Demonstrating Great Audio
What’s the most important aspect to a great demonstration track? Of course, it depends on the circumstances but I think we can all agree on what the ideal result would be. Any person having experienced the demonstration should have heard amazing fidelity (not just a louder, bassier, treble heavy track)…perhaps to the point of making a purchase. The hard part is trying to identify the qualities that will elicit the appropriate response.
If you attend any of the major audio trade shows and take the time to audition the sound in the demo rooms, you’ll hear a wide variety of tracks. Some vendors opt for familiarity over true fidelity. Others play the usual “audiophile” fare because the recordings contain more of what audiophiles want…dynamics, detail, warmth and richness. As a producer of content, I’m fortunate that I don’t have to search very hard to find great sounding recordings. But I struggle when presented with an opportunity to impress a group of press or audio enthusiasts that expect name brand talent. That’s when I reach for my first tier artists: Jennifer Warnes, John McEuen, Willie Nelson, Rita Coolidge, Carl Verheyen, Paul Williams, Melissa Manchester, The Dover Quartet and the New Jersey Symphony.
However, while I recognize that name brands bring a sense of comfort and reality to a demo, the best stuff that I’ve got are performances by second tier or even unknown artists. Listen to “Lowlands” by Hanna/McEuen or “I Saw A Stranger With Your Hair” by John Gorka and your jaw should drop. I’ve done this enough times to know that it works…I believe a great sounding track is more impressive than a good track by a major celebrity.
The other day I was talking about the ammo that JBL’s Professional Products guy, Peter Chaikin, has in his arsenal. I know this list isn’t comprehensive but these are the tracks that Peter offered up during our recent demonstration session in the Midwest.
• James Taylor – Gaia
• James Taylor – Line ‘Em Up
• James Taylor – Limousine Driver
• Kari Bremnis – A Lover in Berlin
• Korn – Did My Time
• Dido – Don’t Believe In Love
All of the tracks are standard definition 44.1 kHz/16-bit rips from CDs or some other digital source. Some of them sound amazing! And others are more of the usual commercial stuff. Here’s a track that I raved about after hearing it in New York at the NARAS event:
Figure 1 – The spectrum of James Taylor’s “Line Em Up” track recorded by Frank Filipetti. [Click to enlarge]
I must say I love the sound of this track. Yes, there are the telltale signs of compression during mastering but it still maintains a reasonable degree of dynamic range. It is a standard resolution file from a CD and I fear that I would grow weary of it after many listens but this one is among the best of the best.
On the other hand, “Limousine” is harsh, overly processed and just too pumped up to be listenable. Here’s the spectrum of that one:
Figure 2 – The spectrum of “Limousine” also by James Taylor. [Click to enlarge]
Finally, my hat is off to Kari Bremnis with her tune “A Lover in Berlin”, which is both a wonderful song AND a terrific recording. I’d be interested in knowing how she managed to create AND release a recording with so much dynamic range and fidelity.
Figure 3 – Kari Bremnis from Norway and the spectrum of her tune “A Lover in Berlin”. [Click to enlarge]
I’m planning on getting together with Peter and Chris of JBL/Harman and making available a variety of my Ultra HD-Audio tracks. When they’re out playing demos using the M2 speakers and the other high-end equipment at their disposal, it will help to have a mixture of great sounding recordings…from celebs AND from fidelity minded artists/labels.
10 thoughts on “Demonstrating Great Audio”
Mark, I never heard of Kari Bremnis and checked out the track you mentioned on Youtube. Fantastic song and it even sounded great through my mac speakers. I will have to grab the recording. Hopefully it is available as a high rez download somewhere. If no, I will grab the CD.
I have to dig deeper into this artist as well. It’s a good start when she shares my daughter’s name…Kari.
I think Kari Bremnes is quite known out there, but obviously more in European and Scandinavian musical spheres. The label she has worked with over the years, Kirkelig Kulturverksted (founded by producer Erik Hillestad) is well known for it’s excellent recording practices, as are many other Norwegian labels – like Hubro, Sofa Music, Gigafon, Rune Grammofon, NORCD, Curling Legs, Smalltown Supersound, Compunctio, Jazzaway, Jazzland Records, Inner Ear, etc. – that are sadly unknown and unavailable in shops in the US.
Norwegian labels have in my opinion higher standards than American record labels, and so do many other European labels. I think there’s far too many labels and artists that you simply can’t find on the American market and in the usual shops, and it’s really positive that sites like QOBUZ (despite their whole Studio Masters debacle), Boomkat, and Norwegian based Gubemusic and Klicktrack, offer a glimpse in to the huge and valuable music production that these small yet highly productive countries have. I would easily count Norway as one of THE music super powers on the planet, and Norwegian musicians and labels account for more than a third of my personal collection. Just browse through Gubemusic, which features a few Brittish and German labels, but who offer at least 95% purely Norwegian labels. Klicktrack is entirely Norwegian.
I think the American market and musicians in general are suffering from a huge cultural disconnect and isolation. I have lived most of my life in Europe, and all the music Festivals you can find between Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Switzerland is a huge eye opener for any musician, and should be of interest to American artists as well. It’s been literally years since I bought a single album recorded in the US and with American musicians, and that should certainly be telling. Just take a peak at French-German TV channel ARTE, and there online archive of HD video performances of current Festivals and venues from all over Europe and you will get my point. And yes, you can stream all those lusciously filmed concerts for free during 90 days after their live broadcast: http://concert.arte.tv/fr
Indeed, yesterday I was listening to music all afternoon, taking advantage of the neighbors are on vacation (pool can expect), his various recordings that a great friend and percussionist unknown. He stood amazed at the definition and fidelity sound of your shots, voices and instruments was sounded with a wonderful clarity. Also heard the last processed the YES group, and 5.1 bluray, THE YES ALBUM. Really sounds like if the recording had done yesterday and discover new sonics not previously oíamos.También our teams have improved. But one thing my friend asked me is that they had left these musicians who were little known, so wonderful. Few people know who played the guitar with Paul Mc. or Bruce springten … Maybe if you did Mark work with Paul Young, for example, AIX RECORDS jump would be substantial. Although not necessary for me. Greetings from Spain.
All I could find are CDs and vinyl rips claiming to be 24/192 on bit torrent sites that I will pass on. Will have to snag a CD.
Found the flac 16/44.1 download on her site. Vinyl also for those out there so inclined.
Camilio, I couldn’t agree with you more! I spend time in Europe each year and the number of live musical events in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, Vienna, Prague and the like is staggering. We see as many as we can when we go. Music seems to be much more part of the social fabric in Europe than in the US. It is taken much more seriously and more important in the lives of more people there than here.
Your comment is spot-on, Joe, there is simply an altogether different appreciation and value given to music and culture, and to universal access to culture. Most of the Festivals I attend are open air and running throughout spring and summer, and more than half are completely free, as they are completely financed by the regional and local cultural budgets that are assigned by the cultural ministries of Germany, Sweden, France, Holland, Austria, etc.
I wish there was a higher value given to culture and universal access to culture in the US, and that the government would spend more on the arts than on arms and war. One of the most positive aspects of highly valuing culture, is the impact it has on society and communities. In the multicultural societies of Europe, putting culture and arts high on the value scale promotes understanding, peace and respect among people and across cultures. I think the US would benefit greatly from stronger cultural policies like the ones we still have in most of Europe.
The ARTE Concert link I posted also features Opera, Theater and top notch performances from the most important dance Festivals as well. This recent rendition of Hildegard von Bingen’s Geistliche Gesange – featuring Ibrahim Malouf on trumpet and quarter tone trumpet – is simply breathtaking, check it out: http://concert.arte.tv/fr/ibrahim-maalouf-revisite-hildegard-von-bingen-au-festival-de-saint-denis
Here’s the link to all the shows http://concert.arte.tv/fr/videos/all When you reach the bottom of the page just click “VOIR LES CONCERTS SUIVANTS” (View the following Concerts).
You can find Kari’s albums at klicktrack, https://shop.klicktrack.com/artist/71590 and Gubemusic, http://www.gubemusic.com/search?q=kari+bremnes. If you like her song “Lover in Berlin”, from her 2000 album “Norwegian Mood”, you should definitely check out her more recent stuff. Also, I checked my copy, and it is made and released in Germany via ARS (Audiophile Record Service), also available on 180g High Quality Vinyl. It was sponsored by Clearaudio, Phonosophie, Acapella Audio Arts, Audio Physic.
Kari has also recorded with her brothers Lars and Ola, and with Swedish singer Rikard Wollf for the same label, Kirkelig Kulturverksted: http://www.kkv.no/en/English1/
I have downloaded the FLAC 16/44.1 version of Norwegian Wood. I can see why mark liked it so much as the recording techniques sound a bit like his. It is a great sounding record with some very nice tunes.