Warm vs. True

Lately recording forums have been seeing a wave of bulletin board surveys posted by college and university commercial recording program students looking for content for newly assigned second term papers.

The theme of the season is clearly hardware versus virtual, analog versus digital. As I write this there are three almost identical surveys floating at popular recording cyber-haunt, Gearslutz.

Leave aside, if you will — if you can — the reality that such so-called “voodoo” surveys, relying as they do on self-selected sample populations, are the antithesis of responsible social science. Forget that some college or university instructors are blithely sending their students out on a fool’s errand grounded in really bad science.

Forget all that. Let’s talk about the issues. And how I feel about them.

My emotional skin now in this game, let me say, I think the ideal is to understand what fidelity is good for — and it’s good for plenty, to my way of thinking — but to also be in a position to employ the less-than-perfect when that presents interesting alternatives or augmentations.

One thing that’s worth considering is that, at least until the current generation of designers and equipment, fidelity was typically a guiding principle — the people who designed the big iron analog tape machines that charm so many weren’t striving for “warm” and “characterful” — they were striving for fidelity.

But here’s the interesting thing: we’ve upended some facets of the paradigm and it’s that gap of failure between the goal of full fidelity and the reality of the actual machines that has become, in effect somehow inverted, an extension of the scale beyond the goal. Some might be tempted to say, like a middle school report card forgery, an extra pen mark that makes an A- an A+…

P.S… I’m hoping that last bit doesn’t end up, without attribution, in anyone’s paper… but… I’ve been around.