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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Studio Placebo

Here's a great movie on the "placebo effect," which is the fact that if we are told a pill will affect us and we believe it will, that effect will occur even if the pill is a mere sugar pill with no active ingredients.

This can happen with our hearing as well. Case in point, I worked in a studio in the 70's that had a three-way toggle switch on the master panel that was not only unlabeled, but was no longer connected to anything. One day I decided to label the up position "Aphex" and the down postion "B-phex," with the middle position labeled as off.

The Aphex aural exciter was really hot at the time and there was a lot of press about it, although most people had never heard it, and there was never such a thing as B-phex. I would have clients every day that would argue over which sounded better - Aphex or B-phex. The truth was that the switch wasn't connected to either, but the clients truly believed that they heard something different.

Sometimes I'd even use it to my advantage with a particularly difficult client. "Turn on the B-phex and that will take care of your problem," was all I would have to say. Unbelievably, most of the time it really did.

Enjoy this short video. It has nothing to do with audio, but you can use some of the techniques to your advantage in the studio.

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wabaus said...


Sound engineers use DFA levels to help finicky musicians:

You can even pick up a DFA t-shirt for your favorite sound engineer:

Rand Bliss said...

The placebo effect works when gigging live too. Whenever someone comes up to the stage and asks if you can turn things down, they can't hear a conversation, you say 'Sure, not a problem.' Then walk over to the PA mixer and within full view turn one of the inactive knobs or faders (or both) downwards a notch or two. The 'someone' smiles, says thanks and walks away none the wiser. It goes without saying I do respect people's hearing as much as my own, but if 99% of your audience come to enjoy the music no one has the right to spoil it for everyone when they can just simply leave.

Albert said...

Your Aphex switch story made me rather think of the "magic/more magic" legend in the hacker world:

In other words... are you *sure* that the sound didn't change when you flipped the switch? ;)

Juan Febres said...


You missed this kind of client:

"what if we patch aphex output to b-phex input, because i like the different colours of both"



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