Fairlight's A/D's: The Jitter Bug?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by stedel, Jun 9, 2002.

  1. stedel

    stedel Guest

    The "Jitter Bug" (1.2.3...er 4 maybe?):

    Ugh! If you've ever had the unfortunate experience of working in a "Jitter Bug" prone DAW environment, you know how unpleasant and counter-productive this can be. For those of you that don't know (-or are in need of professional counselling due to your experience), "jitter" totally ****'s with our own (very) human ability to percieve an accurate stereo sound stage. This, if you don't know already, is not good!

    Bill Hayley & Rock 'n' Roll
    The Jitter Bug wasn't a problem for people like Bill hayley and The Comets. In fact they liked it! A big dance craze, Bill and his Comets rocked it further. No, the Jitter Bug, for Bill, and many other well known people in the 1950's and 1960's (like the Beatles?), wasn't a propblem. But these were the Days of Analogue.

    So, the relevance of this to Fairlight's A/D's in 2002?

    a. Despite all the many advances in sound recording technology since the '50's and '60's, these decades still provide us with "benchmark" examples of sound recording technology, many of which still provide a superior quality sound to any currently available digital technology. Not necessarily the most convenient, but better fundamentally.

    b. Before entering the digital environment, all sound is......

    The point at which the conversion from analog to digital takes place is absolutely critical. What happens to your sound right here, before any consideration of whatever "bells and whistles" your DAW may or may not provide (plug ins, 2048 track count etc. etc.) is where, oh brave sound recordist, you need to be alert and pay much attention.

    Jitter, from DAW to DAW, may exist on a "creeping" or sliding scale, and may be present in greater or lesser amounts.

    In case you don't know, jitter is caused by a variation in sample timing during the conversion process. Converting analog sound to digital requires a clocked system that tells the A/D converters when, and exactly where, to take each sample measurement - hopefully at regular, very regular, intervals. Easy huh? Hmm, very expensive Swiss watch timing we're talking here.

    Jitter distorts, and may prevent, the ability to percieve relative positions of instruments to each other, their place in the mix, etc. when a recording is played back. Maybe not so noticable with one track, but by the time you get to even five...problems. Any sense of spatial depth and spread can be crunched - like the crushed dense metal cube that used to be a Cadillac, before it went to the wreckers. Don't believe me?

    An inexperienced engineer, perhaps not trained to recognise jitter, will tend to strategise their recording process, and tell the client "hey it's cool - we'll fix it in the mix with this plug-in!" Usually introducing even more quantisation errors, alienating/bluffing the artist further from the recording process, adding more costly post production costs onto the budget, and (I've seen this) telling clients that the $35,000 ATC or Tannoy monitors don't give a good sound (!!!).


    This is why other DAW users went for 3rd party converter manufacturers like Apogee or Prism - if their DAW allowed other party converters to run with their system. (Read the many tests, questions re sound quality of converters on whatever Forum you like).

    So are Fairlight's converters any good? Well courtesy of Fairlight leaving moi with a Satellite system (ah...my kind of people..) for a week, I was able to put them through an admittedly limited, but nonetheless thorough check. But, I'll have a break for a while, check out when Spain. Ireland, and England are next playing in the 2002 Japan/Korea Soccer World Cup, and give you my - very - OHO...if you're interested later. If you can't wait, the short answer, apparently, is yes..actually they seem very good. Best I've heard for a while actually. But I'm baised - I want a great sound!

    Kind regards...
  2. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2001
    Yes, being a failright user now for the last year and a half, it sure is nice to not have to use a bazillion plug-ins, and all sorts of strange external analog bus mixers etc, just to geta good sounding track.

    It's something the PT users just can't seem to accept or understand.

    No, the failright doesn't have the ability to access a million and one plug-ins.
    No, it doesn't have to, 'cause you won't really need them.
  3. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Hi there Henchman.
    Well I feel a whole lot better being "Moderator" here now that I've actually used one of their systems, albeit briefly - but I'm working on this. The thing just looked so good in my room - kinda made things look complete, and especially at night with all the glowing lights shining so warmly and invitingly. Yep definately a DAW you can snuggle up to...which is what my partner had to do - literally!

    I'm using an upstairs room in my house as my studio at the moment - just waiting for that cash to drop out of the sky to convert the downstairs area into a full blown tracking studio's. (I wonder if Stephen Paul's Magic Circle handles this sort of thing - sending out those peace vibes now.....).

    So when Fairlight dropped off their system, we had to stick the main QDC unit in the bedroom. U know, despite all the advances in audio technology in the last thirty years, how come nobody has been able to invent quiet cooling fans? Specially with the Dream/Satellite controller looking like something out of StarTrek (Voyager not Kirk). Kirk's machinery, if you've ever watched the first Startrek series, is noisy - constantly going beep or making some sort of gurgling sound, whereas the technology on Voyager is - quiet, unobtrusive.

    The QDC/MFX unit was too noisy to have in a mixing recording environment, unless you get one of those "isolation chamber" things - basically we're talking control room here.(Well in this case, the bedroom). The technician who set it up said they're bringing out quieter fans - I hope so. I'm lucky in the fact that my partner didn't mind and could sleep through it all, damn I couldn't! So there it stayed in the bedroom, fans blowing, and my partner sleeping. Actually she had a good sleep, so it's always good to know that in a less than ideal recording environment your girlfriend doesn't have to move out of the bedroom, or your relationship ends for the sake of a DAW.

    So one to Fairlight and one to my girlfriend.

    AND it's so nice to be able to say yeah you're right Henchman..(I mean I always trusted you but...) as I said the quality of converters is the first stop for me. I didn't get the new version software, or the 96kHz converters, so I was running in the '40's, but the quality of the recordings was quite dramatically apparent. Running analog lines out of an ASR 10 sampler sequencer (which runs at 16 bits - but you can mix different sample rates with Fairlight) not only I, but my above mentioned partner - who's studied audio engineering herself - could hear a difference between recordings I had done in a professional studio and these basically done in my office/studio and...er...bedroom. My bedroom was better (more intimate sounding?).

    I wasn't even using the Dream Station, with any of its mixing facilities (which includes mixer sidecars), nope just the internal stereo mix, two channels out provided by the Satellite. By the time I had got up to 14 tracks, mono and stereo humming along quite nicely, the quality was pretty clear -
    seperation between tracks, the ability to clearly hear and differentiate between instruments - cool.

    This is gonna sound really cliched, but tracks did "come alive" - if Fairlights converters do colour the sound at all, then it is a very musical, benign colouring. "Flattering" is the cliche, a bit how the higher end Focusrite stuff is described as being - not forgetting that Fairlight can provide on their base "entry" machine up to 48 A/D' and D/A's - if you want a totally analog system (I'd go initially for a majority analog but some digital).
    If their 96kHz converters are anywhere as good, then bejabbers. Unfortunately when they picked up their system (the bastards!), their technician grazed his cars fender on one of the trees in my driveway (it must have moved - he made it out OK the first time). I did tell them that I describe my driveway, if you're not familiar with it, as an "off-road" experience.

    BTW, that's another thing I like about Fairlight, when they actually met me, and had made it down my driveway, they still left the stuff with me.

    But...urk!!! It's MS Dos!!! I'm a Mac GUI guy, have been since 1995, so it took me a while to get used to the operating system (more on that later).

    Incidently, about Fairlight not having access to 100's of plug-ins, well not necessarily. But Ireland's in the Soccer World Cup tonight - gotta go - see ya tomorrow!
  4. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Er...BTW, apparently I'm the only person on RO into the Soccer World Cup. This is outrageous, and is not good enough for the Fairlight Forum. Fairlight like sport (they were there at Sydney's Olympics), so what's going on? Even the USA has a half decent team, that scored a shock win over Korea. I mean we're not talking fanatic here (E.N.G.L.A.N.D!!!
    E.N.G.L.A.N.D!!!...) but, what, NONE of you are into Soccer? At all? It's bigger than the Olympics!
    'Suppose Ice Hockey is the thing huh?
    Or base ball.
    Maybe Fairlight users become more sereen - certainly my experience with other DAW's did come pretty near to competitive sports (gonna get that goal - a good sound, we can do it...), where'as with Fairlight I didn't even have to put on my trainers (which is good 'cos I don't have any).

    Hmm, might do an Embassy post on this....'ere we go, 'ere we go. :cool:
  5. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2001
    Did you try the EQ? I hear what you're saying about the fans. The thing sounds like a jet engine, so you must have a separate room for the main engine.

    That being said, they do design their stuff to very high standards, and I'm sure they want to make sure that enough cool air is being pushed through even int he hottest climates. (Did you say Australia mate?)

    As far as the OS goes, it's a actually more Unix/Linux based than MSDOS. And it's all the pretty GUI stuff in regular computers that make them so bloated and crash prone.

    I love the fact that, not only can you mix bit depths in a session, but you can do a realtime crossfade and EQ on 2 different clips that have different bit depths.

    And I like the fact that it makes me look like a better engineer, than the hack I am. All I have to do to get a good sound now, is get a mic in the same room with a good player.

  6. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Hmm. Nope unfortunately I didn't get time to check out the EQ - or the compresser's, or the gating facility (which is a great idea IMHO). It did take me a while to get accustomed to the operating system - which I stand corrected, is more Unix/Linux based. That and working out the key strokes
    on the control surface took a while.

    Fairlight's machine also didn't come with a mouse -
    which left me floundering for a while.

    However, the GUI approach (crashing Mac's?!!?) can make you a bit less methodical. Fairlight definately makes you methodical - which is not a bad thing.

    Unfortunately, because of an initial lack of supplied input leads, it was a couple of days before I got really into it. Fairlight Australasia Sales Manager, Graeme Whineray, who came down to take me through it's working's did allow me to glimpse how fast you can become on this thing however. The Dream control system is fast enough, but with the addition of Macro's - you can really hit turbo-charged Jaguar performance.

    I do have a couple of queries re the EQ however which I'll be talking to Fairlight about later this week...let's just leave it at that for now...

    BTW Henchman, your point about other DAW users not understanding the joy of having your basic, fundamental, first point of capture, quality sound - yeah, why is that?

    On the downside - well I'm obviously gonna have to get better monitors than I originally thought. Can't wear good clothes and then go out to MacDonalds (well you can, but the bottom end of the
    burger is still gonna sag and be loose).

    Kind regards :cool:
  7. stedel

    stedel Guest

    Oh yeah BTW, yes, I didn't realise just how handy and useful this facility is. Often I have to work with a varying array of aged, differently scourced/archived material. To have different scources intergrated seamlessly into the one working environment, and being able to do exactly what you say here - fantastic. I'm on about pain reduction a lot at the moment - not only was this painless, but made the work process a complete pleasure.

    Re the fans and Australia :)

    Kind regards
  8. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2001
    We just picked up our fifth Fairlight. It's an MFX3plus from a repo sale of a studio that went out of business. It ended up costing us $1800,- US.
  9. spigots

    spigots Guest

    Mark, Where are you finding out about these deals?
    Just curious...

  10. Henchman

    Henchman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2001
    We found the last 2 on ebay. BTW, there's a guy in the US selling an MFX3plus for 10K.

    Not as great a deal as what we got, but still pretty good for an mfx3plus.

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