Memorandum: when you've just performed a major upgrade / rework of your studio, it's good to have a chance to test it out before folks arrive to record. Unfortunately, we were missing one optical cable until last weekend and didn't have time (given the presence of Katie -- currently napping) to put things back together before Debbie and Amy got here on Friday. So on Friday night, Debbie and I went downstairs after dinner and put the last of it back together.
In terms of adjustments to the studio, we'd replaced three ADAT XT-20s with ADAT M20s. The M20s take up one more rack space than the older ADATs, so everything had to be moved around. This resulted in evicting the DAT deck to the second rack, which caused me to move the MPX1 and the headphone amp, and as long as I was moving the headphone amp, I swapped the new headphone amp I'd bought for the traveling kit in and put the old headphone amp into the travel gear. And the MPX1 had long been unwired and I wanted it back in useable condition, while the DAT deck was being moved from an AES/EBU connection to a SPDIF connection to free up space in the digital patchbay for another mic preamp.
This way lies insanity.
The problem was that the dead optical cable and several SPDIF cables were lying loose underneath the console, but couldn't be extracted from the general tangle of cables. Eventually, I decided that the only hope was to pull the console out from the wall again and climb behind it, a feat that requires me to levitate through a hole about six inches wide. Of course, I'm a bit wider than that. But it was good that I'd done that, because I discovered the power cord for the clock distribution device had come loose and was also lost behind the console, which would have been really annoying when the device didn't power up if I hadn't noticed.
With help from Debbie, I eventually got all of the cables loose, wired them in, and passed them to Debbie to wire into the digital patchbay from under the console. Then I made my escape, levitating back out from behind the console. We pushed the console back in place, checked that things powered up, and declared it good.
Little did we know.
So after lunch the next day, Debbie, Amy, and I headed down to the studio. I fired up the desk, turned on the appropriate bits of gear, and flipped on the Gold Channel mic pre.
And as we listened to the monitor speakers, we heard the most annoying periodic clicks. That's usually a sign of a clocking problem and I'd just turned on the Gold Channel, so it was suspect. I soon determined that the Gold Channel wasn't producing the clicks by the simple expedient of turning it off (clever boy!), but when I turned it back on, I noticed that it was producing a distinctly nasty hiss.
Crap. That's a piece of gear that I don't need to have fail. After a certain amount of swearing, I realized that I had a second Gold Channel for the traveling rig and decided to pop it in place. This involved moving the monitor speakers so I could get into the top of the console, tucking the clock units away where they were out of the way, and then trying to find the power screwdriver, which was wherever Gretchen had put it.
Which wasn't where I thought it was. So I called Gretchen -- who was out shopping with Katie -- and she told me that she had put it away in the drawer where it belonged. I wasn't aware that it had ever been in that drawer, but ok, that's fine. Get the powerdriver, back to the basement, swap Gold Channels.
And hear the same annoying hiss. Ok, not the mic pre.
Well, it could be the PDI card in the mixer. Or it could be the connecting cable, which has a tendency to get stressed when I'm moving the console back and forth. In fact, I'd had that problem once before. So slide the monitor speakers around so I can get in the center section of the console, remove the connector, reattach the connector, and voila! No more hiss!
This was all made easier, because Gretchen had bought me a See Snake, which is basically a flexible light pipe attached to a handheld video screen. That made it a lot easier to see the back side of the console. :)
Unfortunately, we still had those annoying clicks and pops. And they went away when I turned off the first ADAT. Hmm. Maybe the new optical cable was bad. I had a spare, so I swapped it. Nope, not that.
Could the OPT-8 card have gone bad in the mixer? Well, I've got a spare, so I swapped it. Nope, not that. And a stubborn little cuss about going in too. *sigh*
(Note that I'd long since asked Debbie and Amy to go do something more interesting than watch me swear by this point in time. An audience was only going to make it worse.)
Ok, every so often, the startup session on a d8b will go bad and then things won't work right when it boots up. So I made a new startup session, saved it, rebooted, and the clicks and pops went away.
Yay! I win!
So now it was time to try to record something onto track one on the first ADAT. Which didn't want to record. Didn't want to see the signal. Damn, damn, damn.
As I'm playing with it, I hit a switch and there's a horrible feedback. I turn off the speakers and headphones, then end up having to power the system down. Ok, let's not do that again.
Amy put on the headphones after I powered back up and announced that there was only sound on the left side. Great. I blew a set of headphones. But I had a spare. We opened them up and Amy still only had sound on the left hand side.
I looked at the new headphone amp and turned the balance control from full left to the middle. Amy smiled. I smiled. (In a sort of sickly way.)
At this point, I just wanted something to work. So I threw a scratch tape in the first ADAT and we recorded onto the second ADAT deck for a while.
Later, after a break, I spent some time reading the ADAT manual in the auxiliary reading room. This didn't help.
Then, we tried to record to track two on the second ADAT. Which couldn't see the input.
Ok, that was enough of this. Grab manual and look at those pages again. It turns out the ADAT M20s have an internal patch bay function. I figure out how to reset it so all of the tracks record straight through.
And now all of the tracks on all of the ADATs correctly see the input signal.
So I put the scratch tape away and we go back to recording on the first ADAT. We got three songs done and broke for dinner.
After dinner, we got the other six tracks recorded quickly and without incident.
It's amazing how much better things go when you've got things set up properly.