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Mark Simonson

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Mark Simonson
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  • Re: The vinyl records of font formats

    I went to a high end consumer audio show recently, and almost all the exhibitors were demonstrating their equipment using vinyl records as source, not digital. I doubt audiophiles would drop six figures on a second rate sound system.

    Essentially, people who prefer vinyl prefer the way it distorts sound, whether they realize that's what it is or not.

    There are also a lot of psychological and subjective factors at work in the high end audio business. When you pay a high price for something, research shows that you will believe it is better than if you paid a much lower price for the exact same thing. The type market is not immune to this, either.

    We human beings are not as rational as we think we are, but we excel at rationalization.
  • Re: The vinyl records of font formats

    That's interesting, Nick, but that article actually makes some of my points about the limitations of vinyl.

    The part where it quotes someone saying "...lossless" doesn't elaborate on what they mean by that. Any time you make an analog copy, there is generational loss. A vinyl LP is at least two generations away from the master tape, and the master tape is at least one generation away from the session recordings. The engineers take this into account and try to compensate, but there's no getting away from it, only disguising it. CDs, on the other hand, really are a lossless format. It's uncompressed, which is why you can't put more than 70 minutes on a CD. The data encoded on a CD is an exact copy, bit by bit, of the master digital file.

    The article makes some good points about the evils of audio compression, but that's not the same as MP3 compression, which is simply throwing away more or less inaudible parts to make the file smaller. Audio compression is an engineering technique that makes the music sound "louder". It's possible to do this with analog recordings, too, but to a lesser extent. Because digital audio has much greater dynamic range, it's easier to do with digital recordings.

    It's like cranking up the saturation and contrast on a digital photo. Just because many digital photos are abused in this way doesn't mean the format is inferior to film. It's the same with digital audio. It's a terrible idea and the only reason it's done is because if you don't your recordings will not sound as loud as recordings that do use it. It's like how they crank up the color on the tvs at Best Buy. So everybody does it.

    This lack of audio compression is one of the advantages of vinyl, and I think it's a legitimate reason to prefer it. But, ironically, it's because of a limitation of vinyl, not because it's a superior audio format as such. Digital audio is capable of greater fidelity than vinyl, but it is true that that capability is routinely compromised for the sake of loudness, at least with pop music. High end audiophile CDs are another matter.
  • Re: The vinyl records of font formats

    This idea that analog recordings are superior, because they are continuous whereas digital samples are are discrete, is a misconception. I used to think the same thing. The root of this is probably the typical way that a digitized waveform is represented as a stair step shape. This is not how it actually works.

    If you take a pure sine wave analog signal, run it through an analog to digital converter, then take the output and run it through a digital to analog converter, the original wave and the reconstructed wave, at a normal CD sample rate, will be virtually indistinguishable on an oscilloscope, and indistinguishable to human ears.

    You can see a very nerdy demo of this here: 

    With type, it's different, especially when we view it on screens, which are digital devices. At lower resolutions or close up, you do see the stair steps.
  • Re: How do you inspect a UFO file?

    The best practice is to get the spacing (adjusting the left and right sidebearings on the glyphs) to look as good as possible without kerning. Only after you are satisfied with that should you start kerning. Kerning is meant to deal with exceptions—spacing of glyphs that can't be addressed by adjusting sidebearings alone. Usually, these are glyphs with left or right profiles that are uneven, like T, A, L, J, r, period, comma, etc., and often glyphs with round profiles.

    Something that novice type designers often get tripped up by: Kerning is not the same as spacing. Kerning is a system for handing exceptions to normal spacing, which is dictated by the sidebearings.
  • Re: Naming font modifications

    Why not use "New" instead of "Neue"?