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Should the studio be transparent?

By April 24, 2012

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I was recently reading a fantastic article by a fellow audio engineer, and he made a great case for the fact that most live sound engineers look at the PA system as an element to be removed from the overall picture, something you don't want to hear in the way of the program. Studios, however, seem to focus on many attributes that stand in the way of sonic purity -- analog noise, limited bandwidth, and many more.

In today's world of high-resolution audio, it's hard to imagine why anyone would purposefully degrade the quality of the end product for artistic effect, but it seems quite common in the indie scene. Should engineers and the studio be transparent and reproduce the band at their best, or should studios always try to be a visible (or, rather, audible) part of the overall picture?
May 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm
(1) Dan says:

This is a good question and probably comes down to preference of the listener, but I think once the sound is perfected and changed beyond a certain point, you are no longer presenting a “live show” recording, but rather a mixed version of it. I’m not a huge fan of live albums for the most part and became an even lesser fan when the CD medium came out. It seemed pointless to buy a crystal clear version of what, by definition, should be cluttered with noise. Having said that, I enjoy watching concerts on DVD or blu-ray that have been well-mixed as kind of a way to watch your favorite performer play almost CD-quality versions of their songs. The live concert experience can’t be duplicated. A wide range of bad sound goes unnoticed in lieu of actually being there. So, I think the studio should be minimized to only allowing the performer being better heard (i.e. crowd sound removal, etc.) and should be very cautious and minimal when trying to IMPROVE the performance. Then, cut it to vinyl where the necessary spectrum can be heard.

May 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm
(2) Chris says:

Dan, I totally agree. One thing I have really been trying ot do lately after reading a bunch of articles and doing research and such is to try and get the best sound quality in the beginning, and have as little to do as possible on the mix side. Live recordings are impressive when you can say “that is really good, for a live recording”. Studio albums, though, get put throught the grinder depending on the listener. To each his own!

May 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(3) Karl Winkler says:

Hi Joe,

I’ve been trying to reach you lately without luck. Please return my phone messages and/or emails when you have a moment. Thanks.

May 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm
(4) mark says:

I like live recordings because of the added energy the performers pick up from the audience. It is not so much the ambient noise or lack of it.

June 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm
(5) Pj says:

To each his own boys. Some guys like it raw and some like it polished. I say stack those tracks until you get what you like!

June 28, 2012 at 12:13 am
(6) kronch says:

Hi-Fi, low-fi, anywhere in between – it all comes down to capturing the vision of the artist. Sometimes that means a colourless signal path, sometimes it means singing through an old telephone mic. Does it create the aural experience the artist wants? Then that’s how to record/mix/ present it.

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