A Clash of Values? Letters

The letter that triggered this response appeared in April 1992 (Vol.15 No.4), with an answering letter in August 1992, and letters in response to Robert Harley's "As We See It" appeared in Stereophile November 1992 (Vol.15 No.11). A related letter appeared in August 1999, Vol.22 No.8

Miking vs. plumbing?
Editor: The last thing in the world I'd want to do is hassle Corey Greenberg after the treatment he's gotten from the heterophobes. But dang it, it annoys me when people make statements that are technically true but actually false.

In the reviewers' discussion session ["As We See It"] in December 1991, the assertion was made that the electric guitar/amplifier is actually an acoustical source. That's certainly true; many guitarists play in a style that includes hand-modulation of speaker breakup.

So is the acoustical sound thus produced actually recorded? Not necessarily. The microphone is commonly placed as close to a speaker cone as the grillecloth permits.

That's not miking. That's plumbing. The sound collected by this procedure is about as close to the entire original as a really good synthesized sound would be. Recording engineers are the biggest featherbedders since the railroad unions: They'll record 4% of an instrument, and bill you for weeks of production time while they try to reconstruct the rest. And they'll tell you they "have to" record that way so they can do the production work!

For an electropop band, this is perfectly fine. Unreality is their stock in trade, and those people are getting pretty darn good at what they do. But in the context of ensemble or near-ensemble playing, hyper-close miking always produces inferior results (footnote 1). Wouldn't you want to hear the resonances in that tweed Bassman, or the bodyslam gusts from a Twin-Reverb, or the harmonics of an acoustic piano, or all that stuff coming from the sides of a sax?

In a perfect world, nobody would bring a mike in any closer than the largest dimension of its intended source. Then again, in a perfect world, recording producers would read Stereophile and develop a concern for these kinds of problems; but you guys chased 'em all away with your idiot treated clocks and Golden Sections.—Hilary Paprocki, Rochester, NY

Footnote 1: My own proxomicophobia is so bad that I haven't even bought the King Records All-Stars album...and I'm as nuts about King as CG is about The King. Dig: Hank Ballard, Bill Doggett, Pee Wee Ellis, Bootsy Collins, Clyde Stubblefield, and more, all in one room playing together. If your hair is standing on end right now, and it should be, call the Rochester Bop Shop at (716) 271-3354.