SWEDIEN AGREES: TRUST YOUR GUT
George Petersen's “The Trojan Kilohorse” editorial in the March 2002 issue hit the nail smack on the head! He talked about something I've been trying to get people to understand for many years, and it's more true now than ever before.
I have always loved hyperfidelity. As the editorial points out, it is far more than just being able to buy the new high-res hyperspace for your studio. The responsibility to make sure all your gear is up to the new standard goes with it. I love the comment, “Don't buy into specs for specs' sake!” Very true. Choosing equipment must be a very instinctive and personal process. After you make the initial choice about what equipment you want to assess, listen to it with your hearts and ears, and make the final evaluation with your instincts.
We must develop a willingness to follow our instincts. Gut reactions translated to music recordings are the most believable. If we have good instincts, we must learn to listen to that little voice in the back of our heads or behind our belly buttons and do what it tells us is right.
When tested with sophisticated equipment, two different consoles can measure essentially the same, yet when the same musical source is sent through these two mixers, their musical quality will be very different. I don't mean to imply that manufacturers' specification statements are deliberately falsified. Not at all. There are so many ways to interpret a technical statement that we absolutely must reserve the right to make an evaluation with our own needs, abilities and emotions as part of the process.
Don't let the printed page totally influence your judgment when evaluating music recording equipment. The performance specifications that manufacturers state are merely a starting point for selecting equipment we want to consider. If a computer analyzed all the frequencies and combinations of frequencies in the tone of a few violin notes, would the results tell you what kind of violin it was? The human ear can discern such subtleties almost instantaneously, using exclusively subjective means that are quicker and more accurate than any known test equipment.
The old musical instrument makers didn't measure, they just listened. Stradivarius didn't have a computer. Perhaps his violins would not have been as wonderful sounding if he had had a computer.
Regarding “Building Your System” in the March 2002 issue, Paul Verna's article is a good primer for putting together a project studio. However, there is one glaring error regarding his reference to the Yamaha 02RV2. He states that ADAT Lightpipe cards for the 02R are only capable of passing 20-bit audio maximum, which is why he suggests using TDIF cards instead.
This is not correct. The ADAT cards are capable of passing 24-bit audio, but the stock A/D converters in the 02R are only 20-bit. So, using the TDIF cards will still only pass 20-bit audio to a DAW.
With different A/D converters, the 02R can handle 24-bit audio. One good example is the Apogee AP8AD card that fits in an available expansion slot in the 02R. It gives the user eight channels of 44.1/48k, 24-bit A/D. This 24-bit audio can then be sent via either ADAT or TDIF interface cards in the 02R for connection to a DAW.
APPLES OR ORANGES?
In his otherwise-fine January “Tech's Files” column, “Dynamic Resurrection: The Altec 438” article, Eddie Ciletti states, “Know the difference between peak limiting (fast attack and release) and compression (medium attack and release).” Sorry, but this is not the difference between limiting and compression. Limiting pertains to cut-off of peaks while compression reduces the high-level signals and increases the low-level tones, i.e., it squeezes — compresses — them; and compression, per se, has nothing to do with the attack and release time, which could be fast, medium or slow.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
I enjoyed Stephen St.Croix's humorous slant on the goth/slacker generation (Fast Lane, Jan. 2002 issue) — from a literary point of view — but as I was reading it, the voice I heard narrating was from the “Cranky Old Man” bit that Dana Carvey did on Saturday Night Live (Back in my day, all we had were bulky $6,000 instruments that made only one sound each, and went out of tune on a daily basis — and that's the way we liked it!)
In defense of cheaply made all-in-one devices: Granted, your magazine is geared toward engineers and producers, but I think a lot of these new devices that St.Croix mentions are meant to be songwriting/compositional tools — something that makes the creative process flow smoothly, and enables the user to flesh out ideas for a song that'll later get produced “for real.” They sound good, they're affordable to those of us who are still starving musicians (who can't afford a pool — asbestos-filled or otherwise), and most importantly, they enable the user to make music quickly and intuitively. What the heck's wrong with that? Do you really get that offended when a so-called “non-musician” is creating something that sounds like music?
I'm sorry to sound like a disrespectful whipper-snapper, but I've heard St.Croix's sentiments echoed by other people whom I respect, and I can't help but think of these guys nervously watching the proliferation of great-sounding softsynths and FX plug-ins, and they're realizing that for the cost of repairing one of their Leslie horns, they could have the software equivalent of a roomful of perfectly integrated, high-end instruments and recording equipment (no patchbays, no aligning tape heads) that all work wonderfully together, and can be mastered and burned to a CD in one fell swoop.
I respect the impassioned guitar player, at one with his sweat-covered, lovingly crafted, curly-maple such-and-such. But at the same time,something's gotta be said for the grade-school kid who made the life decision to “get into music” because he was inspired by the cool beats and arpeggios he was playing on some battery-powered, all-in-one, beatbox-FX-DJ thing at the music store one day. And it was cheap enough that he could own it — not just dream about owning it.
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