Friday
Aug032007

Sacrificing Benson to the Audio Gods

Before there were any Best Buys and Circuit City’s, shopping for a home audio system was something really special. I remember the “good old days” when I’d spend hours at the specialty audio/stereo store, carefully testing the most wonderful stereo equipment in the world…the turntables, speakers, amplifiers, and receivers. It was all about the sound. No home theaters; no 5.1; no integrated video. In those days, the specialty stereo store was a holy and sacred place where real men hung out to worship the Turntable Gods - Thorens and B&O … the Speaker Gods – Polk and JBL…and finally, the receiver Gods - NAD, Harmon and Kardon. So, what did you offer the Audio Gods as an audio sacrifice back then? There was only one option - Original Master Recordings - expensive vinyl TEST records used by the stereo stores - to demo their great audio systems for potential buyers. What are Original Master Recordings? Well, in the mid-seventies, a company called Sheffield Labs was leading the way in perfecting a unique recording technique called Direct-To-Disk, where sound went into the mic, through the console, and straight to cutting of a master pressing disc…all in one take. That meant that musicians would have to play through all songs on one side of the record without stopping. No breaks. No retakes. The master discs were then used to press a limited number of high quality virgin vinyl records. The vinyl was such high quality that records were transparent. The sound? Impeccable. And when the master pressing disc was worn or damaged? That was it. Only the Original Master Recordings were left. These record discs weren’t your normal vinyl records that you could pick up at any record store. These stereo records were very special (and expensive). The year was 1976. The album - George Benson’s Breezin’- my first Original Master Recording LP to own and it cost me lots of money – $30. Back then, that was a LOT of money to spend on one record. Over the years, I’ve acquired many Master Recordings, and they still play as new on my B&O turntable. But, if you haven’t noticed, vinyl records are back. It’s true. Some record companies are actually pressing records on vinyl. That’s not all…you can also buy turntables! Maybe it’s a retro thing. Maybe the market has come full circle and found that vinyl records sounds simple, warm and real. Whatever the case, you might chime in with your comments. I think neat to know that in today’s world, people are buying vinyl. Don’t misunderstand me, I still enjoy my iPod, DVD Audio disks and 5.1 ETS engineered albums. I love where technology has taken sound…but, I love the simplicity of a 2-channel audio system where I can play my vinyl Original Master Recording albums over and over and over….the sound is still unbelievable. Eddy Cabello Inside MusiCast

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Friday
Jul272007

Music Isn’t For Listening

As I prepared to write this commentary, I caught myself and considered my actions. I had launched iTunes on my PowerBook, opened my MP3 library and clicked on a Joe Sample track. You see, I was in the process of creating an environment — a backdrop — to help me get in the mood to write. Capiche? I’m sure many of you can relate to the notion that sometimes people play music just to have it in the background. I’ve heard it both ways — some like music playing as they read or carry out the day's activities — and others don’t. Some people need quiet to concentrate and be productive. Some use music to be creative, or just have it in the background at work. Others jam in the car as they drive. Either way, it personally doesn’t bother me, yet I'll be the first to admit, I’m always reluctant to permit my daughters to listen to their iPods while doing homework. I know, I know. It’s a double standard, but, I’m the dad and what the dad says pretty much goes. At my office, a design studio that has an open-air environment, we play music all day long, so everyone enjoys it – or at least I hope they do. But, might background music be getting in the way of productivity or does it increase productivity? There are studies that say that working environments that include ambient music relax employees. As a result, people often work more efficiently and are less stressed. I can identify with that, if the music isn't distracting. Think about it. What a psychological marvel! Music has the ability to affect how you carry out the daily activities in life. Personally, I believe that music has made me a better thinker by just being there for me. It never fails me. When I want to think big and aggressive, ZZ Top delivers Sharp Dressed Man to me on a silver platter. When I’m concentrating and need focus while working at the office, Earl Klugh comes through again with Heart String. When I’m on the road… just driving, Donald Fagan offers me H Gang at the same pace. If I’m feeling romantic… a little Teddy Pendergrass or Grover Washington often does the trick. You know, music isn’t just for “listening”. It’s also for “doing”. So, I guess I'll just keep on doing what I do. And when I’m done “doing”, I’ll probably sit and listen to some more…well...music. Eddy Cabello Inside MusiCast

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