Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kevin Becka Off Base With "5 Worst Audio Trends..."

Kevin Becka of Mix recently blogged about the "5 Worst Audio Trends of the Noughties." He is absolutely right that there are problems associated with these things but he seems to miss the real problem on almost all of them. The problems, according to Becka, are...

  1. The End of Hi-Fidelity
  2. Illegal Downloading
  3. Pitch Correction Abuse
  4. The Death of Dynamics
  5. Staying Inside The Box
First, he looses points for numbers 1 and 4 just because he fell into the "death of..." trap. Aside from that I have to refer to his explanations of why these things made the list and what caused the problems.

The "end" of high fidelity as a musical/audio value is, predictably, is blamed on MP3s and digital distribution. Yes, MP3 is a lossy compression format and doesn't sound all that great, especially at lower bit rates, but its popularity hasn't stopped people from buying 180g vinyl of both new music and re-issues. Besides that, not all digital distribution suffers from the quality problems associated with MP3s. Many legal download sites offer .wav files and or very high bit rate compressed files that sound at least as good as a CD. Hi-fi isn't dead or over. Looking at the big picture, the worst I can say is that it has finally been put into perspective. Do I need esoteric sound stage analysis for my car stereo? No. Neither do you. Want it at home so you can get the full effect of your 180g vinyl? Go for it. It's your money.

Pitch correction abuse: This is subjective. Becka says it gives poor or lazy vocalists a bye and makes talent optional when making a record. Seriously? Talent has always been optional.

He's right on the money concerning the loudness wars, but there is reason to think they may be almost over. The push back from engineers, artists and listeners is getting pretty strong.

Finally, Becka complains about in-the-box production. He cites the virtues of the analog technology used to make so many great records over the years. Yeah, so what? The world is rich in production methods and different ones are best for different projects. I'm not making Beatles records. Neither is anybody else. Do what works. Whether or not it happens inside or outside a computer is very much beside the point.

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