Greetings friends and fans. Welcome to our brand new website. In this first issue of our blog I’ll discuss listening to our recordings and introduce some new features we hope you’ll enjoy
Most of the popular music we listen to on the radio or stereos has a compressed “dynamic range.” In simple terms, dynamic range is the difference between the loudest and softest parts of a song. Compression makes the softer parts of a piece closer in volume to the louder parts. Sounds are compressed so that you'll hear the complete song, soft parts and loud parts, at almost the same volume. This is especially helpful to the listener when there’s a lot of background noise, such as when you are driving in a car. Most radio commercials are heavily compressed because it’s important to the advertiser that you hear every word. At Aircraft Records we use compression in the production of our CDs too, just not as much as in popular music. Our goal is to make our recordings sound so authentic that you’ll feel you are actually there. This means that, when you’re listening to our CDs, there will be periods of low and high volume. For example, in a track from the Reno Air Races, you’ll hear the planes roar by in front of you on the first lap, then listen as they travel around the whole course before you hear them roar by you again, up close and loud.
If you think of how you might hear a P-51 at an airshow or while you're hanging out at your local airport, you expect the sounds emitted by the Mustang's engine to be loud only if you are standing close while it’s starting up, or perhaps as it makes a high-speed pass right in front of you. This is exactly the type of experience we are trying to bring to you in our recordings. So, when you are setting levels on your stereo (or on your phone or iPod while listening with headphones), set the volume so the loud parts are comfortable. The less loud sounds on the CD will then fall into perspective.
While producing these CDs over the last several years, we have carefully listened on a large variety of audio systems and speakers, ranging from extremely accurate studio monitor speakers (like Meyer Sound HD-1s and Genelec 1030As) to onboard computer speakers such as you’d find on an iMac or other desktop computer. And, because many people add outboard media speakers to their computers, we've given these kinds of systems a thorough vetting as well. I can't vouch for all of these speaker systems of course, but on my computer — I use a pair of Bose Companion 2 Media speakers — they sound pretty darned good. They won't shake the room like a big system, but many models produce quality sound in keeping with their size. For those of you with a medium sized stereo system with a receiver, CD player and a good pair of bookshelf speakers, might I suggest investing in a sub woofer? It doesn't have to be an expensive one. You will find that sub woofers really bring out the low frequencies of those large engines.
Finally, one of my favorite listening experiences is over a pair of good headphones. While recording, I monitor over a pair of Sony 7506 headphones. I like them because I can play my favorite cuts nice and loud, as loud as real life, and I don't disturb anyone. Sony’s 7506s have been around since the mid 1980s, and you can still get them in Pro Audio stores and on Amazon. I strongly recommend them. They cost around $100 a pair. I've even listened to our sounds over a pair of Apple ear buds. Yes, ear buds! Surprisingly, they sound great too.
Another regular feature of our new site is the Sound Clip of the Month. You can listen to the clip on a player within each edition of the blog. Most sounds will be sourced directly from our CDs. This month’s featured clip— you can find it below — was recorded originally for “Round Sounds Vol. 1”. When I started producing these CDs in earnest I soon realized that if I was going to find myself anywhere near running engines and flying planes, I’d better have my gear plugged in and my batteries charged at all times. Fortunately, this time I was ready. It was the Tuesday of Race Week at The National Championship Air Races at Stead Airport outside Reno NV. in the early ‘90s. It was an unusually quiet, overcast morning and no one was flying. Then, out of nowhere, somebody's radio crackled with a request for permission to take-off.
It was Race 77 Lyle Shelton’s “Rare Bear”. I knew that the re-engined, meticulously race-prepared ex-Navy F8F Bearcat was one of the fastest planes to ever compete at Reno. What was he going to do? Then, over the radio, Lyle requested a 2-lap qualifying attempt. What luck I was having! The recording conditions were perfect — almost no wind, no one else in the air, only a few people nearby. I was alone in the stands. Fifty feet away a couple of workers were assembling grandstands. Were they in for a treat! Listen very carefully and you’ll hear the radio communication between Lyle and Race Control. (You’ll also hear a peculiar, hollow clicking sound. That’s an empty Styrofoam coffee cup bouncing by in front of my mics.) You’ll hear a couple of blistering qualifying laps then a pull-up and power down, and you’ll hear Rare Bear fly complete 9+ mile laps with the haunting sounds of its 18 cylinder, supercharged Wright 3350 bouncing off the hills surrounding the Unlimited Course.Lyle Shelton's Race 77 "Rare Bear" Reno Qualifying Laps
Ron Burda Interviews Lyle Shelton:
Another feature of our new site and this blog will be sound clips of interviews we’ve done over the years. These include discussions we’ve had with wartime pilots, racing pilots, racing engine designers any many other Legends of Aviation. This month’s interview features Lyle Shelton, Navy Veteran pilot and multiple winner of the Unlimited Class races at the National Championship Air Races outside Reno, NV. Enjoy!
An Unmodified Grumman F8F Bearcat: