Readers' Letters: Well, could *you* hear the difference? Could you??, and more...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

NOTE: This page is now quite old. Some of the links may not work.

In response to Well, could *you* hear the difference? Could you??, Cream Of Beats writes...

This is very interesting because I've been saying this same thing for years! I don't snuff the idea that a decent pre-amp is necessary, but when vocals come out clear enough that the persons lips seem to be at your ears, why would I need anything more? What modern day recorder/pre-amp doesn't sound good? I've never heard anything manufactured in the last few years that sounded horrible. You should do the same with Microphones. I'm using a cheap MXL vocal mic and it sounds great. Will it sound better than a $4000+ mic? I doubt it, but I bet it doesn't sound $3900 worse! Get my point. $4000 for slight warmth can be achieved on even the cheapest eq's.

Nowadays, technology has improved so much. Some of the best from 50 years ago is standard now. I mean, Motown was recording into a 4-track the size of a basement, and now you can pick up a 16 track Roland on Ebay used for about $300..and put it in a bag and record in a garage. Tims have changed. Folks need to realize paying top dollar for classic vintage equipment isn't going to make your music sound better.

In response to Why do old people listen to old music?, Chuck Sweitzer writes...

WhoTF is this guy and why do you tolerate his Ageist attitudes. Don't know what "ageist" means???Well it's like racist only it talks about age instead of race. It's just as offensive as racism. try this little experiment if you still don't get it.

Where he used the term "Old" subsitiute "black". Doesn't that give you a whole new "read" on the article??

I will be very surprised if you actually publish this letter. In any case, I'm gonna cancel in protest.

RP response: We published! Read the article again...

In response to Analog tape recorder maintenance and line up, RemyRAD writes...

Recorder alignment is both art & technique. The biggest mistake made in the alignment of analog machines generally occurs during playback responds adjustments. On a proper calibrated specialized alignment test tapes a phenomenon occurs with multitrack machines of more than a single track called "fringing effect". Most folks will hear those low-frequency tones played back and think that they should adjust the low-frequency playback equalizer, just as they adjusted the high frequency equalizer. Nope. You lose. The playback equalizer SHOULD NOT be adjusted to the calibrated playback test tape. The playback equalizer should only be adjusted during the record adjustments. Not the playback adjustments even though it's a playback adjustment. You were incorrect in your last printed step of " LF record EQ-adjusted for flat LF response." It's not a record equalizer it's a playback equalizer adjusted during the record set up process. You'd be amazed at how many studios, TV and radio stations that have made this mistake.

I kind of know what I'm talking about since I was an authorized Ampex, MCI factory Tech & Scully's quality control manager, 280B troubleshooter and final test technician. I even discovered the mistake that MRL made in their calibrated alignment tapes on our specialty factory fast sweep alignment tapes. J. McKnight thought I was nuts until we realized, I was correct. If you are using a fast sweep calibration tape, a short duration pulse is first generated for scope triggering. If the start pulse is positive going, your response will be good. If the start pulse is negative going your response won't meet specifications. First stage blocking capacitors were being affected by this. A little thing that made a huge difference.

RP response: Yikes, yes you're right. It's the playback LF EQ. The Audio Masterclass non-magnetic tweaking tool has aligned enough of these over the years and it should have spoken up for itself when the error was made. The article has now been corrected. However, and with respect, the article doesn't say to align the LF to the calibration tape. As you correctly point out, this would result in incorrect LF EQ. The reason for this is that calibration tapes are generally recorded over their full width. Low frequencies are subject to an effect known as 'fringing', as you say, where the head picks up signal from outside of its physical width. This is the kind of thing we'll all have to put up with when the analog renaissance arrives :-)

In response to How to install a soundproofed studio window, Matt Stein writes...


When I built my studio, it was recommended to me that each pane be a different thickness. (In my case 1 pane is 1/4 inch and the other is 3/8 inch) Supposedly this keeps the panes from having a common resonant frequency.

RP response: Thanks Matt, this point is covered in a reply to another letter.

In response to The most outrageous audio pornography ever. And you can buy it on eBay! (With pictures!), Tim C Palmer writes...

Wow I was lucky enough to work with the OTARI 100 computerized/digital24 trk anolgue for years but when you get inside the 2 trk that started the evolution of quality and ability, this perspective gives me a real sense of respect & gratitude mostly for the maintanace technician after the development and design people who invented such a beatiful machine!.....WOW and thanks for presenting and sharing, to the owner of this Studer gem and the crew from Audio Masterclass

I can so appreciate my hand held portable Zoom H-4 mini studio for demos. Technology is a gift !!!

In response to A floating floor should give you good sound insulation, but does it always work?, Tim Cpalmer writes...

Decoupling and sound isolation are the key words here. Decoupling the sill plates of the walls that you put on the floating floor is also a critical point as well as your willingness for zero tolerance of the old well a couple of points connecting can't be that bad some of you would be surprised... I was blessed with building a system that Carl Yancher of Lakeside and associates had designed in the early 1990's and well pleasantly informed is what I'll say about that ..

Cheers and decouple.

In response to How to install a soundproofed studio window, Iain Sanderson writes...

Just a thought - another way to do this would be to use 2 panes of glass of different thicknesses. ie one pane 12mm and one pane 9/10 mm.

This will ensure any rogue frequencies don't get through both panes... I'm sure someone with a greater knowledge of physics and waves can explain why this happens - all I know is that it does as advised by a supreme acoustician!

RP response: Yes this is true and would be appropriate to a 'fully fledged' soundproofed window. There is a phenomenon known as the 'coincidence effect' where a narrow band of frequencies will get through one pane of glass a little more easily than surrounding frequencies. If the other pane is a different thickness, then the coincidence frequency will be different. For the sake of completeness, this will be added to the original article.Another point we have often wondered about at Audio Masterclass Towers is whether a window would benefit from some damping material being applied to the panes - obviously not covering them completely - to soak up some low frequency energy. Any comments would be welcome.

In response to Do you need a manager, or a lawyer?, Yossarien The Grammarian writes...

"But managers are different to what they used to be."

You don't need a manager or a lawyer. You need an English teacher.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams once said 'If a literary man writes two words about music, one of them will be wrong,' to which I would add, 'If a musical person writes two words about anything at all, one of them will be mis-spelled.'

It should be 'different FROM', not 'TO', and 'what they used to be' is a clumsy construction.

Oh, never mind... you not, like lissn anyhow, dude. yeah.

RP response: Ah.. the Grammar Nazi argument. Hi 4.5 to you geezer. Back to the point...

In response to How does MP3 reduce an audio file's size to one-eleventh?, Matthew Duminy writes...

There is a way for you to hear the discarded audio. It's quite simple actually:

Just set up a session in Protools (or whatever DAW you want to use) with 2 tracks. Put the WAV version of the song in one track and the MP3 version of the song in the other track. Then select the MP3 version and "Invert" it (put it 180 degrees out of phase) and play both tracks together.

Now you should only be hearing what was discarded by the MP3 compression.

Try it out and let me know if it works. I personally haven't done it but I've been told about it.

Enjoy :-) Thanks for the articles.

RP response: We have tried it. It doesn't work due to the way the encoding process alters the phase of the signal. Nice idea though.

In response to Record in digital - mix in analog. With the remarkable range of new analog summing amplifiers, you can do just that., Matthew Earl writes...

Problem with your article record in digital, mix in analog. You mentioned ppl using consoles to sum, but still use your plugs in protools. I would want to use the console for its EQ, if you wanted to put a software compress plug POST eq, you can't. Effects on tracks from plugs BEFORE it goes into summing gets colored by the EQ. It's not practical. my team and I are building something to get around it.

RP response: It isn't a problem with the article, it's a feature of summing mixers. We would be interested in hearing about your workaround, when it's ready.

In response to Why do Macs suck?, Steve writes...

I have recently brought a Mac Pro and it delights me to tell other apple users that i run windows on it - it really annoys them!. The main reason for this is it runs at about twice the speed of OSX. I do like OSX, it looks much better than windows, but the simple fact is that Apple seems to be leaving behind their Pro users because they realise that they can make more money from iPod and iTunes.

In response to Recording tap dancing - better shape up!, Nico Roger writes...

It seems to me that it would be possible to design a platform upon which the tap dancers would dance. It could be as simple as duct taping a Shure to the underside of a hollowed out platform, or perhaps even screwing a loudspeaker driver to the bottom and then hooking that into a mic preamp.

An interesting way to record tap dancers would be to attach a piezo transducer to the underside of such a platform and using it to trigger a sampler which would play a sample of one "tap."

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