Continuing on our mission as sound evangelists we invited a group of journalists to a Sound Tasting at Abbey Road Studios.
The aim was to give them an insight into how a speaker engineer (in this case, Bowers & Wilkins Senior Development Engineer Dr John Dibb), goes about listening to music and in doing so let them see what they might be missing. It proved an enlightening morning and I asked John to do a guest blog on the event.
Take it away John..
“For a long time it has seemed to me that fewer and fewer people actually take time to appreciate music. Over the years I must have demonstrated good sound to scores of friends and acquaintances, and in most cases they have gone out and bought decent equipment and now enjoy just sitting and listening. It may be a lack of quality in recordings and playback media, or a combination of these with changing lifestyles, but it seems such a pity that so many may be missing out on so much.
I was pleased, therefore, when colleagues invited me to take part in a press event that might help to reverse this trend.
Gourmet evenings and wine tastings are very popular – so why not a sound tasting session at the famous Abbey Road Studios, aimed at educating journalists, and hopefully, through them, the general public, in understanding the lost art of listening.
Following a tour of the studios, a general introduction outlining our concerns and what we see as the way forward, one of Abbey Road’s recording engineers demonstrated the creativity and engineering which goes into a typical multitrack recording.
My part in the event was to try to impress on them the value of simple rules which they could follow to get the most out of playback equipment, particularly placing speakers and the listener away from walls and especially corners. I then tried to impress on them how important it is to be relaxed and to remove as many distractions as possible, including the normally primary sense of vision – i.e. close your eyes. This was followed by some of the core criterion that you need to understand in order to appreciate really good sound.
I was pleased that most of the group appeared to reap benefits from this and continued to listen with closed eyes to their own recordings. Much like appreciating the finer characteristics of a good wine, appreciating quality in recordings often needs some guidance. We achieved this by selecting some of the more important attributes, such as stereo image, dynamics, ambiance, timing and demonstrated that with suitable musical excerpts. I’ve attached the document and tracks we used here in case anyone might be interested.
I think the basic aim of the event was achieved. And on a personal level I felt the same satisfaction I felt as a teenage speaker designer, and still do as a professional, when someone really gets how important sound is and how getting the illusion closer to reality is such a magical thing.”
- If you’re interested you can download some more detailed instructions on how to optimise your auditory experience here.