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Do software reviews matter any more?


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There was an interesting post in another folder that inspired this topic...

 

Given the internet, user groups, downloadable demos, and the intensely personal nature of preferences for user interfaces, do reviews of software matter to you anymore? Are you interested in seeing what professional reviewers have to say about something? Are updates happening so fast, and systems so variable, that it's impossible to keep up anyway?

 

If not reviews, who do you depend on for guidance about software purchases? Is there a good music store near where you live where you can try this stuff out? A trusted friend or guru? What is the deciding factor in getting you interested in a piece of software, or taking out the old credit card and actually paying for it?

 

Tell us what you think.

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Good topic Craig - something I've been thinking about a lot lately as more processing can be done on computer. How do I know which software is really up to the level of professional quality outboard gear? I have been thru many plug-ins lately learning the hard way, which is expensive, and often disappointing.

 

We need really good reviews from people who have great ears and that are doing high-quality professional work. Interface is important, but sound quality is paramount.

 

I think the reviews matter and I wish there were more and more decisive ones like I see on mic pres for example, where some are praised and other are pegged as economical mid range.

 

I think many of us have been through the trial and error thing and landed on a consensus that Waves does good products who are the others though? I still dont feel there is a really good DirX reverb out there maybe there cant be yet due to the amount of processing required. I recently purchased the Waves C4 Parametric Processor and it is the 1st plug-in Ive seen that really takes my CPU up to 90%.

 

So, yes, there are a ton of plug-ins and other products out there bring on the reviews.

Steve Powell - Bull Moon Digital

www.bullmoondigital.com

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I'm definitely still interested in seeing what professional reviewers have to say. Although the informatio I get fro the internet has been immensely useful in making equipment/software purchases, a lot of the information I come across is of questionable merit -- people either don't know enough about competing products to make comparisons, or they aren't proficient enough to make it work the way they want to (which leads to a bad review), or they just plain don't know what they're talking about. I don't always find magazine reviews helpful (especially when they appear six months after a product's release), but I still find them very useful.

 

Jonathan

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> do reviews of software matter to you anymore?<

 

Great topic, Craig!

 

I find reviews useful IF they are thorough and IF they are unbiased. Too often I see reviews that fail to list the negatives, or even if they do they still end with "but if you're in the market for a good [whatever] you definitely should check this out!"

 

--Ethan Winer

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The reviews are useful, only because they're not the only sources of info.

 

I do remember getting really irked at this one reviewer who reviewed Vision. He praised it and said he switched from Cubase and just totally gave it a thumbs up the entire superlong review. And then after Opcode closed shop he said how he also was upset and was "misled" by them, and thus switched back. What the hell was that? It's still a great program, but because they just closed it was suddenly awful and he didn't mean all those good things he said? How credible are these reviewers?

 

I have a lot of respect for the reviewers in the trade magazines. But after running into too many programs that just didn't fit my style of working yet was the perfect fit for the reviewer... well, you know. But it gives us a good place to start researching the Web and asking friends and forums like this one.

 

By the way, these forums are definitely cool and extremely helpful in more ways than one. Especially for those of us who live in Bufu, Egypt.

 

I don't wanna talk too much, but one last thing. The least helpful of all of the things Craig said has to be the music store people. Worthless. Once in a blue moon you might get to talk to someone who actually knows what he's talking about, but even then it's never more than what you already found out reading reviews or surfing the web. They should just have the store and hire a pleasant techie to turn the stuff on so you can hear it and make sure you don't steal anything.

Raul
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yes I'm interested in what the pros have to say about the latest developments in software.we trust that these individuals will come forward w/honest unbias reviews of the latest products on the market.however i find it hard to believe these opinions are free from the $$$ nepotisms that often find their way into the music biz.but that never stops me from reading about the lates softsynths of whatever i happen to be looking to spend my hard earned money on this week.

 

as somone who is just starting out in the project studio biz i rely heavily on the opinions of the pros.

 

when i bought my new powermac G4 moving from a IBM comp.was a large leap cuz i was not familiar w/ the whole concept of macs,i researched & discovered everyone who was doing similiar things to what i wanted to do was using at least G3s.hence i bought the G4.

(i love it http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif)

 

yes updates are moving @ the speed of light systems ever changing & it would be impossible for somone on a limited budget to keep up. software developers/hardware companies ect. are to engieers/producers what record companies are to performing artists.the $$$ shall rule.

 

i depend on the opinions of the working man that uses the product on a regular basis not as much the payed reviewer.( which is why these forums come in so handy:cool http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif

 

there are not enough stores to carry all these products not to mention a knowledgable sales staff.mailorder company's i.e retawteews ect. carry a great selection of the newest products but their obvious favoritism towards certain companies tends to

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be a little discouraging.not to mention you can not test the products before you spend thousands.

 

the rule i like to keep in mind when buying new gear whether software or hardware is research research then go research more & more...using every possible resource i can find.

 

stay cool everyone & keep those http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/biggrin.gif coming its our responsability to keep our hard earned cash working for us or why else would we sling pizzas in a resuraunt @ 110 degrees for 70-80 hrs a week dreaming about that new focusrite plug-in. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/rolleyes.gif

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i definately DONT rely on anything somebody in a music store has to say. most stores are filled with morons which is why im pushing for direct from the manufacturer sales. stores just get in the way. there is NO WAY to demo at a store.

 

and magazines should be able to keep with updates considering they come out monthly. but they need to do a better job reviewing. but then again, the software is all about interface and options.

 

but there is really no best app. i use motu because of the tightness and integration of their whole system and makes troubleshooting a lot easier. definately dealing with tech support [which i havent had to do in quite sometime]

 

i think that reviews matter more now than ever before.

alphajerk

FATcompilation

"if god is truly just, i tremble for the fate of my country" -thomas jefferson

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Hi Craig,

 

Yes, I still read product reviews and think that they're *very* valid. You just can't trust the kid at GC. Their usual response is to a question is "uh, I dunno cause I only use a Mac". Although, I have to say that it seems that product reviews as a whole (not yours of course) are getting a bit soft and not critical enough. By soft, I mean that they basically reprint the product spec sheet and offer little or no real information. By not critical enough, I mean that they're not critical enough http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/wink.gif. Many independent websites are now giving better in-depth product reviews than the printed mags simply cause they don't have to worry about what the paid advertisers think.

 

However, on the other side of the token, not enough people do their own research and try out demo versions and download PDF manuals when available. I find this (the internet) to be the most valuable resource available. If I'm buying either computer or recording hardware I'll download the manual or even driver and read through the read me before I make any decisions. This saves a huge amount of time and prevents you from wasting your money on a product that you can't use. It's easy to download demo software, and more companies (but still not enough) and now offering functional (i.e., saving) demo's of their software. Keep the good reviews coming!

 

-Dylan

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>>however i find it hard to believe these opinions are free from the $$$ nepotisms that often find their way into the music biz.but that never stops me from reading about the lates softsynths of whatever i happen to be looking to spend my hard earned money on this week.<<

 

Believe it or not, that really doesn't influence the reviewers that I know (GP, EQ, Keyboard, etc.). They are well-insulated from ad people, and a lot of mags have manufacturers pull ads for one perceived slight or another.

 

The biggest problem I have with doing reviews is computer-based gear, because of all the combinations and permutations. Cross-platform programs are the worst, because you have to test them on two platforms. The "solution" I've come up with is to review the program full-on for one platform, then just try it out with the other to make sure it works okay. It would be better to test both exhaustively, of course, but when you consider what people get paid for reviews and how rapidly they need to be produced, that's really out of the question.

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Craig, on the cross platform thing I agree and then there is the issue of architectures too - DirectX, VST, etc.

 

It might be nice to see some in depth platfrom v platfrom or architecture v architecture reviews. Maybe a given product will sound just as good in VST as DirectX - I don't know, but an in depth look at that could be important.

Steve Powell - Bull Moon Digital

www.bullmoondigital.com

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Hey Craig,

I might be buying EQ mag issues 6 months old but those Software reviews are my lifeline, and to the people I help setup with their system. If you'll notice, I'm relatively new to this forum, besides this, All I had was EQmag, Guitar player, Electronic musician and a much defiled textbook on Orchestration. Keep up the great reviews man!!!

 

joel....

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I must admit to being somewhat taken aback. I posted this topic expecting to be beaten up -- "reviews don't matter any more, I just go to newsgroups," etc. But this is gratifying, because reviews are very time-consuming and difficult to do. After reading all your comments, though, I feel like redoubling my efforts knowing how important they are to people. Thanks for the feedback. Any suggestions about how reviews could be improved? More web examples? More comparisons? Shootouts vs. single-topic reviews?
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Craig,

 

> Any suggestions about how reviews could be improved? More web examples? More comparisons? Shootouts vs. single-topic reviews?<

 

Side by side comparisons are the most useful to me, because when I'm looking to buy something I like to know how the various brands and models compare. Otherwise I have to comb through stacks of separate reviews. Much better if you do the work for me. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif

 

--Ethan Winer

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Reviews are very important to me in making a decision. It's useful to check Usenet, etc., but as others have said, having a pro put a product through its paces in a real world environment is very valuable. Doubly so when it is a reviewer you are familiar with and trust.

 

The problems I have with reviews is when they seem to gloss over the negative points. A balanced, objective opinion is what I am looking for. I also agree with Ethan that side-by-side comparisons are very useful when possible.

 

Thanks!

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i do notice that reviews always gloss over the negative aspects. those are the ones that tend to burn you AFTER you buy it too.

 

and especially with ad claims that might be half truths should be dealt with [such as the midi interfaces coming out with usb claiming third ms timing]. of which is very misleading. and i would like comparisons with serial midi ports on ACTUAL timing of data at the output of certain popular midi modules, see how quickly reality is and not just going to the midiport.

 

i would like to see harsher reviews if a product sucks. i dont like the diplomacy that seems to fill between the lines of reviews, thats where the alleged politics seem to dwell. and why theres a bit of mistrust conveyed earlier in the thread.

alphajerk

FATcompilation

"if god is truly just, i tremble for the fate of my country" -thomas jefferson

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Originally posted by Sergievsky:

I would like to see better conclusions. I'm kinda tired of "Add this to your list to check out" conclusions. More ballsy conlusions please. Like, "This is better than (this product)".

 

The problem is that there are so few products that are black-and-white, obviously better than others. Look at the POD vs. J-Station thread: there's no consensus on which is better than the other. It depends on what you want, and what you need. Or a product might be better in some respects, and worse in others. For example, back in the early days of MIDI, I used Master Tracks Pro instead of Performer even though Performer was (theoretically) a better product. But for editing controllers and pitch bend -- essential for MIDI guitar work -- MTP was vastly superior. To work all these variables into a conclusion ("It's great for this, but not for this, on the other hand if you play bass it has a great tuner, but...") is difficult. Personally, I don't think people read my reviews to find out whether I "like it" or "don't like it," because who cares what I think? I believe my job is to describe something as accurately as possible, so people can make up their own minds whether it would work for them or not.

 

It would be very convenient if products were so easy to compare. But there are a hell of a lot of nuances in today's multi-function boxes. One reason I'm enjoying the web is because of the ability to put on sound files and videos...I want to get into that more.

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Craig,

 

I consider reviews very valid for all kinds of product, not only software. Having read numerous music gear publications for 25 years (too old to rock?) I have found a few reviewers I really trustas their needs and testes seem to be along the same lains as mine. Then I have found some reviewers whose edorsments work as a warning flag for me.

 

The internet gives me more options to find information and I happy about that even though I find many of the reviews in customer databases (like Harmony-Central) to be of wildly variable value. I read them if I'm interested in a product but rarely am I influenced by them.

 

The things I'm interested in learning about are problems or nice things about using the equipment. It may be a horrible interface, functions missing that really should be there, problems connecting to other products, manufacturer's claims that may not be true, quality questions.

 

I would like reviews to be factual but not boring to read. I enjoy humor and enthusiasm as much as the next guy.

 

I also enjoy a personal comment on the sound because I always listen to everything I buy before I part with any cash. MP3 files is a source of sonic enlightenment that I would like to see more of both at sites like Musicplayer.com as well as on the manufacturer's web sites.

 

More reviews makes for an informed buying decision. Keep them coming Craig!

 

Best regards,

 

Mats Nermark

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I basically use the internet to get details and specs about a certain product but when I don't generally get simple details like you have to print an effect in cool edit to listen to it in a mix. or you can drag a file from the explorer to a track in Vegas which saves lots of procedures and is not found in other programs.

My initiation to MIDI came in the form of the Roland S-50 in '87 with a simple sequencer called director-S. Voyetra SPgold in '88 because Computer & Music wrote that it was then the best program for the PC. Not until cubase for windows did I change sequencers (only because of the pattern sequencing as I am a guitarist and lousy keyboard player) and still find that using the keys is faster than a speeding mouse especially in changing windows. I read a lot of the reviews and try to integrate which procedures work for me or not. details like that get a long way. sometimes the best program is not the best one for you or the work you do. When doing MIDI towards an audio file, I still use a (egad!) DOP pro. Keep those reviews coming especially those plugins he.he.

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Craig, great article on Mastering (July EQ) with WaveLab and SF - just the kind of thing I like to see. It's nice to see someone else slugging it out with a similar approach with these digital tools - even in the car. http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/smile.gif

 

The "how to" and "what works" well as some of us move away from the established rack gear will be a growing topic of concern. Keep it coming.

Steve Powell - Bull Moon Digital

www.bullmoondigital.com

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I'm finding articles like the one you mention, that detail a "real world" example of using gear, are getting a really good response...so I'm doing more of it, of course! Like in the next EQ, I did an article about doing audio for an industrial 1.5 minute video. It was a whole different set of constraints compared to normal.

 

Also, Mitch Gallagher is having me a do a piece on using the Korg Electribe gear as a production system rather than as a standard-issue review. That should be a real kick to write, yet it will have many "review-like" elements. So maybe reviews need to be less concerned with what something is -- you can find that out from a spec sheet, a lot of times -- and instead talk about how it's used. Actually, now that I think about it, DJ Russ Reign always reviews gear by taking it on the road, using it, then writing about it.

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I also enjoyed your mastering article. Also that article when you scored a film. As it happens I'm about to score my first film and I definitely can't come across as amateur in this if I want to be hired again so any such insights that I can read certainly helps. The huge articles in Mix about the films done in the huge complexes with huge budgets do not apply and are only of marginal help to me, so I appreciate what you've written.

 

And that's a good idea as far as writing review-like articles in a production setting. Not just hardware but software as well.

Raul
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I think the service that MusicPlayer, Harmony Central, et al, do is incredible. Their reviews come out quicker than the magazines and are useful for making purchase decisions.

 

English language reviews coming from professionals versed in technical proficiency and grammatical know-how are vital.

 

I've gone to newsgroups looking for up to the minute tips and tricks and musicians trying to communicate in the lingua franca (English) of the internet. Sometimes it's a little frustrating to form coherent impressions from this. We may be geniuses in our native languages but trying to communicate in another language occasionally makes us into blithering idiots. I know the rest of the world does a better job of communicating in English than I could use German, Italian, Polish, etc. but it ends up having a Tower of Babel effect. The process of trying to communicate this way is difficult.

 

There needs to be a multi-lingual website for spot reviews of the latest gear and software from around the world run by music and translation professionals. For some things I can be patient, but if there is a product that I know I want NOW, I'd like to have a learned technician give me a balanced opinion. The roundups of the major trade shows are great, but there's a lot of product that comes out in the interim.

 

There's a lot of youthful, hotheaded opinion coming from the news groups. It seems to come from wanna-be musicians who want everything fast, easy, with shortcuts and with no pain. They want gear to be on the bleeding edge, to be perfect and to almost automatically create music with no input or effort on their own. These kind of opinions I cannot trust and I can do without.

 

We're all in a rush but there is a time to carefully consider the facts at hand and make a mature assessment of the matter in question.

 

Professionals will always be needed.

 

Thanks for the topic, Craig.

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I gotta say...all these comments are really helping me focus on what's needed to take reviews to the next level. It's a whole new world now that we have the web, and I've only done one review that was designed from the ground up for the web, and has appeared only on the web. As I learn more about how to exploit this medium, I expect any reviews will become more relevant.

 

Thanks again for your comments, feel free to keep 'em coming.

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