Last month's Editorial seems to have sparked off some controversy over the matter of equipment reviews. The majority of letters received concur with the stance adopted by HSR ie. never to review bad products but to give the space over to more worthy items.
However, a lot of you would also like some guidance as to which products are bad so as to avoid them. One reader suggested we incorporate a 'star rating' system in our Equipment Guide as this would take up little valuable space and, on the surface, would be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, all too often such rating systems become meaningless. Equipment has to be reviewed and rated in the context of what other devices are currently available on the market - which is in a constant state of flux. If a manufacturer were to come up with a real innovation, then it would automatically get a high rating as it would have no competition. A rating system also gives no indication of the standard of judgement implied by a particular number of stars. Just how good are four stars and how bad is one? It's too arbitrary a system to be of real use, but thanks for the suggestion anyway. We shall continue to rack our combined brains here to come up with a better method...
Whilst on the subject of reader feedback, we've also received requests for us to take a good look at the area of 'digital recording' and its implications for the home recording scene.
Well, it just so happens that we will be publishing a review of the brand new Sony PCM501 stereo digital recorder next month. At around £400 this single device, capable of mating with any format video recorder for its storage medium, will have a profound effect upon home recording as it brings true 16-bit mastering into the home. You could be cynical I suppose, and dispute the validity of digital mastering at home when the multitrack process itself is of a much lower quality. As far as we're concerned, the analogue chain has to be broken somewhere and the sooner the better. Digital mastering shouldn't imply 'instant quality' - remember, the end result is only as good as the weakest link in the multitrack chain. What it does mean though, is non-degradable master tapes from which an infinite number of copies can be made.
Low-cost digital mastering may have another benefit to the home user. The wide dynamic range and low signal-to-noise ratio it offers should show up the current limitations of this generation of analogue multitrackers and set the ball rolling for improvements. With the Frankfurt Music Fair just around the corner, the traditional showcase for new music/recording products, we'll keep you informed of the introduction of any low-cost digital multitrackers. Rumours are rife... we'll wait and see!
To close this editorial, on behalf of all our staff, let me wish every single one of you a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.