Live Stream Equipment List & Frequently Asked Questions


As a lot of people have asked, here is a nearly complete list of the audio, video and assorted other electronic equipment used on my live broadcast. The FAQ is further down. If you're interested in reading about other things I've had to deal with in the process of hosting a live streaming show, here's one such tale right now! Perhaps in the future I'll post more entertaining stories of equipment wrangling in the name of producing a live stream.

Not everything below is in active use. My studio has temporarily (though probably a lot longer term than I'd like) been pared down to just the essentials. Much of what's not in use has to do with video.

I try to maintain this document up-to-date on a continuous basis. Sometimes I'm more successful than others.

Equipment

Video Stuff
3M "Mincom" color bar generator (circa 1974)
Videonics MX-1 video mixer
Videonics TM-3000 character generator
Various s-video and composite video cables
Assorted camcorders
Phoebe Micro Bt8x8 tuner card for video capture
Assorted video switchers, mostly generic
13" CRT TV sets, color and black and white, new and old, good and cheap)

Audio Stuff
Behringer Xenyx 1202FX mixer
Numark DM-1300 mixer (provides crossfade and phono preamp)
Radio Shack 33-128 supercardioid dynamic microphone (former primary microphone)
Shure SM57 Microphone (not in active use, as much as I like the design, I've been less than impressed with its performance)
Sennheiser E835 dynamic microphone (new primary microphone, I'm moving up in the world and getting closer to that RE20)
Shure SM58 Microphone
ART TubeMP Microphone Preamplifier (early version, without the illuminated analog meter)
Nady Systems "Star Power" SP-1 dynamic microphone (guest microphone)
Assorted microphone stands
Technics RS-M14 stereo cassette deck
Technics SL-J11D linear tracking stereo turntable
Technics SA-210 stereo receiver (monitoring amplifier)
Optimus (Pioneer rebranded) six disc compact disc changer
Vector Research VCD-420R single disc CD player
Assorted audio cables and adapters from various places
Foam pop filters for microphones
CRL Systems TVS-3001 broadcast grade audio processor/AGC
Alesis Nano Compressor (set as a fast acting limiter/safety)
Aureal Vortex 2 PCI sound card (audio capture, retired)
JC Penney three-way stereo speaker system (don't knock 'em 'till you've heard 'em)
NEW! Orban Optimod 8182A/ST Audio Processor

Computers
Dell Dimension E521 (former stream encoder, retired because I had enough of its antics)
Dell Optiplex 755 #2 (new stream encoder)
Dell Dimension 4550 (previous video graphics effects, slide generation and display, might come back)
Dell Optiplex 755 #1 (not used in the studio any longer)
Dell Optiplex GX620 (digitized music playback PC)
Dell Dimension 2300 (previous digital music playback PC, now retired)
AMD Athlon XP 3200+ "Whitebox" PC Clone (acting as a "light up doodad", running Linux and XScreenSaver)

Light Up Doodads and Thingies
Cooper EXIT Sign with green letters
Lava® Lamps of various shapes, colors and sizes (way too many of them, in fact)
Assorted rotating red and blue lights, similar to "police lights"
Miniature AC powered traffic light  (China's Finest!)
ENTER sign (retired at least temporarily)
Various "preheat" fluorescent desk lamps for fill in lighting (mostly retired now)
Large red Christmas light (hanging from ceiling, aka the "studio uvula")
Plasma Ball (after many years of looking for one)
Digital clock kits of Chinese origin
Multicolored rotating "light ball"
Neon illuminated dolphin
Too many multimeters (because I'm a huge dork)

Miscellaneous
Lots of outlet strips
APC Smart-UPS 1500 (old enough that it was made in the US, in storage)
APC Smart-UPS 1000 (rather newer, not made in the US, added because there was a LOT of load on the 1500)
Whirlpool water cooler (likely to be phased out soon, since it's never used and the water gets pretty stale)
Retired street and business signs (all acquired legally)
Breyer's Oreo ice cream box (washed thoroughly, dried out and stuck to wall behind studio)

Goldstar mini-fridge (in the studio long before there was a studio)
General Electric microwave oven (well worn, circa 1986, presently retired, may be diagnosed/repaired later, predates the studio)
Quasar "Lifestyle II" microwave oven (the "new" studio microwave oven, dates from 1987)
GM truck speakers (not hooked to anything, just kicking around the studio)
Assorted camcorder tripods, big and small
Lots of other interesting junk
Metal shelving unit
Converted pressboard "dresser" swiped from the trash and repurposed into an equipment rack (gone)
Table rescued from the trash (More wastefulness. This required nothing more than having its legs tightened.)
Orange 1970s Steelcase desk chair (the infamous "Steelcase Racer", also a Curbside Discount find, nothing whatsoever wrong with it...sigh)
Small and crappy metal shelf to hold more blinkies than would fit on the main shelf (no longer in the studio)
Comically large stuffed toy dog from the Goodwill
There was a resident moose in the studio as well! (after years of its being in the way and underfoot, the moose went back to the Goodwill...)
Stuffed handmade goose (it's an inside joke)
Stuffed toy grasshopper, cricket or similar kind of insect (appears randomly, usually as a warning that 'Furhead is in the studio)
Various stuffed toy snakes (a blue one with a rattle, a black and yellow one with two heads)



Questions, some frequently asked and others not so much:

"Where can I find your show?"

Right now you can find my show airing primarily on Vaughn Live. Please be aware that their site is open only to an age 18+ audience, and by implication so too is my show. Ustream is utilized as a backup. Sign up for e-mail notifications (see "is there a schedule for your show?" below for caveats and further information) to find out when I'm on.

I don't use any other streaming sites, and have no desire to do so. (Corollary: if you're a promoter for a streaming site, whether new or old, I've got no interest in moving my show unless you have a very compelling offer to make. By which I mean your offer must be exceedingly compelling when considered by an objective party. And as it probably isn't "all that and more", that basically means I'm not interested in solicitations to use different streaming sites.)


"How'd you get started?"

Ever since I was very young, I've had an interest in radio and broadcasting. (An interest in video production and equipment came later.) Pair that with a tremendous imagination and you'd have often found me sitting in front of my father's stereo receiver, pretending to be a DJ at the greatest radio station in the world. And while I imagined myself in all sorts of occupations as a child and then some, radio and broadcasting have stuck with me.

I got started in live streaming when a friend of mine decided to start a weekly live streaming show. When realization hit that live streaming had finally reached the point where anyone could do it at no cost, I lept at the opportunity. I started out with nothing more than a used DJ mixer and a RadioShack microphone from eBay, both from the very early 1980s. To that I added a computer, a video camera, a CD player and a turntable. Near as I can tell that was in the late 2010s, early 2011s or thereabouts...maybe a bit before. My studio area has grown in capability and functionality since that time.

I've never worked in broadcasting professionally, nor do I have any training in the field. Radio has become a largely automated thing, with the majority of broadcast stations concentrated in the hands of few well heeled owners. A station with an actual live DJ making the decisions on what to play, and certainly doing so with things like turntables, has sadly been almost completely relegated to history in these modern times. I wouldn't have the audacity to claim that what I do is anything like radio used to be. It's more of an idealized notion, perhaps driven by a nostalgia even if that past never really existed.

"What's the Fortress of Amplitude?"

It's where I host my broadcasts. I've carved out a corner of my basement to use as a broadcast studio.

"I love your show! Why do you call it 'Don't Watch This'?"

Mainly because I thought it was funny, and I like self-deprecating humor.

"Do you get paid anything for doing these shows? Do you make any money from them?"

No, I most definitely do not. I do these shows only for fun and even if I were to be offered the opportunity to make money in any way, I would turn it down. (No one has ever offered.)

Doing these shows actually costs me money. Not only is there the expense of the equipment, which at times has been considerable, there is also the cost of acquiring music. I insist that anything I play be legally acquired and utilized. There have some songs and albums for which the cost of acquisition has been considerable as well. You'd think that here in the 21st century, any song you cared to name would be readily available through online music retailers. Unfortunately, this just is not always the case, especially if what one is interested in comes from artists and groups that have been forgotten. I spent a decade looking for at least one album before I managed to track it down. There are many more that I've never managed to find.

Most of the popular streaming web sites run advertising to defray their operating costs. Even if you see advertising presented during my show, it is of absolutely no benefit to me. In fact, being the scofflaw that I am, I highly encourage you to run an advertising blocker within your web browser to reduce the number of cognitive toxins you've got to deal with. It is YOUR computer after all. (Please do, however, consider allowing non-intrusive advertising so as to send a clear message to web advertisers that they need not harass the people viewing their ads to make a point and some money.)

"Do you take requests?"

Generally, yes. The request lines may not be opened at all for shorter shows or those which are "special" in some way. When they are open, request lines will remain open from the beginning of the show until a half hour before the end. I'll announce when the request lines are about to close and when they have finally closed.

I'll do what I can to fit as many requests I can into a show. If I don't get to your selection during a show, and if I don't forget, I'll play it on my next show. (To be on the safe side, I recommend making your request again.)

Previously I was using (and still support) a special purpose forum for making requests. These days I'm experimenting with the Music Request System software written by another member of Stereo Dust Particles. Both will be made available when I'm broadcasting.

If I don't have your request, I'll try to make that known.

Requests are played in a more or less linear fashion (first come, first served) and are ultimately subject to the whims of the DJ. Whining, wheedling, begging, being rude and engaging in otherwise "annoying" behavior will not have the effect of moving your request up in the queue. In those cases, your request will be played much later or even not at all. It's my show, and I can do that!

"What if you don't have my request?"

It's entirely possible that I won't have your request in my music library, as it focuses mainly on the kind of stuff I like to hear. There are simply some things I won't play. (Reasons vary: some things I don't like at all, some things might not fit a format if I'm sticking to one during a show, and some songs are just so annoying/played to death/whatever that I can't countenance the idea of playing them.)

Because some people have done this: no amount of wheedling, begging and pleading is going to make me play your request if I haven't got it and don't wish to add it to my library. I will not play anything from a source such as Youtube.

There are good reasons for this: the quality of uploads varies wildly, a video may be misrepresented as something that it isn't, and it's usually impossible for me to audition a video to make sure it's OK. With all due respect, my decision on this matter is final. I care about the sound quality and (to a certain extent) the professionalism of my show.

"But you did play something from Youtube!"

It's my show. I can do that. Sometimes I do arbitary and capricious things. Deal with it! (Which implies "like an adult".)


"I'm in a band/I'm a singer/I play an instrument...will you play my music on your show?"

Maybe. Message me privately with more details. If I like what you're doing, I'll certainly be glad to play it and spread the word. (As of this writing, nobody's ever asked, but...)

"Why do you use all that equipment when one computer and a web cam could do it all?"

I much prefer having no single point of failure in the studio. For example, if the music player PC should fail, I can fall back to any of the CD player, turntable or tape deck until I get it going again--or, if I can't get it going, I can at least continue the show from actual recorded media.

I don't use web cams because their state of functionality even today is pitiful compared to 20 and 30 year old camcorders. Coincidentally, I can pick up those secondhand camcorders for essentially nothing. This means I can play with lots of cameras, and camera angles. It also means that I don't feel too bad if one of them dies beyond reasonable means of repair.

I also like actual controls (knobs, faders, sliders, push buttons, and all those sort of things).

And did I mention that most of this equipment was cheap? Because that's very important.

"All that stuff is old, slow, outmoded, out of date crap that should have been thrown away years ago!"

Technically that's not a question. It's also paid for and as you may have noticed, works just fine for the purpose. Next question, please. By the way, I'm pretty sure it won't kill you to be nice. Try it sometime.

I'm very happy with how my show looks and sounds. So are many other people. If you're not, maybe you're too picky. If it really bothers you that much, go watch something else. If you think you can do it better, feel free! If you're going to complain and whine about it, the only effect this will ultimately have is your earning a vacation from the chat room.

"What broadcasting software do you use?"

I used to use Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder. I like hardware controls for video switching and audio control/level adjustment. In the event of a failure, it's also possible to beat the living crap out of whatever let you down--and you can't do that with software!

I switched to OBS after retiring the Dell Dimension E521 because of its increasingly severe tantrums. Even though Adobe's FMLE was not without its quirks, it did everything I thought I needed it to do. I would have kept using FMLE, had it run under Wine on Linux. (It seems, at least as of this writing in late 2018, that DirectShow isn't really a thing yet in Wine.) I even tried Codeweavers' CrossOver product, and it fared no better.

I'm not really thrilled with OBS. It works and it's free. I wish it had a concept of standard definition, 4:3 aspect ratio video.

"Okay, how about a music player?"

I started out using iTunes, at first version 9 and later version 10. Versions 11-up are a disaster. These days I'm using a software program known as the Mooler Caster Console. It's an excellent, lightweight, music and spot player that does everything I could possibly want and more. I'm very appreciative of its author opening it up to the Stereo Dust Particles community for use. If you want to know more about it, ask during any of the SDP live streams.

Other programs come and go as needed. iTunes is still around because it provides an easy way to search for a track. Other programs I've used include VLC, and Media Player Classic Home Cinema (as part of the K-Lite Codec Pack).

Do you use any other software?

Of course. Operating systems vary. Almost all are members of the Microsoft Windows family. LibreOffice, dbPowerAmp music converter (of which I am most certainly a registered user!), SysInternals Process Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and other programs that I've either forgotten about or that play a very minor role are used in the process of bringing this show to you.

I'd rather you didn't engage in OS advocacy. I use what works for me. If something else works for you, I think that's great. I have no interest in being pressured to do things your way.

"Where did you get all this stuff?"

A lot of it came from eBay. What didn't come from eBay was collected from thrift stores, retired from service elsewhere, spared from recycling centers, picked up from the curb or given to me.

"What can you tell me about the audio chain?"

Audio comes from multiple sources, including a computer, two turntables, one tape deck and two CD players. One computer and a turntable feed into a Numark DM-1300 DJ mixer. Everything else, including all the microphones, feeds into a Behringer Xenyx 1202FX mixer. Except for the microphones, all audio signals travel over unbalanced connections. One turntable preamplifier comes from the Numark DM-1300. The other comes from the preamplifier built into a Technics SA-210 receiver.

From the Behringer mixer, audio goes out to a CRL Systems TVS-3001 television broadcast audio processor. This is a device from the analog and MTS stereo days of television, and it makes for a pretty good general purpose AGC. Not having to ride the faders like a madman makes my life a LOT easier. After it's gone through the TVS-3001, audio travels through an Alesis nanocompressor set to act as a very fast acting limiter or safety device. It's usually almost completely idle, but serves to protect listeners from any "oops" moments.

I also have an Orban Optimod 8182A/ST "studio chassis" unit. This is almost all of the circuitry found in Orban's Optimod-TV product of the mid-1980s. In fact, several of the cards have to come from the full size Optimod 8182A processor. (In its original application, the Optimod 8182A would then be taken to your TV transmitter site with several signal passthrough cards installed. The studio chassis, as its name implies, would stay in your studio. The two would then be linked by something such as leased lines from the telephone company.)  I'm using it right now, though I'm not sure I see a great need to keep it.

This processed audio feeds into the line input of a Dell Optiplex 755's onboard audio.

It used to be that I monitored my audio by enabling the analog playthrough functionality of whatever sound hardware I was using. I guess that isn't what the cool kids do any more, because contemporary operating systems can't handle it even when the underlying hardware is capable. Now they all apparently do some janky software simulation of playthrough that imposes a delay. While not so bad for music, this delay can drive one right up a tree while announcing. Since you should never be afraid to cheat when you can't win, that's exactly what I did. I split the incoming audio between the computer's line input and my monitoring amplifier. Bingo. No more delay or having to fool around with lousy software solutions to non-problems.

"Will you give me anything to help me start my own broadcast if I ask really nicely?"
"I want to start my own show and I expect you to send me something for free, preferably yesterday."

I'm sorry, but the answer is no. If you want to get into your own broadcast, I highly encourage it. I'll tune in and lend my support to your broadcast, provided I can do so and I know when you will be on. It's not expensive to buy a few basic pieces of equipment, same as I did--and if you look around your house, you may find that you have many of the things you need to get started! Even a simple cassette recorder microphone and the mixer built in your computer's sound card are good enough for starters.

If you really can't afford to buy some of your own equipment--even secondhand--then perhaps you should wait to broadcast. It's not worth going hungry or missing the rent.

"Can I co-host? How about a phone in show?"

No, I'm sorry. I don't have bandwidth sufficient to support call-ins or remotely located guest DJs. Even if I did, this would be restricted to people I know and feel that I can place absolute trust in.

"Will you do a phone in 'questions and answers' show about computers? Electronics? Whatever?"

No. This really doesn't hold any interest for me whatsoever.

"Can you tell me how to repair my computer/electronic device/whatever?"

No. That's not why you're supposed to be here. (Nor will I repair it for you, so please don't ask.)

"Will you give me/my friend/whatever a shout out?"

No.
(And if ever I do, it's because I was in a superlatively good mood during that broadcast.)

"I/my friend/some random person on the Internet is going to commit suicide if you don't give me/them/us a shout out!"

<sigh> Yes, this actually has come up during shows I've done in the past, although not for a long time.

First and most seriously of all: if you, someone you know, or you believe someone really is contemplating ending your or their life, don't. Suicide is never the answer, and there is always someone you can talk to. In the United States, there are several hotlines available, including the Boys Town National Hotline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Phone numbers for both can be found with a web search. If you're located somewhere else, try Wikipedia's list of suicide prevention hotlines.

Secondly: saying something like this to attract attention to yourself, as an Internet troll, or for whatever reason when you have no intention of ending your life doesn't make you clever, funny, cute or popular. There are just some things that you don't joke about, no matter the circumstances. I strongly and seriously suggest you re-evaluate the priorities in your life if you think joking about suicide is funny.

"Will you do a show with high definition video?"

No. Bandwidth won't allow it. I don't have equipment that will handle HD video and I can't watch a show with an excessive video or audio bitrate anyway. My video looks as good as it's going to, and looks great for what it is. Even if you want to buy HD capable video equipment and donate it to the show with no strings attached, I'm going to turn you down.

Caveat: OBS is really only designed for high definition output. It's still standard definition, 4:3 aspect ratio video all the way down.

"Can I send you something?"

No. I value my privacy and would appreciate your respecting it.

"Can I hear you on the radio?"

Simple answer: No.

More complicated answer: I have on very sporadic occasions operated radio transmitters on the AM and FM broadcast bands in line with what the Part 15 rules allow. A few people who have watched my shows have taken it upon themselves to rebroadcast my show, some of them with rather more power output than is allowed for license free usage. I'm not aware of anyone doing so today, and even if I were, you probably don't live near them. Even when I have had a transmitter operating, it's only been randomly playing stuff from my music collection, and that hasn't been for at least a year by now. Its range barely managed to escape the borders of my property.

I'd prefer not to have my shows broadcast, but obviously you can do so at your own risk. (I'm generally on a pretty even keel when I do these shows, and I try to make them suitable for all audiences. Still, I have lost my temper, made mistakes and done other stupid things that might get you in trouble, if you're operating a transmitter.)

"Do you mind if I want to record your show? Do you have archives I can listen to?"

Yes, actually I do. I can't stop you from doing so, obviously. Nor will I try, as it is foolish to think there is anything I could do to stop you. I hope you'll have enough respect and consideration for my wishes that you won't archive or record my live streaming efforts.

I do not maintain any archives of my show.

At this point you might be asking why, and I suppose that it is only fair to try and give you an answer. A lot of it has to do with the fact that, like anyone else, I've done and said some stupid things while streaming. I've been guilty of less than professional behavior, especially under situations of stress and harassment. And of course, I've left microphones open at inopportune times. (As said previously, I'm not a professional.)

If you absolutely must archive my show, be considerate and keep the archives to yourself.

"Is there a schedule for your show?"

Generally speaking, no. This is something I do purely for fun. Every now and again you'll catch me going in on a group broadcast with others. Such things usually happen a few times per year and are generally announced. Sometimes I get talked into doing a live broadcast by others, or as a fill in for someone who is having problems with their broadcast.

I have no plan at this time to implement a schedule. To paraphrase Robert Frost, everything is fun until it is your job.

You can follow my channels on Vaughn Live and Ustream alike if you want notifications, but there is no guarantee that said notifications will be timely or even delivered at all. Take it up with the management of the streaming site in question. (As of this writing in late 2017, it seems that Vaughn Live may be sending out e-mails once again.)

"Why Rules?"

Regrettably, there have been issues with people who for one reason or another, cannot or choose not to behave themselves in a more or less reasonable manner in the live stream chat. It would be nice not to have to bother with rules. Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world where that is possible. There's also an effort to try and get anyone I've placed into the role of a moderator on the same "sheet of music" as everyone else. I'm of the view that the rules I choose to impose are all common sense stuff. I'm a pretty easygoing (as well as generally irreverent) kind of guy and I'll let a lot go on before intervening or expecting anyone else to do so.

Only a few things are ever totally off-limits: politics, religion, and harasssing others for any reason. I don't care for sexual/romantic talk of any kind, and there's no place for suggestive or explicit postings. (Same goes for sexualizing everything -- that's not what this show is about!) I don't mind the occasional somewhat racy joke or double entendre.

You may disagree, and that's certainly your prerogative. It's not your prerogative, much less your right, to harass and disrupt the chat with obnoxious commentary about the rules. So don't do that. Its only effect will be to earn you a vacation from the chat. I respect your view even though I disagree. Please respect my desire to host my live streaming activities in the way that I see fit.

You're a GUEST in MY HOUSE and expected to behave as I ask, which basically amounts to common decency and sense. If you'd rather not do that, start your own show or watch something else. And oh by the way, please don't play the "infringing my freedom of speech" card. I'm not.

Like any other aspect of my show, I'm open to privately delivered constructive feedback about the rules.

TL;DR: The rules exist because common sense isn't so common after all.

What Is "Stereo Dust Particles"?

Stereo Dust Particles began as nothing more than a humorous phrase coined by Phil (a/k/a Phil AM, Rocking Dustpan or CenTexVideo) whenever a noisy record was played on the Weasel Show. Not long after, I started making comments that Stereo Dust Particles sounded like a good name for what would be known today as a big box electronics store. Only in this case, the store would sell all manner of dubiously functional items solving problems that no one has ever had (or not, since the products are tacitly considered not to work even when new), products that no one would ever buy, or products that would solve problems people had, if only those problems were easily solved by a simple product that anyone could go and buy...

Since that time, a whole slew of advertisements for such products have been produced by many people (myself included) located all over the world.

Obviously, Stereo Dust Particles isn't a real store or even a business. The closest existing business I could readily liken it to would be Drew Alan Kaplan's DAK Industries. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, Mr. Kaplan's business was that of a discount electronics retailer. DAK frequently sold new, reconditioned, unusual, and closeout items at discount prices. Their catalogs frequently included breathless descriptions of everything their products could do and went to great lengths explaining why you needed these products, preferably by yesterday. DAK Industries ran into financial problems by the mid-90s, closed its doors for a while and has since relaunched. Today it is seemingly under new management.)

Over time, Stereo Dust Particles has also come to refer to a loosely organized group of people sharing common interests in radio, broadcasting, technology, electronics and music. If you could call it an organization at all, it's a very loose-leaf one. There's no central membership, certainly no requirement to be a part of the group and nothing like any membership dues or similar. Pretty much the only expectations from anyone running a show under the SDP banner is that the show itself will be suitable for general audiences to watch and that broadcasters will try to be cognizant of others time slots. It's just for fun.

Unfortunately there have been at times people who made the claim to "own" Stereo Dust Particles despite having nothing to do with coining the term or suggesting the idea of a store selling all manner of ersatz goods. While it is presently believed that all such behavior has long since died down, anyone making such claims is not legitimate!

If you should have any other questions, address them to me in the live stream chat. Thank you.