John Atkinson Sounds the Cowbell
Despite being the kick-off seminar presenter on Friday, and starting just one hour after the doors opened, John Atkinson herded almost a full house to "Garbage In, Garbage Out." An expanded version of a seminar he originally delivered at RMAF 2012, the description reads:
Making value judgments on audio components using commercial recordings has pitfalls that many writers gloss over. The way recordings are made drastically affects what you hear from your system, explains John Atkinson using his own recordings as examples.
John began by playing a hilarious disco track that his band recorded in 1976. After confirming the reasons why he wisely abandoned the band for a career that combines magazine writing and editing with recording, he switched to his file of a gorgeous track by Stereophile writer Erick Lichte’s choir that he had mastered for CD release, and another of the Overture to a nine-act jazz opera about baseball that he produced. The Wow Factor was furthered when he revealed that this recording used the very mike that John Coltrane favored for his sax.
“Nothing we hear is real,” said JA, perhaps throwing a bone to those who wish to twist complex ideas into simple non-truths that reviewers can’t possibly hear what they profess to hear. "Stereo, for example, is a complex construct that we make up. It takes 100 milliseconds for the brain to process the information received by our senses. We are all living 1/10 second in the past."
To bring us back to the present, and cut through the illusion of stereo, John summoned forth his famous peripatetic cowbell. Denying rumors that this very cowbell served as inspiration for Vaughan Williams’ most beloved pastorales, he continued his presentation as I reluctantly returned to the dem rooms to immerse myself in further illusion.
JA would like to thank PTE for providing a pair of their active monitors for him to playback his files, using an AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC hooked up to his MacBook Pro and running Pure Music.