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4 thoughts on “LIT Redux: An Expanded Approach

  • May 27, 2014 at 5:29 am
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    Hi Mark,

    I recently discovered your blog through a couple of FB posts from Benchmark Media and Morten Lindberg. I have long been looking for a place where the current HD audio hype was discussed in depth, more than just promoted as the latest audio panacea. As a musician, frequent buyer of downloads, as well as a modest hifi enthusiast and amateur in the art of recording, I am as interested in the topic and outraged by the scams, lack of serious technical expertise and science behind the whole lobby trying to push consumers to buy into the HD audio formats.

    Needless to say, I absolutely support your take-no prisoners approach and your merciless and iconoclastic, yet respectful and fact based tone of your posts. It’s the best and most educational audio blog I’ve had the pleasure to read since I got down to reading NwAvGuy’s blog. As a matter of fact, I just have some 10 posts to go to cover the entire blog, and I just picked up reading yesterday. My sincere gratitude for your entertaining, challenging and ultimately necessary writing.

    Regarding your above outlined itinerary of questions that are urgently pending research, I have a briefly debated with Morten Lindberg on FB regarding the 4th question, but from the perspective of – what I would call – “Audience Stereo” (A/B, X/Y, etc. recordings) vs Stage 5.1 Surround perspective. A bit in the direction of the Dutch reader you mentioned in your “Establishing Your Listening Baseline” piece. I think that the preconceptions and expectations that you describe as a barrier to immediately appreciating the 5.1 Stage approach are significant, but I wouldn’t qualify or dismiss the Dutch listener’s point of view as the demand for a merely “documentary” audio recording.

    Firstly, because I think the kind of stereo recording he suggests, or the ones I appreciate (some of the ones made by MA recordings’ Todd Garfinkle, for example, and despite his predilection for recording in DSD, etc.), aren’t the predominant ones, and thus require some barrier breaking too when it comes to preconceptions and expectations we have from listening to highly compressed, edited, overdubbed, mixed and processed audio. They too speak a relatively odd vocabulary and constitute a minority like 5.1 audio – be it “Audience” or “Stage” mix -, which radically oppose the predominant recording techniques and characteristics we have been accustomed to.

    Secondly, regarding the argument of “delivering and entertainment experience” that you introduce with the film analogy, it is also ultimately a question of aesthetics and how our sensibilities have been educated by the music industry, since the objective of “delivering an entertainment experience” is in some measure responsible for our current and highly degraded experience of recorded music.

    As a musician, I am more inclined to view music – and film – as a “deeper” and more complex experience, that unchains reflection and introspection as much as its beauty conveys sheer pleasure, much in contrast to a mere entertainment or a sensationalist consumerist novelty that has to impact my senses with some new effect to secure my attention. In other words, I’d rather enjoy Tarkovsky’s Stalker than Avatar in 3DHD.

    What – in contrast to compressed tracks with overdubs and exagerated reverb effects – appears to be a flat and boring presentation which could be characterized as “documentary”, constitutes an aesthetical choice, which is in tune with a different musical sensibility (that arguably also depends preconceptions and expectations).

    As much as the second argument might sound ridiculous and conservative to some, it is as much a question of sensibility as the learned and acquired taste barriers that stand between listeners and what I called “Audience Stereo”. With this I don’t mean to disqualify any 5.1 mix as mere effects, not at all, just to overdramatize the contrast of different musical sensibilities – and aesthetic ideologies, if you wish – and how they can perceive eachother. I have enjoyed some of 2L’s 5.1 and 7.1 recordings (I have unfortunately not heard any of your recordings yet; inexcusable, I know, and I’ll get signed up to iTrax pretty soon, that’s for sure), but the soundstage – and “sound sculptures” as Lindberg puts it -, have not convinced me as much as binaural recordings for example (another technique I’d put under what I called “Audience Stereo”), and the 5.1 and 7.1 experience has managed to distract me from the music rather than “immerse” me in it. It is not that I don’t sensorially adapt to it, but I have a more immersive experience with binaural recordings. I think the spatial cues available in A/B, X/Y, binaural stereo recordings, could partly be responsible for the coherence of the listening experience, and that the sense of space contributes to immersiveness.

    I’m definitely not going to argue that stereo is somehow more “natural” and representative of how we hear, but at least for the inclusion of the diverse Stereo recording techniques in question 4, and binaural recording in question 5, that I felt you dismissed a bit too quickly in your “Headphone Surround: Smyth Style” piece. I know that 5.1 and 7.1 have great potential, but I don’t think they are anywhere near of making stereo obsolete.

    I didn’t intend this coment to be less concise than your post, so sorry for that.
    Again, thanks for your effort and all the learning I’ve done in the last 24 hrs.

    Cheers

    • May 27, 2014 at 8:53 am
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      Thanks for the lengthy comment and welcome to the world of Real HD-Audio. With regards to mixing perspectives, I find the aggressive…and somewhat artificial…mixes to be the most exciting! And many of my customers have come around to this sort of listening as well. It may not be for everyone. I think stereo will dominate for many years to come but having the choice to listen in other perspectives is possible…so why not?

      Morten and I are friends. His style of recording has garnered him a great deal of praise and Grammy nominations. However, I find the distance from sound source to microphone too great. I like the close up sound. Todd Garfinkle and I see each other often and went to school together. His stuff is a documentary but again to drifty for my tastes.

      I can’t say that my goad is to create a natural representation of a concert or performance. As Steven Stone pointed out in the John Gorka vs recording that we did in Chicago…the proximity effect comes into play. But it would in a PA system as well. We have lots of choices…

  • May 29, 2014 at 12:10 am
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    Hey Mark,

    Thanks a ton for your answer and comments. I was amazed that I got feedback on all three of your posts I commented. Thanks!

    I am working my way through the last juicy posts I have saved for last, so by the weekend I will up to date with the entire blog. I am having a great time reading and discovering tons of new stuff. New to me, that is.

    I am really curious about your recordings, and I’m lucky a friend of mine has aover a dozen of them, plus a fabulous Emotiva 5.1 system. I’am stereo dude, what can I do, that’s just my thing… maybe some day.

    I have heard Morten’s stuff from 2L through my friend’s rig, and I thought they sounded better than I thought they would precisely because of that distance and spatial feel they have. With the reference you make regarding the distance of the mics, I’m just imagining what your mixing sounds like, so I’m looking forward to listening to it.

    Since you mentioned Todd and you knowing him, I was thinking about provenance in his case. I know he doesn’t do downloads, but would his recordings make it to your HRA standard if he did? I think Todd’s recording are just beautiful, disregard how much of the 24/176.4 container he is actually filling up with his recordings. I also pretty much subscribe his philosophy regarding space as part of a recording and even the performance. As a musician I hate studios, and I just love to play where the space is one of the elements that’s part of what I’m doing. I think the sensual aspect of hearing oneself play is a great deal of the pleasure of playing and certainly has a vivid impact on the perfromance and the final outcome.

    Anyhow, thanks again for sharing your knowledge and valuable insights.

    Cheers

    • May 29, 2014 at 7:00 am
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      Every engineer has their own preferences and style just as every musician tries to carve out their own style and “sound”. When I started AIX Records, I decided to do something somewhat unusual…a live recording in a rich acoustic space using stereo pairs of close up microphones. This is a hybrid approach that combines the reverberation of a real space (great for performers), the proximity of commercial recordings like Windham Hill and the flexibility of pop/rock records.

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