Another word for musical to describe the sound of unadulterated audio reproduction might be natural. It’s a good and reasonable alternative but I fear out of our reach unless we’re willing to make drastic changes.
Natural implies straight from nature without any intervention from us. Picking an apple off a wild tree might qualify, but listening to a commercial recording likely would not. In the real world we pluck an apple off the supermarket shelf and hope it tastes as good as that tree-ripened gem, but alas, it never does.
If you’re not making the recording and shepherding every step of the process through to your ears you’re not likely to ever achieve true natural sound. Yet, maybe that’s ok.
Most of us are into our systems and enjoying their gifts for the magic they bring us. Music through a properly set up system is such an amazing experience that the notion it’s not quite as good as being there pales to just the sheer enjoyment of it all.
No, terms like natural and musical help convey levels of performance in conversation but aren’t requirements for perfection.
The race for dynamic range in the recording industry is over. We won.
At the beginning of the 20th century the first sound recordings achieved about 15dB of dynamic range. 30 years later, following the Roaring Twenties and the advent of vacuum tubes, we had doubled that number to 30dB. The march ever forward has continued to where today, with the benefit of digital recording, we can boast 120dB and beyond.
And here’s the thing. We do not benefit from greater dynamic range in recordings. Already we can capture everything from the movement of a few molecules of air to the sound pressure of a jet engine.
Loudspeakers have yet to catch up but they cannot be too far behind.
The question then is why, after beating THD and IM below the level of audibility, increasing dynamic range past the point of absurdity, laying flat frequency response beyond measure by our ears, are we so danged far from fooling ourselves that music is live in our rooms?
Should we blame the microphones that captured the music? The rooms we play them in? Or just question the viability of the task altogether?
As engineers, we often get mired in minutiae that doesn’t move the needle any closer to the goal—like building better roads on the wrong path.
I have my guesses. You?