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Zoom lens tests

I am using a Sony Alpha digital camera and the all-purpose Sony 24-240mm f/5-6.3 lens.  While out driving on Sunday (actually I was having my son drive me around as he is learning to drive on gravel roads) I took some shots along the way with this lens.

Looking over the Palmer Divide towards Pikes Peak at 32mm, f/8, 100 ISO.

Looking over the Palmer Divide towards Pikes Peak at 32mm, f/8, ISO 100.

Looking over the Palmer Divide towards Pikes Peak at 191mm, f/8, 100 ISO.

Same position towards Pikes Peak, this time at 191mm, f/8, ISO 100, a little cropping to center the mountain.

This next set of shots was trying to get as sharp of focus as possible with the full zoom of the lens.  I used center focus and then zone.  From what I can tell, about the same; a little unfocused; will need to play around with the settings a bit more.

About 30 meters away from the hawk, zoomed at 240mm, and the digitally cropped

About 30 meters away from the hawk, zoomed at 240mm, f/8 ISO100, and then digitally cropped

About 30 meters away from the hawk, zoomed at 240mm, and the digitally cropped

Again at 240mm f8, ISO100, and then digitally cropped

2015 Music in Review

A group of music friends and I put out top releases of the year each year-end.  I put up my picks from last year, instead of through email format, here on my blog with media attached (unlike the others, who just had text; one had a podcast)!  This year was a bit different as my favorite finds were not necessarily new releases.  Here are my picks of favorite new music from this last year.

Local Musicians

As always, I start off with local musicians like myself; we all had a great year and more people should be talking about the great scene we have in the Denver/Boulder area!

Acidbat.  The Magician.

There aren’t many artists in the area focusing on acid music, but there is one band I can always count on for straight up acid, and that is Acidbat.  I had the opportunity to play a gig with him this year as well.  This album is on the Cyberdyne label on limited cassette format limited to 15 (there are a few left, grab the media while you can!).  http://acidbat.bandcamp.com.  This album is a wonderful acid excursion through various techno styles.  World-class acid from a local artist!  Awesome!

Acidbat - The Magician

Symbols + Translations

Not quite local, this Austin Texas resident co-manages the Obsolete Future record label which has strong local ties.  This release is their first foray into acid music and it is a great one!  Many moods and melodies tag along with the consistent acid lines weaving throughout the mix.  My personal favorite is “How long is the coast of Britian” which starts off the b-side of this cassette release.  Limited edition to 100 on cassette, still available if you’re fast.

Ambit ^~-

This is a great local band who I hope to see much more out of them in the future!  They did a lathe cut 7″ single and have this album available for free digitally on band camp!  Cheers!  Melodies and vocals are addictive, great tracks!

Non-local musicians

Now onto the other non-local artists and bands that I picked up in 2015!

MAKiNA GiRGiR – Torment

Coming out of France, on La Forme Lente Records out of Belgium, this amazing cold wave album came out in 2013 but I have searched for the limited edition silkscreened cover to no success; so I purchased this digital only (sad, but true) in 2015.  This album is amazing; for any fan of synth-based alternative, cold wave, dark wave, new wave, etc.  Cold, female vocals; stunning lead synth lines, and groovy tracks all the way through!

Solvent – C for Comfort

Solvent goes way back into the last 90s with his label Suction Records.  Jason Amm is a purveyor of synth leads and melodies.  This is his own creation with tribute to the classic composers of the new wave synth gods — Depeche Mode, Human League, Visage, Ultravox, etc.  This 6-track cassette release is rock solid synth instrumentals all the way through.  So happy to see Suction Records back in business, releasing very strong releases!  Released in 2014, I rediscovered this label and placed an order for many awesome releases in early 2015!

Mark Van Hoen – The Worcester Tapes 1983 – 1987

I’m a huge Mark Van Hoen fan, synth/sampler aficionado!  In case you are having problems recognizing the name, think Seefeel, Scala, Locust among other projects.  The Tapeworm presents… put together his original demo tape from early works from the artist. Beautiful piano and reverb dosed synth pads on this cassette-only release of 150.  Appreciate The Tapeworm going out of their way and putting this out there!  Beautiful Eno-esque ambient music!

Mark Van Hoen demo

Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief

Mark McGuire has had a big year; starting a family and continuing to press new age style music.  Definitely different than his prior band Emeralds, this contains beats, guitar and even some vocals.  Still, wonderfully looped melodies as only Mark McGuire can do.  This double orange swirl colored vinyl came with a bonus cassette release of remixes and a poster.  Beautiful release!

New Order – Western Works Demos

Limited edition of 50, this grey swirl vinyl was released containing the Sheffield based Western Works Studio demo masters of New Order’s first tracks after the death of Ian Curtis.  6 tracks on this one, recorded on July 9, 1980.  The demos are what you would think they would sound like–Joy Division still in shock from the loss of their front man…with all the emotion and rawness that would bring to the sessions.   Dreams Never End (Mix #1 and #2), Homage, Ceremony, Truth and Are You Ready?  All very different versions from other recordings.  This is an amazing find!

New Order - Western Works Demos

Various – Something Cold

With my discovery of Suction Records releasing material again, I also discovered they are also distributing likeminded music.  This album is one I purchased in my order with Suction in 2015.  This is great coldwave tunes; every track is awesome!  Several dance floor tracks too…well worth a listen!  Vinyl is sold out, but I suspect you can find copies around…

Miss Kittin & The Hacker – Lost Tracks Vol. 1

Dark Entries Records out of San Francisco is on fire; releasing great gems old and new.  This is true to the coldwave/demos I have spoken about in the last few highlighted releases, the original demo from 97-99 from this dynamic duo!  Leather Forever is a club classic!  Electro and cold wave!  Think Drexciya or Dopplereffekt style electro!

http://www.darkentriesrecords.com/store/dark-entries/miss-kittin-the-hacker-lost-tracks-vol-1-ep/#

Luke Vibert – Halloween Part 1

Looking to get part 2, this is a classic acid record like only Luke Vibert can put together.  Halloween is a spooky acid anthem that would rock any dance floor.  Jack U Whole is classic Chicago style acid house.

Acid Pauli & Nancy – iBang

Had this as a favorite like on Soundcloud for a while, but Katermukke decided to produce 4x 12″ singles with their favorite tracks, one of which is my favorite track from the label. I also like Animal Trainer and the other Acid Pauli tracks too.  This is a fun dance floor remake using the classic Nancy Sinatra vocals.

Acid Pauli iBang

AtomTM – Riding The Void EP

These took a while to get; I’m assuming due to excessively long pressing times for vinyl, but it was worth the wait.  Atom TM remixes of Riding the Void from the HD album.  I still haven’t gotten the HD video, I can’t seem to make myself purchase a low-fi DVD on an album called HD.  Bluray only Uwe, that is the only acceptable format other than perhaps 16mm.  These are wonderfully produced dance tunes.

Mato – All About That Bass

Believe it or not this was the first version of this track that I heard.  I bought it on a whim because of the title; but this is a wonderful 7″ Reggae plate remaking of the classic pop song. All the right junk in all the right places…

Leon Switch featuring Alys Be – Make Your Move

Been listening to a lot of bass music from the UK, sub genres of dub step called Dungeon / 140.  Slow, heavy bass dub.  This track I heard on a London radio show by a guest mix from Leon Switch, who plays dub plates of his own works.  Love the pop vocals on this cool dub / bass track.  Finally released in December with a bunch of remixes by another artist Markee Ledge, but the original Leon Switch mix is the best.  Digging other similar modern “pop” tracks in this style.

Flexi Picture Records

Hasenbart Zeotrope Flexi-disc

As many of you know, I’m a huge flexi record collector.  This I found by Hasenbart Records out of Germany, simply a beautiful Christmas picture record that is lathe cut.  Get one while you can, good luck!

Hasenbart Zoetrope Flexi

Hasenbart Flexi Record

Acidbat – Autumn Mourning

Extremely limited edition of hand made double-sided flexis from a 1940s lathe.  Wonderful acid tracks by Denver’s premiere acid scout!  Available for free in digital download, check out Autumn Mourning now!

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

This is a Polish bootleg flexi-record postcard from the 70’s.  The premise is they would take postcards and press music on them and distribute them throughout Poland where there wasn’t proper music distribution.  I have six different, equally cool (by the same artist) postcards with this same song.

 

Beatles - All you need is love

 

How to Find Crystals Using Different Types of Prospecting Techniques

I often get asked “How do you find crystals you have posted?”.  Which techniques to use is a very subjective question, but certainly there are standard ways of prospecting for pegmatite crystals here in Colorado.  I will try to cover some of the techniques I use in this blog post.

It has taken me years of prospecting, tons of reading, and networking with other prospectors and rock clubs to figure out what I’ve learned to find crystals so far, so I’m hoping that if you are new to this hobby this article can help expedite the learning curve and take away some frustration…i.e. not coming home empty handed as often!  Note that I sometimes STILL come home with nothing to show (and I keep even the littlest crystals)…I think of it like fishing, sometimes the fish simply aren’t biting.  My other hope is that folks having successful techniques can share their wisdom so I and others can continue to learn (the comments on this article is a great place, hint hint !!!).

Note I am self-taught and have no formal geology schooling or experience, so my descriptions in this article may be scientifically inaccurate; the goal of this article is not to explain the science as much as for tips to helping you learn to find crystals!  Of course the science is helpful and very interesting, if you have anything to share or correct (or have further questions), please leave comments, I would love to hear your techniques, opinions and knowledge on the subject!

That's how you find crystals!

Hitting a crystal pocket gives you a tremendous high! This was my first crystal pocket!

How to Find Crystals

There are three standard ways I prospect when searching for crystals; I may use only one way on any given day, or may use all three:

  1. Searching the tailing piles of other digs
  2. Finding float and following it
  3. Digging in the source pegmatite

Prospecting Tailing Piles

When I’m prospecting I always check out old and new digs.  There are several reasons for this–to learn what the other prospector was into when (presumably) they find crystals themselves, to perhaps continue where the previous prospector didn’t go, and to search through their tailings to ensure the weather didn’t reveal something that was missed or discarded!

How to find crystals, this time a mt antero phenakite and aquamarine

Mount Antero double terminated Phenakite my son found laying on the surface, would have been great to have more of that aquamarine attached!

If the prospector was into a pocket or seam of crystals, they may have had mud or iron coatings on the crystals so the prospector tossed aside because they couldn’t see the sides or simply missed it…it happens, I’ve gone back to my digs before and found incredible crystals that I somehow missed!  After a good rain or season of snow Mother Nature may help to reveal crystals that were left behind!  This is the easiest form of prospecting.  I also find that some prospectors are not interested in “boring” or imperfect crystals; another person’s trash may be my treasure!  I have found many great crystals by searching the tailings of previous digs!

Tips include

  • to find crystals it helps moving around the pile to get a reflection of sunlight from a flat shiny surface of a crystal…you should train your eyes to focus on any flat sided rock
  • getting down closer to the ground for a different perspective; I find many crystals this way that I missed standing up
  • look for color, some crystals are coated with iron-based minerals and may look rusty
  • poking around the sides of the hole to see if the prior prospector left part of the pocket
  • looking for float from the pocket (talked about further below)
  • dig through the tailings to see if other crystals are slightly buried

Finally there is a lot to learn from studying what others were into.  This is how I’ve done much of my learning.  What did the rocks they were pulling out look like (note to self, keep an eye out for these signs in my holes)?  Are there other digs along the hillside along the same “zone” that I should also check out?  What did the other person see that kept them digging?  The bigger the prospector’s hole the more likely they found something good (otherwise that is a lot of effort for nothing), so explore those big holes/trenches for sure!

Milky Quartz and Fluorite, crystals i find in the dumps

This Milky Quartz and Fluorite plate was found discarded by the original miner on the dumps, cleaned up it is awesome, good enough for me!  Just wish I could find the other material which made this trash in comparison!

Fluorite Crystals I find looking through tailings

These Fluorites were covered in pocket mud and then again in dirt. Always examine “dirt balls” !!! Needs some more cleaning, but examples of what you can find in the dumps.  Fluorite and other crystals are heavier than other rocks, so pay attention to the weight of the rocks you are extracting!

Prospecting Float

First of all, what is float?  It took me a while to get my head around this concept.  My definition of float is simply any rocks or crystals that have weathered out of their original location — in other words Mother Nature has moved them via some process over time.

What could have moved the crystals?  Glaciers, wind, rain, etc.  Glacial movement is pretty easy to spot on the crystals, because they are broken, cleaved and/or have rounded corners like they’ve been in a rock tumbler.  These crystals have been potentially moved long distances and there may be no correlation in where the crystals are located to where they originated from–in other words they may be randomly displaced and you may not find other related crystals around them.  However I have found several times that pockets were moved (relatively) together by glaciers and there are concentrations of crystals that are completely worn in a somewhat small of an area.

Float Quartz Crystals

Float coated smoky and milky quartz crystals found in a 10 foot diameter area about 6 inches under the ground.  The left smoky is ~10 cm.

Wind and water (and ancient glaciers too) are common forces that move crystals from their original location in the seams/pockets they were grown in.  Over the hundreds of millions of years (or perhaps just thousands, or even last month’s torrential rains?) the land has been eroded and the original locations of the crystals may have been partially or completely eroded away.  If on a hill, the crystals are likely displaced downhill as they are eroded out of their original pocket.  If on a flat area, crystals can disperse radially away from the pocket (which may at one time long ago been above you).

One misconception that I originally had about float was that the crystals would be laying atop the ground easy for the prospector to see.  It took me a while to realize that float can be (and often is) buried.  The layer of topsoil / organic matter is a recent addition to the ground (decomposed plants, trees, etc) in the perspective of geologic time.  Most often I’ve discovered float that is buried in the boundary between the top soil and the granite gravel layers which can be visible or buried many feet deep.  Note that with the hundred plus years of prospecting occurring in popular areas, it is very unlikely you’ll find crystals on the surface; but there is still plenty of float to be discovered!

Now that we’ve reviewed what float is in theory, how does one utilize this float concept to actually find crystals?  When I find good signs on the ground I dig test holes (more about what are good signs in a minute).  I try to dig deep enough so I’m at (or below) the boundary layer between the topsoil/organic matter and the gravel–the steeper the hills the likely this layer will be more shallow.  I will also dig about a foot or sometimes two deeper to see if what I’m seeing at the surface continues in situ underground–signs of a pegmatite outcropping.

As I continue to explore the source of the float, I will dig an area of several feet in diameter, left and right, up and downhill.  If I continue to find signs, then I will follow those signs in whatever direction they lead me, which typically trends uphill.  The hope is that this investigation leads you to the originating crystal pocket or seam still in the pegmatite rock!

If there are no signs on the surface but the area in general looks or “feels” good, or if I’m feeling lucky, I dig test holes in best-guess locations and if I find nothing interesting within a 2-3 foot diameter, I move on to another spot.

I have also seen videos of folks using dowsing rods–the concept is they loosely hold L shaped rods in each hand and as they walk over an area with a crystal the rods will move. I keep thinking I should try this but I have no experience nor have done any research on this technique yet.  Chime up in the comments if you’ve had success with this method!

Following Float when prospecting

A float dig. I was following signs up the hill (probably 10 feet here) digging only about 3-7 inches deep.  Notice the pile of dirt on the right, this makes it ultra fast to fill in the hole once I’m done…literally 2 minutes.  I often backfill the hole as I’m following the float.  Notice the rocks on the surface above my digging, these are what you want to see, but in this case they are likely from another dig up the hill as they are not partially buried like Mother Nature would do.

What are good signs to follow?  What do you look for on the surface to start digging there? How long do you follow the trail of good signs when they are not panning out?  Well, that IS the trick, these are all the million dollar questions of prospecting!  I’m still perfecting this myself and likely will be forever, but for now my answer is many things.  Here is where joining up with a Crystal Club or digging with other prospectors is very helpful.  I have found that even though I’ve read a ton on the topic and talked to many experienced prospectors, I didn’t really “get it” until I’ve gone and and moved some rock and dirt–experienced it; sometimes it even takes many times before what I’ve read or been told clicks.  That said, however, I’ll try to give you some tips and rules of thumb based on what I look for.

You are looking for the following, above and/or below the surface as float or in situ:

  • Anything with flat sides.  Train your eyes to see flat surfaces; having flat surfaces means there was enough room for the rocks to start to crystalize which is evidence of a crack, seam or pocket in the host rock.  Finding flat sided rocks is integral in the hunt for crystals.
  • Quartz.  Pegmatites are partially composed of quartz, so you are looking for chunks of quartz either by themselves or mixed with Microcline / Feldspar.
  • Microcline.  Like quartz above, microcline or amazonite is a good sign.
  • Graphic Granite.  Granite by definition is composed of small crystals of quartz and feldspar. Pegmatite is when the crystal sizes get to a certain size.  Graphic granite / pegmatite is where these crystals get bigger TOGETHER.  Often in just one rock sample you’ll see the crystal size increase from one side to the other!  (see image below).  This sometimes means you are getting closer to where the crystals can grow better (i.e. a pocket).
  • Combinations of above.  This means that all the right ingredients of a pegmatite seam are floating out of somewhere.
  • Crystals.  If you’re finding whole crystals or multiple sides, well, you’re there! Congratulations!
Example of graphic granite

Here are some good examples of graphic granite from one of my digs. Notice the quartz crystals getting bigger in size and consistent through the rocks.  Click the image for a larger picture with more detail.

Good signs when prospecting

These pieces of quartz are great signs with many sides–but none are totally faceted which tells me they came out of massive granite.  Also notice the microcline.  Follow these!

Good signs when prospecting

Example of a good mix of quartz on feldspar, almost (but not quite) starting to look like a plate of quartz crystals. The upper quartz has a several flat sides! This chunk definitely kept me on the hunt!

One other technique I use digging float uphill is when pulling out quartz or microcline chunks I leave them on top of my tailings pile close to the spot I found them.  If I’m not finding the source of the float or lose track of the good signs (or when I take a water break), then I’ll often step back, take a break and review what I’m finding from a distance (which is possible because I left my findings consistently in sight on top of the tailings). This technique will let me analyze my current prospecting situation from a different perspective. While analyzing the rocks as I have dug up the hill, I will also analyze the surrounding hillside for clues like other digs, surface rock, contour, etc. Sometimes I get overzealous in my digging and forget this simple step-back-and-analyze step which can be really helpful in minimizing the search for the source of the float!

Another way to find crystals using the “float technique” is to start at someone else’s dig and start to explore around (if a flat area) and downhill of that prospect/hole.  It’s likely that there is float around or below that pocket that someone else has done all the hard work and located for you!  Many times the crystals are really nice and have just rolled down the hill a little bit!!!  The original prospector was only interested in the pocket material and left all the easy float finding to someone else!  I’ve found some really nice crystals using this technique!

Prospecting Pegmatites

Of course, the best place to dig is in crystal pockets.  This is where the crystals will likely be the best quality and most plentiful (but not always, ask any experienced prospector and they will tell you stories of hours/days of work in fabulous looking pockets with junk, crushed or no crystals).  Whether you happen upon a seam or pocket in the pegmatite using float prospecting techniques, or you find the peg right away and dive in, this is the goal of prospecting–to hit the mother lode!

First, a little bit of theory from what I have discovered in the field and also from reading and talking to other prospectors.  I think of pegmatites as basically a lava flow of harder rock that when forming had the right (and larger) concentrations of minerals we are searching for.  Because it is a flow, it often will be long and extend across or into the hillside and will often be somewhat straight.  This is helpful to know as you often can follow the pegmatite as it trends in a somewhat straight direction across the hillside.

If the conditions were right at that instant of time millions and millions of years ago, you have highly mineralized fluid that was flowing through the cracks in the rocks.  If there was room in the host rock’s cracks then it would give the fluid a chance to crystalize in that “open space” in the rocks. Because we’re talking about an extended “flow”, the pegmatite can open up (i.e. crystals!), then pinch out, and follow that pattern again and again along faults or cracks over its length.  You sometimes see this play out when following the pegmatite getting pocket after pocket along the length of the peg!  This is something to remember as a previous prospector may have found a great pocket but didn’t finish it or follow it as it opened up into even a larger pocket along the length of the original flow!

The great Blue Cap Productions video on Rhodochrosite at the Sweet Home Mine in Alma Colorado details that pockets were often found at the intersection of faults.  I have found this to be true in some cases with pegmatites pockets I’ve found, as two pegmatites intersected there was a pocket.  Additionally, Joe Dorris of Glacial Peak Mining has documented that when the pegs bend they often form pockets (which were eddies during the liquid phase?).   This is also something I’ve experienced and definitely keep an eye out for.

Pegmatite is currently often surrounded by gravel or dirt.  Over geologic time, the surrounding rock may have decomposed into gravel while the harder, more mineralized material is still in place.  So once you are upon the pegmatite you’ll likely know its boundaries by gravel. Knowing this, I don’t spend much time when digging test holes if there is just gravel, but if there are chunks of peg, quartz or microcline then I continue as I may be digging into a pegmatite; and if I was into the peg and then enter into just gravel, I change my direction as I likely have found a border of the peg.  When finding bigger chunks of rock, ensure they are pegmatite and not just solid granite.  You won’t find many crystals if you are not in the pegmatite!

Note that have seen instances where all the surrounding rock is completely gone leaving just a trail of crystals in the gravel or dirt!  So again none of these techniques is absolute each and every time!

I categorize the peg in a couple of ways, as described above (chunks) and also as solid masses (this digging takes the most effort). Sometimes I get into a peg that is still holding together as more massive rock and there is a seam sandwiched between top and bottom plates of granite.  In that seam, especially when it has the opportunity to widen, I sometimes find small pockets of crystals.  Following these openings the trail of crystals sometimes dives deeper; and that is where things can get interesting as you may be into a pocket.  Note that these chunks of pegmatite can be quite large and heavy, requiring pry bars and even chisels and hand sledge hammers to extract, so ensure you are employing safe leverage and lifting techniques (a hurt back doesn’t allow one to dig for many crystals) and always wear eye protection!  In these cases I follow the peg in all directions as the crack/seam may be rather long and wide but not very thick, but eventually it could widen and form a pocket.  Here is a video example of this (these are HD video, so change the resolution if you have the bandwidth!).

So these are the techniques that I am currently using to find crystals.  I am fairly successful in finding some crystals, but finding the great crystals or pockets is still somewhat elusive to me!  My thought is it’s all about moving dirt and rock to maximize the chance of getting lucky. Comparing it to the lottery, you have to play to win! Regardless, employing these techniques has brought me success and hopefully will aid in your success too!  As stated before, I would love to hear your techniques and ideas in the comments or by emailing me; I’m looking for any ways to improve!

Here are some videos showing me finding crystals out of a pegmatite pockets or seams. Pay attention to what is surrounding the areas with crystals as that is what you will be targeting when you dig!  Additionally, I have accumulated a playlist of people extracting crystals from around the world, you’ll want to check it out!

For more articles on my prospecting adventures click here.

You should also check out the other blogs I follow with great information about prospecting in Colorado:

Wish you good fortune as you find crystals!

Northern Taurids Meteroites

This is the first time I’ve seen several Taurids due to the moon’s phase, and I was able to catch a couple. The Taurids occur as we pass through the debris path left by comet Encke. Last night I was observing mainly the Northern Taurids. The clouds weren’t too bad but a couple of times it did cloud over during the night. I didn’t see any of the big fireballs (like my partner Erin and her friend did a couple nights ago) but I may have captured one on the camera. The fireballs occur because this debris trail has many pebble sized meteors, rather than the typical grain sized dust that we see shooting stars form from. The shooters I saw were very slow moving, though, which was really cool! No tails on the ones I saw this morning.

Next up, Leonids peak next week, November 17th and 18th!!! Always one of the best showers of the year, and the moon will be just in a crescent so it should be worth staying up for! :stars:

Canon Digital EOS Rebel T2i. EF-S 10-22mm @ 10mm. F3.5. 8 seconds. 3200 ISO. I started off with 1600 but after seeing several shooters I realized I needed to absorb more light-the noise due to high ISO setting isn’t too bad.
tn_Taurids2015-5736-2

tn_bw_Taurids2015-6734

tn_bw_Taurids2015-5736

Digitizing Records

I purchased a Tascam handheld recorder about a month ago so I can record my live sets, environmental recordings, and for digitizing records for listening to in the car.  The model is DR-40e.  The E is the “enhanced” processor feature according to the Guitar Center rep I talked to on the phone; although there is no real documentation of what this really benefits me anywhere on the net that I can find, and the rep was clueless.  It was a good deal, and it is a stellar recorder so far from my limited usage of it.  Good battery life so far, although I bought the power supply for it to save on batteries!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder.  So far I really like it; I've recorded records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones.  Sound great!

The Tascam DR-40e is my new recorder. So far I really like it; I’ve recorded 25 records, a couple of live sets, and some environmental sounds with the built in microphones. Sounds great!

I pulled a random assortment of new and old records and have been listening to them in their entirety while recording them.  This has been a really fun process.  My card had accumulated 25 records so I figured it was time to dump the WAV files onto my computer and process them for digital listening.

Collage of the records I digitized this round.

Collage of the records I digitized this September and October.

Here is my workflow that so far is working pretty well…

  1. Record the vinyl onto the Tascam DR-40E recorder
  2. Pull the WAV files over to my computer
  3. In Sony’s Sound Forge software, load the file and normalize it once (to peak value, so no compression occurs) to get good levels.  I go in and mark the beginning and end of each track; delete the unwanted sections
  4. In Sound Forge, once the tracks’ beginning and ending points are marked, I simply double click inside of that region and it is selected.  I then <CTRL><V> (cut) and <CTRL><E> (paste to new).
  5. Now that I have the track isolated, a scan it for any pops or clicks and take care of those if necessary.
  6. I then normalize to peak values again.  This will give me the hottest possible sound.
  7. I save in a folder with a standard filename.  The folder name is Artist – Title – Catalog Number – Year.  The filename is Track Number – Song Title.  These go in a wavs subfolder.  I get the proper filenames and catalog numbers and images from Discogs.com.
  8. I delete the original sound file and go to the next one.
  9. Once I have all the albums edited, I can go in and create MP3s for lossy listening; I typically use MP3s for portable devices to save space and given there is a significant amount of ambient noise in “portal environments”, so lossy isn’t that big of deal.
  10. I drag the WAV files into CD-EX, a great ripping and encoding software using the LAME encoder.  Old school but it works great.
  11. I then drag the MP3s into MP3Tag, I like this program for consistently tagging MP3s.  I select the entire album, use the auto-convert feature to snag the track number and song title, I add the Artist, Album and Year manually (using copy/paste form Discogs if there are special characters).  I then drag the cover art into the program and save the files.
  12. I end up with lossless WAV files (someday I may convert to FLAC, but right now I don’t care about space for lossless) and MP3 files with consistent tagging.

All of this does take a while, of course the recording of the records is real-time; and then I processed 25 records (mostly EPs) in about 3 hours.  Not too bad.  Now that I have the Tascam DR-40e figured out and a process refined, I’m going to pick some of my favorite records that I have never seen digitized files and continue the process!

Here is the first round of 25 records using this new workflow…

Here is the list of records that I digitized.  Gonna start listening to them in the car tomorrow!

Autumn Larkspur Lightning

As a large trough comes digging into Colorado bringing much cooler fall weather, we were treated with some autumn thunderstorms and lightning.  I was able to capture some of these bolts during the heavy rain inside my car.  All were taken with the camera hand-held, so focus on a couple is a bit blurry; but overall pretty good given the proximity, the amount of rain, and the varied distances.

These first few were directly overhead so I was only able to capture parts; not the whole bolt.

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tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4490As the storm slowly moved north, I was able to readjust the vehicle and focus; a couple were a little closer than I was expecting so the focus was a bit out, but overall not too bad especially for hand-holding the camera.  Focus is difficult with lightning every time!tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4492 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4513 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4527 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4535

Early October Lightning

It was great to see some early October lightning, although it has been bone dry for the last two months.  A small cell was putting down some lightning southwest of here (west of the Air Force Academy) but I was home with the kids while Erin was out.  That storm died by the time it cleared the Rampart Range, but another storm formed directly east of us that started to look good, so I grabbed the camera and drove out to a place I could watch the show.

There was only a bolt every 3-5 minutes, probably a total of 10 bolts total which I missed about half of getting to my vantage point, but they were all on my side of the storm and had very intense stepped leaders.  All were cloud to ground making some nice photo opportunities. As soon as the storm formed, it dissipated, so you had to be in the right place at the right time for this one!

All pictures taken from Bear Dance Road and Tomah Road between Larkspur and Castle Rock looking North.  Click for larger images.

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Obliq Museum – Elektron Octatrack Repair

I’ve recently been really getting into the Elektron Octatrack sampler/looper.  My band partner Jeff of Multicast came down the other night and we had a very productive session.  But, I spilled a little bit of cider on the top of it and some got down into the unit before I could completely dry it off.

I turned it off for a while and a later when turning it back on most things worked, except for one pot and the crossfader.  Bummer.  Too much clutter in the studio and lack of discipline!  I took the unit apart tonight with the goal of cleaning everything with q-tips and isopropyl alcohol and hoping for the best.

Octatrack goddess

The octatrack goddess – the voice in the machine!

Taking the Octatrack apart is pretty simple.  Some 2mm hex screws on the outside, and the User Interface PCB is a Torx 10.  I wanted to take it completely apart so i could ensure that I got everything that seeped into the unit clean.

CPU and Power Supply

The CPU Board and Power Supply are attached to the bottom case

Upon taking it apart, I could see where the bottom CPU board needed a little cleaning and so did the bottom of the metal case enclosure.  Nothing too bad, which was great to see.

Octatrack user interface pcb

User Interface PCB detached from the front face plate

The main user interface PCB looked pretty good too.  I cleaned around the pots and otherwise there really was no staining or remnants of the mishap.  Since Pot B wasn’t working, I cleaned all around that area including the pot itself.

Octatrack Cross Fader

Cross Fader assembly and PCB

The cross fader was interesting, much more mechanical than I would have guessed.  A nice design to take a beating without breaking.  You can see the PCB pulled from the rest of the assembly.  The digital design would slide between the two “tents” on the PCB and IR light would reflect and get caught by the sensors.  Everything was done by light, neat.  This assembly needed some cleaning as the metal shafts were a bit sticky. The cross fader is an Infinium 45mm Crossfader DX400211.

Octatrack cross fader

Octatrack cross fader

Taking apart the cross fader (my warranty period expired a couple of years back) I noticed something making a sound, like a really small loose screw.  I popped off these plastic covers showing the IR LED and light sensors and noticed that PT8 has a small piece of glass (?) that fell off.  This is super small and i won’t be able to fix it.

Cover for the IR LED and holes the sensors read the light through the encoded pain on the plastic (next photo)

Cover for the IR LED and holes the sensors read the light through the encoded pain on the plastic (next photo)

If you note in the above picture, there are 7 holes which allow the IR LED (bottom center) to reflect off of the “tents” and be ready by the sensors underneath.  I presume that the reason for the plastic piece is to control the exact amount of light that each sensor can receive.  I noted that a couple of these were covered by the cider, so I cleaned these up really nice.

Encoded paint with the IR  light interacts with to allow the sensors to read where the fader is at.

Encoded paint with the IR light interacts with to allow the sensors to read where the fader is at.

Upon putting everything back together, the pot worked great, and the fader worked all but 5% of the extreme left in which it centers.  I’m going to try and get a replacement from Elektron, but in the mean time I’m going to tape something to stop the fader from going all the way to the left, and that should be a work-around to the issue.

What is It's A Boo???

What is It’s A Boo(?) mean ?

Upon putting everything back together, all functions except for the extreme left on the fader are working flawlessly now.  I put in an email to Elektron asking for the replacement cross-fader part.  If it is cheap, i’ll buy two and have a spare.  Happy that not much damage occurred to the unit; I could probably play using it without any change now; but I do want to fix the cross-fader if I can; meanwhile I’ll use the work-around.

Loop User Interface

Loop User Interface