The race for dynamic range in the recording industry is over. We won.
At the beginning of the 20th century the first sound recordings achieved about 15dB of dynamic range. 30 years later, following the Roaring Twenties and the advent of vacuum tubes, we had doubled that number to 30dB. The march ever forward has continued to where today, with the benefit of digital recording, we can boast 120dB and beyond.
And here’s the thing. We do not benefit from greater dynamic range in recordings. Already we can capture everything from the movement of a few molecules of air to the sound pressure of a jet engine.
Loudspeakers have yet to catch up but they cannot be too far behind.
The question then is why, after beating THD and IM below the level of audibility, increasing dynamic range past the point of absurdity, laying flat frequency response beyond measure by our ears, are we so danged far from fooling ourselves that music is live in our rooms?
Should we blame the microphones that captured the music? The rooms we play them in? Or just question the viability of the task altogether?
As engineers, we often get mired in minutiae that doesn’t move the needle any closer to the goal—like building better roads on the wrong path.
I have my guesses. You?