Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Acoustic music is better at diagnosing the sonics of a component simply because the listener has had a chance to hear it in real life. I've always felt that if a component could reproduce the tonality of acoustic instruments accurately, their reproduction of the tonality of electronic instruments must inherently be accurate. However, I would agree that if a trained listener had heard a recording of non-acoustic instruments on a system that is known to be extremely accurate because of it's performance with recordings of acoustic instruments in real space enough times that they could then use that recording with some authority.

Don’t get me wrong it isn’t a bias against rock and pop, or a preference for jazz and classical. It is perfectly acceptable to use acoustic rock as a reference. Drum kits on rock and pop are, as long as they acoustic also a perfectly acceptable instrument to use for evaluation purposes.

While the sound of an electric guitar MIGHT be as complex as a flute, acoustic guitar, or grand piano it is unknowable. By that I mean that unless you were in the recording studio with the guitar player on the day of the original session your understanding of the sound of that guitar can only be in the broadest of terms, not exact terms. There are just too many variables that affect the tone of the guitar. The list of factors that I can think of off of the top of my head are:

1. The Guitar (make, model, and year)
2. The switch positions on said guitar
3. The nob settings of said guitar
4. Custom modifications to the guitar (if any)
5. The foot pedals (not only type but brand)
6. The nob positions on those pedals
7. Any customization of those pedals (if applicable)
8. The Guitar amp (make, model, and age)
9. The setting of knobs and switches on said amp
10. Any customization of the amp (if there are any)
11. Recording mic (model and type)
12. Mic position
13. Tweaks of the mic (if any)
14. Room position of mic
15. Room acoustics
16. String choice on guitar
17. Choice of guitar pick
18. Tube type in guitar amp (if applicable)

Now lets look at the variables for recording a flute:

1. The flute (make model, and year)
2. Recording mic (model and type)
3. Mic position
4. Tweaks of the mic (if any)
5. Room position of mic
6. Room acoustics

Because there are so many variables in the way an electric guitar CAN sound it is completely unsuitable as a reference to determine the accuracy of reproduction. So if a piece of audio gear slightly changes the tonality of electric guitar it’s tough to know because the slightly inaccurate reproduction is still somewhere on the continuum of what an electric guitar MIGHT sound like. It’s pretty obvious that the chance KNOWING in exact terms how a particular performance on electric guitar is supposed to sound is an impossibility. While KNOWING how a flute is supposed to sound in absolute terms, though difficult is possible.

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