Sound Recording

In professional audio recording, electronics, monitor loudspeakers and control rooms which are used should enable judgements about the quality of what has been recorded and to predict more or less how a recording will sound when other listeners reproduce it over other loudspeakers in other rooms.

It goes without saying that loudspeakers and electronics should do this as accurately as possible. But what does "accurate" in this context mean? I strongly believe, that literal acoustical accuracy is still impossible! Microphones and loudspeakers especially lose too much information to be called "accurate" and during the production process of recording there are a lot of influences:

  • Different types of microphones (whose sound varies)
  • The number of microphones used
  • The placement of musicians
  • Separately recorded bits of music or instruments at different recording venues
  • Reduction of individual channels (instruments) to a lower number of channels
  • Sound equalisation by engineers and musicians while listening to the control room, loudspeaker or headphone
  • Use of dynamic compressors and limiters
  • The control room electronics and cabling
  • The frequency response and timbre of control room loudspeaker and headphone
  • The control room acoustics (reverberation time) and listening position of the recording engineer
  • Varying perception of engineers and musicians of what sounds right and good
  • The master storage device
  • The method of production and distribution

Many audiophiles believe that records (especially CD's) have a very large dynamic range. Unfortunately, this is not the case - pop records rarely exceed 30 dB and classical music reaches 60 dB at its loudest! To make the music more acceptable to low quality equipment and broadcasting stations, dynamic compressors and limiters are still used both during recording and mixing of music. It is believed that a non-limited recording can be limited without any apparent audible consequences, apart from that it makes the recording sound louder which, for pop music, this is highly desirable!

The final results are in most cases far from what you would have heard at live events and what you would call accurate sound reproduction! Most likely what we really mean by "accurate" is an illusion that feels realistic, lifelike and present.

So, forget accuracy - how about the old-fashioned High-Fidelity?