The Stereophile Test CD Letters part 2
Editor: It was the best of discs, it was the worst of discs. But it was worth the money just for the microphone tests.
While recorded sound can never sound like the real thing, and listeners pick the kind of distortion they like, audiophiles seem the most offended by realistic reproduction, and seem to prefer some obviously exaggerated and unnatural sound. (Why else would audiophiles go to concerts with funny-looking ear extensions when the real sound is available to all, at no extra charge, with natural unaided ears?)
And why else would they listen to the inept playing on this disc (not unlike other audiophile discs) if they had any interest in music or sound? And I'm not referring just to JGH's 1948 high-school band.
Quibbles aside, I listened attentively to the microphone comparison tests. This is what an audiophile test disc should be—it allows the listener to make his own choice of sounds from a great selection of great professional microphones few of us are able to possess or have access to.
Despite their very obvious differences, J. Gordon Holt sounded more alike than different on all but the Crown. Some were better, some were worse, but all were quite good, something you expect from good professional equipment. The highly touted tube Neumann sounded almost identical to the FET Neumann, causing wonder as to its price multiple used over a new FET one. In fact, many of the "Tube Wonders" added a noticeable filament microphone sound to the voice of J. Gordon. (Are audiophiles so Pygmalion-bored with real sound as to prefer these artifacts?)
JGH's old tapes were amazing! Who would have thought that a Brush (did he really save that tape since 1948?) recorder and microphone could sound so good? And how did he get the Revox A77 (an amateur recorder) to sound so good? 15ips? dbx? Perhaps the tape? (Did it ever occur to him to mention the tape type? There is a huge difference between Scotch III and Ampex 456 and subtleties in between!)
But please, next time put that poor dog out of his misery and identify the right, middle, and left with a voice recorded in stereo with two microphones and a tune for out-of-phase, not some unwilling pan-potted canine jumping across the room scaring my cat!—Donald Bisbee, Columbus, OH
A dog biscuit to Ralph
Editor: Thank you so much for the wit you showed in your Test CD by having Ralph the Christmas Dog do the Channel Identification and Phasing bands. After years of having my wife listen to the phasing and other tests on numerous test records and CDs, this was the first time she doubled over in laughter. Kudos and a dog biscuit to Ralph.—Kenneth Kulman, Laurel, MD
Ralph the Christmas Dog
Editor: My husband's description of my reaction to your Test CD is far from the truth: Yes, I doubled over in laughter, but I also cried in delight until mascara ran down my face and I asked to listen to Ralph the Christmas Dog again. My husband may love to listen to test records and CDs since he runs his life on a hi-fi standard—"Boy, this tie is expensive. I could buy four LPs for this."—but I define life on a lady's shoe standard, wherein the price of everything is converted into how many Brazilian sandals I could buy. I have never asked willingly to listen to any test disc before. So, congratulations! I want more test discs like yours.—Anita Kulman, Laurel, MD
More on the Test CD
Editor: Having recently received the Stereophile Test CD, I would like to make some comments. First, I appreciate the fact that you generously sent the corrected version free of charge.
The CD itself is very good and has allowed me to position my loudspeakers (Celestion SL6ses) for the maximum bass without affecting the imaging. Musically, I enjoyed the flute sonatas the most and hope that you release a CD version of your Poem LP.
The low-frequency test-tones obviate my need for more extended bass (subwoofer). The Lesley test is interesting, but at what level should I play the recording to achieve realistic sound levels with respect to the actual source?—Rahul Virmani, Ontario, Canada
In the smallish room where Lesley was singing, her voice reached peaks of over 100dB.—JA
Editor: Just received your latest Test CD. This is without a doubt the biggest bunch of crap I have ever heard. The analog recordings are so full of hiss and noise they are unlistenable.
Why don't you guys give it up? Analog SSSSSUCKS! Always has, always will.
Ssssssincerely.—Sssssteve Dudley, Dayton, OH