Originally Posted: Mon, 12 May 2008
‘Critic At Large’ is my new bog. For now, it’s technically simple, folded right into my forum, because other avenues have not opened up yet.
Here, in my muddy bog, I will bring up, and offer for discussion, random observations from the periphery, rather than the center, of the microphone and audio business.
Let me know whether it adds anything to your perspective of our profession.
The new ‘Mix’ arrived today. As usual, I leaf through it, while eating lunch, or on my way from the mailbox to the house- whatever non-exclusive attention I can spare.
I rarely feel better about the world of sound and recording, subjects I care very much about, after reading ‘Mix’ than before opening it. It seems to me that this magazine portraits the ‘business’ in a way that communicates to me “they are out there, doing it, and you are on the outside, not good enough to qualify and play golf with our pros”.
It's hard for me to pinpoint where that’s coming from. But some of it is because of Mix's joyless, mostly humorless, and, most disconcerting to me, passionless writing.
Profiles here are less of producers or engineers, and more of equipment, or dropping names of recent famous clients visiting these multi-mega-dollar studios featuring consoles that sleep six.
What I wish for is a more unpretentious, but passionate, in-depth session and set up analysis of works by dedicated audio professionals, somewhat like 'Tape-Op', but from a different angle.
There are exceptions to Mix’s killjoy approach. A few of the best writers in the business keep at it and try to juice up the mag, and I will continue to look for their work. But the exceptions only show up the rule more starkly: this is supposed to be THE magazine dedicated to the sensual joys of good recordings?
If one were to substitute the subject matter from ‘professional audio’ to, say, ‘trucking equipment’, would we know it, given Mix’s corporate approach to writing about our profession?
Then there are Mix’s “Field Tests”:
This month has a true gem. Tested was a Peluso tube mic, retail $1967. The writer concludes: “It (the Peluso 22 47 SE) sounds just like the world’s best U47 without the unpredictable nature of those old mics.”
I don’t know what to make of such a sentence. I assume, out of respect for an audio professional and writer, that the author is dead serious. That leaves but one logical reason for anyone still spending four times or more the amount a Peluso costs on a Neumann U47- investment speculation. Nothing else would make sense under that premise. You use a Peluso that is indistinguishable from very well-preserved U47 specimens on your most precious sessions. Period.
No need to look back. No more exposing investment-grade U47s to artists’ spit and seconds’ negligence, because that $1500.- street price mic sounds just like the world’s best U47 anyway.
Without getting disrespectful or emotionally invested in an argument here, only two logical conclusions can flow from that equipment review, if it were to be taken seriously, at its word:
1. Anyone who is still recording with or trying to acquire a U47 these days has not yet heard the news that a new mic, costing a mere fraction, will thrill and perform exactly the same, or better.
2. Anyone who already knows about this new mic, but continues to believe that a U47 is worth pursuing, even at current market prices, is tragically naive, an absolute ignoramus, a laughing stock among microphone cognoscenti.
Puts an interesting twist on my years of U47 restorations, work that often costs close to double of what a new Peluso would cost. All these hard working engineers, unemployed producers and starving artists who saved their pennies to be able to hear their babies in their original glory again- they must be idiots, bar none, and will all go into deep depression once they read the Mix review.
When will American magazine publishers understand that critical, well-researched and intelligently argued reviews of products may in the short run annoy manufacturers, but in the long run will only raise respect for the magazine which will gain credibility and trust from their readers, which, in turn will boost circulation and attract advertisers?
Look at 'Auto Motor & Sport' - THE bible of new car tests, and, for American tastes, unacceptably critical. How many improvements of new car models can be directly attributed to A M & S’s writers' first driving impressions, shared with an audience (and potential new-car clientele) several million-strong?
Our community has lost faith in believing that the current approach to 'tests' of microphones found in audio magazines are meaningful help for choosing a new mic. I hear it often from clients- they are unsure of whether to believe what they read, because they have been let down so often by the lies forced upon the writers by the all-powerful editorial hand of advertisers on the shoulders of magazine publishers.
AKG C24 #001. Interesting picture on page 39 of the same Mix issue. Shows a close-up of an AKG C24 stereo mic. “Serial Number 001” the sub-header reads.
I hope the owner of this fine mic realizes that his was actually not the first, but the nine hundred-sixty-third C24 made?
AKG embossed the C12’s actual serial number at that time in very small numerals on the bottom of the housing tube, as a guide for the final (large numeral) embossing by a different team in the factory. The picture is sharp enough that it's easy to decipher the "963" in tiny numbers. “001” on the housing tube above it most likely then was an afterthought, a ‘courtesy number’ as a former Vienna factory hand would call it. Done as a favor, and clearly out of sequence.