A Clash of Values? Letters part 3
Editor: A recording engineer who would poorly mike an instrument to create extra mixing sessions (in view of the infinite potential for excess time in mixdown sessions) certainly has no couth. It is unlikely that, without the help of accountants, MBAs, and knob-twisting wannabes, there would be as much equipment used at a recording session. PBS produces really great orchestral recordings on the radio mostly with two or three microphone setups, often permanently mounted in the recording hall for that purpose.
But in RH's August "As We See It," "A Clash of Values," he misses what every recording studio knows: that it is the musicians who demand multi-track.
Try talking to a singer who wants a 32-track recording of his guitar and his voice, "because more tracks are better since all the pros use it."—Donald Bisbee, Columbus, OH
Editor: I would like to compliment Robert Harley on a very decent tutorial for the newer members of the audiophile community ("A Clash of Values," August 1992). It must become tedious to periodically repeat fundamental material for the new readers. Mr. Harley seems to have striven to maintain balance on his presentation of two sides of a long-running debate.
Evidently this article was inspired by John McCortney's reaction to a letter I had written a few months ago. Not having seen his letter, I can only react to what is evident through RH's essay. I think that Mr. McCortney loses points for not recognizing a Tom Magliozzi/Corey Greenberg-style rave when he sees one. And he really should have been able to figure out that, as a hi-fi-literate member of the Stereophile readership community, he probably wasn't the object of my concerns.
Mr. Harley was talking about me, though, by name. And he badly misrepresented me and what I believe. I do feel obliged to try to repair the record on a few points.
RH: "I share Mr. McCortney's frustration with Mr. Paprocki's dismissal of...close-miking...and therefore the skills of all recording engineers." All of them? Every single little bitty one, all the way around the world? This is a pretty darned unlikely interpretation, isn't it? Would anyone outside of a mental institution actually mean to say something as irresponsibly absolute as that?
What I said was "Recording engineers..." That could mean any number of them greater than one, but suggests a substantial subset of them. Let's try reading this as "the majority of recording engineers." If one can infer from RH's statement regarding the vast majority of recordings, it looks like he and I are right in sync on this one.
RH: "A blanket condemnation of...close miking techniques is clearly wrong, particularly when issued by someone without practical experience in the matter."
Oh, man, what am I going to say about this? Boom, there goes half of my life.
I hate this credentials stuff. What am I supposed to talk about? About almost 25 years of part-time stage, soundboard, studio, 'scope, and soldering-iron experience? About almost 35 years of idolizing the art of the 45rpm single? About building my own racks to take studio gate modules on the road (before there were good portable ones)? About regularly direct-injecting everything on stage, including lead guitar, in order to punch in near-subliminal illumination onto hooky phrases? About the recordists I've witnessed at work, good and otherwise? About...
RH: "It isn't the engineer's prerogative to stop the session to experiment with tweaky techniques..." So just what the heck is so tweaky about dropping a mike stand on the floor 2' east of where you dropped it yesterday? I even took the trouble to include in my letter a rule of thumb for hi-fi miking as it could be done, so it's already a no-brainer.
And as for the different kinds of music for different purposes, please note that I most distinctly specified ensemble playing. Not jingles. Not Ministry records. Not dance mixes. Not every crank-it-out gig a studio ever gets. I think I was adequately clear on this point, assuming cultural literacy on the part of the reader.
I know where RH was trying to go with his article. There are plenty of audiophiles around with no sense of context (footnote 2) and no knowledge of technique. But geez, why did you have to appoint me as their spokesman? I'm scarcely your best choice in that matter, and my years of fairly intelligent correspondence (and a few raves) in your magazine and others should attest to that.
So am I steamed? Yeah, a little. I should be. But misunderstandings don't always wreck acquaintanceships. Sometimes they're the shared experiences from which friendships grow. I'll be looking forward to the opportunity someday to shake Mr. Harley's hand.—Hilary Paprocki, Rochester, NY
Footnote 2: Lately I find this business of cultures more engaging than messing with the Victrola. I disagree with your anthropologists. (All anthropologists? Every single little bitty one?) Every judgment is made in some context. Depending on the context, there will generally be winner and loser cultures within any single comparison. The results of all non-frivolous comparisons can ultimately be summed up. The sums will not all be equal. Probably, for instance, Santa Fe beats Haiti.
The source should be better
Editor: HI-FI '92 being my first show, I was impressed with the great technology and some of the sounds. But I was disturbed by the use of fairly awful demo material in some of the rooms. I know you are genuinely interested in improving the source, namely through your Stereophile recordings. I am disturbed that people put so much effort into getting people into high-end audio and completely ignore that their source recordings are deficient.
Think of what we could listen to if we had recordings that used some of the terrific cabling, damping, and power-filtering products out there. What steps are being taken to convert the pro-audio world to being sympathetic to the high-end audio world?—Chris Gillespie, firstname.lastname@example.org
The audiophile sensibility is actually quite widely shared in the pro-audio community. Engineers like Bob Ludwig (Masterdisk), David Smith (Sony), Tony Faulkner, and many more work in sonic environments that audiophiles would die for.—JA