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Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
#3037740 04/09/20 05:20 AM
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Hey, I like multi-effects. So when I saw Three Things to Consider Before Buying an Electric Guitar Multi-effect Processor, I clicked.

I'll save you the time of clicking: The article said it should be durable, easy-to-use, and USB compatible. That was it..

Wow. That's soooooo insightful!! All this time I thought I should buy one that falls apart if you just look at, has a horrible user interface, and wasn't compatible with anything. Thank Heavens this article set me straight!!

Well since that's the new standard of musical instrument journalism, I guess I can write about automobiles now. Look for my article "Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Car." In it, I explain in under 210 words (the same as the multi-effect article, less captions) what you need to know before buying a car!!

1. It should last like a long time, because you want it to last a long time. PRO TIP!! Lasting a long time is better than not lasting a long time.
2. You should be able to figure out where the steering wheel is.
3. Make sure the gas tank place where you put the fuel pump is compatible with gas stations.

There!! Aren't you potential car buyers so happy you read these valuable insights? Don't forget to click!

Last edited by Anderton; 04/09/20 05:23 AM.
Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037742 04/09/20 05:44 AM
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But, but, but there was stuff about making my guitar sound just like Hendrix and Clapton! If I get two durable, easy to use, USB compatible pedalboards and hook them up to a doubleneck, can I sound like both of them at once?
Cuz, I'm gonna!!!!

Maybe I am just lucky but everything I've ever owned that said Boss on it always worked/works. Even the Super Ultra T\urbo Ovaltine Boss pedal I found at Goodwill for $10 that looked like it had been dragged behind a car across the United States worked perfectly, no scratchy pots, no dead footswitch or dirty jacks. Plus it made me sound just like Hartley Peavey, who is richer than Hendix, Clapton and the Pope.

Still not getting a Boss pedalboard though. I don't like pedalboards, they are way down there on the floor, with all the dirt and spilled beer.

Now a MIDI socket coming out of my corpus collosum, yeah.


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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037745 04/09/20 08:15 AM
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The value of written reviews has been declining for a long time. Most of them may as well just be a product data sheet or flyer. I want somebody to run it through its paces and uncover the hidden strengths and weekneses and verify or discredit manufacturer claims. Nobody has done that for a long time, it seems.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
J. Dan #3037761 04/09/20 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by J. Dead
The value of written reviews has been declining for a long time. Most of them may as well just be a product data sheet or flyer. I want somebody to run it through its paces and uncover the hidden strengths and weekneses and verify or discredit manufacturer claims.

Well, I do, but you aren't likely to see my reviews in publications any more. Magazines can no longer sell enough ads to cover the cost of the paper for an extensive review, much less pay the reviewer. And, disappointingly, it turns out that, even though for an on-line article, the "paper" is practically free, people don't like to read long articles on line (honestly, I don't) or even download an article and read it when not on line.

Also, I find that so many reviews contain little technical errors that usually don't affect readers because they don't know what they're reading anyway. For example, I see people talking about the mic under review has more (or less) gain than the one with which it's being compared. Microphones don't have gain. They do, however, have sensitivity, and that's a number that can be compared between microphones. But "gain" is easier to write, and most people will get that if you put two mics on the same source and one makes your meters move (or ear drums ring) more than the other. "dB" abuse is rampant, and this is often the result of the reviewer quoting the manufacturer's spec sheet which was written by a marketing copy writer rather than an engineer.

Further, there are many things that a reviewer (and - bonus material - a user, too) can measure easily and tell us, for example, how many dBu at the mic input of an interface produces a digital output of 0 dBFS. That's more useful than "the mic input has 56 dB of gain." Who cares about that? Unless the interface has an insert or direct output connector at the preamp output, you never see the preamp output.

If a review addresses the user interface, and of course it should, I want to see examples of the steps, menus, and screen displays you need to go through in order to do simple and more complex things. I want to see a close-up of what I have to click in Pro Tools in order to create a bus and assign the output of that bus to the jacks I'm going to connect to the headphone amplifier in the studio - and not see a screen shot of the whole ProTools display reduced to a 1x2 inch picture.

I've been having some internal problems lately which have me spending more time than usual in the tile reading room, so I've been pulling some magazines from the mid-2000s off the shelf (I can't throw anything away) and reading how-to articles and reviews of things gone by. Electronic Musican, Mix, Pro Audio Review, Sound on Sound frequently devoted six to ten pages to a compressor or effect processor or interface, or software program that give me a real feel for what I'd be able to use it for and how I'd do it. And even if it isn't something that I need, I might learn something about a problem that I didn't know existed and how the product solves it.

Anyway, this has already grown too long to read.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037778 04/09/20 01:53 PM
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I didn't bother to click on the link to the article. I knew right away that it is clickbait to generate ad revenue. Online articles like that are not journalism, they are intentionally devoid of useful and new information while the headline is designed to get you to impulsively click on it, and boom ad revenue is generated.

The internet is the new tabloid.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037787 04/09/20 02:13 PM
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But the real question is, what do the Kardashians have to say about that multi-effect processor? (Their report would probably be even less informative. And does it come in different colors?)


"Am I enough of a freak to be worth paying to see?"- Separated Out (Marillion)
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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
J. Dan #3037819 04/09/20 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by J. Dead
The value of written reviews has been declining for a long time. Most of them may as well just be a product data sheet or flyer.
When I worked for a software company in the late 90s and early 2000s, we quickly learned that. We started writing "Reviewer's Guides" when our products came out that we would include with the products we sent to the reviewers, and most "reviews" lifted text directly from it. We'd laugh and laugh…


The great thing about music is that there's always something to learn. The frustrating thing about music is that there's always something to learn!
Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Joe Muscara #3037829 04/09/20 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Joe Muscara
When I worked for a software company in the late 90s and early 2000s, we quickly learned that. We started writing "Reviewer's Guides" when our products came out that we would include with the products we sent to the reviewers, and most "reviews" lifted text directly from it. We'd laugh and laugh…

I got a couple of Reviewer's Guides when I was doing reviews on a fairly regular schedule. I found most of them to be pretty helpful, not in writing my review for me, but in pointing out features and applications that I otherwise would have missed. Of course I tried them, and wrote MY version.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037837 04/09/20 04:50 PM
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I think one reason why reviews are less relevant is because with software, so many times a free trial is available that people can just download it, and decide for themselves.

I stopped writing reviews with the idea of making value judgements a long time ago, because I truly believe no one should care whether I like something or not. What I try to do these days is act as filter, in other words, I describe what a product does and doesn't do, so that people can decide whether they want to look into it further. I also try to find stuff that's particularly cool, but flies under the radar, to bring it to peoples' attention.

As to magazines, interestingly, I'm finding that companies exercise virtually no editorial control over content I write for their web sites. I asked one company why they didn't care when I pointed out a limitation. The answer was revealing - they felt what sold gear was word of mouth and reader reviews in Sweetwater, Amazon, etc. So, they didn't want anyone buying their product for the wrong reason, then giving a one-star review.

Of course, reader reviews are suspect too...but if there are enough of them, you can get a sense of what's up (especially when the five-star ones are well-written, and the one-star ones say something like "It don't do what I want guess I loose money on it").

Last edited by Anderton; 04/09/20 04:52 PM.
Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037846 04/09/20 05:29 PM
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It seems to me software reviews are the worst of the lot in general these days. Yes, so many are simply shills that reproduce the company's own promo language and call it a "review".

Youtube helps a lot. Harder to BS when you actually operate and show/play the software right there. It's a great time actually for guitar pedal reviews, right? That Pedal Show, Pete Thorn, the JHS videos, and even Andy Martin who is unfailing positive about every reviewed item, still is worth watching 'cause it's the real sounds he's making from the real gear. Any many, many other good reviewers (and a whole lot of wretched amatuer reviewers we can pass by in silence.)

Synth reviews on Youtube - same thing. The Starsky Carr guy is so thorough, informed, and you hear the synths and see the scope! There are others...

Sound on Sound - I still trust their reviews. The last bastion of the old written journalism as far as I know.

Sweetwater - I admire those guys, but with the videos you still really feel like you're getting a sales pitch all the time, not a from-the-real-gut review. Still - love ya Sweetwater! You always treat me right! Don't hate me Mitch!

nat

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037864 04/09/20 07:18 PM
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Oh, boy, I could tell you stories. The editorial team at Keyboard was getting pressure when I started there full-time (2006) to cater to more "short attention span theater" while name-checking as many potential advertisers as possible, and it only got worse. What's left of Keyboard Magazine is being assimilated by the Borg — ahem, Future PLC — into MusicRadar. In their own words, they are all about SEO and clickbait. There are some talented and dedicated people over there in Bath, but they're being told to do things like this:

https://www.musicradar.com/news/the-best-hardware-synthesizers-keyboards-modules-and-portable-synths

Armies of self-declared SEO experts and marketing bros will tell any publisher that this type of "listicle" format is what readers want. I'm not sure it's even what manufacturers want. It's a nothing burger IMHO. We're trying to address this in what way we can with the MPN GearLab Forum here, on which I already posted a long-term study on the Yamaha CP stage piano and will be starting on the Nord Wave 2 (!!!) as soon as it arrives.

And yes, there are more than a few YouTubers out there who are creating excellent content. With the pedigree and trust of a brand like Keyboard, we should have been at the forefront of that, but our executive management literally did not want to buy video cameras. I think we were using an old Canon XL2 that recorded on Mini-DV tape until, like, 2013. In 2015, they laid off our video guy Tim, who was shooting and editing material for Keyboard, EM, Guitar Player, and Bass Player about 12 hours a day. Sorry, I'm getting off on a rant, but the Starsky Carrs and Cuckoos and the like are in the game partially because my former bosses' bosses were asleep at the wheel, squandered our brand equity, and never met a problem they couldn't budget-cut their way out of.

I'd be interested to hear anyone's opinions about the following: Are you still interested in long-form, in-depth articles such as artist interviews, product clinics, etc? I have been talking with a colleague who's another casualty of Keyboard (hint: it's the guy who's been cranking out said long-form artist features for the past four years) about making this happen in a way that's part of or affiliated with MPN. We have a real thirst to be the New Yorker of music instrument journalism while the corporate publishers are trying to be the BuzzFeed. The sense is that if no-one is doing depth any more, someone is going to miss it, and we want that audience.

My heart says this is my calling and my head says its a Quixotic quest. How about yours?

Last edited by Stephen Fortner; 04/09/20 08:26 PM.

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037867 04/09/20 07:50 PM
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I truly appreciate a good review.

I've been researching USB microphones for live streaming.

Yesterday I found a "review" of two mics at the forefront of the lower priced category.

The "reviewer" gushed briefly about how "professional" each mic was in turn and concluded that they were both the best thing ever.

Just below that were links so you could buy both of them (presumably) on Amazon.

MPN is a great resource for real-world information. I find the Sound On Sound reviews to be useful, detailed and to point out areas that could be improved. Last but certainly not least -Tape Op has excellent reviews every issue and I look forward to reading those.

Fluffy "buy this" isn't doing it for me either. Cheers, Kuru


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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037881 04/09/20 08:51 PM
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Geez, Stephen, my full-felt sympathies. My son is trying to make a living in journalism...it is a tightrope walk on a rope held at both ends by people wearing blindfolds running over angry snakes.

For me, the shift has been almost totally to Youtube. Two years ago I thought Youtube was a wasteland of cat videos and dumb stunts. Now it's my go-to for a huge array of topics and in-depth info. Guitar lessons, gear demos, reviews, music theory lessons, jazz transcriptions, interviews with famous artists - all the stuff I used to go to Keyboard/Electronic Musician/Sound on Sound for, the vast majority I get off Youtube now.

Yeah I want the in-depth stuff! Always have, always will. And I'm by no means an unusual person. Everyone is not a shallow butterfly who can only spend 1/3 of a second on any source of value.

Counting clicks. I guess that's the new quick dipstick for some notion of success.

nat

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037883 04/09/20 08:57 PM
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There's a company that wanted to do mostly videos, and asked me to do some. They were well-received, but after a while, the company found that videos were getting less traction than longer-form articles. That makes sense; if something is a tutorial, finding that one sentence with details you need in a video is really difficult.

I find a lot of YouTube videos execrable. I find a lot of them useful. Some of them are excellent on all levels. But ultimately, different topics need to be covered in different ways. Some concepts need short articles, some long articles, and some videos. I don't think there's a "one size fits all" solution.

Also, what to do depends on what you want. A longer article gives more opportunities for SEO and engagement, but more opportunities for bounce - people click on the link, read the article, and leave the site.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3037889 04/09/20 09:11 PM
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For a primer on "how to do a Youtube tutorial" watch Kenny Gioia's tutorials for Cockos/Reaper.

I've never seen a better teacher in that format.

nat

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3038001 04/10/20 05:08 AM
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MusicRadar reigns supreme in that category. "Reviews" = pushing you to buy the item and a few copied-and-pasted specs. All SEO, no content.


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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3038048 04/10/20 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
I think one reason why reviews are less relevant is because with software, so many times a free trial is available that people can just download it, and decide for themselves.

I used to take advantage of free trials but these days I see so much software that, from what I can read from the manufacturer's ads, I can't tell what it does or if it would be useful to me. Since (at least with Windows) when software is installed, it's difficult to completely un-install it. I use Revo Uninstaller that at least looks for traces in the registry, but I'm never sure if there's anything left behind that might bite me months later. As often as I can remember, I set a Windows restore point before I run a software installer, and I haven't had occasion to use it recently. I remember, though, back when I was running XP and earlier versions, that sometimes a "restore" leaves some things out.

With my reviewer hat on, I can install a new DAW on a shop computer, check it out, and any time I want, I can re-format and re-install Windows. But I try not to muck with the computers that I regularly work on.

Quote
I stopped writing reviews with the idea of making value judgements a long time ago, because I truly believe no one should care whether I like something or not. What I try to do these days is act as filter, in other words, I describe what a product does and doesn't do, so that people can decide whether they want to look into it further. I also try to find stuff that's particularly cool, but flies under the radar, to bring it to peoples' attention.

Agreed. That the reviewer liked the sound of a microphone on snare and shaker but found that an SM57 in his usual position sounded less muddy on a 1958 tweed means nothing to me. Whether it's software or hardware, I try to show the reader what the controls look like, and if there are some tricks you can do if you know what that oddly named button actually does.

On the other side of the fence, George Petersen once told me that if I wrote a review that was longer than about 2000 words, I was re-writing the manual. My response to that was "Yeah - I'm telling the reader something that they should have put in the manual, but didn't." Maybe it will be helpful.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Stephen Fortner #3038064 04/10/20 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
We have a real thirst to be the New Yorker of music instrument journalism while the corporate publishers are trying to be the BuzzFeed. The sense is that if no-one is doing depth any more, someone is going to miss it, and we want that audience.
Yes, please.

Obviously if I'm trying to evaluate music gear, a way to hear it in action is helpful, but so much of my day is full of video and audio that for the love of god I just want to read about somebody's experience with what a thing can do, and how they can apply it.

I loved your CP73/88 review for that very reason.


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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Stephen Fortner #3038078 04/10/20 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Stephen Fortner
I'd be interested to hear anyone's opinions about the following: Are you still interested in long-form, in-depth articles such as artist interviews, product clinics, etc? I have been talking with a colleague who's another casualty of Keyboard (hint: it's the guy who's been cranking out said long-form artist features for the past four years) about making this happen in a way that's part of or affiliated with MPN. We have a real thirst to be the New Yorker of music instrument journalism while the corporate publishers are trying to be the BuzzFeed. The sense is that if no-one is doing depth any more, someone is going to miss it, and we want that audience.

My heart says this is my calling and my head says its a Quixotic quest. How about yours?

Every time I buy something of some value (musical instruments, appliances, etc) I search for in-depth and objective reviews, and it's often a challenge. I originally found Keyboard Corner (and, by extension, other MPN content) when I was trying to find useful information and reviews on keyboards. I definitely appreciate these reviews!


Joe
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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3038095 04/10/20 03:37 PM
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Always up for longer form reviews and features. It's also a reason I started my podcast: even though we don't cover gear in depth I wanted a way to capture as much of each guest's perspective as possible, even if the interview goes for an hour or more.

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3038099 04/10/20 03:45 PM
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I generally have ended up just downloading the manual and reading it before I buy something to make sure it will do what I want it to do.


Dan

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
J. Dan #3038106 04/10/20 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by J. Dead
I generally have ended up just downloading the manual and reading it before I buy something to make sure it will do what I want it to do.

That can be a valuable lesson all it's own.

I used to accumulate the worst of the worst but all that is gone now, except an occasional memory.

The installation sheet for some guitar tuning machines comes to mind. This is only minimal paraphrasing due to years since I saw the original. "Less Bifiction ever before, sprendid durability" and I forget the rest of that sentence but it was equally indecipherable.

I've seen lots a excellent manuals, well written, structured in a logical sequence and easily understood. I've seen some where you can figure out what they are saying but just barely. And, as above, I've seen a few that were WTF?


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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
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Over time, I found that to cut my reviews down to the target size they would lose so much of the colorful commentary, and the opportunity to discuss process, workflow, design issues I had. I have always written full form without consideration for final target, so I got my true thoughts and exploration down onto the page. Then I would shape it to fit... that gets harder and harder to do in our current climate. I was constantly told that consumers don’t have the attention span to digest lengthy articles, and I get that, to a point. But I still believe they want an experienced, insightful and informative exploration of the product they’re interested in.

There are enough “lite” reads out there, there need to be some deeper reads to offer more to those in search of real information to learn from.

My favorite synth/keys reviewer is Gordon Reid at SOS ( sorry to my brethren here). I know he is eminently qualified, I know he will go deep, and I know he’s not afraid to call out a fault if he sees it. Our brothers here are also part of the upper tier of experts (is there such a thing?). I say go for it!

Jerry

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Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Anderton #3038842 04/15/20 10:43 AM
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Anyone notice how thin Mix magazine has become? In its heyday an issue was as thick as a small town phone book - with useful content to fill it.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
Mike Rivers #3038884 04/15/20 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Anyone notice how thin Mix magazine has become? In its heyday an issue was as thick as a small town phone book - with useful content to fill it.

Mix magazine was targeted to professional studios. Ads and articles featuring high end gear and industry professionals.

How many of those studios are still around? A lot less. The home recording market has dominated, and they're certainly not going to buy the SSLs, Neves, Lexicons, et al that graced the pages of Mix.

TapeOp and SOS have been the "Mix" magazine for the home recording market.

Re: Has Music Instrument Journalism REALLY Come to This?!?
The Real MC #3038915 04/15/20 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Anyone notice how thin Mix magazine has become? In its heyday an issue was as thick as a small town phone book - with useful content to fill it.

Mix magazine was targeted to professional studios. Ads and articles featuring high end gear and industry professionals.

How many of those studios are still around? A lot less. The home recording market has dominated, and they're certainly not going to buy the SSLs, Neves, Lexicons, et al that graced the pages of Mix.

TapeOp and SOS have been the "Mix" magazine for the home recording market.

Which just goes to show...adapt, or die. Look at SSL: They're coming out with inexpensive interfaces for home recording, and taking advantage of their brand in a different market. They've been adapting for a few years now.


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