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hugol



Joined: 28/03/06
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Audio myths
      #804726 - 18/01/10 07:03 PM
Saw this referenced on another forum. I know we've discussed some of Ethan's views before, but thought this video has some interested stuff in it and this topic is worth revisiting maybe?

Audio Myths.


I've lost count of the number of times I've compared equipment or plug-ins on high-end headphones and really can't hear a difference in quality. Put it down to me not having golden ears, but maybe not....

Aside from strong psychological influences on perceived quality and factors like moving your head a bit during playback (why I mentioned headphones) I'm convinced other factors such as the mood you are in and how tired your ears are, are also way more significant than tiny differences in quality.

Now I do believe things like control design and layout can influence end results - and I'm not saying there isn't a difference in quality between products, just that the difference is frequently so minor we probably can't hear it. So whilst there are exceptions, in general we'd be far better off concentrating way more on technique that can make far more of a difference than being so obsessed with the latest gear (yes I'm as guilty as the next man here).


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Ted Kendall
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804784 - 18/01/10 10:29 PM
Not that there's anything new in this - forty years ago, a columnist in Tape Recorder wrote "I suspect that most tape men are toy-men; what interests them is what a machine can do rather than doing what it will do." Further on, he referred in complimentary terms to "those for whom tape is a tool, not a god."

I don't deny that I derive pleasure from the use of a Studer or a Nagra, but it helps to keep a sense of perspective...


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johnny h



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Ted Kendall]
      #804786 - 18/01/10 10:38 PM
Quote Ted Kendall:

Not that there's anything new in this - forty years ago, a columnist in Tape Recorder wrote "I suspect that most tape men are toy-men; what interests them is what a machine can do rather than doing what it will do." Further on, he referred in complimentary terms to "those for whom tape is a tool, not a god."




Very wise man...


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hollowsun



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804808 - 19/01/10 12:18 AM
Quote HugoL:

So whilst there are exceptions, in general we'd be far better off concentrating way more on technique that can make far more of a difference than being so obsessed with the latest gear





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MadManDan



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hollowsun]
      #804816 - 19/01/10 01:32 AM
How do they get 58:43 on a You tube clip?

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MarkOne



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: MadManDan]
      #804863 - 19/01/10 09:36 AM
Quote MadManDan:

How do they get 58:43 on a You tube clip?




I suspect money is involved.

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narcoman
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804890 - 19/01/10 11:14 AM
it's both.

Mood? Has very little to do with my daily work - especially on a "quality"
issue. The thing I find with {most} decent and high end gear is things become effortless. Stick a VM1 up infront of just about anything and it sounds "finished". Maybe not the right texture for what you want, but even with a poor sound source it sounds "complete and in the zone ". I have NEVER come across the same thing with cheap gear.

Golden ears? No. Experience is all you need. And unfortunately professional experience rather than just doing it a lot - the pressure of pleasing those at the high end with discerning tastes and ears ultimately develops your own sense of quality. It's not just a blind listening game - it's a listening game with the risk of losing it all if you fek it up !! heheh....

Is it hearable? Ethan has some unusual notions of what "sound quality" is. He is right in his measurement of difference - if you can't measure a difference then there isn't one!! But he also applies this same maxim to absolutes - so rather than measuring the differences between his beloved Soundblaster and a Prism unit, he often just cites the values and measurements of the Soundblaster card. Measurement with no comparison is not such a dependable scientific device.

I use high end gear on a daily basis - in fact got a nice Neve console sat here that absolutely and undeniably makes all those sub £10k consoles sound like toys. i know because we've still got several of them around!!. I also have a few other bits and bobs lying around from the old days - you really have to work cheap gear to get results from it.

Does mic position and performance blow all this out of the water? I know you'd all like me to say that it does - and it certainly goes someway towards it but ultimately....Well no it doesn't. I take it as a given that I'm going to be working with/on well performed, arranged pieces in acoustically suitable environments. We're dealing in sound quality in this discussion - the song, performance, instruments etc should be right. If this isn't the case then you're letting a weak link in. Yes - I understand in the hobbyist/talented amateur bracket that much of what was said in that video carries dramatic value. But it carries very little value in the product oriented and professional world simply because most in the professional world demand performance tools to give high quality results.


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narcoman
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804893 - 19/01/10 11:18 AM
Quote HugoL:

So whilst there are exceptions, in general we'd be far better off concentrating way more on technique that can make far more of a difference than being so obsessed with the latest gear (yes I'm as guilty as the next man here).




And whilst this is absolutely correct - once you have excellent technique - the gear becomes paramount. So agin - everything Ethan says has a great deal of credibility to the layman and/or hobbyist. To encapsulate - not much high end product is recorded in a bedroom with four bass traps.


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Shambolic Charm



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804910 - 19/01/10 12:02 PM
Very interesting and a great antidote for G.A.S.!

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aim



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #804928 - 19/01/10 01:04 PM
I always like those workshops and sessions, to bad I couldn't have been in ny last year

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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: narcoman]
      #805128 - 19/01/10 10:36 PM
Quote narcoman:


Mood? Has very little to do with my daily work - especially on a "quality"
issue.




Well I was talking about listening to music here, critically or just for pleasure. I absolutely find sometimes the same track on exactly the same exact setup can sound great, I'm hearing loads of detail and the quality and balance sounds great. Other times it's just not happening.

Maybe you don't get this, maybe it's just me I don't know. Mood, how well I slept, how clear my head is (headaches etc), the weather, what I've eaten for breakfast, whether I've had some coffee or not. I don't know, but I find this. I think it's a similar effect to listening to music after those first couple of beers compared to when you haven't. You appreciate it more and everything about it sounds different and better.

I'm not just talking about how you perceive things on different days, I find things can change after say an hour. A bit like ear fatigue. Carry on listening to something in one session and you can perceive it differently to when you've taken a break, gone for a walk and returned a while later. Surely it's not just me?

Quote narcoman:


The thing I find with {most} decent and high end gear is things become effortless. Stick a VM1 up infront of just about anything and it sounds "finished". Maybe not the right texture for what you want, but even with a poor sound source it sounds "complete and in the zone ". I have NEVER come across the same thing with cheap gear.





Well I'm sure there is a difference between kit and I'm not saying quality can't be and isn't a factor. The question is how significant are other factors, such as the layout of the controls, the sensitivity of the controls, how much you paid, the fact you think it's top quality unit etc etc?



Quote narcoman:


I use high end gear on a daily basis - in fact got a nice Neve console sat here that absolutely and undeniably makes all those sub £10k consoles sound like toys. i know because we've still got several of them around!!. I also have a few other bits and bobs lying around from the old days - you really have to work cheap gear to get results from it.





Ok, but is this down to quality or say the way you interact with the Neve console? I have to really doubt there is anything wrong with the audio "quality" of those other consoles, unless they're very low end or very badly designed. Is the Neve adding something pleasing (transformers etc), has a very musical EQ, etc etc? Extremely likely, quality as such though?

Maybe people just use the word quality to mean different things? Like boutique mic pre-amps, it's not just about having clean accurate linear amplification, which isn't that challenging to design or build surely, it's about what else it does to the signal, right?

Also I completely agree that you want to use quality kit that's reliable, you know extremely well and for whatever reasons gets you there quickly and I'm not necessarily in complete agreement with absolutely everything Ethan says, but I think there's an awful lot of truth in it. More than most of us like to admit.

People rely on their ears far too often as a super accurate tool, and not that you can't train yourself to improve and really focus on particular details, but overall there are a lot of other factors coming into play.


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: narcoman]
      #805140 - 19/01/10 11:09 PM
Quote narcoman:


And whilst this is absolutely correct - once you have excellent technique - the gear becomes paramount. So agin - everything Ethan says has a great deal of credibility to the layman and/or hobbyist. To encapsulate - not much high end product is recorded in a bedroom with four bass traps.




Well of course people want to work in a great environment and use great toys

Anyway no arguments whatsoever regarding the importance of acoustics. But I will go back to the audio quality argument again - I think once you get to a certain level it's frequently not about "quality" in the traditional sense - it's about the audio behaviour of the kit (assuming you can actually hear it that is), speed of working etc.


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Dynamic Mike



Joined: 31/12/06
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805155 - 20/01/10 12:15 AM
Quote HugoL:

Aside from strong psychological influences on perceived quality and factors like moving your head a bit during playback (why I mentioned headphones) I'm convinced other factors such as the mood you are in and how tired your ears are, are also way more significant than tiny differences in quality.




You create the ultimate guitar tone, declare a total exclusion zone around the amp, put up 'don't even think about touching that dial' warning notices & spend all day shouting 'step away from the amp & nobody gets hurt' through a megaphone.

Then you plug in, same guitar, same fingers, same leads & you think 'I'm sure it sounded better than this last night!' And the only things that can have changed are your attitude & your perception.

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Disclaimer: The views or opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the poster by the time you read this.


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Dynamic Mike]
      #805212 - 20/01/10 08:07 AM
Quote Dynamic Mike:


You create the ultimate guitar tone, declare a total exclusion zone around the amp, put up 'don't even think about touching that dial' warning notices & spend all day shouting 'step away from the amp & nobody gets hurt' through a megaphone.

Then you plug in, same guitar, same fingers, same leads & you think 'I'm sure it sounded better than this last night!' And the only things that can have changed are your attitude & your perception.




Yep that's the sort of thing I'm talking about. It's pretty obvious our perception of music is linked to pleasure in the brain. When it sounded good last night you were possibly on some sort of natural endorphin buzz, maybe you were just tired yet relaxed. In the morning your expectations were high instead and you were left disappointed.


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805215 - 20/01/10 08:18 AM
By the way Narcoman as much as I respect your opinion I have to clarify a few things. I never said gear wasn't important and that there can't be massive and consistently audible differences.

The problem is though where do you draw the line? You work in top studios and you expect to use certain gear. I'm absolutely sure there is a psychological factor there somewhere along with familiarity, build quality, reliability, speed of working and the need to use the kit that customers expect. And of course for some things - speakers, mics etc there are definitely huge audible differences. This stuff is measurable and well within the sensitivity of our hearing.

Then there's the flip-side. We all laugh at audiophiles for example with their ridiculous cables and the like. They really do buy things because they believe it makes a difference. I do see a lot of parallels in the pro-audio world and this is where Ethan does have a point.


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onesecondglance



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Dynamic Mike]
      #805230 - 20/01/10 09:21 AM
Quote Dynamic Mike:

Quote HugoL:

Aside from strong psychological influences on perceived quality and factors like moving your head a bit during playback (why I mentioned headphones) I'm convinced other factors such as the mood you are in and how tired your ears are, are also way more significant than tiny differences in quality.




You create the ultimate guitar tone, declare a total exclusion zone around the amp, put up 'don't even think about touching that dial' warning notices & spend all day shouting 'step away from the amp & nobody gets hurt' through a megaphone.

Then you plug in, same guitar, same fingers, same leads & you think 'I'm sure it sounded better than this last night!' And the only things that can have changed are your attitude & your perception.




yes, but imagine it took you hours and hours to create that tone. and your were getting pretty tired by the end of it. you might actually be coming back to it with fresh ears and renewed enthusiam, hearing it as it actually is.

then imagine you could dial that tone in a matter of minutes. you're more likely to still be focused and able to get to the heart of the sound straight off if the equipment allows you.

so i agree with Narco to a large extent - better gear is not only about providing incrementally improved audio quality over budget stuff. it's about getting to the "right" sound quickly and easily.

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Jez (mahoobley)
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805288 - 20/01/10 12:15 PM
Just to add my 2 pence - I think many of us home and/or budget recordists who believe that all this really expensive stuff doesn't really make that much of a difference does - may not have actually used any of this stuff. I had an image of engineers like trainspotters sitting around in a studio listening to different compressors going "ooh yessss this one has a definite subtle presence in the high end that the other one doesn't" without realising someone messed up the patching and they are listening to the same thing over and over

However a few years ago I visited one of our esteemed members studio and had a listen to a couple of things put through some high-end gear. The difference wasn't subtle - it was extraordinary and it was amazing!

I record with some cheapo stuff at home, and some mid-ranking stuff at work, because they are 'good enough' for my purposes, but if I ever won the lottery or whatnot and decided to set up my dream studio in London to record experimental weirdo bands, I'd certainly be forking out for the good stuff because I've begun to have an understanding of the not subtle, but HUGE difference it can make.

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Studio Support Gnome
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Jez (mahoobley)]
      #805323 - 20/01/10 02:15 PM
as to the incremental aspect.... relating to the entire recording asnd production process consider that there may be as many as 100 steps in the path from composers brain to listeners ear...

from Plectrum type, String type, state of finger tips, Instrument type, manufacturer, set up, pickup, control setting, signal lead, pedal, lead , pre-amp , lead, fx unit, lead, power amp, speaker cable , speakers, mic type, mic pattern, room position, , mic position, room acoustic, mic cable, mic pre-amp, dynamics, EQ, converters, file format , DAW used, mix techniques like eq, compression, fx, , and so on.... right along till you get to the mastering engineer's ear fatigue levels....

if the item , option, or technique, used at each step sounds just 2% better than the alternative .... even as a straight parallel addition , that's 300% end result improvement . if you choose to quantify it sequentially, it's much much more.... (about 724% i think offhand)


now extend the idea over an entire recording, with maybe 50 or 60 tracks... and it very quickly becomes noticeable, obvious even..... definitely a different ball park standard...


start talking about bigger projects and it's not even the same planet....

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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Jez (mahoobley)]
      #805348 - 20/01/10 04:25 PM
Quote Mahoobley:

Just to add my 2 pence - I think many of us home and/or budget recordists who believe that all this really expensive stuff doesn't really make that much of a difference does - may not have actually used any of this stuff.




That wasn't quite what this thread was about though, although it seems several people have taken it that way.

I'm not for a minute saying there aren't differences between pieces of equipment. Just equally in many cases the perceived differences are FAR greater than the actual differences which can be minute.

Equally I was quite specific to say "quality". In many cases people like gear for other reasons, such as the sonic signature imparted when a unit is pushed hard. I just see "quality" thrown around a lot to describe equipment, whereas maybe "character" would be a far better word in these circumstances (where there really is a tangible and obvious difference that is )

Edited by HugoL (20/01/10 04:54 PM)


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Jez (mahoobley)]
      #805351 - 20/01/10 04:30 PM
Quote Mahoobley:


However a few years ago I visited one of our esteemed members studio and had a listen to a couple of things put through some high-end gear. The difference wasn't subtle - it was extraordinary and it was amazing!





Ok, but give specifics! What are you referring to exactly?

If you listened through fantastic speakers in a great room I'm sure everything was sounding lovely for example. Anyway again this isn't what this thread is about.


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: Studio Support Gnome]
      #805356 - 20/01/10 04:46 PM
Quote Max!:


if the item , option, or technique, used at each step sounds just 2% better than the alternative .... even as a straight parallel addition , that's 300% end result improvement . if you choose to quantify it sequentially, it's much much more.... (about 724% i think offhand)





Not sure I agree with the logic here. If an individual track sounds "better" on its own does this really mean the overall track will sound better as a whole?

Don't you actually want many things to sound "worse" so that they gel better in the mix? Also for all these variables that you mention what happens when you tweak some dials a few degrees, you change things way more than many of these subtle variables surely? (Just playing devil's advocate, but you get my point).

Edited by HugoL (20/01/10 04:50 PM)


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. . . Delete This
Here be Dragons


Joined: 23/06/08
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805397 - 20/01/10 07:14 PM
Quote HugoL:


Don't you actually want many things to sound "worse" so that they gel better in the mix? Also for all these variables that you mention what happens when you tweak some dials a few degrees, you change things way more than many of these subtle variables surely? (Just playing devil's advocate, but you get my point).





it's entirely case dependent, but generally no.... you don't want lots of things to sound worse.. you want everything to sound "right" whatever that "right" may be...

on the whole it's quite difficult to get the concept across on paper without sounding like a blow hard elitist... as Hoobs described earlier, until you've actually experienced the difference first hand... you simply cannot easily understand quite what it means....


now then here's an attempt at an analogy that may be easier to grasp...

if you try and describe blue to a blind man.... you can give quite precise measurements of the wavelengths that we perceive as blue... in absolute terms the difference in numbers is quite small compared to the total EM spectrum... , but the perceived effect of the colour tone is huge...

especially when you place it against another colour.... or a reference of white/black


now apply that to an entire complex landscape picture... and every shade of colour in it.

then it becomes not just about the specific frequency of each colour, but also about the texture of the image.. how "matte" "grainy" or "glossy" it is,

at which point, more than just the specific wavelength of a specific shade of blue becomes quite important...


so having got the context , we can begin to start to see why people use words like transparent, and coloured, and fuzzy, glossy, sheen, and such like when describing audio... they all relate to something that is entirely easier to point to and illustrate.

now then... in the terms of "quality" I would say that it is the ability of a device to sound like a real image ,.. like being there, or maybe a kind of hD holographic projection....




as to the tweaking changing more than any of these variables.... no, utterly not the case...

I used 2% as a nominal low-ish figure that could be accepted as being a realistic average.... perhaps... but there are some things in the chain that will vary the result by orders of magnitude more than that.... the difference in age of otherwise similar String materials on an instrument would make far more difference than say adjusting the compression threshold by 0.1db for example...

every guitarist on the planet can hear a new set of strings instantly......

I have the greatest of respect for some of Ethan's ideas and missions... but i have to say that we do not always see eye to eye.... on all sorts of subjects...


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desmond



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: . . . Delete This User . . .]
      #805407 - 20/01/10 07:51 PM
Get the songs right, and get the arrangement right, and get the performances right, and the engineery stuff gets less important...

We all talk about gear, and we are passionate about our tools and our process, but the bottom line is the final quality of our work starts *way* before the gear kicks in. If we have good knowledge of our tools, good judgement and experience, and work hard, imo the exact nature of the tools is less important.

I would rather have great people and mediocre gear, than mediocre people and great gear.

Tools *are* important, but sometimes I feel they are less important than we think. Obviously, there's a base level of competence and quality you need to get over, and there is no doubt that some tools are particular good at certain things, or make certain things easier, but bottom line is I don't feel that the end product is going to connect emotionally with the listener in a fundamentally different way because I used a Sonnox EQ plugin on the mix rather than a Massive Passive.

Others will no doubt disagree, but...


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hugol



Joined: 28/03/06
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: . . . Delete This User . . .]
      #805417 - 20/01/10 08:57 PM
Quote idris y draig:


it's entirely case dependent, but generally no.... you don't want lots of things to sound worse.. you want everything to sound "right" whatever that "right" may be...





Well of course that's what I meant, I was making a point. For example if you cut frequencies to make something sound thinner that could be classed as worse and of course "right" at the same time.

Quote idris y draig:


...
then it becomes not just about the specific frequency of each colour, but also about the texture of the image.. how "matte" "grainy" or "glossy" it is,

at which point, more than just the specific wavelength of a specific shade of blue becomes quite important...
...

so having got the context , we can begin to start to see why people use words like transparent, and coloured, and fuzzy, glossy, sheen, and such like when describing audio... they all relate to something that is entirely easier to point to and illustrate.





I get it, honestly I do and I like gear as much as the next guy. I'm just making some points for the benefit of this forum discussion.

However I would teasingly point out that audiophiles are fond of describing the latest upgrade to their system using terms such as this.

Quote idris y draig:


as to the tweaking changing more than any of these variables.... no, utterly not the case...





You're misquoting me. Seems a few of the pro's keep doing this or misinterpreting what I'm writing in this thread for some reason, no offence. I specifically said "may change things more than many of these subtle variables". Of course many of the variables aren't subtle, but some surely are - and a lot were listed!

By the way I wasn't thinking 0.1dB difference on a compressor as I would class that as inaudible, more like say 1dB on an EQ, add a bit of reverb send etc etc. I was deliberately trying to be vague, my bad phrasing though maybe.

Quote idris y draig:


I have the greatest of respect for some of Ethan's ideas and missions... but i have to say that we do not always see eye to eye.... on all sorts of subjects...




It's an interesting topic though and thanks for your contribution. I do sense some passionate disagreement to his ideas on here, which is hardly surprising.


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hugol



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Re: Audio myths new [Re: desmond]
      #805418 - 20/01/10 09:02 PM
Quote desmond:

Get the songs right, and get the arrangement right, and get the performances right, and the engineery stuff gets less important...

We all talk about gear, and we are passionate about our tools and our process, but the bottom line is the final quality of our work starts *way* before the gear kicks in. If we have good knowledge of our tools, good judgement and experience, and work hard, imo the exact nature of the tools is less important.

I would rather have great people and mediocre gear, than mediocre people and great gear.

Tools *are* important, but sometimes I feel they are less important than we think. Obviously, there's a base level of competence and quality you need to get over, and there is no doubt that some tools are particular good at certain things, or make certain things easier, but bottom line is I don't feel that the end product is going to connect emotionally with the listener in a fundamentally different way because I used a Sonnox EQ plugin on the mix rather than a Massive Passive.

Others will no doubt disagree, but...




Yep this is what I'm talking about. Tools are nice and you need a decent toolbox for sure, but skill and experience count for more than chasing ever diminishing returns.

There's just so much emotion attached to gear! But hey this is keeping the economy ticking over, people in jobs and Sound on Sound in advertising revenue so not such a bad thing.


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narcoman
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805475 - 21/01/10 01:25 AM
Quote HugoL:

Quote desmond:

Get the songs right, and get the arrangement right, and get the performances right, and the engineery stuff gets less important...

We all talk about gear, and we are passionate about our tools and our process, but the bottom line is the final quality of our work starts *way* before the gear kicks in. If we have good knowledge of our tools, good judgement and experience, and work hard, imo the exact nature of the tools is less important.

I would rather have great people and mediocre gear, than mediocre people and great gear.

Tools *are* important, but sometimes I feel they are less important than we think. Obviously, there's a base level of competence and quality you need to get over, and there is no doubt that some tools are particular good at certain things, or make certain things easier, but bottom line is I don't feel that the end product is going to connect emotionally with the listener in a fundamentally different way because I used a Sonnox EQ plugin on the mix rather than a Massive Passive.

Others will no doubt disagree, but...




Yep this is what I'm talking about. Tools are nice and you need a decent toolbox for sure, but skill and experience count for more than chasing ever diminishing returns.

There's just so much emotion attached to gear! But hey this is keeping the economy ticking over, people in jobs and Sound on Sound in advertising revenue so not such a bad thing.




yes and no. One shouldnt be using high end tools until you understand the whole "musical" side. You just don't get the use out of the tools until everything else is in place. Anyone chasing great sound without addressing the other stuff first is - well -wasting their time.

Another side - sometimes the textures one creates are down to the ger. Put a stat into a Marshall valve state and record it with all the best technique in the world via a behringer pre and mic and there is no way on earth you will be able to get a Jack White guitar sound. Nearly all the budget gear is very limited in what it can do... getting certain thick and silky tones is often right at the feet of gear.


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hugol



Joined: 28/03/06
Posts: 845
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: narcoman]
      #805507 - 21/01/10 08:40 AM
Quote narcoman:


Another side - sometimes the textures one creates are down to the ger. Put a stat into a Marshall valve state and record it with all the best technique in the world via a behringer pre and mic and there is no way on earth you will be able to get a Jack White guitar sound. Nearly all the budget gear is very limited in what it can do... getting certain thick and silky tones is often right at the feet of gear.




Yes agreed, I said this myself a couple of times previously in this thread. But these are scenarios where there is a tangible, easily explained and obvious difference.

I'll throw another one in though. I just don't get hi-fi nerds' obsession with power amplifiers. Obviously there are measurable things about amplifiers, but once we've got a selection of similar high quality circuits is there really always an audible difference. Once we get past THD, cross-over distortion, slew rates etc providing there's enough power to deal with the transients properly, and impedances are matched I don't think so. NB: We aren't talking about amps where the designers have specifically gone for character.

Audiophiles swear amps almost always sound completely different, but I've been for demos of very high end kit and not heard it... and I love reading about blind tests between very expensive monoblocks and cheapo amps with a room full of audiophiles and no-one could tell. Speakers on the other hand.....


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EnlightenedHand



Joined: 18/01/08
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #805895 - 22/01/10 03:32 PM
In terms of being able to identify differences in controlled double blind testing I have found that much of the often revered, so called "high-end" gear isn't all that much different from average gear these days in useful sound quality. That being said I think that nobody absolutely needs "high-end" gear to get wonderful sounding results.

The problem that I see is that many "high-end" afficionados refuse to accept that as true even to the point of proclaiming proper double blind testing as practically useless. I think that's a sign of a need to justify such reverence for their tools.

I like well made gear that does what I need it to do. I never need it to do tricks or impart a euphoric sound (at least as far as input gear is concerned). The source can provide that. If I do my job to capture the source adequately then I'll have everything I need. When I mix I then have the options of in-the-box, analog or both to make a cleanly recorded raw track sound virtually any way I want. There is really little need to quibble about whether or not there is a difference between this or that expensive or "cheap" type of gear or which is "better". For me it's all about hearing things and tweaking them to taste with whichever tools I have at my disposal. If it's tracked cleanly this is never a problem.

I suspect most of the arguments and myths stem from a basic misunderstanding of what really matters. It's not the gear nearly as much as the technique.

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Martin WalkerModerator
Watcher Of The Skies


Joined: 28/02/01
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #805951 - 22/01/10 06:04 PM
Quote EnlightenedHand:

I think that nobody absolutely needs "high-end" gear to get wonderful sounding results.

The problem that I see is that many "high-end" afficionados refuse to accept that as true even to the point of proclaiming proper double blind testing as practically useless. I think that's a sign of a need to justify such reverence for their tools.




Well said Liz!

By the way, did you mean euporic (exaggerated feeling of well-being) or euphonic (pleasing and harmonious)


Martin

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narcoman
active member


Joined: 14/08/01
Posts: 8516
Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #805955 - 22/01/10 06:13 PM
Quote EnlightenedHand:

In terms of being able to identify differences in controlled double blind testing I have found that much of the often revered, so called "high-end" gear isn't all that much different from average gear these days in useful sound quality. That being said I think that nobody absolutely needs "high-end" gear to get wonderful sounding results.

The problem that I see is that many "high-end" afficionados refuse to accept that as true even to the point of proclaiming proper double blind testing as practically useless. I think that's a sign of a need to justify such reverence for their tools.

I like well made gear that does what I need it to do. I never need it to do tricks or impart a euphoric sound (at least as far as input gear is concerned). The source can provide that. If I do my job to capture the source adequately then I'll have everything I need. When I mix I then have the options of in-the-box, analog or both to make a cleanly recorded raw track sound virtually any way I want. There is really little need to quibble about whether or not there is a difference between this or that expensive or "cheap" type of gear or which is "better". For me it's all about hearing things and tweaking them to taste with whichever tools I have at my disposal. If it's tracked cleanly this is never a problem.

I suspect most of the arguments and myths stem from a basic misunderstanding of what really matters. It's not the gear nearly as much as the technique.




Most of that is true in basic premise. But what your missing is that there is a HUGE technical and hearable difference [in professional terms - they layman doesn't often hear the differences in individual "solo'd" recordings] between low end gear and high end gear. There is no way on earth that any RME converter, for example, sounds anywhere near as "true" as a set of Prism ADAs. I've examples of both and the difference, from a technical and professional perspective, is staggering. Stick a stereo wav through - marginal difference. Start to work with subsequent regeneration of files in stem mixing for , say, film content - the two are not comparable. The same goes for low end EQ units against high end ones.....

there is not need, i agree, to justify on the basis of ownership. But I'm ten years past doing that kind of thing - it's more about getting a job done right for the clients you have - and THAT is realy the pertinent point. It is never about persuading the man on the street to think what you have is acceptable - it's about pleasing the client you have. In my business most of my clients are music supervisors on multimillion dollar projects - and believe me..... those folks REALLY have discerning ears... for better or worse !!

If it's about recording a band? Yup technique matters a lot. The most in fact. But no amount of great technique will allow you to make a record of great sonic integrity as, say, a Joe Baressi recording unless you use that gear. I alluded to this in my above example of Marshall Valvestate etc etc. You must always temper your gear with your own ideals and abilities - the problem being, it takes a lifetime to fully learn to even hear the "right stuff". A GML EQ will be just as pointless in the hands of a rank amateur as a cheap Behringer EQ.


But specific intent and design in the mindset of a seasoned professional , and one who is good at what they do, absolutely and unequivocally needs those more esoteric and expensive tools. Not necessarily to impart any sonic effects {you point this out actually} but often to do the job without hassle and invisibly. Great listening acoustics is one example. Quality speakers and amplifier is another.

My job - since transferring over to decent conversion - has become even easier. Same with when I got a decent console. And speakers. Yes - it has to do with experience and ability too - but these differences came to me in landmark moments - in other words the day after!!

Yes - never assume good gear will improve your musical aspirations - but once one learns to discern the musical errata from your technical notions then the ONLY thing that improves those matters is correct use of better equipment. You change over once you've mastered the prime principles as the equipment then becomes the limiting factor !!

It's the same thing with fast cars - young boy racers in their little 1.6 litre Astras barely able to maintain control of them. But a professional rally driver in a factory fitted version isn't going to be able to do his job on the rally circuit!!


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Steve Hill
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Joined: 07/01/03
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #806008 - 22/01/10 11:25 PM
No need to add to what narcoman ha already said, save to mention budgets: good gear saves time, and for a paying client that's added value. Tweak a knob or two on a great analogue desk or compressor or whatever and suddenly the sound just sits right.

You might get to the same place with plugins or cheaper stuff, but you might spend a hell of a lot of time getting there. Once your client is paying hundreds an hour for the privilege of watching you try to get there, this may not be acceptable!

But in a project studio, working on your own stuff around other things in your life, it may be a damn site more acceptable than blowing £5,000 on an outboard EQ box.

--------------------
Dynamite with a laser beam...


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hugol



Joined: 28/03/06
Posts: 845
Loc: London, UK
Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #806010 - 22/01/10 11:46 PM
Quote EnlightenedHand:


The problem that I see is that many "high-end" afficionados refuse to accept that as true even to the point of proclaiming proper double blind testing as practically useless. I think that's a sign of a need to justify such reverence for their tools.





There we go, this is basically the point of this thread. I'm sure people can train their ears to a extent to pick up on differences that the average Joe will miss, but if it's that subtle and often subjective does it really matter so much?

I'm convinced there is a lot of psychology involved with kit whether people like to admit it or not. Pro audio isn't as removed from audiophile land as some would like to think. Our ears just aren't that sensitive IMO.

Yes the right gear can make a difference, but an obsession with gear over technique is unhealthy. Then again if I was running a pro-studio I'd certainly want the right kit that the punters expect - and I completely accept all the speed of working arguments although some of this surely boils down to familiarity and expectations.

Hey at the end of the day everything is about balance isn't it - and the answer is inevitably somewhere in the middle. Thanks for all the contributions so far, been a good thread.


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hugol



Joined: 28/03/06
Posts: 845
Loc: London, UK
Re: Audio myths new [Re: Steve Hill]
      #806013 - 22/01/10 11:55 PM
Quote Steve Hill:


But in a project studio, working on your own stuff around other things in your life, it may be a damn site more acceptable than blowing £5,000 on an outboard EQ box.




Yes agreed, just we're bombarded with adverts, opinions and cheap equipment (virtual or not) nowadays. It's easy to get sucked in.


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Stan



Joined: 17/01/05
Posts: 1311
Loc: Big Rock Candy Mountain
Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #806018 - 23/01/10 12:38 AM
So i blew a few euros on an SM Pro TC02 Twin Channel Valve input - cheap - so what? I like it. I like it a lot.

What would we do without adverts? i cant imagine. No SOS!! No new kit!! o my gad.

--------------------
.. is this thing on?


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Dynamic Mike



Joined: 31/12/06
Posts: 2009
Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #806032 - 23/01/10 02:02 AM
Quote EnlightenedHand:

The problem that I see is that many "high-end" afficionados refuse to accept that as true even to the point of proclaiming proper double blind testing as practically useless. I think that's a sign of a need to justify such reverence for their tools.




Confession Time: Many years ago & totally new to recording effects, I ordered a Yamaha REX50 multi effects unit. I excitedly rushed home from work, dragged it out the box & plugged it in between a Strat and (I think a Charvel) amp. I tried out the first half dozen reverb presets, & whilst the hall & room settings were difficult to distinguish between, both my wife & myself thought the plate presets made a big difference.

Then, after casually flipping though the manual, my wife leaned over & switched the bypass off! To this day, every time I try to justify a studio purchase, I have to listen to an account of that day. 'But will it make as much difference as an REX50 on bypass...' However it proves the point that not only can you hear what you want to hear, with enough conviction you can actually convince somebody else they can hear it too!

Is this the first example of Double Deaf testing?

--------------------
Disclaimer: The views or opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the poster by the time you read this.


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EnlightenedHand



Joined: 18/01/08
Posts: 648
Loc: United States
Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #806057 - 23/01/10 06:07 AM
I think it is worth mentioning that I'm not arguing that one shouldn't use well made and respectably specified gear in a professional setting. I certainly think one should. Because reliability is a worthwhile investment. However, sound quality is much less of a distinctly superior thing with many examples of so called "high-end" gear in comparison with today's average gear.

I have Prism converters for example. I also have a few average converters and while the Prism Sound conversion is indeed truer to the source, it's not so much better that I find average converters inadequate. It's kind of like the difference between a very good standard definition television and a cutting edge high definition television. If I spend the day using the best stuff then the initial moments of using the average stuff is a bit jarring to my senses, but after a short while it's really not a problem at all. The most important point though is that the end listener doesn't know and doesn't care in the vast majority of cases. So for me to behave as though I simply must use the most cutting edge gear I can get my hands on is essentially an exercise in superfluity.

Also, I have found that many artists don't really know that much about gear either (though many think that they do). So long as you capture what they're laying down cleanly and you make the mix kick ass then nobody cares what you've used. The artists that fancy caring about gear (in my experience) are usually not all that educated about why certain pieces might matter and why others don't. In my opinion it's the responsibility of the engineer to put the artist at ease by showing them the end result. Once the artist trusts that you can make it happen then nobody gives a thought about what you use to get it there.

Bottom line for me; use what works well and what you can comfortably afford. Don't get caught up in the hype of big name gear and magic fairy dust. Treat the tools like tools. Provided they work at all they are only as useful as you make them. If you've got the ears and the talent to track and mix well then you can get it done with average gear with no problem and nobody, including professionals will know the difference by listening to your end product.

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onesecondglance



Joined: 02/01/08
Posts: 2140
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Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #806073 - 23/01/10 09:50 AM
perhaps not the best analogy there, Liz - i can see a world of difference between a good SD TV and a good HD TV.

--------------------
hourglass | random thoughts | doubledotdash!? collective


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hollowsun



Joined: 20/01/05
Posts: 5582
Loc: Cowbridge, South Wales
Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #806114 - 23/01/10 01:21 PM
The thrust of Ethan's argument simply appears to be that for MOST people in MOST situations playing/recording MOST music in MOST studio, MOST prosumer gear is perfectly adequate and people shouldn't sweat so much over tiny, pedantic details of specmanship (that's maybe sprinkled, perhaps, with a liberal dollop of snake oil) because MOST people (especially yer average listener on a typical hi-fi set up) ain't gonna hear it. A record's never been a flop because it was recorded with a Soundblaster rather than an Apogee (and some really badly recorded records have been hugely successful!).

I see people dribbling over 25GB sampled pianos recorded at 192kHz/24-bit with 1,024 velocity layers ... and they're going to vamp out some joanna chords that are going to be buried in the mix!! A lot of people now judge sample library on its SIZE these days ... and yet the most successful sample-based keyboard ever had just 4MB of RAM (and people are STILL after those sounds).

I did some sample editing for a manufacturer a few years ago. All the samples were recorded 24-bit and I had to top and tail and loop them. Did all that, submitted them, happy bunnies all round - very satisfied with the results and I was paid. I continued to receive compliments on the standard of my work from those involved who were so wildly pleased with how good they sounded.

A few months later, abject panic! Someone noticed (because Kontakt displays this kind of thing if you look carefully) that all the samples had been truncated to 16-bit. My fault - the default setting for my editor's Save As is 16-bit and I didn't spot it. And suddenly the perception was that these samples didn't sound good and they had to be redone at 24-bit. So I had to redo them all over again.

And about a year ago, someone posted here that recorded a track ... sounded fab, everyone loved it, etc.... and then noticed it had all be done at 44/16 instead of 48/24 ...

So he re-recorded the whole thing again.

People post here asking how to record at 192/24....

In their home studios with mics that don't extend beyond 17kHz to be played back on monitoring that won't play much above 20kHz in an untreated room that probably has (at best) a 15-bit dynamic range ... not that dynamic range is that vital coz everything will be compressed to hell and back and then (ahem) 'mastered' and released as an MP3 on MySpace.

In that context, I agree with what Ethan and HugoL are saying. The most important thing surely is the content - if that's shite, what gear is used is irrelevant!

--------------------
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narcoman
active member


Joined: 14/08/01
Posts: 8516
Re: Audio myths new [Re: hugol]
      #806115 - 23/01/10 01:22 PM
Quote HugoL:



There we go, this is basically the point of this thread. I'm sure people can train their ears to a extent to pick up on differences that the average Joe will miss, but if it's that subtle and often subjective does it really matter so much?





Yes it matters. It's why, without any doubt, the biggest pieces of music, or film or whatever - are generally not done on the cheap. The discerning individuals are on the production end - and their pride in "doing it right" is paramount in maintaining high standards. The man on the street can and does hear "the better end". Most consumer optimized recordings {my new fave words !!} - from RnB to orchestral recital are recorded with excellent professionals and excellent gear.

I agree that the pursuit of gear for gears sake is just silly. Really silly.

Why does it matter? It matters in exactly the same way as fine craftsmanship. And why a fine craftsman will buy excellent and quality tools instead of a 10 quid drill from B&Q.

Doing it to the quality that you intend - and this absolutely does not apply to the budget conscious - costs. Yes - the song is the most important facet.

But like all things - minor tweaks? No one will notice will they? Yeah - dont bother tweaking those lyrics because man in the street wont care. Ah let's not bother with that subtle vibrato on the vocal - man in street doesn't care. I mean , heck - Avatar could have been made for $50million - just cut a few corners. No one would notice !! heh


See what I mean? Doing the job as a means of high end artistic expression is important in all areas. From composition to final mastering and packaging. It all matters - but as you rightly say; temper it with financial restraint.


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narcoman
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Joined: 14/08/01
Posts: 8516
Re: Audio myths new [Re: EnlightenedHand]
      #806120 - 23/01/10 01:34 PM
Quote EnlightenedHand:



Bottom line for me; use what works well and what you can comfortably afford. Don't get caught up in the hype of big name gear and magic fairy dust. Treat the tools like tools. Provided they work at all they are only as useful as you make them. If you've got the ears and the talent to track and mix well then you can get it done with average gear with no problem and nobody, including professionals will know the difference by listening to your end product.




Absolutely - but recognize that there are certain things you can't do with certain tools.

What you're talking about is making the best of what you have got. And I absolutely agree - get the absolute best out of what you have, but be under no illusions that you will be able to design the mix from the ground up in the recording stage - which is precisely what a professional product maker does.

It DOES go both ways too; You can't get the cheap Premier/Olympic Drum kit sound used on things like "song 2" by using a top end Pork Pie drum kit. You absolutely cannot stack up a load of SM57s in Abbey Road into a set of RMEs and hope to get "the movie sound". No way on Earth.

You can't get gritty rap vocal a la hand held sm58 with a VM1.

But you wanna get the "Songs for the Deaf " drum sound ? You will absolutely need a set of VM1s and high end valve pres. No other way to do it. Tried it every way you can think !!

I was at Steve Hills studio the other week - took a Josephson 700 because there was a specific texture I wanted. I knew it was in this mic - a unique piece if ever there was one. Took the recording back to my place and, low and behold, no surprises at all. It sounded as I had intended. Even choosing Steve's studio over mine was an important thing. Steve has a better live room than my place. Gear? I've got gear coming out of my ears but I don't have the mic's that Steve has and I don't have the room {or Steve's tenacity and patience !!}

I totally support NOT chasing gear to solve your woes. But I also strongly oppose the position that using the right gear is folly. It, as mentioned above, is about experience and balance.

Gear choice matters - SOME of it costs.


right - i'm off to hire a clan Gordon kilt.


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