Squeaky clean. Yup, that’s how we like our dishes, hands, cars, and floors. Not so much our music.
The idea of sterile sound—scrubbed clean—is not something I would look forward to listening to, yet I certainly don’t want the opposite. Dirty, gritty, or cluttered, makes my face scrunch up.
If we don’t want either extreme—sterile or dirty—what is it we’re searching for?
When I stand in front of a musician playing an acoustic instrument like a guitar or (recently) a dobro, there’s nothing sterile about what I am hearing. If I pay attention—close my eyes—I hear her finger plucks, room sound, shuffling of feet, breathing, and on occasion a grunt or two.
Music—real music—captured live is not sterile and neither should its reproduction.
I cringe just a little when someone suggests to me their sound is “clean and crystal clear, free of any distortion”.
When scrubbing systems clean, be careful you don’t lose the baby with the bathwater.