Changes in recording technology have made music:

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

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."

Bruce Martineau's picture

Technology advances have the potential to capture "you are there"-quality recording sessions. [When these are] wisely used, the consumer can hear more musical presentations. However, just because something can be manipulated doesn't mean it should be manipulated. "New" and "Improved" are not synonymous with each other, by default.

RL's picture

Technology is only a tool. Yes, sometimes (all too often) it's a crutch. I personally would never give up the missed or slightly off-beat notes that some would call mistakes---they make a great live recording session that much more real when reproduced in my living room. On the other hand, when an artist is painting perfection, today

Louis Perlman's picture

If "perfection" is better, why haven't we any recordings that are more satisfying than the RCA Shaded Dogs, or early Beatles albums?

Nigel Milner's picture

I don't blame the technology for some of the lifeless albums released today. I blame the mass-market music industry. With talk like "Michael Jackson only sold 364,000 units last quarter", the industry is obsessed with charts and "units" (a most lifeless word), while staying detached from the art they claim to cultivate. I dislike most new music because it does not hide the fact it was made to sell to the lowest common denominator. Spice Girls!!! To hell with the vitality of music, let's sell more UNITS!! Certainly, the music industry is a business that needs volume and sales to grow and prosper, but they sell a special "product"---works of art. I don't fall in love with my shampoo, but I fall in love with my albums. I purchase around 100 new albums a year (most of which were released before this decade), so the industry should heed the advice of the hand that feeds them. Follow Merck & Co.'s vision: Fulfill human needs first and the profits will follow. Otherwise, I think recording and production technology is making good advances. Radiohead---OK, Computer. Yeah!!!!

Carl's picture

It's not the technology that's at fault . . . it's the implementation (or over-implementation) that makes a great deal of the recent commercial recordings unexcititng . There are, of course, exceptions: Delos, Telarc, Clarity, etc. do produce some remarkable stuff . . . but these are often the cxception. And HOLT's LAW holds as true today as when he first wrote it. And OLD technology still sounds great . . . just look to our reissues movement, LPs and/or CDs.

Chuck Martin's picture

Recordings, by definition, lack spontaneity, so none will mimic a live performance in that respect. On the other hand, a well-loved recording never disappoints. My sense is that both pop and classical recordings today are, overall, a little better than those made five to ten years ago. The best, about the same.

Howard F.  Goldstein's picture

CDs do not wear like LPs. No more pops and clicks to listen to.

John P.  Wirick, Jr.'s picture

Should the musicians or the post-production crew define "perfection" and "performance"? Every step in the recording, mixing, and production process further separates me (the listener) from the musicians and their music, just as if I were in the audience at the event and the sound crew began lowering one curtain after another between me and the performers. The real question becomes, how many curtains are acceptable? If the post-recording sonic manipulation is so minor, then why do it at all? If it's major, then why aren't the names of all the sound engineers given equal billing with the recording artists? Maybe they could be billed as "sound artists" or something. This whole dithering with the original performance sounds like (puns intended) a power grab by the production crew intended to grow their own egos at the expense of providing an accurate reproduction of the original performance.

Gerald Platt's picture

I strongly prefer a Heifetz performance from the 1930s to any digital recording that I have heard. Although I admit there has been progress in technical terms, I question the intent: to record more accurately, or to tinker and produce the "perfect" performance? Well, how can it be perfect if the human element has been distilled?

Al Marcy's picture

Improvements in the techno make it possible to take less of the life and soul out. Listen to Valentina Lisitsa Vol.I vs. Vol.II. Not likely, but possible.

Joseph Clements's picture

I think that, if used with musicality, and care for the sound and musicianship that goes into the production of a recording, the additional use of computer technology can be of benefit to recordings. However, too many producers over-produce and over-control the sound of studio recordings, mixing for the boomy car-audio gang rather than the home audiophile.

Robin Heisey's picture

Glenn Gould Lives OK!!!!

Robert Hamel's picture

I voted " no change" because, when LPs were king, if the band had a bad day at the studio it wasn't too hard to tell. If anything, it's much easier to tell with the available technology. So I wonder: is the music being "overproduced," or maybe we are looking for something that wasn't there in the first place.

S.D.'s picture

When some people encounter a new technology that differs so completely from the accepted norm, it can be viewed as a minus. What we have to keep in mind is the fact that, as new technology is created, we can not expect it to be perfect from conception. Give the new stuff a chance---GOD knows we have been listening to half-assed analog recordings long enough! It is OK to revel in the past, but let's always look to the future.

Barry Wilkinson's picture

It is not the technology but the people who use it . Too often the producers are in the service of technology rather than having technology serve the music---that is why live recordings done in the manner perfected by Bob Fine, and well done by Jack Renner and others, is superior.

Keith Davis's picture

Music has definitely suffered from these "improvements." What better evidence than the widespread use of pop classics in advertising? People (young and old) don't feel the same connection to the new music.

R.  Stafford's picture

Give me a recording of a live event any time!

Steve's picture

I don't care if the sound is recorded live or in a studio (isn't that live too?). I just want it to sound natural. I have noticed that some of the live concert recordings sound better. It is possible that the performers are more pumped in front of an audience. Other performers may not perform as well. I don't know what the recording engineers are doing technically, but when I listen to newer CDs, they sound better than my old records from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. I am not comparing remastered audiophile superduper productions. The sound quality has improved, but not as much as it should have or one would have hoped.

Tom Mitchell's picture

Records I've had for 30 years sound better than anything digital, particularly live recordings of jazz performances.

John Atkinson's picture

It has always been like this. Most engineers use technology not because it's necessary, but because they have it to hand. The few inspired engineers have always used as much or as little signal processing in the service of the music.

Steve Hauser's picture

Many, many current recordings are overproduced. I'm willing to live with a few minor errors if I get a "you are there" sound.

Dave Mitchell's picture

Most "new music" today is so heavily guitar-laden that it's hard to tell what differentiates a good recording from a bad one. I believe that because it's generally becoming cheaper to produce an album, the time and effort required to make a truly impressive recording is lost in the rush to get said record to market. I've found that the only "new music" recordings that impress me are the few remasters that are offered.'s picture

I listen to piano recordings. Some artists use studio tricks to create a perfectly executed sonata. Live piano recitals are recorded with room noises and performance goofs. I don't think it makes any difference which venue the producer chooses, because there are so many variables that must come together for a record to be compelling. Studio processing is just one of those elements.

D.  Mills's picture

I think the industry is shooting itself in the foot by allowing technology to dictate the way in which recording artists are being forced into a cookie-cutter type of recording. We all wind up missing out.

Dave's picture

Live music is just that. We expect a little imperfection in most music, considering we are mere mortals. Trimming every little mistake by some artificial means just sterilizes the music. Might as well have a computer just compose and play it to another computer---maybe the other computer can appreciate it. Too often, persons with very questionable talent are made to sound much better than they are, just to make a buck. I seem to recall just recently a particular artist just mouthing the words. Hmmmmmmmm. Even I can do that.

Gerald's picture

Manupulation allows the engineer to overcome the problem of weakness of mike-capturing the event; i.e., the source/air/mike/master disc. However, this lets the engineer control music to his/her taste, which subjectively may not equate to actual reality.

Gary Ang's picture

Technology does not dictate whether or not music will get better or worse. Technology is merely the tool or vessel that allows us to reproduce music. The deciding factor lies with the skill and creativity of the engineers and producers behind the recordings. I totally agree that the majority of the commercial recordings abuse the power given by the latest workstations to "squeeze" the life out of music, but there are a few out there who have produced stellar works of art because of the technology available to them. Would Stereophile be able to produce their records to their high standards if not for state-of-the-art machines like the Nagra D, Sonic Solutions Workstations, and dCS processors? It is the application of technology that will affect the outcome of recorded music.

Jason Crickmer's picture

I think that new and better tools in the music-production industry have allowed good producers and engineers to bring the heart and soul out in recorded music. But, this same technology allows people "without art" to put any limited and/or condensed, poorly miked "music" out. Thank goodness for the record labels that care!

Mike Molinaro's picture

I like the human feel in recordings made by the human artist(s).

Mike Garner's picture

Fluorescent lighting vs. incandescent. Polyester vs. cotton. Analog vs. digital. Butter vs. margarine. This is the challenge with such a subjective topic. The bottom line is, "Does this achieve what I want it to?" For some it does, for others it doesn't. That is the wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) thing about being an individual. You have a choice, and you determine your standards (we aren't talking eternal salvation, it's only audio!). That's why we have Krell, and also Yorx. But as long as we keep pushing the technology forward, both Krell and Yorx will continue to improve. As for whether or not someone prefers commercial recordings over live, make both and allow us to make the choice.