Sausages and eating

December 26, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

As a vegetarian, the thought of eating (or worse) the making of a meat sausage isn’t something I like to think about. Yet, it is the perfect analogy for today’s topic.

How is it that in the recording process with its miles of cables, hundreds of connectors, microphones, patch bays, computers, pots, and switches can produce glorious sound? Our audiophile senses tell us this cannot be true since even a small change in cables, connectors, and equipment makes such a huge impact on the way music is reproduced.

It turns out the answer is rather simple because while the two scenarios seem connected they are not. The creation process can be as messy and complicated as it needs to be while the reproduction of the final result must be the opposite.

Creation and consumption. Two very different activities. We can consume in a moment that which might have taken years to create. We don’t see or relate to the creation mess.

When we consume sausages or listen to our stereo systems purity is important. The difference between eating sausage quickly while being shoved onto a crowded subway car would be very different than tasting and smelling every little bite at a quiet dinner table.

It’s a mistake to imagine that we can conflate the recording process to that of the playback process.

They are, at their cores, opposite endeavors.

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28 comments on “Sausages and eating”

  1. Well colour me Salami.
    As a consumer I have no control over the recording process…I am at the mercy of those who
    do it for a living.
    The tunes you love vs the quality of the recording.
    Like anything of quality in life…wines, cheeses, coffee, salamis, music, etc. eventually you will find out who does/makes the best in each field of endeavour.
    We all have our favourites & they may, or may not, also be someone else’s favourites.

    Choice; it’s a wonderful thang.

      1. ‘Tis a Greek tragedy.
        Some time in the future, I don’t know when, the roles will be reversed & Australia will be out of form & I will be bitterly disappointed.
        A better match-up & closer games would be preferable.
        The series win is all but accomplished.
        The spirit of Mitchel Johnson is upon us…5-0

  2. I like this strange analogy in another sense. There are so many ingredients and components for a good meal with then is “consumed” most holistically! Same with modern recording techniques with many instrument-specific microphones and microphones for specific voices all mix together adding plug-in tools from the mixing console. But these microphones are all placed at different spots in the recording studio or concert hall capturing different room sound and maybe sound waves from the neighboring instrument. The result: a mess. I guess the problem of multi-miking came up when there were singers who needed close-up miking because they had rather “weak” voices. I like puristisch one-point recordings without all these unnatural effects. However this requires a careful placement of both the microphone and the instruments/voices in the room. And of course an acoustically optimized recording room/ concert hall. A most time-consuming procedure which today is replaced by cheap digital tools for sound-manipulation.

  3. The audio chain is something like the DNA chain. Most of the DNA strand is useless artifacts that don’t affect anything. But one or two bad genes in the wrong place can mess everything up big time.

  4. IMO it’s correct that even complex and inferior recording and manufacturing processes can still deliver great reproduction experience and make small improvements within the reproduction chain obvious. In the sense, both are disconnected.

    But that doesn’t mean that similar small improvements within the recording and manufacturing processes wouldn’t mean at least as obvious improvements when listening to the final outcome. In the sense, there are similar rules for both.

  5. The simpler the recording process the better the sound. This is physics not art. The most important element in good sound is not the acoustic space in which it occurs but the recording itself. Everything is degraded from that point down.

    1. It all depends what you are recording. What type of music. If you just state acoustic instruments is one thing. Electronic music or most modern pop, that is not the case.

      Do you think that Peter Gabriel fulfills your criteria?

  6. I don’t know what the take away of today is for me.
    Simple ingredients can make good food?
    Cable & electronic technology aren’t as important when capturing the sound since what ever they captured are going thru a meat grinder anyway?

    Some of the best recordings I have ever heard are single take – no mastering no over dubbing no manipulation after the musicians stopped playing. Those recordings captured ambiance, they captured speed, they captured dynamics and impact. They went from really good to great when the time was taken to remaster them digitally 60ish years later. They have a certain ‘presence’.

    Today’s thought seems to promote the idea that playback is ultra sensitive and critical, and if what comes out isn’t up to one’s playback standards, it’s always because of something in the recording.
    I guess that thought alone is what drives the whole business of audio….

    Like what FR said today and what others often say…. The recording process is out most peoples control. The mastering process even more so. So like a good sausage all you can do is find your favorite(s) and enjoy. If the sausage is missing something smother it with peppers and onions… if the recording is missing something shrug your shoulders and try again.

    What would the audiophile community get if the whole process used technology currently touted ‘as the best’ from recording start to playback finish?

  7. Everything in the audio chain makes a difference so it all boils down to balancing and counter balancing the differences cables etc. make till the final sound is what one desires. Making a sausage may be messy but a very well made one is something else and the best I have had are from another country. It’s all about the texture and the ingredients. Same as audio. Regards.

  8. I see the entire path from performance to home payback as being divided into three stages each of which is very complex. The three stages are:

    Recording

    This includes is the performance live or in studio, choice of microphones, microphone preamp and cables, recording analog or digital ( PCM or DSD ), recording on tape or to hard disc.

    Manipulation and Transfer

    This includes mixing, EQ, mastering, choice of playback media ( download file, optical disc, or vinyl ). Each of these included choses such as PCM or DSD, CD or SACD, 33 rpm or 45 rpm.

    Playback

    This includes all the possible choices of playback gear ( TT, tonearm, cartridge, phono preamp, transport, DAC, preamp, power amp, speakers and cables.

    All three stages have a lot of choices, however, in the first two stages these choices are often made as the stage is actually proceeding, whereas, the last stage ( Playback ) all of the choices are already made and in positi0on when playback occurs. Obviously, the consumer has no control over the first two stages and total control over the last stage.

  9. This analogy, does it also work with burgers…..
    or fish cakes?
    If you got some time to waste you could read this.
    It’s about as far off topic as I’ve been this year.

    https://www.kerseys.co.uk/jaffa-cakes-cakes-biscuits/

    The paragraph below was copied from a similar article about the same case.
    I think it is just as applicable to audio.

    “As a consequence, the advice has to be that you shouldn’t treat things in a particular way just because they have always been treated in that way. Things change and a periodical review is a good idea.”

  10. This makes me think of a few things
    – audio equipment (older) where the circuit is point-to-point wiring is much better than a PCB circuit
    – and when music recordings get over dubbed and processed until it sounds aweful, flat…..

      1. Tim, I am not sure why ZMH thinks point-to-point is better, but in my experience the answers is “it depends”. If you are clever and layout a tube amp carefully you can do point-to-point wiring with short lines, signal wires that cross other lines a ninety degrees to minimize cross talk, do twisted pairs where needed and attach capacitors and resistors where needed with short leads, you can build a very good sounding amp.

        However, as the number of components in gear grows PCB’s are the only way to go. The problems that occurs with PCB’s is that most consumer audio gear can be built with two layer boards that have copper traces on both sides of the board and board material ( dielectric material like FR4 ) in between the two wiring layers . This kind of PCB can be very noisy if a lot of traces are run very close to one another. Using PCB’s with more layers so that there can be ground planes in between signal layers and dedicated voltage planes for power produces much better electrical performance, however, more layers cost more money.

        1. Point to point looks cool and has a nostalgic factor in things like guitar pedals and Fender amps…

          Indeed if a PWB/PCB is done correctly it will be superior to point to point wiring for many reasons.
          Choice of laminate material, copper thickness, number of internal ground and power layers, and the layout topology to prevent common mode noise, feedback, and heat issues. I made my RIAA preamp using a copper clad Tefon pcb.
          I have also messed with hybrid FR4/ceramic on aluminum PCB for high power MOSFETs.

          Wires and leads are inductive, not to mention hand soldering is very unprecise and uncontrollable (the thermal profile). Each hand soldered joint differs from the previous. Copper trace also has an inductive component to it but use of ground plane and bypass cap networks make L a non-issue.
          If an iron is to hot or left on the joint to long it can and will damage the component making the component fail sooner. Certain types of film caps can be killed on the spot because they are soldered together internally and the joint can open or become damaged changing the capacitance value. If the dwell time is not long enough it can produce a cold solder joint that can fail after OFF-ON thermal cycling.

          PCBs typically are soldered on wave solder machines, some in a nitrogen atmosphere to prevent further effects of surface oxidization. Our Electrovert wave cost well over a hundred grand. Completely computerized, It has five preheat zones, two top – three bottom IR and hot air convection and has auto solder pot leveling. Thermal profiling is very exact and repeatable. Then there is the chemical and intermetallic properties at work in producing a solder joint. Flux type, metal composition types, etc.

          There is nerdiness even in soldering… LOL

  11. I rarely order scrambled eggs — so disappointing when done by an average cook hard and lumpy.

    But scrumptious when done by a good chef.

    Music: it’s the musician not the engineer who scrambles my eggs.

  12. Indeed it may take years to make the sausage. Some musicians work on a piece of “sausage” for a very long time. I think of the many musicians music that has evolved… honed it, honed it some more, worked on tone, worked on tone some more. Years in the making to getting it right. Intro, modulation, outro…
    Playback takes but a few minutes. Most people have little knowledge of what it took to compose it.
    About like me when I eat my wife’s southern fried chicken.

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