What makes a good recording?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Michael Varacin, Nov 5, 2002.

  1. Michael Varacin

    Michael Varacin Stunt Coordinator

    May 24, 2002
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    I was demonstrating a pair of speakers for my Father the other day. I was flipping through my CD carrier and mumbled "let me find a good recording." He asked what makes a good recording? I didn't have an answer.

    I always thought a good recording was one that was mixed well. Meaning everything seems to be at the same volume level...vocals don't overpower music or the other way around.

    But why do some discs sound better then others? And how do we know what it right?
  2. mike_decock

    mike_decock Supporting Actor

    May 21, 2002
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    Good sound requires care to be taken in every part of the process. A good recording location, good microphones, good mixing, good production, good mastering, etc.

  3. Jagan Seshadri

    Jagan Seshadri Supporting Actor

    Nov 5, 2001
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    A good recording recreates a performance and captures the subtleties as well as the energetic parts. If I were to explain to my folks what a good recording was, I'd give the following guidelines:
    1) If it sounds like the radio is playing, it's a bad recording. Radio broadcasts intentionally smush the sound (make all the volumes throughout the song similar) to fit it over the airwaves and to make the sound cut through the noisy environment of cars (where most people listen to the radio anyway).
    2) A good recording is like a good photograph. None of the colors (bass/midrange/treble) are too bright, nor are they too dull. There is detail in the shadows (the decay of a cymbal), not just blackness (silence). Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is an excellent album for showcasing good sonic contrast.
    (Back to the example: Radio turns a majestic photo into a cartoon-likeness).
    2) The instruments or vocals should sound as if there is space around them, and not sound have a congested ('recorded in an elevator') sound. You probably won't hear this 'space' (positioning of instruments) in a car stereo, but on a decent sound system you will be able to say "Ahh, the triangle is being played about 10 feet behind the guitarist". The remastered "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme" by Simon and Garfunkel is a great example of space.
    3) You should be able to listen through a recording without getting a headache. For instance, too much treble can sound 'detailed and clear' at first, but your ears hurt after a while. Some earilier digital recordings have this 'glassy' , 'bright', or 'thin' sound problem.
    4) Drums should have 'snap' or 'kick' to them. Led Zeppelin remastered CDs exhibit these kinds of drums (and the snap is lost when put over the radio or converted to MP3).
    Hope this helps.
  4. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

    Jul 14, 2002
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    The current threads on Clear recordings, and Louder = Better? are interesting in relation to this.

    Good music may make a recording good, whatever the technological and engineering limitations of the era or the producers. The spirit, and the spontaneity, of the music may offset the sonic pollution.

    I like some 1920's music now on cd, even if it is "thin", and not static-scratch free. Perhaps I get a kick from the (imaginary) ambience of megaphones, and B&W movies, too. On the other hand, one of my least favorite styles of recording was exemplified by the extensive use made of synthetic washes of thin sounds filling every cubic inch of sonic room. I think that style may have been most popular in some 1980's music, when amplified breathing passing for singing, also made great inroads. I'm afraid Art Garfunkel's airy records seemed to be a precursor of that trend, very pure, but not robust.

    Anyway, the eternal return of "garage" music, when primitivism reasserts itself, and rejects the precision or sonic clarity (or lack of same!) dictated by current modes, supports my point.

    Hmm, I think I may put on a Jimmy Reed cd this afternoon. Then I'll try Dark Side of the Moon, plus Deodato.

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