SIGNALS & NOISE (Letters to Editor) (Oct. 1987)

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Two Sides of a Coin

Dear Editor:

What has happened to Audio? Upon picking up the July 1987 issue, I was expecting to see informative interviews, articles and advertising in all of the realms of true high-end audio.

What I found upon actually reading the magazine was much less than that.

Advertisements for mid-fi equipment, tires, cars, and car stereos are not the sort of things I used to read Audio for. The reason I say "used to" is because, although I don't enjoy paying the high prices for such, I am now forced to subscribe to so-called underground journals for information about top-flight equipment. I'm sure that your marketing analysts have worked very hard to come up with this new image for Audio, but they forgot one key thing: Stereo Review and High Fidelity already take up the market niches for those who are less knowledgeable or appreciative of the best of today's high-quality audio equipment.

One final thing that I should mention: I am not someone who wistfully remembers the "good old tube days" or 78-rpm records. I am a young person with a modern perception and interest in the future of audio-but not if it is epitomized by a combination CD, CD V, CD-I, and videodisc player going into an A/V receiver (with interface compatibility for dishwashing machines and food processors), which feeds a DAT player/recorder to make tapes for a combination car stereo and cruise-control system. Ugh! Please bring back the old Audio. It is sorely missed.

Jason Paskowitz; Bayside, N.Y.

Editor's Note: We'd like to think otherwise, but maybe it's true that one can't please all of the people all of the time.

Consider the following letter.


Dear Editor:

I would like to comment on the equipment reviews I read in the August 1987 issue of Audio, evaluating the Mark Levinson No. 20 mono amp and the Mission PCM-7000 Compact Disc player. Although both units may be very good, I question what good, if any, will the majority of your readers get out of a review of a $9,600 pair of amplifiers or a $1,000 CD player. I myself find it hard to believe that most of your readers would even consider such expensive units. If you continue to spend so much time covering these kinds of products and forget that most people spend a bit less money in pursuit of high-quality audio, you need not send a renewal card to me in December. I don't need another magazine that doesn't address items that concern me.

Jerry Bufka; Grand Rapids, Mich.

Profile Praise

Dear Editor:

The "Equipment Profile" of the Yamaha DSP-1 by Howard Roberson (June 1987) is one of the best I have ever read. I have a DSP-1, and thanks to Mr. Roberson, I am really enjoying and getting the most out of the unit.

Audio is a great magazine.

C. W. Sullivan; Columbus, Ohio

Where's the Real Thing?

Dear Editor:

I'm writing this letter to warn your readers not to fall into the same trap that I fell into, if they haven't already. I, like many others, waited through four years of legal hype for The Beatles to be issued on CD. Finally they released them, and in the less distorted British version. I plopped down my $15 apiece for the first four CDs ($60) and took them home, thinking I was going to get great sound. I got home, loaded them into my machine, and found something missing-stereo! What a rip-off! Nowhere on the packaging does it say these are in mono. Once opened (when you can't return them), the labels on three of the CDs say mono; the fourth has no indication. All of these masters are available in stereo; I know, I have the imported British LPs. There is no excuse for this travesty! What is Capitol trying to do? I will never buy another Capitol reissue on CD! At the very minimum, they should have labeled them mono on the packaging.

It doesn't stop with The Beatles. I also purchased Made in America by The Beach Boys (again on Capitol), and all but the last two songs are in mono with no package warning-and most of these songs are available in stereo.

Why has Capitol dumped these dinosaurs on an unsuspecting public? The best thing about both The Beatles and The Beach Boys was their stereo separation, and now Capitol has robbed us of that.

I suggest Capitol recall these CDs and give refunds to everyone and get out the real thing! Here we are in an age when quadraphonics is being reborn (via surround sound) and black and-white movies are being colorized, and what does Capitol do? Why go back to 1940s-style mono? CD-buying public, beware!

J. R. Thomas; Reisterstown, Md.

No Magic Button

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your interview with George Martin and the review of the first four Beatles CDs in your June 1987 issue. The interview was supposed to answer the question of why they were released in mono. Mr. Martin states that ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘With The Beatles’ were recorded with a two track recorder. The instruments are all on one channel and all of the voices are on the other, except for an occasional odd instrument. He states that the two-track tapes were not intended to be released in stereo.

But Martin does not address the question of why A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale were released in mono. These albums were recorded on four-track recorders, as were Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper. These albums have a good stereo mix, with some instruments on the left and others on the right. Vocals come either from the center or from both channels. Why weren't these released in stereo? According to Rolling Stone, Martin wanted only the first two albums released in mono, but EMI mistakenly thought that he meant that all four albums should be in mono. Rolling Stone quotes a March 1 interview in The New York Times as the source, but I was unable to find their source. At any rate, that makes sense to me.

By any reasonable criteria, it is absurd for A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale to be in mono. I can see Martin's point about Please Please Me and With The Beatles. But even in that case, the argument doesn't quite hold water. If they were released in stereo, anyone who preferred mono could simply press the "mono" button, which almost all amplifiers have. Unfortunately, there is no magic button for the vast majority of us who want to transform the mono CDs into stereo. If they were released in stereo, everyone could be satisfied.

Jud McCranie; Valdosta, Ga.

All You Need Is Stereo

Dear Editor:

Susan Borey's interview with The Beatles' producer, George Martin (June 1987), left me quite frustrated. I greatly respect Mr. Martin's opinion on such important matters as how The Beatles' recordings should be issued, but the interview indicated that his disgust with the "ghastly fake stereo" versions of those early records was limited to the first two, Please Please Me and With The Beatles. Both were recorded in twin-track mono, and I can understand and appreciate his resistance to issuing them in stereo. However, as Mr. Martin points out in his excellent autobiography, All You Need Is Ears, The Beatles began recording on four-track machines by the end of 1963, which means that A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale were recorded in stereo.

The full stereo versions of those two LPs are wonderful as issued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab-Lennon's rhythm guitar is on one track, Harrison's lead is on another, and the vocals are mixed to the center. These two LPs are truly incredible in true stereo and are ghastly (to borrow one of Mr. Martin's adjectives) in mono, by comparison.

Although A Hard Day's Night has been the best seller of the first four CDs, it is probably because of the quality of the songs more than anything else. Now that Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt.

Pepper have been released in stereo, CD buyers will shun the first four CDs as sounding hopelessly one-dimensional.

It is my hope that Bhaskar Menon will reconsider issuing A Hard Day's Night and Beatles for Sale in stereo on CD in the near future so that admirers of these two superb albums will be able to hear them as they were meant to be heard-in stereo. How Mr. Martin could speak otherwise confounds me.

Brad Rovanpera; Oakley, Cal.

Deceptive Discs

Dear Editor:

I am writing in relation to the first four Beatles CDs. I bought Beatles for Sale, and I was very dismayed at Capitol Records' deception.

First, the discs are only available in mono, and nowhere on the packaging is this indicated. Second, these are not "Original Master Recordings" as stated. If they were, they'd be in stereo.

They're probably third- or fourth-generation tapes. Finally, the sound quality is not even as good as the stereo record.

It's good, but my 22-year-old copy stands better still.

These discs are cheap rip-offs. Your readers should not buy them. They'll just be throwing away $17. I've written to Capitol Records, and I hope others will too. With enough letters, maybe they'll use some of their Duran Duran and Little River Band disc money to release some good Beatles discs.

George N. Dussault II; Cumberland, R.I.

Thanks but No Thanks

Dear Editor:

It does matter to be accurate.

George Martin's comment in the June 1987 issue of Audio that "those first [Beatles] LPs were never intended to be issued in that ghastly fake stereo" appears to me to be partially incorrect.

Sorry, George, and thanks for all those great records you produced, but A Hard Day's Night and especially Beatles for Sale are albums where the stereo effect is legitimate. If the CD issues of these two albums are in mono, shame, shame. I won't buy them.

By the way, I listen to these two albums using a Grado Signature 8MX cartridge. If your readers really love these records, as I still do, then I suggest that they buy a good front end, as I did. Some good listening is in store for them if they do so, again especially on Beatles for Sale. I know everyone concerned wishes to sell a lot of CDs, but really, records are easily as good, and sometimes better.

One more thing: Mr. Martin, why did you double-track John on the intro to "If I Fell," and ditto for Paul on "And I Love Her," only on the stereo records, not the mono versions? It's ruined the soliloquy of their vocal presentations. I thought this was Capitol Records' doing, but the effect is there on the Parlo phone records, and it stinks.

R. A. Rocco; Copiague Harbor, N.Y.

Editor's Note: Shame on you, gentlemen, for your mistaken comments. The four-track mono tapes of Day's Night and Sale do not mix down to stereo simply because the Parlophone and MFSL LPs had different left and right channels. Multi-track does not necessarily signify stereo! In fact, multitrack-as ordinarily used in pop recording-isn't stereo, but is just a simple technique that results in two different mono mix-downs, which are played at the same time. 'Tisn't stereo, no matter how much you (or I, for that matter) might like the resulting music.


Producer's Postscript

Dear Editor:

We were delighted to see Ed Canby's perceptive and (as usual) informed review of Richard Shirk's Mozart piano album in the July 1987 issue. Readers trying to find the album might like to have a couple of additional pieces of information.

Though Mr. Canby mentioned the CD, its number was not given. It is CMCD-1005. Classic Masters CDs and some LPs are distributed by Harmonia Mundi USA ( 3364 South Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, Cal. 90034), so most stores can order them quite simply. What no one knew when the LP and CD went out for review was that there would also be a digital audio tape (DAT) release of the same album-perhaps the first such full-length classical DAT album in the country.

Initially distributed only in Japan, CMDT-1005 will be available in this country in very limited quantities at about the time the first DAT decks are available here. (And there's no darned notch in the tape, either.) Classic Masters is a bit off the beaten track in two ways Mr. Canby did not know about and which have heretofore been of interest only to my artists: First, all releases to date are from analog masters, even though we have been running digital tape at all sessions for some time. This is not a pro or con stance about digital, merely a case-by case choice as to which sounds better.

We anticipate DDD releases as the technology matures. Second, we are the only label whose artists own the masters and actual released albums (we stand ready to be corrected on this, but anticipate no surprises in that way). Classic Masters produces, markets, and, to a limited extent, distributes albums, but the ownership and profits from them are reserved for the artists. We take an agreed per-unit fee, a sum smaller than many labels might believe and yet larger than typical royalty payments, and plow the money back into promotion and equipment.

We are unique in this approach, and our artists love it.

Thanks for that gratifying review!

-Christopher Greenleaf Producer Classic Masters Brooklyn, N.Y.

Counting Millionaires

Dear Editor: Amen to the letter from David Lansdown (February 1987) concerning the reviews of high-priced equipment. I think that a $6,000 amplifier, a $3,000 turntable, and a $3,000 preamp are obscenities. How many of your readers are millionaires?

Lester F. Keene; Abilene, Tex.

A "Pirate" Protests

Dear Editor:

The furor over Digital Audio Tape has opened my eyes! It seems obvious that the recording industry's long-term desire is to ultimately make consumer recording equipment extinct. Let us imagine that they get their way. Then what? The elimination of loudspeakers? After all, I might invite a friend to my abode for a "free" listen to my latest CD. Okay! No more loudspeakers.

Then what? Headphones only? Uh-oh! Two sets of headphones, one pair for my friend and one pair for me, using a "Y" connector (we "pirates" are a resourceful lot). It seems that the powers of Congress had better be enacted, making a death sentence the punishment for possession or use of "Y" connectors. That will teach us! Then what? Well, I really don't know, but I am certain that the recording industry's greed is without bounds, and that they hold the answer.

David W. Young; Bernalillo, N.M.

Nix the Notch

Dear Editor:

Perhaps a new symbol should be added to the AAD/ADD/DDD code for Compact Discs: DUD, for those with the new copy-protected scheme promoted by CBS. While it may be too much to expect that record companies will label their products as distorted, I do have a serious proposal: Any record company rejecting this copy guard technique should announce that fact in the media and on their labels.

That is the only way they will keep my business if frequency-response notching becomes widespread.

Don DeGeorge; Falls Church, Va.

Harmful Side Effects

Dear Editor:

Copy protection increases the cost of products and compromises their quality. The best defense against the copying of anything is to price it at a level that makes the purchase of the original the more practical thing to do.

Making a copy requires the purchase of blank media, acquisition and configuration of the necessary hardware, and a time commitment on the part of the copier, not to mention getting hold of something to copy. There has to be some motivation to go through all of that. I used to make cassette copies of my albums for use in the car-my motivation was that the copies I produced were superior to those that could be purchased. If the quality of the prerecorded tapes had been equal to that of those that I produced, I probably would not have made copies but purchased prerecorded tapes, provided their cost was not so high as to make my own time investment a better alternative.

Copy protection will probably lead to more copying as a result of its side effects. The cost of copy protection will push up the price of prerecorded material and make copying a more attractive option. The presence of an anti copy signal will degrade the quality of an original, reducing its desirability when compared to a copy.

Copying is a fact of life that the recording industry can beat only by competing with it. Make copying impractical and it will go away. Fighting it by tariff and technology will just make audio entertainment less appealing in general. In fact, if that is the way things end up, I may just dump all the stuff that occupies so much space in my living room.

-Al Pfalzgraf; Steamwood, Ill.

A Poem for Congress

Dear Editor:

Regarding DAT (Digital Audio Tape), I have a message for the gentlemen and gentlewomen of the 100th Congress: Let the debate begin.

Let the parties meet, industry and consumer.

Let the merits of each be heard.

Let the debate begin.

Gary A. Rhule; Tacoma, Wash.

Fond Memory

Dear Editor:

Each of us has his own reasons to revere the memory of Dick Heyser. I met him several times when he was trying to promote interest in his signal biased amplifier system. Twenty years later, we passed in a hallway at the CES in Las Vegas. He not only remembered me, but asked about members of my family by name. How many deep thinkers have room in their brains for such details? That takes more than genius.

Thank you again for Audio's tribute to Richard C. Heyser.

Richard Simonton; Orlando, Fla.

Service with a Smile

Dear Editor:

This is to commend and congratulate the Sony Corporation of America--in particular its Burbank, Cal. Factory Service Center and staff--for their remarkable cooperation, courtesy, and utmost professionalism in dealing with a delicate circumstance.

I had a few problems with a Sony Compact Disc player. After a service evaluation, it was promptly replaced with a working model accompanied by an incredible amount of concern on Sony's part. I was treated with respect as a consumer, phone calls were returned, and problems were addressed and resolved.

My thanks to P. J. Montrone, Alan Austin, and others I had the pleasure of dealing with. I can highly recommend Sony products to others, knowing that the company truly stands behind them.

-Victor Bisio; Encino, Cal.

Anniversary Accolades

Dear Editor:

Your May 1987 anniversary issue prompts me to join all audiophiles--professional and amateur--who congratulate you on your years of success.

Our own magazine, Hi-Fi News proper, began in 1956, following a merger with Record News and Stereo Disc Review (1953), incorporating previous papers such as Audio Record Review and The Gramophone Record.

These latter date back to the late 1930s, preceding World War II, and I was associated with those early launchings.

I remember the trouble we had in getting those 1947 copies of Audio Engineering in 1947-48, but their impact was worth it.

Good wishes for many more years in our world of hi-fi and musical pleasure.

Donald Aldous; Consultant Technical Editor Hi-Fi News Plymouth, England

A Review of Reviews

Dear Editor:

What is the real value of record reviews? After reading a review, the question remains: Will I like the music? Once again I bought a disc that was given a rave review and once again I got burned. My collection of dud CDs is growing and, with the high cost of discs, I find this investment in unlistenable music unacceptable. I have found that another person's opinion about a record or disc-good or bad-certainly may not coincide with mine. I wish I could make the record critics buy back all the records and discs they've talked me into buying that turned out to be trash. For this reason I will no longer pay attention to record reviews in their present format.

Instead of one long review by one person, why don't you run short reviews by several different people? In this manner, a reader could compare and contrast the different opinions and, I feel, gain a greater insight as to whether or not he might like the music.

This would not solve the problem, but it would help to some degree.

Robert Mallory; Sedalia, Mo.

Editor's Note:

Certainly, one man's meat is another man's poison, and what's "trash" to you might be treasure to another. But a diversity of taste is good, isn't it? Without it, we might need only a handful of recording artists, or just one radio station. Why not identify one or two of our reviewers whose taste seems to coincide with yours and be guided only by them? As for running multiple reviews of the same disc, it would be a good idea-if we had a limited number of discs and an unlimited amount of editorial space. But given the avalanche of new CDs that come out every month, it's a challenge just to keep up; giving our readers a broad view of what's out there has to take precedence over becoming a forum for "dueling reviewers."


Upgrades for All

Dear Editor:

Walter Jung's piece on the Magnavox CD player upgrade (June 1987) was a fine article, very useful to music lovers. However, one gets the impression that only that player will benefit from modifications. Owners of other brands of CD players, such as Sony, Harman/Kardon, and Kinergetics, just to name a few, will also hear sonic improvements over their stock units.

Analog Devices' quad op-amp, the AD712, is a "drop-in" part that just about anybody can use. In addition, upgrades of capacitors and resistors can also be performed. But, as Mr. Jung suggests to your readers, "Proceed with caution!"

Edward A. Yapchian; Old Colony Sound Lab, Peterborough, N.H.

(Source: Audio magazine, Oct. 1987)

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