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Ethan Winer on... Condenser Microphones
Old 7th September 2008
  #121
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TurboJets's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post



Where did I ever say any of those statement?

--Ethan

Not too long ago I personally participated in a thread where you distinctly proclaimed (and fervently argued for days on end) that beyond the shadow of a doubt there was no measurable difference between low-end and high-end AD/DA converters.

It was one of the most ridiculous threads I ever stooped down to participate in - much like this one I suppose. And the fella was just asking whether upgrading his converters would improve his recordings. The obvious answer some of us were trying to make was a resounding "Yes".
Old 7th September 2008
  #122
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Ethan is a genius, a musician, and a playa's playa. I wish I could afford to hire him to re-design my control room. He also taught me that posing for photographs while holding an obese cat has a wonderfully slimming effect. My studio cat is now well over 30lbs. Thanks Ethan!

Z
Old 7th September 2008
  #123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Of course, so use realistic loads. End of problem.
Of course! How silly of me. I don't know why I never thought of this. heh

Instead of relying on the measurements that the manufacturers provide, I should very simply obtain one piece of whatever I'm considering for purchase, and perform my own non-standard tests on them using whatever kind of signals and analysis I want!

That's precisely what engineers must do (and do in reality) when they want to use components in very demanding designs: they buy the components and put them through the particular tests that they think represent the application they have in mind. (Well, they get samples for free but I would probably not be so lucky.)

I think that everyone reading this thread was under the impression that your position was very different from this. I thought, probably others did too, that you were saying that frequency response, THD and perhaps a few other standard measurements, as performed and published by the manufacturer of the gear, were a complete and reliable characterization of the gear.

Now I understand you to be saying that in principle there are tests that use the appropriate input signals and analysis to reveal whatever nuances, nonlinearities, etc., exist in audio equipment. And of course that's so. It hasn't much practical utility that I can see, but it's true in principle.

-synthoid
Old 7th September 2008
  #124
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I like Ethan's advice.

Thank you for all you have done Ethan. Your advice has transformed my mix enviroment and my walletheh

I look forward to reading more and more of your acoustic advice.
Old 7th September 2008
  #125
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Martin Kantola's Avatar
 

Let's just all try to make this thread the kind we want to read, OK?

Here's how I see it:

A guy gets into a taxi. The passenger (the music guy) tells the taxi driver (the scientist) to take him to his favorite Italian restaurant downtown.

The passenger needs to be able to tell the driver in detail where he wants to go, preferably the street name and number.

The driver needs to know how to get there.

The passenger should not try to tell the driver how to drive, or which way is the shortest. But he can make friendly suggestions.

The driver should not tell the passenger that he should go to another restaurant because the food is good enough and much cheaper. But again, he can make friendly suggestions.

In any case, they shouldn't start a fight in the cab in the middle of traffic, but a friendly chat makes the ride much more enjoyable for both. Best case, they can learn something from each other.

Martin
Old 7th September 2008
  #126
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
Sorry once again but you have that backwards. The default position is there is more that as not known, ALWAYS.

It can't be any other way. When they said the Earth was flat it was because at the time the information available supported that theory, until NEW information was available.

For you to say you know something, as fact, because we don't have any more evidence to disprove the theory, and NEVER WILL, is just, well, silly.
While it is good to be reminded of how much we are ignorant about, this should not be used as an excuse to discount the very well tested science that is known. To use your "world is flat" example, we are so far beyond the "world is round" awareness to be precisely measuring how round it is from space. Most basic audio characteristics were investigated and defined a long time ago. Modern day claims for $5000 line cords is strikingly similar to the old snake oil patent medicine claims.

I don't doubt that somebody somewhere found a combination of products where the line cord makes a difference. In the unprofessional world of unbalanced 2 circuit audio interfaces there can be stray currents passing between chassis that travel over common audio lines corrupting those signals. Any change for the better, made by the funny line cord could likely be duplicated for $5-10. It is not discovering some new science but revealing shortcomings in unprofessional interfaces.

Many of these arguments were old decades ago, and yet clever merchandisers make boat loads of money promoting magical thinking among ignorant consumers to separate them from their hard earned geld. In this day of remarkably good performance from low cost value products, premium manufacturers must try to justify their high cost by making small differences seem large, or creating differences in the mind of the consumer that aren't real.

There are still well respected power amp companies making dubious claims for things like damping factor and slew rate, to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Nobody is going to spend advertising dollars to educate the consumer that damping factor or slew rate hasn't been a design problem for decades and most amps when operated in their linear region will sound identical.

It must be very confusing to make sense of data sheets mostly reporting specifications that were important (and much worse) decades ago but now mostly reduced to insignificance. I won't claim that all products are the same but the differences are much smaller than in the past.

One area that IMO remains unfinished compared to solid state electronics, is loudspeakers. The best are still tradeoffs between sundry compromises with notable interactions with their environment. The whole concept of stereophonic playback is an imperfect simulation of three dimensional sound spaces.

It is useful to understand where the real weak links are in our audio chains so we can focus energy on improving those. IMO people spend way too much time and money in the wrong areas, because of a weak understanding about how things work.

Of course I could be wrong....

JR
Old 7th September 2008
  #127
These threads crack me up.

You've got all these people many of whom regularly call themselves "engineers" -- yet a very sizable percentage of them have no grasp on the basic facts of their field of endeavor -- and manifestly lack the clarity of thought to draw logical conclusions from facts when they stumble on to them.


Pretty funny stuff.

But kind of sad, too, since, from my perspective late in life, I can predict that most of these folks will never be able to see what buffoons they look like... they will go to their graves unable to think clearly and self-wrapped in willful ignorance and superstition.
Old 7th September 2008
  #128
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malice's Avatar
 

...

Last edited by malice; 7th September 2008 at 04:48 PM.. Reason: bored, sorry
Old 7th September 2008
  #129
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myrtlebacker's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
You've got all these people many of whom regularly call themselves "engineers" -- yet a very sizable percentage of them have no grasp on the basic facts of their field of endeavor -- and manifestly lack the clarity of thought to draw logical conclusions from facts when they stumble on to them.
But it's cool in a way: It's like witnessing a battle between alchemists vs. scientists in the 21st century.

Last edited by myrtlebacker; 7th September 2008 at 04:52 PM.. Reason: redundancy was redundant, duh
Old 7th September 2008
  #130
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Ethan.
all i can say is you have my greatest respect mate.
the industry needs people like you around.
god bless .
Old 7th September 2008
  #131
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Ben B's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 11413 View Post

your response is always to categorically invalidate my experience, or what i heard in the room.. for someone who was not there in the room, this is complete arrogant idiocy.
For what it's worth, I do not read Ethan's posts as being denigrating to your experience. He's just acknowledging that often these kinds of subjective experiences are mis-attributed. Whether what you heard was caused by the placebo effect or not, I don't think that he or anyone is contesting whether or not you experienced it.

The thing is that sometimes the most likely explanations for certain phenomena tend to be expectation bias, acoustical phenomena, limitations of memory, improperly designed tests, user error, etc. In no way am I trying to say that this is the case for any particular experience that you had, only that these are known phenomena. When someone makes a claim that goes against what is known and proven in audio, scientifically-minded people naturally want to rule out the most likely explanations.

What was that saying that Mr. Spock used to say? "When you have eliminted the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

(I don't know if that fully applies here, but I've always wanted to quote Mr. Spock!)

-Ben B
Old 7th September 2008
  #132
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
These threads crack me up.

You've got all these people many of whom regularly call themselves "engineers" -- yet a very sizable percentage of them have no grasp on the basic facts of their field of endeavor -- and manifestly lack the clarity of thought to draw logical conclusions from facts when they stumble on to them.


Pretty funny stuff.

But kind of sad, too, since, from my perspective late in life, I can predict that most of these folks will never be able to see what buffoons they look like... they will go to their graves unable to think clearly and self-wrapped in willful ignorance and superstition.
I think thats pretty harsh, I know of people that get their results based on intuition and ear that are verry succesful. Perhaps it´s not always neccesary for a painter to know the molecular structure of the paint he´s using etc.
Old 7th September 2008
  #133
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I always thought that that the the obligation of 'proof' rests with the person making the statement; But Ethan however, has put the onus probandi on those who disagree with his 'opinions'.

I'm still curious to know how he got those two mics to sound "exactly" alike, I'm sure the engineers at Neumann couldn't get two 103's to perform "exactly" alike.....
Old 7th September 2008
  #134
what is the exact point of this thread?

Old 7th September 2008
  #135
Han
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
Mr. Winer claimed he could make a cheap AT mic sound like an expensive Neumann mic with a little eq.

Someone cried foul.

Are you serious? Do I have to read this entire thread?
Old 7th September 2008
  #136
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studjo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Han View Post
Are you serious? Do I have to read this entire thread?
no you don't - it's defenitely not worth
Old 7th September 2008
  #137
Han
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Ethan is a nice guy who knows very much about basstrapping, but apparently little about microphones and two inch tapemachines. :D
Old 7th September 2008
  #138
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Martin Kantola's Avatar
 

Not exactly, Ethan is a nice guy who knows a lot about audio. He's not really the subject of this thread, we're trying to discuss different ways of looking at the same universe.

Martin
Old 7th September 2008
  #139
Han
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No need to bash anybody, opinions differ and forums are the perfect place to discuss opinions. I really wish it was that simple, that I could make a LDC like a SP B1 sound like an M49 with a little EQ.

But I can't make my M149 sound like an M49 with any gear whatsoever. A microphone is in fact a simple device, but mics react very different on soundsources, this is very very complicated and hard to understand.

And sometimes, under certain circumstances, my M149 stays in the closet an M88 gets used on vocals. I wish it was as simple as Ethan says it is, but an AT will never sound like an M49 or U67, no way.
Old 7th September 2008
  #140
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Ben B's Avatar
 

I think it's easy to be misunderstood on that last point. I think that in certain instances, one could EQ a track recorded with a certain microphone to make it sound more like a different microphone. Of course, it wouldn't work in all contexts, but it would in some. When I read Ethan's comment, I didn't perceive it as a generalization that any mic can sound like any other mic with a little EQ (nor do I personally believe this) -- only that in certain contexts it can be true. He gave one specific example of a vocal track. The same two mics, when compared in other contexts, would undoubtedly exhibit more (or less) pronouced differences (and/or similarities) depending on the sound source, and the specific acoustical conditions present at the time of recording.

-Ben B
Old 8th September 2008
  #141
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Yes, it is well known that distortion can be pleasing. I already linked to my Sound On Sound magazine article about that. However, I'm not convinced a high-end microphone like a U87 has significant amounts of distortion at practical SPL levels.
The question of distortion in microphones is a tricky one for the issue of measurement.

I think you refer to electrical distortion with this statement? (ie. the rising distortion of output transformer with level).

It would be useful to separate the potential distortion into electrical (amplifiers, transformers, etc) and mechanical.

For example, if 'total distortion' is quoted for a microphone, it is usually quoted as deviation from the response of a 'measurement' microphone, for some form of repeatable stimulus.

In this way there are microphones (of the same class as the 'measurement' microphone) which can claim very low apparent distortion figures, which might appear well below your stated -90dB threshold - of deviation from the 'measurement' microphone.

However, there is a distinct problem with this, which is that if the ear is capable of lower mechanical distortion than the 'measurement' microphone, the industry standard measurement is essentially without value.

For my work I prefer to take the mechanical perspective.

Andy
Old 8th September 2008
  #142
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Someone smart once said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by sleestack
If you tell your brain enough facts you don't have to use your ears anymore
Old 8th September 2008
  #143
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
One area that IMO remains unfinished compared to solid state electronics, is loudspeakers. The best are still tradeoffs between sundry compromises with notable interactions with their environment. The whole concept of stereophonic playback is an imperfect simulation of three dimensional sound spaces.

It is useful to understand where the real weak links are in our audio chains so we can focus energy on improving those. IMO people spend way too much time and money in the wrong areas, because of a weak understanding about how things work.
John, this describes our industry so very well.

World industry has brought solid state amplification and the digital medium to mature enough state that it only serves to illustrate the lack of progress in fundamental areas.

Engineering is about finding solutions to problems. If we don't ask the right question we can spend years working with perfect science and make no progress.

This is the exact reason that we can still step back in time at least 50 years and compare the state of the art with what we have today, in most cases to find a shocking lack of progress or even regression.

For example, if you wanted to trace the lineage of my work in mechanical microphone performance you would need to take a large step back to the 1930s (!) where the trail went cold.

I quote directly from the JASA site:

"
Microphone Efficiency: A Discussion and Proposed Definition
Frank Massa
RCA Manufacturing Company, Camden, New Jersey

(Received July 14, 1939)

This paper proposes a definition for microphone efficiency, together with a discussion for justifying the points of view presented. Up to the present time, the question of microphone efficiency has been generally ignored and in its place has grown the use of microphone sensitivity, which is the voltage output for a particular value of sound pressure actuating the unit. Although this latter quantity may be quite satisfactory for commercial use, the author feels that from a scientific point of view, we should be interested in the absolute ability of a microphone to absorb acoustic energy from a sound field and convert it into electrical energy: this ability he defines as efficiency. A relation for microphone efficiency is derived and a family of curves are computed which show the efficiency of a microphone as a function of its size, impedance, and sensitivity. One obvious conclusion that can be deduced from the paper is that only a tiny fraction of the acoustic energy intercepted by an average microphone is actually converted into electrical energy. This means that we are yet very far from the theoretical limit and, consequently, great possibilities still exist for fundamental research in the improvement of microphone efficiency. ©1939 Acoustical Society of America
"

While the author here (in 1939) does not make the leap to the conclusions that have guided my recent work, what he says does in essence predict my microphones some 70 years before they arrived.

In fact, reading his opening paragraph we can see that even at this time the fundamentals of the microphone were already being ignored.

Andy
Old 8th September 2008
  #144
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
The question of distortion in microphones is a tricky one for the issue of measurement.

I think you refer to electrical distortion with this statement? (ie. the rising distortion of output transformer with level).

It would be useful to separate the potential distortion into electrical (amplifiers, transformers, etc) and mechanical.
I think if you take a closer look into most or all of the statements/claims attributed to Ethan in the OP, you will see a recurring theme of over generalization and vagueness that amazingly ignores a lot of important, scientific factors....
Old 8th September 2008
  #145
Quote:
Originally Posted by Han View Post
Are you serious? Do I have to read this entire thread?
SIG FILE MATERIAL!

Old 8th September 2008
  #146
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
I think if you take a closer look into most or all of the statements/claims attributed to Ethan in the OP, you will see a recurring theme of over generalization and vagueness that amazingly ignores a lot of important, scientific factors....
Actually, I respect Ethan greatly and I do take a close look at almost everything he writes on this forum.

You may be surprised or even horrified to know that Ethan's views represent almost exactly that of the various leading industry manufacturers - the mic companies, the speaker companies, the mic-amp designers, the digital converter designers and the academic world.

Anyway, the point is that firstly, to a great extent, Ethan is usually either right or is asking a question, and where he is mislead, he is in the company of the almost the entire industry.

Andy
Old 8th September 2008
  #147
11413
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by andy_simpson View Post
You may be surprised or even horrified to know that Ethan's views represent almost exactly that of the various leading industry manufacturers - the mic companies, the speaker companies, the mic-amp designers, the digital converter designers and the academic world.

Anyway, the point is that firstly, to a great extent, Ethan is usually either right or is asking a question, and where he is mislead, he is in the company of the almost the entire industry.
you apparently missed his various battles with Dan Lavry..

in short, Ethan doesnt believe there is such a thing as jitter. and a Mackie 1202 is straight-wire clean.. oh, and a soundblaster card sounds as good as a high end A/D.

i propose we change the title of this thread to "Ethan Winer is on crack" and leave it at that.
Old 8th September 2008
  #148
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Martin Kantola's Avatar
 

That's not what Ethan says, at least the way I read him. In my opinion, he's just unusually brave to speak up and say what many in the industry think anyway.

Even if I consider myself a high-end guy all the way, I can't deny that almost any cheap P.O.S. is good enough to make good music with these days. But that doesn't mean I don't want better gear, and that it does make a difference for the music too. You can create art with a cheap Chinese fiddle, but it's hard not to appreciate the sweet tone of a Stradivarius.

Martin
Old 8th September 2008
  #149
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ssaudio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Here's how I see it:

A guy gets into a taxi. The passenger (the music guy) tells the taxi driver (the scientist) to take him to his favorite Italian restaurant downtown.

The passenger needs to be able to tell the driver in detail where he wants to go, preferably the street name and number.

The driver needs to know how to get there.

The passenger should not try to tell the driver how to drive, or which way is the shortest. But he can make friendly suggestions.

The driver should not tell the passenger that he should go to another restaurant because the food is good enough and much cheaper. But again, he can make friendly suggestions.

In any case, they shouldn't start a fight in the cab in the middle of traffic, but a friendly chat makes the ride much more enjoyable for both. Best case, they can learn something from each other.
However, you forgot to mention that the passenger got into the cab wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the slogan 'You got you license in a Corn Flakes Packet'
Old 8th September 2008
  #150
11413
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
You can create art with a cheap Chinese fiddle, but it's hard not to appreciate the sweet tone of a Stradivarius.
and all this is fine.. but LOOK WHERE YOU ARE. this is gearslutz.. these are ppl obsessed with the top 5%. if he confined his opinions to "low end theory" or DIY or something it wouldnt be so bad...

and i would contend that those lil euphonic differences in high end gear are much more important to music enjoyment and an album's longevity than anyone really admits to. everyone has to feel like a genius... but sometimes using a different mic pre or compressor is the magickal ingredient which takes an ok performance into the stratosphere.

i've seen it work in recording studios so many times i just accept it as a law of nature.. creating a vibe is EVERYTHING. if you use the right piece of gear for the right part there's a synergy that takes place in capturing performances which is greater than the sum of all parts.

this will never happen with a 1202
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