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Bootlegs ahoy
September 25, 2009 3:18 AM   Subscribe

I don't know how these people got their fairly decent recording devices into a bunch of gigs... but I can guess why.

...and I'm pretty sure I was at that Church gig...
posted by pompomtom (34 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
SBD = soundboard = recording straight from the mixing desk = These aren't being done by regular punters
posted by cillit bang at 3:31 AM on September 25, 2009


Another comprehensive blog: The Ultimate Bootleg Experience

I also just realized that John Lee Hooker is what Dr. Dre will look like in 30 years.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:39 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can do pretty good recordings without access to the soundboard.

The best way I know is to DIY a microphone using small Panasonic electret capsules. You modify the capsules, this is called the "linkwitz mod", and build a small battery-powered microphone amp. The electret capsules are tiny, and you can put them on the frame of your eyeglasses or on headphones, or put them in well-crafted dwarven jewellery menacing with spikes of flint.

The capsules cost $2 last time I looked. The amplifier probably costs under $20. The capsules sound great and have crazy maximum power handling, you can record 134dB levels easy, more if you cherry-pick and tweak. 134dB is about what you get when/if you stand 50 feet behind a jet plane blasting the engines. Noise floor is 36dB or better (quite good!).

One implementation link of many: http://phreakmonkey.com/projects/monkeyphones/
There are some sample recordings down on the page but they're not loading for me right now. But the sound quality is simply excellent.
posted by krilli at 4:19 AM on September 25, 2009 [24 favorites]


Gah. I keep hoping that the next site will have a soundboard of SRV's Alpine Valley concert, and it keeps not happening.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:53 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


SBD = soundboard = recording straight from the mixing desk = These aren't being done by regular punters
posted by cillit bang at 6:31 AM on September 25 [+] [!] [quote]


Does this imply that the bootlegs are being made by employees/engineers of the band or venue?

One implementation link of many: http://phreakmonkey.com/projects/monkeyphones/
There are some sample recordings down on the page but they're not loading for me right now. But the sound quality is simply excellent.
posted by krilli at 7:19 AM on September 25


That is awesome.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:59 AM on September 25, 2009


Does this imply that the bootlegs are being made by employees/engineers of the band or venue?

Not necessarily. Many years ago I asked nicely and was allowed to record a small band at the soundboard/PA system. It turned out like crap though (as I sort of expected), because at that small venue the drums and guitars were not really run through the board, since they were plenty loud already. I think mostly they were in the mix by getting in through the vocal mics.
posted by exogenous at 6:03 AM on September 25, 2009


From krilli's monkyphone link: The stereo seperation is good enough that you can even clearly "feel" me walking from the bar to the center of the venue during the first 20 seconds of the first track.

So, a DIY binaural recording device for less than $30? That's pretty sweet! I wish I was better with this type of project...

anyone want to make me a pair?
posted by malocchio at 6:27 AM on September 25, 2009


made by employees/engineers of the band or venue?

No, it implies that the sound guy let somebody do what's called "patching in," where you're essentially connecting to the output signal (kinda' like listening to your stereo through the speakers and the headphones at the same time).

The best way I know is to DIY a microphone using small Panasonic electret capsules.

These are called binaurals because the position of the mics is generally near your ears (because they're so small, you can typically clip them on to a pair of glasses without anyone being the wiser). The good part with binaurals is that the separation in sound creates extremely realistic "you-are-there" recordings, the bad part is that you can really only appreciate it when you're listening through headphones. It's cool, though… it almost sounds like 3D music.

Back in my taper-days, The Sound Professionals were the guys to go to for well-designed binaurals.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:28 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


malocchio, I'd do it for science but I don't have time. There are builders out there (ad-hoc contractors) in various DIY forums. I don't know of anyone that specifically builds these.

Civil_Disobedient, do you know if there exists a mastering process that adapts binaural recordings to speaker reproduction?
posted by krilli at 6:32 AM on September 25, 2009


Does this imply that the bootlegs are being made by employees/engineers of the band or venue?

There are some bands who explicitly allow taping and distribution of their shows. Some also allow soundboard recordings, some don't. That means if you have the equipment and talk nicely to the sound guys, they may allow you to patch in.
posted by threeturtles at 6:44 AM on September 25, 2009


Well, there goes the weekend. Thanks for posting this. You, too, Joe Beese.
posted by pasici at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2009


Freaking nice! My ipod is getting an overhaul.
posted by Brodiggitty at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2009


They use RapidShare for distribution? Why not just put them on archive.org's etree?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:27 AM on September 25, 2009


middleclasstool: captaincrawl.com is your friend.

There's a lot of stuff it doesn't index, but for your more popular search items, it does pretty well.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:28 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dang, I pasted the wrong link. This one works.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


do you know if there exists a mastering process that adapts binaural recordings to speaker reproduction?


Binaural recordings will play back on speakers, but are best experienced in headphones. Think of it as the difference between eating a steak while jogging vs sitting at a table. Both are possible, one is preferable.
posted by dubold at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2009


Why not just put them on archive.org's etree?

*ⓒough*
posted by exogenous at 8:35 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


A lot of these music blogs use Rapidshare for their file hosting. Apparently, they just made a policy change- deleting files after 90 days of inactivity - that means that for example Quality Bootz, who has 3.5 TB on there, will start seeing older files deleted. So it's definitely time to grab from those archives.

I'm kind of scared to link these, because who knows what kind of thing will result in a takedown order- and these music blogs get taken down all the damned time- but another couple of lovely bootleg sites are Dino and Princess, live and lossless, and one I found just the other day that blows my mind: Nathan's Rock Moat, who as far as I can tell from scrolling through my rss reader, posted something like 500 things in the last couple of months.

I have no idea how that works- did he even listen to them? Because he's not very good about mentioning quality, and it varies a lot. But hey, god bless the internet for it anyway.
posted by hap_hazard at 9:11 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


do you know if there exists a mastering process that adapts binaural recordings to speaker reproduction?

As dubold so eloquently put it, a binaural recording will play fine on normal speakers. You just lose the "3D" feeling. Kind-of like how you can hang up a Magic Eye picture on your wall and still enjoy the lines and dots (but miss out on the autostereogram aspect of the work).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:11 AM on September 25, 2009


OK, maybe you kids can explain something to this old fogey: why does some music sound like it's coming from inside my head when I listen to it with earbuds? I mean, like the source of the music is actually inside my skull. (Is this what binaural means?)

How does it work? How does it fool my ears and brain? Small simple words, please. Thank you.
posted by Quietgal at 9:26 AM on September 25, 2009


If you're looking for bootlegs with some retention, dime a dozen is a lossless torrent tracking site, but they don't allow tracking of songs that have been commercially released, or from certain artists or venues (based on statements from respective parties about bootlegging shows or studio out-takes). They also have some users who mix audience and soundboard recordings for more "accurate" shows, often (incorrectly) referred to as matrix mixes (scroll down past Advanced Recording Techniques). This About.com page has more details on various recording methods for live shows.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:37 AM on September 25, 2009


Quietgal - the shape of one's head, the earlobes, room reflections all contribute to give you some directional info when you're listening to recorded music over speakers. When you use earbuds, you've bypassed all that. Hence that "inside the head" feeling.

This is the reason binaural recordings can sound so good in earphones or buds; if done right, the recordings capture some of that head and ear-related processing.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:40 AM on September 25, 2009


Binaural is a specific recording method, as described in Civil_Disobedient's wikipedia link:
A typical binaural recording unit has two high-fidelity microphones mounted in a dummy head, inset in ear-shaped molds to fully capture all of the audio frequency adjustments (known as head-related transfer functions (HRTFs) in the psychoacoustic research community) that happen naturally as sound wraps around the human head and is "shaped" by the form of the outer and inner ear.

Conventional stereo recordings do not factor in natural ear spacing or "head-shadow" of the head and ears, since these things happen naturally as a person listens, generating their own ITDs (interaural time differences) and ILDs (interaural level differences).
Beyond Artful Codger's explanation, I'd assume earbuds sound like the music is "in your head" because all you hear is the music, no outside sound (if they fit well, or you really blast the music, which is no good for long-term hearing).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:44 AM on September 25, 2009


It isn't just the earbuds - older recordings sound normal, like the music is coming from just outside my ears. It's only newer music (say, less than 10 years old but don't hold me to this number) that sounds like it's coming from between my ears, rather than outside them.

I don't blast the music, it's usually quiet enough that I can hear some ambient sounds. Also, I've never found a pair of earbuds that fit very well - they always start hurting after about half an hour or so.

The Wikipedia article makes it sound like binaural recording is a super-realistic type of stereo, where sounds appear to come from their normal/actual/expected location in the real 3D world. (Did I understand that right?)

What I'm talking about might be explained something like this: right ear says "sound comes from left side". Left ear says, "No, sound comes from right side". Brain says, "OK, split the difference - sound comes from in between two ears".

Am I just a freak? Does anybody else experience this?
posted by Quietgal at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2009


As part of my website, Owl and Bear, I run the Wilco Archive, a comprehensive collection of lossless live Wilco shows. New shows are posted regularly to the blog.

We also have an archive of non-Wilco shows. We post a new show approx. once a week on the blog.
posted by owl at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Quietgal: No, you're not a freak. The headphone effect is a long-known psychological phenomenon. It has to do with stereo mixing and the delicate nature of creating a balanced sound out of two speakers. You can actually achieve the same effect, albeit weaker, if you stand at the perfect stereo point of two speakers playing very loudly aimed directly at each other.

The brain develops the capacity to tell the direction of a given sound in 3D space during infancy, which is a different bit of learning / wiring for each person but achieves the same end result. That being, you know if a book has been dropped on the floor out of your vision behind you to the left because of how the sound waves hit your different ears at different times etc. Because this learning is individual, each person experiences binaural recordings (which, as has been discussed, is not a normal stereo mix of sound) in a slightly different way and it is nearly impossible to make a Guaranteed Money-Back True 3D Sound Experience recording which works for 100% of the population.

Headphones create the effect of the sound coming from inside your head because most stereo recordings don't carry the actual spatial sound information your brain has learned, but instead have a fully artificial soundscape which your brain tries to interpret as best it can. The effect can be downright stunning with its painting of 3D artificial soundspace, or it can fall flat on your ears. This is because of the intersection of the engineering of that particular recording combined with your own brain's method of sound interpretation. Specifically, sounds which are equally loud in both speakers will sound like they are centered, and panning is (obviously) created by varying this balance of volume. Add in some sophisticated echo effects, and you can find yourself hearing a guitar coming from your left-center with a slight bit of reverb all around you to give it a sense of physical presence. Or you can experience a well-balanced choir singing in front of you (with a panorama of individual voices within that mass of sound), and experience auditory "room size" based on the actual bounce-back caused by the voices. (Two excellent examples of this: Kanon Pokajanen by Arvo Pärt, and the big choral finale in the original recording of Chess, both of which really give the listener the impression of the physical space the choirs were recorded in.)

Pearl Jam played around with a binaural microphone on their album Binaural (how appropriate), and the one or two tracks they actually recorded using the head-shaped device have a presence in headphones which is mindblowing.
posted by hippybear at 10:43 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


They use RapidShare for distribution? Why not just put them on archive.org's etree?

They are strictly legal in that they need a message from the artist or their management agreeing that it's OK to post live concerts.
posted by smackfu at 12:12 PM on September 25, 2009


AMC/Eitzel is one of my favorite bands...thanks for the hookup!
posted by black8 at 12:26 PM on September 25, 2009


Rapidshare sucks.
posted by lalochezia at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2009


Quietgal: It is sorta like if you listen to a sound that comes out of both the left and right speaker on a stereo, it sounds like it is coming from a point in the middle of the two speakers. It doesn't sound like the same sound is coming from the left and the right, it sounds like it is coming from the middle. With earbuds and a normal recording, it is the same way. Pretty much equal sound coming from both the left and the right, but you don't perceive it as a left sound and a right sound. You perceive it coming from in between. And the point between the earbuds is the center of your head.
posted by hellphish at 4:42 PM on September 25, 2009


This is awesome, thank you.
posted by djgh at 6:43 PM on September 25, 2009


Hippybear, thanks for the explanation. Can I conclude that any music which sounds like it's inside my head is a binaural recording? It's such a cool effect and I was wondering why older recordings don't do that.

Just for the record, I think I am a freak after all. I don't remember hearing anything that sounded like the choir is out there in front of me, or the orchestra is all around me, or the band is to my left. It's either coming from my earbuds - i.e., just outside my eardrums - or it's inside my skull. I don't see those Magic Eye pictures the way other people do, either. I need a cortical upgrade.
posted by Quietgal at 7:49 PM on September 25, 2009


Can I conclude that any music which sounds like it's inside my head is a binaural recording?

Actually, that would be a hallmark of a NON-binaural recording. Because the nature of a true binaural recording is that it mimics the placement and aural qualities of the human ear, and creates a soundscape which close to having live sound happening around you. The Pearl Jam tracks I mention earlier give you the sensation of sitting in the middle of the recording studio with the band playing in a circle around you. That's significantly different from having noises coming from between your ears.
posted by hippybear at 9:20 AM on September 26, 2009


Actually, that would be a hallmark of a NON-binaural recording.

Right. All mono recordings played on a stereo output will sound as if they are being played from a single speaker (mono output) positioned exactly between the stereo speakers. A mono audio stream on your TV's speakers will give the illusion of sound coming from the center of the screen; a mono audio stream on your headphones will give the illusion of the sound coming from inside your head.

Headphones, however, introduce a problem that isn't there with speakers: Each ear only hears one channel. With speakers, both ears are getting input from both the left and right channels. (Bad analogy: Imagine that the music you're listening to is a couch, and that your ears are two moving guys, and that to listen to the music they have to move that couch. With speakers, each guy picks up one end and they get to work. If they have to go up or down stairs one of them will be carrying more or less of the weight, and if it's flat, they have an equal load. At no point is one's job not related to the other's. With headphones, they take a chainsaw to the couch, pick up one half each, one takes the moving van and the other hoofs it.)

When mastering a recording for release, the engineer should take into account the equipment on which it will be listened. A very wide mix (where each instrument or voice is biased heavily to the left or to the right) will bother people listening on headphones, while a very narrow mix (sounds are coming through each speaker at a more equal level) will not create an effective soundstage and will sound the same as mono on anything but headphones. Most things now are mixed in-between; that is, not too wide to listen to comfortably on headphones, not too narrow to negate the reasons for listening to it on a hi-fi.

One of those problems is worse than the other. A narrow mix on speakers just sounds bland, while a wide mix on headphones is unlistenable. I recently downloaded a podcast to listen to on my way to work. I listened to a bit on my computer's speakers to check it out and it sounded fine. But on my headphones, it was terrible. One voice was waaaaaaaaaay over to the left, and one was waaaaaaaaaay over to the right. It was like sitting between two people at a dinner party having a conversation with each other, only I couldn't turn my head. The podcast was clearly not mixed on headphones, or even with them in mind, and it suffered for it.

And if you want something that sounds like it's coming from everywhere and nowhere at once, listen to any of the "out of phase" samples here.
posted by clorox at 1:45 AM on September 30, 2009


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