Assuming the producer and engineers have delivered a master to you in the form of a disc or a sound file, each individual listener has the option of consuming that media in a variety of ways. I’ve been talking about the “standard operating procedure” used during the production stages over the past few days, but everyone…especially audiophiles…love to tweak the sound produced by their systems endlessly to modify the final fidelity. Notice that I said “modify” and not improve the sound of the ultimate playback. Everyone listening to a selection of music has his or her own individual tastes, listening hardware and software (their ears and brains) and prejudices.
Contrary to the well-known audiophile magazine, there is no “Absolute Sound”. Is listening to my recordings in my studio (where they were mixed and mastered) the ultimate statement regarding those recordings? I can assure you that it’s a wonderful experience and how I experience them, but that doesn’t exclude the experience that someone else has using another system or a great set of headphones. It’s all good.
I remember an early customer writing to me and stating that he was floored by the “fidelity” of our Latin Jazz recording with Luis Conte, David Garfield and the late David Carpenter…and he couldn’t wait to hear how the disc would sound when he got a chance to hear the losslessly compressed MLP DVD-Audio version of the tracks. He was listening to the Dolby Digital encoded format!
Whenever I hear a professional acoustician talk about including this or that level of room ambiance in their designs, I usually raise my hand and ask if they believe that adding additional reverberation or modifying the timbral characteristics of the masters is his or hers to judge? Why not trust the artist and the production team to deliver what they consider ideal sound.
This translates in to the last “few feet” of a sound reproduction system. Of course, the room is important. But what we really want is a room that is built to emulate the finest studios in the world. And that means understanding that the best studios in the world don’t have the esoteric speakers that make the cover of the audiophile magazines, they don’t have amplifiers and electronics that cost more than automobiles and they definitely do not wire them up with speaker cables and interconnects costing tens of thousands of dollars. And finally, they don’t place use ANY of the audiophile tweaks that add that special mojo to the sound emanating from their monitor systems.
If the “absolute sound” exists at all, it is the playback that is experienced in the best mixing and mastering rooms of the world. That’s why I encourage audio and music lovers to visit my studio and hear what I hear.