There are plenty of audio engineers and enthusiasts that are happy with the sound of the music they produce and consume. And I really do enjoy listening to Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon recordings played loud once in a while. Music has that special ability to reach beyond the cognitive parts of the human species and get right into your heart and soul. So why have I been spending so much of my life (20 years worth now…and counting) trying to push the envelope with regards to high-resolution audio recording AND playback. It’s simple…because I believe that producing uncompromised new recordings in real HD-Audio makes a perceptible difference. The experience is not subtle…and better than what we’ve been listening to up until now.
But as one of my readers pointed out today, the monitor speakers that I have in my studio don’t have a flat response past the traditional upper limit of 20 kHz. My five trusty old B&W 801 Matrix III spec out to around 20 kHz and then start to drop off. It doesn’t mean that they have a brickwall at 20 kHz but still they aren’t equipped with “super tweeters” and weren’t designed to extend in the ultrasonic region. So if my system isn’t pumping out the octave from 20 – 40 kHz then why am I advocating for recordings that extend to 40 kHz and beyond? The tracks that I’ve highlighted from Qobuz and other sites that lack any meaningful information above 23 kHz will sound the same as a well-done CD, right? So what’s the deal?
Well, because there is ultrasonic acoustic energy in a performance space where musicians are making music. A Harmon muted trumpet or the cymbals of a drum set are capable of producing ultrasonics AND there are plenty of microphones that response to these frequencies. Our high-resolution ADCs and recording DAWs (digital audio workstations) can record ultrasonics AND we have playback equipment that can reproduce them. My old B&Ws are not giving me state-of-the-art reproduction but the prototype Oppo Headphones that they provided and the new SONY 7520 headphones are. I’ll be doing some rigorous testing of over the next few days AND I hope to acquire a set of Harmon M2 speakers that are essentially flat to 40 kHz.
If there’s ultrasonic frequencies in the room where the music was originally played then I want to capture them and reproduce them…just because I can AND because it’s the intellectually appropriate thing to do. While I hope to be able to conduct a research project to firmly establish whether ultrasonics actually matter…at the end of the day, we may never know for certain. But I would rather overreach than accept the established norms. Why not? It’s so simple to move up to high-resolution recording AND distribution for new recordings.
After a lifetime of working with audio and sitting for endless hours in audio studios, I think the best recordings can be produced today. We didn’t reach the ultimate in high fidelity in the 50s, 60s or 70s…we’re there now. Be sure to download the example high-resolution audio files that are on the FTP site and listen for yourself. And then let me know what you think.