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Am I Crazy? The Opus part 1

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Astralography, May 22, 2011.

  1. Astralography

    Astralography Member

    May 22, 2011
    Two years ago a friend of mine did me a favor and helped set me up with what he calls a proper analog playback system or "stereo system". I think this is just entry level "audiophile" stuff. No frills Music Hall 5.1 Turntable with a goldring cartridge. Fully restored vintage Scott 340B Tube amp. Heavy gauge silver threaded speaker cables, and a set of basically modified Klipsch Forte ll with an added self powered sub with a 15" cone just barely bled into the mix to fill frequencies below 80 hz. Total cost? $2000. The deck and cables were new, speakers used, amp used but restored. It was an investment, but not anything over the top like some audiophiles go for.

    Am I crazy for not going new and digital?

    I have a substantial vinyl collection (I'm 40 something!) which is mostly 70's art and progressive rock (Genesis, Zeppelin, Floyd, Yes, Gentle Giant etc), 70's jazz fusion (Mahavishnu, Dimeola, Brand X, Ponty, Steely Dan etc) , 60's and 70's jazz (Miles, Maynard etc), lots of Verve stuff (Wes Montgomery, Getz etc), and a good dose of singer songwriter stuff like Joni, Dylan, CSN.

    So I hook up the new (retro) system and spin up Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow and all I can say is WOW!!!!!! I mean it just completely blew me away. I actually had to say to myself, I have never really heard this record before... meaning I have obviously never heard this record played or presented anywhere near properly and the same for all my recordings. They all have been getting new listens.

    I thought to myself..
    Am I Crazy?
    What have I been doing?

    I had been coming from listening to CD's and vinyl played from a Dual TT and a NAD solid state amp through the same set of speakers. I hear people talk highly of Dual decks and NAD amps.

    Are they Crazy? They MUST be crazy!

    For the first time in my life, I can actually hear what the musicians and producers and engineers were doing making all those records. It's like zooming into the music with a microscope and into an entire "other world" that I have never been able to experience from digital versions of the same music.

    Being a recording artist myself having started in the early 90's digital age with 10 full length releases to my credit, I have come away from this experience a changed person... somewhat confused, somehow very sad,
    in some ways over joyed, but more than anything a feeling of isolation.

    I had a guy come to my home to buy a set of speakers I sold on Craigslist who listened to my humble little tube amp vinyl system and said to me
    "Wow, in all honestly, I have a $100K digital system that doesn't sound as good was what you have here"

    Is he crazy? am I crazy? Is the recording world crazy?

    Ok, I am not a techy by any means, but I understand that tube amplification is much more efficient than solid state transistor based amplification. I can confirm this because my 35 watt per channel tube amp plays much LOUDER and cleaner than the 100 watt NAD amp I had. I sold the NAD amp on ebay for the same price I bought the restored tube amp for.
    A fair exchange or at least somewhat crazy.

    Why would anybody choose solid state over tube?
    I think you would have to be crazy.

    Here is a theory:

    Horns (trumpets, flutes, sax etc) sound better played back through speakers with horn drivers? Crazy?


    In the past, most bass players had big cabinets with 15" cones in them. Is it not CRAZY to think that to PROPERLY reproduce the sound of those bass players that you should play back those recordings with at least one 15" woofer in your system?

    Growing up in 70's California, it was not uncommon to go over a friends house and find a wall of speakers in your buddies bedroom or out in the garage where you would hang out and blast music while sipping a beer or indungiing in other delicacies. Good sound was always BIG, and the analog signal was intact from artist to your ears, unadulterated by any digital converters that do change the sound of a recording.

    Today music is played back through ipods or other compressed mediums that offer amazing convience being able to host 500 hours of music in a wallet sized transport. Truly amazing.. however, my CRAZY question is.. what are we giving up to do this?

    I was always very disappointed recording my guitar parts digitally in the studio when playing them back through the sound room monitors. I would ask this CRAZY question.
    Why does it sound so flat and lifeless? when it was so big and beautiful coming out of my Marshall stack tube amp? Of course the engineer would run it through all kinds of outboard processing and give me something that would get me to say.. "ok, that sounds better"

    When I started recording my own tracks I was very clever figuring out that if I used 3 mics
    at different distances, or a condenser at the back of the room and I blended those tracks together, and then once in the digital realm, I could make endless copies of them and EQ those clone tracks differently and then blend them again with all kinds of effect sends and other virtual processors I could get a sound I "could live with"... four pots of coffee and 10 hours later. Is this CRAZY? Now do this with every track, blending, sending, compressing, and so on.. bass, drums, keys, vocals and I was recently commended for my fine production work on our latest release by more than one magazine or radio station.
    Is it CRAZY to think this is all really necessary? Wouldn't I be better off spending time on my instrument? or composing new material? Crazy thought.

    Fast forward to 2011. I recently picked up a 16 track analog open reel tape machine in great shape. I recorded drums, bass, keys, guitars, and guess what? I didn't have to do ANYTHING! other than set the volume and pans. NO EQ, no sends just put a touch of compression on the bass, but only because I close miked the cabinet with the one mic while the other I had set back a bit. All the tracks sounded full, big, bold, rich,beautiful, detailed beyond belief, and I could mix an entire song in about 15 minutes with an end result that sounded better than a weeks worth of digital manipulation.

    Am I crazy?

    Jimmy Page was once quoted saying.. "If you record things properly, you don't need EQ."
    He was crazy for sure.

    I know a lot of the younger cats here only know the digital world and have nothing to compare things to. Understood. But some of you older cats from the tape machine age,
    is this making any sense? am I crazy?

    I know I am crazy for thinking a good drummer sounds better using his own kit, laying down the beats in real time properly miked and recorded without quantitizing anything, and I am even reluctant to throw a click track down to take him out of his groove (if he is good) nor am I a fan of pulling out his kick drum sounds or snare sound and replacing them with stock samples.
    It must be the crazy "jazz" influenced purist in me. I know ... that must sound crazy.

    I was certainly crazy for picking up new re released issues of DSOTM and Zep ll on new vinyl and then taking them back to the store asking for a refund because I am accusing them of cutting these laquers from digital sources that sound thin and compressed and lifeless compared to my original issue releases that I bought back in high school that sound 10 times better even with all their clicks and crackles and pops. Crazy for sure.

    Recorded music has three elements. The performance, the recording and archiving of that performance, the playback of that performance.

    I am crazy to think that the performances of today lack the musicianship of yesteryear.
    I am certainly not hearing it.. where is the Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page, the John Mclaughlin or the Wes Montgomery of today or the Merle Travis for that matter who played circles around all those guys in the 50's. Where is today's Dylan, Joni? or Elton? Where is Miles or Getz or Maynard? Where are the drummers who could whip it around in odd meters yet play with style and feel with full dynamic and keep it tasty? Where is Steve Gadd? Carl Palmer? or Buddy Rich? Where's Jaco? I know I must be crazy.

    I must be crazy to think that going straight to tape sounds better than sound being sampled, converted into 1's and 0's then converted again back out into an analog sound stream. Which concept is more crazy? Having to clean your tape heads every few hours or reinstalling your software when things crash or having to keep installing new operating systems to keep up with latest plug in releases. Who's crazier?

    I am certainly crazy to think that tube amplification is actually a more sophisticated means of sound reproduction and that vinyl records are in fact much more advanced in their potential for sound reproduction than a 16 bit CD or an MP3 file downloaded from itunes.

    I recently spent time in a high end audiophile properly tuned listening room in San Francisco hearing the latest and greatest in high end digital audio with the new hi definition sampling rates and so on. I walked out of there knowing I was crazy for being totally unimpressed.

    I am certainly crazy to suggest we have been moving backwards in the quality of musicianship, recording technology and consumer sound reproduction.

    I am probably crazy to say that you might have to be 50 years old or older to have any idea what I am talking about.

    The Opus Part 1

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