The sound of microphones
It’s rare that I can hear a recorded voice and be unable to distinguish it from the live version. So rare, in fact, that I think the only times I have been fooled is when that voice is distantly recorded and I am not focused on it.
I place the blame on the device that captures those voices, the microphone. Recording technology has gotten good enough that a direct injected signal from an instrument is indistinguishable from its live performance. It’s really only microphones that are so antiquated as to be instantly identifiable. With only a small amount of practice, you’ll find it easy to classify the types of colorations microphones add to the human voice.
It’s curious to me that so little innovation has gone into the development of new microphones. But then, I suppose, it’s a very difficult problem. To capture sound waves you pretty much have to move some amount of mass and then measure that movement. The types of mass being moved: plastic, metal, ceramic, or granular materials contributes to sound’s colorations.
I once daydreamed about building a stereo servo system around a microphone where a difference approach could be used to correct for the colorations imparted by various materials and microphone patterns. It was an interesting idea but quickly abandoned because, of course, there was no way of capturing what it should sound like without using another transducer.
No, the problem of microphones will be with us for a long, long time.
Hitting the mark
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni or more commonly known by his first name Michelangelo is credited with saying:
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
I think this is excellent advice and a good reminder that the goals we set for our home music system should be more than just a good sounding setup.
I have always been an advocate of stretching myself a little farther than I feel comfortable with: reaching for the stars in the hope of landing on the moon.
I remember when I first became convinced that some preamplifiers had better sound than no preamplifier. For decades I had been an advocate of the philosophy of less is more, that a purer signal path would always trump added circuitry. And for all those decades that was true until I got my arm twisted to purchase one of the few great preamplifiers out there, the Aesthetix Calypso. That move changed my life and my thought process. Suddenly I heard more to the music than I thought possible: air, transparency, space around the instruments and voices, and a more palpable sound stage than I thought possible.
And that’s when we set our sights on building our own preamplifier that could perform the same magic, but with a twist. We wanted to push the envelope farther than it had ever been pushed before. We didn’t want to be as good, we wanted to see where the trail led, how high we could go. When I approached BHK on building a new preamplifier it wasn’t with the intent of matching anything, but rather reaching for the stars.
So, when you’re next dreaming about an upgrade or a new system altogether, aim high my friend. Aim higher than you’re comfortable with and hope you hit something spectacular.
It’s a lot more gratifying than aiming for merely good and hitting your target.