Computer Audiophile – Why I Am Glad to Not Be One

Sharing is caring, and so I share this with you. This is my computer audiophile rant.

Sonic fidelity is a great thing. Who wants to hear a recording that sounds like nothing but a jumbled, incoherent mess? Well judging from the music that is transmitted from my car radio, apparently many people. But seriously, audio recordings should sound good. There should be evident distinction between parts, with each instrument or sound occupying its own unique spot of the frequency spectrum. This way everything can be heard. When multiple instruments or sounds occupy the same frequencies, then one will potentially mask the other. This can be avoided with correct microphone placement and/or the proper use of equalization. Compression is another important tool. Unruly dynamics are squashed, bringing the low levels up and the high levels down to achieve a more balanced, more listenable mix. However, compression can remove too much of the dynamics, resulting in a lifeless recording which lacks punch; sterile production has become all too common. This leads me to the point of this whole thing.

Underproduction is bad. Overproduction is often just as bad… sometimes worse. The thought of sonic perfection does not appeal to me. This is the reason I am grateful that I am not a computer audiophile. I am extremely grateful, for the most part, for the vast amount of capabilities that the personal computer has brought to the home recording studio. Ohhhh, plugins… I do love them. But for the most part, I still like to let the recording fundamentals do most of the work. Creating a good sounding room, experimenting with mic placement, and having the music played by competent musicians, is still the best route for me. I like the computer as a tool for achieving quality recording results, and I like to keep it just that… a tool. I would rather guide the computer than have the computer guide me. The moment I get lost in the technology of digital recording, rather than the music I am recording, is the moment I need to stop… because I have become a computer audiophile.

Image of Man Smashing Monitor on Computer Audiophile Page

Photo by OpenClips / CC0 1.0

Audiophiles often seek sonic greatness to the point of everything being perfect… so perfect that it has become terrible. The pristine result of an audiophile’s recording often has no flaws, no dynamics, no personality… no human traits. This may be fine for electronic music. But for my tastes, this style of recording does nothing for me. I like emotion and expression. I mean, isn’t that the reason most people get into music? Very often, though, this all gets lost in the mix… figuratively.

Another reason I am glad I am not an audiophile… message boards. Any time I go to a recording site, the members consist of many computer audiophiles who are snooty and will accept nothing but the best when it comes to recording methods and equipment. They have the attitude that anything less is inferior. DIY or cost efficient solutions are often frowned upon. Ridicule of newbies is often common. These are just a couple of reasons I stopped looking for help in those areas of the internet. I have sought out other sources for my education and have adapted through continued experience.

So what is the point of all this? Recordings do not have to be perfect. Fundamentals are necessary. Proper technique is crucial. However, do not take this to the extreme. Find the middle ground. Everything should sound good, but not too good. Never lose sight of the goal. Make sure the recording captures the essence and feeling that the artist is trying to convey. If that is successfully achieved, then the recording has been done correctly.