Today, I was walking out the door to head to work, and in a sweeping gaze across the living room for things I had forgotten to grab, I saw my little Magnavox 8-track player in its spot on the shelf.
I thought it might garner some laughs at work, so I tucked it under my arm and loaded my bag with 8-tracks like the best of Neil Diamond, Tom Jones' greatest hits, an album by the Bee Gees and a few others. Diana Ross & The Supremes ... you know, really good shit.
It's somewhat of a joke because the company I work for produces some of the highest-standard stereo equipment in the world. Actually, quite a few "high-end audio" manufacturers exist in the Front Range. Companies like Boulder Amplification (check them out and you'll see what I mean), Ayre Acoustics off 55th Street in Boulder or YG Acoustics down in Aurora.
But firing up those juicy 8-tracks on a $10,000 system gave me two insights. For one thing, the juice was real — some of those tapes, like the Mills Brothers do-wop album, really sounded great. The age of the gear and the tape compression just thickened the sound of everything in a pleasing way. Because the highest treble was greatly rolled off by nature of the medium and the playback, the mid-bass and midrange sound was pushed forward. It's what you would call "warm," like the sound of old tube amplifiers and great vintage audio equipment.
The second thing for me was seeing all the advertisement of stereo playback on those tapes but hearing almost completely mono sound — vaguely stereo as far as I could tell.
So that got me thinking about stereo, the history behind it, what kind of magic it is or can be, but also how degraded or even nonexistent stereo music is over some applications.
For instance, I'm sitting here typing in the Rayback Collective in Boulder, listening to the background music over the ceiling speakers. Mos Def is rapping, and I can generally hear everything in the music. But I'm sitting under just one speaker, so as immersive as the sound may be in this large, concrete-floored room, I've got none of that "holographic" sense that real stereo can give you.
Modern producers and engineers have more control over the stereo field than ever, thanks to the availability of computing power that just years ago would have been considered supercomputing.
So the goal of my next series of columns will be to explain what's possible when you set up speakers specifically to reproduce this stereo listening field. I used the term holographic, because a hologram bridges the gap between 3-D and 2-D, creating the former from the latter. Likewise, two speakers can create 3-D sound if you just aim them correctly and minimize obstructions.
Nationally known, locally grown hotshots SunSquabi have finally dropped their new record, the "Deluxe" EP, on GRiZ's All Good Records label. It's predictably delicious both musically and sonically. Fire this sucker up nice and loud, and be sure to get your tickets now for their Red Rocks show on May 6.
Read more Taylor: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk him: instagram.com/duncanxmusic.