As I walked through the door of the restaurant with my friend Paul I thought “cool, this place has live music.” I looked into the back of the room and then around the sides as we took our table. My mind was in a bit of a tizzy. The music had just stopped, but what had been playing was live. But as I looked around the room there was no sign of a band anywhere. Finally, I heard some clanking noises and looked up to see a small loft above the bar, and sure enough there was a duo getting ready to play another song. My brain started to slow back down now that my eyes were catching up with my ears.
I think we’ve all had similar experiences. Most of us instantly know the sound of live music. There’s just something about it that is different than a recording. In the above case the duo was playing through a PA system, so microphones, electronics, and speakers were all part of the performance. But it was still unmistakably live. For as long as I can remember the goal of the audio industry has been to recreate the experience of being there, of the live event. While today’s audio systems are greatly improved over years ago, there is still a big gap between even the best recordings and playback systems and the sound of live music.
I am not hopeful that we’ll achieve the goal of “being there” anytime soon. If this goal remains elusive, perhaps we should modify our expectations of “good sound” in the meantime. “Good” is subjective and will always vary a little from person to person. However, there are elements of what technically constitutes good sound that have nearly universal agreement (more on that in a future blog). But technical details aside, if you’re going to be a speaker designer, it’s imperative that you know what “good sound” means to you!
Here is what good sound means to me, and to Vanatoo.
Music is art, perhaps one of mankind’s oldest arts. Art is expressive. It conveys meaning and emotion. A good recording played back on a good system shares this with the listener. It invites them in and involves them with the music. It gives them insights into what the musician, the composer, or the conductor was thinking, doing, and feeling at the time. In order for a system to be considered good it must be capable of pulling you into the performance and away from all the distractions of daily life. It doesn’t need to sound live, but it does need to sound real.
Good sound is also something that you can listen to for an extended period. Many systems sound good when you first sit down, but after a short while your mind wanders and you’re not engaged. Or even worse, you start to grow restless and irritable (what it known as “listening fatigue”). Most of us can’t listen to music for more than about 45 minutes straight without taking a break, but a good system will have you involved in the musical performance for that entire time, not leave you checking your texts or wondering about the time.
I’ll describe how Vanatoo goes about achieving our goal of good sound in future blogs. But suffice it to say that this is where the Vanatoo tagline “Technology Serving Art” comes from; We rely on the best science available, the latest technologies, and large doses of listening to make sure that the artist’s performance comes through when you listen to a Vanatoo system.