Clear fog

In yesterday’s post I recounted a story of Telarc engineers in the recording studio control room comparing the output of an analog and digital tape recorder to the live feed from their mixer. To their ears the digital recorder was more faithful to the original signal. Which makes perfect sense since this is exactly what we hear today.

Those same engineers rejected the more musical sound presented by the analog recorder because it softened and made music more romantic.

I have a number of Telarc recordings in my library and I find the vast majority of them aggressive and strident with level. On soft passages, they are extraordinarily clear and musical. As level increases, they become unlistenable—precisely the issue an analog tape recorder would have softened and made more approachable.

So why did they choose the less listenable over the more musical? Because they had their engineer hats on. It horrified them to use an inferior recording technology as it should. As it would for me. But that’s where I would have drawn the line.

When a situation like this arises and we cannot see clearly through the fog it’s because we’ve narrowed our field of view. They were looking in the wrong place.

What part of the recording chain was causing the bright and aggressive sound that benefitted from the analog recorder’s softening? The microphone preamps? The mixing console? The wiring? All of it?

When we rely upon an inferior technology to solve a root cause problem it’s called a crutch. They made an accurate assessment between the two recorders. They just didn’t then ask why the orchestra’s sound was better when softened.

Often, when we can’t see clearly through the fog, it’s because we simply need to look elsewhere.