I’ll go out on a fairly robust limb to guess that not one of you has ever hooked up an old VHS cassette player to a state-of-the-art flat-screen TV.
The concept of resolution — vividness, sharpness, contrast, tone — is never more commonly grasped than in the world of electronic vision. Most of you can probably tell me what 1080p is.
And in the words of Donna and Tom from “Parks and Recreation,” I’m here to convince you to treat yo’ self when it comes to sound and music. That’s what this is all about.
So far in this audiophile beginners’ series, we have painstakingly plodded through the subject of the source — the music itself, how the music was recorded, how it is transferred digitally and how it is converted to sound.
These will be the last words on the subject for now but potentially the most important. Today’s topic on the subject of the source is what we call “reference recordings.”
When you buy a new TV, you also usually snag a movie that’s been recorded using the latest tech, just so you can really enjoy your purchase at home. A hazy VHS tape with lines through it is not a reference video. You bought a tool with great potential, so you want to give it excellent material to deliver excellent results.
Audio is the same way, and there is no type of music more personally important to an audiophile than a reference recording.
A reference recording is one that satisfies one or both of these criteria: It must sound excellent and represent the highest standard for realism, accuracy, tone and a few other things; it is a recording of a concert of which you were an audience member, ideally sitting near the microphones.
Play that recording at home on your stereo system, and you will either be pleased with your fine stereo setup because the recording sounds just like it did at the concert, or you will be disgusted with the metaphoric VHS quality — and you’ve got some work to do.
This Sunday, I am hosting a special “audiophile” concert at Lafayette’s Center for Musical Arts. By that, I mean it will have no amplification and will rely on natural acoustics to be amplified. In January, I mentioned a show like this featuring Masontown, and we ended up packing the house. The show was amazing, but the resulting recording was even better, and over time it has proven to be of reference quality.
Not many systems on which I’ve played the recording are up to the challenge. But heard on a properly set-up stereo, the sense of deja vu is eerie. Memories flood back to me when I listen to it and it sounds right. This recording is more valuable to me now than any other, because when a stereo is right, it sounds right.
If you’d like to attend this audiophile show on Sunday, hop over to rimofthewell.brownpapertickets.com and reserve a seat. Aim for 7 p.m. and grab a beer.
And be sure to see me after the show — there may be a copy of the recording master in it for you, budding audiophile. More next week.