Perfecting Sound Forever

15 12 2009

I’ve recently acquired a book called “Perfecting Sound Forever” by Greg Milner, which tells the history of sound reproduction, from Edison’s phonograph to present day MP3s.

I’ve only read the 1st chapter so far, which details Edison’s “tone tests”, in which he toured the US with his invention and showed audiences the wonders of the first device to “perfectly” reproduce sound. The word “perfectly” here is argued in great detail: Edison believed that his device could perfectly reproduce sound, however we now know that is not the case as sound production has evolved greatly over the years.

However, Milner brings up an interesting point in that because the audience were told beforehand that the phonograph could “perfectly” reproduce sound, they were psychologically tricked into believing that it was perfect, which is very similar to today’s recordings where if a singer uses Autotune in a recording, you would be psychologically tricked into believing that the singer can sing with perfecting tuning. Or that in a song where a singer is whispering or singing at a low volume, yet you can somehow hear them clearly over the sound of the drums, aren’t you being tricked into believing that the singer is louder than the drums when in reality this would not be possible?  (The chorus in the Friendly Fires song I posted in an earlier blog post is a good example of this)

So does this pychological trickery apply to louder records? Do people buy records because it sounds louder than others? Is this the reason why record labels quantity over quality when it comes to dynamics? Do people prefer an overcompressed remaster of a classic record to the original copy because it is simply louder? These are the questions I hope that my project will answer over the coming months.


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