like so many cisnormative LGBs, so for us all-too-often we have to fight or die, in many cases literally. The T has always been the poor cousin of the LGBT world — personally I don’t have much to do with lesbian and gay events because frankly so many people can be total bastards to trans people within those communities, so it just isn’t worth the risk in return for any meager benefit. I’m seeing lots of TERF language showing up — members of the T community have ‘different concerns’ than those of the LGB community, so we’re better off separate. BULL FUCKING SHIT. So what if we have different concerns? Lesbians and gay men have different concerns, so why wouldn’t they prefer to part ways? The hidden agenda here isn’t so much that they want to kick out the T. They want to disenfranchise the people who check more than one box — people who areĀ both transgenderĀ and lesbian, gay or bisexual are really the people they want rid of. Why? Quite simply because they are transphobic bigots who don’t want nasty icky trans people anywhere near them, or (particularly) calling them out on their bigotry.


I am over, seriously over, commentary from people who want the T people out saying that, ‘we stand for trans people, but we want our own separate space from them.’ Yeah, right. As I said previously, BULL FUCKING SHIT. What you really don’t want is to confront your own bigotry, it’s really that simple. ‘Oh, I’m not a bigot, I find it really upsetting to be called a bigot, all I want is .’ BULLSHIT. If you hate trans people, at least have the fucking decency to admit to it. Maybe there should be a symbol, or a particular way of dressing you might want to adopt so we can easily spot you and avoid the hell out of you — you don’t want us anywhere near you, so why not?


In the pagan community, a number of elders recently publicly supported the kick-out-the-T measure. Aline O’Brien (aka Macha Nightmare), Ruth Barrett and Luisah Teish all signed the kick-out-the-T petition. Macha Nightmare has subsequently backpedaled and is now claiming that she disavows the petition, though I’m given to wonder why the hell she even thought for one second that signing it in the first place was any way appropriate. Luisah Teish is also backpedaling in her own not-actually-apologizing kind of way. Ruth Barrett is doubling down and crying victim, just like she always has. There has been quite a bit of discussion about whether or not these people deserve to be regarded as Pagan elders as a consequence. I find this a little ridiculous, because realistically eldership really just means that you happen to have a number of students and/or friends and followers who regard you as an elder, which is clearly the case for all of these people. None of them areĀ my elders, and they will have my respect when hell freezes over.




Please note: this was cross-posted from my main blog at http://www.mageofmachines.com/main/2015/11/16/sigh-here-we-go-again/ -- If you want me to definitely see your replies, please reply there rather than here.

#QueerofSwords, #TransgenderActivism

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