WARNING: The below article discusses controversial subject matter. Viewer discretion is therefore advised.
The year: 1972. Place: Atlanta, Georgia.
So here i was, on a beautiful day in my youth spent with my dear ol' dad. My dad was the coolest. We would spend time together at baseball games, flying line controlled aeroplanes, building gliders... And then IT happened. Dare we say it? Yes, for it was on this day in 1972 when we went to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra perform their interpretation of the 1812 Overture. Little did i realize at the time that this one event would change my life forever. For from that day on, the pursuit of higher musical enjoyment began.
Amazing isn't it? How DOES one single event change a persons life forever? Sometimes through a tidal wave of joyous emotions. Other times though deep thought and contemplation. For years we have all seen the debates rage on. Vinyl vs. CD, analogue vs. digital, engineers vs. self proclaimed "audiophiles", tubes vs. transistors... For the past few months i have chosen to look at this subject from an outsiders point of view. Why is there so much constant debating when we are all trying to accomplish the same goal? And that goal is to achieve a more realistic reproduction of the music. What twist of fate turned us, at times, against each other?
Human Anatomy 101
Our teachers told us that we humans use one side of the brain for logic and the other side is for emotions. Amazing how we fall madly in love and get married, yet at the same time share a deep respect for the others wisdom? How DO we love the music poured forth from a saxophone playing the blues, yet feel the need to analyze EVERY nuance. From the sound of the reed to the breathing techniques of the player. Is the music the saxophone player is performing bringing about the feelings s/he intended? Can we see the beauty of the forest through all those trees? So many questions, so many debates. This, my friends, is a "twist of fate".
Apollo (Bringer of Wisdom)
What's the units total harmonic distortion? Are the digital bits the same as the master? Is it phase and time aligned? What's the wow and flutter? Jitter? Measurements are the land of Apollo. He brings us understood logic and a seeminglessly indisputable proof into an argument. After all, how can measurements lie? Isn't an amplifier with .5% THD worse than a unit with .1 THD (all other measurements being the same)??? In the recent years of gaining better measurements, have we lost sight of THE MUSIC? Why not simply input all data available on music into a computer and let it compose and produce music? Life would be so much easier and logical this way. (A possible scene from the future?) "Computer. Please play something at 108 beats per minute with a disco dance style. Set music volume level at 95 dB." Is this scenario logical?
Dionysus (Bringer of Love)
Love? How do we describe love? Webster's dictionary uses words like "passionate affection." Some may say feelings are the realm of the foolish. To laugh, cry, shout in anger, and relax in tranquilly. This is the realm of Dionysus. For how can we judge something by feelings? And why would someone compose and/or play music to bring out our feelings? When i hear Steely Dan music, pleasant memories of my years in South Florida fill me with joy and contentment? Why does Billie Holiday singing the song "All the Way" make me cry? And how is it that Metallica music makes me air drum and dance so profusely that i look like a 1970's rock-n-roll star on speed? For it's in the realm of feelings that we may gain a better understanding of what some deceased composer's music means (or in the way Billie Holiday's voice tells us the despair and troubles she's been through). How DO we measure love?
Cygnus (Bringer of Balance)
Only with some balancing of total logic and total feeling do we humans exist. Just as our passions can bring us joy and serenity, logic can bring us wisdom and greater understanding. Many designers in the field of "high-end" audio operate by combining their understanding and logic of circuitry, then use "fine tuning" through listening sessions. Therefor, there seems to be no exact science to music reproduction, only facts and feelings. The percentage of either one may vary from one individual to another. In the end we all have, to some extent, a mixture of both. People are both passionate and logical. Hence, the debating over this vs. that will probably never end. In the end, what hopefully really matters is that you are...
Enjoy(ing) the music,
...Steven R. Rochlin