As Reviewers See It Page 5
English: A Leslie cabinet. That's how it's going to be performed. It'll be a defined amplifier, a defined speaker, and a defined keyboard. That's how the thing is going to be heard, and you're going to hear it that way anywhere in the country, exactly the same.
A more appropriate thing to say, which I think would be the same for you and I, is if we were to say that you should use as reference material those things that you know best. Those things with which you're the most familiar. That would be equally true for you to then apply it to certain types of music and for me to some different types of music.
Lipnick: I think both Jack and Gordon have valid points. I am a person who plays a certain type of music, acoustic music, for a living. But I enjoy listening to different types of music at home. And as far as reviews [go], I think John's point is very well taken. A live orchestral performance put on recording very rarely will sound the way it sounds out it the hall.
Holt: Because it wasn't intended to.
Lipnick: Well, whether it's intended to or not is beside the point, it just doesn't. However, it can sound balanced and it can sound credible. And quite often it sounds more like a person at the podium hears it, which, of course, is not [what you'll hear] out in the audience. As to what we use for our source material in reviewing products, one can make the argument that the ideal source would be something that's not colored or will be in a natural state that people can hear readily...Rock music, for instance, is performed in large spaces with amplification. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that when it's done in the studio, you don't have any idea what it really sounded like originally. It was quite often written for the studio and you don't really know what it sounded like to begin with. So recorded acoustic music [could be said to] be closer to what you hear in the raw source than the other. I don't know how true that is. But as far as the individual reviewer is concerned, I think it's very important that they use source material that they know pretty much what it sounded like when it started out. If they can. In my case, for example, I can use source material that I performed in. But that's a rare case.
Hammond: That's basically the same as Jack's point...you must use something with which you're thoroughly familiar.
Tellig: I was always amazed by how much I always agreed with Ken Kessler, whose musical taste and mine have absolutely nothing in common...
Atkinson: Not even that close!
Tellig: Yet we kept on agreeing on the same equipment.
Balgalvis: The whole thing is a paradox in that we use reference material that is terribly corrupted to make absolute value judgments. I really feel that it almost doesn't matter what you use for a reference as long as you've played it maybe, let's say, a hundred times or a thousand times, you average it out, and then when a new component comes along you can say, "Yes, it does this better or worse, etc., etc." But I haven't completely resolved that paradox.
Archibald: I feel that acoustic music is the sound source that most of us are most familiar with. And I think that we hear it, or things like it, all our lives. We heard it from when we were kids. Human voices we hear all the time. Recordings of them, as John says, are undoubtedly flawed. They are not absolute references. But when you hear things wrong with equipment that are absolutely opposed to the sounds of live music, it's frequently a problem with the equipment rather than the recording. And over time you begin to recognize the characteristics of recordings and separate them out from the original sounds that went on the recordings. There's no question that there's no absolute reference, but I think that most of us can be more clued in by acoustic things.
Further, the thing that reviewers most want to avoid is recommending systems that sound artificial and hyped-up and exciting, but not lifelike. I cannot honestly claim that the people who use acoustic music exclusively as a reference are better at not recommending systems like that than people who prefer to use electronic music as a source.
Holt: But Larry, how can you use the term "lifelike" to apply to the reproduction of electronic music?
Archibald: Because there basically is a standard sound of an electric guitar. People who play them listen to them all the time, and know what that sound is. If a piece of equipment reproduces that sound well, it's a good piece of equipment. How can you claim there's a standard violin? All violins sound different. You're equally at sea. The key thing is to recommend equipment that is neutral, is not hyped up, is enlightening musically. However the reviewer gets there is a good way.
Corey Greenberg: I think there is a real misunderstanding here. There's a big difference between electric and electronic music. Electronic music is defined as music that never occurred in air. In other words, it goes straight to tape.
Holt: Like synthesizer or something like that.
Greenberg: There's also a big misunderstanding about amplified instruments. There is no such thing as "playing electric guitar." You don't play an electric guitar, you play guitar and an amplifier. They're together one instrument. And there are as many variants in that instrument as there are with Lewis's contrabassoon. Where Lewis can hear the difference between the effects of different reeds, different horns, different pH levels in his spittle that I couldn't hear, I can hear the difference between different tubes, different speakers, different mikes used to pick up my guitar, that he couldn't hear. They both are acoustic sources. An electric guitar is not an electronic source, it is an acoustic source.
Hammond: To just clarify one point here—when you talk about electronic music vs electrical music, is it not the case that in making recordings with these umpty-eleven-track devices, that...the mike is not put on the speaker of the electric guitar but is taking the output direct?