As I mentioned yesterday, our “Guitar Noir” recording by Laurence Juber has been widely recognized by fans of acoustic guitar playing as one of the reference recordings available on any format. I still use the “Mosaic” track to demonstrate the clarity and transparency of high frequency material. When the percussionist plays a set of wind chimes made out of the tuning pins from a junked piano, there are sonoluminescent sparkles coming from the speakers. I’ve never heard anything like that sound except with our recording at 96 kHz/24-bits (this is one of the free downloads available on the FTP site BTW).
So while Laurence was here the other day, we got talking about the different production paths that he’s used over his career. The “Standard Time” CD that will accompany his book was recorded on 2″ analog tape with Dolby A noise reduction, mixed to 2-track analog and then digitized at 96 and 192 kHz/24-bits. The projects he worked on with Sir Paul McCartney were probably done the same way. In fact, I’m pretty certain that the “Guitar Noir” DVD-Audio, high-resolution audio recording is unique in his professional experience.
He’s made his living performing and recording music. He can tell you the difference in sound between a Martin acoustic guitar with a Sitka spruce top and one with a piece of spruce from some rare stand of trees in Scandinavia. The same goes with different types of strings…it’s really amazing. His latest project “Under an Indigo Sky” on Solid Air Records was first released as a 180 Gram vinyl LP before the CD version was made available. He likes the sound and warmth of analog tape and analog electronics.
So as he was praising the fidelity and the “feel” of his analog projects, I asked him about the sound of our “Guitar Noir” project. It’s a question that I’ve wanted to ask for a long time. The way I figure it…if I can capture the kind of sound that became an instant reference in the catalog of guitar recordings using 96 kHz/24-bit PCM digital without any analog stages involved that he would become a convert and want to make more recordings this way. And in fact, he has made a bunch of recordings this way with me. The “Surrounded by Christmas” record is among my favorite recordings in spite of being a holiday recording.
Laurence told me that what I do at AIX Records is a completely different recording style and process. It’s not comparable to the normal way of recording records…and the resultant sound is completely different as well. He acknowledged that the “Guitar Noir” recording presents a very accurate and transparent presentation of his playing (and the playing of Steve Forman and Domenic Genova) in a way that vinyl LPs and analog tape couldn’t. But for him and probably most other engineers, producers and audiophiles, it’s the “feel” of the music that matters most…regardless of format.
That’s hard to argue with. Just listen to The Beatles or Led Zeppelin or James Taylor…the music that comes from those productions is what makes them magic. It’s not about the extra octave or the ultimate level of dynamic range. It comes from the genius behind the arrangements, the riffs, the solos, the quality of sound, the imperfections and the “mojo” that only happens rarely. He’s right, of course. It’s only guys like me, Todd Garfinkle of MA Recordings and Morten Lynberg of 2L that are trying to stretch the boundaries enough to capture the “feel” AND the spectacular fidelity that high-resolution audio can produce.
I like to think that I’ve captured many of those moments in the 15 years since the founding of AIX Records. I know that we did it with Jennifer Warnes almost a decade ago. Everyone that walked out of that session knew that it was a special session…and the first time that Jennifer heard the tracks in the studio…she was beyond words. I still listen to those tracks and am amazed. To hear “So Sad” or “Prairie Melancholy” in 5.1 surround in my room is the highest expression of musical reproduction that I’ve ever heard.
Too bad I’ve been prevented from releasing the Jennifer Warnes project. Don’t ask me why…I really don’t know.