Full Article Details
|Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 |
|General commentary and Comments on HiFi and Recording Equipment (Educational)||Jan 1st, 2005|
|By Vince (Shop Owner)|
To start off, I would like to say that I am a technically knowledgeable person (as opposed to purely sales oriented imagination) who has been working with pro and consumer equipment for over 25 years. I have worked with engineers of audio equipment, I have headed service departments for hifi companies such as HH Scott, Apt, KLH, and have been running an electronic repair/sales shop for about 20+ years. I have seen quite a lot of electronics pass through my life. I try to make judgment calls based on the technical merits of products. With this said, I will now give some of my opinions in more detail….and directly from me.
I have had quite a few discussions about mic preamps and compressors with internet people, so for now, I’ll make a general comment about this. Too many preamps and processors that I have encountered are just op amps in a box and not much more. I don't care much for the fancy faceplates or the marketing hype regarding the device, if that is what makes it sell. I have seen equipment that sells for $100 which technically outperforms devices that go for $1000. But, I do not, in fact, claim that inexpensive is ALWAYS the way to go, only that consumers should be aware that retail prices do not reflect the product’s sophistication, true usable sound character, or flexibility of design.
Having said this, I would like to clear up some misconceptions that some people have about me and my shop. As an example, a particular customer called wanting some Joe Meek mic preamp/compressor products. I did say that SOME Joe Meek products have not performed very well, especially the earlier models which were poorly manufactured and had poor specs (some later models were improved). In fact, SOME Behringer equipment is able to outperform these units and sell for much less. I also said on the phone that SOME Samson, Audio Technica, or ART products can create more character and perform as well or better then competitors charging ten to twenty times more for the same kind of product. Again, I often see only the similar components and same designs in both the expensive and inexpensive equipment. Why pay more for a name which oftentimes does nothing more than the equivalent less expensive items (most products will not retain much long term value anyhow, although fancy name stuff does, depending on market fads). But, let me insist that I think it is worth getting electronic devices which are well built, have interesting sonic attributes, and are serviceable in the long run, especially for studios who use equipment every day, relentlessly. Without a doubt, the most annoying problem with most inexpensive electronic equipment is the cheap, sometimes slightly noisy controls used in manufacturing. However, the better inexpensive processors have the low noise op amps and decent quality connectors.
I am only trying to get the average home recording studio musician to understand that they do not have to spend their life savings just to buy a name on a product. When somebody in this gentleman's same situation asks me for a product that is quite expensive, the first thing on my mind is not to sell some high markup item out the door, but to offer something that operates just as well, if not better, as the expensive thing, for a lower price even if it means that my shop doesn't see as large of a profit. I am sorry, but it must mean SOMETHING when I sacrifice high profits for happier, better informed customers.
I care about my customers, and hope that I can inform them to make technically educated decisions on their equipment purchases. I also try to give them advice about the best use of the products. I am not impressed with any company which uses clever marketing to sell mediocre products. On the same note, since I don’t sell much of the super-marketed equipment (I special order it), I often make my profits by repairing those "high end" and “low end” companies' engineering design flaws. I would not have spent that much time away from the real profits, had I not felt that someone wants to hear what I have to offer. Quite often, I make loyal customers who are open to another viewpoint which is not distorted by myths and marketing. I often comment to people, “if they can make a laptop computer for $600 that beats one from 10 years ago, it certainly follows that microphones can be made for a few hundred dollars that compete with 20 year old designs”. My vantage point is that I get to see and use much of this fancy equipment. I’ve repaired thousands of different electronics, and used them in my recording studios and rental requirements. I get feedback from my personal use as well as from countless musicians and small studios. I know that I am somewhat blacklisted from large studios because of my viewpoint that equipment does not have to weigh 62 pounds, cost $2000, and have a fancy name on it to be of value.
I have a synth studio with about 40 units (keyboards, drum machines, processors, etc.) and I pretty much record directly to 2 track in live time. With today’s samplers and looping devices, it is pretty easy to think up a composition and run with it really fast. Admittedly, I prefer more improvisational styles; jazzy, ambient, landscape music. My acoustic room has a Kawai concert grand piano and an assortment of guitars, basses, and hand drums. I pretty much snap on a switch and ready to record (its easier to catch an inspired performance this way). I prefer equipment which can be versatile but easily adjusted to create the sound character so I can spend time playing and creating. I admit, I don’t like an expensive aluminum box which does only one thing well and not much else.
I have read some comments online, and there is an error that has gotten into print. Specifically, it is about my supposed praises for the Alesis 3630 compressor. Possibly our website has crowded some information. What is to be said is the Alesis 3630 is a mediocre compressor, but some people like it because it has a heavy handed way of processing and compressing the signal, and that can be good if that’s what is desired. What is more important to note, and what we thought we posted, was the Behringer Composer, the original well-built unit made ten years ago, is an exceptional machine. Oddly enough, it shares similar VCA’s (DBX and “that” technology) but uses them and the RMS detection circuit much differently. The “Original” Composer had an extremely sophisticated RMS detection circuit which is very similar to a DBX 160X or DBX 166. It has very accurate stereo tracking and brought out all of the attack, ratio, etc. controls to the front panel. Indeed it is a faster compressor and is far more versatile for compression release, too. Its Auto Compress function is almost invisible sounding. I sold many of these units, still rent them, and continue to use one still. The modification I do is to reduce some minor crosstalk of the RMS detector circuit signals (which creates some very sophisticated multistage “voicing” and allows the VCA to compress cleverly) into the audio signal path. It is an amazing unit. In its era, ten years ago, many studio engineers praised this unit as one of the “smoothest and natural sounding compressors”. It retailed for $500-$600, I think, but when Behringer dropped the price to $300+, everybody thought it was junk. Same unit, different perspective of value!!! The new Composer Pro is a cheaper built machine, but I feel it still performs very competitively and many thought it was a winner too. As an anecdotal comment, the Boss CL50 compressor is also a virtual carbon copy of a DBX 160X, with DBX parts and even a circuit layout similar to DBX. Apparently DBX licensed its design to Boss. The Boss unit can be had for $100 or so, the DBX 160X (which I like very much) still gets $200-$400 for the same technologically designed unit. Yes, I have used them both and they sound the same. If you want to know more, ask.
Ask and I will tell you. I won’t hang up the phone. I will explain as much as you are willing to hear.
Perhaps it might be best to explain a little more of my attitude and my situation. Soon, I am going to change my shop and I will be going into semi-retirement. One of my favorite hobbies is to modify synths and tube equipment and correct design flaws in audio equipment (the manufacturers seldom care, even about the most grotesque design flaws). I get a kick out of reengineering a circuit to perform way past its original design (improved noise, more stable circuit, more dynamic range, etc.). Vintage stuff is cool too, but uses a lot of crummy capacitors and terrible transistors which age badly (although some people like this sound). I have upgraded countless vintage items successfully, but now people have more suspicions about touching their revered Neves or Ureis or whatever, but for 25 years it was just good ole’ regular service and I was appreciated.
If I appear to be a little arrogant, or not to be towing the market line to sell, sell, sell, It is because I am bored with neophytes telling me my business. Maybe I have poor bedside manner and should learn to talk some clever lingo in tune with today. I can’t. I am me. I shoot from the hip. After 25 years of staring at schematics and solving seemingly unsolvable problems, I am a little spent (maybe jaded) and just can’t suck up to today’s marketing hype. I’m sorry , too often I just don’t hear or see some of these supposed amazing attributes of certain products. I am a nuts and bolts technician and audiophile. I’ve done ridiculous amounts of listening and technical investigation as to what and why things sound the way they do and I am coming to a realization that most differences in sonic qualities are too minor to worry about. In a recording studio or at home, talent will shine through even the most mediocre equipment, but I still get a kick out of electronic designs which transcend their time or price. I have gotten enough accolades from those who truly know me. A sound byte of criticism on an internet forum is ‘bupkiss’, nothing. However, twenty-five years of success, honesty, experience, and perseverance is my track record.
In closing, I hope people remember that, as a culture, we can be easily fooled, fads come and go, but the truth will usually show itself to those who are open minded. I am sorry about my eccentricity; I have been through many difficult years. Firstly, I am an artist and musician in my heart, but I make a living chopping up electronics. Don’t judge me or anyone else on one call, and most importantly: Have I burnt anyone out there?
Stay cool; it is all just material things we argue about.
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Full Article Details
|Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 |