Happy New Year to everyone! After the last two years, we all deserve a fantastic 2022, just to break even.
My New Year’s resolution is to bring as many new customers as possible to my store. And speaking of resolution, it’s the topic of the month.
Resolution in audio terms refers to the presentation of details in a great recording. Can you discern every little sound from the instruments in the room, as well as the echoes that determine the spaciousness of the room itself? A Stradivarius violin sounds very mellow after hearing a Guarnari. Harmonics and textures are often made more audible when the musical dynamics are better revealed. Have you ever heard Glen Gould humming while playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, or jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s constant singing? On Telarc’s direct disc recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, on a very sophisticated high-end system you can hear the metal chairs squeaking to the performers’ shifting weight. Oh, and of course the cannons. . .
On a good recording, valves click, foot pedals squeak, performers breathe, and the audience coughs, all adding to the realism of the event. When one mics everything closely, even more instrument details are apparent. When fewer mics are used and are moved back far enough to pick up everything at once—ideally two microphones for the whole music—the balance of the music sounds richer, with more reverberation, superior imaging, and a sense of the musicians in the venue.
Less known and more elusive is improved dynamic resolution. Each note is played slightly louder or softer than the adjacent note, giving a greater feel of liveness and better expressing the music’s emotional content. Most earlier recordings squished the louds and softs closer together, since records and reel-to-reel machines couldn’t handle very loud music without distorting, or very soft music without ruining it with too much tape hiss or record noise.
Over the decades, my favorite esoteric line of separate electronics has been Jeff Rowland Design Group. Back in the 1980s, all of the other amps that wanted to show great detail made the highs too bright and sometimes brittle. Jeff’s amps seemed slightly laid back and richer, but when you listened closely, you could actually hear more detail in the music than the brighter amps could resolve. Today, his electronics are incredibly better than his earlier triumphs.
Having amassed a handful of lines that are known for their high-end quality over time, I often hear sound so good coming out of my most affordable electronics and speakers that I think to myself, “How can it get any better than this?”
Then I listen to my best, and I’m knocked for a loop! It’s worth every penny more, and everyone hears the difference. When it comes to great audio, go as far as you can afford. The reward is a lifetime of musical satisfaction.
Have an incredibly successful, auspicious 2022.