Tag Archives: music

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl

I didn’t know this, but can hear the difference on this test.

Strange artifacts

Bit Perfect engineer and friend, Tim Murison, sent me an interesting note about a strange artifact added to about 1/4 of all the music we stream.

In a blog post from software engineer, Matt Montag, he describes the following:

“A while ago, I wrote about my confusion regarding Weird Spotify Compression Artifacts. It turns out the artifacts I was hearing are not due to compression, but a result of audio watermarks that Universal Music Group embeds in digitally distributed tracks. This watermark is embedded in UMG tracks on Rdio, Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, and others. The watermark can also be heard in Universal tracks broadcast over FM radio. Universal Music recordings make up about 25% of most online catalogs, and its labels include Interscope, The Island Def Jam, Universal Republic, Verve, GRP, Impulse!, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Geffen, etc.”

While subtle, it surely ain’t nothin!

If you’re interested in discovering more about this added distortion to the music you’re downloading, go here for the info and examples.

I have long suspected something’s going on because to me Tidal doesn’t sound as good as Qobuz and Qobuz doesn’t sound as good as my stored original rips. Something’s afoot and perhaps this is the beginning of uncovering the truth.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The power of small

A small change in loudspeaker toe in of less than an inch can snap a stereo into focus the center image.

That’s the power of small.

But, it goes deeper.

Once the center image is stabilized your emotional connection to the music changes. You relax. No longer are you working hard at wondering if what you’re hearing is right, or moving your head enough to center the singer.

You let down your guard and the music pulls you in.

An inch can make all the difference—not in the big scheme of things—but in the little scheme. The one where you are relaxed enough to forget everything else and engage with the music.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Savoring

We savor the moment, the meal, the day. Yet, how often do we savor the music?

Last night, Terri, me, and Jessica (Octave’s director) got our first listen to an extraordinary new talent: Clay Rose, the lead singer, and songwriter of the unlikely named group The Gasoline Lollipops.

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Simple. I wanted to share with you the extraordinary experience we three listeners had.

Our job last night was to critically evaluate the mix and recording: taking careful notes to put the finishing touches on the work. In other words, to make sure it meets the standards for Octave Records and point out where it doesn’t so that the engineers could fix it.

We managed to do the work but only barely. As the singer’s voice and poetry reached down deep inside, tears streamed down all three of our faces. I found myself so immersed in the story I was lost.

I was savoring the music.

Ignoring the stereo.

Not doing my job.

What a blessed joy that was.

Look for the release of Nightmare in April.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Stand out products

When a piece of stereo gear sonically singles itself out in an audio system it is typically not a good thing. What we hope for is a synergistic pairing of components that benefit the whole.

Sure, it’s not only alright but actually welcomed when we can add a product that elevates the whole. But then elevating the whole is the point, right?

I remember years ago when I experimented with a Teac Dolby noise reduction system designed to “eliminate hiss, pops, and unwanted artifacts of sound.”

Unfortunately, it was a stand out product that eliminated more than simply unwanted noise.

I love visually attractive stand out products.

I am not so sure about those that sonically stand out from the rest of the system.

For me, the beauty of music is found in the perfection of the whole.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Room in a room

Our rooms contribute to how reproduced music sounds.

Have a room resonance peak at maybe 150Hz? Every track of music played in the room will have that same bass bump.

Your room’s response is then added to by the multiple room responses of where the recording was captured, mixed, and mastered.

What we hear when we play music is a messy amalgam of rooms and their imperfections.

Which is often why my favorite audio recordings may not be yours and vice versa.

Rooms within rooms.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The way music is supposed to sound

Tell a false fact or a mistruth enough times and people will believe it to be accurate.

I wonder if the same thing applies to music and its reproduction.

Could it be that with enough repetition the hyper-compressed music of acts like Kanye West and Diddy is how music is supposed to sound?

What happens when enough people who believe that is the standard by which all recording should live up to hear open expansive music? Will they then think it’s wrong?

It is conceivable that if enough people think MP3’s and earbuds are the standards by which music is expected to be listened to that someday LP’s and CD’s will to them sound bad.

Cultural shifts often happen because enough people go in a common direction. Even if it is in the wrong direction.

When that common direction is in a direct opposite path than what we as audiophiles have come to accept as real and right, there’s a risk it will become the norm.

For some, it likely is the norm.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Augustus

When Octave’s executive producer, Jessica Carson came to us pitching the idea of recording the indie rock and roll band Augustus she wanted to make sure our audience would like their music: a combination of soulful ballad tracks peppered with cuts of loud guitars, bang-it-out drums, and crank-it-up volume.

“Hell yes!” was the answer.

A good many of us were raised on exactly that kind of music: Led Zepplin, the Allman Brothers, Hendrix, ZZ Top.

On a personal note, I have long been fascinated with the idea of perfectly capturing distortion. By that comment, I mean reproducing without affectation the purposefully over modulated, fuzz-toned, distorted output of a Sears Silvertone guitar amp and speaker. Not only was this a wonderful challenge, but it’s rarely done. Most bands playing this kind of music work hard at furthering the distortion by overdriving the mix console or slamming the track in your face. I hear this quite often on modern rock recordings and it turns my purist’s stomach.

When Octave recording engineer Jay Elliott, himself an amazing drummer, took on this challenge it was with crossed fingers we waited for the results. The music was so good, but would this young band be able and willing to work in a completely new way of perfectly capturing their music?

Thankfully, yes. Go here to get a taste of what I mean. The last track sample, James Dean is one of my favorites. It goes from hard-driving foot-tapping classic rock to loud and raunchy. Amazing.

If you’re like me and love this kind of music then this is a great album to grab.

Here’s a link to a video we put together about the album and its recording.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Adaptation

How easily we adapt to our environments. If it’s too cold we put on a sweater, too hot and we find shade, listen to music through bandwidth-limited earbuds, and before long it sounds just right.

While being wonderfully adaptive is a blessing, it can also be a curse. We get so used to the sound of a stereo system—even a bad one—that it becomes difficult to know when something is better.

It’s immediately apparent that it’s different. But, better?

And to make matters worse, if we don’t form a fairly quick opinion between the two we begin to adapt yet again.

I think this conundrum is one of the many reasons why it’s so valuable to attend as many live concerts as possible.

Once you adapt to the sound of live music, the easier it gets to know when reproductions are right.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Spine chills

Just walked out of the listening room after having auditioned two mix versions of a new song for Octave Records.

Wow. Chills up my spine.

I wonder what it is that connects us to music and story in such a visceral way.

When it occurs I cannot control it. And in its absence, I cannot create it.

There’s something magical about the connections music affords us. It makes me want to grab someone and sit them down in the listening seat and with them share that experience.

That joy. That magic.

Chills up my spine. (the track, if you’re interested, is called “Things worth remembering”

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Moods

Ever notice how our mood changes our hearing? How good or bad our system sounds?

We may or may not be in a mood to listen to one kind of music or another. We choose which to enjoy based on our inner feelings.

What’s interesting to me is how much this affects our perception of sound quality and by logical extension how stereo equipment sounds.

Of course, there would be those that rise up and say prove it to me.

And there would be my response that there’s no need to prove that which you already know to be true.

What kind of music are you in the mood to listen to today?