Sunday, 5 June 2016

1988, in a former life

So one of the things I used to do a lot was record and/or do live broadcast mixes at music events.  I still love dong it but rarely get the opportunity any more.

The letter below (not an email!  It is actually signed!) was sent to me after a particularly fascinating incident at the Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival in 1988.

The author of the letter and the guy in charge of the broadcast on WEMU stopped in where we were mixing the music from the Pyramid stage at Hart Plaza.  After a few pleasantries he asked "So are you using a lot of EQ or something in your mix?"  I said "No, just listen to what is coming out of the speakers.  Why do you ask?"

He said he had been listening to the broadcast on the monaural radio in the TV in his hotel room, and when the broadcast switched from the other stage to ours the sound was awful!  He came scooting right over to our mixing room and started the conversation.

So once he heard what we were actually doing he said it really did sound great; superb, in fact.  After a little bit more genial conversation I had eliminated any doubts from Jim's mind that it was me creating the problem.  I knew that what we were doing was fine: I just wanted to get to the bottom of the issue.

So, being an engineer kind of guy, I started looking for what I thought was the likely culprit: one of the Left/Right lines from our room to the booth had been wired out of phase, effectively canceling most of the audio in our mix and leaving sounding very thin and awful - but ONLY when heard in mono, as it was on his hotel TV.

I followed the approximately 700' of wire all the way to the final broadcast feed mixer, where I discovered that indeed, at the last connector in the line going into the back of that mixer, the Right channel balanced line had been incorrectly wired and was therefore electrically canceling out most of our mix.  And it had been that way for a day and a half.  Apparently the Engineer in charge of the broadcast had not bothered to check the lines.

I gathered up a soldering iron, pliers and a tabletop clamp and quickly fixed the problem.  Ten days later I got this letter in the mail.  Ain't life grand?