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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep hearing from audiophiles about high end cables and other expensive gear that is 'used in studios'. I'd like to do a reality check on that.


I have just a little experience in studios both in the US and overseas and I am involved with the construction of one right now. The engineer doing the fitout is top notch (he works for one of the top bands in the world and is very picky), and he isn't using the exotic stuff audiophiles often talk about. Most of the cable/connector products in use are Neutrik. I've never seen a studio using any of the exotic cables. The average audio signal in a commercial studio today goes across pretty standard Neutrik XLR connectors and probably gets A/D translated and mangled half a dozen times thru outboard gear of all sorts. None of this gear would meet the sort of audiophile standards that I see regularly proclaimed on the Web. About the only piece of gear in our studio which is more expensive than audiophile gear is our UPS power system!


The same goes for audiophile speakers used as studio monitors, a common claim which doesn't make sense if you understand the difference. I've never seen Wilson Audio or Krell used as monitors in a recording studio (despite numerous claims from dealers that these are 'used in studios'). Even top studio monitors from Genelec are less expensive than the big Krell systems. I have heard of a couple of big studios which have Krell amps but they still don't use Krell speakers in my experience.


Then we get to the price of audiophile preamps etc. The per channel price of the high end systems I've seen lately exceeds the per channel price on a top end SSL or Neve desk by a very wide margin.


Finally, most tracks these days go thru ProTools during mixing- a PC based workstation with a typical resolution of 16 or 24 bit/44.1 khz. As you probably know, few solutions exist for flexible digital work at higher resolutions, even for DVD-A and SACD releases. I also know that audiophiles generally turn their noses up at ProTools resolution (not to mention the dreaded jitter and interference potential in such a system!).


I guess I am wondering - why spend all this money on high end gear if it exceeds the resolution of the equipment used to capture the sound in the first place? Does the purported extended resolution of most audiophile gear (if it even exists in dubious products such as the Tice clock) actually capture anything?


In short - is the 'audiophile gear used in studios' claim valid or just marketing hogwash?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
A footnote after reading another thread here - I'm not aware of any studio's buying $800 power cords! In fact, in every studio I've ever worked in, the equipment uses the power cord that came with it.


On close inspection these are usually made in China or Taiwan with a net cost of less than $1 in quantity I imagine.
 

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Quote "I guess I am wondering - why spend all this money on high end gear if it exceeds the resolution of the equipment used to capture the sound in the first place? "


The answer is really quite simple. We spend the extra money because the sound improvement that we hear is worth the extra cash.


Please don't take this the wrong way as I mean no offense. I too have some experience with studio professionals. I've been involved with the musicians, recording engineers, mastering engineers, and the circuit technicians. Sometimes there is a tendency among us paid professionals to hold ourselves above us audiophiles. Yes, I consider myself to be a pro and an audiophile. And, I can say from personal experience that many pro studios that have tried audiophile cables & products have heard an improvement and then adopted these products for use in their studios.


I think the logic is flawed if anyone assumes or claims that audiophile products are somehow illegitimate if not enough pro studios are using them. It's an easy assumption to accept. The logic goes like this, these guys are pros, they get paid big bucks, they spend a million plus for the studio, they do it every day for a living, they can afford the best, price is no object to them, if it made an improvement they could hear it because they're pros, they don't use XYZ cables, so XYZ cables are not really better. I know for a fact that all of the pros I know did not even consider testing different brands of cables until they met me. So, many studios don't use audiophile grade products simply because they don't know about them or haven't tested them. The point I wish to make is that us pros don't know everything.


The other point I want to make is that us pros do respond to the increased demands by audiophiles for better quality recordings. As pros we compete for business and ultimately for the customer's entertainment dollars. When audiophiles increase their playback quality, we have to increase our recording quality to stay in the competition.
 

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Analog 8 raises legitimate questions. However,

for example, Transparent Cable advertises that a number of recording studios use their cables. Yet frankly, I sold my Transparent Ultra XL Speaker Bicable at a big loss and I now am quite skeptical regarding their claims that their networks improve sonics - oh, but I'm using different "audiophile" cables now without networks and I subjectively feel that my system sonics have significantly improved as a result!! And that's the whole bang, home audio is, in the last objective, SUBJECTIVE!

And what each enthusiast chooses to spend and use in his/her system and what objective/subjective basis he/she uses to justify it is, after all, his/her choice. Former AVS Special Guest Stephen Baillet is a studio guy who - tweaks. He now even manufactures a battery powered preamp with internal Bybee devices. Former AVS Special Guest Mike VansEvers got started for years in pro audio

and moved on to consumer "audiophile" tweaking.

SACD guru Ed Meinter is a cryogenic tweaker, treating cryogenically all his cables and power cords and even at times boards and circuits in components. But yes, I suspect most by far studios are pretty conservative, with basic cables and power cords, probably balanced power, and basic pro audio monitors, etc. And don't forget that for the vast majority of the listening population, hey, if the recordings good enough to play on their boombox, they're happy!!! Recording studios are a business - home audio is a hobby! Yes, we "audiophiles" spend crazy money on subjective pursuits that probably can't be justified objectively in terms of money - its just emotion!
 

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An example of a recording studio that could be described as more of an "audiophile studio" is Mapleshade Recording Studio. Mapleshade's approach is quite iconoclastic & specialized, with quite a few specialized components/cables employed during recording (and playback). I wouldn't expect recording studios to subscribe to the same approaches to recording any more than I would expect audiophiles to subscribe to the same ideas - of course they don't. Also, commercial and other considerations outweigh the desire to go "whole hog" for many companies and individuals, the commercial equivalent of WAF - haha. The Moment label also goes the "audiophile" route - their recordings of Indian music are very well done - not everyone's taste, perhaps, but the recordings & performances are spectacular.
 

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I would divide the topic on 3 parts

a) Recording Studios do not use "audiophile" equipment and pay no attention to tweaks.


This is partially true. While some people pointed out on MapleShade (my personal favorite) or other fine recording studios, this guys are obviously in minority. However goal of most recording studios is not to satisfy audiophiles. Recording is business, and "audiophiles" are people in constant search of music nirvana, which tend to be more elusive then greased pig on a country fair. Things like "bright sounding equipment" is irrelevant for a lot of engineers, who's job not to enjoy recording, but find imperfections.


However, if the do pay attention to details, results are remarkable. XRCD is another example of process tweaked to the gills, including specially designed aluminum digital cabling (marketing plot? - may be, but XRCDs are spectacular).


b) Audiophile equipment can be judged by use in recording studios.


This is usually wrong assumptions. While some manufactures have been studio favorites (B&W, Apogee, Genelec, Nagra), it does not mean that they are always better then "home" contenders. There are so many other reasons (reliability, support, features) extremely important for studios and much less relevant to consumers.


c) There are no reasons to buy equipment better the studios have.


Well, there is some truth in it. A lot of people, who bought top of the line gear reported that it becomes all but impossible to listen to mainstream recording.


But in general it is always a good idea not to add to distortion already recorded. Just because your waiter did not looked sparking clean, it does not mean that you should not wash your hands after bathroom visit.


Just my 2 kepeeks.
 

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I have been an audiophile ever since I was little and I primarily listen to classical music. I also had a brief professional stint as a recording engineer doing both live 2 channel classical recording and multi-track pop recording. My 2 channel experience was with some of the best classical engineers in the world and my studio experience was at a well capitalized studio.


To say that the recording business does not pay attention to audiophile grade equipment is only half true. There are plenty of recording engineers who spend a fortune on equipment that is comparable to audiophile gear. Many studios have very expensive A/D converters, microphones, microphone preamps, analog open reel tape decks, equalizers, etc... Also, the equipment lists of some mastering houses would make most audiophiles drool. The analogous to high end commonly exists in the recording business but it is just talked about differently.


Also keep in mind that studio gear and audiophile gear have two completely different uses. For the most part, you won't find an Ampex ATR-102 or a Nagra-D in an audiophile's home because they are meant for recording, not playback. Let me assure anyone out there that the ATR and the D are of the strictest "audiophile" quality.


On the speaker front, I have also known engineers who record with the likes of Wilson Watt / Puppys, B&W Nautilus (Abbey Road Studios) and refuse to record with anything else (and these are not small players).


Now on the flip side of this, the studio I worked in had many millions of dollars worth of equipment. However, the engineers there didn't give a darn about the quality of their recordings. They were much happier just hanging out with the band and living it up. The engineers would frequently connect digital equipment using microphone cables because they had XLR connectors on the end. They didn't even know that the AES interface required a 110 Ohm cable and that a mic cable would mess up the sound. I even saw them striping the ends of two cables and twisting them together to make the cable longer for an AES digital connection. Frankly, everything they produced sounded like dreck. Yet to them it didn't matter because it sounded good enough on their Yamaha NSM-10s to meet the need of their 14 yr old target audience playing music on boom boxes.


The one thing I have not found in studios is the "cable" frenzy that drives audiophiles. They are still particular to their cabling (Canare, Mogami, etc...) but don't take it to extreme's the way audiophiles do. Honestly, I am very particular about my audiophile cabling for my playback gear but for recording purposes, I stick with Canare.


One of the things about modern technology is that it has lowered the price barrier to make a decent sounding recording. Expensive gear isn't necessarily needed to get ok sound these days. In the old days, a cheap mic pre sounded just that.... noisy and cheap. Today, a little Mackie mixing board has pretty decent pre's so the need to upgrade to a GML mic pre doesn't make sense to most. However, those who want to make a really great recording still have to take the leap to high end recording gear.
 

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One other item to consider when evaluating studio's choices in cabling, speakers, etc... is the goal in such an effort. Studios (at least the ones that I've recorded in) strive to get their equipment as neutral as possible - i.e., they don't want it to "color" the sound.


For whatever faith you may or may not place in the admittedly flowery verbage that audiophile companies use to market their products, an awful lot of these products do have an effect on the sound. Whether you think that effect is better or not is subjective, of course, but the recording engineers I know wince at that proposition.


A good example is the use of tube amplifiers. Tube amplifiers often "distort" the signal going through them by adding harmonics. To most human listeners, those harmonics "improve" the way the recording sounds. However, studio engineers don't (typically - I know that there are exceptions) use them because they want to manipulate the sound of the recording absent effects such as speaker and amplifier coloration. If, for example, they were using tube amps and "warm" speakers to mix the tracks, the result would probably sound waaayyy too bright on "average" playback equipment, or even high-end "audiophle" neutral equipment. It's a delicate balancing act, so most studio engineers choose as neutral an equipment set-up as they can get.


Of course, us musicians intentionally color our sound, but that's another story...;)
 

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One must be careful about making generalizations. Lets not turn this thread into a discussion of tube amplifiers, please - you may start another thread if you would like to discuss that subject further. Note than I don't use tube for my components, except that the Granite Audio tube CD player that I have been reviewing sounds - marvelous. And not because of any added tube distortion, but simply because across-the-board it simply reveals more natural detail and clarity than using the same player's non-tube analog output (the player was out for some time prior to the addition of the tube analog output option)

(the tube player on redbook CD bested SACD across the board in both my system and Don Hoglund's, of Granite Audio, system). Lets remember that other generalization previously used in this thread, that pro audio guys do not use "tweaks" - turns out that point can be somewhat argued or clarified, doesn't it?


Back to Pro Audio and Tweaks????? In both cases,

both the consumer user and the pro producer should consider the cost-performance benefits of spending the money on tweak accessories as well as just banking/investing the bucks or buying better components in the first place.


And here's a tube questions which fits into this thread - anyone aware of any recording studios that use any tube components in the chain? Come on, sure their are. I have some orchestral dual layer SACD/CD (I forget which one just now) which was originally recorded with tube equipment, I think it may be a Telarc, and frankly, it sounds as good as any disc in my system.
 

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AFAIK there are some studios using tube recorders. The prime examples are already mentioned MapleShade Records. Now, I would like to know any other recordings which sounds as "real" as those. The other is wonderful DCC Gold CDs. Ever compared Jethro Tull 'Aqualang' regular CD with DCC Gold? Night and Day. Sinatra Duets is another example. Coltrain "Training In" (mono!) 1957 recording remastered on tube reproducer sounds spooky real( we are not talking original recordings, but remasters done with tubes).

There are some other studios which use those huge tube recorders size of an SUV! And of course tons of musicians performing on electronic or amplified instruments (guitars, etc.) using tube amps in concerts.


I believe that tube studio recorders adding natural 'tube compression', therefore require much less 'processing'. Actually I am not big fan of tube equipment in home, but studio recordings done with tubes always sounded more 'natural' to my ear.


Again, just my opinion.
 

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The world-famous mastering engineer, Bernie Grundman from A&M records, was still using tube amps in his studio the last time I checked. Also Horowitz in LA and SRS in Beverly Hills drive their cutter heads and reel-to-reel tape machines with tube amps. Most recording studios have or use a computer program called "Pro Tools" to edit their master tapes. One of the sub-programs adds "the tube sound" to digital recordings that have never seen tubes.


Neutral? All the engineers I know talk about coloration all the time. All they talk about is how to color the master. They refer to the master as their canvas and everything else is colors. They have all sorts of different microphones that add desired color, different brands of master tape, digital vs. analog, different tape machines, different acoustic treatments, having all the musicians in one room vs. isolation chambers, the list goes on. That's all they do is color the sound.


Get Stereophile's Test CD 1 track 5. "Why Hi-Fi Experts Disagree" Microphone Comparison by Gordon Holt. Gordon tells a story and switches to some 20 different microphones every couple sentences. The sonic differences in the microphones is astounding. Which one is "accurate"? Which one has the least or no "coloration"? Engineers will drop $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 and more per microphone because it colors the sound so much. And a full recording session on a 48 track board might use 20 microphones or more. The drum set uses 5 to 9 mics. Piano takes at least 3 to 5. One for each singer and at least one for each additional instrument. Then room ambiance mics. 20 microphones each with it's own sound? Forget neutral.
 

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Tube gear is extremely prevalent in the recording world. The best microphones in the world are still the old tube microphones such as the Neumann M-50 or AKG C-12. The best symphonic recording rig I have ever heard is still the Decca tree employing 3 Neumann M-50s and is in still wide use today (Sean Murphy uses these to record all Lucas and Speilberg movie soundtracks). You cannot really make a Decca tree sound right without an M-50.


In terms of classical recording, any of the much revered recordings from Mercury, RCA, Everest, and Decca were all tubes (and obviously analog).


I also find it funny that all of the initial SACD releases all came from analog masters that would have been recorded with tube gear.
 

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Like I said, guys, there are exceptions - adding "tube sound" was just an example.


As an example of what you might find in a "typical" (is there any such thing? ;)) recording studio: there are three local studios in my neck of the woods that I've visited (one I recorded in, others are owned/operated by friends). Of those, all of them use either digital or transistor/analog designs for the mixing board, multitrack recording, processing, etc... No tubes anywhere in the studio except for the musician's own gear, which is typically tube based (all of my guitar amps are tube-driven, for example).


The mics in the studios are typically shure transistor designs, and the monitors are exclusively Miller & Kreisel.


Take a look at the monitor issue - M&K are very good speakers, some models costing thousands, but aren't what you'd expect in an audiophile's setup. Why not revel, B&W, etc...? I'm not really sure why, but I have had a conversation with a recording engineer at one of these studios that told me that he prefers M&K for the studio's monitors for their sonically neutral response. Yet, he uses ariels at home for his listening setup, mainly because he likes their sound.


Anyway - Raleigh, NC isn't exactly on the top of the planet as far as superior and/or innovative recording studios are concerned, but it does give you an idea of what run-of-the-mill studios might use (and what an awful lot of young rock/progressive bands record on).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Interesting responses - thanks for the input.


I agree with the comment re sonic coloration. This is one of the reasons why Yamaha's otherwise terrible NS10 is so popular - it is a known standard. I wonder why some speaker manufacturers continue to make these claims!


I'm not aware of ANY recording studios going for the more 'exotic' audiophile techniques like $800 power cables, Tice clocks, insulating equipment from vibration (as opposed to floating slabs which are standard in many studios to stop transmission of sound), freezing cables in nitrogen or indeed 'burning them in' with loud music.


Are they audiophile only pursuits?
 

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Analog6, once again, be careful lest you generalize about everyone too much. Tom Jung uses

what we call "Meitner" wire, long balanced runs, in his recording studio. You may have heard of Tom and his label, DMP. Some of the best sounding redbook CDs you'll ever hear. Ed Meitner, who developed SACD for Sony, obtained the cable from Canadian Company - its no longer manufactured. The cable wasn't expensive and its not thick like typical audiophile cabling, but thin. But the secret - cryogenically treated. If you do a search here under "Meitner" at this forum you'll find a thread a few months ago discussing Ed Meitner and that he luvs cryogenically treating cables, cords, DACs, boards, you name it!!! And there's a cryogenic Special Guest thread at the AVS Special Guests forum discussing this sort of stuff, too. Ed's interview with Positive Feedback Magazine indicates that he doesn't understand why the industry doesn't show an interest in cryogenics given its little cost and serious sonic improvements. I guess you're attitude is pretty prevalent among both pros and the home theater industry - "well, the folks I work with don't do it, so nobody does it."
 
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