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Sounding Off: Is New Gear Better? (Ethan's article on SOS) Condenser Microphones
Old 17th November 2009
  #61
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
Here's a comprehensive and IMHO plausible research paper. It examines the hypothesis that tubes sound better than solid state, and comes up with some very significant areas of superiority.
Sure, for a guitar amplifier where you want that distorted sound. But for a playback power amp driving loudspeakers, the cleaner the better IMO. Also, in my quick scan of that article I didn't see anything about IM distortion. Wherever there's THD you also have IMD, and IMD is far more damaging musically.

--Ethan
Old 17th November 2009
  #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post

I used to not be able to afford NEW gear.

Now, I can't afford to buy OLD gear.

heh





Old 17th November 2009
  #63
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fossaree's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Sure, for a guitar amplifier where you want that distorted sound. But for a playback power amp driving loudspeakers, the cleaner the better IMO.
--Ethan
That's what I was about to say ... ;-)

Anyways, the article is still very interesting .
Old 17th November 2009
  #64
In my experience in reworking just about everything that was ever made, I disagree.

Most of the best designs I work on were made in the 1980's and 1990's. Not that they are the best sounding out of their box, but the design was sound. In that regard, they have potential for improvment.

Modern gear has too much bean counting = cost cutting. New stuff that is built well is built to have colors. I don't need colors, the musicians provide those.

The total lack of documentation has put me off from most modern or botique gear.

I find that attitude to be unprofessional. It would not have been acceptable 25 years ago.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 17th November 2009
  #65
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fossaree's Avatar
Jim, you mean today's gear lack proper manuals , for example ?
Old 17th November 2009
  #66
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All you need is a good monitoring enviroment and a MacGyver attitude.

Right Ethan?
Old 17th November 2009
  #67
Gear Guru
Quick Scan

That article refers mostly to mic pre amps. It finds that the distortion which comes with transistors and IC's is much more audible and unpleasant than tube distortion. Take a while to read it, it is a serious piece of work and should give any open mind pause for thought. Jim Williams has testified to design quality. I have audio files of old and new versions of mics and examples of old and new pre-amps. It beggars belief that the AKG 414 has sounded progressively worse with each new incarnation. The files are big enough and I don't do MP3 on religious grounds, but I would be happy to email them to anyone interested.
I would be a lot happier if Ethan was right. Old gear is expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, unreliable, and so on. I often don't use my very best gear at other studios or location work, because it cannot be replaced.

DD

Last edited by DanDan; 17th November 2009 at 05:52 PM.. Reason: Details
Old 17th November 2009
  #68
Quote:
Originally Posted by fossaree View Post
Jim, you mean today's gear lack proper manuals , for example ?
"Specs, specs? We don't need no stinkin' SPECS!"

Or as the designer says, "Trust me, I'm from LA".

I say, trust, but verify.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 17th November 2009
  #69
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From the article... "A current consumer-grade soundcard beats the finest analogue recorder in every way one could possibly assess fidelity. "

That's a bit of a stretch. My M-Audio 1814 audio interface sounded way worse than my MCI JH110c tape machine. I mean, not even close at all.
Old 17th November 2009
  #70
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My friend used a Behringer mixer, the 22-24 channel job, to record drums, bass Di, and guitar cabs .....a whole albulm........sounds GREAT. No ****. If the guitar had a mojo pedal in front, or the amp had a vibe, the Behringer recorded it fine. Chrystal clear sounds: This is the one he used.

Old 17th November 2009
  #71
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Ethan after people have saved all these dollars NOT buying into the vintage audio thing, what do you suggest they spend them on ;-)



TMY
Old 17th November 2009
  #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Modern gear has too much bean counting = cost cutting. New stuff that is built well is built to have colors. I don't need colors, the musicians provide those.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades

Bingo.
Old 18th November 2009
  #73
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyfan View Post
My friend used a Behringer mixer, the 22-24 channel job, to record drums, bass Di, and guitar cabs .....a whole albulm........sounds GREAT. No ****. If the guitar had a mojo pedal in front, or the amp had a vibe, the Behringer recorded it fine. Chrystal clear sounds: This is the one he used.




yeah gotta love behringer
Old 18th November 2009
  #74
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I get why people buy hardware...

I get why people buy room treatment...

I don't get plugins...

People spend ****loads on plugins (I've been suckered myself...)

I think those are the biggest scam going these days...they all sound the same and they become worthless almost instantly...

Ethan, you say what?
Old 18th November 2009
  #75
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post

Most of the best designs I work on were made in the 1980's and 1990's. Not that they are the best sounding out of their box, but the design was sound. In that regard, they have potential for improvment.
A lot of 70's stuff has flaws I think, but then a lot of it doesn't need 'improvement'.
It just sounds great as it is, flaws and all.

Quote:
Modern gear has too much bean counting = cost cutting.
I find that attitude to be unprofessional. It would not have been acceptable 25 years ago.
I guess there is somewhat an artistic/audio quality trade off then.
25 years ago few could afford a digital reverb, a digital tape machine, or even a decent analogue one.
The quality of gear we have now was the domain of full time studios from mid to upper level.
The rest of us were using what we could afford, Fostex, Roland Drumatix, generic mics, spring reverbs and stomp boxes.
Much modern gear has been bean counted, but then it's also widely employed by a huge amount of talented people to make finished artwork (music).
Old 18th November 2009
  #76
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoffrey A View Post
You have to be old enough to remember what an eight track demo studio was like in say, the late seventies/early eighties, and to have worked with a cassette 4 track to really appreciate what we have now.
I was still 8 track 1/4" (Fostex M80) until like 1997...loved it...!

I would never trade back though (although the M80 worked fine it's not a pro machine and isn't capable of real big sounds).

War
Old 18th November 2009
  #77
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post
Ethan after people have saved all these dollars NOT buying into the vintage audio thing, what do you suggest they spend them on ;-)
TMY
10 bucks says real traps hehe. kidding aside, cool thread!
Old 18th November 2009
  #78
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanDan View Post
That article refers mostly to mic pre amps. It finds that the distortion which comes with transistors and IC's is much more audible and unpleasant than tube distortion.
A good preamp will have total distortion of 0.01 percent or less. That equates to the sum of all artifacts being 80 dB down or lower. How is that possibly audible? Doesn't it make more sense that people's perception of "better" and "worse" might not be so reliable? It sure seems that way to me. I think this guy is onto something important and related:

Why do my ears keep changing?

Quote:
Jim Williams has testified to design quality.
I agree! I don't have one piece of "B-word" gear in my studio, or anything with similar marginal build quality from other makers either. Cheap switches break at the worst time. But the fascination with anything old, or very expensive, is misguided IMO. In the audiophile world, there's often an inverse relation between cost and quality. Some of the most expensive stuff is absolute garbage. $25,000 per pair loudspeakers that add intentional resonance "like a fine Stradivarius violin" and $15,000 toob power amps that boast "no negative feedback" and have probably 10 percent distortion or worse as a result. Don't get me started!

Quote:
I would be a lot happier if Ethan was right.
But I am right. heh

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #79
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beneficial View Post
From the article... "A current consumer-grade soundcard beats the finest analogue recorder in every way one could possibly assess fidelity. "

That's a bit of a stretch. My M-Audio 1814 audio interface sounded way worse than my MCI JH110c tape machine. I mean, not even close at all.
I think you're confusing "pleasant sounding" with audio fidelity. They're not the same thing! You might like the slight grunge from your MCI recorder. I hated the 16-track MCI I owned back in the late 1970s and early 1980s because every time you bounced the sound became more grainy and had more hiss. If you like that sound I can't disagree! But it's not higher fidelity.

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #80
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post
Ethan after people have saved all these dollars NOT buying into the vintage audio thing, what do you suggest they spend them on ;-)
Better monitors? heh
Old 18th November 2009
  #81
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
A good preamp will have total distortion of 0.01 percent or less. That equates to the sum of all artifacts being 80 dB down or lower. How is that possibly audible? Doesn't it make more sense that people's perception of "better" and "worse" might not be so reliable? It sure seems that way to me. I think this guy is onto something important and related:

Why do my ears keep changing?
And how about a good recording microphone? Not a measurement microphone, but a microphone popular engineers actually use in a studio? How flat is the frequency response on an SM57? Not very flat at all, right? Must be one of those overpriced, worthless "audiophool" microphones, huh?

I see no point in obsessing about the 'cleanliness' of a preamp, when you are no doubt using an intensely colored microphone, instrument, room, and monitors.

You should just worry about what compliments those and sounds subjectively best with them. Unless you enjoy the sound of bland sterility, that probably won't be the Mackie IC.
Old 18th November 2009
  #82
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Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JP11 View Post
People spend ****loads on plugins ... I think those are the biggest scam going these days...they all sound the same and they become worthless almost instantly... Ethan, you say what?
I don't spend ****loads on anything except quality monitoring and decent microphones. I have mostly modest gear in my home studio, but my speakers are excellent - a pair of old-school JBL 4430s, bi-amped with just over 1 KW of Crown amps. And I have some nice condenser microphones: a pair of AKG C451s, a pair of audiotechnica 4033s, and a DPA 4090. For my own one-track-at-a-time projects these few microphones do everything I could ever need.

I agree that most plug-ins are the same or similar. I mainly use the Sonitus plug-ins that come bundled for free with SONAR Producer, and they do everything I want. I also have a few freeware VST plug-ins that do specialized functions not available in the Sonitus suite. To me, the fascination with expensive plug-ins is as silly as the fascination with expensive hardware. Just give me a flexible parametric EQ and a compressor that does with the knob labels say, and I'm happy.

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
I think you're confusing "pleasant sounding" with audio fidelity. They're not the same thing!
Ya, one is far more important than the other.

(hint: Pleasant = pleasure = the primary goal of most musical experience.)
Old 18th November 2009
  #84
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Kris's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by steelyfan View Post
My friend used a Behringer mixer, the 22-24 channel job, to record drums, bass Di, and guitar cabs .....a whole albulm........sounds GREAT. No ****. If the guitar had a mojo pedal in front, or the amp had a vibe, the Behringer recorded it fine. Chrystal clear sounds: This is the one he used.

Where can one pick up this GREAT sounding album? Not that I don't believe you, but just saying it doesn't make it true.
Old 18th November 2009
  #85
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
And how about a good recording microphone? Not a measurement microphone, but a microphone popular engineers actually use in a studio?
Are you not aware that studio engineers use DPA and Earthworks mics to record music?

Quote:
How flat is the frequency response on an SM57? Not very flat at all, right?
Right, but you could use a DPA or Earthworks and apply EQ to get the same basic sound of a 57. Of course, that costs a lot more! Me, I was never a fan of 57s or 58s, but I understand that many pros like and use them.

Quote:
I see no point in obsessing about the 'cleanliness' of a preamp, when you are no doubt using an intensely colored microphone, instrument, room, and monitors.
We need to separate "getting a sound" in the first place, versus high fidelity from that point onward to not lose the character you worked so hard to achieve. So if you pick a colored microphone and place it where the sound is subjectively pleasing, it makes sense to want everything later in the chain to be accurate. If you're the type who uses colored preamps that's fine too. So then it's after the preamp that you want to preserve the tonality.

I agree that speakers and rooms vary much more than "gear" does. If your monitoring is flat within a 10 dB window you're doing really well! But the goal for monitoring should be as accurate as possible, even if you can't attain perfection.

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #86
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
Ya, one is far more important than the other.
(hint: Pleasant = pleasure = the primary goal of most musical experience.)
I honestly don't understand what you are arguing. My statement in the article was:
"A current consumer-grade soundcard beats the finest analogue
recorder in every way one could possibly assess fidelity."
And that statement is correct. You can try to change the subject from fidelity to subjectively pleasing, but then you're not talking about the same thing I was talking about!

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #87
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Are you not aware that studio engineers use DPA and Earthworks mics to record music?
Are you aware that even in the biggest studios, those microphones are typically used the least? Modern pop/rock/rap is recorded with Neumann, Shure, AKG, Royer, etc.. In the biggest genres, the most popular mics are almost never the cleanest.

Quote:
Right, but you could use a DPA or Earthworks and apply EQ to get the same basic sound of a 57. Of course, that costs a lot more! Me, I was never a fan of 57s or 58s, but I understand that many pros like and use them.
EQ will only provide frequency correction. It cannot emulate compression effects, transient shaping, directionality, proximity effect, phasing, or distortion.

Why do you think so many engineers actively select a "poor fidelity" mic? Do you think they are wrong to do so?

Quote:
We need to separate "getting a sound" in the first place, versus high fidelity from that point onward to not lose the character you worked so hard to achieve. So if you pick a colored microphone and place it where the sound is subjectively pleasing, it makes sense to want everything later in the chain to be accurate. If you're the type who uses colored preamps that's fine too. So then it's after the preamp that you want to preserve the tonality.
And if you're the type who uses tracking compressors/eq's, it's after those. And if you're the type who enjoys tape, it's after that. And if you're the type who enjoys vinyl, it's after that (ie. never).

Sometimes the character you work to achieve IS your signal chain, from start to finish. What would be wrong with that?

Quote:
I agree that speakers and rooms vary much more than "gear" does. If your monitoring is flat within a 10 dB window you're doing really well! But the goal for monitoring should be as accurate as possible, even if you can't attain perfection.
You mean YOUR goal for monitoring. NS10, anyone?

You are only an authority on your own musical ideals and objectives, not others'. You have to learn to stop trying to speak for other people, and instead, try to speak only for yourself.
Old 18th November 2009
  #88
Gear Guru
Numbers etc.

Ethan- "A good preamp will have total distortion of 0.01 percent or less. That equates to the sum of all artifacts being 80 dB down or lower. How is that possibly audible?"

DD- That's just playing with numbers. Science has a habit of getting numerical absolutes absolutely wrong. e.g. the 'safe' level of radiation.
Playing the numbers- The ear has a dynamic range in excess of 120dB. I know of no evidence that artifacts 80dB below the absolute maximum are not audible.

Ethan- "Doesn't it make more sense that people's perception of "better" and "worse" might not be so reliable?"

DD- sure it makes sense, i.e. I can easily lend myself to that possibility. However my repeated carefully done tests with real sound and real people, have achieved 100% repeatability. The repeated results indicate strongly that the sonic quality of older versions of the same mic are superior. This does not diss science and measurement in any way. The modern mic is quieter and clips at a higher level, no question. My tests, and the experience and observations of many, however suggest that there are aspects of the sound which we are simply not measuring. I dunno, slew rate, phase coherence, intermodulation distortion? What are they I wonder, and are we even qualified to bandy these terms about?
What I am sure of is that the ear and brain combination is incredibly powerful. Beyond words. Perceptible eardrum movements are of the order of a Hydrogen molecule. How do we tell direction, especially vertical? How can we hear desired sound in the presence of much louder unwanted noise? How come we use visual language to describe sound? What the heck does coloured mean? And why do you colonial experiments spell it wrongly?

DD
Old 18th November 2009
  #89
Gear Guru
Files

Mostly Ethan and I agree. On the odd occasion when we don't I am always right, ask Frank. :-)
Much of that SOS article has validity:- The old is better thing is surely overcooked. It has overpriced many items and does not nurture great new products, e.g. MBHO mics.
Room treatment is spectacularly more worthwhile than spending money on electronic fixes.
However, some points, likely made in passion, are hyperbole, they are simply not true and IMHO they detract from the overall wisdom.

I am compelled to break my MP3 rule and present the following without comment.

Best, DD
New 451_02.mp3
Old 451_02.mp3

Last edited by DanDan; 18th November 2009 at 08:07 PM.. Reason: Tyop!
Old 18th November 2009
  #90
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
Are you aware that even in the biggest studios, those microphones are typically used the least? Modern pop/rock/rap is recorded with Neumann, Shure, AKG, Royer, etc.. In the biggest genres, the most popular mics are almost never the cleanest.
I have no idea what microphones win a popularity contest these days. Maybe we should do a poll. As if that has any bearing on defining fidelity.

Quote:
EQ will only provide frequency correction. It cannot emulate compression effects, transient shaping, directionality, proximity effect, phasing, or distortion.
Uh, I think you're giving way too much credit to an SM57! heh

Seriously, what you listed means little in the context of a single microphone close in front of a guitar amp.

Quote:
Why do you think so many engineers actively select a "poor fidelity" mic? Do you think they are wrong to do so?
Again, I can't speak for most engineers, and neither can you. Maybe in the garage band genre a lo-fi sound is preferred. That stuff is not my cup of tea. I do mainly classical and clean sounding pop music.

Quote:
You are only an authority on your own musical ideals and objectives, not others'. You have to learn to stop trying to speak for other people, and instead, try to speak only for yourself.
I never speak for anyone but myself. Again, you can try to change the subject from high fidelity to subjective preference and "musical ideals and objectives," though I don't understand why you keep doing that. I never discuss subjective preference because it's pointless. I'll leave that for fan type magazines. My original SOS article statement about raw fidelity stands, and is easy to prove true.

--Ethan
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