Editor's Note: What's in a Column?

Dec 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Tom Kenny, Editorial Director


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A little over six months ago, I called our longtime technical editor, Kevin Becka, and asked him if he might be interested in writing a back-page column. It has to be technology-related, I told him, with stuff about gear that people use every day. I really wasn’t much clearer than that. “Sure,” he said. “Let’s talk about it. But I’m not sure that I’m really a columnist.” “That’s okay,” I countered. “I’m not really sure what the column is supposed to be.”

This month, the column is about headphones, a crazy-hot market in both the consumer and professional worlds. Back in June, on its launch, it was about Trust, both in the gear we purchase and the creative decisions we make. Along the way, faster than we expected, his column, “TechTalk,” began to take shape. Kevin found himself commenting on the computer industry, where a change to something like Thunderbolt could have a profound effect on the speed and efficiencies of professional-level production. He has looked into software development and hardware releases, noting the confluence of the two into hybrid techniques. It seemed that the column was settling into this nexus where professional meets consumer, including on the production side, in technology development and for distribution models. Mainly, he found, he was writing about our industry’s touchpoints to other industries, including computer, electrical, musical instrument and retail.

Now Kevin is about to embark on a build-out of a mix studio in his home, where he will employ many of the methods he writes about in process that will be chronicled here in these pages and documented in his blog. He is meticulous and well-researched, and his budget is hardly unlimited. He has gone back into the walls, put in new electrical, bought a new dedicated computer, measured for room treatments and is now nearing the finish line.

Essentially, “TechTalk” has become the “Engineer’s Everyman” column, with Kevin representing the Mix reader. He has worked in large studios on million-dollar consoles and some of the world’s finest vintage gear. And he still does. He has worked on low-budget remote gigs with nothing but a couple of mics, an I/O and a laptop. In his capacity as an educator at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, he must stay current or be left behind. And in his own life, after dinner or on the weekends, he wants a professional-level space that he can call his own for his own projects.

That is possible today because of the confluence of those very technologies and techniques he’s writing about. Power and speed and flexibility and storage have become increasingly affordable, and the ticket to entry to “professional audio” has dropped considerably. We know that. But how these lower-cost tools integrate into a true professional environment is the challenge. What do you buy today that will still be relevant tomorrow? How do you make a bet on video without knowing what Apple is going to do with Final Cut Pro? How much do you invest in hardware vs. software, mics vs. virtual instruments, monitoring environment vs. monitors themselves?

These are the types of questions Kevin will be formulating each month. They are the types of questions Mix readers ask themselves everyday, and they’re the types of questions that benefit from commentary, from a columnist.

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