It’s really easy to participate in an audio show when you don’t have to load in a bunch of high-end gear, unpack everything, arrange a room and get great sound to happen. I don’t set up a system at the Capitol Audiofest…just me and a couple of draped banquet tables in the Madison Ballroom along with the other vendors…most of whom hauled heavy crates of used vinyl LP to their tables. I got up early, got ready to go, stopped for breakfast and then headed to the Sheraton Hotel in Silver Spring, MD. Within 30 minutes, I had my system up and running and the products spread out on the table. Simple.
I had some time before the show opened at 10 am and drifted around the show floor chatting with familiar people and friends. I happened into the seminar room where Thomas Perazella was setting up a very nice stereo system to use during his session of speaker design and issues. He was due to present at noon followed by my presentation called, “Definition, Downloads, Devices and New Directions”. He was playing a few recordings that he had acquired from some of his recording engineer friends. There were no commercial tracks. They all had that “live” sonic documentary sound, which doesn’t really work for me. And I told him that I didn’t really feel that the few tracks that he played were the best examples to demonstrate…at least they weren’t working for me.
The sound that was being reproduced through his system was very familiar to me. I spent many years capturing live performances using a couple of mics mounted on a stereo bar and lofted 12 feet up in front of the ensemble. The resulting sound is spatially quite good but the distance from the instruments to the microphones is just too great for me. The sound is diffused, muffled, hollow and the one example that he played with a male voice just sounded off mic…and lacking in presence. This is the sound of the “Golden Era” of record making from the late 1950s. It’s characterized by an open sound, lots of room ambiance and a broad stereo image. It may be the preferred way of capturing a live event…but the end result just doesn’t engage my sensibilities.
So I offered to bring in a USC stick and share a few of my tracks. He thought that would be a great idea…he’s always looking for quality recordings. So I gave him “Let Them In”, by John Gorka, Brandenburg No. 5 Mvt 3, “Lowlands” by Hanna/McEuen and “Mujaka” by The Latin Jazz Trio. We played “Let Them In” first. After moving the speakers a little further apart, the sound gelled for the sweet spot and things sounded great. He agreed. The speakers disappeared and the music flowed effortlessly into the room. All of the music cues of space, dynamics, inflection and range came through as if the ensemble was in front of us.
That wasn’t the case when he played recordings that were supposed to reproduce the sound of a live event.
He was very generous to offer the use of the system during my presentation, which I did at 1:30. I played “Let Them In” again and the Brandenburg to the full house…and had a great discussion of the current state of affairs in high-resolution music. I enjoyed it and engaged with some current readers and met some new friends.