March 1997 (previous columns are also available)
Back in the early days of SoundStage!, the magazine used to have your run of the mill collection of links to other audio related sites on the Internet. Keeping such a listing accurate and up to date is its own full-time job, and we've had other things to worry about. I thought it might be interesting to spend this month showing off some of the sites I'm fond of, along with highlighting some of the places you can go for useful convergence information.
The first page to visit on any tour of audio on the 'net is the HiFi Pages. This directory has been around seemingly forever, and is as comprehensive a guide to manufacturer sites as exists anywhere. As you wander other sites that have listings of audio links, you'll often find that their collections are just copies of Robert's listing made at some point, which quickly become out of date. This is the original and still best. If you haven't read them before, make sure you check out the rec.audio FAQs while you're there. Another useful directory with different material is the Audio and Acoustic Links listing.
Back when I was first starting the Entry Level series, I mentioned Marlon Feld's Good Sound for Cheap FAQ. It's now available in an expanded form as GoodSound. Nobody likes to admit to being cheap, I guess. This is a nice introduction to putting together an audio system, along with a big collection of mini-reviews of recommended budget equipment.
There are some manufacturers who sponsor sites to help inform the audiophile. The Rane Professional Audio Reference is a very thorough listing of technical terms. ACI and Audio Review have contributed the Audio Glossary. Mission Recording has an Audio Reading Room filled with info aimed at pro audio applications, but with plenty of material for home audio as well. There is even some university work available you may like. Fundamental Introduction to the CD Player is a paper on the subject that gives concise descriptions of many parts of digital audio.
Looking for something to laugh at? Dick Pierce has written some hilarious stories, collected as Audio Anecdote of the interval. I first ran into some of the stories when they appeared in past issues of Speaker Builder, and they're just as funny today. More speakers could use a Q switch.
The general audio link directories mentioned at the beginning offer some guidance into the realm of computer audio. There is a specialized one available at UCSD.
Many people's favorite program for recording audio CD-R is Jeff Arnold's suite from Golden Hawk Technology. This software is possibly the only inexpensive solution out there that lets you do fancy tricks with track indexes and other such low-level details. If you're willing to pay more, you could get the even more full featured Red Roaster instead.
If you have noisy recordings you'd like to digitally clean with your computer, say as part of the process of transferring LP to CD-R, there are a couple of programs that you could use. DART and Diamond Cut are both reasonably priced programs aimed at that market. If you have big bucks, you could always get Sonic Foundry with appropriate plug-in for noise removal, or use something like Samplitude . It's always possible to try and edit pops out by hand with a simpler editor, using a program like's last month's feature, Cool Edit, or GoldWave.
Another common source of unwanted noise is the computer itself. All the fans and hard drives inside of today's PCs can get quite loud. I've had good success using the quiet fans and the Silencer power supply from PC Power & Cooling; excellent products, and relatively inexpensive. A more comprehensive assault on keeping your computer quiet comes from Silent Systems.
If you want to make CDs of music you composed, you may find WAVmaker useful. This program converts MIDI files into the WAV format you need them in for CD burning without going through a noisy sound card.
Steve's Pro Audio and Recording Page has lots of links to resources of interest to the music CD-R user. One product category I've started investigating lately are audio interfacing boards for the PC that have higher quality than the simple Sound Blaster cards. There are better sound cards available in the form of the Mediatrix Audiotrix Pro, Midiman DMAN, or the Digital Audio Labs Card-D. Also available are boards that provide digital interfaces so that you can use an external source, be it CD or DAT or an outboard A/D converter. The Digital Audio Labs products are probably the least expensive source for that sort of thing, with more complicated solutions available from Digidesign, Antex, AdB, Frontier Design, Sound Track, and and Zefiro. There is a nice directory including many of these products as part of the page advertising products from Aurora.
Of course, if you're willing to buy paper magazines, there are some that cover PC audio on occasion. I've found issues of Keyboard and EQ magazine that focus on CD-R or audio interfacing, so it's worth checking them out. The Fez Guys from EQ even put their columns on-line. The pro audio magazines certainly spend more time giving information useful for audio CD-R than the computer ones do. Other pro audio products are available at companies like Markertek, Musician's Friend, or Thoroughbred Music.
One of the reasons that I've dumped all the resources for more information I know of on you is that I'm uncertain if this column is going to be around in the future. I'll be spending my time focused more on the traditional reviews that SoundStage! does, and since this doesn't seem to be an especially popular feature, it's going to get the ax to leave more time for that.