Presonus? Loudspeakers? Really?
One of the most common comments about my review of the Presonus Eris 7.1 monitor system is one of surprise that Presonus make good loudspeakers. It's as if the brand isn't associated with good kit, or perhaps that they're not renowned for loudspeakers in particular.
I know that if I'd been presented a bunch of options on a spreadsheet, that as long as the speakers met my technical spec, that Presonus probably wouldn't have caught my attention. Even then, I'll freely admit that I took a chance. As my articles said, it's not very easy to A/B compare two 7.1 monitor setups, especially if you don't know anywhere that already has the units you're interested in.
So what is it about certain brand names that seems to give a "marmite" reaction among audio professionals?
When talking with some of my peers, they can't believe that I also swear by Genelecs. They prefer far more esoteric brands such as Dynaudio, PMC, or Meyer. Mention to a film sound pro that you've got JBL's behind the screen and you'll often get a mocking reaction.
Break Out The Behringers
I've been guilty of it myself. On a recent tour of Goldcrest's beautiful new Dolby Atmos mix room, I chuckled to myself that among all the top end kit, there were a couple of Behringer units. A colleague of mine here at Pro Tools Expert recently had a piece of Behringer kit fail on him, and commented, "I'm not surprised". Why is that? Because of the brand? I have a couple of bits of their kit, and although I was mocking of its inclusion in a top flight installation, I've known nothing but good build quality and reliability.
Every piece of kit can have its moments, and there's always one case of something playing up regardless of the manufacturer. What's important is how the support service works, and as the more hardened of us (read: cynical) know, a big company can often have crappy customer support.
Focus(rite) On Plugins
It reaches further than hardware though. When the original Focusrite Red D2 / D3 plugins came out, how many of us reached for them, mainly because they're prettier than the stock Avid ones? Why does a nice looking user interface equate to good sound? Personally I am not a fan of the Focusrite EQ and compressor plugins - I don't think they're a patch on their hardware equivalents, and felt quite often that people who swore by them were kidding themselves.
I've never been a fan of "modelled" plugins. I feel that if you're setting out to make an EQ, you should make the best EQ you can, rather than measure a classic and try to reproduce it, along with all its faults. What I would say to plugin developers, is make your own classic. Make such a good EQ that it becomes a classic in its own right. Make your own user interface the new paradigm. And to users I'd say, try listening to a plugin before making judgements about how it looks.
What's The Harm?
But does "brand snobbery" harm Pro Audio? Recently I saw a documentary where a leading brand of cola had its labels removed, and then given to people who usually drank that brand to taste. Without fail they all thought it was a supermarket own brand equivalent, even though it was actually their usual tipple.
This is all very well when it's a global drinks brand versus a global supermarket chain - they're big enough to weather it, but when it comes to audio software, and hardware, I feel that it does more harm and can actually stifle development.
Time for a quick poll -
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.