Capturing air

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We’re happiest when recordings and systems capture the space as well as the music.

Mastering and recording engineer Gus Skinas and I have been playing with microphones as of late and the biggest differences we hear are in the air, the room, the space. Sure, there are big differences between tonal qualities microphones capture (or don’t) but those quickly pale in comparison to how much air is recorded.

We seem to “see through” the tonal differences rather quickly, forgiving the microphone for its colorations. But it is the recorded air that makes the magic.

One such microphone must have been handcrafted by wizards. It’s an AKG C24 as modified by Tim de Paravicini on a sort of bet between Tim and its owner, Dan Schwartz. I don’t know the details but they involved replacing its guts with Tim’s transformers and Dan’s handpicked vacuum tubes. But I could have easily just said it used Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing.

The recipe that made it doesn’t matter. The instrument captures the air and the moment, unlike any device I have ever heard.

Whether it’s a stereo system that faithfully reproduces air or a microphone that captures it, it’s the sound of the environment that often is more important than the main venue.

How is the air in your listening room?