[Table of Contents]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?

On Sun, Oct 19, 2008 at 2:30 PM, Tom Fine <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

> Hi Clark:
> What specifically do you question about "others here argue that modern
> critical monitoring facilities provide an excellent and *properly-designed*
> means to achieve quality recordings"? Interested in specifics.

Waal... When I wrote stuff like, "Nine out of ten worst hifis are found in
recording studios" (and that was a quote from someone else), a great hue and
cry was (were?) raised about how much pro engineers *care* and how carefully
designed their listening spaces are and how well chosen their gear and

That optimism however is belied by the sorry results heard on most
recordings of the last three decades. Therefore one must wonder,
might inadequate monitoring facilities be to blame?

> I definitely think the craft of audio engineering was more widely known and
> practiced back in the "golden age," which I also refer to as the
> professional age (because the business model for music-recording was such
> back then that you could have professional-grade studios staffed with
> professionals and studio time cost enough that professional musicians would
> show up for a session prepared to lay it down quickly and perfectly).

Quite so. But in my view there was another, earlier golden age, roughly
1928-1936. Many of those records sound superb, when rightly reproduced --
such as they never have been, in my experience, either on LP or CD.


> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Clark Johnsen" <clarkjohnsen@xxxxxxxxx
> >
> To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2008 1:50 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?
> Clark's response:
>> Agree!
>> But also I must note a glaring discrepancy. Whereas you and I (and I'm
>> sure
>> many others) think that the work done in the Golden Era (with Altecs,
>> tubes,
>> ribbon mics etc.) far surpasses today's output, others here argue
>> that modern critical monitoring facilities provide an excellent and *
>> properly-designed* means to achieve quality recordings, a proposition
>> which I have questioned.
>> Or does it come down (once again) to good ol' conservative engineering
>> practice?
>> clatk
>> On Sat, Oct 18, 2008 at 5:13 PM, Tom Fine <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> >wrote:
>> Those Yamaha POS's came in later. In the 70's, there were often Awfultone
>>> Soundcubes on the console, but that was to reality-check how something
>>> would
>>> sound on a TV or radio used by the typical consumer.
>>> No, back in ye golden age, the monitors were generally big Altecs,
>>> usually
>>> hung over the control room window so there was a bit of distance down to
>>> the
>>> engineer (ie the stereo field and general sound quality had a little
>>> space
>>> to develope instead of being close-in on small speakers like today). This
>>> evolved to bigger, louder soffit-mounted monitors in the 70's and 80's.
>>> The
>>> NS-10's came along but I saw them more in TV-sound places (and sound is
>>> always second to picture there). I never saw anyone mixing a music
>>> release
>>> on those things, so that must have come along in the late 80's.
>>> By the way, the mean level of recording quality went down as all this
>>> evolved, so none of it helped the knob-turners learn how to listen. The
>>> fact
>>> that a typical 70's studio was heavily deadened and baffled just made it
>>> all
>>> worse. Once rock producers got the hang of producing (ie taking a bunch
>>> of
>>> basic tracks laid down at different times and places by semi-musical
>>> blokes
>>> and producing an end product that was completely different from the basic
>>> tracks but could well have sonic merits of its own), the albums sounded a
>>> little better. Hell, even some of those zillion-mic productions of
>>> classical
>>> recordings from Columbia sound OK. But I digress.
>>> The main point is, back in ye golden oldie days, control rooms were most
>>> certainly designed for critical listening because engineers had to rely
>>> much
>>> more on getting it right first and once since there was little overdub
>>> capacity and sessions were generally expensive and high-pressure and
>>> there
>>> were few toys to fix things later like today. The musicians needed to do
>>> their job and the engineer needed to do his job and there was no room for
>>> screwups since the clock and cash register were running. This was also
>>> most
>>> certainly true in classical recording, especially with unionized US
>>> orchestras. Merely getting a level/balance practice take cost hundreds of
>>> dollars. So there was no choice but to do critical listening in the
>>> control
>>> room, from start to finish.
>>> It could be argued that's why mastering suites of yore were generally not
>>> critical-listening environments. Back then, the mastering engineer was
>>> more
>>> a technician tasked with making what came out of the studio work on a
>>> grooved record. He had to contend with EQ and dynamics to make his sides
>>> trackable but he wasn't expected to do much else to change the sound,
>>> unless
>>> there was something wrong with the master tape that needed to be
>>> addressed,
>>> like a hum or buzz. Ironically, the more timid guys were who changed the
>>> sound the most (generally for the worse) because they'd limit dynamics,
>>> make
>>> sure to assign low frequencies to dead center and over-do it with the
>>> high-frequency compression. The bolder/more skilled guys generally made
>>> it
>>> their job to make the final LP sound as close to the master tape as was
>>> possible with the technology at hand.
>>> -- Tom Fine
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Clark Johnsen" <
>>> clarkjohnsen@xxxxxxxxx>
>>> To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>>> Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2008 4:43 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?
>>> On Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 7:41 PM, Tom Fine <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>>> >wrote:
>>>> Also, it used to be (maybe not, in general, anymore) that a professional
>>>>> studio's control room WAS designed for CRITICAL LISTENING. That was the
>>>>> whole freakin' point! In fact, one of the big evolutions I saw in NY
>>>>> rooms
>>>>> in the late 70s into the 80s was moving all the noisy tape machines out
>>>>> of
>>>>> the control room into an isolated machine room or machine "closet" so
>>>>> one
>>>>> could listen MORE carefully. Given the levels I've heard most
>>>>> professional
>>>>> engineers listening at, I can't imagine the tape machines would be
>>>>> audible
>>>>> but perhaps this was helpful for a client seated toward the back of the
>>>>> control room. Anyway, let's not forget history here! Do some reading
>>>>> about
>>>>> the evolution of studio monitors. And the tuning of control rooms, etc.
>>>>> Yes,
>>>>> perhaps today when every "musician" with a Mac and a mic thinks he has
>>>>> a
>>>>> "studio," what passes for a recording studio may not be a critical
>>>>> listening
>>>>> environment, but this was certainly not always the case!
>>>> In the old days you refer to, the Yamaha NS10M monitor speaker was
>>>> widely popular among recording professionals (I use the word as loosely
>>>> as
>>>> anyone). It featured a top end so, ah, brutal... that the tweeter was
>>>> commonly covered with a flap of Kleenex or toilet paper. This was the de
>>>> facto reference standard.
>>>> Plus, studio monitoring is almost always done in extreme near-field
>>>> conditions, IMO an unnatural place to listen -- even notwithstanding the
>>>> fact that few end-users (as I believe they're called) employ such a
>>>> setup.
>>>>> And by the way, here's a big irony. Go back and look at most of the
>>>>> mastering rooms where the "golden age" records were cut. Those were
>>>>> usually
>>>>> TERRIBLE listening environments!
>>>> True enough. And yet... and yet... They were doing something right.
>>>> What's been lost?
>>>> This is all very different over the past couple of decades, mastering
>>>>> suites have evolved to be "super-fi" listening rooms. Has the net
>>>>> quality
>>>>> of
>>>>> the end product evolved upwards? I would say this is a very arguable
>>>>> point.
>>>> No argument from me there!
>>>> Only that I disagree about the soi-disant "'super-fi' listening rooms".
>>>> clark
>>>>> -- Tom Fine
>>>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Rob Poretti" <
>>>>> r.poretti@xxxxxxxxxxxx
>>>>> >
>>>>> To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>>>>> Sent: Friday, October 17, 2008 5:31 PM
>>>>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?
>>>>> <SNIP>
>>>>>> A few of these facilities use those $1000+ AC cables.  I did not have
>>>>>>> the
>>>>>>> balls to ask them to swap to a standard cable for my own curiosity,
>>>>>>> but
>>>>>>> I
>>>>>>> can tell you *none* of the mastering engineers described the
>>>>>>> differences
>>>>>>> as
>>>>>> "major improvements".
>>>>>>> Again, the studio environment... these are not listening studios,
>>>>>> these
>>>>>> are
>>>>>> recording (or mastering) studios.
>>>>>> <SNIP>
>>>>>> RP)  I'm sorry, but I beg to differ and I believe most audio
>>>>>> professionals
>>>>>> won't agree with that statement.  Mastering rooms are built for
>>>>>> critical
>>>>>> listening.  I agree that the design criteria (neutrality with
>>>>>> excellent
>>>>>> translation to the outside world) might be different then in a
>>>>>> personal
>>>>>> listening room. (personal preference often based on a preferred music
>>>>>> genre.)
>>>>>> If you really feel this way, then we have a serious void in our
>>>>>> individual
>>>>>> point of reference, to even continue the debate.... IMHO.
>>>>>> <SNIP>
>>>>>> Besides, I've never claimed that differences are instantly detectable.
>>>>>> They're not, usually. They get to you over an extended period.
>>>>>> RP)  That's an interesting comment.  I was reacting earlier to your
>>>>>> statement "wrought major improvements".
>>>>>> I would think that "wrought major improvements" are also "instantly
>>>>>> detectable."  Would you mine defining "an extended period"?  Was it
>>>>>> hours,
>>>>>> days, weeks?
>>>>>>  Do I understand by your comments that the "major
>>>>>> improvements" that you discerned did not require ABX listening tests?
>>>>>> "Require"? As stated earlier, ABX only blurs the distinctions.
>>>>>> Someone locally here once told me he'd done a DBT that proved to the
>>>>>> 99%
>>>>>> confidence level, that insertion of the ABX box was audible. I
>>>>>> chuckled,
>>>>>> as
>>>>>> I might hope everyone would.
>>>>>> Who elected the ABX box as our arbiter?
>>>>>> RP)  First, I meant to say DB ABX.  My mistake.  Second, you can build
>>>>>> very
>>>>>> transparent ABX boxes and the nice thing about them is they provide
>>>>>> the
>>>>>> same
>>>>>> lens for both "A" and "B" - that's why they are valid in critical
>>>>>> listening
>>>>>> tests.  Unless you are saying that all DB ABX listening tests are not
>>>>>> valid?
>>>>>> Do you have a more definitive listening test procedure?
>>>>>> My comment about "requiring ABX" was that I was trying to determine
>>>>>> how
>>>>>> audible the difference was - was it instant or was it difficult to
>>>>>> determine? I think you could see the intent of my question.
>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>> _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/
>>>>>> Rob Poretti
>>>>>> Sales Engineer - Archiving
>>>>>> Cube-Tec North America
>>>>>> Vox.905.827.0741
>>>>>> Fax.905.901.9996
>>>>>> Cel.905-510.6785
>>>>>> _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents]