Reading the fine print can expose the bad guys—but it can also show who’s playing fair
Unless you are so naive you probably can’t function in the real world, you know not to believe everything you read or hear. But you also have to watch for true statements that are worded misleadingly. For example, when you see “digital quality sound,” something like a CD probably comes to mind, right? However, a signal with 4-bit resolution sampled at 11kHz also qualifies as “digital quality sound,” since it is, in fact, digital and does produce sound.
Or what about an MP3 file’s “data compression”? True, the data is compressed. But no ad ever goes out of its way to mention that this kind of lossy compression is more accurately termed “data omission,” not the lossless type of compression that, like a zip file, can restore the original.
Then there was the flap a few years ago involving hard drive manufacturers. In the real world, a kilobyte generally equals 1,024 bytes, a megabyte 1,024 kilobytes, and a gigabyte 1,024 megabytes. But some companies said that a kilobyte was really 1,000 bytes, a megabyte was 1,000 kilobytes, and a gigabyte was 1,000 megabytes. Legal? Yes. But with two drives quoting the same specs, one could have less actual storage than the other depending on which definition they chose. As you might expect, hard drive manufacturers settled on the more relaxed spec, which is why your computer often shows less storage on a drive than you thought you had—the computer is using the 1,024 figure to compute available space.
Paradoxically, ethical companies that don’t play these kinds of games can appear to have inferior products in the eyes of those who don’t read the fine print. Furthermore, some companies actually quote specs that are worse than what you could typically expect because they want to make sure whatever they say is valid. For example when reviewing audio interfaces, I’ve sometimes found specs that were better than what the manufacturer claimed because they were quoting worst-case scenarios.
Then there’s the company that offered a 90 day warranty, yet regularly repaired gear for free that had been out of warranty for years. When I asked why they didn’t just say they offered a lifetime warranty, a spokesperson said that they didn’t want to advertise that fact because it would encourage some people to abuse their equipment, knowing that it would be fixed for free. Instead, they had the option to charge people who had been careless, but if someone had used a piece of gear, treated it right, and simply had the misfortune of getting a defective component, the company would not only repair it for free but in many cases paid the return shipping.
So what’s the point? We not only need to point fingers at those who use clever wording and errors of omission to mislead us, but reward those who are being ethical. Fortunately, the music industry is actually pretty straightforward regarding specs and claims. This is a small industry, where word-of-mouth is king; companies have found that underpromising and overdelivering gets a far better response than the opposite. Also fortunately, Harmony Central provides its knowledgeable community a place to “tell it like it is,” and that’s a good thing. But just remember forums aren’t only for complaining about companies when there’s a problem; it’s equally important to give a pat on the back to those who do the right thing—and there are plenty of those kinds of companies in our little corner of the world.
by Craig Anderton
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We have some really fun videos featuring a dose of star power. There are two roundtable discussions—one with Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Alan Parsons, George Duke, Brian Hardgroove (Public Enemy), and Craig Anderton, and another with Steve Morse (on tour with Deep Purple), producer/engineer Eddie Kramer (Hendrix/Led Zeppelin), Brian Hardgroove, Kevin Jacoby (Rain Computers), and Craig Anderton.
But that’s not all! Check out Brian's one-on-one interviews with Steve Morse, Eddie Kramer, JD Deservio (Black Label Society), Kevin Jacoby, and keyboard legend Bernie Worrell, as well as, DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight talking with Craig about amp sims. You bring the popcorn—we'll supply the videos.
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