OBVIOUS: Obvious you suggest?  I’m not sure about that

Paul McGowan writes:

We’ve taken a simplistic look at recordings and shown what’s probably obvious to most – that recording and reproducing simple electrical signals like those out of a guitar is rather easy and something we need not question about preserving.  Quite a number of you pointed out that seems like a rather trivial task – recording those small electrical signals that seem so simple.  Indeed.

But let me point out that everything we record is nothing more than “simple electrical signals” no different than those straight out of our electric guitar (which actually aren’t that simple).  The only differences we hear, and this is the point of this series, comes from the outer edges of the art – the input and output devices of our recording chain or, as I like to say, the “goes into” and the “goes out of” devices – microphones and loudspeakers and their necessary support kit.

Obvious you suggest?  I am not sure about that.  As Audiophiles we stress over sample rates, bit depth and any number of criteria involved in the recording process – yet that same recording process when applied to simple electrical signals directly injected from an acoustic instrument (our guitar) via an electrical pickup – are indistinguishable for any type of reasonable recording process.

Before you jump off the chair and point out that an electrical guitar is a bad example because it hasn’t any transients, hasn’t any tonal qualities to mask, hasn’t any subtle details like those reproduced by a microphone, let me point out this isn’t exactly true.  A magnetic pickup on a guitar can have over 100dB of dynamic range, is extremely sensitive to the quick transient nature of a guitar string and even though it works on a principal similar to a phono cartridge (without the mechanical interface) it is much more sensitive.  But I digress.

I want to spend a moment on the outer edge pieces – pieces of kit we believe contain much more information and are more problematic to record and reproduce properly than those of a “simple” electrical pickup from a guitar.