In Search Of Higher Quality Audio

– “FINALLY! A new audio player that features negligible improvements to sound quality while digging into my junk with a sleek triangular form-factor!” …or… “Is that a pono in your pocket or do we have a date?”

Record producers are always trying to get an edge over competition and will try any trick in the book to improve the perceived quality of their recordings. Witness the mastering limiter, SA-CD, surround sound, exciters, et al. All of those either lost favor, never took hold, or became self-limiting in the case of the loudness wars (wonky engineering pun intended).

Now we stand at a crossroads in regards to the next great leap in sound technology. It could be argued that the last great leap was the development of the MP3 file compression format back in the mid-90’s – which was a step backwards from the trend of increased recording fidelity. Naysayers aside, the leap that came before the MP3 – the almighty CD – was the last great leap forward. Proponents and naysayers alike agreed that the qualitative shift that occurred from records, cassettes, and 8-track (google it) to CD was vast. It was not a technology that was difficult to sell. You did not have to be a sound engineer to notice the difference in quality that CD could bring. To the average music-listening public it was a “no-brainer.”
Continue reading

Self Mastered Music: A Common Tale of Triumph and Tragedy… But Mostly Tragedy

music mastering

"Mastering Hell"

So, you’ve actually recorded your own music and gone through the arduous, though fulfilling, process of mixing it yourself… “so far, so good” you think. But now for the finishing touches, the dreaded MASTERING phase of your recording. Ah yes, the arcane yet fine art of polishing a, hopefully, already good sounding mix (rather than polishing a turd, one hopes?). The one stage of the recording that, rumor has it, even the most hardened DIY masters don’t dream of doing themselves. Dr Dre, Tiesto, Trent Reznor – none of them even come close to grappling with the mysteries of mastering, favoring instead to hand off their carefully considered mixes to, often, an anonymous engineer – crossing their fingers while putting their baby in the arms of a stranger. “WOW!” you exclaim to yourself, “If producers of that calibre don’t trust their ears at that stage, it must involve some kind of dark magic that a lowly unknown producer like myself shouldn’t even attempt!”
Continue reading