Steve Guttenberg

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Steve Guttenberg  |  Sep 12, 2017  |  64 comments
Digital audio forever disrupted the way music is recorded, mixed, and mastered—and, to even greater extents, how music is distributed, sold, played, and consumed. Music unmolested by zeros and ones is now nearly extinct.

There's no going back, but what if, in 1983, the Compact Disc had bombed? What if music lovers worldwide had rejected the shiny new digital format because they thought LPs sounded so much better? And what if later attempts at digital formats with higher resolutions also shriveled and died, due to lack of interest by recording engineers and consumers? What if, to this day, music had remained blissfully all-analog?

Steve Guttenberg  |  Jun 13, 2017  |  100 comments
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: Headphones sound different from speakers. For different reasons, I like both, but all speakers come with one undeniable disadvantage: the room you play them in. I don't care if you're running pint-size Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a's or giant Wilson Audio Alexandria XLFs—they're at the mercy of your room's acoustics. Losses are inevitable.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Mar 14, 2017  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2017  |  6 comments
Do you remember your very first record? I started with the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop" in 1960, and played that silly 45 on repeat until my mother begged me to stop. My tastes quickly evolved, thanks to WWRL AM radio's steady diet of tunes by Jackie Wilson, Bobby Bland, Etta James, and Gary U.S. Bonds. It didn't take me long to gather a sizable collection of singles, but I switched to LPs with Meet the Beatles! in 1964, and since then the craving for new sounds has never let up.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 19, 2016  |  6 comments
I'm at Dan D'Agostino's house listening to his triamped Apogee full-range ribbon speakers. It's 1985. His listening room is immense, easily 30' by 45', and we're rocking out to Led Zeppelin and Bonzo Dog Band records. The sound is light-years better than anything I've heard—dynamic as hell, beyond vivid, and the soundstage has infinite depth—and Dan's obviously loving that I'm blown away by his system. We get to talking. He has three pairs of Krell KMA-160 monoblocks and Reference KRS preamps for me. Thanks, I say, but how can I get them home? No problem—Dan has a van.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Aug 16, 2016  |  11 comments
A recording engineer's choices of microphones to record singers, guitars, horns, bass, drums—or an entire orchestra—are absolutely crucial. Those very subjective choices are, in large part, what separate the best recordings from the also-rans. When I contacted some of the best engineers in the business to talk about mikes, I got an earful. I was told that mikes have a more profound impact on reproduced sound than does any other link in the recording chain. Yes, the acoustic of the recording venue also plays a huge role, and post-session mixing and mastering can of course improve or ruin the sound—but the choice of mikes is absolutely crucial.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Apr 21, 2016  |  First Published: May 01, 2016  |  41 comments
I was in a strange mood last January when I posted this on Facebook: "Do speaker designers strive for accuracy, or for a 'sound' they think potential buyers want?" I doubted that any designer with two working ears would even attempt to design speakers that merely measured well—there must be at least some subjectivity in their process. I also assumed that few designers would go on record about where they stand on the accuracy question, so I was thrilled when Elac Americas' speaker designer, Andrew Jones, responded...
Steve Guttenberg  |  Sep 22, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2015  |  38 comments
I began working as a salesman of high-end audio gear in 1978. I was 29, and, as I recall, a healthy percentage of my customers were about my age. Most of the top high-end designers and entrepreneurs, too, were young: John Curl, Dan D'Agostino, Jon Dahlquist, Ray Kimber, Mark Levinson, Bill Low, Mike Moffat, Nelson Pass, Peter Snell, Bob Stuart, Jim Thiel, Ivor Tiefenbrun, A.J. van den Hul, Richard Vandersteen, Harry Weisfeld, David Wilson. The fact is, high-end audio's Golden Age—the late 1970s to the mid-1980s—was largely fueled by the under-40 set, and most high-end journalists were fellow baby boomers. Now we're all oldsters, with just a smattering of under-fortysomethings. That's about to change.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Mar 16, 2015  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2015  |  61 comments
I've known a lot of folks with impressive LP and CD collections who were perfectly content with the sound of the crappiest of hi-fis. This diverse group has included recording engineers, musicians, and owners of record stores. Loving music isn't the same thing as caring about the sound of music, and maybe, in some alternate universe, those folks would-have-been, could-have-been audiophiles. But in this universe, they didn't, and I'm not sure why.
Steve Guttenberg  |  Dec 22, 2014  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2015  |  12 comments
We all have secrets, and it's about time I came clean with one of mine: I enjoy recorded music more than concerts.

I know, that's a sacrilege—as a lifelong music lover, I'm supposed to relish the live event, with all of the energy and connection between musicians and audience that can happen only when they're all breathing the same air. That may be true for you, but not for me. I've harbored the guilt for years: When I take the plunge and attend a concert, I rarely enjoy the experience enough to justify the effort and expense.

Steve Guttenberg  |  Oct 27, 2014  |  First Published: Nov 01, 2014  |  27 comments
Classical and jazz notwithstanding, an awful lot of new music is highly compressed, processed, and harsh, and it's about time we got used to it. Musicians, producers, and engineers are, in large part, on board with the sound, and any suggestion of making less-compressed recordings, with a wider dynamic range, is met with confused stares, or worse. One superstar producer didn't take kindly to my suggestion that he make two mixes for his new project: the standard compressed one, and another, less-crushed version. That didn't fly; he said there could be only one, the mix approved by him and the band, and that to them, a less-compressed mix wouldn't sound better. This producer is an audiophile, but he's not the least bit interested in making music for audiophiles. Harshness, it seems, isn't just a byproduct of compression; it's an integral part of the sound of today's music.

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