Changes in recording technology have made music:

Barry Willis's picture
Recording and music production technology has seen enormous change in recent years. Engineers and producers now have unprecedented power to manipulate the tinest details in recordings using computers and other tools. But the process may be taking the life and soul out of music. Some feel that commercial recordings lack the spontaneity that makes live music so immediate and satisfying. Others prefer the "perfection."
Changes in recording technology have made music:
Much better
27% (29 votes)
Slightly better
27% (29 votes)
No change
8% (9 votes)
A little worse
22% (24 votes)
Much worse
16% (17 votes)
Total votes: 108
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Comments
Michael C.  Walsdorf's picture

That soul appears lost in today's recordings is not the fault of the engineers but the artists. Since the upgrade to my system, very few of my musical purchases are from current/living artists.

Jim Reinhart's picture

Where's the soundstage? Recording is done in little cubes with a computer to re-format the sound from each microphone. I don't think there is more than 5% of people under 40 that have ever heard an unamplified performance.

Kevin Girten's picture

Technology can only be seen as "bad" when it tries to replace good engeneering and performances with gimmicks. The principles behind the excellent historic analog recordings made early in the stereo era still exist, and digital, DVD, and other technologies cannot substitute for good engeneering; neither can they be blamed for it. I, for one, don't like attempts to "analogize" digital or to "digitalize" analog. Old recordings have a special place, they will never sound perfect---therein lies their appeal. High-end systems that try to replicate this "soul" with newer recordings fail, and lose the best positive qualities of digital.

ANSIRMENOW@aol.com's picture

I must be missing the question. Though I understand the capacity of the current mediums to affect the outcome of a recording, this "power," to some degree, has always been at the hands of these very same engineers. The abuse of that power is/has been the reason (usually) for the poor sound quality of both CDs and vinyl. If taken that the current mediums and affective manipulations are used to capture the "true" event---i.e., not their perception of what that truth should be, simply the event as it unfolds---then none of us shall ever complain. The unfortunate side is that this is almost never the case. Room acoustics are either overly enhanced or completely eliminated, either only because of the engineer's pursuit of the nirvana mix (not the band's either, of this I assure you).I have seen many concerts in many forums. They have not all sounded great. This fact, though disappointing, didn't affect the real visceral impact of the live performance. Yes, the hall was crappy, but gee, did they play . . .Let me conclude by stating that I full well understand and appreciate the pursuit of audio perfection. But a song so pasteurized that it is perfect, is, invariably, flawed. On the other hand, a song that is recorded so that the truth of its heritage---the associated acoustics of its "real" environment---is the true gem. Let me hear the shoe-scuff, the true note struck too brightly, or the wineglass' ting from an errant fork . . . that is real perfection in recording

John Santini - Jontini@AOL's picture

At least technically capable of better!

Marshal Max's picture

I'm not sure what is the question. In my opinion, studio recordings sound much better than live music. I don't bother buying live recordings. Only live recordings of big philharmonic orchestras recorded in special theaters are worthy. If I want live music, I can always go and buy a ticket for some concert and see and hear artists live. Why bother listening to taped live performances?

James Bransfield's picture

Like most human endeavors, it's the little inconsistencies that make the performance of music so satisfying. I want to hear what the musician played---not what some recording engineer "thought" it should sound like.

Curt Simon's picture

There was a lot of crap put out well before the introduction of stereo, much less computers---just listen to any commercial oldies station. I suppose one could argue that the invention of amplification led to the demise of great singers. The studio is merely a tool. I happen to like, for example, what David Bowie and Brian Eno have managed to accomplish. On the other hand, the studio can kill even a great band---the Stones' Bridges to Babylon enters one's mind. I think that the studio has helped to kill jazz as it we knew it, but this started with multitracking back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As long as musicians who have something to say are using the tools (rather than the other way around), good music will be produced. I bewail the lack of good new music being produced today. Perhaps it has less to do with the computer revolution and more to do with the lack of music and arts education in the nation's public schools.

Mike Smith's picture

Live Music is Better---bumper stickers should be issued.

Jeremy Karpenske's picture

Rock recordings especially seem to suffer from too much "tweaking." Many recordings contain artificial reverb and such, and I feel this takes away from what would have been an excellent recording. One of my favorite parts of listening to classical music is feeling that "I'm there," and often that effect is enhanced by small things, like the musicians shuffling their sheet music, etc.

Greg Grimes's picture

Technological Tools are neither good nor bad. The way that these advances are used determines whether they improve or damage the quality of recorded music.

Otto Ruppel's picture

Digital mixing and mastering give the ability to come close to reproducing the "live" feel, at least of the room.

David Allcock's picture

All recording studio technology has its place, when used appropriately. Applying this sort of technology to most popular music is fine, but it is not only inappropriate, it is usually downright unnecessary to use it when recording a jazz trio or a symphony orchestra. In the right hands, great; in the wrong hands, disaster. The thing that baffles me is, with all of this technology available, how come the "artists" that invade the charts today seem more talentless every year?

Phil Strohbehn's picture

Last night, WOI-FM played Bach's six Christmas Cantatas, recorded in 1965. The sound over my system was slightly hot in the treble and not perfectly clean-sounding. It was easy, though, for me to get emotionally involved in the music even though it was in German and I don't understand a word of German! For me, modern recordings often seem to lack the magnetism that can pull me into the music. I suspect it's simply because so much is just missing, getting "filtered out" in the digitizing process. The music may sound perfect to some, but to me it sounds sterile, lacking in character. A friend once told me that often the difference between a good orchestra and a great one is the intruments. The fine old instruments produce a richer harmonic structure, the result being a much fuller-sounding orchestra, with more "volume." I have since noticed that effect, in spades, when listening to recordings of the local symphony orchestra compared to the world-famous ones. I hope the analogy is clear. An optimist, I believe that with longer word lengths and higher sampling rates, we have much to look forward to. Let us stake our claim on the bandwidth turf we deserve!

Lon Lowenstein's picture

Sometimes all the emotion is gone!!! I'll take imperfection and keep heart and soul!!

Jim Heintz's picture

I think artists like Beck have used the new technologies in a very productive and interesting manner. However, a lot of junk is being released via the same advanced techniques.

Anonymous's picture

Such a disgrace to waste otherwise excellent music with compression, equalization, reverb, etc.---all to cater to the cheap boomboxes that most people listen to music on. Future generations will not look kindly on our foolish, misguided attempts at "perfection."

Phil Barry's picture

Even though only 1 in 5 performances are memorable, that 1 in 5 is priceless. Give me recordings that mimic the event as closely as possible---the difference is, I expect, the communication between composer, artist(s), and audience. The engineer, "producer," etc., should simply be reporters.

Greg Weaver's picture

Just lend an ear to anything done by Pierre Sprey at Mapleshade and hear the difference that a dedicated minimalist can achieve.

Forrest Mackey's picture

My goal has always been to re-create the original performance. Now, there is no original performance. In many cases, there could never have been an original performance!

BaconCSP@juno.com's picture

Improved dynamic range, S/N, and frequency resopnse in "modern" recordings help make great performances sound great. 30 year old recordings tend to sound dead. 70db don't cut it!

DOUG MURPHY's picture

TECHNOLOGY IS GOOD AS LONG AS THE ENGINEER DOESN'T TURN A BAD MUSICIAN INTO A GOOD ONE.

jeff rupnow <rupnow.2@osu.com>'s picture

leave it natural, I want to here the real thing not some computer munipulated piece of $*^@. Make more records.

Anonymous's picture

Just listen and thou shall see !

Mike McCall's picture

Let's not forget that the "high-end" amounts to little more than a wart on the butt of consumer audio. We can complain all we want about the poor quality, but it's the money that drives the industry. Those of us who put quality first are subject to the turbulence behind the masses which actually drive the sales which drive the industry.

S.  Shaffer's picture

Technologies come and go, with the first generation of any new technology typically rough (recall the awful sound of early CDs). The popularity of reissued recordings from the 1950s and 1960s shows that (a) the latest recording technology has not undermined the value of what was available 40 years ago and (b) it's the performance, more than the recording technology, that determines the value of a recording. Sometimes the recording industry loses sight of this point, but that is less a technological issue than one of marketing and profit-seeking.

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