I'm trying to recreate an original musical event with my system so that I think I'm in the concert hall and can get lost in the music rather than a master tape. The recording engineer is trying to hear every bit of minutia that's on the master tape to catch flaws and accordingly may need equipment which is terribly revealing or may even highlight certain frequencies unnaturally to do that; that engineer, if on the pop side, is also trying to create something that teens can listen to on their boomboxes (in my day it was a transistor radio) and will sound good enough on that to sell millions of copies. My goals and theirs don't necessarily coincide.
I have been in many recording studios on the west coast, the best one I have ever been to was at Skywalker Ranch. I concure, several small studios I have been in mostly in peoples houses don't have very good playback systems, there recordings often reflect this. It is to bad that there isn't a standard for recording studios similar to the THX standard used in movies. I remember several years back working at a small studio, one thing they did for suplimental income was by doing small recordings and personal projects, Im glad there are inexpensive studios out there. The playback system in my house revialed the one at the studio but you could still do a reasonable recording. I am always looking for the best recordings I can get, I know that no matter what system I have its sound quality will never excede the recording. So my answere to your question is ( my opinion) that my playback system in my house should and does reveal more than what is installed in most small studios. One of the cons to this is a bad CD or LP sounds really bad and you can hear the limitations of the recording but when you get a good recording it is magic.
Do not discard pro audio products from your choices. I have owned and currently own pro audio equipment in my system. You get more value for your money vs audiophile products.
Regarding the above post rgarding musical reproduction, I agree. Create a system that will enable you to reproduce the musical performance of your likes w/out falling into the analytical. You'll be much happier...
There is a lot the audiophile community could learn from "pro" gear. However, the goals of the two are not the same at all. Take the design of a studio control room vs a listening room. The studio control room is designed to give the engineer exactly what is coming from the mics with no coloration due to the room, and usually in a small environment. This is not the goal of the audiophile's listening room. The room is part of the equation and provides the "spaciousness" to re-create the experience. That being said, it becomes easy to understand why some mastering sounds much better than others. Some engineers understand more about the playback than others. And, in some cases, the engineering is done for optimized playback in a $500 stereo in a car (not your audiophile CD I can assure you). Well, I'm a bit off track, but the point is there are two goals that are distinctly different. However, much of the means and knowledge in achieving these two goals are similar. Interestingly enough, all of the products from our company are engineered by those in the "pro" audio business (but they are all audiophiles as well).
I think most of the previous posts address the actual equipment used by the recording engineer. But the mics, amps, cabling, etc. of the musicians are also part of the "weakest link" question that lps2cd is raising.
Three observations to add to those above. 1) Sometimes, in great recordings, the weakest link is actually pretty strong and requires great equipment to do it justice, 2) All equipment adds some sort of coloration and some types are more pleasing to each listener than others -- it's a matter of trade-offs in an imperfect world, and 3) While not an expert, I wonder if psycho-acoustics comes into play -- do the ears fill in or compensate for the weakest link and will some equipment aid in that? My three cents.
Thought provoking question! I look forward to other responses since it does seem odd that equipment differences at the end of the chain are so meaningful.
As speakers and rooms are interactive devices the needs may differ. Some recordings are monitored with this in mind. If you listen to a lot of these recordings, it may well be a good idea to listen to some pro gear. Ironicaly, when this is the case it seems as though the recording monitors were actually audiophile gear. Another thing about pro vs. audiophile gear is the emphasis put on durability. Pro gear may be treated quite less gently than the way audiophiles baby their gear. Some very good pro ideas see limited use in audiophile gear for reasons I don't understand. Balanced wiring makes sense to me (at least at the upper end of the price spectum). Putting cross-overs before amps seems like a good idea to me. Putting musicians in plexiglass boxes with a multitude of microphones doesn't.
I have done a bit of recording and mixing, I'm one of those guys with a home studio. I have also taken a few recording classes from the college in my area. The class took place in a proffesional local recording studio and the teacher was the owner of that studio. The playback system (amps and monitors) was just horrible, muffled bass dull treble, and absolutley no imaging. I couldn't believe anyone could make choices based on the sound of that system. Of course I didn't say what I thought to the teacher, but he made it very clear to the class how lucky we were to be able to get a listen to a playback system like this. Personally I don't think most pro audio guys even know that hifi plaback is so much better. I think the playback system is the most important link in the recording studio. I have applied all the tweaks and tricks we know as audiophiles to the recording studio and they do as much to the sound of the recording as they do to the playback of that recording.
What prompted me to start this thread..I recently bought some "Pro Gear" a MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn) A/D computer I/O and a "Pro" Marantz Cd Player. Seems this got me on the mailing lists for every Pro Audio catalog there is. Cut to the chase... in looking through these catalogs there isn't a single interconnect that sells for more that $79.99. It just makes justiying $5000.00 or even $500.00 for a pair of RCA interconnects (not even 1/4" balanced, another topic entirely) seem ridiculous! Haven't we all claimed " a system is only as good as it's weakest link"
Is the sound we (audiophiles) achieve actually better, more revealing, more accurate, or merely different ??
Maybe we're trying to get closer to the music than the master tape. That may not necessarily be more revealing or accurate, but it is better if it connects us to the music better. Pro gear that I've heard just sounds sterile and uninvolving--give me my tube distortions anyday. One man's opinion.
A lot of good points, especially with respect to the pro's valuing durability, reliability (no tubes), and cost effectiveness (no expensive interconnects) - in the end the pro's (particularly studio owners) look at equipment just as tools to make money. Unfortunatley - if the end result is a commercial release for car radios and boomboxes - the only thing that matters is that it sound LOUD (there goes the dynamic range). Another problem for the pro's is that there may be literally miles of cabling in a modern studio including a 96 input console and perhaps thirty or forty outboard effect devices and hundreds of op amps in the signal path. All that stuffs absolutely kills the transparency and detail - it's a wonder the music doesn't sound worse than it already does. Just replacing the power cords with even moderately priced $100 units would be an improvement! Have you ever listened to Yamaha NS 10's, the "industry standard" nearfield monitor? Just horrendous (even with the "hip" modification of scotch-taping a sheet of toilet paper over the tweeter!!!) It's a shame that although the pros have a lot to learn from the audiophiles, they'll never admit it (it's easier to dismiss us as fanatics and pretend that their music sounds great just the way it is). On the other hand, there are a few honest pros -Roger Nichols of Steely Dan fame recently complained in EQ magazine that as a judge for this years engineering Grammy -he didn't hear a single recording that he though worthy of any award at all! Classical recordings and really good jazz recording (e.g. ECM) obviously are exceptions. If you listen to some Mapleshade recordings you can get an idea of what just a few microphones straight to a 2 track master sound like (now if Pierre could just get some better talent to record we could all die happy). Finally, if you look at the playback systems used by the top mastering guys (Ludwig, Purcell, etc) they look exactly like....AUDIOPHILE rigs - complete with multi-thousand dollar interconnects and speaker cables. The bottom line is that every single resistor, capacitor, wire, tube, compnent, whatever in the signal path - whether it's on record or playback - affects the sound. Then it's just a matter of money, effort, and fanatacism. But the choice is yours - you can get off whenever you want.
I'm a classically trained pianist and been a studio musician (pianos, synthesizers and keyboards) for many years, and currently do a fair amount of home recording as well.
Lps2cd brings up a good point about the ceiling on pro interconnects and wiring
but remember in context weve already invested $10,000 in a single vintage Neumann large diaphragm microphone, $6,000 each in AKG414s, and $5,000 in Avalon mic preamps, not to mention the thousands invested in Pro Tools plug-ins (that dont work
LOL). On top of that, each microphone lends distinct colorations to the source that the engineer must understand and leverage as an artist, not a workman.
We may need to choose between 8 - 10 different mikes for close-mic'ing a nylon string guitar, and select from a different 8 - 10 mics for tomorrow's voice over.
As far as monitors go, I dont know of an engineer worth his salt who hasnt gone through tens of different monitors for just their near-field requirements
and even that being said, a lot of us still use NS-10s for an isolated, particular purpose. We all know they arent "uncolored, ruler flat" speakers, but that isnt the reason we check mix with them, and no one in the business uses them as primaries. And I'd NEVER use my home speakers (Maggie 3.5's) as my primaries, either.
Rives Audios post is like a well driven nail There is a lot the audiophile community could learn from "pro" gear. However, the goals of the two are not the same at all. Take the design of a studio control room vs. a listening room. The studio control room is designed to give the engineer exactly what is coming from the mics with no coloration (I might add, with a full understanding of the signal chain's inherent coloration) due to the room, and usually in a small environment. That's the voice of experience talking.
I would also gently commend audiophiles to be careful not to lump all recording studios and engineers into one homogeneous group to excoriate. Yes, Ive met a few studio owners who look at equipment just as tools to make money. But in my experience this generalization is the exception rather than the rule. Most engineers at good studios (Fantasy in Berkeley, the old Hyde St. Studios in SF, Integrity in Alabama) have far better ears than the audiophiles Ive met, and are also more concerned with providing a supportive, interactive relationship with the artist than with the exact, precise soundstage placement of that one ride cymbal.
Finally, no matter what I listen to on optical or vinyl, the more aesthetically pleasing experience is always
sitting down at the piano and improvising through Stella by Starlight for two hours. There is no audiophile system Ive heard that comes close to duplicating the real musicians auditory experience of, say, playing in a small ensemble, or even playing cocktail in a small bar.
Your mileage may vary.
Like Timwat, I'm classically trained and have worked as both a symphony/chamber player and as a studio musician.
I emphatically agree that many studio folks have ears that the rest of us--even the touted Golden Ears among us--would kill for. In my time as a player and later as a recording consultant for a small label specializing in English choral music, I was repeatedly astounded at what engineers and producers could hear that I...and the singers...and the players...and the conductors...could not hear.
I also agree that much of the equipment used in major studios equals or exceeds in quality anything the audiophile is likely to have at home. OTOH, I've seen those Neumanns and Nagras connected by right-off-the-reel comm cable and XLR connectors bought in bags of a hundred; signal cables and power cables run side by side in the same chase; NS-10s with one tweeter original and one reconed with a non-OEM driver ("I just listen around it"); transgressions that would make an audiophile weep yet result in recordings that audiophiles die for.
This says something to me; it may say something else to you.
Bishopwill - you're absolutely correct. My worst experience in the studio was being brought in to lay keyboard tracks at a studio in the worst part of the East Bay Area here in California.
I walked into the control room and gazed in horror onto about a hundred bare lines running on the floor, running out the back of an dusty old board with not faders, but big peppermint patty channel volume knobs.
The owner of the studio proudly told me that 1) the board was used in several Elvis Presley recording sessions and 2) the 60hz that I might hear occasionally in my cans almost never made it onto the final track.
And not just Elvis recordings, Timwat. You can see that same kind of business in studios that produce "audiophile" recordings.