As we move forward reviewing hardware and software here on Cinema Sound, we’ve devised a rating system which we believe will help our members choose how to spend their finite resources. It is divided into two types: one for software and one for hardware.
The ratings take on the form of LED lights on a meter bridge and correspond to the sound pressure levels possible in the human hearing mechanism: 0 dB – 125 dB. I know that some of you may dislike the idea that good ratings are in the red and bad ratings are in the green, but since this is a website devoted to audio, we figured it was apropos. Just remember that louder is better.
Ratings in the yellow area are by no means to be considered bad ratings. They would be considered “fine” or “nominal. However ratings in the green area are definitely considered negative. On the bottom of the scale is “noise” denoting the “noise floor,” and any piece of equipment that cannot get out of its own noise floor should not be used.
For the software systems there are three scores which contribute to the overall score: “Friendly”, “Features” and “Value.”
We use the Friendly category to include any consideration for how easy the software is to use, how well it responds to user input, and how well it plays with other software in its system. Does it crash a lot? Is it difficult to navigate? Does it require a lot of user input in order to get a good result? All of these things are considered when we make our judgment in this category.
We use the Features category to include any consideration for how many cool things a software program or plug-in can do. If it is a compressor, is it a multi-band compressor? Can you change attack and release? Does it have auto gain? Does it have side-chain? If it is an EQ, how many bands does it have? Does it have bell, shelf, pass, and analog modeling? Basically, the more features it has compared to its competitors, the higher this rating will be.
We use the Value category as a basis for combining the capability of the software with how much it costs. If you have the most amazingly friendly and feature laden EQ on the planet, But it costs $10,000, it will get a very low score in this category. But if you have a lousy DAW that only records in 12 bit and 32 kHz sampling rate, but they PAY you $100 to download it, It will get a very high rating in this category.
For the hardware systems two of the scores differ from the software ratings: ” Fidelity” and “Form.”
We use the Fidelity category to include any consideration of the integrity of audio processing. If it is a microphone, how well does it transduce the incoming sound? If it is a recording device, how well does it reproduce the incoming signal? If a speaker, how much integrity does that speaker have transducing voltage into sound pressure level? And so it goes.
We use the Form category to include any consideration for how the item is built, durability, ergonomics and general consideration for its construction especially as it may relate to being “road worthy.” A ribbon microphone may receive an incredibly high rating for fidelity, but it may receive a low rating in this category because one drop and you need a new microphone. This would be true unless the microphone is beautiful to look at, has all of its selectors in a very convenient place and is spearheading the technology for creating robust ribbon microphones. Such a product would receive a higher rating.
The last rating: ”CS Rating,” is my overall view of the product whether soft or hard-ware. It strongly weighted by the other three ratings, but it does not rely on them entirely. I add my take and “feeling” on the product. In other words, it might be possible that an item might receive high marks in all three categories, but because I don’t like how the manufacturer implemented its use for we filmmakers, it might receive a low overall rating. This rating is not a general rating of worth, it is a rating for how the unit supports us in the filmmaking community. I will always explain myself if the ratings are weird in this, and you’re welcome to dispute them. As a result, the CS Rating may show dramatically different results from other websites or reviews. We think this is just fine. In the end, we recommend you ask further questions on the various review threads to find out more before you make a choice about purchasing any particular product. Other members may have different points of view as well. We censor no one in our review articles. Cinema Sound is a resource for y’all. Let the CS Rating be a guide, not the Bible.
Be encouraged to suggest equipment which you’d like us to review. Let us know in this thread! We’ll do our best to contact the manufacturers and have them send us your suggestion, if we haven’t used the gear ourselves so that we can bring you our findings.