Monday, June 04, 2018

Pro Audio is Malarkey

Or: grousing for fun and profit.

The stereotype of sound guys is that they're lazy jerks. Just because that's true doesn't make it so, of course. But yeah.
One problem is the sheer amount of religion in sound. It's virtually impossible to do a real A/B comparison that's double-blind. But it can be done.
Firstwise is the infamous Sound On Sound preamp test where they could really do a double-blind listen to the same source. Remember this one? It's the one that showed that the cheap $300 ART tube mic preamp and the cheaper Mackie VLZ preamps to beat out Neve, API, and SSL. Yeah. That one.

Over at JWSound a poor user dared to test the Rode NT5 against the Schoeps MK41. Foolish mortal, he. (And don't get me started on how the nominal competence level of the production sound mixer is so far below average studio intern as to simply be embarrassing. I mean, they as a group have zero clue about what they're doing and the kind of audio they/we do is very simple. Not always easy, but always simple.)

And then there are these blind preamp tests.

I did a really un-scientific test of my three Oktava 012 mics with hypercardioid capsules.

You know something's up when the fear of a double-blind study is so great that people try to deliberately skunk the results.  Remember Ian Shepherd's test of humans vs LANDR and Aria machines?  (I know, it wasn't his test but he did work on it and I can't find any links to it now.) Well it turns out the "blind" listeners were super-affected by comments other people made. So the differences between man and machine weren't really all that significant (although they were there... we think.)

I have a notion that much of the actual differences in audio gear is that equipment has become on average vastly better than it used to be. A/D converters, for instance, are much better now than they used to be and that's true of mic preamps and analog signal paths as well as microphones themselves. I do have a great deal of difficulty caring about the difference between a U87 and a Rode NT1. I just... I don't care. An EQ will do whatever it is you need to an NT1 to make it a U87.
There's still differences between microphone types. So big-diaphragm multipattern mics have that big dry sound I like so much in live sound reinforcement (warning, danger, that is a radical opinion in and of itself, nobody else uses them that way.) And small diaphragm condensers will tend to sound the way they sound (very broadly speaking, I hate the off-axis nonsense of most all small-diaphragm other than Schoeps or Oktava, but I challenge you to distinguish in a recording which is which.)

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