Revealing or Imposing Qualities


May 16, 2020
Nowadays, fully digital recording processes achieve a standard of fidelity that is noticeably superior to analogue recordings, even on budget equipment. However, is the greater "attack" or "musicality" that a specific piece of equipment imparts, revealing qualities of the original recording (that were masked by lesser kit), or imposing its own characteristics?

The comparison I would draw is with Kodachrome 35mm Gold film. This film was used in SLR cameras, and produced beautiful, high contrast, pictures in primary colours. I loved the pictures, but were they faithful to the actual scenes being captured? Sadly, no. An experienced photographer could easily recognise a "Gold" image.

However, it can be argued that the choice of film stock was a legitimate part of the aesthetic process of creating the image. Similarly, it can be argued that the re-mastering of analogue recordings removes the limitations of the vinyl media it was mastered for. In any case, the mastering is part of the aesthetic process.

So, does the same apply to high end Hi-Fi kit? Is it just revealing the inherent qualities of the recording? If so, this leads to the interesting proposition that the better the equipment, the less input it should have to the sounds output. Which then leads to the conclusion that, at some point, you will be paying for nothing! Whereas, if the equipment goes beyond revealing the inherent qualities to impose artificial ones, it is actually reducing the fidelity, not increasing it! Furthermore, how could you tell an inherent quality from a gilded lily anyway?



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