With the official release of Neil Young’s Pono player, the debate of high resolution audio has reared its head again.
Are we having the same debate, on the same topics, some seven year later.
Are you going to purchase the Pono Toblerone and its $25 albums? -*Or did this post get it right?
Just Record it in Dubly ~ Originally Published June,-*2008
Digital Audio has been the both the savior and root of evil for the music business, truly the conversation has migrated from the back rooms of audiophiles and tech geek into the general zeitgeist.
While today,Aeos populist conversation centers on the question of downloading in the digital domain with the repercussions on intellectual rights and distribution models, there is a more overriding debate- which has existed since its beginnings.-* The question is of Sound Quality.
Many of us were-*inside witnesses to recording studios transitioning from the old Analog Studer A-800 24 track machines to the Sony and Mitsubishi 48 track digital units. -*Sad as it was to see the older machines go, we-*considered ourselves-*lucky to have been involved at this particular time. Lucky to have learned such-*venerable process -*as the syncing two 24 track Studers,Aeo via a Timeline Lynx- a very hands on process. -*We-*were lucky to be-*taught by some of the ,Aeoold timers,Aeo still practicing the ,Aeoart,Aeo of analog while becoming familiar with the new digital machines as well.-* I
n short we were-*given the privilege of learning the method and process which the digital machines incorporated behind the scenes.-* (Many of us-*would also be lucky enough ,Aeiin much the same way- to learn from a number of ,Aeoole,Aeo slide guys the process and method of setting up multi-image shows. Working with these gentlemen helped us-*understand the fundamentals of media presentation. It also helped us understand how to deal with the ,Aeithen- new media (meaning the medium) in video,Aei(CRV, Mavica, DVD, etc) then pushing slides into extinction.
One of the earliest and most persistent criticisms of digital recordings is the ,Aeocoldness,Aeo-* in the sound for which all manner of outboard processing is used in final mix down to help alleviate. The post production -*processing is used ostensibly to add back in the ,Aeowarmth,Aeo, that harmonic distortion of analog tape provides. -*In recording studios ,the amount of gear that was used to ,Aeocorrect,Aeo the coldness of a digital recording astounded me (still does).
At the time Stephen St. Croix wrote about the failures of digital,Aeos promise but eventually he came around to ,Aeoembracing ,Aeoit. -*In particular his-*article praising the newest version of Sony,Aeos ATRAC compression scheme for the mini disk ,Aei (which came too late and directly after one of the early Sony disasters of which would become all too familiar later on). -*Many of us-*came along slowly to the revolution in digital media but now embrace our-*iPod and streaming media.
Now we all-*know of several close associates who will (and have) argued that a high quality MP3 is possible and have provided us with recordings to prove their point.-* The recordings are truly beautiful, but the mass market will never accept them- at least enough to have those who record them make any money back. Sorry, but the dynamic path of change rules out all but the midland formats for mass market distribution.
While it is true the digital format and (more importantly) the playback devices have become astoundingly better then products offered only few years ago–*and the recorded quality has become noticeably better in the 20 years of digital, trepidation still is present. The-*question is whether or not we have reached a leveling off as the amount of music being played, shared, transferred and sometimes even sold can support a higher grade format en masse.
A bigger question is if we have already witnessed the peak and are now at the top of a descending arc.
I write about this after listening to a podcast of T Bone Burnett on WNYC,Aeos Sound Check where he rails against the current poor state of audio quality in today,Aeos recordings by calling it
-*,Aeu,Ae xB6a Xerox, of a Polaroid of a print of a painting,Ae xB6.,Aeu
T Bone,Aeos solution is to provide a number of formats on the DVD audio disc, so the listener can utilize the format of choice but have access to better if desired.
Mr. Burnett also makes a great point that listening to compressed digital audio is akin to
,Aeo,Ae xB6hearing a Stradivarius through a hallmark card speaker.,Aeo
Two comments which left me nodding my head, but he follows it up with another classic argument surrounding digital recordings, that of sample rate. T Bone restates the pet peeve of a number of recording engineers- that 44.1 KHz hobbles the quality of the recording from the get go.-* Even with the Nyquist frequency many-*have trouble seeing any benefit from setting the sample rate to 96 or 128Hz.
Yes, the music played at the time of recording produced frequencies far above and below the human threshold.-* As a musician Mr. Burnett is appalled that all this information is just cut out. -*Many audio folks on the other hand feel that the extraordinary recording (one that captures every nuance and harmonic resonance) will go completely unnoticed by 90% of listeners who do not and will never have the equipment to reproduce the sound properly.-* Perhaps someday everyone will be able to own music systems which will give them true sound in every environment, but that day is a long time off.
It is worth applauding the fighting of the good fight but there is a reason nearly every studio control room has an auratone located dead center on the mixing board, to simulate the average home system.-* The engineer can insure that the essential instrumentation comes through even in mono.
Indeed we are setting the standard to never exclude the Lowest Common Denominator.
Image is copyright Endolith-*used under Creative Common Licence-*