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ASR burning the wrong witches?

sarumbear

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering….This is in a way a central point to my complaint about recording engineers. If they want to make art then pick another job.
Were Tomita or jean-Michel Jarre artist or an engineer?

Do you believe Pink Floyd's sound existed without Alan Parsons?
 
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acbarn

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering. This is in a way a central point to my complaint about recording engineers. If they want to make art then pick another job.
This shows how little you know about the production process and what actually takes place in recording and mastering studios.
 

goat76

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There is also a database on the web that shows dynamic range of recordings: https://dr.loudness-war.info/ Afaik this is a good indication of a good recording. (You can search by pressing the menu top right)
Yes, I visit that site sometimes. But with the program MasVis I'm talking about there's a more in-depth view of what is dune to the masters. You can see what is dune to the dynamics, if it's still intact or if it has been limited just to make it louder. You can use it to compare different masters of the same song and see what is changed to the spectrum within the songs, what is changed in the balance of the tracks, and so on.


masvis-online 01 - Breadcrumb Trail.png
 

Sokel

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Out of curiosity, how are Low’s recordings horrible? By what measurements? Which recordings? I ask because I love their music and I haven’t thought much about the recording quality, but I have them on vinyl and lossless so could actually listen for these flaws since I’m curious if it matters given the style of their music.
I'm not talking about the majority,most of them are beautiful,In The Fishtank is more than ok for example,K./Low also.
A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief: 10 Years Of B-Sides & Rarities on the other hand with all the demos,etc...,some of them are really horrible (and they ought to be probably as such)
 

tomtoo

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering.
I can recal when amplifier builders in particular would describe their trade as art. I don't want art in my amplifier thanks. I want sound engineering.
This is in a way a central point to my complaint about recording engineers. If they want to make art then pick another job.
I want to hear what the performers, the artists sound like; not what some engineer thinks they should sound like. The recording engineer may as well scrub the artists name off the label and substitute their own.
It would all sound dull and boring if the engineers didn't tweak the recordings. Didn't we hear a similar arguement when digital recording and digital media became more widespread. Comments like "but CD sounds so clinical and cold compared to vinyl" come to mind.

Recording and mixing, was always and will allways be part of the art.
 

goat76

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I'm not talking about the majority,most of them are beautiful,In The Fishtank is more than ok for example,K./Low also.
A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief: 10 Years Of B-Sides & Rarities on the other hand with all the demos,etc...,some of them are really horrible (and they ought to be probably as such)
I think the one recorded by Steve Albini sounds fantastic. It sounds raw, roomy, and honest. :)

Low - Things We Lost in the Fire
 

MattHooper

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I think the OP goes to the heart of what people want from the hobby and raises some pertinent questions.

Yes, though the OP's replies sometimes muddy the waters.

I think most of use would take a step back and say the foundation is that whatever is being recorded should be something we want to listen to, which means the composition and performance. If we accept that then we can move onto to the OP's point and discuss what really matters, and that then does raise the question - what is audio gear for? It's one of those questions which is so obvious that it seldom seems to be discussed by audio enthusiasts yet what we want out of the hobby is pretty fundamental to how we should view the hobby. And the answer to that one is personal, we each have our own passions and interests and it is one of those questions for which the right answer is the one which is right for you.

I've gone back to that question - what is the gear for? - over and over on this forum. Getting at basic assumptions can be enlightening (though difficult sometimes).

I think the definition "An Audiophile is someone who is enthusiastic about high quality sound reproduction" is probably the best catch-all for what ties audiophiles together. Some do this by seeking accurate equipment, others look for or accept some level of coloration. Seeking merely "accuracy" doesn't cover all this, since "accuracy" doesn't necessitate "good sound." (Your source may have poor sound quality).


For me, there are two separate but over lapping hobbies, listening to music, and audio gear.

Yes I agree with recognizing that distinction. Plenty of us audiophiles can enjoy music on "lower-fi" systems, be it the smart speaker in the kitchen or blasting a not-terribly-accurate car stereo cruising down the road etc. But then we also have a fascination with Sound Quality and Audio Gear as well, which of course is also in the service of listening to music. I want the perception of high sound quality in my audio system, but it's always vetted by including the degree to which it seems to engage me with the music. So, yes, separate but overlapping.
Where it becomes difficult is that because sound engineers exist at the interface of science (the recording hardware and technology) and art (the music, or whatever is being recorded) it will always be rather subjective. Use of compression is a good example, compression gets a very negative press, but some use of compression can be hugely beneficial to facilitate playback. I have some classical music recordings where the dynamic range does mean I sometimes adjust volume during playback as to have certain passages at a reasonable volume would be way too loud at other points. Compression is like most technologies, in itself it is neither good or bad, what matters is how it is used.

For all that, I have loads of old recordings which are technically awful but which I love because of the performances they capture.

I have always included some lower quality recordings of music I really like when auditioning gear. That helps ensure the gear in question - e.g. speakers - will playback music I love in an engaging manner, including the lower quality recordings. This has helped me identify certain characteristics in sound playback that I care about. For instance, plenty of high end systems can impress with a spacious presentation, impressive imaging, but can sound sort of "wispy" and see-through, a neat magic show, but lacking the sense of real density and air-moving palpability and dynamics to the instruments in the recordings. I find that so long as a system has that sense of density and dynamics, then even lower quality recordings - e.g. thin in the bass, distant sounding - then the system can still convey the sense of energy of the musicians in an engaging manner.
 

maverickronin

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Just going to throw a few random statements and opinions out here.

  • I still fail to understand the fetishization of high dynamic range.
  • Most of the stuff I listen to and have usually listened to scores 5-7 on the "DR Meter" and I've never found it to sound better from poorer equipment/worse on better equipment, impeded my desire to invest in better equipment, nor have I been disappointed after upgrading because my favorite sounded worse.
  • To the extent that most modern mixes are "optimized" for anything, they seem to be optimized for enjoying outside a quiet listening room via dynamic range compression.
  • Personally, I find this pretty minor, as I still need even more compression about half of the time - when playing music in my car to cut through road noise or for super low volume playback as I'm falling asleep.
  • Most of this sort of complaining is just genre bias, extending the norms of one genre at one point in history to all of music. It also ignores the fact that music as an art is very heavily linked to the technology available to create and distribute it. Genres are defined as much by technological and economic limitations at their invention as by artistic intent. Symphony orchestras were mostly created to provide enough volume to play to a large audience but no one would suggest abandoning them now that we can amplify chamber music. Similarly, mass distribution of music has made studio mixes the primary art from while live concerts of modern genres are now more of a social experience.
 

dfuller

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Recording is an art. I don't think so. The art stops with the performers. What comes after is engineering.
As someone who does it for a living... you're honestly straight up wrong here. It's almost all by taste.

I want to hear what the performers, the artists sound like; not what some engineer thinks they should sound like. The recording engineer may as well scrub the artists name off the label and substitute their own.
In everything other than documentary style recordings of orchestras... which essentially nobody does at this point... the performance, the recording, and the production are inextricably linked. You're hearing the sound that they went for... and everybody plays a role in that. The producer, the artist, the recordist, the mixer, the mastering engineer.

The drum work in Metallica's Enter Sandman would not have the same effect without compression, but there is I suggest an acceptable and competent use and then there are the so called engineers who compress the crap out of a recording so you end up listening to a wall of sound.
The drums on that record are funhouse mirror levels of processed. Drums don't sound like that. And that record is also crushed. That's kind of Randy Staub's thing, absolutely mashing the mix bus with compression. I'm talking 8-10dB of gain reduction, 30ms attack and the auto-release setting on the SSL stereo bus compressor.

Just going to throw a few random statements and opinions out here.

  • I still fail to understand the fetishization of high dynamic range.
  • Most of the stuff I listen to and have usually listened to scores 5-7 on the "DR Meter" and I've never found it to sound better from poorer equipment/worse on better equipment, impeded my desire to invest in better equipment, nor have I been disappointed after upgrading because my favorite sounded worse.
  • To the extent that most modern mixes are "optimized" for anything, they seem to be optimized for enjoying outside a quiet listening room via dynamic range compression.
  • Personally, I find this pretty minor, as I still need even more compression about half of the time - when playing music in my car to cut through road noise or for super low volume playback as I'm falling asleep.
  • Most of this sort of complaining is just genre bias, extending the norms of one genre at one point in history to all of music. It also ignores the fact that music as an art is very heavily linked to the technology available to create and distribute it. Genres are defined as much by technological and economic limitations at their invention as by artistic intent. Symphony orchestras were mostly created to provide enough volume to play to a large audience but no one would suggest abandoning them now that we can amplify chamber music. Similarly, mass distribution of music has made studio mixes the primary art from while live concerts of modern genres are now more of a social experience.
I have yet to understand the point of high dynamic range for music that's just always loud. Obviously there's a limit where it starts getting audibly distorted, but I'm not sure I'd ever bother leaving a lot of dynamic range in an extreme metal record.
 
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goat76

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Just going to throw a few random statements and opinions out here.

  • I still fail to understand the fetishization of high dynamic range.
  • Most of the stuff I listen to and have usually listened to scores 5-7 on the "DR Meter" and I've never found it to sound better from poorer equipment/worse on better equipment, impeded my desire to invest in better equipment, nor have I been disappointed after upgrading because my favorite sounded worse.
  • To the extent that most modern mixes are "optimized" for anything, they seem to be optimized for enjoying outside a quiet listening room via dynamic range compression.
  • Personally, I find this pretty minor, as I still need even more compression about half of the time - when playing music in my car to cut through road noise or for super low volume playback as I'm falling asleep.
  • Most of this sort of complaining is just genre bias, extending the norms of one genre at one point in history to all of music. It also ignores the fact that music as an art is very heavily linked to the technology available to create and distribute it. Genres are defined as much by technological and economic limitations at their invention as by artistic intent. Symphony orchestras were mostly created to provide enough volume to play to a large audience but no one would suggest abandoning them now that we can amplify chamber music. Similarly, mass distribution of music has made studio mixes the primary art from while live concerts of modern genres are now more of a social experience.
It's not about the fetishization of high dynamic range (at least not for me). It's about keeping the natural dynamic range of the music that was heard by the artist and the mixing engineer when the mix was finished in the studio, there's no point to crush the mix further than that in the mastering stage just to make it louder because the end-user does have their own volume control for that. By keeping the natural transients of the finished mix it will sound less harsh and distorted when played at the same volume as the crushed mix, and you will probably (in most cases) even be able to play it much louder before it starts to sound bad.

I think maybe there is a misunderstanding going on here?
Just keeping the full dynamic range of the finished mix, and not limiting the mix in the mastering stage, doesn't mean the music necessarily will have larger dynamic "swings" between the sound objects in the mix itself, and go from super quiet to super loud as the classical music do. The only thing you need to do is to turn up the volume to the same level as the crushed master and it will sound much better.



I stumbled across an unofficial version of Daft Punk - Random Access Memories. When compared to the official release it's obviously a less harmed version with the dynamics intact as can clearly be seen in the Histogram graph, the track is "lifted" from the ground by about 6 dB. The thick Left and Right sausages at the top are also an indication of the completely unnecessary cut-off transients. The "All passed crest factor"-graph also indicates that a lot has been done to the official release during mastering.

Instant Crush - Unofficial VS Official Version.png
 

IPunchCholla

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I'm not talking about the majority,most of them are beautiful,In The Fishtank is more than ok for example,K./Low also.
A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief: 10 Years Of B-Sides & Rarities on the other hand with all the demos,etc...,some of them are really horrible (and they ought to be probably as such)
Cool. I haven’t listened to Life of Temporary. I’ll check it out.
 
OP
Shadrach

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I’m having trouble believing I’m on a science based forum where objectivity and measurements are supposed to reign arguing with other contributors whether making recordings is an art, or an engineering skill.
It’s a bit like some of the arguments I’ve had on subjectivist forum with contributors who insist that designing truly audiophile quality amplifiers is an art.

Priceless.:facepalm::D


The description Recording Engineer gives it away one might have though. A quick look at a few of the usual degree profiles for a recording engineer should reassure an aspiring recording engineer that art subjects wont be featuring highly. It’s an engineering discipline which is why they are called engineers and not artists and get a BSc rather than BA degrees.

I find it is best not to make assumptions on a persons knowledge and/or experience in a particular field based on a differing view point.

All I know about Matt Hopper is that he’s talked to a recording engineer and made a post about it and thinks recording is an art. The other posters who hold a similar view I know nothing about.

I think most of what I’m about to write is in some of the earliest post I made here on BYC, probably on a thread concerning DBT.

After leaving college I went to work for a company called Racal Acoustics in Watford Hertforshire in their avionics Research and Development team as an acoustics engineer. We designed, developed and tested communications equipment for aeroplanes and tanks mainly, mostly MOD work. It was there that I became interested in loudspeaker design which I put to some use later designing and building studio monitors. They weren’t particularly good but a couple of studios bought and used them. Naturally I listened to them in situ during a few recording sessions.

I was also involved, as a hobby in the promotion and management of a number of local bands. My partner and I were the first people to put AC/DC on stage in the UK. Other bands I can recall are Camel, 64 Spoon, Delve, and The Alex Harvey band. Most were presented in a local club. We did venture into larger venues only to find out we weren’t terribly good at making money out of these ventures. However, we did get to attend a number of recording sessions, mostly for demos. I believe my partner did attend the recording of AC/Dc’s first album, or it may just have been a studio practice session. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend.

I wont bore you with further exploits. I was young and we had a lot of fun.
Below are a few photographs from that era.
271765715_10159533818297432_7142025931556273550_n.jpg
275493498_10228015358068074_8525932192292616578_n.jpg
275508460_10228015356668039_5711298196213607268_n.jpg



I moved to a company called Plessy another company involved in communications, again primarily for the MOD. I worked there as a Research and Development Engineer for a number of years in a similar field.

My interest in both music and sound reproduction continued while I was at Plessy and through both interests attended a number of recording sessions at the Brick Lane studios.

I have a few friends from that era who do proper work in the field of recording and have taken the offer of attending some recording sessions in a number of small studios in the UK as well as a few home studios used by hopeful musicians.

It was all a long time ago but none of the engineers I knew would consider themselves as artists. There was and still is a great deal of skill and knowledge involved in sound recording but art? I rather think not.

I’m not a Recording Engineer but I’ve been involved in some of the most exciting developments in sound reproduction over various mediums for a good part of my life.

I’m retired now and have been semi retired for over a decade. My main interest now is studying the behaviour of chickens, and of course the pursuit of High Fidelity music reproduction.
 
OP
Shadrach

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Were Tomita or jean-Michel Jarre artist or an engineer?

Do you believe Pink Floyd's sound existed without Alan Parsons?
I have no idea about Tomita. I don't think I've heard anything he/they have recorded. MJ Jarre I have heard of and I have a copy of his album Oxygen I think.
I listened to it once, didn't like it, but I gather the recording is well thought of.

Yes. Pink Floyed have had a number of recording Engineers involved at various stages of their career. Their sound, if they have a particular sound consistent throughout their numerous recordings I and many other would attribute to Roger Waters.
 

maverickronin

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It's not about the fetishization of high dynamic range (at least not for me). It's about keeping the natural dynamic range of the music that was heard by the artist and the mixing engineer when the mix was finished in the studio, there's no point to crush the mix further than that in the mastering stage just to make it louder because the end-user does have their own volume control for that. By keeping the natural transients of the finished mix it will sound less harsh and distorted when played at the same volume as the crushed mix, and you will probably (in most cases) even be able to play it much louder before it starts to sound bad.

I think maybe there is a misunderstanding going on here?
Just keeping the full dynamic range of the finished mix, and not limiting the mix in the mastering stage, doesn't mean the music necessarily will have larger dynamic "swings" between the sound objects in the mix itself, and go from super quiet to super loud as the classical music do. The only thing you need to do is to turn up the volume to the same level as the crushed master and it will sound much better.



I stumbled across an unofficial version of Daft Punk - Random Access Memories. When compared to the official release it's obviously a less harmed version with the dynamics intact as can clearly be seen in the Histogram graph, the track is "lifted" from the ground by about 6 dB. The thick Left and Right sausages at the top are also an indication of the completely unnecessary cut-off transients. The "All passed crest factor"-graph also indicates that a lot has been done to the official release during mastering.

View attachment 208059

I don't think there's any miscommunication going on. I can tell the difference. It just doesn't bother me all that much.

On the other hand, some people say that it bothers them so much that they will not listen to something that they would otherwise find worthwhile if it has too much dynamic range compression. That's why I half jokingly referred to it as fetishization.
 

IPunchCholla

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I’m having trouble believing I’m on a science based forum where objectivity and measurements are supposed to reign arguing with other contributors whether making recordings is an art, or an engineering skill.
It’s a bit like some of the arguments I’ve had on subjectivist forum with contributors who insist that designing truly audiophile quality amplifiers is an art.

Priceless.:facepalm::D


The description Recording Engineer gives it away one might have though. A quick look at a few of the usual degree profiles for a recording engineer should reassure an aspiring recording engineer that art subjects wont be featuring highly. It’s an engineering discipline which is why they are called engineers and not artists and get a BSc rather than BA degrees.

I find it is best not to make assumptions on a persons knowledge and/or experience in a particular field based on a differing view point.

All I know about Matt Hopper is that he’s talked to a recording engineer and made a post about it and thinks recording is an art. The other posters who hold a similar view I know nothing about.

I think most of what I’m about to write is in some of the earliest post I made here on BYC, probably on a thread concerning DBT.

After leaving college I went to work for a company called Racal Acoustics in Watford Hertforshire in their avionics Research and Development team as an acoustics engineer. We designed, developed and tested communications equipment for aeroplanes and tanks mainly, mostly MOD work. It was there that I became interested in loudspeaker design which I put to some use later designing and building studio monitors. They weren’t particularly good but a couple of studios bought and used them. Naturally I listened to them in situ during a few recording sessions.

I was also involved, as a hobby in the promotion and management of a number of local bands. My partner and I were the first people to put AC/DC on stage in the UK. Other bands I can recall are Camel, 64 Spoon, Delve, and The Alex Harvey band. Most were presented in a local club. We did venture into larger venues only to find out we weren’t terribly good at making money out of these ventures. However, we did get to attend a number of recording sessions, mostly for demos. I believe my partner did attend the recording of AC/Dc’s first album, or it may just have been a studio practice session. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend.

I wont bore you with further exploits. I was young and we had a lot of fun.
Below are a few photographs from that era.
View attachment 208090View attachment 208091View attachment 208092


I moved to a company called Plessy another company involved in communications, again primarily for the MOD. I worked there as a Research and Development Engineer for a number of years in a similar field.

My interest in both music and sound reproduction continued while I was at Plessy and through both interests attended a number of recording sessions at the Brick Lane studios.

I have a few friends from that era who do proper work in the field of recording and have taken the offer of attending some recording sessions in a number of small studios in the UK as well as a few home studios used by hopeful musicians.

It was all a long time ago but none of the engineers I knew would consider themselves as artists. There was and still is a great deal of skill and knowledge involved in sound recording but art? I rather think not.

I’m not a Recording Engineer but I’ve been involved in some of the most exciting developments in sound reproduction over various mediums for a good part of my life.

I’m retired now and have been semi retired for over a decade. My main interest now is studying the behaviour of chickens, and of course the pursuit of High Fidelity music reproduction.
I’m not an accredited anything when it comes to music. But I do know that the moment you have a track in a DAW you realize you have to make all sorts of decisions that have no technically correct answer. How two tracks are balanced, EQ’d, effects applied, are all aesthetic decisions and hugely impact the final outcome.

I have a pretty wide view of art. Anyone making decisions based on aesthetics qualifies in my opinion.
 
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Inner Space

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The description Recording Engineer gives it away one might have though. A quick look at a few of the usual degree profiles for a recording engineer should reassure an aspiring recording engineer that art subjects wont be featuring highly. It’s an engineering discipline which is why they are called engineers and not artists and get a BSc rather than BA degrees.
That hasn't been my experience. Almost every recording "engineer" I know got into it via music, myself included, as not-very-successful musicians, or intending musicians, or via other positions on the periphery of the music scene. Absolutely none of them have science or engineering degrees. Very few have degrees at all. One was a medical doctor who changed careers. Some of the younger or more recent have trade college or night school technical qualifications.

There is absolutely no subjective/objective divide either side of the control room window. Literally everything a recording "engineer" does is about taste, preference, fudge and kludge. "Art" has an uncertain definition for sure, but studio work sure ain't "science".

Possibly the people you're thinking of are the maintenance technicians, who install things, fix things, and check new things for spec when they arrive. We call them "oily rags", and a huge proportion of them are named Brian. No one knows why.

Honestly, the easiest way to get this straight is to make recordings yourself.
 

MattHooper

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I’m having trouble believing I’m on a science based forum where objectivity and measurements are supposed to reign arguing with other contributors whether making recordings is an art, or an engineering skill.
It’s a bit like some of the arguments I’ve had on subjectivist forum with contributors who insist that designing truly audiophile quality amplifiers is an art.

Priceless.:facepalm::D

I think you are mixing some things up here. We can all agree on the "science" and measurements and objective understanding of how gear works.

But you have been making some non-technical claims about "art," the role of engineering in music production, and what one "ought" to push for etc. We don't even have to mention science to point out some of those claims don't make sense.



All I know about Matt Hopper is that he’s talked to a recording engineer and made a post about it and thinks recording is an art. The other posters who hold a similar view I know nothing about.

I'm not sure where you got that, but if it helps: I work in pro audio (film/TV) and know and work with plenty of engineers for both film and music (and I do recordings myself). I've also been a musician who has recorded in professional studies, I have many musician friends and I've been in the studio sessions with them.

Of course there is engineering involved in recording music: e.g. the design of the equipment being used. There are jobs that include the term "engineer" - e.g. Sound Engineer or Audio Engineer - and depending on the job, includes a good technical knowledge and maintenance of the sound gear (including setting up equipment, studios etc).

But all that is in the service of producing the ART, the MUSIC, the CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RECORDING.

You are concerned with the sound quality of recordings, right?

Well the sound quality is based on the specific ARTISTIC decisions of the artists/mixers/recordists/engineers. The engineers make decisions to get the sound the artist wants. And mixers/engineers/producers may certainly of course have a significant contribution in terms of those decisions and influencing the sound. But they are using the technology to achieve ARTISTIC CHOICES. It's THOSE ARTISTIC CHOICES that result in the sound quality you are concerned with!

The engineer/mixer etc chooses a certain microphone to achieve a certain sound. The placement of the mic - same thing. The placement of an instrument or voice, where you are recording it (booth? baffles? live room? recorded down a hall?..) - same thing. Choice of reverb, compression, mixing levels, dynamic range, mastering...every single "technical" choice is in service of achieving a certain desired sonic result.

I work constantly with mixers and engineers...and this is how it works. The balance, dynamics, emphasis, sound quality etc of all our tracks are a result of artistic decisions from all involved.
 
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