As promised

January 16, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

I promised in yesterday’s post, The Art of HiFi, that I would continue part of the story of this recording’s creation.

Couple of things first: I apologize for the slow website yesterday. Between the release of Copper Magazine and my post, the site bogged down to an interminable crawl that is both embarrassing and grating. We are working on fixing this problem caused by an overload of people coming to the site, but it will take some time. For those who were unable to grab a copy of The Art of HiFi because of the slow site, there are still some available (though we sold about half of them yesterday).

Second, I spent some of my Sunday afternoon interviewing DirectStream designer Ted Smith. That interview is now available on YouTube and can be watched by going here. A note of caution. Ted is rather…technical…to say the least. I love hearing him speak and there’s a ton to learn so if you have 45 minutes or so to absorb some very cool technical info, then by all means watch.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to get a feel for the rave reviews the MK2 is getting, head here and scroll down to read the comments section. (If you’re an MK1 owner, this is the place you need to go to).

Ok. To the subject at hand.

There are so many stories that go along with the creation of a recording project like The Art of HiFi: Bass that it’s difficult to choose which to share. Yesterday, we covered the live recording of trumpeter Gabriel Mervine’s father, Kendrick, filling a huge synagogue with wonderful organ music. Today, I thought we might recount the challenges of getting low bass onto a recording.

There are very few microphones that reproduce sounds below 20 Hz. Some measurement mics go lower, but they’re outliers. One of the reasons most recording studio microphones don’t dip into the lower bass regions that exceed human hearing is simple. They are transformer coupled. Most microphones we use have matching impedance transformers that are flat to 20 Hz but roll off pretty quickly beyond that. (One stand out exception is a Tim de Paravacini modified AKG C24 owned by Dan Schwartz that, on occasion, we get to borrow, but currently, it is not in-house).

How to test the -3dB limitation of our A/D converters that dip down to only a few Hertz?

Simple. Turn to direct input instruments like synthesizers. That’s exactly what we did. On multiple tracks we tested the limits of Pyramix DSD256 system by feeding into it some of the lowest notes ever recorded on a commercial release. Check out Track 9, for example, Tom Ammend’s World Wind. You’ll know the note when you “hear” it. Even on our reference system, it cannot be heard, but rather, it is felt.

The Art of HiFi Series: Bass is available for download or purchase right know. Don’t miss out on this stellar Octave Recording.

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22 comments on “As promised”

  1. I was reading about recordings made at the Abbey of St Etienne in Caen. This is an extraordinary building in the main town of Normandy, commissioned in the 11th C by the Duke, who became William I (William the Conqueror of England). The Abbot became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and built the Tower of London. Many will have seen its white stone, which was brought over from Caen. William I is buried in the Abbey. It has a famous organ.

    The history of the place is more interesting to me, although the recordings were done there with DSD, DXD and analogue tape. Apparently the microphones used were a bunch of Sennheiser MKH8020, which go down to 10Hz and cost an absolute fortune, especially when you are doing multi-channel recordings and need half a dozen of them.

    So it struck me that these microphones go below the limits of human hearing, and the top of the range REL subwoofers are specified -6dB at 15Hz, so these mics can detect frequencies that it is probably impossible to play back, would cost an absolute fortune and you would need your own cathedral or abbey for it to make sense.

    To me this is home audio for the slightly demented, or for people who live in remote forests.

      1. There’s a fetish for everyone and recording organs appears to be a long-established audio fetish – tape, PCM, DXD, DSD, stereo, multi-channel – it’s all out there if you want it and you have no desire for friends or respect for neighbours.

        The Caen organ was built by the most famous organ builder of the 19th C, apparently it’s about the same size as the Denver one, he built organs twice as big.

        Lots of people go to Caen, to see the Bayeux Tapestry nearby, the Normandy beaches. The weather is like England, wet and miserable most of the the time, which is probably why Guillaume le Conqueror invaded – he liked our rubbish weather and other things in common, like alcohol based on apples rather than grapes (le cidre comes from Normany and I have a lovely bottle of Le Gin that is apple-based). There’s a lot of history there, Larry Olivier beat the French at Agincourt, great beaches and we even once went to a music festival in Dinard. Hence the great musical movie “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg”, because you always need an umbrella.

        1. Our church organist (God rest his soul) had an organ, pipes, and many other things musical and otherwise set up for entertaining friends in the basement of his home. He had an electrical engineering background and was always tinkering. Among the items was a 31” subwoofer. He cracked the foundation of his home. People asked if he annoyed the neighbors. Being an Air Force colonel in a neighborhood inhabited primarily by other military families, he liked to say “I pull rank on them”. He was a bachelor, of course.

        2. Can’t let a mention of ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’ pass without comment. I doubt I was even a teenager when I first saw that film and it made quite an impression, one that has stayed with me. Enjoyed the Michel Legrand composed music especially the song ‘I Will Wait For You’. Watching that film and listening to the music has always encouraged me to pay attention to film soundtracks, which can often contain songs unavailable elsewhere.

          1. When amassing my LP collection at garage sales in the ’90s I picked up movie soundtrack LPs that were typically in excellent condition, having been played only a few times after the owner had seen the movie and purchased the LP. And you’re right, RT, they often contain some marvelous music. 😎

    1. I might suggest that you try using accelerometers to measure the lowest bass notes. Most accelerometers commonly used for vibration analysis will go down to 2 Hz. Special accelerometers can go down to 2-3 CPM or about 1/3 Hz. The accelerometer signal from the driver electronics will probably need to be adjusted for amplitude to be at realistic values for use as a Bass signal blending into the music.

  2. I’m seeing right back to the crawl of the website right now. Was fast for PSA’s site 15 min ago.
    The Art of HIFI may be 😎 , but the frequencies you are taking about sound more like a home theater set-up for special effects. Really want to feel the bass? Get a rotary subwoofer, to supplement your REL, which is supplementing the FR’s.

    My hold out on purchasing or trying the recording is the report of no meta data on the 256 download. For the premium price being asked for the 256 download you’d think it would be there and not have to be added by the purchaser. This happened with the Jeremey Mohney download of the 256 version. I wrote that off as a fluke or learning process at PSA and Octave Records, but Apparently that’s not the case. I know for a fact it can be done, so why isn’t it there?

    Add in the response to Cookie, a week or so ago where it was stated that 2xDSD is the sweet spot then questions like why pay the extra $10 pop up.

    I personally like the format sample rates that were included in this release.
    Is the meta on all the other downloadable formats?

    From the liner notes I see you Paul personally recorded and mixed. Mastering by Gus . For that reason alone my interest was peaked. (Kind of shocked that if Gus mastered then how was the meta data missed)

    1. +1 on the lack of meta data. Can you at least provide a written track listing so we can manually add it? Not like we can look it up on Discogs. TIA

      1. Hmmmm. All the downloads had track and naming info. I am surprised to read differently.

        01 – Erase me
        02 – How deep
        03 – Power of life
        04 – Rocky Mountain Rain
        05 – Sheps dream
        06 – Passacaglia
        07 – Take what you need
        08 – Maiden voyage
        09 – World Wind
        10 – Toccata in D Minor

        1. My judgement was based on what I read yesterday along with the fact the 256 version Jeremy Mohney album had the same issue. When imported into Amarra or J Rivers all the track info along with the album name & artist name were missing. My impression was that it had to do with the way the nomenclature in the DSD file I downloaded was not in a format the I typically see in downloads.
          I’m not looking for the liner notes to show up in the playback program. But I do expect the artist (even if various) and the song track titles to be there. Not to have to be entered by hand & importing art work. For what ever that is worth ✌️

          Just an fyi from my perspective- not a total show stopper

  3. The lowest stuff I hear within track 9 is at about 2.13 – is that it?

    On the first track there’s some low stuff that rattles the innards of my 10′ wide projector screen in the same way that Boz Scaggs Thanks To You does.

    In general track 7 provides continuos low heavy bass in my room.

    1. Thanks. Drives me bananas. It is slow again today. If we get more than maybe 100 viewers at a time it slows down to a crawl. Absurd for a company our size. We will be moving the entire platform to a new service sometimes in February or March and that should forever fix it.

  4. Track No. 10 “Toccata in D” shows the typical and obviously inherent problems of stereo sound image depth: the depth increases when the volume (SPL of the organ’s tones) is reduced. Thus there is obviously huge room for improvements. I wonder if the coming recordings of a grand piano will offer a more realistic sound image compared to that of this organ and I am keen looking forward to listen to those tracks.

      1. Thanks for confirming, Paul. It seems that my stereo chain isn’t that bad at all. 😉 However church acoustics can be a nightmare. Having done services as an altar boy for some seven years (before my interests in hifi did arise) I know what I am talking about. But this track also creates an unrealistic sound image when high and low frequency pipes are playing at the same time: there isn’t a “center image” at all for both frequency ranges: it seems that the high frequency pipes coming not centered from the left and right speaker make the low frequency sound non-centered too! While the normal hifi experience tells that low frequencies cannot be localized at all.

  5. Tomorrow evening we venture to Broward Crt of ther Arts to attempt to listen to a performance. Im not sure if I’m going to bring a book, my Kindle, or a magazine.

    The last several performances were an “acoustical mess” and I did write to management concerning this issue. No, I did not get a reply, nor did I expect one.

    So I guess I will catch up on the unread copies of Car and Driver; at least I will be able to understand what I read! Yes, I realize that Car and Driver is just as confused with its auto evaluation as HiFI magazines are with the products they review.

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