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The post-studio lives of productions
Old 18th September 2011
The post-studio lives of productions

When a song, album or other production is released to the public, the material is replayed on all manner of systems - from multi-thousand dollar hi-fi kits, to the little speakers of someone's iPhone. Obviously, it's the job of the mixing and mastering engineers to create a product that will "translate" to as many systems as possible. None of this is news to anyone here. Lately, I've been interested in vintage hi-fi gear. This equipment has a lot appeal - from sonics to aesthetics, there is a lot of value in this listening equipment. It can sound great, clearly better than you average iHome or whatever other horrible playback device people will subject your work to. However, it's a slippery slope. Not too long after foraying into the audiophool world, one will encounter all types of components with features and price tags that would make even the most deep-pocketed studio owners cringe. My question is: does it make sense to own listening equipment that is "superior" to the location at which the track was finalized? (ok, "classic" recordings at least.. With much of today's music coming from bedrooms and tracked through $100 worth of equipment, it is possible that improvement could be achieved...) At first thought, I would guess that a track would sound its best where it was made, and everywhere else is just varying degrees of loss from the original. Could information extracted from the audio through "better" speakers have a detrimental effect on the way a track sounds? Maybe. Additionally, you read in a lot of reviews of equipment that it sounds "harsh, brittle, thin, muddy, etc etc..." Maybe the things that attempt to make it sound "better" are the culprits.. But, maybe the reason it sounds that way is that the original recording was just IS a little harsh, brittle etc? Maybe someone went a little overboard on the EQ and that's why it sounds harsh...? Engineers aren't perfect, after all.

Of course, preference is subjective and has a lot to do with the listener's ears. I recently bought a pair of speakers. When I was auditioning them, the previous owner asked how I listened to my music - he meant EQ settings. I replied, "um... Flat." He looked shocked. "You what...?" I saw then that his preferred settings were somewhere around +8 dB bass, -1 dB mid, +8 dB treble. How predictable. Aside from poor taste, the first thing that came to mind was hearing loss. Either way, it's what sounded good to him. He was completely jacking up Van Halen, as if Ted Templeman was the one with the goofy ears. Hey man, EQ is not the "sound gooderizer" setting. In fact, I don't know what business EQ has on hi-fi equipment in someways...

It seems that in a listening world, you would want something that does the opposite job of studio monitors: translates all mixes to one set of speakers. I don't claim to know much, but I would be willing to bet that silver cables, $1000 jacks and the like aren't the way to get there. By the way, the next guy I bought stuff from had about $50k of audio equipment in his 10x10, untreated living room. *facepalm* Sorry dude, but whatever you buy isn't gonna fix this room. #chasingtheunachievable

Just some interesting thoughts I had today...

Old 18th September 2011
Gear Guru

Originally Posted by statzern View Post
does it make sense to own listening equipment that is "superior" to the location at which the track was finalized?
Up to a point, I would say yes. If that superiority is measurable or detectable to a blindfolded listener. Just because the engineer did not consciously perceive it, does not mean it didn't make it onto the tracks!

The equipment it was made on probably does set some limits; I would look at it as squeezing a little bit more blood from the turnip.

I personally don't have the money to play that game. My cash all goes into the Means of Production side. If I had the money, I would insist on a blindfold test for anything that is priced "deluxe". A luxurious "overkill" listening system would be a pleasure, but if I can't hear it with my eyes closed, it's by definition 'not worth the money'.

There's some amazing speakers and so on, but area is so full of quackery and rip-offs from preposterous misuse of scientific terminology, to outright belief in magic.; from naive gullibility to maddening sophisticated apologia. It kind of turns me off, making me even extra skeptical. But on the other side, I have heard some stellar systems and was very impressed.

I am pretty sure it was the speakers and the amp, not the cable lifters and the little red clock.
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