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Ethan Winer on... Condenser Microphones
Old 4th September 2008
  #1
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Ethan Winer on...

Ethan has contributed a lot to this forum, however I would like a friendly debate on some points. Sorry if these random points are taken out of context.

2-INCH TAPE:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine."

IDENTICAL SOUNDING DEVICES:

"If the response of an audio device is within 0.1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, and the sum of all noise and distortion is 90 dB below the signal, that device can be said to be audibly transparent. Any two devices with specs that good or better will indeed sound identical."

THE SOUND OF MICROPHONES:

"If you compare one microphone that's flat, with another microphone that has a presence peak or whatever that falls at a pleasing frequency, there's no reason simple EQ cannot make the flat microphone have that same pleasing response. Of course, some microphones have no output at all at very high frequencies, so no amount of EQ can bring that content back. But other than that, I see no reason a flat microphone can't be EQ'd to sound like another microphone that has a response you like."

TEST GEAR:

"Audio fidelity can be assessed using test gear, and nothing else is needed."

GEAR REPORTS AND PREJUDICES:

"I do not post just to make trouble or be contrary, even though many here seem to think that's my motive. My only goal is to get people to examine their own prejudices, and also to understand why anecdotal reports are inadequate for assessing gear quality."

Quoted from thread: D/A A/D Converter. Essential?

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #2
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So what. This is some big outing or something?

I like Ethan.
Old 4th September 2008
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
So what. This is some big outing or something?

I like Ethan.
Agreed. What is the reason for this thread, anyways..?
Seems pointless to me.
Old 4th September 2008
  #4
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Originally Posted by decius01 View Post
Agreed. What is the reason for this thread, anyways..?
Seems pointless to me.
It is pointless because it doesn't refute anything I said! It merely attempts to ridicule me, which is pointless and immature. Now, if Martin had something of substance to offer, besides a cute kittie in his avatar, then we'd all have the basis for a useful discussion.

--Ethan
Old 4th September 2008
  #5
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
So what. This is some big outing or something?

I like Ethan.
+1 Great guy!
Old 4th September 2008
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
2-INCH TAPE:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine."

IDENTICAL SOUNDING DEVICES:

"If the response of an audio device is within 0.1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, and the sum of all noise and distortion is 90 dB below the signal, that device can be said to be audibly transparent. Any two devices with specs that good or better will indeed sound identical."

THE SOUND OF MICROPHONES:

"If you compare one microphone that's flat, with another microphone that has a presence peak or whatever that falls at a pleasing frequency, there's no reason simple EQ cannot make the flat microphone have that same pleasing response. Of course, some microphones have no output at all at very high frequencies, so no amount of EQ can bring that content back. But other than that, I see no reason a flat microphone can't be EQ'd to sound like another microphone that has a response you like."

TEST GEAR:

"Audio fidelity can be assessed using test gear, and nothing else is needed."

GEAR REPORTS AND PREJUDICES:

"I do not post just to make trouble or be contrary, even though many here seem to think that's my motive. My only goal is to get people to examine their own prejudices, and also to understand why anecdotal reports are inadequate for assessing gear quality."

Quoted from thread: D/A A/D Converter. Essential?

Martin
Taken in context, most of that makes sense doesn't it?

For example:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine." - if being true to the source is what's important. It may not sound BETTER - we like the sound of tape compression! But don't try and pretend it's higher fidelity than a reasonable quality AD - just more flattering. .

I truly see no point in the original poster. Even his cat looks embarrassed to be involved..
Old 4th September 2008
  #7
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Well, that's some fool called Martin made a complete dick of himself!
Old 4th September 2008
  #8
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I am not sure what the motivation of this thread was, but I will not assume that the OP's intention was less than honorable. I await his explanation.

Meanwhile, one more apprecaitive shout out to Ethan. He is a great resource to have around here and is highly respected by many, myself included.
Old 4th September 2008
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisc_o View Post
I am not sure what the motivation of this thread was, but I will not assume that the OP's intention was less than honorable. I await his explanation.

Meanwhile, one more apprecaitive shout out to Ethan. He is a great resource to have around here and is highly respected by many, myself included.
I can appreciate what you said, Chrisc_o-- it's a good point you have.

However, I haven't been here uber long, and I "lurk" much more than I post.. but I must say I do see too many slagging threads on these forums these days for my own comfort. They're just silly, pointless and useless endeavors.

Ethan, you've been very helpful to a great many people (myself included), and so I think people should lay the heck off of you. Thank you for taking the time and energy to help us poor schlubs out who wouldn't know how to build a decent sound space if our lives depended on it otherwise!

There, now I can go back to my lunch. heh
Old 4th September 2008
  #10
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Hey Martin... GO GET A F'IN LIFE!

Ethan, thanks for all the help you've been over the years.
Old 4th September 2008
  #11
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Sorry, but i am with Martin on this.

What has been presented is a list of "statements", i.e. not presented as opinion.

These kinds of generalisations are the kinds of things that go right along with statements like: "As much bass trapping as possible".

And ultimately these kinds of statements steer many people in the wrong direction.

I have done back to back listening tests comparing tape and great converters (i.e. better than "modern affordable digital"), and the tape had something. The quality of the converters was self evident, but musically a micron less pleasing. (This statement is in no way a put-down of the great converters and their respective designers.)

If the microphone statements was true, then would someone please phone Mike Castoro at Wunder, and Dirk Brauner and tell them to stop making microphones, because they are wasting their time and energy. From Ethan's statements it appears completely possible for me to record a voice using an AKG C1000, and then i can EQ to sound like a U47.

Where have I been? I had no idea i was doing so much wrong!

To counter the last statement listed with a paraphrasing of that statement:

"I do not post just to make trouble or be contrary, even though many here seem to think that's my motive. My only goal is to get people to examine their own prejudices, and also to understand why TEST reports are inadequate for assessing gear quality."

Anyone, who has taken the time to listen to the samples of the various U47 capusles that Martin recorded, will immediately understand where Martin is coming from. He has provided the freq response charts for each of the capsules, and they have told a part of the story. The remainder of the story, the behaviour of each capsule when put in context of a particular source sound, could not have been measured with test equipment.

Any of you who agree unquestioningly with Ethan's statements quoted should reconsider your chosen profession. Because thought processes like that only consider half the story.
Old 4th September 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
I like Ethan.
I like Ethan too, and I think that this is excellent material for interesting discussions. Have nothing but respect for a guy with strong opinions who doesn't mind debating them. His knowledge and intelligence makes his posts exciting reading.

Found these quotes as I was browsing said thread, and thought they are all strongly connected to the things usually discussed on this forum.

To some extent, the whole concept of sharing on Gearslutz what we think we hear in gear is questioned.

How can Ethan be ridiculed by quoting him verbatim? I really don't want to distort anything he claims in any way.

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #13
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I've learned a great deal from Mr. Winer's posts and educational videos on his site. As a GS that goes out of his way to educate and assist the comminuty, he seems to be an odd target to single out for ridicule. Keep up the good work Ethan!

Martin, I hope you have a better day tomorrow than you sound like you are having today.

Clifton
Old 4th September 2008
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
Taken in context, most of that makes sense doesn't it?

For example:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine." - if being true to the source is what's important. It may not sound BETTER - we like the sound of tape compression! But don't try and pretend it's higher fidelity than a reasonable quality AD - just more flattering. .

I truly see no point in the original poster. Even his cat looks embarrassed to be involved..
Even in context, it is questionable.

Again, it is a complete generalisation.
Old 4th September 2008
  #15
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Originally Posted by Sui_City View Post
From Ethan's statements it appears completely possible for me to record a voice using an AKG C1000, and then i can EQ to sound like a U47.
If you read the thread Martin linked to you'll see that I listed several reasons that microphones cannot always be EQ'd to sound exactly the same. But if you think there's "more to" the sound of microphones than the known parameters of frequency response, noise, and distortion, I'd say the burden is on you to explain what else there is. Please be as detailed as possible! heh

BTW, I've related this story before, but not for a while. A few years ago my partner bought a TLM 103 because he felt he needed a real Neumann to impress his clients. I suggested my audiotechnica 4033 as a great microphone that costs a lot less. But he was sold on the TLM's "presence peak" too, so he bought it. The next time I visited him we put both microphones adjacent and I sang (badly) into both microphones at the same time while he recorded both in SONAR. Sure enough, the TLM was brighter. So we looked at the TLM spec sheet and applied parametric EQ that exactly matched the presence boost on the 4033's track. Both tracks then sounded identical.

--Ethan
Old 4th September 2008
  #16
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Interesting thread.... I thought I'd chime in as someone who knows Ethan... he is after all my boss. :-)

Obviously I have the utmost respect for Ethan -- particularly his intellectual generosity. I got my start in acoustics training years ago when I encountered his acoustics FAQ, which still to this day contains most of what I know about studio acoustics (at least in a condensed version). It's amazing what he is able to cover in 20-25 pages or whatever it is now.

But, there are places where we disagree. For instance, on the microphone comparison. One microphone doesn't have one frequency response, it has an infinite number of frequency responses depending on orientation and the polar pattern. So even if you can EQ one recording with a C1000 to "sound like" a U47, it won't be identical because the room sound in the mic will be different. The pickup pattern is likely to be different, and the frequency response at different places in that pickup pattern will likely be very different. These are all part of what we hear, of how well the mic picks up the room tone, etc., and you cannot apply a bunch of different EQ curves to a track after-the-fact, to accurately emulate the full polar response of a U47 for all the sound that it hears. These subtle characteristics are what differentiate gear.

That said, you can certainly get close using EQ.... surprisingly close in most instances. As Ethan says, sound has only 4 relevant parameters: frequency response, noise, distortion, and time-based errors, with all the appropriate subsets therein. And with plugins, each of these parameters can be manipulated in a recording. Ethan prefers to record cleanly, then create the "sound" during mix using plugins. Generally, I prefer to get good sounds going in, so I have less work to do during mixdown. Both are valid approaches, used by many great and/or famous engineers.

One problem with 'net communications is that it's easy to take things out of context, and let annoyance or anger take over. Most engineers have strong opinions..... LOL I suppose the point is, even if I disagree with something Ethan says or believes, I still have the utmost respect for him, and to anyone else who handles himself the way Ethan does.
Old 4th September 2008
  #17
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Even if Martin does have a point. It was completely TACKY for him to post in this manner.

Maybe he could have prefaced everything with, "Ethan has contributed a lot to this forum, however I would like a friendly debate on some points. Sorry if these random points are taken put of context".

It really seems like a personal attack the way it is worded.
Old 4th September 2008
  #18
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Originally Posted by jwl View Post
But, there are places where we disagree. For instance, on the microphone comparison. One microphone doesn't have one frequency response, it has an infinite number of frequency responses depending on orientation and the polar pattern.
We don't disagree on that at all. How sound changes with angle (and also proximity) are definitely variables that EQ cannot counter. In fact, I laughed when those "microphone modeler" plug-ins first came out because it's impossible to do what is claimed. First, as I already mentioned in the thread Martin linked to, some microphones roll off the high end so severely that no amount of EQ can bring it back. More to the point, how could a plug-in know how far the singer was from the microphone while recording? So trying to EQ an omni microphone having no proximity boost to sound like a U47 in cardioid mode is pointless because there's no way to know how much low end boost is needed for whatever distance the singer was from the omni microphone.

--Ethan
Old 4th September 2008
  #19
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Can we please calm down and try to get this discussion back OT? Ethan already made a good point, so I will make some comments on his statements:

Quote:
2-INCH TAPE:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine."
The obvious question for me is, which is more important; how the recording device performs technically or musically? Ethan says that affordable digital beats 2-inch, but many of us think 2-inch sounds incredibly good in comparison. Even better. Is it possible to have good tech specs without giving up some of the musical values? Not saying you can't make great recordings with digital, but is adding tape simulation the only way to go and why do we even want it?

Quote:
IDENTICAL SOUNDING DEVICES:

"If the response of an audio device is within 0.1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, and the sum of all noise and distortion is 90 dB below the signal, that device can be said to be audibly transparent. Any two devices with specs that good or better will indeed sound identical."
This is a statement that for me falls in the "good enough" category. In my personal experience, gear with good enough specs (as quoted above) can sound like crap. Or great.


Quote:
THE SOUND OF MICROPHONES:

"If you compare one microphone that's flat, with another microphone that has a presence peak or whatever that falls at a pleasing frequency, there's no reason simple EQ cannot make the flat microphone have that same pleasing response. Of course, some microphones have no output at all at very high frequencies, so no amount of EQ can bring that content back. But other than that, I see no reason a flat microphone can't be EQ'd to sound like another microphone that has a response you like."
Microphones being my passion, this is really strange to hear. It didn't take long to discover that frequency response is far from the only thing that makes up the sound of a microphone. And what's happening frequency wise in a mike (acoustically or electrically) cannot be compensated or simulated afterwards in my experience. But as for all the other things that make a microphone great, let's say I'm still working on that and have been doing so for decades now...

Quote:
TEST GEAR:

"Audio fidelity can be assessed using test gear, and nothing else is needed."
My ears are VERY important to me. Nature is way ahead of technology IMHO.

Quote:
GEAR REPORTS AND PREJUDICES:

"I do not post just to make trouble or be contrary, even though many here seem to think that's my motive. My only goal is to get people to examine their own prejudices, and also to understand why anecdotal reports are inadequate for assessing gear quality."
Don't feel I have lots of prejudices, and I do think that we can discuss what we hear in gear and make some sense of it. That's why I'm here!

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #20
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As someone who knows Ethan and doesn't work for him.. I know he's a bright guy. I truly believe his goal is to inform and share his experience based viewpoint.

Absolute statements like those without qualification or context are provocative, intentionally or not. Ethan's judgement is solid and I wouldn't dismiss anything he says lightly. If you disagree, go ahead and try to prove him wrong, if you can.

I have disagreed with Ethan before, but only by degrees not on any major point. This seems much ado about nothing.

JR
Old 4th September 2008
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masterblaster View Post
Maybe he could have prefaced everything with, "Ethan has contributed a lot to this forum, however I would like a friendly debate on some points. Sorry if these random points are taken put of context".
Good idea, I should have done that! Honestly I didn't know exactly how to present these claims for a discussion, so my choice was to not attach any comments but let them speak for themselves to begin with. Obviously it was the wrong move, expected some reactions but not at all like this.

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #22
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The thing is, these measurements don't tell the whole story. Sweeps don't measure anything about transient distortion for instance. The differences are pretty enormous even if you use converters solely to mix with outboard. I'd take a nice tape machine any day over "affordable" digital.

Anyone saying otherwise just hasn't really heard the differences.

Same thing with the microphones, there is much more to that sound than the static frequency response and signal to noise ratio.

If you need any reproducable, testable, intersubjective test, try and send program material recorded with a great converter through several different converters in a simple loop test and try to null them against the original (inverted mix). The difference is much bigger than -90db. This is not only due to differences in phase response BTW.
Old 4th September 2008
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Can we please calm down and try to get this discussion back OT? Ethan already made a good point, so I will make some comments on his statements:

The obvious question for me is, which is more important; how the recording device performs technically or musically? Ethan says that affordable digital beats 2-inch, but many of us think 2-inch sounds incredibly good in comparison. Even better. Is it possible to have good tech specs without giving up some of the musical values? Not saying you can't make great recordings with digital, but is adding tape simulation the only way to go and why do we even want it?
This is a subjective call... modern digital is objectively more accurate. If you subjectively like the errors of 2" tape, that makes it better for you personally but not for everybody's taste.

Quote:
This is a statement that for me falls in the "good enough" category. In my personal experience, gear with good enough specs (as quoted above) can sound like crap. Or great.
if gear measures good and sounds like "crap" the measurements were flawed, or the listening test.
Quote:
Microphones being my passion, this is really strange to hear. It didn't take long to discover that frequency response is far from the only thing that makes up the sound of a microphone. And what's happening frequency wise in a mike (acoustically or electrically) cannot be compensated or simulated afterwards in my experience. But as for all the other things that make a microphone great, let's say I'm still working on that and have been doing so for decades now...
microphones have many moving parts making up their sound character. Simple EQ of the on axis sound field can get you most of the way there. Ethan used to teach a class in his recording studio where he lines up several different mics and EQ'd them to sound very similar. I don't doubt that there are still subtle differences. People often chose microphones for their frequency response and/or pattern (especially for live use).
Quote:
My ears are VERY important to me. Nature is way ahead of technology IMHO.
I liken human hearing to a digital voltmeter with 10 digits of resolution but only accurate for the first 6 digits or so. We feel like we are hearing more than we are. Human audition is a very complex experience, and unreliable if not controlled by blinding techniques.
Quote:
Don't feel I have lots of prejudices, and I do think that we can discuss what we hear in gear and make some sense of it. That's why I'm here!

Martin
Our personal prejudices don't seem like prejudices to us. To us they're just our excellent judgement...

JR
Old 4th September 2008
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Ethan already made a good point, so I will make some comments on his statements:
At last, something of substance to comment on. heh

Quote:
Is it possible to have good tech specs without giving up some of the musical values? Not saying you can't make great recordings with digital, but is adding tape simulation the only way to go and why do we even want it?
The problem I see with this position is that it puts forth the belief that there's some as-yet-unknown possibly magic property called "musical." The term "musicality" is common among audiophiles, but it doesn't mean anything because it's by definition subjective. Every day in the subwoofer section of the AVS forum, someone posts that they're looking for a "musical" sub. But what does that mean?

In the case of recording mediums, you can have clean or colored. You can't have both at the same time! The sound of analog tape is desirable to some, so the next step is to identify technically what causes that sound. As best I can tell this desirable quality is simply small amounts of distortion. That, and possibly head bump that adds oomph to the bottom and a slight HF roll-off that "warms" the sound. I can't imagine there's anything else at play, and my experience with tape sims and EQ have been positive as described in my article Gaining an Edge - with Subtle Distortion from Sound on Sound magazine.

Quote:
In my personal experience, gear with good enough specs (as quoted above) can sound like crap. Or great.
Then you're not measuring everything that matters. Or you are trusting a manufacturer to report honestly the specs for their gear which may or may not be wise. More to the point, do you, Martin, have appropriate test gear? Have you ever actually measured audio gear at different frequencies and at different signal levels?

Quote:
frequency response is far from the only thing that makes up the sound of a microphone.
Agreed, and much of those other things have already been described in this thread and the one you linked to. But whatever is the difference between one microphone and another, it can be easily measured and then known. If you believe there is some quality that cannot be measured or expressed using the four known parameters, I'd love to hear more.

--Ethan
Old 4th September 2008
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by living sounds View Post
The thing is, these measurements don't tell the whole story.
Yes they do! Assuming you measure the right things. I agree that we can't always trust vendor's published specs because even if they don't outright lie, they almost always leave something out. Loudspeaker response plots are usually averaged to hide the true extent of peaks and nulls, and they almost never publish distortion or off-axis response. So if you hear two speakers sound different even though the published specs appear similar, that doesn't mean "science" doesn't know what to measure! It means only that the specs the manufacturer chose to publish are not telling the whole story.

Quote:
Sweeps don't measure anything about transient distortion for instance.
Agreed fully for sine waves, but a 20 Hz square wave at full output tells what you need to know about transient response.

Quote:
Same thing with the microphones, there is much more to that sound than the static frequency response and signal to noise ratio.
Such as? Please be very specific!

Quote:
send program material recorded with a great converter through several different converters in a simple loop test and try to null them against the original (inverted mix). The difference is much bigger than -90db. This is not only due to differences in phase response BTW.
Then what exactly is it due to? Again, please be specific.

--Ethan
Old 4th September 2008
  #26
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I'm Lost...

OOPS,

Sorry guys, it seems I took a wrong turn and ended up at the "stupid sorority girl bitch-fest and pointless crap" forum.

Could someone please direct me to the forum where engineers share info about gear and recording techniques? My map says its around here somewhere...

I can't seem to find it.

-Neil
Old 4th September 2008
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
At last, something of substance to comment on. heh
Yes, I'm happy too we're back on track. Thank you all for the interesting contributions dropping in!

Used the word "musical" because it best described what I wanted to express, and was hoping that it is understood by others. Could have said aesthetically pleasing or just that it's a sound that puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance or whatever...

In my view, a "musical" piece of equipment has decent technical qualities too, but more importantly the unavoidable imperfections (distortions etc.) seem to be balanced in a way that pleases the ear. Let's say we have two pre-amps of different topology or design, and that they both measure well. The problem is that someone like me might pick the "wrong one", which has slightly worse specs, just because I much prefer the sound of it.

Now, if we can some day have the measurements really include everything there is to know, and somehow process this data to make a conclusion that this particular one is without doubt better suited to record music with... But we can't. Not yet. Needs more studies, and in order to do that the scientists and music people need to find a way to communicate better. Or maybe the manufacturers already know enough?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Then you're not measuring everything that matters. Or you are trusting a manufacturer to report honestly the specs for their gear which may or may not be wise.
Excellent point. How can I as a recording engineer get enough info from the usual specs provided to make any decisions? Again, it feels like we need a whole new set of data. Especially with microphones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
More to the point, do you, Martin, have appropriate test gear?
Don't know, what do you think I need and is it something every studio can own?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Have you ever actually measured audio gear at different frequencies and at different signal levels?
Yes, this much I've done. Why?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
But whatever is the difference between one microphone and another, it can be easily measured and then known. If you believe there is some quality that cannot be measured or expressed using the four known parameters, I'd love to hear more.
Well, let's try the example of the old Neumann U-47 and the new M-147 microphones. What would the data that tell these apart look like and how does it correspond to how they sound in comparison? But first, are you ready to accept that people can tell which one is which?

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #28
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I'm not attacking science here. I have no doubt we can measure these differences perfectly.
But I'm not talking about vendors specs. Of course these are fake very often.
A very popular measurement tool it the RMMA analyzer. It measures noise and distortion. You can test an EMU 1820m with this tool, and it will put out great specs. Mastering quality, as advertised. More expensive converters (like my Aurora for instance) measure worse with this test. But subjectively the 1820m sucks. The mixes I made with this thing using nice outboard, often sending a signal through them several times, have a washed out, squelshy, low-detailied, artificial, annoying quailty to them. It's not subtle. I've tested a lot of converters in various price ranges, and the differences are all there and all very obvious. These differences are related to opamps, clocking (jitter), power supply ripple, cheap capacitors, the overall implimentation. I've done a lot of tests with different components, and they make great differences. Better costs more, and these costs multiply until the unit arrives at retail. Most of the "affordable" converters use bad parts, plain and simple. The converter chips don't matter much, they're all quite good these days, but the other things are very relevant for audio quality. There's not enough demand for really good quality to manufacture it in numbers that bring prices down significantly. The Aurora is the least expensive multichannel unit that uses something other than JRC4XXX opamps and a decent low jitter clock.
Part of the blame must be taken on the different clockings (44,1/48/88 and so on), because those require the manufacturers to add PLLs (which raise jitter).


I know there is a lack of science in this. I don't have the equipment to measure these differences in an objective way. I've done enough tests to hear for myself and others, who have agreed - in blind tests - about these findings. But I don't think you're actually contradicting this. I agree that anything below 90db doesn't matter. But I don't think "affordable" converters today posess this level of accuracy. If they were transparent like this, mixing the original signal with the one that made a round trip through the ADDA wouldn't put out a very audible differential signal between 20Hz and 20Khz.



As for microphones, there are resonances which build up and decay over time. If you filter these out, you take some of the wanted signal out inevitably. The same way you cannot filter out the reverb from a recording.
Old 4th September 2008
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
if gear measures good and sounds like "crap" the measurements were flawed, or the listening test.
Should have said "not very good at all", keep forgetting that c**p is a four letter word in English... Of course, the differences might not be huge, but quite enough for critical recording work.

Let me try to illustrate with an example. Was doing a session and plugged in my U-47 for vocals to my Millennia pre-amp. While the Millennia has served me well for many other applications, it clearly did not work well with the U-47 for vocals. We read about this microphone-preamp combinations here on GS all the time, but I was honestly speaking shocked what a bad match that one turned out to be. Swapped to a Portico 5012 and was happy again. Aware that the Portico has more distortion, but is it really enough to explain the difference? Both are good pre-amps, at least according to manufacturer's specs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
Human audition is a very complex experience, and unreliable if not controlled by blinding techniques.
Agreed, another good thing is to keep repeating the listening experience. Kind of averaging if you like.

So why is this such a big deal to me? Simple answer is I'm a GearSlut, longer one has something to do with the fact that I feel that music people (recording engineers & audiophiles) and "scientists" (electronic & design engineers) seem to be stumbling in the dark on their own islands when it comes to many of these "controversial" issues. As I've probably said before, I truly believe the two camps can agree in the end. After all, we live in the same universe with the same laws.

Martin
Old 4th September 2008
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Used the word "musical" because it best described what I wanted to express, and was hoping that it is understood by others. Could have said aesthetically pleasing or just that it's a sound that puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance or whatever...
My problem with words like "musical" and "aesthetically pleasing" is they say nothing of use to anyone except the person saying them. We already have perfectly good words to describe everything that matters. Now, I'm not anal about never saying "harsh" or "thin" etc, because those words can be associated with more appropriate terms. In this case, "A boost in the treble range around 2 to 4 KHz" and "rolled off bass" respectively, which describe what's really happening. As for putting you in a good mood, that too is dangerous because moods vary from day to day and even minute by minute. I'm sure you've heard a track that you think sounds great one day, then when you play it a week later for a friend to show off your monitor system it doesn't sound nearly as good. So which time were you right and which time were you wrong?

Quote:
In my view, a "musical" piece of equipment has decent technical qualities too, but more importantly the unavoidable imperfections (distortions etc.)
As I said before, you cannot have clean and colored at the same time. Pick one and stick with it.

Quote:
Let's say we have two pre-amps of different topology or design, and that they both measure well. The problem is that someone like me might pick the "wrong one", which has slightly worse specs, just because I much prefer the sound of it.
Topology doesn't matter except as related to the final results. A Class A power amp can have distortion too soft to hear, but so can Class B or Class D. It was established at least 20 years ago that all competent power amps sound exactly the same as long as they are not driven into clipping. Audiophiles hate that! But I have never seen one legitimate study that refutes this. Note the "competent" part - some audiophile gear is truly lame, like the "no negative feedback" junk you see at hi-fi shows.

Quote:
Now, if we can some day have the measurements really include everything there is to know, and somehow process this data to make a conclusion that this particular one is without doubt better suited to record music with... But we can't. Not yet. Needs more studies
There have been plenty of studies about this stuff. I cannot tell you first hand if I find this or that type of distortion more or less pleasing because I never tested that. But it is not unknowable or even difficult to determine. My preference is for all gear to have distortion and noise too low to hear. Once you achieve that, they all sound the same which is as it should be if the goal is high fidelity. You can easily dirty up stuff with plug-ins or outboard gear. Did you ever watch Charles Dye's Mix it Like a Record DVD? heh

Quote:
How can I as a recording engineer get enough info from the usual specs provided to make any decisions?
You probably can't because manufacturers often don't want you to know. As with loudspeaker off-axis response and distortion. Which is why I asked how familiar you are with test gear and procedures. A perfect example is the loudspeaker tests in Philip Newell's book Recording Studio Design. He actually measured a large number of popular studio monitors, and published the on-axis response and distortion. The distortion was further broken down into 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th harmonics, though IMD was not shown. Other than coming across such gems in a book or article, or measuring for yourself, there's no way to get such data. The problem is made worse by the anti-science sentiment I often see. A lot of people who should care very much that manufacturers publish accurate data find it easier to dismiss testing because, I assume, it means they'd have to actually learn something. heh

Quote:
what do you think I need and is it something every studio can own?
I don't think studio owners need to measure anything, but I do wish more people expressed an interest in how audio really works at the nuts and bolts level.

Quote:
Well, let's try the example of the old Neumann U-47 and the new M-147 microphones. What would the data that tell these apart look like and how does it correspond to how they sound in comparison? But first, are you ready to accept that people can tell which one is which?
I have no problem accepting that people can tell one model from another. In the 1970s and 80s I had a Tube U-47 which I eventually converted to FET when the VF14 tube wore out. I've never had or heard an M-147 so I have no opinion on that comparison. But if they sound different, then the difference can be easily explained using the four known parameters. Which is my entire point.

Good show Martin, this stuff needs to be discussed and understood much more IMO.

--Ethan
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