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.