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Author Topic: Critic At Large, Vo. I to IV  (Read 9484 times)

Klaus Heyne

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Critic At Large, Vo. I to IV
« on: May 12, 2008, 05:15:28 pm »

‘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.

Best regards,
Klaus Heyne


Topic One

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”:


Topic Two

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.

Topic Three

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.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2008, 02:55:23 am »

Topic One -

Mix seems, among other things, to have moved towards the reinforcement and game audio markets. I'm not saying it's the wrong move, but it doesn't interest me personally.

As far as the more in-depth and truly artistic articles, it's perhaps surprising that EQ Magazine is far preferable these days. Recent features on Pink Floyd, the Who, and Nick Drake were very interesting - though not confined to, or even focusing purely on audio. Since it's more musician-targeted, sometimes the articles focus on production, with only references to recording technique. Nevertheless...

It's almost as if Mix has become bored with music recording and production.


Topic Two -

This whole concept leads almost inevitably to one question: can reviews in a magazine whose income is generated by advertising be worth anything?

I find two kinds of mic reviews; in the first, the mic is used on various sources, sometimes very odd choices, with no "standard" mic for comparison, or any comparison mic at all. Additionally, the mic pre used seems often to be either very cheap, or very obscure.

In the second, the mic is compared to a U47, and either "holds it own" (a phrase begging for a joke), or is preferred by both reviewer and client over the "top specimen" U47 at hand.

I have only heard the Peluso in comparison sample downloads, from various sources, as attempts to get a demo from manufacturer and distributor have failed. My experiences with mics from Rode, SE Electronics, Telefunken USA, and several other - all of whom have been reviewed "as good as a U47" - tell me these reviewers are either accepting payola, or desperately need their hearing checked.

Mandatory hearing tests for mic reviewers? Smile

But, since audio is so subjective and personal - and since 99% of people buying gear can't operate from a "money is no object" position - a "Consumer Reports" of audio gear seems an impossibility. As you, and many others, have so often said; you must listen to and use mics in your own situations, and decide if their quality, tone and price are the correct combination for your needs.

It's unfortunate that, with the recent influx of new manufacturers, it's nearly impossible to test all potential contenders in any class or price range. (For example, has anyone heard the Berliner mics yet? Marek Design?). This puts the obligation on each manufacturer to make demo units available to end users, in addition to (or instead of) reviewers.


Klaus Heyne wrote on Mon, 12 May 2008 16:15


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 all be idiots, bar none, and should go into deep depressions once they read the Mix review.



Well, now I think professional jealousy rears its head - you're just upset that 7 year old Chinese girls in sweatshops can make mics just as good as the ones made by the best German designers.

If Neumann had any sense, that would be their hiring pool...
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sui-city

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2008, 03:36:52 am »

Nick Eipers wrote on Tue, 13 May 2008 08:55


But, since audio is so subjective and personal - and since 99% of people buying gear can't operate from a "money is no object" position - a "Consumer Reports" of audio gear seems an impossibility. As you, and many others, have so often said; you must listen to and use mics in your own situations, and decide if their quality, tone and price are the correct combination for your needs.


I think the question should rather be:

"If money is an object, then..."

This would allow for qualitative differences, and affordability.

The problem is that almost all microphones end up being on the same level. With reviews like the one Klaus pointed out, there simply seems to be nothing better than anything else. There is simply no hierarchy.

I have no doubt that there is a review somewhere that has a Rode K2 compare favourably with a U47. Now that must mean that the Rode and the Peluso must be comparable. So who cares what you buy?

So where is a consumer, pro or otherwise, to turn for honest information that, should they be unable to test a piece for themselves, they can trust?

I have also had an issue with phrases like: "It's good for its price."

That has got to be one of the most overused cop-outs ever. You can categorise almost anything this way. (with a few exceptions.)

All of this does also explain the rise of sites like Gearslutz where, regardless of the opportunity of abuse and misiniformation, it is sometimes like getting reviews from 35,000 people. And then you just pick the most popular response.

And of course, forums such as this.
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Andy Simpson

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2008, 10:05:06 am »

This industry has been guiding itself towards a state of impossible, numb subjectivity for a long time.

This state is brought on by an industry that thinks it has reached full potential and is happy to churn out the many pointless permutations of the microphones (& speakers) that were designed 60 or 70 years ago, safe in the knowledge that nobody can say one is better than the other without invoking the 'it's subjective' argument.

As a result of the endless subjectivity, there is no trust in the industry. Contradictions everywhere. The musicians have very little faith left or patience with marketing lies.

When this bubble of fantastically ridiculous mysticism finally bursts with a tiny penetrating needle of science, the industry will be seriously shaken.

Andy
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2008, 05:47:38 pm »

Quote:

“It (the Peluso 22 47 SE) sounds just like the world’s best U47 without the unpredictable nature of those old mics.”


Pure and simple: I call bullshit.

This also goes back to my beef with naming this mic anything to do with the U47 - It's using a knock off K67 capsule!  Seriously, how could it possibly sound anything like a U47 with a K67 in there?  I've put K67s in my 47, and even THAT didn't sound like a U47.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

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"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Barry Hufker

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2008, 01:47:21 pm »

Taking one of Klaus' first points, the magazine has got to keep you as an outsider.  Insiders know better than to get sucked into such crap.  After reading article after article as to how someone recorded something you realize everyone does it differently.  Why read any more of that and why not just do what you think is adventurous and advantageous.

Further, outsiders need to have a reason to stay involved.  They hope that some day they'll be in the refined atmosphere of the mystical.  And the gear hyped in reviews and adverts will get them there.  Beginners are exceedingly vulnerable to any and every influence.  I remember finally reaching the stage when I knew I had to find people who solidly knew the craft and learning from them.  I now plow through those magazines just to learn about the new gear available, never what they think of it.


There are still a couple of respectable magazines.  Sound on Sound quite often posts sound file examples of their tests.  While one can easily argue this is still flawed, it does go a step further towards letting the reader make up her mind (see how I kept that from being sexist??).

And Resolution seems to be a fine publication.  I don't subscribe but have read all the articles online.

Microphones: it was inevitable now that I look back that everyone and his brother should sell some brand of mics.  After all that is the next logical step from making and selling recordings.  Anyone has access to that technology.  So what is the next level not everyone has access to?  Manufacturing.  But that too is becoming saturated.  The trick now is to see the next step and beat all others to the punch and make a few bucks...


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Klaus Heyne

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[B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2008, 06:25:45 pm »

Topic Four

Have you noticed the raging emotions being released over on Gearslutz on the topic of whether Neumann's (as of yet unreleased, untested, and entirely unheard) TLM 67 mic has merits or not? Eight pages of well over two-hundred posts in a couple of days...

Personal, deliberately hurtful, accusations flying back and forth... one warring side accusing the other of fighting for the wrong cause-
the camp of passionate Neumann-traditionalists (these are the ones with the back -NEVER RED!- diamond Neumann tattoo on their calves), the others, the 'objectivists', the modernists, left brainers, are ready to concede that times are a' changing' and old mics are just a thing for...old people and Japanese (strike that, it's now CHINESE) investors.

What I read between these lines of hate and heart: Microphones are essentially recording tools which transport emotions, above anything else; there to activate the senses, to stimulate visceral, rather than cerebral responses. Which some of them do nicely...

Can you imagine such a heated discussion about A/D converters?
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
www.GermanMasterworks.com

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Re: [B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2008, 10:55:12 am »

Klaus Heyne wrote on Thu, 15 May 2008 00:25


Can you imagine such a heated discussion about A/D converters?


We've had those before too!

And not just at Gearslutz.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: [B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2008, 05:05:21 pm »

I don't do gearslutz.  I like opinions from people who've actually made a record.

Rolling Eyes
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studio info

They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Barry Hufker

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Re: [B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2008, 05:16:59 pm »

What can we say as audio professionals?  We are passionate about our craft.  We have standards which we try to keep.  We hate to see a world of high standards sliding into mediocrity.

I think we can take any aspect of audio - equipment, philosophy, technique, etc. - and get very passionate discussions.  But great microphones were, and are, built with some kind of loving care.  As the beginning of a recording process, for example, we know the project must "begin correctly".  Whether that's with a twenty dollar mic or a twenty thousand dollar one, that choice determines a lot about what we are able to do next so there is some special aspect to microphones.  That and the fact we can remember purchasing our first or a very special (to us) microphone.  That is a dear memory and one which we hold more tightly than the ones we have of other equipment.

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sui-city

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Re: [B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2008, 05:43:39 pm »

J.J. Blair wrote on Fri, 16 May 2008 23:05

I don't do gearslutz.  I like opinions from people who've actually made a record.

Rolling Eyes


J.J.

think back to a couple of years ago, a little thread about clocks and conversion got fairly heated. Right here on PSW.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: [B]Topic Four[/B]
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2008, 12:42:56 am »

Yeah, but if that's the thread I think you are talking about, part of the heated discussion had to do with a moderator who was also a manufacturer spinning his brand of voodoo.  Regardless, I find the amount of people here who've actually made a record to be a little higher than over there.  Or at least a record that I can listen to, to see if I want this person's opinion or not!
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Nick Sevilla

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2008, 11:20:09 pm »

About Mix Magazine:

The reasons you put forth is why I have not read one for over two years.

To me it is more a vehicle for selling new products, than an objective medium.

Cheers
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marcel

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2008, 03:10:46 am »

Nick Sevilla wrote on Thu, 29 May 2008 20:20

About Mix Magazine:

The reasons you put forth is why I have not read one for over two years.

To me it is more a vehicle for selling new products, than an objective medium.

Cheers


+1

Since spending more time perusing PSW, I don't even look at audio trade magazines.  Not that I ever put much stock in them, but they used to be laying around the places I worked and I would read them when bored.  Now it all just seems like so much BS (Tape Op aside, sometimes).

Why would I want to read what are essentially paid endorsements when I can come on here and get considered opinions from those among the very top of their field on any given topic?
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Best, Marcel

Ralf Kleemann

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Re: Critic At Large
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2008, 11:36:17 am »

Hi Klaus, hi all,
I assume you are reading the audio magazines for getting some impression about what's going on in the industry, and what people are talking about in the streets. I have the same impression as you about various publications in the English and German speaking world. "Sound on Sound" was one example, the German "Sound & Recording" was another - entertaining for a time, but at some point I just couldn't do it any more. I've just subscribed to the German "Professional Audio" because of some positive impressions that I had from reading it. Might be worth a try.

Having said that, nothing is quite like TapeOp, anyway! Wink

Best regards,
Ralf
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