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Ethan Winer article in Sound on Sound Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 13th November 2009
  #1
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Ethan Winer article in Sound on Sound

Just bought the December issue of Sound on Sound. Outstanding back page article by Ethan Winer.

I understand the gear analogy about no one using e.g old cellphones for their "vintage" quality - on the other hand, if you had the choice between going to work in a new Honda dullmobile or a cool 50's Porsche? They'll both get you to your destination, but ...

Also, perhaps next time they'll put a photo of him with a cat not a cello?!
Old 13th November 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badmark View Post
Just bought the December issue of Sound on Sound. Outstanding back page article by Ethan Winer.

I understand the gear analogy about no one using e.g old cellphones for their "vintage" quality - on the other hand, if you had the choice between going to work in a new Honda dullmobile or a cool 50's Porsche? They'll both get you to your destination, but ...

Also, perhaps next time they'll put a photo of him with a cat not a cello?!
I think his cat passed away actually ... maybe he'll get another.

Ethan's a bright guy, I have a lot of respect for him, but = I have a lot of things I completely disagree with him about, like converters and monitors.

For instance I bought a CM7 becasue it was an exact copy (bar the toob) of a 1950's mic, why, well I just don't like the ultra bright mics of the modern era - that CM7 just blows my mind everytime I use it .... so straight off, I totally disagree with Ethan!

Of course he's right about treating your room, but why stop there, next fill it with great gear as well.

EDIT .... just checked out the SOS article and it is Ethan and his cat, I'm confused.

TMY
Old 13th November 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post

EDIT .... just checked out the SOS article and it is Ethan and his cat, I'm confused.
Is that online or the actual magazine? cos in the magazine he's definitely playing a cello! catgut strings maybe ...
Old 13th November 2009
  #4
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Originally Posted by badmark View Post
Just bought the December issue of Sound on Sound. Outstanding back page article by Ethan Winer.
Thanks very much!

@TMY: Come visit me some time with your converters and we'll do a few blind tests.

As for monitors, I rarely comment on those because every one really does sound different, and this is one place personal preference can trump science and measurements. And I don't like ultra-bright microphones either. Flat is where it's at IMO.

--Ethan
Old 13th November 2009
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Thanks very much!

@TMY: Come visit me some time with your converters and we'll do a few blind tests.

As for monitors, I rarely comment on those because every one really does sound different, and this is one place personal preference can trump science and measurements. And I don't like ultra-bright microphones either. Flat is where it's at IMO.

--Ethan
LOL - if you think my wife would let me drop $3500 on a HEDD192 without me proving in a series of double blind tests I can hear the difference then - well you don't know my wife!!

Actually the other day I had to swop over to a MIDIman delta 24/96 to use a sound from another machine I have - Sh*t it was like cotton wool had been put in my ears.

Not being rude (honest) but did it occur to you that in fact it's really a case of you can't hear or appreciate the difference - I mean if I could'nt then there's no way I would be spending my hard earned cash - I can tell you.

By the way the edition I saw you and your cat is the on-line version of SOS

Best
TMY
Old 14th November 2009
  #6
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Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post
did it occur to you that in fact it's really a case of you can't hear or appreciate the difference
Nope. Which is why I always invite people to visit in person if possible. It's rare someone leaves with the same opinions they arrived with.

--Ethan
Old 14th November 2009
  #7
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
As for monitors, I rarely comment on those because every one really does sound different, and this is one place personal preference can trump science and measurements.
Why is that one place? What are the others?
Old 14th November 2009
  #8
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Nope. Which is why I always invite people to visit in person if possible. It's rare someone leaves with the same opinions they arrived with.

--Ethan
Well if you can't hear the difference between a Crane Song Hedd192 and an RME Multiface then .... well I don't know what to say.

Blind A/B testing can be done in other places other than Ethan Winer's place ;-)

TMY
Old 15th November 2009
  #9
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Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
Why is that one place? What are the others?
Microphones.
Old 15th November 2009
  #10
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Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post
Well if you can't hear the difference between a Crane Song Hedd192 and an RME Multiface then .... well I don't know what to say.
That's why I always invite people to visit in person and bring their gear. heh
Old 15th November 2009
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer
As for monitors, I rarely comment on those because every one really does sound different, and this is one place personal preference can trump science and measurements.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Microphones.
Why do you believe this applies exclusively to monitors and microphones?

Every significantly different-design preamp is measurably different. As is every significantly different-design analog compressor/eq I have used. The same goes for media like tape and vinyl.

Why should those not be primarily subject to personal preference as well?

And if "cleanliness" should be the primary objective of recording, why not use measurement-grade microphones for all program material?

Sorry, but it doesn't seem like you're being very consistent.
Old 16th November 2009
  #12
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Originally Posted by mobius.media View Post
why not use measurement-grade microphones for all program material?
That's a great idea, and I used my DPA 4090 for every single track I recorded on my Tele-Vision video:

Tele-Vision on Vimeo

Quote:
it doesn't seem like you're being very consistent.
If nothing else, I am 100 percent consistent. heh

--Ethan
Old 18th November 2009
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMarqueeYears View Post
Well if you can't hear the difference between a Crane Song Hedd192 and an RME Multiface then .... well I don't know what to say.

Blind A/B testing can be done in other places other than Ethan Winer's place ;-)

TMY

thumbsup. I strangley preferred the Lynx aurora & Mytex 8x192 over the hedd's DA. I was SET on the hedd taking the biscuit for me, but the blind tests swayed me otherwise. If it wasn't for a blind test, I would have assumed the hedd to better without a doubt. The difference between the pro converters is pretty small in reality, the difference between prosumer and pro converters is pretty extreme though, the difference is abundantly obvious even on cheapy loudspeakers.


Excellent article though Ethan, I really enjoyed reading it.
Old 18th November 2009
  #14
Yep - have to agree with the above post. I recently tracked a song and split everything after the pre-amp with y-cables to a HEDD and a fireface. I listened to the HEDD version of the song, sounded fantastic, switched to the fireface version and.....I couldn't tell the difference .

I've stopped worrying about converters now.
Old 19th November 2009
  #15
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Ethan's easy to disagree with. He has a lot of opinions that go against the grain of common engineering mentality. But he falls into that rare category of no matter how much anyone disagrees, you gotta give respect, he knows his **** and he backs it up. There is no progress without disagreement.

That'd be an interesting thread: Ideas On Which Most People Disagree With Ethan. Followed by a series of blind tests. 25% would take a random guess and be correct with their original beliefs. 25% couldn't tell the difference and would be afraid to guess so they'd find flaws in the test. 25% would actually use their ears and go with that, and would either change their minds or validate their original ideas. 25% already agree with Ethan.
Old 21st November 2009
  #16
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Good job on the video, Ethan. Good Lord, that must have been a lot of work.
Old 26th November 2009
  #17
that's an awesome video!!!!!
Old 27th November 2009
  #18
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Thanks guys. And I think it would be hilarious for someone to start a thread titled "Ideas On Which Most People Disagree With Ethan." heh

--Ethan
Old 28th November 2009
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Thanks guys. And I think it would be hilarious for someone to start a thread titled "Ideas On Which Most People Disagree With Ethan." heh

--Ethan
Hilarious yes. Useful - well, given the current GS climate, I'd have my doubts. The thread would probably turn into some pissing match about right and wrong, while the usefulness of sussing out the sonic comparisons would be overshadowed.

It's like - take tape saturation vs. saturation plugins. I'm a believer that tape sounds like tape and saturation plugs don't. I know you hear differently. The point of comparing the same source recorded through different tape machines or at different bias, or different levels of input and mixing that in with a few versions recorded digital with some saturation plugs on there would be to get to the core idea of what sounds we are valuing and how our ears are interpreting things. But I'd give it three posts tops before it becomes a who's right or wrong issue.
Old 28th November 2009
  #20
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The thread would probably turn into some pissing match about right and wrong
I've often thought about proposing that Jules create a special forum where two people (only) can duke it out. This would keep the s/n at 100 percent, and nobody could duck a question or point made by the other person. As it is now, many good points are lost among the "cheerleader" posts from both sides.

Quote:
I'm a believer that tape sounds like tape and saturation plugs don't. I know you hear differently.
I hear just fine, but it's important to keep the big picture in mind. There are lots of ways to get an effect, and they don't have to sound identical to be successful. In particular, you said:

Quote:
the same source recorded through different tape machines or at different bias, or different levels of input
This proves that even with real tape, the sound varies a lot depending on record level, bias, and of course head alignment.

When someone truly understands what tape does to audio, they realize it's a simple effect that is easily modeled. So then it comes down to expectation bias, where people prefer the sound of real tape only because they know it's not a tape-sim. In a blind test I doubt most could tell which is which.

--Ethan
Old 28th November 2009
  #21
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
When someone truly understands what tape does to audio, they realize it's a simple effect that is easily modeled. So then it comes down to expectation bias, where people prefer the sound of real tape only because they know it's not a tape-sim. In a blind test I doubt most could tell which is which.
I really disagree, the saturation dynamics of tape is not a trivial modeling problem tmk, and saturation models in general are the most computationally intensive of today's DSP challenges.

I suggest Ethan study the theory of computing including the classes of problems known as "NP Complete" and "NP Hard"...there is plenty in nature that is very difficult to emulate perfectly in digital, and I suspect the specific saturation properties of tape, given the enormous parallelism of magnetizing billions of irregular metal particles, is among them.

Old 28th November 2009
  #22
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the saturation dynamics of tape is not a trivial modeling problem tmk, and saturation models in general are the most computationally intensive of today's DSP challenges.
It's easy to prove that tape "compression" is a simple transfer curve. Are you familiar with the concept of pre-distortion? This was used in MCI and Scully recorders, and possibly other brands, to reduce distortion. The idea is to add the opposite curve in the record electronics, to partially overdrive the peaks before they're recorded onto tape. The result is lower distortion, and the key is that the pre-distortion must accurately reverse what the tape does. I wrote an article for R-e/p Magazine years ago showing a circuit that does this based on two diodes and a variable resistor:

Pre-Distortion Techniques

--Ethan
Old 30th November 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spicemix View Post
I really disagree, the saturation dynamics of tape is not a trivial modeling problem tmk, and saturation models in general are the most computationally intensive of today's DSP challenges.

I suggest Ethan study the theory of computing including the classes of problems known as "NP Complete" and "NP Hard"...there is plenty in nature that is very difficult to emulate perfectly in digital, and I suspect the specific saturation properties of tape, given the enormous parallelism of magnetizing billions of irregular metal particles, is among them.

Nope nope. Not here. Let's save it for the blind test thread.
Old 30th November 2009
  #24
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Quote:
I've often thought about proposing that Jules create a special forum where two people (only) can duke it out. This would keep the s/n at 100 percent, and nobody could duck a question or point made by the other person. As it is now, many good points are lost among the "cheerleader" posts from both sides.
+1.



Quote:
I hear just fine, but it's important to keep the big picture in mind. There are lots of ways to get an effect, and they don't have to sound identical to be successful. In particular, you said:



This proves that even with real tape, the sound varies a lot depending on record level, bias, and of course head alignment.
Quote:
When someone truly understands what tape does to audio, they realize it's a simple effect that is easily modeled. So then it comes down to expectation bias, where people prefer the sound of real tape only because they know it's not a tape-sim. In a blind test I doubt most could tell which is which.

--Ethan
Which would make for an interesting test. Not just a "can you tell." But what leads someone to believe what they chose. It's revealing. But most people take it as a pride thing.

For example, there was a thread asking if people could identify which of two mixes were done ITB and which was OTB. Common debate. Many people guessed that the OTB one was ITB because there was more separation in the sounds. That same separation, I associate with OTB, so in that case I got it right. I think it's more important to have discourse on what's being heard and how it is being heard rather than what is being listened to - if that made sense.
Old 30th November 2009
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
It's easy to prove that tape "compression" is a simple transfer curve. Are you familiar with the concept of pre-distortion? This was used in MCI and Scully recorders, and possibly other brands, to reduce distortion. The idea is to add the opposite curve in the record electronics, to partially overdrive the peaks before they're recorded onto tape. The result is lower distortion, and the key is that the pre-distortion must accurately reverse what the tape does. I wrote an article for R-e/p Magazine years ago showing a circuit that does this based on two diodes and a variable resistor:

Pre-Distortion Techniques

--Ethan
So. You only looked for distortion on a sine wave, you only found what you only looked for, and you were able to remove what you only looked for. That go you so excited you leapt to the conclusion that all S are P and your device has removed all the tape-ness.

Next you will add an equalization curve to your device, and then you will add a multiband compressor, and then something like the Dynamic Spectrum Mapper with per-band saturation settings...

...and we'll still be chasing tape-ness...
Old 30th November 2009
  #26
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So. You only looked for distortion on a sine wave, you only found what you only looked for
From my perspective, tape adds distortion, and changes the frequency response by a hopefully small amount in a way that is easily emulated with EQ. It also adds hiss, and tape modulation noise which is similar but exists only with the signal. I doubt most tape enthusiasts would say added noise is ever beneficial. So...

What else do you think tape does? Please be very specific! heh

I may start a new thread in the Too Much Gear section asking people to define "color" in technical terms. I see a lot of belief in magic, and too much of the attitude "There are many things we hear that can't be measured" which is just wrong. As I see it, "color" is mostly distortion, and sometimes a change in frequency response. But I'm glad to hear from anyone with hard facts to the contrary. Emphasis on "hard facts."

--Ethan
Old 30th November 2009
  #27
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Ethan, you are looking for science to explain art, why?

Just step back and think about actual colour.

Primary Red can be defined in maths its wavelength is ~630-740 nm but the individual perception of it cannot be described by numbers.

We can both agree to see a sunset as red but you may in actual fact be seeing yellow, we can only agree on common references not on actual defined perception.

The same, by definition, is true of audio, for it is just another medium of colour. To hear magic in the sound of tape where science only can describe the experience in numbers really has no meaning in artistic perception.

I suppose coming from an acoustician this perspective is understandable, here science truly prevails, for the behavior of waves in any given room is measurable and predictable it follows the laws of nature. Simple laws in essence.

A machine that records audio to tape is in comparison complex, the effect of many mechanisms acting one upon the other create a tonality that is complex, the path compared to that of a wave emerging from a speaker is far more complex and subjected to many more variations and distortions.

These results are highly pleasing and described as colour, but critically it is the individual perception of these processes that you seek to define.

You can define the chemisty of love, but not the feelings it gives you.

However I think you make an excellent tonic to the view "old is best", and anything that generates healthy debate is a good thing.

Best
Robert
Old 1st December 2009
  #28
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
From my perspective, tape adds distortion, and changes the frequency response by a hopefully small amount in a way that is easily emulated with EQ. It also adds hiss, and tape modulation noise which is similar but exists only with the signal. I doubt most tape enthusiasts would say added noise is ever beneficial. So...

What else do you think tape does? Please be very specific! heh

I may start a new thread in the Too Much Gear section asking people to define "color" in technical terms. I see a lot of belief in magic, and too much of the attitude "There are many things we hear that can't be measured" which is just wrong. As I see it, "color" is mostly distortion, and sometimes a change in frequency response. But I'm glad to hear from anyone with hard facts to the contrary. Emphasis on "hard facts."

--Ethan
I don't think you could get the same effect with just eq. My understanding is that low order harmonic distortion creates the illusion of a louder fundamental, even though the fundamental is not being boosted. I thought that was the premise for technologies like Ren-Bass. Maybe I'm wrong.
Old 1st December 2009
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
From my perspective, tape adds distortion, and changes the frequency response by a hopefully small amount in a way that is easily emulated with EQ. It also adds hiss, and tape modulation noise which is similar but exists only with the signal. I doubt most tape enthusiasts would say added noise is ever beneficial. So...

What else do you think tape does? Please be very specific! heh

I may start a new thread in the Too Much Gear section asking people to define "color" in technical terms. I see a lot of belief in magic, and too much of the attitude "There are many things we hear that can't be measured" which is just wrong. As I see it, "color" is mostly distortion, and sometimes a change in frequency response. But I'm glad to hear from anyone with hard facts to the contrary. Emphasis on "hard facts."

--Ethan
What is the "magic" you believe to be required? You seem to be perceiving imaginary opponents again. It is a blend of the above with unique saturation, compression, and phase effects (all frequency, volume, and dynamics dependent), as well as a complete lack of the unique forms of distortion, jitter, temporal, filtering, and phase artifacts that characterize digital. It is far from simple and so far impossible to replicate ITB. If you know of a perfect plugin that does this let me know. I'd love to try it.
Old 1st December 2009
  #30
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Ethan, you are looking for science to explain art, why?
No, I am using science and logic to explain science. Audio is a science you know! Versus recording and mixing that are art.

I never talk about the artistic aspect of this stuff because that's entirely subjective. But when people say "plug-ins cannot do the same thing as tape" that is entirely objective and easy to prove or disprove. What tape does is easily quantified, and not complicated. It can be easily simulated with a plug-in, or a pair of diodes as shown in the article I linked above.

Quote:
A machine that records audio to tape is in comparison complex, the effect of many mechanisms acting one upon the other create a tonality that is complex
This is my entire point. It is not complex! It only seems that way to people who are not schooled in electronics.

--Ethan
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