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Ethan Winer

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    New Milford, CT, USA

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  1. Couldn't it be that cheap equipment sounds better to me? Anything is possible, but the real answer is it doesn't really make much difference what converter (or mic pre) you use, as long as it's not audibly inferior such as the preamps in a 40 year old Radio Shack PA mixer etc. --Ethan
  2. I'd really recommend you buy a cheap converter and spend the difference on $50. bottles of Cabernet! I'll drink to that! --Ethan
  3. So what is the answer? Are we still waiting for more responses? I was hoping nobody would actually ask because then I could use the same files again the next time this comes up. Oh well. g1.wav is the Apogee g2.wav is the SB X-Fi --Ethan
  4. If you don't mind uploading I'd be interested in hearing them. Tell you what, email me from my site and I'll send those clips to you that way with an explanation. Then, in a few more days if nobody else posts their guesses, I'll reveal which of the guitar clips are from which converter. --Ethan
  5. I suggest you redo the tracks with either white noise or pink noise ... run it at 0, -3 and -10db Ah, it was you who suggested that. Apologies to Dave. All that's needed is a full scale signal because it already includes lower-level signals. The hardest thing for an A/D to capture is a 20 KHz sine wave at full scale, or a loud transient that has a similar spectrum. Indeed, a single impulse contains everything that is needed to analyze any device. Multi tracking is a different issue though. I don't see why. If a sound card captures the source with a response within 1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, with noise at least 96 dB below peak level (ie: the top 16 bits are clean), and distortion less than, say, 0.01 percent, then it is by definition audibly transparent. Whether you mix 16 microphones in a console and feed one channel of an A/D, or send each mic to its own A/D and mix them in a console later, the results should be identical. If they're not, then something is connected wrong or there's another error. Likewise, when people claim to hear differences in fullness, imaging, stereo width, ambience tails, and all the rest, they are either mistaken or the test was flawed. For example, the two signals were not level-matched, or acoustic comb filtering skewed the results while listening back through speakers. It doesnt go full circle though and show them how to identify the actual shortcomings of the cards I can think of no better test than recording the exact same signal into multiple converters and listening to the results. (Other than a real test using proper test gear.) If you have a better idea I'd love to hear it. As long as it's not along the lines of "years of experience will teach you to recognize the failings" because that doesn't explain anything, and specifically dodges any science-minded attempt to identify what's really going on. I know your test was to invoke some discussion Yes, that's one point, and I'm happy just to get people to start thinking about this stuff rather than blindly believe everything they read in magazines and on gear sites. But the main point is consumerism, and getting people to understand where their money is best spent (microphones and loudspeakers) and where it's not (preamps and converters). Those who purchase the high end stuff, unless they are complete idiots Many are complete idiots! Seriously, every day I see some forum newbie list all the high-end gear he just bought, and ask the group how to connect it all. --Ethan
  6. Ok, I think the forums are being screwey today. One of my posts apparently never made it and I'm seeing a post from Ethan that I didn't see earlier. Here too. I could have sworn you said something about needing to record instruments at different levels to better exercise a converter, and when I went back just now to address that I can't find it. Or did you see the error and remove that part? I think a triangle is a much better instrument to use when we're comparing converters. I'd love to hear it. I see now that I can't do that. It's a long story, but if I post the triangle it's possible you'd be able to figure out which is which for reasons having nothing to do with the sound quality. I can't even explain why this is so, or you might be able to identify the earlier guitar file too. I'm not ducking anything! If you think it would help I could make a new recording of a triangle comparing my Delta 66 and SoundBlaster. Not sure what that would prove to you though. I can tell you that the two triangle files sound remarkably similar, just as the two acoustic guitar clips do. Room mics are the best way to go IMO. Let me hear how the converter picks up the sound bouncing around that room. Why do you think that matters? Firepod is FW and Aroura is PCI, but I've never tried installing both drivers at the same time. That should be fine. I have drivers for my Delta and SB, and I also installed drivers for a Presonus FireBOX which I needed for a project last year and never bothered to remove in case I need it again. I'm thinking it would probably be better for someone else to do this since my place picks up a lot of noise from the outside world. Now hold on there a minute pardner! You're obsessing over converter artifacts that are surely 80+ dB down, while recording in a room that picks up outside traffic? So you say my needs are "limited" compared to a full-time studio for hire, but your own situation masks all subtle detail with traffic noise and rumble unless it's a screaming amp stack or drum set? The cymbals (even their decay) survived the myspace rape process better than anything I've done so far. I'll gladly have a listen because I like your stuff. But hearing a mix made through a particular converter doesn't say much. Especially after it's converted to a relatively low bit rate lossy file. Tell you what, here's a much better test we can collaborate on: Email me from my site www.ethanwiner.com and send me a couple of short clips, maybe 30 seconds each, of your two tunes at 44/16. This is infinitely better than anything one could download from MySpace. Then I'll record both clips through my Delta 66 and my SoundBlaster, and post all six files. It's not quite as telling as recording a triangle at the cusp of overload, but it's still quite useful. If an entire complex mix can survive unscathed, that pretty well proves transparency. In fact, I could also take those clips over to my friend's house and run it through some of his high-end converters. I'm pretty sure he has at least a few other boutique brands beside the Apogee, and they're newer too. He's an hour away so it won't be tomorrow, but I could record your tune fragments through my two converters tomorrow. I also have the FireBOX I mentioned, and could do that too. It's not a Firepod, but it's the same family. You're also welcome to send me a short clip of a single room microphone track, since for some reason you think that is more taxing on a converter. --Ethan
  7. Are you saying M-Audio may have redesigned it? It wasn't horrible-sounding, but its throughput was absolutely, positively inferior to other, more expensive boxes in the shootout. I have no idea if M-Audio redesigned my Delta 66 since I bought it. I assume that's unlikely. I've never even tested mine critically because it sounds fine. The closest I've come to testing my Delta 66 is recording an entire mix off a great sounding CD, then I played it back to see how it sounded. It sounded the same so I moved on to more important things. Is there a link to the shootout you mentioned where the Delta 66 sounded "positively inferior" to more expensive converters? If so, please post it because I'd love to hear the files and read how the test was performed. But if the shootout compares different performances, don't bother because the result are useless. But you also don't want to run a splitter cable unbalanced from a Mackie 1202 into a $6000 Apogee and then convert the results to MP3. Who said anything about MP3 files? And why do you think running a splitter cable unbalanced has even a tiny affect on audio quality? Certain guys (including myself) can create better and faster mixes with analog mix busses, because we're hearing what we need to hear all day, not just during the final bounce. I don't know what software you use, but when you click Play in SONAR you get exactly the same results as rendering a final mix to a Wave file. --Ethan
  8. Admittedly, this was eight, nine years ago. Right, and a lot has changed in prosumer grade converters since then. Also, doing a proper blind test is not trivial. Levels must be matched to less than 1 dB, and preferably to 0.1 dB. If that is not done then all bets are off. Again, I urge others here to record and post clips. Dave, if you have a Firepod and an Aroura, you should be able to do this easily recording any instrument you think best shows off the difference. A $2 Y cable from Radio Shack is sufficient for unbalanced, which is fine. Or maybe you have a normalled patch-bay that can split one balanced signal into two paths. Or solder one yourself in 10 minutes. Recording the same signal into two converters at once is not difficult. Or maybe you can record one into your main rig and the other onto a laptop? Also, it's not difficult to include the D/A portion in a test. After you record through both converters at once, run a separate pair of passes where each converter's output is routed back to its input and record again. When you listen to that file you're hearing two A/D passes plus one D/A, plus the second D/A as you listen. The second file you post here will have only the first three, with the last conversion through the listener's D/A. So that captures both A/D and D/A in the second recorded file. --Ethan
  9. What I'd love to see are correctly-performed experiments that show the opposite. Agreed. Hey, don't shoot the messenger! If my test could be improved on, then let's see Dave's better test using whatever cheap and expensive converters he wants, on whatever sound source he thinks will best show the flaws in the cheap gear. As I mentioned before, we also recorded a triangle and claves through both converters, and I could post those clips too. Though then Dave would probably find something else to criticize. It seems to me an electric bass is about as easy an instrument to capture, but if Dave believes otherwise, let's see his test using a bass. And not just Dave, but everyone here is welcome to post clips for the rest of us to try to identify. More examples can only increase the base of knowledge for all of us. An informed consumer is a smart consumer. --Ethan
  10. I feel like this really is the weakest example you could give to argue this point ... I certainly can't speculate which converter Okay, you agree the SoundBlaster sounds very much like the Apogee, so now you attack the sound source as flawed? A close-mic'd acoustic guitar has lots of fine detail, many frequencies sounding at once, and plenty of transients. As I explained above, the source is mostly irrelevant as long as it has sufficient frequency and dynamic content. Maybe a trashy sounding guitar is exactly what the producer wants! So the converter needs to capture that trashy sound accurately. It seems that your main argument is the almighty dollar. And what's wrong with that? Most people have limited funds and need to get the most value from their money. Telling someone they must spend $500 per channel or whatever for "pro" results when $50 per channel will get an equally transparent conversion makes no sense to me. for the kind of music you record, it certainly wouldn't make sense to drop a lot of cash on converters. I can afford to buy anything I want. Whether I do this as a hobby or for hire is irrelevant. And I do record others for hire, mostly small classical ensembles. But even for my own stuff I want to capture my acoustic and electric guitars and cello with as high a quality as possible. I also record a lot of hand percussion which is very demanding. If you want to spend more than necessary I have no objection! I'm more interested in helping people who do not have unlimited budgets and want to know The Truth ™ about what they must realistically spend. We all see posts every day from newbies who are unhappy with the quality of their work, and wrongly believe the problem is their prosumer gear. The real problem is their lack of experience, and no amount of money invested in boutique gear will fix that. Yet they are told again and again that they must buy expensive converters. That's just wrong. --Ethan
  11. Also, what was the microphone? What did the guitar sound like in the room? The microphone was my DPA 4090. The guitar in the room sounded like a guitar. Not trying to be cute, but there's no other way to answer a question like that. I could take a $5 mic into a Radio Shack DIY preamp to record a pawn shop guitar, run this comparison and decree that there's no difference between a Sound Blaster and an Apogee. The problem with that is that the converters aren't the limiting factor - there's so much fidelity lost before the signal gets to the converters that their differences go largely unnoticed. That might seem reasonable on the surface, but the logic is flawed. Whatever the source was as captured by the microphone, the job of the A/D is to convert it to a digital equivalent as accurately as possible. The source could have been an electric guitar cranked to 11 through a Marshall stack with an SM57 2 inches in front. Or it could be a $4 Million Stradivarius violin captured with a $10,000 vintage Neumann tube microphone placed optimally above the stage at Carnegie Hall. Either way, the "fidelity" of the source is defined simply as whatever the source "is." Good guitar or bad guitar, good snare drum or bad - it doesn't matter. The source is mostly irrelevant as long as it has sufficient frequency and dynamic content to tax the converter. --Ethan
  12. The tonal quailites of a mellow acoustic guitar are a poor sources for an test as well. Niether frequency extreme is being challanged. Agreed, and we also recorded a triangle and claves for that reason. I could post those clips too if anyone cares. I suggest you redo the tracks with either white noise or pink noise ... run it at 0, -3 and -10db ... your approach to testing the frequency responce of different cards reveals nothing and has no basis in supporting any of your arguments. This was not meant as a comprehensive test! It's just a reality check to counter the conventional wisdom that $25 sound cards suck by definition, and you'll never get pro results until you invest in expensive converters. As you can hear from these short clips, that simply is not true. Whether some people like it or not. --Ethan
  13. what is the piece being played in the samples. It's pretty... I like it. Would like to hear more of it. That's an original tune my friend Grekim Jennings was working on at the time. I haven't seen him in a few months, and for all I know he may even have a finished version on his web site for download. Grekim is a very nice guy and I'm sure he would not mind an email from you: http://www.acousticrefuge.com/ --Ethan
  14. Do you have a source for that one? I'd like to run the calculations myself before I accept that. This is common knowledge. Jitter is measured in picoseconds, so it's easy to do the math. 1,000 ps = 1 nanosecond = 1 GHz. I have trouble believing your mp3 story. At 64 if someone can't tell the difference someone doesn't know what to listen for. 128 is harder, and beyond 128 it depends entirely on the source material Yes, 128 was the lowest bit rate I tested my friend with. And since it was solo piano, even at "only" 128 kbps it was tough for me to tell too. I can generally spot MP3 artifacts at 128 kbps with normal pop music having drums and fuzz guitars etc. Regardless, the point of my story is not at what bit-rate MP3 artifacts become audible. Rather, it's that people often have very strong opinions they are certain are correct, but in fact they are not correct. essentially what your saying is that every interface should sound nearly identical if they are all transparent. I don't think that's the case and I think the majority of the audio world would disagree with you. I don't care what the majority of people think. As the famous quote goes, "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing." And so it is with many things in audio. I'm not saying every sound card sounds the same. I'm saying that every competent sound card that's not broken sounds the same. Aside from measuring, which is the very best way to assess A/D/A quality, second best is to record multiple conversion passes until they accumulate enough to be clearly audible. You can hear the degradation from a SoundBlaster after only a few passes, where a very good converter might still be transparent after ten generations or even more. --Ethan
  15. So, you mean to tell me that Metric Halo, Apogee, Lavry, Prism, Lynx, et al. have been selling "snake oil" this whole time? Hell no! A lot goes into truly professional gear having nothing to do with the sound quality. Plus high-end gear does sound excellent. Besides raw fidelity, which is not difficult to achieve these days, there's also build quality, features, stability, reliability, quality of the drivers, and more. A real studio like, say, Universal records 80-piece orchestras that cost thousands of dollars per hour. They're not going to dick around which cheap crap that might break at the worst time. If a Behringer DI costs $30 and a Radial or whatever costs $200, they'll gladly pay the $200 every time without blinking. --Ethan
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