The Rise of the MP3 – Internet Audio Files That Changed the Music Industry

As an avid music listener and maker, it has been interesting to look back through the history of music availability and the changing formats in which music has been presented. 

With the advent of internet and computers especially into the 1990s, it introduced an entirely new way of storing music. 

There are two different categories of music file formats: lossless and lossy. Lossless, as you may surmise, indicates a file format that retains the original quality of the music whether it came from vinyl, CD, et cetera.

This includes AIFF, made by Apple, WAV, a universal format, FLAC, ALAC and APE. Most of these are uncompressed file formats, meaning there is no loss in quality or detail from the original music. 

Lossy refers to a slightly lower quality file format that is designed to save storage space, which leaves you, the listener, with more room for more music.

However, you will notice a significant difference in sound quality. This is because lossy file formats (MP3, AAC, et cetera) are typically compressed in order to make them smaller.

What matters in these formats is bit rate. If you’ve a file with a high bi trate then you won’t notice much difference, if any, between this and lossless files. 

What is an MP3?

MP3 is one of the most – if not THE most – popular file format available. It is a form of codec (COmpressing and DECompressing data).

Sometimes when people download music they look specifically for the MP3 format because it is so ubitiquitous and therefore well known, and some of us believe it is the only file format out there. Since it’s so popular, other formats like APE or FLAC can look rather daunting or untrustworthy. 

MP3 refers to a mass-produced file format that lacks proper and due quality, but people still love it. 

Its name, MP3, is short for MPEG 1 layer 3. It is an audio-coding technology that takes the information from CDs (and others), compresses the information into tiny files suitable for Internet transferring and computer storage.

This way, the music does not take up much space, allowing the user to download or copy as many songs as they please. Mostly these came from CDs.

CDs contain digital files too, but one song can be up to 40 megabytes in size, and that is a lot of space when you take into consideration a full-length CD multiplied by your entire collection.

Think of it this way: one minute of CD quality audio sound takes up about 10 megabytes. This is for full-resolution files.

The MP3 file would take up about 3.5 megabytes instead, making the files eleven times smaller. That’s quite a significant change and you can imagine the bits of detail that may get quashed during the process, since there just isn’t room for it.

However, MP3, like other lossy formats, are built on the theory that the human ear doesn’t really pick up much information to begin with, therefore it’s not even worth coding in.

In addition to allowing for more storage on your personal computer, MP3 files, being so much smaller, can be downloaded in ten minutes instead of several hours. It is important to note that once the files are compressed, the lost data is lost forever.

The sharing of music and MP3 downloading was, in 1999, as popular as people searching for sex online. 

When was the MP3 invented? 

The MP3 was developed in the late 1980s and used in the early 1990s. It was nearly abandoned, considered a dead format by 1995. It was replaced by the AAC format in 1996, a format that could get around technical limitations imposed on the MP3.

Initially the MP3 was used for sports sites. The internet however really took off in the 1990s, with tons of websites popping up that were dedicated solely to pirated music and file sharing. Remember Napster?

The MP3 was named in popular press in 1997 and fully reborn by 1999. Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS are the companies behind it. A lot of people had computers and internet service at this time.

The MP3 subsequently appeared for those who wanted to use the Internet as a new and powerful tool to share their creative works with others. It was a fast and easy way of sharing music with people all over the world. 

Its rise in popularity

When MP3 websites were first available, it was a lot of college and university students sharing files of bootlegged albums with each other since they lacked the funds to purchase CDs.

However, these young people also had passionate interest in lesser known artists and the internet was the perfect place for them to both find and share new musicians.

The very first MP3 player was the MPman, released in 1998, and then Apple soon joined the market in 2001 with iTunes and the iPod.

This meant an entirely new relationship of music and listener. The same file could be shared by thousands of people anywhere in the world, just by the click of a button, whereas previously, a cassette, vinyl or CD physically belonged to a person, and they could only share it at home with friends or family.

This also meant that people now had access to an infinite library of music. You could download another person’s entire music collection and there was no more worrying about returning CDs or scratching someone’s vinyl.

And, because people had access to nearly anything they wanted, they could acquire much more music in a shorter amount of time.

For example, instead of buying your favourite band’s new CD once a year, you could have thousands and thousands of new songs and artists to check out, all within a matter of days.

While some artists saw the amazing potential in the MP3 and this newfound ability to share music with a global audience like never before, many feared the MP3 and foresaw problems with copyright and a loss of rights for the artists or producers.

For those artists who did see the potential with the MP3, they found they could share bits of music that didn’t make it onto the album, or tease their fans with hints of new songs.

This was a bonus not just for the artist but also the diehard fans, who would appreciate tidbits of unreleased material, as a way of accessing virtually everything their favourite artists had created rather than enjoying the final cut of an album.

Record companies, being the mega-capitalists they are, with money as their bottom line, were not so jazzed about the MP3 and would beg their artists not to share the music for free.

They preferred to instead wait until they had figured out a way to make the fans pay to hear these tidbits or unreleased songs. This would force the listener/fan to not only pay to download the song, but that the file would have a limitation of number of plays before the listener had to pay again to download another file for the same song.

Of course, the smart ones would have burned everything onto CDs before the files expired.

Everyone from ultra-popular Beastie Boys to lesser known artists saw the MP3 as a way to reach the world if they couldn’t afford a tour or didn’t have a record deal. Before the days of internet music file sharing and MP3s, how were these smaller bands to get their music heard?

They would, like record companies, release a song for free to titillate the audience and then release a full album that the audience would then purchase.

MP3s are especially favoured by smaller bands and independent artists who are looking for new and exciting ways to get their music out there in the world.

If you’ve ever recorded an album or toured as musician you will know it’s very expensive to rent studio time and to then produce music and release it.

For musicians who are not signed to record labels, it is a lot easier and more affordable to record music in home studios and upload it as MP3s, which fans or listeners would find on MP3.com, one of the first major file transfer websites.

Digital distribution allows the artist to keep a much higher percentage of the sale price, too, and allow artists greater control over distribution. The MP3 file format is truly a revolutionary tool in the music industry, allowing artists to take over from the bottom up. 

However, despite all its benefits, there have been some downsides. 

Where it is now

When MP3s first came out, back in 1999 (that’s nearly 20 years ago), things were different. There was only dial-up internet. MP3s were made for dial-up internet when everything could be shared across the globe but took a lot longer than it does today.

Some artists and record companies blame the MP3 for killing the music industry, but other musicians, like Radiohead or Amanda Palmer, for example, have taken the cue and separated from their record companies; preferring to instead release their music independently, online, and letting listeners pay whatever they want, whether it’s ten cents or twenty dollars.

Today there are many, many online file sharing websites like Spotify and Apple Music. You can buy songs on iTunes for a dollar.

It really shows how music providers and artists have changed with the times, listening to the demands of the public and offering them what they want. The quality of these files is incredibly good; you just need good speakers to play them.

Of course, there are still websites where you can download music for free, and there are still record companies and musicians releasing their work through them.

And the public are still buying them.

There’s one thing online files will never have: the physical experience of interacting with music. The booklets, the artworks, the cover themes and fonts. The CD that sits like a book on a shelf with a title on its spine that you recognize immediately and pull out.

It is that very immersive and real experience that comes with physical music that you would never experience with downloaded files, and so many of us music appreciators tend to be artistic and exploratory folk.

We say immersive because it is so rewardingly consuming to sit down with your favourite record, pull out the booklet, read the lyrics, study the artwork while the music plays: to be immersed in that full experience designed intimately from the artist to the listener. 

In conclusion, we don’t hate MP3’s.  They were invented for a reason, and in the big picture, they serve a purpose or two, so why treat them with disdain?

How to Make Vaporwave Music Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro

Are you looking to invoke nostalgia for the pop-culture of the past? Need a music video to match your new vaporwave tune?

Maybe you just want an introduction into aesthetic design. Look no further.  Today we take you through the whole process of how you can make your own vaporwave video using Adobe Premiere Pro. Check it out!

Oh BTW, here’s what our music video will look like, more or less, once we’re done:

Explanation:

We’re going to take gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game (although feel free to apply this to your favourite Simpsons episode) and split it into its red, green, and blue channels, like so…

We will offset those colour channels and then apply a VHS-tape warping effect to make it look like you recorded the footage 30 years ago.

Step 1: Obtaining Footage

Install a Youtube video downloader add-on onto your Firefox or Chrome browser.

Then, download gameplay footage of an old 8-bit game.

Download this VHS overlay while you’re at it: 

Step 2: Splitting The Layers

  1. Import your 8-bit footage and your VHS overlay into Premiere.
  2. Drag your 8-bit footage onto your timeline.
  3. Make sure you have 4 tracks by right-clicking on the blank space above your tracks and clicking “Add Tracks…”
  4. Unlink your audio from your 8-bit footage by right-clicking on it in the timeline and selecting “Unlink”
  5. Click on your audio clip in your timeline and press delete to get rid of it.

Your timeline should look like this:

Now we’re going to do a colour glitch effect.

Explanation: Every image on your computer is made by combining red, green, and blue in various amounts. We are going to separate the red, green, and blue channels of our gameplay footage.

Hold alt and click + drag the video up onto the V2 track. When you alt+click+drag, you’re duplicating your video track. Duplicate the track once more onto V3.

Click on the effects tab. Search for “rgb”. Select “Color Balance (RGB)”. Drag “Color Balance (RGB)” onto each one of your 3 tracks.

Since you’ve dragged the effect onto your video clips, you will now have a “Color Balance (RGB)” option in your Effect Controls window (top-left window of Premiere).

Click the video on your V3 track to select it and, in your Effect Control window, click the arrow to the left of “Color Balance (RGB)” to expand its options.

You’ll see a “Red”, “Green”, and “Blue” option. The idea here is that you want V3 to be only the red channel, V2 to be only the green channel, and V1 to be only the blue channel.

That means, for V3, click the number to the right of the ‘Red’ channel, type in ‘100’, then type in ‘0’ for the ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels.

Finally, set the ‘Blend Mode’ of each track to ‘Screen’.

Your video layers are now set up, just go into the “Motion” tab of your Effect Control window and offset the ‘x’ and ‘y’ of each layer until you get a separation that you’re happy with.

You can change the ‘x’ and ‘y’ easily by clicking and dragging left and right on the values in your Effect Control window.

Step 3: Adding VHS Tracking

At this point, adding the VHS tracking video should be a breeze. Drag your “VHS Bad Tracking Overlay” from your Media Browser panel onto V4 so that it’s above all your other clips.

Right click on the clip and ‘unlink’ it from its audio, then click on its audio track and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard to get rid of its audio.

Select your VHS clip on V4 and, in its Effect Control window, set its Blending Mode to ‘Screen’. Setting its blending mode to screen will get rid of the black in the video and make it look like your footage underneath is genuinely glitching on an old VHS tape.

If your VHS tracking clip is too short, you can copy and paste it within the Timeline to extend it.

But be careful: Premiere will paste into whatever track is highlighted blue, so make sure V3, V2, and V1 are deselected, then select V4.

Now that the V4 track is highlighted, select the VHS clip, ctrl+C, press ‘down’ on your arrow keys until your timeline marker is at the end of your VHS clip (pressing ‘up’ will send the marker back to the start of the previous clip), then press ctrl+V to paste it.

At this point, you’ll want to import any audio you want in your video and drag it onto one of your empty audio layers (A1, A2, A3, or A4).

Part 4: Export as MP4

Go to File -> Export -> Media…

Your export window will open.

Change your ‘format’ to ‘H.264’. This will compress your video and let you save as an mp4 video file.

You can leave most of these settings to default. Hit “Match Source” just to make sure.

At the bottom of this window you may notice your ‘Estimated File Size’. If your estimated file size is too large, you can go into ‘Bitrate Settings’ in your ‘Video’ tab and reduce the ‘Target Bitrate’ until your Estimated File Size is something more manageable for you.

You may want to reduce the ‘Maximum Bitrate’ along with it. Keep in mind, reducing the video bitrate also reduces the overall quality of your video.

Once you’re happy with the Estimated File Size, click Export and Premiere will start rendering your video out to a file you can upload to Youtube.

Part 5:  aesthetic Text

If you want vaporwave-style characters in your Youtube title, go to https://lingojam.com/VaporwaveTextGenerator, type in your title, and convert it to full-width characters. Then just copy + paste them into your Youtube title.

You’re all done! Hit play, sit back, and remember a time long gone.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones Review

The HD 201 model of headphone was made to connect with just about any type of device, and they prevailed over the headphone market as the best budget headphones for a good decade as headphones you could get your hands on when in a budgetary decline.  Look at your average kid sitting on a subway zoning out to music and they may have been wearing a pair of 201’s.

However, along came the HD 202’s, made by Sennheiser for more pro-audio users, like DJs, and a more professional use overall.  If you want to mix your band’s new album, then you might want to use these.  These headphones have been on sale since 2009, and they are still relatively cheap, making them the staple of music lovers who do not want to spend more than 50$ on a pair of headphones, but still want to have nice material that feels comfy and doesn’t crush your skull.

Feature Pick

Sennheiser Hd 202 Ii Professional Headphones (Black)

Buy On Amazon

CARACTERISTICS

  • Headphone type: Closed
  • Loud speaker: Dynamic
  • Cord length: 3 m
  • Weight: 130 g

PRESENTATION

Sennheiser is known to offer great headphones and the HD 202 II was made for the tightest budgets. It is suitable for DJs, binaural beats enthusiasts and music lovers in general.

As many entry-level headphones, the Sennheiser HD 202 II is largely made of plastic (shell of the ear cups and bow). However, it has a beautiful finish for its low price.These headphones have a nice professional look, they don’t look cheap even if they are.

Their constitution and quality of manufacture find their limits during transport: the HD 202 can not be folded and the junction located on the temples is fragile. The only possible manoeuvre can be done at the right atrium, which can be directed forward or backward to release the ears. This operation is complicated to perform with one hand (especially if you are a Dj). These headphones must be placed correctly on the ears with both hands.

COMFORTABILITY

When it comes to comfort, you will take up to ten minutes to get used to these headphones when you wear them for the first time.  Indeed, the helmet strongly tightens the ears and the top of the skull, and the effect is worse on large heads. As a positive counterpart, the HD 202 II won’t fall off during a set if you are a DJ or during a workout, a yoga session, etc.

It also has the merit of truly and properly isolating you from any external noises. The leatherette pads on the rollbar and the ear cups are thick but quite compact and not very flexible. However, this thickness can heat your ears. It is therefore difficult to recommend the Sennheiser HD 202-II for sets that last for a really long time and in volcanic temperatures. On the other hand, it is possible to detach these pads and wash them after long sets.

The non-detachable cable measures 3 m and a leatherette carrying case comes with the headphones.

AUDIO

The sound reproduction offered by the HD 202 II is awesome for its price. It has a frequency range of 18 to 18,000Hz and neutral tonal balance. The lack of treble gives a nice clean sound. The voices sound perfect, but we don’t really hear the instruments in the background. These headphones have a 115 dB sound pressure level.

Here is a quick list of he most important pros and cons of the Sennheiser HD 202-II:

Pros

  • Sound is clean and powerful.
  • Little distortion.
  • Cheap but still high quality.
  • Good isolation from external noise.
  • Good quality/price ratio.

Cons

  • The rotary headset system is not practical.
  • The headphones are not foldable for transport.
  • They heat the ears.

To conclude, the Sennheiser HD 202-II  are decent entry-level DJ headphones. They offer a coherent sound. The Sennheiser HD 202 will suit you perfectly if you want something cheap but still professional, and if you work in a noisy environment.  

Can You Make A Living Making Music For Audiojungle? – Diva Production Music Interview

When it comes to creating and selling royalty-free music online, I must admit that, until recently, I was only vaguely aware of the concept. 

But, as a musician and someone who is always trying to explore new potential money-making ideas, there comes a time where such ideas enter your awareness and you ponder them.  Sometimes even act on them.  

Such was the case when I came across Diva Production Music, a Youtube channel that talks in depth about this very topic of making a sustainable business out of producing sought-after royalty-free music for the corporate world. 

Back to him in a moment, as he is the subject of today’s article and interview.  First a bit of context, if I may.

So, everyone who is of working age knows something of the “corporate world”, like it or not.  As a musician, for a long time, just those two words together equated to “sellout”, and made me cringe slightly. 

Same with my friends, too – we all hated the idea of the corporate world, and wanted to avoid it at all costs.  To be honest, for me personally, that has equated to making music independently and seeing no income for my efforts for the past 20 years. 

I also taught music, because, as they say, those can’t do, teach.  A reductive definition to be sure, but somewhat true, I’ll admit.

But here we are in 2018, and, lets face it – everyone needs to make a living.  Also, the music business has changed tremendously in the past 20 years.  If you don’t know that, you must have been living under a rock.  

Then

Starting with the onset of the internet in about ’95, and then on P2P and file-sharing platforms like Napster and Limewire at the turn of the century, the control was forcibly taken away from those who run the music business, and “given back” to the people. 

File “sharing” AKA theft (Lars was right all along) was in vogue and has been ever since. 

The big music labels had to watch as everyone started simply taking everything that they had previously put a pricetag on, for free.

This of course went for movies, games, and everything else that could be turned into a file, and the entertainment industry tried their best to stop it.  And continually failed.

Now

Fast forward almost two decades.  Independent musicians are now simultaneously more empowered to enter the world of entrepreneurship on their own terms, while at the same time far less attached to the idea of becoming a famous rock star one day. 

This, I think, is not only because the “rock star” model was always somewhat of a lie, but also because there are many more options for starting actual legitimate online businesses open to individuals now that the age of the internet is beginning to mature slightly.  

This is essentially where people like Daniel Carrizalez (AKA Diva Production Music) comes in to the story.  Daniel is a musician, and has spent years honing his craft, composing songs and using all the gear he has at his disposal. 

There came a point where he had to make a choice between using his skills as a musician to earn a living online, or earning his living in some other way (ie. a “real” job in an office or factory, perhaps). 

The “rock star” notion was not something he was interested in, since it really is just a dream that comes true only once in a blue moon.  It is not a viable career choice to a man with a wife, an 8-yr old daughter and a new baby. 

So he began taking his music making abilities more “seriously”, if you will, in that he wanted to make music, but also he needed to earn a living. 

Emphasis on the word need.  Becoming aware of the new wave of internet marketing types, and jobs related to that field, Daniel began to explore his options.  

One site that stood out to him in his search for potential job opportunities was Audiojungle

Audiojungle is a sub section of the Envato Market, which is a much broader business that offers a multitude of services, one such being offering website themes and options to business owners. 

The overarching concept of Envato, to my understanding, is to be able to hook up an online business person with whatever they need to help improve their own services.  

Audiojungle, specifically, is a service that offers music to anyone who needs music for a commercial, or product of any kind, but lacks the musical element. 

On Audiojungle, the music is pre-made by professionals (such as Diva Production Music ), and sold to those who are willing to pay for the license so that they can make use of it. 

Without the license, if a person were to use this music, it would be considered stealing.  With the purchase of a license (and there are various types), the buyer can now use the music they’ve purchased to use in their own project.

After watching some of Daniel’s content, I became more and more interested in the idea of using Audiojungle to make money with my music, and so I contacted him. 

Luckily, he was willing to answer some of my burning questions on this matter.  So, here is our interview.  Enjoy!


Q: How long have you been making music?

A: I’ve been making music since I was a teenager, but composing and producing stock music only the last 4 years.

Q: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

A: I enjoy all sorts of music, especially rock, alternative rock.

Q: What kind of music do you enjoy making?

A: I enjoying making a lot of acoustic guitar music and experiment with different elements. At the moment, I try to focus on making corporate music, the one that is required and is most popular for media projects.

Q: When did you become aware of Audiojungle?

A: In 2014, I did an extensive search on making and selling music online, and Audiojungle was one of the top marketplaces for that.

Q: Was it difficult to get started on Audiojungle?  What’s the basic process for doing that?

A: Yes, it was difficult. I had no idea what stock music was and even though I knew all about music composition and production, I’d never done commercial music before.

The basic process involves setting up and author’s account and uploading your track. The music that you are uploading should reflect your strengths and ability to create more, quickly and effortlessly.

Q: What type of music do you specialize in making for Audiojungle?

A: I specialize in inspirational and feel-good music, particularly in the genres of rock, pop, folk and/or corporate.

Q: What type of gear setup do you have to make the tracks you make?

A: I am running ProTools on a Macbook pro laptop, use different WAVES plugins for the production of the music, an Eleven Rack as an interface, a SansAmp as a base preamp and a microphone preamp to record acoustic guitars. I also have a midi keyboard and a selection of different guitars, both electric and acoustic.

Q: How big is Audiojungle, community wise?

A: The community of Audiojungle is quite big and growing very fast.

Q: Is it competitive at all?

A: Yes, it is but the key here is not to compete but to create the best product for each and every project.  I am a creator, NOT a competitor.

Q: Do you ever hear form Audiojungle for any reason or Envato for that matter?(ie. do you talk to a rep or is it hands off mostly)

A: There are no reps involved but if you need to contact support, there is a system available. But each author is on their own, and it is up to you to decide on your presentation and marketing of your music.

Q: How much of your work for Audiojungle is inspiration, how much is work work?

A: Inspiration comes after I start working on a new project. I believe that work is a good thing and inspiration comes from working on your craft. Inspiration, like motivation, will always let you down. One that creates cannot wait for inspiration to arrive; you find it only through working!

Q: What are their basic standards for whether a track is suitable for their platform?

A: Over the years, the bar has been raised higher and higher, both in composition and production. That means that the tracks uploaded and accepted back in 2010 most likely, will not be accepted now. The review process is very thorough nowadays and an author must continue to improve and polish their skills. The final result should be broadcast quality, like the music you hear on a TV commercial or YouTube ad.

Q: Who reviews the tracks submitted and how long does that process take?

A: There is a group of reviewers in Audiojungle and the review time varies depending on the number of submissions. It can be anything from 7 days to 15 days for a song to be approved and up or sale.

Q: Who uses Audiojungle from the customer side, as far as your experience tells you?

A: Costumers are video-makers, film-makers, advertising companies and of course, YouTubers!

Q: What’s the price range of songs on Audiojungle?

A: A song can be sold based on the length of the music, starting from $12-15 to $19 for a standard license. The price will directly depend on the license purchased, for example, ie. broadcast license or film license.

Q: Does anyone try to pirate Audiojungle tracks that you know of?

A: Yes. I have personally heard and informed Audiojungle on tracks being used with the watermark.

Q: What kind of musicians do you think would be good authors on Audiojungle?

A: A good author on Audiojungle is any musician with the right mindset to be at the service of others, in this case, the other media makers and content creators.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: In order to become a successful stock music composer, we must be aware of the market’s needs, without comparing ourselves to other composers.


And…that about wraps things up here today!  To learn more about Daniel and Diva Production Music, visit his Youtube channel here, and don’t forget to subscribe!

Talking Custom Royalty-Free Songs Production with Snail Music

In this day and age, being a working musician requires you to be aware of several new business models which can bring potential success, many of which involve the online world.  One of those avenues that business-savvy musicians are looking at is producing royalty-free music in various styles and made available through online distributors, connecting talented musicians and their libraries of diverse music with the exact right audience who needs them.  
 
This so happens to be the specialty of a company / website called Snail Music, who do exactly this.  Their service offers high quality tracks at affordable rates that span across a variety of genres, and can all be purchased through the popular website, Audiojungle, which is part of Envato.  Various audio licences are available to cover all your legal bases.
As luck would have it, I had a chance to grill Snail Music in the persons of their co-founders Pablo and Fernando about their dynamic music business and how it functions. 
 
I think that in this rapidly changing world, musicians are sometimes the type of people who aren’t necessarily clued in to the full range of business possibilities open to them, as they are more focused on the creative side of things.  And so, I think it’s valuable to touch base with fellow musicians who are actively developing these skills themselves.
 
Without further delay, here is my interview with Snail Music!
 

Q: What is the concept behind Snail Music?
 
A: We started Snail Music as a way to create music and be paid for it without the hassle of becoming a band. We just wanted a business that was an expression of our creativity. So nowadays we produce royalty-free songs that we later sell on some online marketplaces, like Audiojungle
 
Q: Can you tell me how long Snail Music has been around and how it came to be?
 
A: We’ve been around for 2 years now. It all started when my partner and amazing musician, Fernando, registered on Audiojungle and started to upload music there. Despite being an amazing guitarist and singer, he never produced a song before with the computer, so he had to learn everything from scratch. 
 
After some weeks on it, he told me (Pablo) if I wanted to join, so I said yes on the spot! At that time I was working as a general manager for an SEO agency, but my entrepreneurial side was always stronger than any fancy job. I started to build the Snail Music webpage and, through my previous SEO knowledge, getting traffic: customers and referrals and three or four months later I quit my job to become a full-time co-founder.
 
Q: Do you have a typical type of customer that comes to you the most for music?
 
A: Yes, they’re mostly online freelancers in the media industry or little-medium companies that need background music for their corporate videos or advertising.
 
Q: Do you do custom orders?  ie. following directions to get a certain effect
 
A: We did it for a while, but not now. We believe almost anything that you can need in terms of royalty-free music is already available on Audiojungle and, from an economical point of view, its much more profitable to release a track and sell licenses to whoever is interested than only to one single client.
 
Q: Is it possible for two different people who don’t know each other to end up using the same song from you?
 
A Yes, it is, although the Internet is so big nowadays in terms of data that is almost impossible to listen to the same song twice randomly from different videos or ads.
 
Q: What license do you recommend to clients the most and why?
 
A: Usually what most people need is the ‘Standard’ license, which is also the cheaper ($19) but covers all uses on the Internet. The other ones are well suited for other end products (apps, audiobooks…) or broadcast (tv, radio…)
 
Q: How has the rise of mobile affected your business?
 
A: It’s always good for us because mobile means that more people are connected and browsing the Internet for more hours so, therefore, the economics are moving there: youtube ads, Facebook advertising, Instagram… all they are what was before just tv or radio ads. And all of them need background music.
 
Q: Do you create literally any kind of music people ask for?
 
A: What we do is create our music depending on the ‘best sellers’ on Audiojungle. The best royalty-free music authors are competing there for a spot and, when a song is selling a lot of licenses, it means that a lot of people are liking it. 
 
Q: What’s the most popular “genre” you make for people?  
 
A: Always the ‘corporate’ genre. You can listen to some examples of it here. In the end, companies are the ones who are spending more money on advertising, of course, and they demand a type of song that is mostly a combination of some moods: happy, uplifting and inspirational. Why? Because that’s what they want to transmit to their clients with their product or service.
 
Q: How busy are you guys?
 
A: Hahaha that’s a good one! We’re pretty busy. Me, for example, I have another business to run, dedicated to the cryptocurrency industry. So if I’m not with one I’m with the other, but it’s also true that we have our own schedules and we try always to automate everything. Creating any business from scratch is difficult and very time-consuming but if you do it right you can later enjoy the economic rewards, manage your time and don’t have more bosses than your clients.
 
Q: Do any of your artists make their own music and is it available anywhere?
 
A: Nowadays we’re dedicating all of our time to royalty-free music, because that’s a full-time job, so everything is in our portfolio. The non-royalty-free music is not on the Internet as we liked to play live but not recording anything.
 
Q: Do many people ask for music that has vocals in it, or are you dealing with predominantly instrumentals?
 
A: Mostly instrumentals, because you see, people who need a background song for their video or advertising already have a voice explaining something, so they do not want another background voice, only instrumentals that don’t bother but also add a nice mood.
 
Q:  What upcoming plans does Snail Music have in store?
 
A: We’re humble, so our plan right now is just continuing doing what we’re doing and working every week without stopping, improving the business little by little with new music and nice SEO & Youtube work. There’s always things to do when you run a business, so it’s impossible to be bored, haha. We’re already very very grateful of being able to make a living from what we love and to enjoy the present moment.

 
Hey everybody, thanks for checking out the interview!  If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we or the Snail Music folks will get back to you in due course.  If you want to contact them directly, email: hi@snailarts.com

WesAudio DIONE Analog Bus Compressor Review

As my mixing has progressed over the years I have found my mixes started to translate a lot better with some master bus or parallel compression, or both.

Not to say my mixes were bad before, but I realised after a while that the mix is often as important as all the sweating you can do to your rough mix. I was an avid user of SSL style compressors and I loved the smack of the sound of them, but this was always a software version.

To be honest, for a long time, I made the mistake of putting a L1/L2 compressor on the master bus and left it at that. To get a really nice, punchy upfront and radio-friendly sound, you can’t do better than a SSL style or Neve compressor on the master to stick it all together. 

I’d been looking for a SSL style bus compressor for a while, and had been looking into a number of outboard compressors to put on my mix bus, but had been generally turned off by the price being about the $1500-2000 mark and the fact I would have to print my mixes back in. I have always been a big supporter of the waves plugins and had purchased the SSL bundle for the same purpose about 3 years ago.

Before using the Waves SSL bundle, I used the original Avid Impact plugin but this was discontinued when Pro Tools went to 64 bit. I generally like to put a VCA style compressor on my mix bus for glue type duties, it tends to stick everything together nicely, I had for quite sometime used a McDSP AC1 analogue channel for some analogue warmth (essentially doing some harmonic distortion) alongside this but nothing really compares to going outside the box.

I also realised that the tape style emulators do have a nice sound but tend to smear the mix a bit and make it a bit well, tape sounding.

So, after many years of using this system and being quite happy, I couldn’t resist looking into the hardware options and seeing what was about.

The Solid State Logic brand stuff is not cheap and I have heard from several sources they vary in quality depending on the model and the vintage. They have a propriety X-logic series, the original series, a one rack unit version, and of course the new and ever popular API 500 series style.

There are several single rack unit devices around but I have wanted to get into 500 series for ages, it’s a really nice way to get a broad range of really nice studio channel devices at a reasonable price.

I knew I would get into 500 series at some point, and for me it makes a lot of high end quality in a really accessible format. The list of wants grows and grows but I’ve got my eyes on the clariphonics, the Maag and a few others.

There is so much new equipment in this format, it’s very easy to get lost drooling for EQ’s Compressors and Pre-amps. I like the idea of a small format device that doesn’t cost the earth and serves a purpose in a studio that is always downsizing rather than growing.

The explosion of this format is similar to what has happened with Eurorack modular synth stuff, it gives you great flexibility and enables studios to differentiate and create their specific sound.

In the SSL style compressor (500 series) marketplace alone there are several options with things like the SMART C1, The Dramastic Obsidian, the BC1 and more recently the DIONE. 

I was surveying the reviews and prices of these devices for several months and really liked the up and coming companies putting resources in to cheaper alternatives. The c1 is probably the top of the tier and competitive to SSL itself, but the others are pretty similar in price. There is an excellent comparison of the different units around on an episode of Produce Like a Pro here:

The unit I decided to get was the Wes Audio Dione. It was not for the fact that it was cheapest, not because it sounded way better than the others.  No, actually these style of compressors actually sound quite similar and really only differ slightly in features like side chain input, mix knob, THD and a few other things.

I bought this one because of the story behind it and the people who made it by hand. Wes Audio are a small company out of Szczecin, Poland, they have about 4 people working on these and other outboard analog modules, all built by hand.

Perhaps one of the best features is the fact that you can control this device via USB as a plug-in.  In other words, it’s the best of both worlds. You see if you do decide to go outboard one of the pet hates is the need to store settings or write them down somewhere, so if you do need to make changes to a mix you can re-create it easily.

The best feature with the DIONE is the plug-in runs as a dummy controller and re-set your device when you open up the session, voila’ total recall!  The device is punchy as hell and in A/B tests with software versions it left them for dead.

I do have to print my mixes in real time now but for the sake of a few minutes and the sonic quality it imparts its all worth it.

Now if I could just get some money together for a master bus EQ…

What Are The Different Types of Music File Formats – Lossy vs Lossless Types Reviewed

When it comes to audio file formats, there are basically two types: lossless, and lossy. 

Lossless audio retains all of the original quality from whatever source it came from, whether it be compact disc, tape, vinyl, or something else.

Lossy audio sacrifices quality so that it can save space, resulting in a smaller and more compressed file, but with less data attached for better storage capabilities. 

If at all possible, the lossy format tries to avoid cutting out any “crucial” audio, which is a bit like removing just a few select pieces of someone’s internal organs with a rusty blade, sewing them back up after the operation, and hoping they don’t die ten minutes later. 

Sorry, that’s the audiophile in me talking right now.

Let’s begin by talking about lossless audio file formats, of which there are several. 

Lossless Audio File Types

AIFF

AIFF files are uncompressed, which means you get exactly what audio the source has.  This file format is made by Apple, which is why you will see these files more associated with Apple products. 

This can be good or bad depending on how much you like Apple.  A file like the AIFF is designed to be used for various purposes, but not really designed to be stored, necessarily, as it would take up a lot of space on any drive you put them. 

That said, if you have an audio file that you are particularly attached to, want to archive, or you have just recorded something yourself (as an artist), for example, you may want to store that audio as an AIFF on your computer, as it is often an available file type to export as with many different pieces of music software.


WAV

WAV is another totally uncompressed file format, like AIFF, and they’re basically the exact same, bit for bit, except that WAV is a more universal format, and hence it holds that distinction. 

So, the same characteristics apply here with WAV as with AIFF, in that the quality of the file is completely intact and no information is lost.  Similarly, WAV files are large and take up a lot of space, so they’re not very handy in that regard because they take up lots of room. 

Both AIFF’s and WAV’s use a bitstream method of storing data in chunks, except that WAV is based on the IFF file format. 

Overall, WAV files are more compatible with more players, and they serve as great audio to be editing, if you’re into that type of thing.


FLAC

FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, if you were wondering about its name.  It is, these days, the most popular lossless audio file format, and the most popular for storing music, mainly due to the fact that it has been compressed. 

And yet, it is still considered a lossless format, so you’re still getting the same audio as the original source, and overall listeners who are concerned about archiving prefer it to WAV or AIFF for this reason. 

In fact, many music collections are stored as FLAC files just to save some space, and they are found online everywhere. 

For instance, if your great uncle gives you his digital music collection, if he’s a good guy, it’ll be in FLAC. Unlike AIFF, which belongs to Apple, FLAC is both open source and free.


ALAC

ALAC, or Apple Lossless is very much the same as FLAC, as you can see even by the name. 

Like FLAC, it’s lossless, but it’s also compressed, and it’s essentially Apple’s version of the FLAC format. 

It has a slightly less efficient system for compressing the audio files, to you might end up with a slightly larger file overall, but whereas FLAC is essentially a non-affiliated format, ALAC is strongly associated with iTunes, and iOS. 

Hence, you do get the benefits of what Apple has to offer, giving it an edge over FLAC in this respect. 

On the other hand, some naysayers have said that Apple is putting a stranglehold on the music industry by trying to control people in a rather fascist manner using iTunes, by keeping you locked into the iTunes software and the way they have the music library set up. 

So, if you are an Apple / iTunes hater because of that line of reasoning, you probably won’t want to go with their proprietary audio file format, because you’ll be stuck in iTunes land for the foreseeable future.


APE

Whereas ALAC is lossless but compressed, and FLAC even more so, we have APE, which is extremely compressed and yet still lossless, which means that if you’re interested in opening up more storage space, APE might be for you. 

It has essentially the same high quality that other lossless audio files provide, but on the downside, it isn’t quite as friendly with as many players as either FLAC or ALAC. 

And, since the compression is so extreme, you will find that your computer is going to have to use more processor power to read the files.  But, with the right player, APE is still a great format.


Lossy Audio File Types

If you consider yourself a normal music listener, or in other words, a non-audiophile, without too many expectations for the quality of the audio you listen to, then you’ll probably be going with the lossy formats, including all the favourites – MP3, AAC, OGG, etc. 

In terms of space saving, you will save a lot more space than the lossless files, obviously. 

This means, you can pile these types of files (ie. songs) onto your favourite player and hit the road.  Now, what matters in terms of quality is bitrate, and if your lossy file is of a particularly high bitrate, then you’ll be treated to audio that is, to the common listener, pretty much the same as the lossless files.

MP3

Also known as MPEG Audio Layer III, MP3’s are without question the most popular of all lossy audio formats you’ll come across.  In fact, when some people download music, they simply expect an MP3 because people assume it’s the only audio format that exists. 

That’s how pervasive MP3’s are.  And, even though it is essentially the BK Whopper of audio formats (mass produced, lacking integrity), people still love it to death (like the Whopper). 

Partly, this is due to the MP3 being the most widely supported, and so there’s really no way around the fact that this is the first choice when it comes to lossy audio files.  And, after all, the MP3 isn’t that bad, unless you’re a real stickler for quality.

AAC

This stands for Advanced Audio Coding, and the format is very similar to MP3, and yet it is a step up when it comes to efficiency. 

By efficient, I mean that the files take up even less space than an MP3, but you get just about the same sound. 

One thing to note is that Apple supports the AAC format, making it just about as widely used as MP3’s nowadays, since it can be used with iTunes. 

Also, most devices can play AAC files, with there being only a select few that can’t.  This all makes AAC a great alternative, or even preferential, to MP3’s.


M4A

Meant to be the successor to MP3’s, M4A’s, or MPEG 4, are another lossy audio file format made with AAC encoding. 

In terms of quality, M4A’s were designed to improve upon the design of the MP3, by adding certain enhancements like cutting out sound information that isn’t perceptible to the human ear. 

Or, in other words, compressing a sound file to keep what is essentially for listeners only.  Also, M4A’s have a way of “sampling” the audio at a bitrate that captures more nuances. 

M4A is also widely supported, with platforms available such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, Quicktime, and certain Roxio products. 

All of this sounds pretty good, right?  However, many car stereos won’t play M4A’s, and often times if you want a certain media player to play an M4A, you have to rename it as MP4, which is a nuisance.


Ogg Vorbis

This oddly named file format is named as such because it is used in conjunction with what’s called an Ogg container, supported by the xiph.org Foundation. 

Vorbis is free and open source, and together these two are called Ogg Vorbis multi-plexed media files. 

Similar to MP3 and AAC, it is a lossy format, but it is considerably less popular, possibly due to it’s bizarre name, but also because it doesn’t have the support of AAC or MP3. 

One thing to consider is that Ogg Vorbis is not limited by any patents, although that has no immediate effect on its users. 

On the other hand, this file format loves to suck your power like a vampire when you attempt to decode it, due to the way it is compressed and needs to be opened up. 

In any case, despite its negative aspects, open source proponents are big on the Ogg Vorbis audio file format because of their dedication to all things open source. 

Do you use it?  Let us know, it’s always interesting to connect with users of a particular format like this one which is relatively obscure.


WMA

Microsoft also has its own audio file format, which is the Windows Media Audio, which is very similar to both the AAC and the MP3 in many ways. 

Unfortunately for Microsoft, this format is not extremely well supported, because the WMA doesn’t really have any benefits to MP3’s or AAC’s, so it remains in its own little world of users who happen to use it for whatever reason, but for your average listener, there is no particular reason to start using the WMA format if they do not already.


Lossy vs Lossless – Which Is Better?

Ok, so now you basically know the difference between some of the more common lossy and lossless audio formats.  Which one should you go with?  Well, if you haven’t decided by now, let’s recap for a minute. 

AAC and MP3 are the most popular by quite a stretch, but that’s because they work on just about any player out there, and they also save on hard drive space. 

This falls in line with what your average consumer wants or needs, that being – give me something cheap and relatively efficient and I’ll go for it. 

The other thing we mentioned already about AAC and MP3 is that unless you have a fairly discerning ear, you’re not even going to really tell the difference between and MP3 and a WAV, unless you’re a sound engineer, or just a person with really sensitive hearing. 

Remember that even with MP3’s, a high bitrate means you are getting most of the “important” data from your source audio, so that makes it even more indistinguishable. 

There are definitely MP3’s that have a low bitrate, and sound clearly terrible.  Watch out for those.  

Here’s a quick video sample of compression comparison, from 8 Kbps to 320 Kbps from a Youtuber named Eat Me.

If you have the inclination to archive your music in any way, and storage space is not so much an issue, then definitely you’ll want to go with a lossless audio format like FLAC. 

For instance, if you are converting audio files from one lossy form to another, the degradation of the quality will soon become apparent. 

On the other hand, if you stick with lossless high quality audio file formats like FLAC or AIFF, your files will remain sounding great, even if you convert between two different lossless files. In other words, the file quality will not change. 

At the end of the day, it’s whatever works for you and whatever allows you to get the most enjoyment out of your audio, whether it be music or otherwise. 

I hope this article clears up any questions you have about this, but if not, feel free to ask further questions in the comments section and we’ll try to field them!

Interview with JK Phil Osé of Fauxtown on the Music Biz and More!

Hey, YC here.  Today I sat down with JK Phil Osé, one of Fauxtown Record’s many talented musical artists, to talk about a number of things, starting with what got him into music in the first place, then moving into DIY recording of albums, and then moving on to a discussion the nature of the music business as it stands here in 2018. 

Because I know Phil personally, from our dual membership in both Try Hardz and Childebeast (not to mention McBain’s World), we accidentally break down the 4th wall so to speak (at first I play the part of the ignorant journalist – so much for that guise), and go into the inner workings of our own mysterious and colourful record label – Fauxtown Records, and how we can ever improve it beyond some of the fascism that exists out there today in order to reach the “free market” and continue to please our fans moving forward.  We also discuss musical accessibility, losing and regaining hope, and finding our niche.

You know folks, running an indie record label isn’t easy work, and it takes the cooperation of everyone involved in such a relatively small venture (compared to the big labels that are still operating out there) to do their part and keep the dream alive.  But what is that dream, at this point?  Is it making a living off your music, bringing fame and glory to our artists, or just sharing music with whoever will listen and appreciate it?  In any case, enjoy this interview with J.K. Phil Osé as we cover a variety of topics.

YC: Hey Phil, how’s your day going thus far?

JK: Hello Dave I’m pretty good.

YC: you’ve been busy making music for a while now.  when did it all start?

JK: It started when I was 17

YC: Take us back will ya?  What happened?

JK: Well…in regard to my shit?

YC: in regard to getting into music.. what sparked your interest and what kind of music were you interested in?

JK: Oh..yea it was a need to find some expression. I borrowed my sisters keyboard for a few months and started writing boring SOft experimental.  I was interested in punk as a youth, then hip hop and began to get into abstract music per-say into my twenties.

YC: So initially it was just a means of expression. What was going on at the time in your life that you needed to express via music?

JK: I’d say some familial troubles and personal addictions. And the complications that come from the traumas. Of both.

YC: So you say keys was your first instrument you kinda picked up?

JK: When I was 6 I learnt the C major scale, and some songs to go with it, then 8-9 years later I began experimenting with keyboards. In the interim was playing minimal bass guitar until I was 18. A little piano, a little bass, then at 18 a lot of guitar, bass and minimal piano/key boards.

YC: Did you have recording in mind, or performing, or both, or neither?

JK: I began recording right away. I never had a specific genre in mind and still don’t I play to the feeling of my hands. I simply express melodies, lyrics, and rhythms.

<interjection> – some music

YC: what’s your fav instrument at the moment to play?

JK: I enjoy the Classical guitar the most.

YC: nice…with regards to recording, what do you see the point of that being for you? obviously it is a form of expression, but beyond that, why do you do it?

JK: I see recording as a way of documenting my ideas to listen back refine, and share them with myself and anyone interested in listening.

YC: that sounds reasonable enough 🙂 how interested in the technical aspects of recording at you?  i mean, you do your recordings yourself quite often, so i’d assume at least somewhat interested… 😀

JK: I care but I don’t have the financial ease of spending tens of thousands of dollars on full LP’s… so as I get older the less I’ve cared about sound quality and begun to accept what I can produce. Which isn’t anything over the top.

YC: ya, gear is a costly thing that’s for certain…that said, what are you recording with now?

JK: I’m recording with a Rode microphone, an apogee one, and occasionally a friend who is quite talented at sounds engineering.

YC: oh ya who’s that?  is it Brennan Galley?  The Fiercemule himself??

JK: Yes Brennan Galley.

YC: now that guy has some serious gear for recording and knows how to wield it

JK: Yes, but I don’t rely on him.  I record on my own in much lower fidelity to continue getting ideas out there.

YC: a true indie artist to the end

JK: Maybe too independent.

YC: ya but you’re right you can’t rely too much on any one person

JK: You can only rely on yourself.

YC: Indeed brethren

JK: Everyone else is a helping hand whom you are also to them.

YC: it’s the nature of teamwork i guess…people helping each other makes the world go round…plus, recording and playing everything yourself all the time isn’t always fun in the long run.. it’s good to get out there, at least in front of a crowd or something…as opposed to just you on your couch or whatever

JK: I find my couch the most comfortable place to play.

YC: no denying that…certain furniture will facilitate a certain creative mood at times

JK: I’ve thought of Bringing my couch to shows.  Just so I can play in comfort.

YC: a novel idea if ever there was one…as an indie artist, what do you think of the whole marketing of yourself to reach fans?  do you believe in luck, or hard work?

JK: I believe in hard work. I believe the marketing aspect of it can be deceptive but necessary to reach enough people. I think people generally don’t want to accept new and progressive ideas because it means promoting it within their social circles which can be dangerous. I believe music needs to be attached to a culture for it to blossom. Maybe a marketing tactic would be to create a culture somewhere somehow.  But Yea that’s the hardest of work.

YC: would you be happy if your music was listened to by some new people who you don’t know, but you didn’t really get paid for it? or is the goal to make a wage off it selling the music?

JK: Good question. I’d say I wouldn’t care if no one else was making money of my ideas. If no one was then it would be cool but it’s inevitable if enough people would hear the music an artist would make money in some way. Off* Is it about money…money is an important aspect of life. I don’t want to compromise the artistry to attain money but I would prefer if people supported the ideas in a financial way. Then I could be more productive musically and artistically.

YC: are you aware of the idea of the “big rock n roll swindle”?

JK: No sir.

YC: its the idea from like the 70’s / 80’s /90’s where some big record label would pay a band a million bucks, and then that band would just like spend it all and run away or something. 

JK: No I didn’t hear about that.

YC: it’s sort of dates back to when major labels would hear about these hyped up bands and try to wine and dine them, and get them to sign their lives away in some crazy million dollar contract…which the bands, not being business people, would sign, with the fantasy of just spending all of “the man” ‘s money…it’s a fairly outdated model now, considering how it is nowadays…typically now it’s like.. you do it all yourself, and figure out every aspect of your business, and if it doesn’t work, it’s your fault…no one’s going to “invest” in you to sell records per se

JK: Yea I don’t think labels and bands believe to thoroughly in the CD anymore. It’s all about being on Spotify and good play and taking percentages. But YouTube is a great way to make money directly. Google Play*

YC: i think so long as you understand how the whole structure works, then that’s fine and good…but say with Youtube, there’s a lot of invisible rules and hidden politics going on that holds some people back and they may not understand why.

JK: Yea I’m not sure how it works on the fascist political side but fuck those who live in that way.  I wouldn’t hold back a shitty country music singer who sang terrible lyrics and generic chords just because I didn’t like their music.

YC: It’s about individual expression…well that and finding your fanbase…but the problem is that certain platforms aren’t going to help you find that fanbase.. they really have no obligation to though…

JK: The fan base must be created. How can you find something that doesn’t exist until you show them your stuff.

YC: the fan base i think does exist to an extent

JK: It will exist when they see you.

YC: like with your generic country artist, there are generic country fans..and they need to connect and then all is well

JK: True to the extent that you play within a genre.  If you are doing something all encompassing then I think that fanbase needs to be created.

YC: i believe that it’s like the law of attraction…certain people, if they heard you, would like you

but ya they have to hear you…and until they hear you, they are unaware of you basically

JK: Solid Perspective.

<interjection> – some music

YC: so that’s where the corporations come in.. they are the gatekeepers to whether anyone will become aware of you…unless you become your own gatekeeper…but then it’s all on you…people complain when youtube changes things up.. but there’s no one saying you need to be on youtube anyway…same with any of them

JK: Yea I don’t know how to promote my music unless it’s through some interconnected network.

YC: the alternative is just to try to get gigs and talk to real people one on one….but i’ve never really gotten much out of that method myself

JK: Yea that method requires a managerial aspect which I haven’t proven to possess although I am looking to become…The thing about the manager tho was that the manager was an unbiased source of approval to labels.  So it depends who you as an independent artist are trying to talk to. If you are an independent artist on an independent label then you have to talk to the corporation yourself.

YC: usually artists and corporate types don’t really have very good chemistry…hence the manager is the middle man for that

JK: But in my case I am a FauxTown Music Label  Administrator, and part owner.  So I or whoever is running our label because they are few have to get off there arses and start using their brains. So I’m staring to make music videos.

YC: yeah.. i’ve heard a stat that it’s 20% material, 80% marketing in basically any business…which is kinda scary…because as far as material goes, Fauxtown has plenty of that…but i guess too, it’s about knowing what the specific goal is…because we are a label.. so talking to other labels is like.. we don’t really need to…a lot of artists are shopping themselves around FOR a label.. we run the label…but as far as how much clout we have, that is rather a mystery

JK: I think the material isn’t as accessible as it can be.  It can be readily accessible to people through different channels. Channels that need to be in place to be visible to people. Like the live show it’s a channel.

YC: ya it’s about knowing those channels and being good at them…because like i’ve said before, i think it’s kinda pointless to put someone in charge of a channel that they aren’t really into

JK: Yes well that’s the goal. Learn how to channel beyond composition.

YC:and that’s the trick for us too…is that most artists we know are really only good at specific things and beyond that they…don’t show interest in those other things

JK: That’s the hard work that needs to be put in.

YC: yes but at the same time, give someone a job they like and they’ll do it all the time…give someone a job they hate and they won’t do it ever…you can tell them that it’s needed all you like…they won’t really do it

JK: Yes and if they don’t like doing anything but music then that’s all they can do.

YC: right and that’s also great…but if say we step into a more managerial role, then it’s good for us to know that…because you’re not going to get that person who only likes being at home making music to tour..or go to events…or meet anyone

JK: It is but the hard work which makes a label tick.. the finding of timely opportunities by working to find them and pounce needs to be done.

YC: well not to tout the virtues of the free market but that’s why i love the free market…and why also the free market is scary…because it’s all there for you.. just go do it…get what you want

JK: Yes I think I have an idea that’s under developed but possible.

YC: personally i don’t see any difference between us and anyone else in terms of how much we care about music…whether they are famous or not…we can do what they do if we know what we’re doing…and also identifying goals and such…accounting is part of the problem…because musicians suck at it

JK: Like you said…and so is cooperation in some ways because ideally cooperation is easy between the people in our group, but in practice it’s a little more difficult.  The material is there but the complimentary material needs to be there too (music videos etc) live shows online. Then when the channel is produced it will flow like electricity.

YC: we have one thing that’s kind of going against us…which is that everyone we know has been working on stuff for so long now…that what you’re saying isn’t resonating.. people treat it like they’ve failed already and it’s over so saying “hey, NOW let’s do this” is hard for people

JK: Then if they’ve given up it’s up to us.  And we will revive their hopes when we make this happen.

YC: ya people gotta see it to believe it…no one has completely given up.. except those who have

JK: Yes we believe in them even tho they’ve moved on.

YC: well i do agree with you though.. if we can just get all the cylinders firing, we’ll be in good shape…but what i’ve learned is that we need people operating on different fronts.. like say Twitter

JK: They all say they can’t substitute work for playing shows unless the shows pay. So money does really matter.

YC: i used to dislike Twitter, but now i like it but also i have no time to Tweet all day on our behalf…that said, the Fauxtown twitter is back and it’s in better shape than it was.

JK: Which is good news.

<interjection> – some music

YC: it’s stuff like this that needs attention but you and me can’t do everything bro…we can do a lot, but not everything

JK: I’ll need the Twitter account info.

YC: i’ll give it to ya and you can see what’s going on over there…i actually had my VA curate it for a bit and she helped get it looking less lame

JK: We have to do everything we can. And that is asking for everyone’s help which means we will be doing basically everything on the business end.

YC: i think it also gets a bit confusing with money and such…people want to promote their albums their way…and so now with that plugin i’ve got it can link to whatever download you want which is nice…it takes time to find the right software sometimes because there’s a ton of stuff that doesn’t do what you want it to do…but you had a good call on the website by mentioning the mobile thing…it’s way better now i think…so basically more presentable and i don’t feel so bad about showing it to people

JK: That’s good.

YC: so this interview has turned into us talking about our mission.. how did it happen?

JK: Lol you can cut it off when it was a q and a

YC: nah, i kinda like the impromptu nature of it to be honest…unless you don’t like that

JK: I don’t mind. It broke the third wall tho Which was you asking me questions as an interested journalist. Which became we are working for the same people which is us. Lol

YC: lol.. people love that stuff dont’ they…the point is, this is just another channel for us…like the podcast and everything else….i look at it like we put some time into it here and there, and eventually our little interviews can become something…but at first, it’s just us trying and failing and trying again

JK: We can also take the convo sheet and act out the interview.

YC: lol that’s like breaking the 4th wall

JK: Lol I think that’s how most interview go.

YC: how many walls do we need to break?

JK: They pre plan it and then go on camera.

YC: yeah that’s true.. there’s a lot of that now

JK: Their answers are always too perfect to be thought of that fast.

YC: well so long as i can post it like this as well, i don’t care…i’m just into the text form interview right now

JK: Yea.  The channels have to be planned. I’m going to work on how to do this.

YC: nice man keep me posted…i guess we can call it here…

JK: Okay take care.

YC: alrighty seeya !

Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, and …Norm’s Headache? – Recording at Smart Studios in the 90’s Interview with Bob Reich

Today I had a chance to talk to my friend Bob Reich, who used to play in a band called Norm’s Headache in the Wisconsin area in the mid-90’s (they were from LaCrosse).  Norm’s Headache was a typical configuration for a rock band – 4 members, with Bob on bass, Mark Sauer on guitar, Paul Milisch on vocals, and Eric Nordstrom on drums.  Here below is the band mascot – Garbice The Gargoyle.

Like many bands from the 1990’s, Norm’s Headache were fairly eclectic musically and had their sights set on stardom… until reality set in, dashing their rock dreams with more sensible things like college. 

Along the way, the band ended up recording an EP at Butch Vig and Steve Marker’s Smart Studios, the same place that was visited by many famous and infamous rock bands as Tar Babies and The Fresh Young Fellows in the 1980’s, and  Nirvana (where they recorded demos for Nevermind), the Smashing Pumpkins (who recorded Gish there) in the 1990’s.  The list of bands that passed through the doors of Smart Studios through its lifetime as a studio would make your average music hipster flip their berret. 

Smart Studios – A Quick History

Butch and Steve’s studio opened in 1983 in Madison Wisconsin and first resided in the Gisholt Machine Manufacturing Building, and a few years later in 1987 moved over to 1254 East Washington Avenue into “one damn ugly looking building”.  This “crackhouse”-esque building (as Butch has said it resembled) quickly became a local go-to destination for bands to go record and not have to pay an arm and a leg.  From the exterior, the place seemed rather unassuming during the daytime, as you can see from the picture below.

But inside of Smart Studios, as the ’80’s ended and the 1990’s began, things were beginning to shape up into a sonic environment that could help bands get a big beefy sound that so many aspiring musicians were after around this time.  With their musical history rooted in punk rock and always connected to very idiosyncratic and extremely talented music makers, Butch and Steve became adept at getting whatever sound was appropriate to the band, including the heavy rock sound du jour.  Particularly when it came to drums, which was Butch’s first musical love, Smart Studios had a wicked drum sound if that’s what you were after.  

Clearly, Smart Studios was a happening joint in the 1990’s, and this is partly why Bob and his band Norm’s Headache ventured there to record at the time, because big things were actually possible back then, and, who knows…Norm’s Headache might have been destined to be the next big thing.  Remember – this was pre-internet times being the mid-90’s, and the music industry was probably at the peak in terms of bands still having hope to become nationwide superstars. 

So yeah, Norm’s Headache heard about Smart Studios through the grapevine, and bee-lined it there to get some tracks done.  The price seemed to be just right for doing a 3-song EP, even though they tried to squeeze four songs out of the two-day 12-hours-a-day session.  Butch even popped in for a minute to sprinkle some pixie dust on their drums.  Nice!

Because Smart Studios has been the host to many of my favourite bands and records, I just had to talk to Bob to get the inside semi-fanboy perspective on how it all went down with Norm’s Headache back in the mid-90’s. 

Here is my interview with Bob Reich, talking 90’s rock and Smart Studios.  Enjoy!

YC: Hey Bob, what’s the good word my man?

Bob: Not much Dave, just sitting here getting some quite time from my 11 month old son.  It is midnight.

YC: Ah very good, glad I could barge in and start asking questions.

Bob: No, it nice to talk to adults now and then.

YC: I wanted to ask you about Smart Studios, the place in Madison, Wisconsin.

Bob: Great, I love that place!

YC: You know the place, founded by Butch Vig and Steve Marker.  And has been graced by several notable bands over the years – The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Death Cab For Cutie, L7, et al.

Bob: Yeah I sure do

YC: So yeah, you were there in the mid 90’s with your band, eh?

Bob: I was, we were in the Studio in 1996.  The band, not relevant today at all was called, Norm’s Headache.  Which was a terrible choice band name but regardless, It landed our name on the website roster of bands that have recorded at Smart Studios.  We were in between Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails!  I do have a picture of that, for times I need a good laugh.

YC: That’s really funny..How’d you end up there?

Bob: The band was from the town LaCrosse Wisconsin, which is 2 hours away from Madison on I90.  Back then the internet was still a baby, so I believe at the point in time we found an add in the Madison music magazine, Maximum ink.  The add was for 3 songs for something really dirt cheap, I can’t remember.  It was maybe $400 or 600 dollars.  Basically it was a down time for the studio, so they would book these “weekend gigs”

YC: Nice.. were you aware of the pedigree of bands who were stopping by?  Like did you go “oh shit, the Pumpkins!”  The price itself seems really good.

Bob: We were aware, and not as aware as things are today with the internet.  Back then, it was work of mouth and wen you actually bought CD’s that had printed information on it.  Like where it was recorded and by who.  But mentioning the whole, word of mouth and only knowing so much and not EVERYTHING, I think that really amped up the experience that much more.

And at that time, I was really excited about the studio owners band, Garbage.  They were brand new and had just started to do shows.  That was exciting.

But, going back to the Smashing Pumpkins,  yeah, I think that was the second album I bought from them even though that was their first album.  That’s when I started to get thoughts of why would a band come to Wisconsin of all places to record an album?

My holy shit was, Nirvana did their demos for Nevermind there.  That was probably the album that really pushed me into music.  I was a huge fan of them, I guess it crossed my mind that I sat on the same toilet as Kurt Cobain did, not, hey you are using the same  microphones and equipment, nope it was the toilet!

YC: lol incredible…maybe he even pissed on the seat who knows

Bob: Haha, yeah he probably did!

YC: So how long were you guys there? and what did you do there?

Bob: We were young and arrogant.  The ad clearly said 3 songs!  My drummer was pushy and wanted to do a fourth song and our engineer, who seemed really irritated did it anyway.  Man, I feel so bad, but also he could of said no.

The tracks were

1. Balls for all

2. God Gotten

3. 16volt

4. Time Machine

Never amounted to anything other than a home on Myspace after the fact the band had disbanded.  I guess we titled the ep, if there were one, Smart Sessions…or is it LP? I think its EP.

YC: Yeah it’s EP.  What sound were you going for?

Bob: I don’t think there was a sound in mind.  But, my bass has this over the top tone that is much louder than it should be.  It’s a very familiar tone you can hear on the Smashing Pumpkins records.  Let me clarify, thats how my bass came out on the recording.  Which also, pissed my guitar player off.  But , I think it does the tracks well.

YC: But you guys were basically a rock band.. 4 piece?

Bob: Yeah a standard 4 piece, 1 guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

YC: When you went there, were you hoping to run into Butch or anything?  did you know who your producer would be?

Bob: Oh I for sure was hoping to run into Butch, and hopefully Shirley Manson, I sort of had a crush on her back then.  We didn’t know who the engineer was when we booked. I still don’t know his name?  He wasn’t the most pleasant guy, until the session was done.  Haha, I think he was happy it over with!

YC: Were you guys obnoxious? ?  Like who would you compare your band to musically?  Are we talking the Germs, or Genesis?  Like did anyone wear a cape in the band?

Bob: Not obnoxious, stupid is a better word.  We were young and full of our selves.  Like asking for a fourth song, and for me, I think I kept taking mountain dews out of the fridge because I thought they were complimentary.  When we first arrived they treated us like we were rock stars.  So, I guess I thought I was. Another example was, the first time we met Butch, the guitar player and singer were out on the patio smoking pot like fucking dumbasses.  Butch walks out, super cool and was like, hows it going guys and then sits down and reads the paper.  We were just stupid.

YC: So you were kinda stoked because you were into Garbage at the time?  I remember liking Garbage, but not being like crazy about them.  I have a friend who was always into Shirley Manson.  Love of redheads ?

Bob: Ugh, that’s a tough question.  I think we were probably influenced my Stone temple pilots and sabbath.  Which Im not sure sounds like I would order that on a menu.  BTW, we were old.

YC: funny i don’t hear too many people say their main influences are STP. 

Bob: Yeah, I like Garbage and I think it was because, whoa Butch Vig is in a band, and with a hot chick!  So, I think it was more into her than the band.  They were super polished sounding, ya know.  I don’t either, but those brothers are amazing song writers and players!

YC: You’re saying you were old.. like how old were you guys at the time?

Bob: Yeah, i mean wasn’t it Butch and some other producer dudes and then Shirley?

YC: to me it just looked like these real adult men and this kinda hot chick

Bob: Not old, young.  Super green.  Maybe haven’t found out how to play and record the best young!  17 years old.

YC: Aha.. why’d you say “we were old” then? yeah i love STP.. that’s why even though Scott’s dead, there’s still STP but we’ll see how good their new stuff is with that new guy…it sounds ok so far to me…but anyway yeah.. Smart Studios…

Bob: I dont know man, I might of typed wrong.  Im old now!

YC: it is a bit late

Bob: Scott died about 20 miles from me, I remember when I heard that he OD’ed I nearly jumped in my car to go check out what happened because I was so close.

YC: holy fuck

Bob: Crazyness…Back to Smart

YC: i’m not editing that out btw…i hate editing

Bob: Thats fine, haha

YC: it’s all or nothing

Bob: fuck it

YC: anyway yeah, so did you use any stuff used by any of those famous bands then?  like a drum key at least? anything?? besides the toilet

Bob: It was a small enough studio, this was like a 3 bedroom condo type place.  Looks like a real shit hole from the outside.  But the inside was a $3million dollar set up.  It was beautiful.  So for the equipment, it was used by everyone, including us. I do remember we couldn’t afford to buy the tape, so we “rented” some tape, which meant we recorded over a band that had just got finished a record produced by Art Alexkakis from Everclear a few weeks prior.  Although I don’t remember the band off hand.  But I had to laugh, because even having a big name musician producer your album, you were to broke to buy the tape too!

YC: that’s really funny lol ..

Bob: To be fair, tape is expensive!

YC: yeah.. indeed

Bob: I think this was 2 inch tape

YC: i guess they didn’t want to get robbed…that’s a good technique

Bob: Yeah I suppose, I have the DAT masters, what would I do with 2 inch tape right now?

YC: i don’t know.. my buddy is getting into tape…give it to him…he’ll have a field day

Bob: I hope tape makes a come back, digital is not the same.  We all know that, im just going to say it anyway

YC: it’s true.. i know that now .. working on some tape shit here…but anyway, so there you guys were.. in Smart Studios, walking on the same carpet as my man Jimmy Chamberlin, and D’arcy, and James Iha, and Mr. Zero…did you feel any inkling that YOU might have been the next Everclear? i mean.. who knows!

Bob: yeah as you say that I get flash backs of walking around seeing all the gold records on the wall, or platinum . But, there those records I loved so much, on the wall.  Amazing!  I have a past with Everlcear, maybe that should be another interview.  But they played our local venue so often they became friends with my older musician buddies.  So, we were around them a lot.  But, I don’t know if I got the same feels from Knowing everclear made a record at smart vs. The pumpkins!

YC: yeah seems like you had some interesting bands in your area…i mean, Everclear did get pretty big at one point..they get played on the radio still

Bob: Like I mentioned we were on I90, in between Chicago and Minneapolis. and we were lucky enough to have an all ages club.

YC: what kind of studio gear did they have at Smart? ie. mixing board etc

Bob: So, big bands would play LaCrosse in between gigs in Minneapolis, Madison and Chichago.

YC: ah i get cha

Bob: The board in the main studio was a trident, had like 60 inputs and there was a harrison in the mixing studio.  It had automated faders, which I tought was amazing!  They typical mics, not sure about the preamps and effects, but there was probably 50-100 rack units.  I dont know if I felt comfortable to even get close to the board!  That alone was probably a million dollars.

YC: are you a gear guy?  you are, aren’t you?

Bob: I probably am, but I don’t remember at the time.

YC: so did you end up getting a really great sounding record out of it then? Norm’s Headache lol

Bob: It made us sound much bigger than we probably have ever sounded.  I think the sound was ok, not my favorite, I more of natural sound lover.  Mark Trombino is my guy, he has a very big, but natural sound.  I remember at one point Butch came in to give our engineer a hand on the snare.  I think what they eneded up doing was making trigger sounds, so they would sound the same for each hit.  In the end, it sounds a bit compressed.  The overall record I think sounds decent, I do love the bass sort of giving a fullness, maybe way too loud, sound!

YC: what kind of bass did you use?

Bob: I had a fender Jazz. But I used that on an ampeg SVT, which I think gives it that great sound.

YC: so that was your first record for you guys?

Bob: No, that was our 4th and last.  Smart was the best studio we recorded at.

YC: well i’d expect so with all that fancy gear…oh you guys had more material

Bob: yeah for sure!  I hope you can post a picture of what smart studios looks like from the road!

YC: i’ll google maps it

Bob: We had more tunes!

YC: so why’d you guys crash and burn? heroin?

Bob: Like most bands, 3/4 went to college and the 1/4 tried to make it work in other bands! Typical rock in roll story

YC: So it just kinda ended eh?

Bob: It totally did.  we played a few well received re-unions every year after for a few years.  There are talks about doing a reunion this next winter, maybe you should come to Wisconsin, Dave? Did I mention our van broke down on the way to Smart Studios?

YC: nope…and ya i could sing backups lol

Bob: Deal!  Yeah, this probably made us look young and stupid to them as well.  We missed our time by probably 2 hours. We were probably 30 minutes away when the drive shaft snapped off and sent us off the road.  I happened to be sleeping the bunk at the time, and man that was fucking scary.  Not at all similar to Clif Burton’s story.  We had to flag someone down, I think a cop finally showed up and called a tow truck.  He towed us to town, but would not stop at the studio first to drop off equipment.  So we had to walk our gear about a half a mile to the studio.

YC: shit…well good you didn’t roll over or anything

Bob: Yeah, I wouldve been toast

YC: so how long were you at the studio recording

Bob: I think we did two 12 hour days.

YC: so the weekend thing

Bob: It probably was a Tuesday Wednesday thing.

YC: ah. so it wasn’t the weekend dealy thing

Bob: It was for sure the deal, but I think it was a weekday?  I dont recall 23 years ago to well!

YC: that’s a pretty crazy schedule though. 

Bob: It really makes me wonder how much it cost to keep a studio going.  I mean, this buildings rent wasnt that high im guessing.  and they had major lable acts paying to record there?  So why have these cheap packages?

YC: who the hell knows eh

Bob: I can see why they are out of business now, digital sort of killed small studios.  by the way, have you seen the documentary?

YC: the Smart Studios Story? yeah actually, it’s great!

Bob: hm maybe we should post a link

YC: ya lots of studios went under around that time i suppose

Bob: I know its online somewhere

YC: i’ll find it

Bob: insert affliate link

YC: lol…yeah i’ll put it at the bottom of this post…ok kinda wrapping up here i guess…but one more potentially lengthy question / answer…what was the layout of the studio like..

Bob: The used every inch wisely.  When you walk in the door, you are in the tiny office.  There is the bathroom to the right, and short walk way to the main level control room.  There are also stairs to the second story mixing studio, lounge and kitchen. The control room connects to the isolation rooms, there was one large room for drums and such and 3 small iso booths for amps and such. Such big records were made in this small space, its kind of amazing to think about. The upstairs studio was another isolation area for mixing, it was decent size with nice cozy leather couches. They had this cool disc rack for all the albums that were recorded at the studio.  and you could listen to all them, that was cool.

YC: that is cool…so it was a house you said or like storefront or what

Bob: I believe it is a condo now.  So, it may have been before as well.  Its in a residential neighborhood., but also some small business are around as well.

YC: and it’s totally not there now you say?

Bob: Studio is gone, sadly.  But I have seen what looks like patio furniture and the looks of people living there. The building is still there.

YC: it’s been a while since those golden years

Bob: It has and im sure it makes a lot of people sad.

YC: ya.. i’m used to it around here.  pretty much every cool spot ever has closed

Bob: Oh no kidding?  That is awful, it’s a tough businesss

YC: ya for sure…well at least you got to record there…and you have the album to show for it inaccessibly locked away on a myspace account

Bob: For sure, it was a highlight of my youth…its waiting for a myspace comeback

YC: hope springs eternal

Bob: exactly

YC: ok cool, that’s a wrap!

BONUS: Watch the Smart Studios Story documentary if you get the chance.  Here’s a preview.

Or watch the whole Smart Studios Story on Amazon here

How To Pick The Best Headphones For Binaural Beats

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of listening to binaural beats for the purposes of enhanced meditation, improving creativity, focus, as well as productivity. 

Musical compositions featuring these types of healing frequencies can be extremely helpful to those who have trouble dealing with stress on a regular basis, or simply want to enhance their ability to do certain things.

Brainwave Entrainment

Brainwave entrainment is another phrase you may have heard in regards to binaural beats.

This is the method in which you can go about stimulating your brain so that it enters a specific state, using light, sound, or an electromagnetic field.

relaxation

Brainwave entrainment can be used to induce a wide range of states, including but not limited to relaxation, trance, enhanced focus, or sleep induction. 

It’s one thing to start listening to binaural beats music, it’s another thing to receive the full benefits of doing this type of meditative listening. 

What really stands in your way is the right set of headphones that are configured to suit such listening.  In other words, not just any set of headphones will do. 

That’s why, in this article, we want to talk about how to choose the perfect headphones for listening to binaural beats.

But first, we should mention that there are different types of frequency ranges that apply to binaural beats.  This is important so you know what you’re trying to stimulate and why.

Brainwave Frequency Ranges – The 5 Types

Before we get into what questions you should be asking yourself when purchasing the ideal headphones for binaural beats listening, let’s take a look at the frequency ranges of each type of brainwave, of which there are four: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. 

  • Delta: 0.1Hz to 3.9Hz
  • Theta: 4Hz to 7.9Hz
  • Alpha: 8Hz to 13.9Hz
  • Beta: 14Hz to 31.9Hz
  • Gamma: 32Hz to 100Hz


To find out more about what these waves can do to benefit you and how they might be properly stimulated, please read the following article:

https://youtubemusicsucks.com/brainwave-entrainment-binaural-beats-and-affecting-the-mind-through-music/

How To Listen To Binaural Beats – A Quick Guide

These are the four frequency ranges that we want to be in tune with, at various times during our meditation practice, and so it is very important that the quality of the binaural tones coming in through our headphones is actually going to be able to do what is intended to do. 

That means, the headphones need to be able to convey to our brains the sounds that will put us in the state we need to be in.  Here are some questions you need to ask yourself to be able to achieve this.

Question #1 – Is the sound quality “true”?

This term might be a bit confusing to non-audiophiles. 

By “true” sound quality, we mean that the sound you’re hearing is not overly manipulated by the headphones to sound any particular way other than the way that the music was intended. 

Many headphones are “optimized” for bass bumps, or to bring out certain characteristics in your music that the manufacturers think you might enjoy. 

So, a more lively sound, perhaps. 

What you want from a good pair of binaural headphones that can provide the full effect of binaural beats is very little interference between the music and your ears.  In other words, an “honest” sound. 

Since binaural beats are all about certain frequencies, if the headphones you are using attempt to mess with certain frequency ranges, then it will defeat the purpose of listening to the beats in the first place. 

The way to find these sets of headphones is to shop for higher end models. 

It doesn’t have to be the most expensive headphones on the market, but it should preferably be high enough quality that the phone manufacturers are after authentic audio quality. 

If you’re not sure, you should ask if the headphones you want have this feature, because it’s not always built-in.

Factor #2 – Are they comfy?

Because getting into the zone with binaural beats can take up 10, 20, 30 or even 60 minutes of dedicated listening in one sitting, you sure want to select a pair of headphones that feels as comfortable as possible. 

This is where the padding comes into play, and other design factors like how the headphones attach to your head. 

What do you do?  Simply try them on.  You will know when comparing several pairs of different headphones which ones are “the ones” just by putting on pair on, then trying another pair on. 

Just like shoes, clothes, or anything else that you’re going to be wearing.  The headphones you choose should be the equivalent of that pair of jeans you just LOVE wearing, as opposed to that pair that you own but you kind of don’t really like wearing. 

A great pair of headphones for the purpose of listening to binaural beats might almost feel like you’re not even wearing headphones at all (for some people), or maybe you prefer them to just feel a bit more snug on your head so that they don’t easily fall off. 

It is up to you how exactly you like your headphones to feel, but having them be comfortable for you specifically is all that matters.  Then you can really focus on the beats and get the full effect.

Question #3 – What brand is it?

So you can see by this point that you want a pair of headphones that gives you honest audio that are designed with comfort in mind.  So is it just that simple? 

Pretty much, but you should be aware of what brand it is, because certain brands are simply more well known for producing headphones that are ideal for listening to binaural beats moreso than others. 

These brands include Shure, Audio-Technica, Bose, Sony, AKG, Sennheiser, among others. 

Below you will find our article that should really point you in the right direction, as we have narrowed it down to 4 pairs of headphones which we consider to be the best all-around models to be used for listening to binaural beats. 

What Are the Benefits of Binaural Beats?

There are various reasons you might want to listen to binaural beats, and different frequency ranges are associated with unique benefits. 

For example, the theta range (3-8 Hz) has been shown to reduce anxiety. The beta range can boost your mood and reduce your feelings of depression. It can also decrease levels of tension and fatigue. 

Binaural beats can also help to improve focus and attention span. Gamma frequencies and beta frequencies have both been shown to improve sustained attention and focus. This is even the case for those with ADD or ADHD, disorders specifically surrounding the areas of mental focus. 

The theta range has also been demonstrated to improve your sleep quality, as well as your ability to reach deeper states of meditation during the meditation process. 

sleeping headphones

You can use binaural beats to improve your brain’s flexibility, a benefit to multi-tasking. Gamma frequencies show improvements in this area.

Binaural beats can even reduce your physical pain level, including pain levels of chronic pain sufferers, and has been used to relax pre-operative medical patients, as well as reduce their physical pain after operations or medical procedures. 

Our last example is the improvement of memory, both short-term and long-term, and can also improve your working memory, which is your ability to retain and recall several pieces of information at once. 

As you can see, there are many benefits to the world of binaural beats, providing you use the proper headphones, and follow directions when it comes to selecting the proper frequencies. 

You will also need to listen for the instructed period of time, uninterrupted, and may be required to listen every day for weeks or months on end. The results though may be life-changing!

We Review The Best Headphones for Binaural Beats

Here are some of the best headphones for binaural beats, according to our editors.

No, these are not the cheapest headphones on the market, but that’s to be expected when you’re doing something with this much refinement built into it.

Whether you want to listen to high quality audio files because these things matter to you, or you need a good pair of headphones for meditative purposes, this article will surely have you covered.

Feature Picks

Sennheiser Hd 202 Ii Professional Headphones (Black)

Buy On Amazon

Bose Soundlink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones Ii Black

Buy On Amazon

Sennheiser Hd 380 Pro Headphones

Buy On Amazon

Shure Se215-K Sound Isolating Earphones With Single Dynamic Microdriver

Buy On Amazon

Audio Technica Ath-M50X Headphones + Slappa Case

Buy On Amazon

Here are even more headphones that are great for all around listening, but can also be adapted to brainwave entrainment.

Bose SoundLink Headphones

The Bose SoundLink are also wireless headphones. They will let you go from a Bluetooth device to another using ear cup button controls. These headphones have 15 hours of battery life, so they’re pretty handy when it comes to being portable and allowing you to perform brainwave entrainment on the go, or even in nature.

Pros:

  • Impact-resistant and will not break or be damaged easily or quickly
  • Streamlined Microphone Feature

Cons:

  • Keypad function diminishes as the headphones lose power

Sennheiser HD 202-II

These headphones extremely comfortable to wear, even during long listening sessions, thanks to their featherweight design. Therefore, they are the ideal partner of binaural beats lovers.

The HD 202-II is equipped with a good insulation against ambient noise. It also offers a rich and precise reproduction with a solid bass. Robust while being very light, it can be used on mobile sources and on mini-chains.

The Pros:

  • Hi-Fi stereo headphones, closed and supra aural;
  • Ideal for mobile sources and mini home stereo systems;
  • Good attenuation of ambient noise;
  • The auricles can be detached from the hoop;
  • Membranes made of lightweight material, with a “turbine” effect boss in the extreme bass;
  • High performance and powerful bass, for modern musical styles with marked rhythms;
  • Clings to the belt: A retractable device adjusts the length of the cable for mobile use;
  • Robust construction, very flexible hoop;
  • OFC copper cable, high conductivity, length 3 meters;
  • The ear cushions can be replaced.

The Cons:

  • The hoop looks fragile;
  • Both headphones are wired;
  • Heats the ears a little (however, they are still comfortable to wear)

Read our full review of the Sennheiser HD 202 II Pro Headphones


iPod/iPhone Earbuds

You might not be sure that the earbuds can work for this purpose, but some of them can. For example, the ones used with iPods and iPhones give a great sound quality. They will work pretty well with binaural beats, especially the ones that come with the new iPhone 7 or 8.

You should keep in mind that one of the things to take into consideration when investing in a headphone or earbud is comfortability. Therefore, if you find headphones more comfortable, do not use earbuds for binaural beats music.


Shure SE-425V Earbuds

If you want to go better than standard iPhone/iPod phones but still want earbuds, treat yourself to some Shure, like the superb Sure SE-425V.  These earbuds, when compared to the last pair, are in a whole other class. 

That said, they don’t come with an Apple iPhone.  Hence the price.  Still, if you are looking at going for high caliber ear buds, these come highly recommended by us.

Pros:

  • Different sizes of earplugs, you can choose the one that fits you
  • Detachable, can be used wireless

Cons:

  • Very pricy (estimated at $269)

AKG Pro Audio K240 MK 2 Studio Headphones

If you have more money to invest in your pair of headphones but you dislike the idea of having a fully enclosed sound – maybe you have kids to watch or you use your headphones when you are walking around the city or simply do not like being completely cut off, then choose the AKG Pro Audio K240 MK 2. 

Fans of these headphones tend to think that the price is right, and also these are extremely comfortable, which makes them perfect for meditation or studying for longer periods of time.

Pros:

  • Detachable earplugs
  • Long cable (3m)
  • 15 – 25000 Hz

Cons:

  • Unnatural treble

AKG Y50

Unlike some brands that focus almost only on the design, our German friends are known for the quality of their products. It is rare not to see the logo of the AKG brand in the studio or on stage.

Although the construction may initially seem puny, they are actually quite robust. A band with discrete patterns surrounds each headset; the hinges are thin, but strong.

The Y50 has can be taken out to festivals or for travels, it is robust enough. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the paint, which will be damaged at great speed.

Therefore, to preserve its exemplary finish, think of putting it systematically back into the protective cover provided.

The Pros:

  • They are comfortable to wear;
  • The design is nice;
  • Solid headphones;
  • Impeccable finish;
  • They procure a good insulation;
  • Good stereo width and power.

The Cons:

  • Incomplete remote control;
  • The painting is fragile;
  • Unbalanced curve;
  • Lack of treble, precision and depth.

Sony Premium Noise Canceling Headphones

This awesome wireless set of headphones can let you listen to binaural beats music freely, without carrying your laptop, phone or tablet with you all the time. It is also possible to connect it to your device using the provided cable.

The 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz range means a great audio quality for all brainwave types.  Yes, these are one of the more higher priced headphones on this list, but you definitely get what you pay for with these, which is to say a superior model than most by far! 

If you want to get headphones mainly for binaural beats, then these headphones will be like a gift

Pros:

  • Touch-sensor controls will allow you to adjust your listening experience from the headphones themselves
  • Quick Attention Mode button to lower the volume temporarily
  • You can adapt the sound control and modify the noise-canceling feature according to the ambient noise levels

Cons:

  • These headphones’ price is rather high
  • The Touch keypad can be too sensitive and this will lead to accidental modifications

Beyerdynamic Amiron

Feature Pick

Beyerdynamic Amiron Home High-End Stereo Headphone

Buy On Amazon

The integration of wireless connection to the Beyerdynamic Amiron brings many new features.

Firstly, the communication via Bluetooth 4.2 with many compatible codecs (aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, aptX, AAC and SBC), an internal conversion in 48 kHz/ 24 bits and a touch control panel present on the right headset.

Although it is wireless, the Amiron Wireless can be used wired via its connector and its 3.5 mm mini-jack cable.

The cable also has a control button and a microphone.

You can charge the headset via the USB cable C provided, and the autonomy is announced at more than 30 hours, which is rather generous.

The Pros:

  • The helmet is light enough;
  • The materials used do not provide a feeling of warmth or perspiration, even on long sessions;
  • Accuracy of highs, balancing mediums and the bass (neither too much nor too little);

The Cons:

  • The semi-rigid shell;
  • The cable jack and the headphones are in plastic;
  • Open Headset (use them in a calm environment);
  • The sound level may be too low and the bandwidth more narrow with a tablet.

PWOW Wired Earphones

Feature Pick

In Ear Headphones, Pwow Wired Earphones Iphone

Buy On Amazon

Earbuds can also be perfect to listen to binaural beats. They are easily transportable in a handbag or in your pocket, unlike headphones. The PWOW Wired earphones are extremely comfortable to wear and give a great sound.

The Pros

  • Anti-winding line;
  • The design is great;
  • Very comfortable to wear;
  • A control button for hands-free use;
  • Buttons to switch songs and to stop and play the music.
  • Volume control buttons

The Cons

  • 3.5mm Jack Ideal for electronic devices with 3.5 mm interface, although it can work fine with some other interfaces.

Closed Vs. Open Back Headphones

Closed back headphones are the way to go for binaural listening, because their purpose is to have little to no ambient noise leaking in from the outside, while open back headphones do let in some noise. 

With closed back headphones, the exterior noise is blocked out, including certain frequency ranges that will interfere with your listening experience with the binaural beats. 

Many audio professionals such as studio producers or DJs use this type of headphones, as they give a much better concentration and block the intrusion of ambient noise distractions.

This isn’t to say that open back headphones are never the way to go, but, in general, we believe they are not the way to go for these purposes. 

We want the frequencies to come out of the headphones and be delivered to your brain fully so that you can receive the maximum benefit of the binaural beats, so it’s only logical that we go with closed back headphones.

Open Back Option 1 (Circumaural) Vs. Open Back Option 2 (Supra-aural)

What’s the difference between these two sub-types of headphones? 

Circumaural (over ear) headphones are large round headphones that fit comfortably around your ears, while supra-aural (on ear) headphones are usually smaller, less comfortable to wear, and do not seal in the sound, allowing for more external noise. 

As such, you can imagine which ones we’re going to recommend here, right? 

Yes, the circumaural type of open back headphone is the desired choice, because a) it’s more comfortable and b) it blocks out more external noise. 

When it comes to binaural beats and concentration, they are really the only way to go.

Minimal Enhancement

There are some good headphones out there which tend to modify or improve the sound of what your listening to, based on research which has been done in relation to what your average listener wants to hear.

That is great when it comes to normal music. However, for binaural beats, the least they are interfered with, the better. That is why you should pick a headphone with minimal enhancement.

In Ear Binaural Headphones

When we talk about in-ear binaural headphones, we are simply referring to earbuds, or headphones that go inside of the ear instead of around the entire ear.

Much like any other style of headphone, not all in-ear headphones are binaural – but some are! A few examples of the best earbuds to be used for binaural beats include the Roland CS-10EM, the MM-BSM-8, or the MS-TFB-2. 

Certain earbuds will do the job just fine, but you need to be wary, as they are less desirable overall for this purpose we are discussing than the open back headphone options we have been discussing. 

The reason being, your average earbuds tend to be cheaper on the whole, and simply not up to the task of conveying the audio needed to get into the meditative state.  Other earbuds don’t stay in your ear properly, and so that’s not good either. 

binaural earbuds

That said, not all ear buds are created equal.  If you are willing to spend a little more, you can get yourself a great pair of earbuds that will do the trick when it comes to binaural beats, such as a model we really like by Shure, the SE-425V. 

One advantage of earbuds is that they’re much better for if you are on the move, and say you want to jog to the park and do your meditation under a tree.  Then earbuds like these might be your preferred model of headphones to purchase.

Is it Safe to Listen to Binaural Beats?

Having said all of this, we must address safety.  Once in a while, we’ve heard the question, “Is it safe to listen to binaural beats?”

The answer is usually yes, however some people may fall into higher risk categories, where there could be certain dangers they should be aware of when considering brain entrainment through binaural beats. 

A seizure is an example of brain entrainment with obviously a negative and undesired effect on the body.

People with epilepsy are at higher risk of seizures and should be cautious when considering binaural beats, which may be therapeutic or beneficial to most, but not to everyone or all of the time.  

relaxing music

Other people who are at higher risk of sustaining negative results would be pregnant women, as certain frequencies could induce early labour; children, whose brains are not yet fully developed and who are at higher risk of seizure from certain brain entrainments; those with heart conditions and pacemakers, as binaural beats can affect your heart beat; people with schizophrenia or certain psychological disorders. 

Even if binaural beats do not pose a threat to you personally, it is inadvisable to operate a vehicle or machinery while listening. 

These are important precautions surrounding the use of binaural beats, however for most people the effects are entirely positive and not dangerous. 

Conclusion

Wrapping up, if you are willing to spend say around $50 for a pair of headphones, this is the price range that you will probably want to be spending to get something of quality that should suit the purpose.  Of course, that is probably the bare minimum as these types of headphones can be audiophile-level and mega expensive.

At the same time, make sure to consider what we’ve mentioned above when it comes to getting the right headphones.  Are they comfortable for you?  Is the sound honest? 

Do the headphones transmit the correct frequencies in order that we can hear the right frequencies? 

When in doubt, ask questions, and be sure to get exactly what you want so that you can enjoy the most benefits from listening to binaural beats.