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Walking the line between the Pro and Audiophile worlds
Old 7th December 2002
  #1
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Greg Heimbecker's Avatar
Talking Walking the line between the Pro and Audiophile worlds

EveAnna you have to deal with two very different groups of customers with your business since you provide products to both the Pro and Audiophile markets. How do you approach the differences between the "wire is wire" luddite, came up from paper recorder and carbon mic pro crowd from the cost no object, "your elective surgery is paying for my $250,000 home theater" audiofool camp?

As usual I believe the truth lies somewhere in between these extremes and as always our personal truths are mititgated by the fitness of our wallets. Throughout history that which we can measure has lagged somewhat behind that which we can perceive. Buckminster Fuller had some nice thoughts on that topic... I've had the joy of watching jaws drop by changing out one set of XLR interconnects for those from the "wire is wire" camp but I don't bother to fight with my pal who was chief eng for our NPR affiliate who turns his good ear to you to make out what you're saying to him.

In our Pro world you take a lot of flack for the price of some of your premiere pieces (Massivo, Slam, etc) from folks who struggle to come up with $2k for a decent set of nearfields with amplification. Those folks couldn't begin to conceive of dropping $7.5k for the Steelhead or Wave!

BTW what are you cabling your CES demo with? Power filtration? AC cables?yuktyy rollz

I'm gonna duck now!heh
Old 7th December 2002
  #2
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EveAnna Manley's Avatar
 

Oooooooooooh! Great topic! You beat me to it.

I have an entertaining response for you below that I had posted on of the HIFI webboards in response to the hifi guys wondering why Pro Engineers don't use all "hifi" stuff and all complaining that pro audio engineers should get more into hifi exotica, especially cabling (their fave tweak).

Me personally, I do feel lucky to be in both Hifi and Pro Audio camps, as I have been exposed to plenty of hifi exotica. I have heard the sonic differences between different power cords and different cabling. While many pro guys laugh this off, this stuff is indeed audible and I guess I owe being in Hifi to drawing my attention to it, how every little component: internal wiring, capacitors, resistor type/brand choices, etc. makes a difference in how a given unit will sound. I guess I owe it to high-end hifi in that those guys do listen very critically to things and a lot of my audio ear training came from experiences in that camp.

I agree with you in that everything should be taken in context and the most important thing is balance and total system synergy. (And by the way, our hifi gear retail prices get costed up from actual build cost exactly like our pro audio gear is. There are an awful lot of expensive parts in both those products you mentioned. On the other end, we also have some great bang-for-the-buck stuff around and less than $2K, such as the Stingray and Shrimp (yes, we name our new Hifi products after aquatic critters.))

Anyway, I hope you find the post below I did to shake up the hifi guys entertaining...

...Yeah for the most part, to generalize, most recording studios don't get into megabuck audiophile cables. But remember that in recording where they are CREATING a sound, EVERYTHING IS AN EQUALIZER from the microphone (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), its placement (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), the mic cable (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color or visual color!), the mic pre (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), the console (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), the dynamics units (chosen for a certain sonic color), and then the equalizers (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color which is then used to alter all the colors that just arrived there again).

From there it (maybe) bounces off of analog tape (because we all like that color) before it goes through many channels of A to D, (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), to a DAW, where the computer can now strip all color out of the project. So they fiddle with the project in there applying processing, chops, edits, fades, punch-ins, pitch shifts cuz the singer can't really sing anyway, and god-knows-what. The better engineers will choose to bring out all the tracks via many channels of D to A Converters (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), via some digital cables (often chosen for a certain purple color), and then into a mixdown console (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), and then maybe again they need to re-equalize with another EQ (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), and then level it out with a compressor (chosen for a certain inherent sonic color), before it gets mixed down to (hopefully) 1/2" tape (because we all like that color) or maybe it got more color stripped out of it by the computer crunching the thing down to 2 channels and smacked over to DAT or some big computer file.

So THEN, the Mastering House gets to put all the final polish on the tunes. Now Mr. Mastering Guy, he has the best gear yet, the audiphile wire, great acoustics, killer speakers, superb monitoring path, and all the best sounding EQ's, limiters, compressors, and other coloring crayons. So then he re-colors everything again, gets all the relative levels right, song order and spaces between songs dialled in, and then, because the Label and the Artist are dying to be louder on the radio than the Monster Truck commercial that will have had preceded their hit single, they all procede to smash the life out of this erstwhile artistry with a take-no-prisoners-limiter leaving the poor tune with a dynamic range of 2dB, so then, I wonder if anyone on this planet could pick out if the conga mic had a $4,000 40ft run of "audiophile" cable or if it was just something decent like Canare or Mogami that got the phantom power down to the mic without crackling and got the tunes back to the micpre without picking up hum.

Well that's how it goes these days...
Old 7th December 2002
  #3
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Mats Olsson's Avatar
 


(Nine thumbs up!)

/Mats
Old 7th December 2002
  #4
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Re: Walking the line between the Pro and Audiophile worlds

Quote:
Originally posted by Greg Heimbecker
In our Pro world you take a lot of flack for the price of some of your premiere pieces (Massivo, Slam, etc) from folks who struggle to come up with $2k for a decent set of nearfields with amplification. Those folks couldn't begin to conceive of dropping $7.5k for the Steelhead or Wave!
I dunno what a Steelhead or Wave! is... but I'm damn familiar with El Massivo and the esteemed SaLAM!... I don't know anyone that has tried either that would bitch about the price... and would say to those that do bitch about the price... don't knock it till you've tried it.

With those two products, the quality definitely goes in before the name goes on...........
Old 7th December 2002
  #5
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EveAnna Manley's Avatar
 

The Steelhead (mongo phono stage) and the Wave (hifi preamp with DAC) are two of our hifi products. You can find them under the HIFI section of our website.
Old 7th December 2002
  #6
Gear Head
 
John Sayers's Avatar
 

great rave EveAnna.

What amuses me is the way the audiophiles then listen to all that colorfull processing on their hifi's and discuss the superb response of their systems.

cheers
john
Old 7th December 2002
  #7
Here for the gear
 
LuvToLaf's Avatar
 

Thank You!

A friend said I should try some of these special cables (12' pair at $500), but he kept blowing the protection on his amp (it did not do this before) this told me that the cable, a hybrid coax using the shield and center conductor in a looping fashion, was causing additional loading of the amp, yea, that is going to have an effect on the sound, and perhaps some capacitance in the line as well, an equalizer of sorts?

The over marketing of high end audio cable with pretty colors, and assorted in-line power conditioning devices, is following the path of fuel system/engine additives, WalMart car accessories, and general RS electronic's. $500 for 24' of speaker wire, not interested.

LTL, really!
Old 8th December 2002
  #8
Gear Head
 

EveAnna, I am curious how you see the decline in consumer audio quality affecting the recording industry.

What concerns me more than guys who spend $500 on a pair of speakers wires is the other extreme, the guys who have never heard quality audio or are satisfied with 128k MP3 files. If the "Its Good Enough" trend continues how do you see this effecting the recording side of your business ?

You can take a look at any recording forum and find threads that debate A/D quality, PT vs Analog, etc and most of the time they boil down to does the consumer really care ? Without the HIFI industry what happens to the future of the recording industry ?

Personally, I hope the SACD and/or DVD-Audio formats will push the recording industry to realize that there is an audience that appreciates and is willing to purchase high quality audio products.

EveAnna, what is your opinion of the relationship between these two markets and the future of the recording industry ?

Lee
Old 8th December 2002
  #9
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EveAnna Manley's Avatar
 

What bothers me worst is that there is a whole new young generation of people are growing up with stolen mp3's heard through computer speakers or portable players through sucky earphones and they ain't even Mid-Fi. That's Lo-Fi territory. Aurally and morally...

Mid-Fi aka "consumer electronics" has always been there. When I was in high school playing records on a garage sale $20 toy system looking for my first upgrade to a "real" hifi system, all I knew was Mid-Fi from reading Stereo Review. So I worked real hard at my picture framing job after school and on Saturdays and mowed yards on Sundays to save up some six or eight hundred bucks for my hifi. I went to my local HiFiBuys in Atlanta, tried out all their stuff in the store, decided on a Kenwood receiver, Akai cassette deck, Technics TT, JVC CD player, and one of those nifty ADC GRAPHIC EQUALIZERS!!! ALL THOSE PRETTY LIGHTS! and then of course acted like a BAD customer and bought all my stuff mail-order. tut tut tut (I didn't know any better back then.)

I had no clue that these components could sound bad or good, because Stereo Reveiw of course taught us that "everything sounds the same". It's all about the FEATURES baby! So there I was for a few years through college playing my Mid-Fi system, driving my parents' leftover AR-2ax speakers.

My first exposure to High-End hifi came on my first day on the job in this business when I saw these shelves of vacuum tube amplifiers all over the place and had to ask what on earth those things were. (Now I are one!)

A few years ago AUDIO magazine went bust which is a shame because they were pretty mainstream Mid-Fi but also dabbled in the High-End bringing more exposure to High-End to the masses. Yet, STEREOPHILE, (also owned by Primedia like MIX is,) has also gotten pretty mainstream and that's really only about High-End, so that's a good thing to expose more people to High-End.

I really don't know what to do about Lo-Fi. Hopefully peoples' passion for MUSIC eventually draws them to seek better sounding gear, as they get older and as they earn money to spend $$$ on some Mid-Fi or High-End stuff, if they discover that far up the food chain.

As for the recording industry, already there are "Mid-Fi" sectors of it and there are some "High-End" cult followers. Like I started with a few hundred bucks for Mid-Fi in high school, bedroom recordists gotta start somewhere too, no? Again, the common link is MUSIC and again I think with education (like in the magazines and on these webboards), exposure, and passion to better capture their music, some of these Mid-Fi recording folks also move up with gear and technique to better sounding recordings.

At the bottom of all of this is education about how to listen. I don't think people are born with an an inate awareness that this or that sounds better. They have to be shown what to listen for by somebody. Well, that's my experience. Thanks Hifi shows, and thanks Hutch! He has shown me so many things over the years, because he has those many more years experience.

And now with this new-fangled internet thing we can all share our experiences with newbies everyday here on these boards. There are people reading and learning. That's a good thing.
Old 8th December 2002
  #10
Gear Head
 

Excellent points and many of us went through similar backgrounds. I was lucky enough to work in the HIFI - Audiophile side of the business when I was younger so was exposed to great sounding gear.

What surprises me is why there has not been more of a connection between the gear manufacturers and the music industry. There certainly has been some of this but not to the extent that could be done in order to educate the market. Anyone who spends any real money on HIFI is desperate for quality content.

Manley and other companies like you guys could do a lot to help educate the MidFi recording types of what HIFI sounds like. But I fear that even if they heard and recognized the difference, they don't see the need.

I see discussion after discussion of people who put down big studios with real consoles and real outboard gear. They consider them overpriced greedy companies who are simply trying to justify their own existence.

The single box recording hysteria has people believing that a plug-in can do every thing any outboard gear can do. BUT, even if it doesn't sound as good as a Manley piece, "It's Good Enough" (IGE). The shift is being made from pre-production to post-production. Now it's appears that it's all about "fix it in the mix", record 80+ tracks and then figure out what gets cut and pasted together and processed when it gets time to mix.

EveAnna, yes you are absolutely correct education is the key. But I worry that if we keep going the way are now that the need for Manley type craftsmanship will not fit the IGE view of the world.

Lee
Old 9th December 2002
  #11
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doug_hti's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by 20db.com
EveAnna, I am curious how you see the decline in consumer audio quality affecting the recording industry.

What concerns me more than guys who spend $500 on a pair of speakers wires is the other extreme, the guys who have never heard quality audio or are satisfied with 128k MP3 files.

Lee
That's the problem, which is that it appears convenience is and will always ultimately win over the masses in general. Many people in this "mp3" category do not care or are too lazy to naturally educate themselves. They just want to know how they can listen to it for free and how they can listen to it anywhere.
So the question might be, can companies bring "hi-fi" in a convenient/portable method at a reasonable price.
I really think that car audio is the easiest near hope. I hope car manufacturers become more influenced by the recording industry...as putting in an nearly already existing surround system is not very hard.

I also don't think there will be a surge until record companies or artists are rewarded or compensated for making hi-fi (DVD-A, SACD) recordings?
The record companies don't make any more money and it costs them more to make additional hi rez mixes and print to these discs.

However that being said. I talk quite often with a major publisher in LA, and there are definately a lot more classically based singer/songwriter types coming up in the next year, where the song and vocals or instrumentation and not the programming is more important.
Also, look at the genra of "Popra", i.e. Josh Groban (I believe the highest selling male artist for 2002 in the U.S.) and Charlotte Church, and Andrea Bocelli (spelling). I don't picture a whole lot of teenagers struttin around with mp3 players listening to these artists.... but hopefully singer/songwriters like Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton, and Beck as many others can start bridging some sort of "pop meets a real song/instruments" gap that has been missing for a few years which will somehow spark a interest along with things like HDTV, to see/hear the possibilities. As I believe that as the type of music changes in pop, the demand for "clarity" will increase.
I don't know I'm just rambling on about something that doesn't have to do with the topic, and I just wish that DVD-A will make a strong surge, and that the non-ridiculous part of audiophile standards, become real world standards.
Old 9th December 2002
  #12
Gear Addict
 

20db wrote:
"What concerns me more than guys who spend $500 on a pair of speakers wires is the other extreme, the guys who have never heard quality audio or are satisfied with 128k MP3 files."

EveAnna wrote:
"At the bottom of all of this is education about how to listen."

Right on, EveAnna. I submit that, while mp3 files and 2.5" computer speakers are far from ideal, they are still sufficient to hear the difference between good and bad audio production, and lots of variations between. I had this demonstrated to me recently (to my surprise), when I listened to an mp3 posted by Stephen Paul, who was bragging about the amazing vocal sound he'd achieved with one of his hot-rodded mics. Just for laughs, I clicked the link. I didn't expect to ba able to hear anything unusual, but sure enough, that mp3 playing through crappola PC speakers delivered a really unusually amazing vocal sound to my ears. I still can't say whether Joe car stereo would have noticed, but I sure did. So I think as long as people know what to listen for, they'll be able to tell good sound from bad.

Cheers,
Jonah
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