Less than amazing

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Less than amazing

On the phone yesterday with a mix engineer that I was preparing tracks for, I found myself feeling like I had jumped through a time machine.

We had just finished a recording session for a local jazz group. The session was a favor—free studio time at Octave just because we had it available. 10 tunes, 11 tracks each, recorded in DSD256. 

Their mix engineer, of course, had never heard of DSD and wanted the "regular kind" of files sent to him. You know, PCM. Digital. 

Most of the mix engineers I have worked with over the years want as high a sample rate as their systems allow—usually 176kHz if they are using the industry standard, Pro Tools. I mean, why not? Start with as good as it can be.


Thus, I was kind of shocked to have the engineer ask for 48kHz. Asked if he wanted something higher he replied, "No. Why would I? Humans can't hear higher than 20kHz and every engineer I know assures me that sample rates of anything higher is simply a waste of bits."

My first instinct was to jump in and explain to him what's wrong with what he's thinking.

And then....

I am proud of myself. Though it has taken many years, I have finally managed a small degree of self restraint. No, really. I know, hard to imagine, right? But it was true. I asked only if this was something he wanted a second opinion on and, when he laughed and referred back to the "real engineering experts" he respected, I let it go.

Three things happened. First, since his client was on the same phone call, my self restraint allowed the mix engineer to keep not only his reputation unblemished, but also his self esteem intact.

And the third? A reminder that the loss of fidelity due to lower sample rates is kind of a red herring. Why? Well, some of the very best recordings I know are on CDs with a lowly sample rate of only 44.1kHz. And while his mix will never sound anything like the originals, it's good to keep in mind that doesn't mean it's bad.

In other words, losing the potential for amazing doesn't automatically mean the results aren't wonderful.

It's all relative anyway.


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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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