Can a hi-fi be too revealing?

We have to remember something else, especially with pop music--the engineers mixed these tracks to make a hit record, not to appease audiophiles. In hindsight and now on better equipment, I'm sure many had wished they recorded those tracks just a little bit better.

Thing is, once they get into "fixing" things or worse, remixing, they are taking away the essence of those original releases. A few nudges or some cleanup here and there isn't a bad thing, but if the sound drastically changes, the tunes no longer sound like listeners remember them, warts and all. Sometimes it's even in the mastering--a few changes to a "dead" sounding release might be clarified if the mastering is improved.

Excellent comment , I think you have really got what was expressed within this thread.
 
I started to write about this in my last post, thought it was off-topic, but then upon thinking about it further, realized that it may just fit after all. I've discussed this topic below elsewhere, but the types of listeners in this forum would better understand my point.

Richard Carpenter. A great producer and arranger, having placed quite a few of the Carpenters' hits on the charts. In some circles, a household name.

Yet in the post-Carpenters world, here's our perfectionist Richard Carpenter, the George Lucas of music. Ever since his sister's passing, he has increasingly tinkered with past recordings. First it was remixes, and then he started to re-record parts, first his own piano parts, then the parts of others. The ultimate might be the recent release by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which extracted his sister's voice and selected instrumentation to be backed by the orchestra.

To the majority of listeners, the remixes, re-recorded parts and the RPO album all sound perfectly fine, and some prefer them to the originals.

What do I hear when I listen to one of the remixes? Things aren't matching up. Here we have beautifully-recorded, pristine new digital takes on top of recordings that were originally made in the mid to late 70s. You can never match the sound of the two. You can suck all the life out of the original recordings by converting them to digital and processing the crap out of them (*cough* RPO *cough*), but that just makes the situation worse.

What we have in those cases are the original recordings, recorded at specific studios in various rooms with unique sound signatures, using specific equipment (mics, mixing boards, analog tape decks), some of which doesn't exist today. Add in the routine mid 70s production and engineering techniques, and you're trying to overlay modern digital recordings over the top of it? It sounds awkward to me. Even if those 70s recordings might have been a bit dulled or rolled off, that was the signature of those recordings, and I fully expect and appreciate that sound when I play one of the originals.

And that's partly what listening to music is all about--the totality of that original sound makes us forget that these tunes have their unique sonic signature, and we can simply listen to the music. When we are either used to the original recordings, or listening on systems that could highlight the differences, those differences distract us from enjoying the music.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
The MC carts and the rest in my main system can often be pretty revealing and at times show a bit more than what the producer might have intended. Every once in awhile something odd turns up like an English horn sticking out of the texture of an orchestra, clearly recorded separately in a different acoustic and "pasted"in.

Since I got the Empire set-up going last week in the loft bedroom system I've been in for a few surprises as it has turned out to be considerably more revealing yet. It has been interesting how many mixing errors have turned up in multi-mic/track recordings. In one organ recording the location of two distinct ranks of pipes switched in the middle of one work. Oops! In 60s RCA recording of a work for ten instruments one could hear distinctly how the mics were placed, not only very differently for each instrument, but it ended up sounding like was in its own box with a clear dividing wall between - very odd.

On the plus side - the helicopter on Side 1 of "The Wall" sounded like it was hovering 30 ft above the house to the left of the speaker with the reflected sound of the rotors coming off a wall lower and to the far right was interesting. Hearing the sound of the assistant changing stops on an organ recording or the sound of a car passing by in the background actually adds something enhancing rather than detracting, at least to me.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I started to write about this in my last post, thought it was off-topic, but then upon thinking about it further, realized that it may just fit after all. I've discussed this topic below elsewhere, but the types of listeners in this forum would better understand my point.

Richard Carpenter. A great producer and arranger, having placed quite a few of the Carpenters' hits on the charts. In some circles, a household name.

Yet in the post-Carpenters world, here's our perfectionist Richard Carpenter, the George Lucas of music. Ever since his sister's passing, he has increasingly tinkered with past recordings. First it was remixes, and then he started to re-record parts, first his own piano parts, then the parts of others. The ultimate might be the recent release by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which extracted his sister's voice and selected instrumentation to be backed by the orchestra.

To the majority of listeners, the remixes, re-recorded parts and the RPO album all sound perfectly fine, and some prefer them to the originals.

What do I hear when I listen to one of the remixes? Things aren't matching up. Here we have beautifully-recorded, pristine new digital takes on top of recordings that were originally made in the mid to late 70s. You can never match the sound of the two. You can suck all the life out of the original recordings by converting them to digital and processing the crap out of them (*cough* RPO *cough*), but that just makes the situation worse.

What we have in those cases are the original recordings, recorded at specific studios in various rooms with unique sound signatures, using specific equipment (mics, mixing boards, analog tape decks), some of which doesn't exist today. Add in the routine mid 70s production and engineering techniques, and you're trying to overlay modern digital recordings over the top of it? It sounds awkward to me. Even if those 70s recordings might have been a bit dulled or rolled off, that was the signature of those recordings, and I fully expect and appreciate that sound when I play one of the originals.

And that's partly what listening to music is all about--the totality of that original sound makes us forget that these tunes have their unique sonic signature, and we can simply listen to the music. When we are either used to the original recordings, or listening on systems that could highlight the differences, those differences distract us from enjoying the music.
It's a bit like how Jeff Lynne has gone in and re-recorded ELO songs, though I think mostly to eek out all the royalties for them. They're just...not the same. They're antiseptic. I remember buying a Roy Orbison tape when I was a kid, that turned out to be his hits re-recorded in the '80s. They may have been recorded on more modern gear and his voice was still good but...no. Just...no. They didn't have 'it'. There's something to a song, and a band when they're recording that song, when it's new. You just can't recapture that spark, so leave the little studio noises in, the this or that that's slightly off because that's part of it.
 
Some groups have re-recorded songs since they wanted to release them on their current label, without having to mess with licensing the original. The end result is the same, unfortunately, but in some rare instances that is the only way to release a version of the song, with the original label refusing to license it.

Perez Prado was one to re-record songs. His original mambos from the late 40s and early 50s are the definitive versions, yet he was always anxious to record new versions, especially as technology improved. It's disappointing when getting an LP named Big Hits by Prado, only to find out that they were not only re-recorded, they aren't even the same arrangements. The album is actually fairly good on its own, but someone out there who thinks they are buying reissued versions of the original recordings would be disappointed.

And the current situation with copyright means there are probably 100+ regurgitations of his catalog in various forms, and it's difficult to find which of those are genuine RCA product! Worse, even RCA was prone to screw things up--one of their compilations ran the old early 50s tracks through a smiley-faced EQ and gawdawful digital reverb, and they sound absolutely atrocious. You don't even need a modestly revealing system to hear how awful these sound. Very glassy, bright, artificial. The originals were recorded when 78 RPM records were still being released. The one label that got the tracks right--Tumbao Cuban Classics--is worth seeking out there. They aren't sonic masterpieces, but the feel is all there. It's like listening to a snapshot of music history.
 
And now you can never un-hear them.

Yep. But generally those types of things don't bother me; mostly, they add to the richness of the experience of listening. It exists, it is our attachment to it that determines our... Sure, I'd like some recordings to be more to my liking (the extremely dynamically compressed and dull); I prefer to simply experience though, not that I achieve such musical enlightenment often.

I don't consciously think about it much. There was a time when I did... when I owned systems that were primarily about upper frequency "detail" (and not genuine resolution).
 
We have to remember something else, especially with pop music--the engineers mixed these tracks to make a hit record, not to appease audiophiles. In hindsight and now on better equipment, I'm sure many had wished they recorded those tracks just a little bit better.

Thing is, once they get into "fixing" things or worse, remixing, they are taking away the essence of those original releases. A few nudges or some cleanup here and there isn't a bad thing, but if the sound drastically changes, the tunes no longer sound like listeners remember them, warts and all. Sometimes it's even in the mastering--a few changes to a "dead" sounding release might be clarified if the mastering is improved.
+1 Rudy. Have you guys seen the documentary Sound City? The music business has changed.

 
Rudy, funny you should say that. I listen mostly to old music on old equipment and the quality of the recordings is variable to say the least. This includes a lot of fifties rockabilly/rock'n'roll/hillbilly/country/jazz compilations embracing countless rare bits and pieces with limited pressings sold out of car boots. Many were clearly recorded under shoe-string budget constraints not to mention amateur musicians, not all of whom had quite 'got there' yet and weren't blessed with real panel operaors let alone true producers.

So, naturally they sound 'thin', with odd cuts, artifacts, etc. I know this is all pretty lowbrow musically and I'm not here to advocate or defend, but it's music I can't do without. Need some every day, good and loud. An odd side-benefit is that I've taught myself to have faith in my mid-fi near-field system, such as it is — because when I play well-recorded current stuff (eg, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, various orchestral pieces for a change of pace, the quality is all there, ie, never went away). I know it's a rather unsophisticated and tiresome mantra but I'm here to enjoy MY music, not anyone else's and am not one of the endless-search-for-perfection brigade. And there's only so much I'm prepared to spend.

Repeating: why don't we just relax a bit and enjoy the music as best you can — otherwise what's the point? No finger-pointing, just a broad observation from a newbie. (As a side issue, I'd like to compliment everyone here for their civility; I've seen discussions like this and about similar matters result in acrimonious taunts, uncalled-for insults and other tedium on lesser forums.)
 
In my opinion, there are two ways

In the first way, the system is revealing because the majority of the components in the chain are in harmony with each other, for lack of a better descriptor. In this sense, the presence of even one component that is 'out of tune' is heard and scrutinized, and the listener's enjoyment of the system plummets. it is easy in this case to wish for a more comfortable sound where a single component does not upset everything, especially if there are functional considerations to replacing a component versus just sonic ones.

In the second way, there are components and systems which sacrifice the aesthetic of the recording - its attributes which make it unique from other recordings - for the sake of revealing details which are actually extraneous to music, i.e. do not contribute to the listener's enjoyment of music. Ironically this is common in equipment which many describe as 'accurate', and is usually a sign that the component is not actually 'revealing' in the sense that it will display differences between recordings.
 
Rudy, funny you should say that. I listen mostly to old music on old equipment and the quality of the recordings is variable to say the least. This includes a lot of fifties rockabilly/rock'n'roll/hillbilly/country/jazz compilations embracing countless rare bits and pieces with limited pressings sold out of car boots. Many were clearly recorded under shoe-string budget constraints not to mention amateur musicians, not all of whom had quite 'got there' yet and weren't blessed with real panel operaors let alone true producers.

So, naturally they sound 'thin', with odd cuts, artifacts, etc. I know this is all pretty lowbrow musically and I'm not here to advocate or defend, but it's music I can't do without. Need some every day, good and loud. An odd side-benefit is that I've taught myself to have faith in my mid-fi near-field system, such as it is — because when I play well-recorded current stuff (eg, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, various orchestral pieces for a change of pace, the quality is all there, ie, never went away). I know it's a rather unsophisticated and tiresome mantra but I'm here to enjoy MY music, not anyone else's and am not one of the endless-search-for-perfection brigade. And there's only so much I'm prepared to spend.

Repeating: why don't we just relax a bit and enjoy the music as best you can — otherwise what's the point? No finger-pointing, just a broad observation from a newbie. (As a side issue, I'd like to compliment everyone here for their civility; I've seen discussions like this and about similar matters result in acrimonious taunts, uncalled-for insults and other tedium on lesser forums.)

Over the 45 plus years that I have enjoyed "Hi-Fi" I have always had one philosophy.....it is this, when I stop listening to and enjoying the music .....and start obsessing with this part of my system and should I upgrade this or that .....I stand back.....cool a bit, and remember that I have a system to play and enjoy music.....that is my goal, and, it is not the music that pushes me to change this and change that in an endless quest. Of course, I don't have the worlds greatest system, but I believe I have a good one, that allows me, the pleasure of enjoying my music and hearing the majority of what the musicians, producers and engineers put into it......I may not be at the mixing desk and be totally up front in the process, but, I'm close.....in live performance terms.....I have a good seat in the house and it's close to the front row......and ( grin ) if the musicians sneeze.....I get wet !
 

kirk57

Junior Member
I don't have 'Skinny Love' but I do have a copy of '19'.

What noises on that recording are you referring to?
 
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