Category Archives: Reference Performances and Recordings

Closer than a Brother

Depth. I could write this word a thousand times, and it captures the essence of the “Brothers in Arms” album by Dire Straights.

Again I caveat, you need to hear this on a really good highly resolving  sound system, no headphones in my humble opinion can do justice to this work of irreplaceable art.

One more masterpiece where the words are not important, for you to enjoy it (it could have been sung in Swahili and you would still enjoy it without limitations) .

Layers of sonic overlay, lathered from front to back of the virtual hall(Z), from left to right(X), from bass to tinkly sparkly percussion(Y), were talking 3 dimensions here, of spectacular sonics laid bare in front of you. The melody is a 4th dimension, harmonies a 5th, lyrics a 6th, arrangement a 7th, and putting it all together its transparency and indelible impact and residue of emotions, is akin to an 8th dimension. It should not be possible – from a stereo source. I never felt the need for a higher definition version, extremely realistic presentation, truly like being in the studio – a cliche but true- the band is right there in front of you.

Whatever audio processing has been applied was done skillfully augmenting rather than taking away, balance, always an easy listen, what an ear test/sonic exploration. Textures ad infinitum, soft , hard, mushy, spiky, subdued, struck, pinched, tension, release, enveloping – 2 speakers felt like I had a surround system, filling the whole space and room with sound, and I could hear every note from anywhere, beyond space, beyond time, effortlessly, like having a magnifying glass.

Unconstrained, like peering through a completely opaque vista, no screens between you and the performers – live, dare I say it, this is better, much better than watching it live, cos you can enjoy this on your own, without an audience interrupting soak in all the sounds.

I had listened to a few tracks, before my mind attempted to consider the genre, but that was now irrelevant – it did not matter, this was art, using a medium to express something very human, a message from one mind to another, not needing an intermediary or translation. And the message was understood, without having to think of meaning, felt not just heard, every thump, snap, growl, pick, and synthesizer zips appearing in Money for Nothing, from beyond momentarily like shooting stars. Really serous about the caveat, on a good system, all these things stand out, not subtle at all, bold, and you wonder, I never heard all these sounds before. Is this really what Soul to Soul means, telepathic communication with the musicians, and the speakers literally disappeared, all I was left with was the music and its impact.

I listened to another album by a leading lady of pop which was released in 2008, and then I understood, this other pop album which was very well received almost sounded like a mono version, in comparison, gone were the highs and lows, and gone were the dimensions, and gone was the meaning.

Brothers in Arms should be compulsory listening for Audio Engineering students – this is how good a finished work of recorded audio can sound, like butter.

Art that conceals the science and engineering within it. No seams. Timeless. Very Satisfying.

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Performances and Recordings of Note – One Night Only – Gregory Porter

Every so often I hear things that really standout, in various ways, sometimes in more than one way, e.g emotionally, musically, lyrically, production values, musicianship, tone. And I thought I’d share these here.

Typically these are recordings that made me take notice and I definitely want to hear them again.

Fair warning, some of these recordings need a music system that I would describe as accurate and highly resolving, ideally able to reproduce evenly frequencies down to 40hz, better still 35hz, with ease, and clarity all the way to 20Khz with balance on the top end and pretty accurate in between these extremes. Otherwise the detail is lost. You need this to hear the triangles without obstruction.

The 1st recording that touched me, recently, enough to highlight here, was Gregory Porter’s – One night only live at the Royal Albert Hall – 2018.

Comments: This is not about perfection, as on a highly resolving system, I can hear things that I would have loved to correct in a studio recording, but for a live recording, this album captures the essence of being there, in row 1, sitting right in front of Gregory, pretty much the same distance between us, as the distance between me and the speakers I am listening to.

A recording which you want to turn up, and hear in surround, the limitations of stereo as good as it is are apparent. But that’s the best you can do, a recording that makes you want to hear more.

This is probably the best recording of his voice I have heard, not in its accuracy, but in its authority and clarity. It’s difficult to go back and listen to other things after this.

What I’m trying to say is : this is a keepsake, a beautiful recording, that simply propels you into the virtual Albert Hall, to the limit of your speaker placement.

Very open, life like, very clever use of compression, which is not immediately apparent. IMHO, this is a watermark to compare any other recordings to. This one will test your sound system to the limit, especially in low end clarity… And the audience hand claps are like they are all around you. Superb….

It’s warts and all, some plosives are apparent, but worth the excess to assure capture of that rich deep dark bold masculinity, I think Gregory’s nickname should be the Lion King, cos on this album, he roars majestically , from the speakers, to overwhelm every sense. There is nothing I have ever heard that sounds quit like this. The smoothness of the orchestra, as an enveloping backdrop, to the rasp in his every syllable, periodically explosive, there may never be anything else like it again.

One night only. Very true, I doubt that Gregory himself can repeat this. You can sense the inspiration and elation – it must have been a special day for him also.

This would be even more amazing to hear in 24bit/96Khz…..

It is the most dynamic collection of music I have heard for some time, for the geeks, it had crest factors as high as 13.5 dB. A lot of pop music has a dynamic range – by crest factor of only 6 dB. This one needs turning up the sound system, so you can hear it as intended – life like, but then the voice becomes larger than life. What a performance – one man and an orchestra – absolutely no backing vocals. Awesome..

You can listen to this a million times, and hear something different every time, the 1st time I heard it,¬† I did not bother with the words, the music was simply so enthralling. Oh and no Auto Tune (pitch correction by a computer algorithm) in this one, you can hear all the inflections, its a man singing. He’s human, enhanced by microphone and audio production technology, to sound flatteringly superhuman on this recording, imperfectly perfect. This is real music. and live – no retakes….

On the songs that I know well from his previous albums, there is no sense of formulaic sameness, each song is fresh, and this applies to his vocal delivery. I must check – did he win a Grammy for this one, cos if he did it was well deserved.

Seriously this sets a new standard… for what modern recording and expert musicianship can achieve.

Good music is definitely not dead. Vintage, Classic, yet rendered with space age sonic authenticity.