Letters From Smart People: Some of Our Best Mail From 2013

"Trust Me, I'm a Scientist"You might have noticed that we don’t really have a “comments” section on Scientist. That’s by design.

If you want to let us know what you think, we welcome you to write us an email anytime. Here are a few of our favorite letters from 2013:

The article on working for free kills. Thank you!

-Shane Michael Rose


I just wanted to let you know how much I loved the piece you did on sample rates. In an industry where thoughtful, deep articles are needles in the haystack of gear reviews and dubstep bassline “how-tos,” websites like yours are a godsend.

I’m so glad you and other writers like you find the time to publish despite being otherwise engaged full-time in the audio industry.

Nick Zamora


[In reference to “The Science of Sample Rates“]: Dan Lavry lives out this way (Seattle) and presented just this discussion some years ago at our PNW AES Section meeting. He knows of what he speaks.

It is fair to say our listening environment is very, very quiet and extremely articulate in allowing for a very high audio discernment level. A number of us in the studio have unsuccessfully attempted to, but not actually perceived, any regularly predictable difference between 24 bit 48KHZ and either 88.2KHz, 96KHz, 176.4KHz nor 192KHz.

One or two listeners have actually been slightly disappointed with 192KHz. One may detect, depending on content, differences between 44.1KHz and 48KHz. The argument for 60-65kbps is based on math coupled with our perceptual hearing. It’s strong, IMHO.

Truth is, I cannot offer a strong argument for recording at 24/96 (which has been, nevertheless, our default session setting, excepting 16/44.1 v/o work) other than for the 24/96 discs some well-intended “audiophiles” wish to have.

While I am not “against” recording at higher sample rates, I am unable to offer any experiential or technical argument for higher sampling, other than an occasional source/unusual mic/very high spectral content/electronics design optimized situation.

And, as it’s been pointed out elsewhere, what may have been intended to be optimized for, say, 24/96 may disappoint at either higher or lower sampling rates. As always, YMMV.


Mike Matesky


Slowly but surely making my way through every article on the site.

[How Long Does It Take to Make An Album?] was an excellent piece, as always, and really hit home; not just for album making but pretty much any artistic or logistic endeavor that ends up taking much longer than you think it will.

Please keep the articles coming! A big fan of TMIAS.

-Jessen Jurado


Just finished reading your excellent article on album productions costs and methods.

When you mentioned that it often costs about the same today to produce a major album as it did in 1993 [roughly $ 30,000.00 to $1,000,000.00] you forgot the depreciation for the last 20 years.

$1 million today is worth about $400,000.00 of 1993 currency [here in Canada]. Add to that the fact that actual studio and musician fees are about the same for the last 15 years, and you get an even lower actual cost today than 20 years ago.

My partner and I made a comparative “chart” few years ago , comparing 1990 quality production budgets and the equivalent investment needed today to match 1990’ productions. In summary, we arrived at something close to less than 40% of real 1990’s costs. (I am talking about what Majors used to pay for.)

Robert Langlois

Thanks for weighing in, Robert. You’re right to say that we didn’t explicitly mention inflation in the May 6th article, and that’s a good point to make. In a follow-up article, we went into some more specific numbers, explicitly accounting for inflation in at least one example.

But I think the inflation rate in Canada may be a little different than in the US. The inflation calculator I’ve been using suggests that $1,000,000 in 1993 would be worth about $633,000 today rather than $400,000, making today’s real costs more like 60% here in the US.

Even with lower basic technology costs today, the biggest portion of studio expenses remain the real human costs realized through rent, labor and the value experience. And, even though costs of basic multi-track technologies have gone down, the money saved is often spent on new technologies, new services, and new software programs that allow us to do more work than ever.

We may have cheaper computers, but in many cases, we’re working harder, better and more than ever. Maybe it’s about time we started earning more, too.


Hey Justin,
Just wanted to let you know, I really liked that article on finances – probably a weird one to get excited about but you don’t come across that kind of thing too often in music/recording land blogs.

Was inspired enough that I already signed up for Mint.com and emailed my financial advisor to ask him to double my monthly retirement contributions.

I’m new-ish at this studio thing, and have been selling my services for about a year now. I’ve been working wherever the work is. My first gig after “going public” with my studio was with my own band at a solar powered cabin that other band members designed and built.

The whole band is made of engineers, and I’m a licensed engineer too, but all I provided was the wattages to support a rock band. Its a fun story, and if you’re interested I did a blog here: http://redroomrecordings.ca/?p=72
Rock on dude,

Josh Maitland

Thanks Josh. A solar powered tracking session? Now that’s engineering.

I want to commend you for doing the Golden Ears Challenge. It’s really nice to see some objectivity brought to this subject. Anyhow, I was thinking that there might be some “special” audio material that trips up mp3 in some rare cases. I found one case where degradation was audible at 256k mp3, although the difference seemed to go away at 320k.

Try listening to the first track on the Sigur Ros album Agaetis Byrjun. At about 50 seconds in there is this noisy rumble sound that doesn’t seem to encode real well at 256k and below. But I didn’t spend much time trying to hear a difference at 320k, so maybe with more critical listening a difference could be heard. It might also have been my codec. Maybe other codecs would have worked better.

Anyhow, I’m sure there are other examples, and maybe some that trip 320k mp3. By the way, I’ve been chatting with a guy who has designed codecs and he said that he has a long list of “Codec Killer” music recordings that expose compression artifacts in mp3’s even at 320k. But he said he would have to search his files for it, and so far I haven’t seen it yet.

Personally, I’m quite happy with 256k VBR, except in that one case where I went to 320k, even that was pretty subtle. Thoughts?

Chris Townsend

Thanks for weighing in, Chris. I’ve also heard anecdotal accounts of some recordings that just don’t seem to encode properly at rates lower than 320. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some rare and specific material where this might be true at 320kbps as well. If we can confirm that this happens at 320kbps, with some types of files, that would be worth knowing, right?

It also seems worthwhile to know just how rare or common this kind of thing may be, so that listeners can make informed decisions about their resolution of choice. At this moment, the answer seems to be “so rare that we have no clear and independently verified evidence that it does happen at all.” But the challenge continues, wherever it may lead.

I just read your article on studio rates — Killer job; that’s one of the most informative and well-written articles I’ve read in recent history, kudos! You’ve got me thinkin! Thanks again for a great article!

Chris Mara


“You’ll know that you’re successful when your regular output of music becomes so great a part of the lives of others, that if you stopped releasing it, people would notice, and they would complain about it.”

Yo, its the first Monday… Where’s the November issue at?
Big fan,
Josh Starks
November 4, 2013, 9:22am

I love that you’re complaining! And quoting me!! Thanks! New issues usually finish posting anywhere between 2:30 and 5pm ET on the first Monday of each month.

We usually start posting stories to social media the following day, and recently, we’ve been sending out our once-monthly newsletter on Wednesdays. But there may be some exceptions — usually around U.S. holidays.


Note: Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

This entry was posted in All Stories, December 2013, Featured Stories, Guest Posts. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
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