Innocent Ear

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CD sound

       With the advent of Compact Disc there were complaints, mainly from the Hi-Fi press, about the harsh, steely, brittle and clinical sound. This was largely attributed to the digital medium itself. In our view, it is much more likely to be the sound of multiple and close microphone recording. As we said earlier, acoustic instruments are designed to be heard at a distance, not close up. They sound harsh and horrible close up. Try standing right next to a violinist while he/she is playing. Not nice, isn't it? Yet this is how the majority of recording engineers today record them.

The greater transparency of the new medium allowed listeners to hear what had previously been partially hidden underneath all the analogue hash from tape modulation noise and LP surface noise. Some compared CD unfavourably with the superb quality of some Radio 3 broadcasts, many of which still used single-point microphone techniques (but no longer!). What they obviously didn't know, was that these had been digital for more than a decade and at less resolution than CD (just 13 bits), but since they didn't know, their appraisals were unbiased.