We work so hard achieving sonic purity that it's easy to forget just how flawed some of our tools are. Microphones and loudspeakers, for example, are so far away from neutral that we accept their colorations as normal. I am not sure that's a very high bar from which to set standards.
My friend Dan Schwartz has developed enough of an ear to identify which microphone was used in many recordings. The fact that microphones have so many colorations as to be identifiable from just listening is pretty telling and we haven't even scratched the surface. Walk the halls of a HiFi show and listen to how wildly different music sounds from room to room.
To me, this is a good news, bad news situation. On the one hand, there's enormous room for improvement in our reproduction chains, something that always gets me excited as we delve deep into making better sound systems for the home. On the other hand, it's a little unnerving to consider how much further we have to go.
As we move forward by building better speakers and using only the best microphones to capture music, my hope is we reset our standards. That once we hear better we will be unwilling to settle for what was once "normal".
Progress has many benefits, but the one that makes me smile is setting the bar high enough that we're unwilling to accept less in the future.
A high bar helps us all.