Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When the Only Information You Have is Disinformation

Mostly, I like TapeOp Magazine a lot. The interviews are interesting and, sometimes, educational and the profiles of people who make the tools of the pro audio industry are rare opportunities to read something about how designers think. However, I do not care much for TapeOp’s product reviews. In fact, I only read them for the humor factor. This month’s magazine has a review with a product type that I think has to be about 90% bullshit: high end “monitor controllers.” If there is any product that makes more claims with less evidence than $1,000+ “monitor controllers,” I do not know what it is.

Way back in the early 1980’s, pro audio went the same route as the audiophile market; all bullshit and no meat. When Mix Magazine, the fluffiest of all audio magazines on either side of the high-buck carousel, bought the last technical holdout in the audio publishing world, Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P), and closed down the competition in 1992, that was pretty much the end of pro audio being a reality-based industry. From then on, reviews have been test equipment-free and full of biased and unfounded fantasies. “The Audio Precision distortion test” was replaced by “I feel the music more in my soul” sorts of bullshit. We haven’t recovered since.

A friend and I used to argue about publishing’s lack of credibility. This friend, Mark Amundson (past Technical Editor for FOH Magazine), used to agree that even his own reviews were pretty fluffy. In two month’s worth of magazines, he had reviewed a total POS Peavey mixer and a Midas mid-priced mixer using almost identical language. When I pointed that out, he said, “Tom, you have to learn to read between the lines.”

I replied, “White space is what’s between the lines.”

I think my next Wirebender rant is going to be about bullshit terms used to describe magical audio qualities. The phrase that fired up this rant was in that bullshit monitor controller review, “The feeling of this unit is immersive; even at these low levels, I felt the music was all around me, and it made the sweet spot wider.” Sounds like phase problems to me.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.