Why do we record the sound of a HiFi System?
On occasion someone leaves a comment under one of my YouTube videos questioning why I make videos that have recordings of the sound of a HiFi system, then later the same day someone else leaves a comment complaining there is no sound demo in the review video they are watching. I think this shows there is no pleasing everyone or is there, I started to make separate sound demonstration videos as part of all my reviews for those who like them and I have a speaking only review video for those that don’t. This is extremely important to highlight because if you want a sound demo of a HiFi product I think Pursuit Perfect System does them the best and does them for every HiFi component reviewed, but you don’t have to watch them.
The done thing, why would it not be
HiFi reviewing on YouTube is developing all the time as we start to see many HiFi Reviewers begin to create their own YouTube channels in a move to video reviewing from written only. I think the whole World knows that video is the future of media as it offers more than pure words can alone, and I think this is especially true for HiFi.
When I first started my YouTube channel I did so inspired by two other channels and both of them did a lot of sound demonstration videos. I assumed this was the norm and would be what everyone watching expected to see and why wouldn’t they. Until YouTube Audiophiles had to rely on their own interpretation of their favourite reviewers written explanation of the sound of a HiFi system often reading about the sound of certain cuts or album tracks they may have never heard in their life. I personally find this difficult to reference when I don’t know the music and find a description of how that music sounds impossible to comprehend. This is not a criticism of anyone’s work its just how I have always found it.
In a similar fashion I don’t know how the reviewers system sounds before or after the review, I also don’t know how their room sounds and how much of their opinion is based on how the product interacts with their room and how much that is affecting what they are hearing, there are so many factors I don’t know about, so have always found it hard to get a full picture. Maybe I have been expecting too much and maybe that is what appealed to me about YouTube video reviewing, it opens the opportunity for so much more and then its just a case of doing it right.
If you are going to do it, at least do it right
A HiFi reviewer could very easily argue that they are HiFi reviewers and not recording engineers and I think that would be a very valid argument. But as soon as a reviewer steps onto YouTube they are no longer just a HiFi reviewer they are an entertainer, they are a presenter, they are a video creator and then there is a very real argument for the statement how can a HiFi YouTube channel have no music in it. Also there is a saying a picture says a thousand words, well what about a recording, I think it shows what words cannot.
From some of the negative comments people leave there seems to be a misunderstanding about the sound a HiFi system creates. It creates sound the same as an instrument, a person, a plane or anything for that matter, speakers move air and the speakers are told what air to move by the system pretty simple stuff.
A big part of speaker R&D comes from their measurements which is essentially a recording of the sound they make, but how can you possibly record the sound of a HiFi system, see how that question is an obvious contradiction?
There are people who are recording the sound of far more complex things every day than two speakers in a room. In a way recording the sound of a HiFi system is easier than recording the sound of an orchestra or a choir, because recording the sound of a HiFi system we are just trying to capture the sound in the most simple fashion, we are not trying to capture the sound of 25 different instruments, their placement or arrangement and the venue they are being played in.
However I think the same recording rules will apply to both, high quality microphones are required, high quality recording equipment is required and then a basic understanding of recording principles as a minimum is required. I have invested in 5 different sets of microphones and 4 different recorders thus far to reach a point where I think the equipment is transparent enough and full range to do the HiFi systems I am recording justice. The current recording equipment features microphones costing many thousands of pounds and a recorder that is renowned for its very high quality recordings with extreme low noise and high dynamic range.
What about the playback, how can it possibly sound like the original thing
That is always quite an interesting comment when someone leaves it because HiFi is 100% listening to recordings on systems that are supposed to give an honest representation of the recording, however there is clearly merit in this thinking because how can laptop speakers possibly sound anything like Wilson Audio speakers? Clearly they cant but then again laptop speakers wont tell you the difference between a keyboard and a piano let alone the difference between a Steinway and a Yamaha.
However if you listened to a good recording of Wilson Audio speakers on Wilson Audio speakers in the same room it would sound very much alike if not indistinguishable from each other. This kind of demo has been done before with live music and high end speaker systems both playing in the same room and being indistinguishable from each other proving its possible to record the real thing and play back the real thing without loss that’s easy to hear. Steinway Lyngdorf are famous for this type of demo and its done at HiFi shows regularly on a much smaller scale.
That doesn’t fix the problem though as there are not many of my viewers watching videos on Steinway Lyngdorf systems despite how much I am sure they would like to be. Clearly this is where some moderation of expectation needs to be used by the viewer.
It doesn’t take much to have a monitoring system of high enough quality to get a lot from every recording. Using a smartphone as a source with good quality headphone amplifier / DAC like a Chord Mojo and a good pair of headphones and you have a high quality monitoring playback system. Will this sound as good as a pair of Wilson Audio speakers, no but it can you tell you about the levels of resolution, clarity, tone and musicality of the system being played in the recording, because if its in the recording you will hear it and accurately.
This is no different to every day HiFi as your favourite cut or track will sound better the more resolving the system is its played on and the recordings in my videos are no different, the better the playback system the more of the recording you hear.
The more you watch the more from them you get
This part of the article might sound like a sales pitch to encourage you to watch more of my videos, I dont see the harm in that, but I can assure you it is not. If you watch one sound demonstration video you hear sound through your audio playback system so you could argue you are only hearing the sound of your audio playback system and of course you are right. However if you watch two videos or twenty two videos then you will hear many differences in how your audio playback system can sound because the source material is different. The differences you will hear will help you appreciate the differences in the sound of the system you are listening to in the videos, you create your own reference point with your own playback system and can then appreciate the differences more easily.
The power is in the difference and the more you watch the more you will appreciate it.
YouTube has compression it cant possibly sound accurate
Yes sadly YouTube has compression which is not ideal because you are unable to hear the full quality of all the money and time I have invested in the recordings I do. By the same token you can clearly hear the difference between a YouTube video with good sound and bad sound proving YouTube is not a limiting or equalling factor and some YouTube videos have very good sound, my videos have very good sound.
Its important to remember compression of an audio file does not change it, Bob Marley doesn’t sound like Michael Jackson when you listen to his music on MP3 or on Spotify. My audio recordings are not changed by YouTube just worsened slightly so you can trust in their accuracy and validity.
Surely its just entertainment
HiFi is a hobby and is intended to be something we do to enjoy ourselves, but because of its technical nature, its very obvious hierarchy of system performance and the very strong opinions and dare I say it Audiophile prejudices a lot of us develop some viewers may approach a sound demo YouTube video in an overly critical or cynical way.
I want people to watch my sound demonstration videos and get a good sense of the systems sound quality, I want them to hear differences, or intricacies, or tonal balances and much more. I really think this is important and its why I put so much effort into the recordings and video quality. I also want my viewers to know about my listening preferences, my listening room and what type of music I am listening to as part of the review process. The viewer can see this and actually hear it for themselves filling in that void of unknowns.
However I am mindful of the limitations of the process and I would never expect someone to use them as a replacement to a personal demonstration at a dealers or at home. I can try as hard as I can to make the best recordings possible but to hear something in person can never be replaced. I am just trying to get you closer, as close as possible to the real thing.
I also want you to enjoy the videos, because ultimately its all entertainment, HiFi, YouTube videos we should enjoy it all, so sometimes its nice to relax, drop the critical mindset and just enjoy the video it for what it is informative entertainment.
Final Thoughts – I think this is the future
I appreciate there is nothing I can say to some Audiophiles on this subject that will change their view point towards it and you know what I am fine with that, hopefully they can still get benefit from the purely spoken aspects of my videos.
To everyone else I think the sky is the limit with what can be captured and then shown, I have already made countless videos demonstrating the differences products that could be deemed as “snake oil” actually make and I find this aspect of what I do extremely rewarding. Its like everything in HiFi effort equals rewards, put a little effort into the system you watch my videos on and you will get more from them.
For those of you who want them Sound Demonstration videos will continue to be a part of what Pursuit Perfect System offers going forwards, I think over time as a younger audience emerges on to the HiFi scene I think this is what they are going to expect as a minimum and I will be there to give it to them for as long as I can, the best I can.