The Best Approach?
Believe it or not, we do actually take notice of readers' comments here at Sound On Sound. Your phone calls, letters and opinions voiced at shows help us focus the content of the magazine to suit your needs. Some of the most common questions we are asked include: "Why don't you do more comparative reviews in the mag?" and that old chestnut, "There's so much gear around, can't you tell us what's best to buy?"
Now, these are both perfectly sensible questions to ask, so why don't we answer them? Well, the truth is we do; it's just that we currently do so in a subtle manner. To coin a phrase, what's sauce for the goose isn't necessarily sauce for the gander. Every reader's needs are different - as is their fiscal status - and what one equipment reviewer feels about an instrument isn't always reflected in other people's views.
Take the Ensoniq VFX synth as an example. Assistant Editor Paul Ireson raves about the machine in this month's review - he absolutely loves it. But equally, I have spoken with several people at the recent APRS exhibition who played the instrument at the show and hated the feel of the keyboard. They agreed the sounds were fabulous, but being players instead of 'twiddlers' they couldn't see themselves coming to terms with it - even though the 'clunky' feel of the keyboard is necessary for the polyphonic aftertouch to work as effectively as it does. Having spent considerable time with the instrument, Paul has got used to the feel of the keyboard and has been too busy creating great sounds to let it bother him. If he had written his review on the basis of his initial impressions and a brief demo (as some unscrupulous magazines do), then he may well have advised readers to give the instrument a miss. Result? Many of you would have been turned off the machine and would have spent your money on something else.
We know readers trust our editorial judgement, that's why we don't abuse that privilege or insult your intelligence. SOS reviews aim to present you with enough factually correct information that you can use in conjunction with a visit to your local music shop to make up your own mind about what equipment you should buy. That's why, in his comparative review of the new Tascam TSR8 multitrack and Fostex E8, David Mellor doesn't say which machine is the outright winner. It is impossible to do so. Although the machines share pretty much the same features, the price differential may be a crucial factor if you have scraped around to find the cash to buy a £2000 multitrack. That extra £500 may seem a heck of a lot to pay for a slight improvement in sound quality. Then again, if you're well off but are looking for a good quality mid-priced 8-track, you probably wouldn't give a second thought to paying an extra £500 for the Fostex.
See what I mean? Which machine is 'best' depends on the criteria you use to make your judgement. And since the readership of this magazine covers all levels - from beginner to seasoned professional - I think it best that you make the final analysis yourself, by tailoring each review you read to fit your own personal situation. Enjoy the issue.
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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