Zoom H2

One of the things I would be doing if I weren’t writing this is
editing the recording of the rehearsal yesterday which we made
on my

It’s one of the digital gadgets that really changes the way I
work as a musician. I’ve had other recording devices before, but
nothing that made it as easy to just record a rehearsal and pull
out the useful parts.

I use the microphone handle adaptor in a microphone stand.
This is because someone told me once that the right way to record
recorders was to get the microphone as high up as possible, and my
stand can be set up pretty high. When it isn’t convenient to lug
the microphone stand somewhere, I just use the little tabletop
adaptor, which fits in the case I use for the recorder. I’m told
that the thread for a lampshade harp also works, but that didn’t
seem to be the case for the one I just tried..

For rehearsals, I don’t use a super-high resolution recording
setting, but I do use wav instead of mp3. I have 4G and 2G SD
cards which I alternate. Then I just turn the recorder on at the
beginning of rehearsal and turn it off at the end.

When I take the card up to my computer, I copy the file(s) into a
directory and fire up audacity. It’s
easy to see where the different songs stop and start, so I just
take the best (hopefully the last) take on each song and export it
as an MP3. Then I email the other people who rehearsed the link
to where the MP3’s are, and everybody can listen and see what they
need to work on.


So I lied…

When I said it was the last
about setting up the new home theater system.

I didn’t know how big of a pain setting up an entry-level
audiophile turntable was going to be.

tonearm with tracking weight and anti-skate mechanism

The directions were both badly written (e.g., referring to the
same piece of hardware as a “scale”, a “stub”, and a “prong”)
and badly illustrated (the only picture was a top view, so
identifying anything sticking up from the turntable was
difficult). They started from the point of view that you knew
what you were trying to do, which in my case was true only in a
very general sense. And there was at least one place where they
were actively wrong (telling you to turn the counterweight
counterclockwise when it should have been clockwise).

I found two things that helped a lot:

  • Putting a strong light on the area made it a lot easier to
    put the small loop in the very thin monofilament nylon thread
    that held the antiskating weight over the stub.
  • Reading this
    was helpful in figuring out what the adjustments were

In any case, once I finally got the Cartridge Downforce
Adjustment correct, the antiskating part worked much better than
I would have guessed from what that tonearm was trying to do
when it was flying all over the place with the wrong weight on
the end.

I’m writing this in the hope that if someone else tries to set
up a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable and gets as frustrated as I
was, google will show them this page and they will see that there is hope.


Ordered the turntable

I wrote about wanting
to digitize all my LP’s
, and what I was thinking of buying
to do it.

When I actually went to order a turntable, I was somewhat
surprised to realize that there was a wide gap between what was
being marketed to the teenage “let’s go over to your mom’s
basement and listen to some records” market and the audiophile
“lets compare these three cartridges with different weighted
tone arms” market, with very little in between. And looking at
what was in between reminded me very strongly that I’ve bought
two turntables in my life, and both of them are dead.

I realized that I don’t need to pay for more hardware that
knows how to digitize sound, because I already have soundcards
of a sort in all my computers, and a very good, special purpose
but quite usable for this application, soundcard in my Zoom
. (I should tell you about it, but that’s another

The item I was expecting to order in the post referenced above
includes speakers, which means it would take up too much space
on my bookshelves which already have lots of much better
speakers on them.

So in the end, I went for a low-end audiophile
system. I pored over the needledoctor site, and
ended up ordering the Pro-Ject
Debut III Turntable in Basic Black
. It will be
upgradeable if I decide I want to be more audiophile, and
probably won’t break in quite the same way as my two consumer
turntables did. Another connector tax on the new audio system
was that I had to buy a preamp.
I’ll have to spend some more money if I decide I like digitizing
vinyl enough to get into 78’s, but I won’t need more space on my

I’ll let you know how much I end up using it.


How I like the surround sound

I promised to stop talking about the setup, so I won’t tell you
about the set of cables I just ordered from monoprice.com. Except to
mention that the solution to not having enough TOSLink sockets
is to get a TOSLink
And that I’m still insecure on round 4 of ordering
cables whether I have enough of the right kind.

But I have had a chance to listen to a fair number of different
programs in surround sound, so I’ll tell you about what I’m
getting for the several hundred dollars I spent.

For just music recorded in stereo, it doesn’t really get you
much. The music still comes out of the stereo speakers, which
are still in the same place and the same quality.

For programs like movies and TV shows, it really does
make a difference, though, because the dialog is coming out of
the center channel, and the background music is coming out of
the other speakers, so it really does come through as
background, and doesn’t make the dialog hard to understand.

The FM radio is by default pushed through all the speakers, and
that’s a bit of a disadvantage for the way I use the radio,
because I have the volume down in the living room because of 5
speakers instead of two, but then when I go into the kitchen it
isn’t loud enough to hear.

And the sports programs really are a bit more exciting when you
feel surrounded by the crowd noise. I thought that was a bit
hokey when I first heard it, but now I miss it if I hit a
program like that which isn’t in surround.

I still haven’t listened to a real music DVD that’s been mixed
for surround sound. I moved the Werner Herzog Lohengrin up on
my Netflix queue, so I’ll let you know how that worked out.
There’s also a blu-ray Lohengrin, but I want to see what Herzog
does with it. I’ll tell you some time about the live production I saw
once — it’s an opera that needs a stage director.

Last post about setting up the new home theater

Not that I mightn’t complain about the new home theater, but I
now consider it set up, so future posts will be about interface
inadequacy or something.

I decided to stop plugging things in and out until the new DVI
cables arrived, and set up the disk player with a regular stereo
connection, and used the TOSLink cable to link the cable box to
the receiver.

This morning all the HDMI cables arrived, and it turns out that
even with all the equipment in front of me and turned around so I
could see the back, I had ordered the wrong cables.

Cable TV

I could have sworn I saw an HDMI socket on the back of the
cable box, but it isn’t there now. So I have connected the cable
box with the composite video cables and the TOSLink audio to the
receiver. This is on AV1, which is the input that’s selected when
you push the “TV” button on the receiver.

Broadcast TV

I don’t currently watch this much, but if I were to downgrade
my cable, or if there were a really good audio program on one of
the broadcast channels that’s not in HD on the cable box, I would
like the option of watching via broadcast. Right now that audio
isn’t hooked up, so I can only listen through the TV speakers; if
I get another TOSLink cable I’ll be able to hook that to the
receiver and listen to it from whatever other input has the
digital audio connection.


The new Blu-Ray DVD player with the network connection was a
pain in the neck when I didn’t have the two HDMI cables, but “just
works” when you’ve connected it via HDMI to the receiver. I don’t
have a Blu-Ray disk to test, but the surround sound was working
fine with the DVD I played.


This I haven’t tested, but it’s hooked up to the receiver via a
DVI-HDMI cable and a regular stereo audio cable. I don’t know how
much I’ll be using this for, since the DVD player will play
netflix watch now and youtube (untested). The firewire cable I
ordered turns out to be the wrong kind, so I can’t test what
channels the cable box is putting out on firewire.

Not really done yet

So I still have to buy some more cables, and set up the fancy
remote control to know about the new equipment, and tell netflix
to send me blu-ray disks and run the program that sets up the
receiver based on putting a microphone in your listening
location. But it’s definitely ready to start giving demos.

Hooking up surround sound, part two

When I left this
yesterday at this time, I had two main problems:

  • How to connect the subwoofer? This turned out to be pretty
    easy. The connection labeled “subwoofer” on the new receiver is
    just an RCA cable, and should go to the connection labeled “from
    mono out” on the subwoofer, which I hadn’t been using so I’d
    forgotten about it. So the real problem was finding an RCA
    cable long enough and realizing that I needed to flip the switch
    to tell the subwoofer it was connected via the RCA cable and not
    the speaker wires.
  • How to connect the TV set to the receiver so that surround
    sound comes out of the TV and into the receiver? This turned
    out to be very complicated.

I had what I thought were several of the right kind of cable,
but they all turned out to be TOS-Link to Mini-TOS-link, and I
needed a TOS-link to TOS-link cable. I bought one at
MicroCenter on my way to my recorder lesson last night, and
hooked it up this morning. This led to lots of playing with
options on all kinds of devices. The bottom line is:

  • I get surround sound on Broadcast TV.
  • I get stereo on Cable TV.
  • I get stereo from the shiny new disk player.

I have checked with expert opinion, and the consensus is that
the TV set is behaving badly, and I shouldn’t depend on it to
pass through audio that it’s given from external devices.

So the upshot is that I’ve ordered several more HDMI cables
from monoprice, and when
they come, I will hook everything up through the receiver and
have it handle all the sound.

So unless broadcast TV plays something good, I still won’t be
able to tell you how I like surround sound until I get my new

Note that I haven’t addressed the issue of connecting the
computer, and I haven’t even started setting up the remote

So if you’re thinking this is a small project, at least order
enough HDMI cables with your receiver. Maybe it would all “just
work” if I had done that.

Setting up the new surround sound system

The audio stuff mostly came yesterday. Of course, on Tuesdays
I don’t have time to play with new toys, and I suspected that
starting to play with this would leave the living room
discombobulated and I need to be able to have people there on
Tuesday night. So I just unpacked the boxes and put things
roughly where they’re going to go and left it for later.

Another issue is that the speaker cable I ordered with the new
toys isn’t coming tomorrow.

But setting up my new toys was what I really wanted to do, and it paralyzed me in
terms of thinking up something else to write about here this
morning, so I decided to go see if I had speaker cable in the
audio cables box, and of course I did.

So I bit the bullet and unplugged everything from the old
receiver and put the new receiver up and started plugging things
in. Getting the two existing speakers and the radio antennas
plugged in and getting stereo radio was trivial.

Plugging in the three (center and 2 surround) new speakers
turned out to be pretty easy, and now the sound from the radio
was coming out of five speakers.

It was easier after I discovered that you can actually see the
hole you need to put the speaker wire through if you put the
speaker on its face, instead of trying to wire it in place. I’m
not sure who came up with the idea of connecting speakers to
speaker wire by threading the wire through an invisible hole. I
think long-term it works better than the screws used to, but the
screws are really easier.

The subwoofer turns out to connect to the receiver via some
kind of plug I don’t have, so I couldn’t connect that. I hope I
can figure out what the name of the plug is, and get one that I
can connect to the speaker wire. The stuff that’s coming
tomorrow is coming with some plugs, but I’m pretty sure they
aren’t the right kind.

So on to connecting program sources. I started with the TV
set. Ultimately I probably want to get some HDMI cables and
connect everything that way, but I started by just plugging the
cable box into the TV the way it was before this exercise and
connecting the TV to an analog audio input on the receiver. I
was only getting sound through the two old speakers when I did
that, so I fiddled with options on the TV set menu, and stopped
getting sound through the receiver at all. I think I probably told it I was using
the digital out, and since I’m not, it isn’t sending the sound
out the analog out and so the receiver isn’t getting any. I’ll
go downstairs with a digital cable soon and check this out.

I have one hdmi cable, and I decided to use that to connect the
new blu-ray disk player to the TV set. This is working (minus the
sound), but I wasn’t able to check out the netflix, because the
remote doesn’t seem to be doing anything. And of course it’s
the kind of minimalist box with one button for power, and
everything else you do with the remote.

So basically, after a couple of hours work, I have less stuff
working than I did when I started, but it looks like all the
hardware is working right, and I just have to get it connected

I’ll let you know how I like surround sound when I actually get

Forsythia wreath in October

No, this is the Northern Hemisphere. Sunny and I walk by a
house that has a forsythia
on its door, right now.

[forsythia wreath]

For some reason, I find this a lot more jarring than the people
who leave their Christmas decorations up until Spring.

In New England, forsythia is one of those pledges that Spring
is about to arrive. Everything’s grey and brown and muddy, and
hardly any green has gotten going yet, and suddenly there are
bright yellow flowers.

If you’re getting tired of the grey and brown, you can bring
some branches in and force them even while there’s still snow, and get the bright
yellow in your home even before it gets going outside.

In October, there are trees blazing orange and yellow and red,
and still lots of green grass, especially in a rainy year like

So my guess is that the person with the forsythia on their
front door isn’t much of a botanist or seasonal decorator.


Upgrading a computer

I’m trying to drag my sister into the 21st century from the
point of view of her home computer.

First, I gave her money to get a broadband connection last
Christmas. She finally got it set up before I was going there
to spend a few days in March, but not on the desktop where she
reads her mail.

Then last summer I upgraded my desktop computer and gave her
the old one — it’s slower and has less memory and disk space and fewer CPU’s
than my new one, but lots more than her current one.

But she still isn’t using it. It doesn’t have a floppy drive,
and her old machine doesn’t have a CD writer, so she hasn’t
figured out how to get her files across. She hasn’t even
tried connecting the wireless adapter, because her experience is
that every time she connects something new she has to remove
something old, because she doesn’t have enough disk space.

I could of course spend an afternoon there and fix all of this. But
she doesn’t like having someone just fix things for her; she
wants to do it herself. And she won’t talk to someone who knows
more about how to do it than she does, so she doesn’t know what to
ask me to bring to help her do it. And I have trouble figuring it
out, because she won’t talk to me. I delivered my old computer
with the graphics card still in it, although I knew it wouldn’t
work with VGA if that was there because I just didn’t know
whether she had a monitor with a DVI connection. Yesterday she
tried setting up the computer (not on her desktop) and it didn’t
work. I did remove the graphics card before I left, so the
computer is working, but not yet connected to either speakers or the

The next time she skips town and I go down to spend time with
my mother (she’s in good shape for 87, but shouldn’t have to
live alone), I’ll get the network set up outside of her
desktop. But I don’t know how many more months or years she’s
going to keep on with the old desktop and the dialup modem.

Bought some electronics

I had a conversation at the dog park a couple of weeks ago with someone who’s more
expert than I am about broadcast television and maybe some other
kinds of consumer electronics. I asked him what he has for an
audio setup in his living room.

He said he went with a cheap surround sound setup and is
replacing things as they break or he gets disgusted with

He currently has a good center speaker (because the original
cheap one broke), which makes TV and
movies sound pretty good. He’s thinking about upgrading the
front speakers, because when he plays music, it all goes through
those, and they don’t sound as good as the center channel.

We decided that I could just buy the center channel and a
receiver, and use my current speakers and subwoofer, plus the
rear speakers from my computer set which I never really bothered
to wire to the rear of the computer room.

In fact, when I went to order, the receiver I ended up with
came with a free pair of rear speakers, so I’ll be able to use the
computer rear speakers for whatever the 6’th and 7’th speakers
in a 7.1 channel setup are.

And I broke down and bought the cheapest blu-ray disk player
that connects to netflix. When I’m tired, turning the computer
on and booting windows and firing up the Internet Explorer
browser to watch my Netflix Watch Now stuff is too hard, and I
end up watching junk on the TV set.


I also wrote the local linux users mailing list for advice
about external speakers that would stand up well to being put in
a backpack and taken to my mother’s once a month or so, so that
I’d have off-site backup.

The consensus was that you should buy an aluminum external
enclosure and a recognized brand of SATA internal drive with a
good warranty.

So what’s coming is 2 of those, and two Western Digital 500 GB
drives, for about $100.

Other stuff

And while I was at it I bought a long USB extension, because I
don’t seem to be able to keep wireless keyboards and mice
working on the living room computer.

And some speaker wire with connectors, in case what I have
isn’t the right stuff for connecting my old stuff to the new

This should all come the end of next week — I’m sure I’ll have
things to tell you about it then.