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Thread: What's up with these reviewers?

  1. #1
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    What's up with these reviewers?

    Oh my gosh. I just spent five minutes reading a microphone review and found out that the mics are microphonic and that they exhibit "wide flat frequency response" and are capable of "natural sounding recordings."

    Wow. I feel enlightened.

    And another mic review I read recently was by a guy who only owns 2 C1000s and 3 SM57s. What's up with that? His conclusion? "These mics sure sound different than mine."

    Am I getting old and cranky or are there just more bad writer/reviewers than ever before in the history of recording magazines?

    KK Proffitt is always enlightening in whatever she reviews. I love reading Bashour and Tom Jung. I'm sorry but Roger Nichols must be living off a Digidesign retirement account. That's all he writes about any more. "The Digi 002. The only question that remains....When are you going to get one?" Give me a break!!

    Am I alone in feeling this way? What reviewers do you trust? Are we so politically correct that no one can print the truth anymore? Or do we just not have strong feelings about gear? (Yea, right. I think the DAWSUM CD proved that wrong.)

    What do you think?
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  2. #2
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    When I go into the local hi end retailers, all/most the gear on sale is now aimed at bedroom cowboys aged 18 to 25.

    The pros are not buying like old but the kids still are. So when I read a review the first thing I try to figure out is which market strata/profile they are trying to sell to.

    The marketers seem to use the same superlatives to each group so it gets really confusing for me until I remember to discern which target buying group they are flogging to. From their marketing perspective having a similar level peer reviewer may make sense but yecch best describes the resultant truth in advertising from my view.

    I am curious how much new gear/promotion is going to happen now that China is in ever increasing SARS turmoil and the really cheap supply line may become more shaky for a while. Maybe Made in N America will be a more reliable source and the marketing will swing the other way to quality rather than price.

    Namaste

    Stephen V
    http://www.alisonvardy.com
    Namaste
    Stephen Vardy
    Harpsound Audio

  3. #3
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    Ufortunately the tendecy of many companys, especially magazines is to hire someone with a BA in journalism or business adm. and they are automatically experts in whatever field the co. is in. As for advertising, we used to call the specs weasel wording. It seems to be getting worse.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by JOHN_HALL1:
    <STRONG>Ufortunately the tendecy of many companys, especially magazines is to hire someone with a BA in journalism or business adm. and they are automatically experts in whatever field the co. is in. As for advertising, we used to call the specs weasel wording. It seems to be getting worse.</STRONG>
    Thing is, that most reviewers probably don't have any degree in journalism at all. They are musicians, producers or sound engineers. And maybe that's why they spend the first 200 words describing the frontpanel and the connections at the back. Now talk about filling space...
    Then in the end of the article there's, in the worst cases, two or three sentences with personal and subjective appraisal of the product, but without comparing it with other products in the same pricerange.

    I sometimes freelance as reviewer for a musicmagazine in Sweden and I try to write personal and rather deep-diving articles without being too technical.

    And what I try to shed some light on is:

    What is unique with this product?
    How is it best described in one sentence?
    How does it sound and preform compared to other simular products in the same pricerange?
    Who might be interested in using it?
    Is it easy to use?
    Is the manual wellwritten?
    Is it worth the money?
    What do the buyer get?

    And then I throw in some of my own personal and most subjective thoughts about it. Basic journalism.

    And I refuse to use the "musicmagazine" language with all it's "this will be the death of U87" and "why do I have to send this heavenly sent micpreamp back to the manufactor?"

    Anyway, what differs is probably that I have the opportunity to write articles about gear that I like, cause the stuff that I don't like I send back to the magazine without writing a review. And that's a luxury that not every reviewer has. And probably that's why some of the reviews out there simply are extended productdescription without any really useful information in them. There's simply nothing special to write about them.
    Should they have been written in the first place? Maybe not, or maybe they should have been part of a bigger comparison along with other simular products.

    Surprisingly alot of the reviews really make an impact on musicians and sometimes even sound engineers, cause when I speak with fellow musicians or such, I constantly hear ravings about products that they haven't even seem or heard. They've just read about it and that can upset me. But it's their money and trade-in guitars that goes into the pocket of a cheezy musicstoreowner. Not mine...

    A buddy of mine just bought a Phoenix micpreamp based on a review and the fact that he saw alot of studios than owns one. And he was willing to spend $1500 on something without first listening to it.
    So, I commanded him to atleast borrow another micpreamp, DACS, just to have something to compare with. And he did. But he was so determined on the Phoenix that he bought it before getting the two units.
    Personally I thought the DACS sounded absolutley fantastic and the Phoenix sounded a little bit more coloured and had an unnecessary highend boost, tho it was still a good micpre. But he had already made up his mind.
    He might be exeptional, cause he earlier bought a Focusrite ISA-220 for about $2500 based on the fact that it had a nice front-panel (only reason to buy Focusrite in my opinion) and later found out that he could have gotten in for $1500 in the UK. Bummer...

    Sorry for going offtopic, but I just had to make my point regarding the fact that even the most poorly written reviews have an impact on musicians that really just want the smallest reason to buy that new digitally simulated guitaramp...

    Kudos to people like you guys that won't be satified until you've made a test cd with lots of different models of the same gear, casue that's alot more revealing than just reading a review! :-)

    Ohh, it's nice to blow off some steam sometimes...


    Cheers
    Frederick
    Ninja Production
    www.ninjaproduction.com

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by Frederick Norén:
    <STRONG>Kudos to people like you guys that won't be satified until you've made a test cd with lots of different models of the same gear, casue that's alot more revealing than just reading a review! :-)
    </STRONG>
    I have always thought that using your ears was a better alternative to judging sound than reading a magazine. It doesn't seem that everyone agrees with me.

    Many people just want the list, the key, "the answers." They want to know which unit "won." They'll gladly pay for the CD but they just want to know my opinion of which one is best.

    Maybe I'm going about this all wrong. Maybe I should listen and decide and then sell the list with the rankings.

    Nah.

    I'd rather make other people work just as hard as I do trying to discern the differences. That's the fun part.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  6. #6
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    I agree with a lot of what you say, Lynn, and I've already had a pop at Sound On Sound on this board for the "quality" of its reviews (not to mention some of its "expert" opinions).

    In fact, this is a source of personal frustration to me just now; what IS a decent professional sound recoding magazine? The only one freely available here is Sound On Sound (which is NOT by any stretch of the imagination aimed at pros) so I can't buy a batch and try them out!

    I've learned more on this board in six months than I have in a decade of buying SOS (fact!). I need to subscribe to a couple of really good, informative magazines, so what do you recommend?

  7. #7
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    I couldn't agree with you guys more, although I think we're talking about two seperate issues here: one is the quality of journalism, and qualifications of those journalists to express professional and expert opinions. The other is the best means of educating oneself about equipment.

    On the latter, I have always read the pro audio press, as much for entertainment as enlightenment, and there's no doubt that it can play a part in helping decisions on gear. However, there's simply no substitute for hands on (or ears on) experience. I know I've bored this list repeatedly with my own dilemas on mic choices, and am currently in the process of deciding on a high-end tube vocal mic. Press is helpful in establishing what's available and at what price, this list is significantly more useful, by establishing what's worth listening to. But not until I heard Lynn's Mic CD, did any of what I had read or been told mean a thing (no plug intended!). Once I'd heard the mic's on my shortlist side by side, on two different voices, through a pristine tracking chain everything had meaning, many of the mics I had subliminally hyped myself up into yearning for did nothing for me, others stood out from the crowd.

    Now I just need to audition the final small group myself and put my hand in my pocket. Had I not been through the listening process, I would have ended up in a very different place, with a very different selection of mics to be chosing from, and my ultimate decision would quite simply have been flawed.

    On the journalism issue, again I absolutely agree. Sound on Sound is a prime and worrying example. It has growm and metamorphosed from an enthusiasts music technology mag, to an aspiring Pro Audio publication, and this transformation has left in on often shaky ground. Many of their reviewers (IMHO) simply have neither the credentials nor the expertise to be making value judgements about alot of the high end equipment they review. I suspect they're aware of this, because invariably these reviews degenerate into feature and specification descriptions, with no qualatitive input at all.

    To be honest, I expect a reviewer to make a judgement on a product, but to also have the experience and credentials to back that judgement up. If that expertise does not exist then don't review the product at all, rather than give us some watered down description of what colour the buttons are, how it looks just like the mic it's modelled on, and delivers great results with a wide range of sources. We can get that information from the picture and the brochure!! I want to hear that they compared it with a '50's tube '47, pulled it apart and looked at the components, put it head to head with their current favorite and came to some meaningful conclusions.

    I also want to be sure that they didn't get to keep the review copy as an incentive, or get regular handouts from the manufacturer, but that seems to be a little too much to expect!

    [ May 23, 2003: Message edited by: Jules Bromley ]
    Jules Bromley (3D VIP)
    JBMS Trailermen
    http://www.trailermen.com

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by Jules Bromley:
    <STRONG>But not until I heard Lynn's Mic CD, did any of what I had read or been told mean a thing (no plug intended!). Once I'd heard the mic's on my shortlist side by side, on two different voices, through a pristine tracking chain everything had meaning, many of the mics I had subliminally hyped myself up into yearning for did nothing for me, others stood out from the crowd.</STRONG>

    Comments like yours make all the hard work of doing these CDs worthwhile.

    Picking audio gear after reading reviews is like picking paint colors by listening to someone's description of the paint color. The Mic CD is like having paint swatches to look at and decide. Not decide what to buy, but decide which ones are absolutely NOT right for you and which ones to get to audition in person.

    It's sort of like taste testing at an ice cream parlor, as opposed to just reading a list of ingredients.

    I'm glad you were helped out by it. I, too, found it an enormously helpful and educational experience.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  9. #9
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    Wow. I feel enlightened.

    What do you think?[/QB]
    Lynn,

    I railed against reviewers wishy-washy opinions for years.

    Now I write the occasional review. So what did I learn?

    Truth is relative. You or I might be looking for the truth at any price so long as it is the truth, while Joe Basement Dweller is looking for his version of the truth for a buck ninety-eight. We want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He wants someone to tell him that for $1.98 he gets the truth.

    The mags want someone to tell him that it is okay to spend $1.98. They also want to play down the difference between the $1.98 solution and the higher priced spread, while picking nits among the various $1.98 solutions.

    In addition, the idea is to get the consumer to consume, not to raise a generation of well-trained engineers.

    Example= if you buy ten really good mics today, you may never have to buy a mic again. But the market, which drives and feeds the mags, wants you to buy a mic or two a year from the current crop of inexpensive knock-offs.... before you wise up.

    Example2= enough is never enough. No matter what your current recording system is capable of, you need to replace it, and SOON, so that you can do more. Do you NEED to do more? Not likely. Most people don't use what they have. But they NEED to have the equipment to do more, even if they never use it.

    I've reduced my reading significantly. There is little for me to gain by reading another article on how Engineer X got Artist Y to make Recording Z. And as to the caliber of the reviewers, like your example of the guy who owns a couple of inexpensive mics, they just don't have much to say to us. I was reading a 'pro sound' article extoling the value of old Peavy amps from the 1980s..... whaaaa?????

    We have to understand that REP is long gone, and the perople that we used to learn from are largely not writing anymore. If there is a trade designed for us please let me know, because mostly I find them to be aimed at 20 year olds with credit cards and not so much knowlege or experience.

    There are a handful of good tech writers out there, but mostly they are rehashing things that we already know, for those who are comming up and need to read it.


    (Yeah, I read KK even when she is talking about a peroduct that I don't want. There's often good info lurking there. Years ago we had a dialog on Compuserve about the inaccuracy and lack of editorial fact checking in the trades, and how the gross errors in formulae and expressions seemed to never be corrected.)

    Bill

  10. #10
    Sal Vito is offline Gold Club Member (1000+ posts)
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    Yeah Lynn,

    Actually LISTENING to stuff definitely is more useful than reading someone's opinion.. ESPECIALLY when the so-called "advice" (not to mention the "advice-giver") that someone gives you is suspect...

    How many pieces of gear have EVER been panned in say... Mix magazine.. for example?

    Now... how many reviews are followed a page or two later by an ad? THAT happens all the time...

    These guys aren't dumb... they don't bite the hand that feeds them... Rule #1; don't tick off the sponsor..

    After all who would pay a magazine tall cash for a lousy review ONCE... let alone buy an ad month after month in that same publication that "talked trash" about their product back in November (or another of their products last year)!

    A bad review of the current product in our magazine could burn bridges later (and cause lost advertising revenue in the future) for the hardware version of the autotune V3 box that comes out a year from now!

    So... you get in reviews is nothing but meaningless drivel... and nothing but good words about gear that is (sometimes) utter crap!

    Then when you read nice words about a piece that IS really good... the SAME hyped up words are used to describe THIS piece as were used to decribe the piece of junk! This renders the "good" review of the trully "good" piece utterly meaningless!!

    So... some people just buy gear for the faceplate... or the name plate or the manufacturer's reputation... nevermind the fact that Rupert decided to put computer chips in the design this time... and eliminate the transformers to save costs... If it has HIS seal of approval... then it MUST BE GOOD... right?

    What a load of crap!

    The end result of all this: When you read a review... Either every new piece of gear is "heavenly" (which is obviously NOT true)... or you are looking at things through a funhouse mirror (more likely).

    Publications that do this have no credibility in my book.

    As for my friends... they just read the magazine for the ads... that is all the magazine is... advertising... (especially the reviews)...

    I feel that online is the only place where we can talk straight...

    Its cool we have forums like this one where we can share ideas
    Sal Vito
    The Man of Sound
    salvito@hotmail.com
    312-409-0176

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