The Right Listening Material
Focusing specifically on the honing and teaching of listening skills on electronic systems installers and consumers, companies like Transparent Audio have developed training curriculum that integrates entry-level and high-performance electronics.
A trumpet player with a degree in music along with significant training in physics, Transparent product designer Josh Clark explains the methodology he uses to evaluate Transparent’s products by pointing out that he listens to natural acoustical instruments like strings and brass. “I try to use a wide variety of different recordings with different musical instruments and different recording venues,” he says. “For example, I might choose a short one, a two-minute selection from a Mozart Piano Concerto that features a solo piano playing with an orchestra in a small concert hall. Then, for a different type of recording, I might use a female jazz singer playing with a combo of acoustic bass, piano and drums in a small jazz club and, as a third piece, a gospel singer singing in a church.”
According to Clark, Transparent uses recordings that capture the sound of the musicians playing live. “I would use a recording of an orchestra playing in a concert hall because I can actually go out to hear a similar orchestra play in a similar concert hall and compare the two sounds,” he says. “In the best audio systems, the two experiences can be remarkably close.”
Clark says that with an album made in a recording studio, where the instruments have been amplified, equalized, mixed and processed, he would have no way of knowing how those instruments should actually sound. “Many of my favorite albums were made this way,” he says, “but I don’t rely on them to judge an audio component.”
Keep an Ear on Compression
Bobby Owsinki, founder, engineer and producer at the Studio City, Calif.-based Surround Associates recording studio, has a slightly different perspective. Owsinki says that, while he may not be a believer in the concept of “critical listening,” he employs a set of standards based on his recording experience to evaluate a recording. When listening for evaluation purposes, he says, he listens for distortion and frequency balance.
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Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.