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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Berylito » Thu Sep 17, 2020 10:58 am

I know that they're not audio interfaces, orchestral software libraries or reverb modules, but SOS published a couple of synth reviews in recent months that seemed brutally honest and less than complimentary.

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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu Sep 17, 2020 10:59 am

Take a look at Gordon Reid's review of the Waldorf Kyra, from the June 2020 issue, and tell me then that SOS never highlights significant shortcomings in a product...

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/waldorf-kyra
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Ramirez » Thu Sep 17, 2020 11:11 am

The Neumann V402 preamp review in the current issue isn't exactly glowing, either.
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Sep 17, 2020 11:17 am

Ramirez wrote:The Neumann V402 preamp review in the current issue isn't exactly glowing, either.

;) I was sooooooo disappointed with that product. With that badge, let alone that price, I expected something truly outstanding.

But the reality was that there preamps for £100 that perform as well if not better! And preamps costing half as much with far better facilities and much better technical performance and specs that blow it out of the water. Shocking.
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby The Korff » Thu Sep 17, 2020 11:17 am

ef37a wrote:Pleased to see firm still get a mild bllking for not supplying a TB cable. Don't let that slip SOS!

We have no plans to drop that complaint! It's extremely frustrating to buy something expensive and not be able to plug it in without forking out nearly £50 for a cable.

ef37a wrote:I want to see inside! At least where practical, e.g. compressors, mic pres. Don't TELL me it is nicely built? I will be the judge of that thank you!

You lucky boy! The brand-new issue, which goes on sale today and will already have landed on subscribers' doormats, features not one, but three photos of the innards of review gear:

Image

Image

Image

I'm not aware of any other mag that prints as many, nor that includes Audio Precision and Fuzzmeasure plots alongside reviews.

Cheers,

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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Forum Admin » Thu Sep 17, 2020 12:28 pm

Slate VMS mic — they’ve never advertised with us since we put it on our front cover!
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Watchmaker » Thu Sep 17, 2020 1:10 pm

I can think of three specific products I ended up buying on the strength of SOS reviews because they discussed the feature sets and allowed me to determine whether they suited my use case. I have never had that level of confidence with any other group of reviewers except TapeOp.

Also, given that there are very few places where you can walk in and demo gear anymore, it's becoming more and more crucial to have a body of trusted professionals talking about feature sets in the context of workflow because that's where your decision point lies.

Finding gear that you actually need, at a price you can afford has precious little to do with technical specs unless you are very high end and by then, you generally have an encyclopedic knowledge of manufacturer's relative strengths and weaknesses which provides another context for interpreting the data SOS reviews present. The SSL SiX mixer review is a good example of the incredibly detailed work SOS does, with bench test performance data and a thorough analysis of workflow enhancements, and shortcomings in the design - as some users might see it. It's hard to make a definitive statement about what's "best" because we all use our gear differently. I have several widely disrespected compressors, not 'cause they're great but because they're cheap and serve my purposes. I also have emulations of some truly remarkable pieces of gear that I never use.

Still, a critical review of the reviews is valid feedback for the SOS team though I support the current strategy and will continue to use the product.
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:10 pm

I’m a long time reader. I don’t buy much gear but for every piece I have bought SOS played a part of that purchase or non-purchase. I remember the original Roland S-something sampler review, the 2 rackspace model. That review went on for pages, it was remarkable the detail and how virtually all of my questions were answered, even questions I didn’t know I should be asking.
I had a long think regarding the OPs original comments. I was feeling a bit the same with regards to the shorter reviews - mostly the apps, some software and the occasional piece of small hardware. But then how much “dissection” is necessary for the simpler products? But then again these days even spending $200 can feel like a lot of money. On one or two occasions I had purchased the software before an SOS review and found the review missed commenting on a few features that for me were important.
SOS is a major part of me doing my homework - I’d have much crappier gear if it wasn’t for SOS. I trust the experience, wisdom, and wit of the reviewers but I always make up my own mind before parting with cash.
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby OneWorld » Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:18 pm

Note to advertisers - I would always read a review here (and other sources) before I made a purchase. I also look at user reviews but they can be quite subjective as one would expect. I don't think SOS reviews are non-partisan, every review will have a personal view, but on the whole I think the reviews are really useful, and it has to be remembered the reviews are not just to express a like or dislike but the functionality, operation and other stats - eg channel count etc
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby ef37a » Thu Sep 17, 2020 2:54 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Ramirez wrote:The Neumann V402 preamp review in the current issue isn't exactly glowing, either.

;) I was sooooooo disappointed with that product. With that badge, let alone that price, I expected something truly outstanding.

But the reality was that there preamps for £100 that perform as well if not better! And preamps costing half as much with far better facilities and much better technical performance and specs that blow it out of the water. Shocking.

Just read that review and that is prime example of how a reviewer's take on a product can be at odds with a reader's. I refer to the reduced bandwidth at maximum gain.
I would be more than happy to lose 0.5dB at 20kHz for the benefit of good RFI immunity. That stance comes from my 'history', living where I do and working through the time that the Silicon Planar Transistor became common in audio gear.

The PA* industry cottoned on pretty quickly and most of the pre and power amps had a 3dB point at around 50kHz. 'Domestic' kit was left wide open for years and LAWS had to be passed to get them to fix their collective wagons!

*I mean PROPER PA! Like lugging lorry batteries around muddy fields with amps from the like of CTH and Co. Point to points and country shows.

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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:21 pm

ef37a wrote:I would be more than happy to lose 0.5dB at 20kHz for the benefit of good RFI immunity.

Firstly, if the preamplifier is marketed proudly as 'taking nothing away' it shouldn't be rolling-off within the nominal audio band at all. That's clearly disingenuous! And it's not as if this preamp is providing unusually large amounts of gain: it's only 60dB. Nothing special at all -- a phrase which neatly sums up the whole design, IMHO!

And secondly, the audio bandwidth and RFI immunity are largely unrelated parameters! It's really not an either/or situation. No compromise is necessary and plenty of other manufacturers can manage both wide bandwidth at all gain settings and good RFI immunity... and most can do it for a lot less dosh, too!

I suspect the designers are simply trying to extract too much gain from the available active devices, and the bandwidth is being compromised as a result. On a positive note, I must say that there is some impressively comprehensive RFI protection at the input and output sockets -- far better than in many products I've seen.
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Alvin58 » Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:03 am

Again, thank you all for your thoughtful & helpful comments.

I would still like to lightly disagree on 2 points:

1) If something as complex as a car or even Universities can be numerically ranked by many media outlets, so could much of the hardware/software reviewed in SOS. For instance, take a look at PCMag. com. Everything is ranked by stars. Or Cnet.com, where they rank "bests" in many categories. I'm not buying that this is not possible for musical products.

2) If "everything is good" then I wouldn't need the reviews or SOS at all, right?

The fact is some things are better than others, and I would like to more clearly glean that from SOS reviews.

In the mean time I guess it's "read harder". :)
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 12:46 am

Alvin58 wrote:I would still like to lightly disagree on 2 points:

1) If something as complex as a car or even Universities can be numerically ranked by many media outlets, so could much of the hardware/software reviewed in SOS. For instance, take a look at PCMag. com. Everything is ranked by stars. Or Cnet.com, where they rank "bests" in many categories. I'm not buying that this is not possible for musical products.

Although I am a moderator on the forum I am primarily a community member, do not work for SOS and am a user far more than a reviewer.

Ranking things by stars is, in my humble opinion, a great example of 'dumbing down' in virtually any context within which such a crude rating system is used.

As Andy (zenguitar) explained so painstakingly in his original replies, there are simply too many variables for a "one size fits all" ranking system to take into consideration, and whereas two stars may be the best fit for some people, for the same product five stars may be the best fit for others.

I am a synth man. Consider the Arturia MatrixBrute. It has 3 oscillators per voice, a whole ton of world-class modulation capabilities, a powerful sequencer, a reasonably decent arpeggiator and a fairly comprehensive patch panel through which it can interface with Eurorack and other modular equipment. On the other hand it's monophonic (let's put paraphony to one side for the purposes of this example) thus can only play one note at a time.

So for a gigging musician it's probably not going to be that desirable, unless as a secondary bass or lead sound source, and given its monstrous weight that's unlikely to be very practical. Thus one or two stars are apposite for that use case.

For a bedroom singer/songwriter it is a great timbre generator but being monophonic, again it's unlikely to tick enough boxes to be much more than a specialised bass or lead box. However, the sequencer is probably useful and the sound quality is rather tasty, so maybe we give it 3 stars.

For someone with an existing collection of synths, and a Eurorack system it's absolutely fantastic as it complements the setting within which it is installed and can send all manner of super-useful voltages to external equipment that can use it. The monophonic nature suits this purpose and hey, we have polysynths readily available next to it so it's the perfect fit for that slot. 5 stars.

In all cases you can praise the modulation capabilities, sound and build quality to the skies but there are three different readers here and they all have different requirements. Thus to put a star rating on the review makes no sense whatsoever.

Now multiply this up by the dozens of different tyes of musician there are and the myriad different settings into which a MatrixBrute may be introduced. Now add in things like audio interfaces, where some people need one or two inputs, some need eight, some need 32 or more, some need USB connectivity, some may require Firewire, some MADI, some need 48kHz sample rates, some require 44.1kHz, others have to meet 96kHz requirements on behalf of their clients ...

You see the problem? How can you possibly assign a 'one to five' or 'one to ten' rating against such a whirwind of specs and use cases? Simply put, you can't.

No, I'd far rather have a detailed breakdown of the architecture, interfacing capabilities, build quality, shortcomings, advantages and features so that as a reader considering whether to buy one or not I can make an informed decision based on my use case as to whether it's the right device for me, and reviews of that nature are something Sound On Sound does better than any other magazine available, hands down.

Alvin58 wrote:In the mean time I guess it's "read harder". :)

You got it, yep. There is far more nuanced and detailed information in a Sound On Sound review than virtually any other written medium. After having read such a review carefully if one is still unsure as to whether the product in question is the right one for them, then they are probably not best qualified to be making that decision in the first place because invariably, all the required information is there, perhaps with some additional specific points needing a little additional research.

In short, if a product is the right one for someone then a Sound On Sound review should imbue them with most if not all of the information needed to make a purchasing decision. If it doesn't, then perhaps they are looking for the wrong product or need to understand their requirements better!

Alvin58 wrote:2) If "everything is good" then I wouldn't need the reviews or SOS at all, right?

Why not? If everything is good, don't you need the level of detail in Sound On Sound reviews more than ever in order to determine which is the best for you? ;)
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby desmond » Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:03 am

If basically everything is good these days, apart from some finer details, I can’t see what value having basically 95% of all product reviews be a 4.5 star product would give the reader.

Not to mention that is a 4.5 star product today better, or the same as, a 4.5 star product from ten years ago? Or do you need to retrospectively adjust previous ratings in the light of the context of the environment today?

People want to know what’s the BEST thing to buy to save them from having to make any effort identifying what they want, and researching potential purchases. Life isn’t that simple for the most part, and a simplistic rating scheme is just a waste of time for everyone, imo...

Sorry...
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Re: SOS Product Reviews

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:25 am

desmond wrote:4.5

Don't you just hate those? What on earth is the point of a star system if it can't even stick to a whole number? 4.5/5 ... surely that's 9/10 and thus should be a 10-star system. If it was, you know they'd start giving 8.5/10 and before you know it we need a 100-star system. It's all complete gibberish really.

Grrrrr. That puts me in mind of those circular 'progress indicators' on modern devices that tell you absolutely nothing about anything other than 'I might have crashed but I haven't crashed enough to stop the animation' :lol:

I do digress however. I think the point is that a star system is neither desirable or useful when it comes to music tech gear. Just give them all 5/5 and be done with it!
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