Those Yamaha POS's came in later. In the 70's, there were often Awfultone
Soundcubes on the console, but that was to reality-check how something would
sound on a TV or radio used by the typical consumer.
No, back in ye golden age, the monitors were generally big Altecs, usually
hung over the control room window so there was a bit of distance down to the
engineer (ie the stereo field and general sound quality had a little space
to develope instead of being close-in on small speakers like today). This
evolved to bigger, louder soffit-mounted monitors in the 70's and 80's. The
NS-10's came along but I saw them more in TV-sound places (and sound is
always second to picture there). I never saw anyone mixing a music release
on those things, so that must have come along in the late 80's.
By the way, the mean level of recording quality went down as all this
evolved, so none of it helped the knob-turners learn how to listen. The fact
that a typical 70's studio was heavily deadened and baffled just made it all
worse. Once rock producers got the hang of producing (ie taking a bunch of
basic tracks laid down at different times and places by semi-musical blokes
and producing an end product that was completely different from the basic
tracks but could well have sonic merits of its own), the albums sounded a
little better. Hell, even some of those zillion-mic productions of classical
recordings from Columbia sound OK. But I digress.
The main point is, back in ye golden oldie days, control rooms were most
certainly designed for critical listening because engineers had to rely much
more on getting it right first and once since there was little overdub
capacity and sessions were generally expensive and high-pressure and there
were few toys to fix things later like today. The musicians needed to do
their job and the engineer needed to do his job and there was no room for
screwups since the clock and cash register were running. This was also most
certainly true in classical recording, especially with unionized US
orchestras. Merely getting a level/balance practice take cost hundreds of
dollars. So there was no choice but to do critical listening in the control
room, from start to finish.
It could be argued that's why mastering suites of yore were generally not
critical-listening environments. Back then, the mastering engineer was more
a technician tasked with making what came out of the studio work on a
grooved record. He had to contend with EQ and dynamics to make his sides
trackable but he wasn't expected to do much else to change the sound, unless
there was something wrong with the master tape that needed to be addressed,
like a hum or buzz. Ironically, the more timid guys were who changed the
sound the most (generally for the worse) because they'd limit dynamics, make
sure to assign low frequencies to dead center and over-do it with the
high-frequency compression. The bolder/more skilled guys generally made it
their job to make the final LP sound as close to the master tape as was
possible with the technology at hand.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message ----- From: "Clark Johnsen" <clarkjohnsen@xxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2008 4:43 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?
On Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 7:41 PM, Tom Fine <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Also, it used to be (maybe not, in general, anymore) that a professional
studio's control room WAS designed for CRITICAL LISTENING. That was the
whole freakin' point! In fact, one of the big evolutions I saw in NY
in the late 70s into the 80s was moving all the noisy tape machines out
the control room into an isolated machine room or machine "closet" so one
could listen MORE carefully. Given the levels I've heard most
engineers listening at, I can't imagine the tape machines would be
but perhaps this was helpful for a client seated toward the back of the
control room. Anyway, let's not forget history here! Do some reading
the evolution of studio monitors. And the tuning of control rooms, etc.
perhaps today when every "musician" with a Mac and a mic thinks he has a
"studio," what passes for a recording studio may not be a critical
environment, but this was certainly not always the case!
In the old days you refer to, the Yamaha NS10M monitor speaker was
widely popular among recording professionals (I use the word as loosely as
anyone). It featured a top end so, ah, brutal... that the tweeter was
commonly covered with a flap of Kleenex or toilet paper. This was the de
facto reference standard.
Plus, studio monitoring is almost always done in extreme near-field
conditions, IMO an unnatural place to listen -- even notwithstanding the
fact that few end-users (as I believe they're called) employ such a setup.
And by the way, here's a big irony. Go back and look at most of the
mastering rooms where the "golden age" records were cut. Those were
TERRIBLE listening environments!
True enough. And yet... and yet... They were doing something right.
What's been lost?
This is all very different over the past couple of decades, mastering
suites have evolved to be "super-fi" listening rooms. Has the net quality
the end product evolved upwards? I would say this is a very arguable
No argument from me there!
Only that I disagree about the soi-disant "'super-fi' listening rooms".
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message ----- From: "Rob Poretti" <r.poretti@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Friday, October 17, 2008 5:31 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Aren't recordings original sources?
A few of these facilities use those $1000+ AC cables. I did not have
balls to ask them to swap to a standard cable for my own curiosity, but
can tell you *none* of the mastering engineers described the
Again, the studio environment... these are not listening studios, these
recording (or mastering) studios.
RP) I'm sorry, but I beg to differ and I believe most audio
won't agree with that statement. Mastering rooms are built for critical
listening. I agree that the design criteria (neutrality with excellent
translation to the outside world) might be different then in a personal
listening room. (personal preference often based on a preferred music
If you really feel this way, then we have a serious void in our
point of reference, to even continue the debate.... IMHO.
Besides, I've never claimed that differences are instantly detectable.
They're not, usually. They get to you over an extended period.
RP) That's an interesting comment. I was reacting earlier to your
statement "wrought major improvements".
I would think that "wrought major improvements" are also "instantly
detectable." Would you mine defining "an extended period"? Was it
Do I understand by your comments that the "major
improvements" that you discerned did not require ABX listening tests?
"Require"? As stated earlier, ABX only blurs the distinctions.
Someone locally here once told me he'd done a DBT that proved to the 99%
confidence level, that insertion of the ABX box was audible. I chuckled,
I might hope everyone would.
Who elected the ABX box as our arbiter?
RP) First, I meant to say DB ABX. My mistake. Second, you can build
transparent ABX boxes and the nice thing about them is they provide the
lens for both "A" and "B" - that's why they are valid in critical
tests. Unless you are saying that all DB ABX listening tests are not
Do you have a more definitive listening test procedure?
My comment about "requiring ABX" was that I was trying to determine how
audible the difference was - was it instant or was it difficult to
determine? I think you could see the intent of my question.
Sales Engineer - Archiving
Cube-Tec North America