Category Archives: Editorial Pieces

We Are Featured In This Week’s VC Reporter

The nice folks at VC Reporter did a killer write up on us and founder Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis in their January 8th edition.  If you are local to Ventura County, California you can probably find a copy pretty easily. If not, see below for the digital version.

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“Metal music rose to prominence in the 1980s only to be eclipsed by Nirvana and the Seattle sound . . . or so the legend goes. The music fell out of the spotlight for years, with bands like Metallica representing close to the entirety of a culture to fans who didn’t know any better. But metal never died; it retreated underground where it spawned an infinite variety of subgenres, fusing influences from all across the musical spectrum into its core sound. Subgenres such as metalcore and deathcore developed from a strong hardcore punk influence to substantial success. Post-metal cast aside a verse-chorus-verse song format in favor of Black Sabbath-like riffing and cinematic atmosphere. All of these sounds had their moments before slowly going back underground. What has emerged since is a return to the core sound, a new wave of thrash and traditional metal. Internet radio station Kosher Metal wants to welcome you to the revolution.”

Read more at VC Reporter here

Science, Bitch: Your MP3 Collection Contains Only 9% Of The Original Music Data

A recent article posted by Mic.com has revealed something irrefutable (backed with science data) that might change the way you choose to listen to music, especially if you use Spotify. To put it simply, when original music data (the “master”) is compressed to the digital MP3 format it loses 91% of its original data, which gets replaced with algorithms. That’s right 91 PERCENT! What does this mean, exactly? Well…it means a few things. First off, you are guaranteed to have minimal emotional response to the music because listening to music in MP3 format can “fatigue” the ears. Secondly, you are not hearing the music the way the artist intended you to hear it. Hearing the music in a higher fidelity can potentially evoke emotional responses never present when listening to it in the compressed MP3 form. Consider a vinyl record to be the equivalent of 1080p HD and a CD is 720P HD….now consider an MP3 to be only 9% of that 1080p HD. Just let that sink in for a bit.

Now, read this excerpt from the article:

Bob Ludwig, a record mastering engineer, believes this [music in MP3 form] is one of the chief reasons people don’t engage with albums as deeply anymore. “When you’re through listening to a whole album of this highly compressed music, your ear is fatigued,” he told NPR. “You may have enjoyed the music but you don’t really feel like going back and listening to it again.”

Research shows that musical quality has a huge effect on emotional response. A recent study performed by audio researchers at DTS divided a group of listeners into two groups — one that watched a video accompanied by standard stereo 96-kbps sound (Spotify’s default audio setting) and the other group listened in 256-kbps audio format. The responses in the brains of the group listening with the 256-kbps audio were 14% more powerful on metrics measuring memory creation and 66% higher on pleasure responses. And this was just 96 to 256 kbps.

Vinyl records are estimated to play at a whopping 1000 kbps. Music might not just have lost its revenue when it switched to digital; it may have lost its emotional power too.

Granted, we here at Kosher Metal have to use MP3 files to broadcast our radio station….but in no way should our radio station be the only way you listen to music. Sure, it’s a 128kbps which is higher than Spotify’s default setting but we want you to seek out the music from the bands you like hearing in physical form…whether it’s CD or vinyl.

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(click image to enlarge, definitely worth a look. Image source Mic.com)

2014 Is The First Year With ZERO Platinum Selling Albums

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…and it’s all your fault.

But seriously this really, REALLY bums me out! Sean Parker and Spotify aren’t exactly helping, either. I mean, unless you are a stickler for audio quality like me or like having a physical product with artwork, it makes perfect sense to just stream the album for free instead of paying for it. But on the flip-side, the money you save is more money taken away from the artist because the content creators get paid far less than they would selling that album to the listeners, not to mention the ongoing piracy issue. I commend Tool (and all the other artists) for not having anything up on Spotify. Good music has value, and those artists know it. I guess it’s a good thing that Spotify’s business model hasn’t proven to be sustainable.

Sure, many people say that they use Spotify to check out an artist before buying. Realistically, I’m betting that 99.99% of the people who say that are full of shit and have no desire to pay for any music. They may go to shows, but that’s not what this post is about.

I get albums sent to me for free digitally because of the radio station and yet I still purchase the vinyl if I like it and it’s available. Am I an idiot for spending hundreds of dollars on music in the past year? NO! Because I’m willing to take an active role in helping the artist succeed. I can’t go to every show so at least I’m buying something.

There may come a time when the artists you love just stop putting out new albums all together and just release a single now and then. If that happens, would all the money saved be worth it? Sure…you didn’t have to pay for any music but I bet you’d be pretty bummed if your favorite bands stopped putting out albums. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everybody. If you purchase music albeit vinyl, CD, or Digital then I’m obviously not directing this at you…I actually salute you.

In the end, pirateers and music freeloaders will do what they want but let me just leave you with this comment left by a friend of mind who shall remain anonymous (unless they ask to be revealed):

“You see… the older bands I dig actually came up in a time when fans would not only BUY the album, but they’d also PAY for their tickets to a show. AND when they got to the show, they would BUY merch too! It wasn’t a matter of “Well, let me steal the album and TRY to get into the show for free via guest list from a shitty local opener or just sneak in… THEN maybe buy a shirt if I have enough money left over after I buy all my weed and/or cigs and/or beer.” There was no theft of music, and no justification of “Well I’m poor/broke and can’t afford every new album that comes out.” We supported our favorite bands so that they could still be around, and continuing to put out new music.

Proof positive that when you actually SUPPORT artists with your WALLET instead of facebook likes and ridiculous “promotion” via illegal torrents and blogspots, they will actually still be around 20 – 30 years later…”

-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis

The Record Doctor V: For Vinyl Lovers Only

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I recently acquired a Record Doctor V and I must say that it is a game changer in the realm of record cleaning machines (commonly referred to as RCMs). Basically, it’s a manual powered VPI in the sense that you turn the record manually instead of there being a motor to turn it for you, and it’s the elimination of this motor that makes it the most affordable vacuum powered record cleaning machine on the market. At an affordable (and even lower than before) price point of $199.99 it is a must have for serious vinyl enthusiasts / audiophiles. I am never looking back after using this thing, everything is getting cleaned on it. If you want one too, you can get it direct from the source via Audio Advisor at this location. Below is a video demonstrating its use.

Whether you get the RDV or not, you should know that ALL records come dirty from the pressing plant, you just can’t see it. Basically, there is a residue from an agent/compound they use to prevent the records from sticking together when they’re pressing them. The unfortunate side effect is left over residue, which degrades the sound of the record. I can personally verify that records which appeared clean and played clean before using the RDV sound much better after cleaning them, there is more depth to the music. It really is a jaw dropping experience. So, needless to say you should have some type of way to deep clean your records effectively. Also, you should know that there can sometimes be tiny vinyl fragments within the grooves and once the needle/stylus hits it blows a hole in the sidewall of the groove and then you will have a permanent “pop” in that spot, this obviously only applies to brand new records because used records usually have been played at least once.

-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM Co-Founder / Blog Editor

Everything You Need To Know About Metallica’s Blackened Recordings’ Vinyl Reissues

It’s been a few since I’ve posted on here, mainly because I have developed an obsession for music on vinyl and have been getting lost in the world of Analog. But I am here to give all of you who care some much needed info regarding the upcoming Metallica vinyl reissues.

A couple of days ago it was announced that Metallica will be releasing a series of vinyl reissues via their own label Blackened Recordings, with the first wave of releases to come out on August 25th, 2014 and the second wave to be released on September 16th, 2014.

I have done all the necessary research to provide you with all the info you should need to make an informed decision.

First off, these Blackened vinyl reissues will be the same as the Warner vinyl reissues (that came out in 2008/2011) in terms of the source and mastering. Just like with the Warner reissues, they are all from the original masters and the first three albums are done at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs with the remaining done by Bernie Grundman. All are being pressed at Furnace and will be on standard gram vinyl. However, it should be noted that the Warner/Grundman reissues were pressed at either Pallas in Germany or RTI (both are top notch pressing plants). So, on the surface it appears that the only difference between the Blackened and Warner reissues is where they are pressed.

Secondly, for those unaware, the first three albums that were done at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MoFi) have the reputation for sounding less than great with what is described as an obscene amount of treble (at least on the Warner issues). It is recommended by many that vinyl audiophiles seek out the original pressings of Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, and Master Of Puppets. You can’t really fault MoFi on that one though, because you have to consider the source. The reason why the MoFi releases sound so “bad” is because the recording quality of the masters weren’t the greatest. So, the MoFi remasters just bring out the bad production quality more while the original pressings don’t highlight those qualities as much.

Of course, these are all guidelines and it’s really up to an individual’s ears and sonic preferences. I have a 7-band EQ so I just might get the Blackened reissue of “Master Of Puppets” and mess with the EQ a bit if the treble is really as bad as people say, who knows…it might just sound killer with just a little bit of tweaking. If you know people who have either a Warner reissue or original pressing then definitely listen to their copy first and see what you think before buying. If you like the sound of the Warner reissues of a certain title (45 RPM series doesn’t count), then chances are that you will dig the Blackened reissue of the same title. Most people claim that the Grundman mastered ones sound fantastic (having better quality recordings to work with helped as well, I’m sure).

August 25th releases:
Master Of Puppets
Metallica” (self-titled ‘black album’) (2xLP)
Load” (2xLP)
Reload” (2xLP)
St. Anger
S&M” (3xLP)
Garage, Inc.” (3xLP)

September 16th releases:
Kill ‘Em All”
Ride The Lightning
…And Justice For All” (2xLP)
Death Magnetic” (2xLP)

blackened-metallica

-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis

How To Stop Tagged Posts From Showing In The News Feeds Of Facebook Friends

Are you a musician, artist, promoter, or other business owner? Do you find yourself tagging promotional posts with people on your Facebook friends list because it will display in the news feed of their friends? Well, stop it!

“Promo-tags” are one of the lowest forms of promotion. Not only that, but it’s extremely annoying to the people that you tag because they will get a notification every time a comment on the post is made.

If you still feel like you have to tag people in order to get them to see a post, then tag them in the comments section of the post and not the post itself, leave it up to your “friends” to decide if they want to share it with their network of people.

If you find yourself the subject of “promo-tagging” there are two things you can do. The first thing is to turn on tagging approval in your settings, this will make it so you have to approve posts you are tagged in before they appear on your timeline (they will still show in your friends’ news feeds, though). Second step (if you want to go this far) is to prevent tagged posts from showing in the news feeds of your friends. To do this, make it so that your friends are not added to the audience of tagged posts and only you can see them. This can be done in the “Timeline and Tagging” section in your settings. You can refer to the image below to see where they are in the settings, click on the image to make it bigger.

fbtaggingsettings

-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM Co-Founder and Blog Editor

SWEET SAVAGE: The Band Metallica Tried To Sound Like

Unless you are familiar with the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, then you probably have no clue about the band Sweet Savage.

Well, let me just get this out in the open and say that it’s quite obvious (to me) that Metallica frontman James Hetfield tried as hard as possible to mirror the vocal styling of Sweet Savage frontman Ray Haller (at least in the beginning). Metallica also  covered the Sweet Savage song ‘Killing Time’ as a b-side to “The Unforgiven” single.

Listen to this track from Sweet Savage called ‘Eye Of The Storm’ that appeared on the NWOBHM ’79 Revisited Double CD compilation  that was co-curated by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. If you weren’t told otherwise, you’d probably think it was early Metallica.

 

Side note: Sweet Savage also featured guitarist Vivian Campbell (Dio, Def Leppard) until 1983.

The ‘Battle Of The Bands’ Has Evolved Into A Shady Mess

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It appears as though these so-called Battle Of The Bands events that we all know about are nothing more than cash grabs aimed to take advantage of those willing to participate.  I could be way off here, but I’ve been to enough of these things to realize they are a complete joke (at least the ones I went to).

It used to be that there were a panel of judges, and everyone was made aware of who was judging from the start. Bands would play (without being forced to sell tickets) and they were judged based on a variety of criteria such as crowd reaction, stage presence, song structure, and so on. Nobody was asked at the door who they were there to see.

It seems to me that the only “battle” going on is who can sell the most tickets (pre-sale or at the door). So, in other words, it’s all about how much money they can make for those running it. A band who totally sucks could end up winning a Battle Of The Bands simply because they “packed the house” – I’ve seen it happen.

I know I am generalizing here, and I apologize to anyone who runs legit battles. The goal of this post is to stop the people who are just merely taking advantage of bands by dangling a carrot in their faces without rewarding those who truly deserve to win whatever prize is being offered. It shouldn’t be about how many tickets a band can sell, it should be about how good they are at performing (along with having good songs). The fans (and money) will eventually come if the band has something good to offer.

-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM Co-Founder and Blog Editor

(UPDATED) CDs May Be Better Than MP3, But Vinyl is Still The Best Overall

Since I have added a bunch of stuff to this since its original posting, I though it proper to post again with all the updates in place. The updates are for those who wish to take up vinyl (or improve upon what they already have).

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Not too long ago, I wrote a piece on why CDs are better than digital files. Well, since then I have developed an affinity for vinyl. This piece aims to focus on why vinyl is a better way to listen to music…if one prefers sound quality over convenience, that is.

If you ask people who prefer to listen to music on vinyl about the sound quality, the most common thing that you will hear is that the music sounds “warmer.” The main reason for this is that there are frequencies that are simply lost when music is processed digitally (for CD or a digital audio file format), thus when you compare the sound quality you will get a “warmer” sound with a vinyl record and this also makes the brain happy. I have personally experienced what I like to call “frequency highs” because I am being exposed to frequencies that I haven’t been exposed to in years when it comes to listening to recorded music. I would drive around after listening to a couple of my favorite records and felt like I was on a euphoric high (but then again, it could just be the weed). However, even mastering engineers have said that the LP is the most accessible high-resolution music format. But, you need to have good enough equipment in order to truly experience all that vinyl has to offer your ears.

“But what about the crackles and pops?” This is where records sort of get a bad reputation, in my opinion. With a good turntable and stylus (needle) you will experience practically zero crackles or pops over the music when playing a record that has been properly cared for.  Right now, I’m listening to an original pressing of Judas Priest’s “Screaming For Vengeance” and I’m in pure Metal Heaven. Sure, you might hear some very light crackles during light passages on certain older records or a record that’s scuffed up, but that just adds to the charm…I barely even notice it now. A well pressed and well cared for record will play just as clean as a CD, it will just sound better on vinyl. Also, albums pressed in certain countries can sound “quieter” than others, such is the case with Japanese, European, and U.K. pressings usually. If you want to make sure you get the best sounding record, a good general rule is to get the original pressing in the country the LP was first released in.  Granted, that can get expensive depending on the title, so basically get the earliest pressing you can. That doesn’t hold true for all releases, but usually it works out that way. Of course, it should be noted that with 78s you will almost always hear crackles and pops…but records aren’t pressed on 78s anymore (you also need a different stylus for them). Records today (and the ones you are most likely to buy and collect) will either be at 33 1/3 or 45 RPM.

Another big plus when it comes to vinyl is they (for the most part) retain their value, if not increase (if dealing with an original or limited pressing). You try selling CDs lately? It’s a joke, right? You paid maybe $14.99-$17.99 when it was brand new in the 1990s and you’re lucky if you get $2.50 for it. But with records, you can make some money back if you needed to (assuming your records are well cared for and not bad pressings).

Vinyl is a luxury, no doubt about it. It can be quite the addiction and expensive, depending on how far you’re willing to go for the ‘ultimate sound.’ The records are just part of it….the record player and system make a big difference too.

If you are just starting out and want to be a part of the ‘vinyl culture’ but want something that will sound good and get you excited about listening to records…then pay close attention to the following.

Get an Audio Technica LP-120 turntable (make sure it’s the newer model with the AT95e cartridge – post September 2011) – this is the best turntable for the money and if used properly will make your records sound awesome and keep them in great shape. You can also do upgrades to make it even better, such as replacing the stock felt slip-mat with a cork or rubber one. I have a hybrid cork/rubber mat that I bought on eBay for $19.88 with free shipping, and it is a vast improvement over the felt mat. The reason for this is because the cork/rubber absorbs the vibrations better and has better sound dampening for a richer and fuller sound. Oh and you better get a digital stylus force gauge and set the weight to your stylus’ recommended setting, you can get a decent digital force gauge on Amazon for around $30 or so. This will make sure the weight being placed on the grooves is precise (mine is to the hundredth of a gram at 2.00 exact). This will make your stylus perform at its optimal capability. You’d be very surprised at how inaccurate the weight can be when “eyeballing it” as the manufacturer instructs, but more on that later.

A recommended upgrade would be the stylus, which is done over at LPgear.com or LPTunes.com – upgrades range from $44.95 up to $129.95, so it really depends on your budget. I plan on getting the best available, because my birthday is coming up so hey…why not? That one can be found here (ATN-95SA).

As far as a stereo amplifier/receiver goes…you can find some pretty good used ones at thrift stores and on eBay or Craigslist. Some pretty good speakers can usually be found at thrift stores or on Craigslist (I scored mine for $60), but if you have the cash to buy brand new and prefer un-used goods then go for it. The amp doesn’t need a “phono” input – it is actually recommended that you get a Phono pre-amp (or “phono stage”) for two reasons; the first being that it allows you to use a turntable with an amp that doesn’t have a phono input, but even more importantly it provides even better sound. Many people use them even if they already have a phono input on their amp, because most of the pre-amps built into amps for phono inputs tend to suck. The most recommended “audiophile” quality phono stage is the Pro-Ject Phono Box, but you can do your own research to find the best one that fits your budget. Granted, the LP-120 turntable does have a selectable pre-amp built-in that you can activate with a switch, but DO NOT USE IT. You will also have to get a high quality interconnect (RCA cable) with the lowest capacitance possible, low capacitance ensures you won’t get any hum or unnecessary quality loss. The BJC LC-1 sold by BlueJeansCable.com comes highly recommended.

“But what about the LP-60? It’s fully automatic and just under $100.” Yes, the Audio Technica LP-60 will seem quite appealing on the surface…I almost went with that one myself. However, there is  one BIG problem. You can’t adjust the tracking force of the needle (the amount of weight placed on the grooves of the record), which severely limits stylus upgrade options. But more importantly, its tracking force is heavy (at least 3-4 grams or so) while the average recommended tracking force is about 2 grams. What this means is that the LP-60 will place unnecessary pressure on your records, which will damage/wear them down over time. So if you value your records…spend the extra cash and get the LP-120.

Still got questions? Post them in the comments!

UPDATE (2/11/2014):

I have successfully installed the ATN-95SA stylus upgrade from LPgear.com, which is arguably the best available stylus for the stock AT95e cartridge that comes with the Audio Technica LP-120 turntable as it has a Shibata diamond tip. Note that the AT95e cartridge became the stock cartridge for the Audio Technica LP-120 after late 2011, prior to this they used the ATP-2 which is said to not be as good as the AT95e.

I instantly noticed a vast improvement in the fidelity of the sound with better separation of the instruments. I would say that this stylus makes the stock stylus sound inferior and you will never have a desire to use the old one again. This is the type of stylus that will bring out stuff on your records that you may not have noticed before. Like the saying goes, it’s hard to go back to grape juice once you’ve had fine wine. Of course, it’s good to have as a backup or you can just sell it on eBay or something to someone who wants a stock stylus replacement. LPgear even gives you a nice snap case with pre-cut foam to store/ship your old stylus.

UPDATE (4/7/2014):

I had been experiencing some weird fuzz over certain frequencies as well as static/fuzz when adjusting the volume dial on the amp. After realizing that the speaker wire I was using was a smaller gauge meant for smaller speakers (my brother in law had some excess wire that he let me have), I decided to replace the speaker wire with something a bit more beefy. I got the BJC Ten White speaker cable made by Belden and sold by BlueJeansCable.com – which is 10 gauge wire (the smaller the gauge number, the thicker it is). I included a picture below that shows the difference in size.

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Needless to say, the fuzz is all gone and the music sounds even better than before. If you have clip or spring terminals, then you can just get the raw wire.  But they can add whatever connectors you may need. If the wire is too big to fit into your amp or speaker terminals, you can just trim back some of the wire to make it fit. You won’t experience any loss in sound quality.

UPDATE (4/18/2014):

I decided to get a digital stylus force gauge just to make sure that the weight being placed on the grooves was accurately set. I was able to get one for between $20-$30 on Amazon that weighed out to the hundredths.  It should be noted that too much weight on the grooves will damage your records a lot quicker.

I weighed it out to 2.00g flat – and shockingly enough the dial was WAY off. Below is the image of what it looks like after being set with the digital scale. Before this, the dial was set dead-on at 2…now it’s between three-four notches to the left of 2.

Also….BETTER SOUND!

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-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM Co-Founder / Blog Editor

An Open Letter To Vinyl Record Pressing Plants and Manufacturers

I was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but I have noticed a severe lack of quality control when it comes to newly pressed records. This open letter is an attempt at alerting the vinyl pressing plants around the world that they need to step up their game.

In the past month, I have had to return several different titles, mostly because they were scuffed up so bad that they created an obscene amount of surface noise and pops, which is NOT something that should be present with a brand new record. I have purchased 40 year old used records that look 10 times better than some of these “brand new” records I’ve been getting. I actually gave up on one specific release, because I kept getting bad copies. Apparently, I’m not the only one lucky enough to be frustrated by this. There are plenty of people out there complaining about how badly the condition of their brand new records are.

This is just not acceptable! Granted, there are plenty of ‘vinyl hipsters’ out there that buy vinyl with no intention (or ability) to play them; but there are, however, plenty of us out there that actually LISTEN to the records we buy. It is THIS demographic that record pressing plants should cater to.

Please, for the love of music, step up the quality control before you completely kill all interest the new generation may have when it comes to the pursuit of vinyl.

No record that leaves the plant should look like this…

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-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM Co-Founder / Blog Editor