Let’s hang out… outside

Hey, look! It’s a blog entry that has nothing at all to do with Things and Stuff, and on a Saturday, too! I bet you didn’t expect that, did you?
Oh, no, of course not! Why would I go and do something like that?

I’m here today because I became very bored, and decided to try a little experiment.

Many times at random points over the last few years, I’ve hung a set of microphones outside a window, turned on a streaming client, and let it go. Whatever happened outside could be brought directly to your face free of charge. Nice and cold in your home? Want to pretend you’re somewhere else? Well, you could… at least as long as the mics were outside, and the stream was going.

I’ve always wanted to simply leave a pair of mics outside all the time, and leave it streaming, as well as having a way to listen locally without using the net.
So, I’ve setup a very cheap, but decent pair of Behringer dynamic microphones, in this case a set of XM8500’s in an ORTF configuration. Though I’d rather use condensers for detail, these require no power, and would complain less about being drenched. Plus, the stereo spread isn’t bad, although it’s not omni-directional.
These mics are cheap, so if something kills them, I’m not too worried about it. If lightning strikes, I guess I’m screwed, but we’ll see what that does when it happens… well, hopefully not.

This is running into a set of preamps on my Alesis Multimix8, which doesn’t have much to do anymore, and, for now, is being brought to the digital world with a crappy Soundblaster USB mp3+, which is a little noisier than I’d like. The Alesis has a built-in USB chip, which is cleaner than the mp3+, but something happened to it, and the input is about 20db quieter than it should be.
The board and machine it’s running on (an old HP E-Vectra 933mhz p3) are hanging out in the studio closet, making a lot more fan noise than usual with the higher CPU load. It used to only run the streams and controller for my Icom PCR-100 receiver. That software is cool, and doesn’t bother running an encoder process if no one is listening, so the fan doesn’t make a lot of noise. Unfortunately, it’s noisier now, so I’ll most likely kill this machine when I need to do something critical, since this is the only thing in the room that makes noise regularly (the studio box is on the other side of the wall from the microphones.)I’ll probably insert some hardware compression, or at least a limiter, and a better sound interface at some point, but for now, I just wanted to see if this would work.
I don’t even know how long I’ll keep this on, or whether the people I live with will demand that I take the mics out of the back yard, and get them dead gum cables out of their way. I’d like to keep it up semi-permanently, as I think the idea of having streaming open mics outside somewhere is cool, and more people should do it.
The real test, of course, will happen when lots of rain comes through the area, which will probably happen on and off for a while. I can’t wait to see how these little $20 mics handle that.
Yeah, I should have probably put these things in an enclosed area or something, but that’s boring.

Next steps: upgrade to a better sound interface, insert compression (just a little,) run some cable to the studio board so I can bring it up down there, and a bunch of cable from downstairs to upstairs, so I can run it into the bedroom board as well. Will that actually happen? Who knows?

If you want to see what’s going on outside the studio window, Just hit this listen button.
If the link doesn’t work (there’s a chance it will only do so half the time,) copy and paste the address http://stream.borris.me:8888/outside into your media player manually.

As I type this, the rain is starting to pick up. Here we go, or something! Let’s see what it does! Hmm, that didn’t sound good…

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