So what should the engineer do if he wants to produce the most realistic lifelike faithful copy of the performer(s)? Depends. First of all, he must decide whether he is going to bring you into the concert hall or put the performer(s) in your living room. And he will also need to decide if he wants you to listen with loudspeakers or headphones. In theory he could specify all the characteristics of your audio system to deliver the most accurate sound field to your ears (actually it’s your brain but we’ll get to that later). That would be one hell of a recording. We all know that doesn’t happen.
So what’s the point? The point is you can spend as much money as you want on your audio system (and we will visit this topic later as well!) but unless the guy behind the glass has the same goal as you do, you may find that you have wasted a lot of time and money.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a recording of your favorite artist if the engineer doesn’t care about accuracy as much as “creating a sound”. But the good news is that much of this is “Down in the Noise”…
If I were to ask you which component in your audio system is most responsible for the accuracy of your reproduced music, what would you say? I bet most of you would say your speakers. Or maybe your amplifier? Turntable pick up?
Nope. It’s kind of a trick question. The most important component is the guy behind the glass. The recording engineer has all the control. He decides where to put the microphones, what microphones to use, how many to use, how to process the sound of each, how to adjust the tonal balance, how to treat the dynamics, how to mix them down into a two track product.
And he may well have a different goal than you or I. His job is to capture an artist’s sound and produce a product that will sell and make money. That often is completely different from making a recording which, when played in the home on a well designed audio system, accurately produces the illusion that you are there in the studio or they are here in the room.
He must produce a product that the largest number of consumers will like. And that means it must “sound good” on the widest possible type of playback systems. Anything from smart phones, to boom boxes, to minivans, to portable “record players”. And of course, it must sound good on the radio. Audiophiles are often left in the dust.
To be continued…
Ok kids. Let’s start with a few ground rules. After all, we need to be on the same page. If you haven’t read “About This Blog” that’s a good place to start. Go ahead. It won’t hurt you.
If you still want to read me, we need to talk about some audiophile concepts.
My focus here will be to discuss producing, in a home environment, a sound field which is indistinguishable from the original live acoustic musical performance from which it was recorded. Why only acoustic music? Because (almost all) electronically amplified music recordings have no original acoustic performance. They commonly exist only in the engineer’s headphones or played back over studio monitors after being altered by the “production” process. There is no reference. Sadly, even much recorded acoustic music suffers from a similar fate. But at least there were some sounds that were originally made by the artists that could be heard in person and theoretically reproduced in the home.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my rock. I do. But listening to an electric guitar is a subjective exercise. If you don’t like the audio processing the engineer chose in the studio, you can crank up the equalizer and make it sound any way you like. Personal preference. No problem. But there can be no reproduction if the recording itself is the “original”. So we will be dealing with the unplugged tracks here. The ones that actually use microphones to capture the original sound. Cool.
Still with me? Good. Don’t worry. This will be fun. I promise.