Things That Go Beep in The Night - Electronic Music and The Concept of Hi-Fi

Discussion in 'Music & Music Streaming Services' started by Phil Hinton, Nov 1, 2018.


    1. Ed Selley

      Ed Selley
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    2. Abacus

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      Nice write up, however each generation has their own ideas of what is real music, so it’s constantly evolving over time. (If your parents like what you like, you have a problem and need to get out more)

      Resistance has always been the norm, when the electric guitar came out most music shops would not stock them as they did not consider them to be real instruments.

      Most folks, particularly film buffs, don’t know they are listening to electronic music as the soundscapes that can be achieved is way beyond what physical instruments can achieve.

      You also have classic instruments that have become synonymous with electronic music and a particular sound, so much so that they are referred to by name, just like real instruments (Cello, Guitar, and Flute etc.) are. (Hammond, Moog, Prophet, DX7, Juno etc.)

      As to more care being spent on electronic than rock, well that is a load of cobblers, as both get just as much care and attention. (They also intertwine brilliantly)

      Bill
       
    3. Derek S-H

      Derek S-H
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      Finally, someone writes a piece about electronic music that judges it on its own terms and not in relation to tired and dull cock rock!

      I love electronic music; I love its vast soundscapes, its creation of unique, otherworldly sounds and the fact that there are rarely any stupid, showoff solos (apart from Rick Wakeman, alas)!

      And no human drummer can ever match the razor sharp precision and perfect timing of a drum machine. In fact, that's where I think the association with Dance has come about: that metronomic rhythm that is intended purely to keep people moving and transform them into a trance-like state.

      Imogen Heap is one of our most interesting and creative artists and it's criminal that she's not more widely known.

      I'm not a musician. I can't read music, I can't play music. But I know a good tune when I hear one, and regardless of genre or instrument or production, that is always the key factor for me. And "Dare", an album that features no "real" sounds whatsoever other than the human voice, is still one of the best albums you'll ever hear.
       
    4. Idle Bull

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      Trying to make a point about something you like, by insulting something else, isn't really making a point. :)
       
    5. Ed Selley

      Ed Selley
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      Completely disagree. In the last 20 years in particular (going older than that is complex due to the limitations of the technology available to electronic artists), you can take any year and pick ten acclaimed rock albums and ten acclaimed electronic albums and across the spread, the electronic ones will exhibit better mastering and usually a better quality physical release. This isn't to say that there aren't great examples of mastering and production in rock- of course there are. It's just that they are offset against some truly appalling work. The Electronic genres rarely have any similar dips.
       
    6. T1berious

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      As a child of the 80's and being an electronica fan (and cursed as an audiophile on the worlds tightest budget) this article made really interesting reading.

      Music is always evolving, it has to as for the most part, it's fashion led (kinda).

      Funny, I'll happily audition with Tracy Chapman, Radiohead, Robert Glasper or Miles Davis but when I'm enjoying those rare moments when I don't have to worry about SWMBO on goes Underworld, Depeche Mode or Leftfield.

      Then again isn't it just great liking music regardless what flavour it is? Excuse me while I go put Dirty Epic on.

      Great article

      T1b
       
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    7. Idle Bull

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      I find that electronic music is far more forgiving of a hifi set up. I've had hifi's that have sounded great with dance or other elecronig music, but average with anything else.
      I guess recording electronic music you don't have to deal with as many strange harmonics, more infinite and subtle changes in sound and actually physically mikeing up cabinets and drums, which is skill in itself.

      You can get a jist of how much easier it is to record electronic music by listening to what people produce in their bedrooms compared to a traditional guitar band trying to record a demo. It's far harder to record, which probably explains the perceived quality of mastering.
       
    8. Gordon2147

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      Among the many great recordings that have been made, Kraftwerk have produced 2 fantastic recordings. 3D catalogue and Minimum Maximum, both of which smash it out of the park for fidelity.

      I have been a lifelong fan of them and a fair few other electronic artists.

      I went to the Bristol HiFi show last year and KEF were touting the 3D catalogue recording of Radioactivity at their demo of the LS50 wirelss speakers.

      I "found" Yello's album TOY during a demo by REL at the same event, and whilst in their demo room asked them to play a piece from Bladeunner 2049 which got one of the reps of the firm asking if it was comercially available.

      So I agree that electronic music has a place in HiFi and artists like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream can take you away from reality very easily.

      Alongside playing this genre at events, I also feel that exhibitors should encourage more participation from attendees with music choices, whether providing them from their own sources or the public bringing discs or USB sticks.

      I for one know from playing my own music at one of these events has helped make a decision over a purchase, but it also helps in sharing great music, if it hadn't been for the person who had the Boris Blank cd at one of the demos, I would likely never come across it.

      Finally, anyone who has a passing interest and what they believe to be a great set up should listen to Computer love from the 3d Catalogue release by Kraftwerk in the 24/48 version, blumin flawless and can be turned up without doing damage to your ears.

      Wireless 24/96 transmission to all wireless speakers is the future regardless of your music tastes, here's hoping the artists of today and tomorrow make the recordings at 24/48 at least, and we put to bed the loudness wars and get on with listening to high fidelity music regardless of genre :thumbsup:
       
    9. Doc

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      Ed, what about the counter-point..?
      Would there be any truth to the hypothesis that a well-mastered piece of electronic music will in fact flatter a poorer quality hi-fi system, whereas a slightly more raw and scratchy source - some ancient vinyl recording of a 70s long-haired guitar trio - will prove more difficult to get sounding good, and highlight differences between hi-if systems more obviously?
      Was your Cambridge audio distributor bloke wiser than he was articulate?!
      ;-)

      EDIT - sorry, just spotted that Idle Bull made exactly this point a few posts up! Sorry!
       
      Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
    10. dogfonos

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      Whilst a gentle stroll through an electronic soundscape may go easy on a playback system and indeed possibly even flatter mediocre hifi, more challenging electronic music will be a true physical test of any playback system, particularly speakers. Vented enclosures are notorious for bottoming-out bass drivers when playing some electronica at decent levels. Even tweeters with decent power handling may distort and amplifiers can run out of steam too. Could this be the real reason that the Cambridge chap wasn't happy to demo such music?
       
    11. Mallardo

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      "Poundland Morpheus". Love it!
       
    12. Canti1982

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      Thanks Ed, great article. Imogen Heap won a grammy for best engineer for good reason, her work sounds great in fact I recently picked up the limited vinyl release of Speak for Yourself which sounds awesome. I was quite saddened though when the even more limited clear version arrived with one of the records cracked it two :(
       
    13. gibbsy

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      Interesting read. I can't say I'm a fan of pure electronic music, perhaps the nearest I've come to listening was an impulse purchase of The XX Say Something Loving. on CD. It's been compressed flatter than hammered sh**. There's no excuse and no matter what genre of music we enjoy it all deserves to be mixed and produced to the highest, not lowest of standards.
       
    14. dmk1198

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      Get your lug holes round these electronic greats
       

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    15. dmk1198

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      Ahhh warp classics...
       

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    16. moraghan

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      I totally agree with this. I like a lot of music genres, jazz, classical, blues etc. but I would not hesitate in saying that nothing matches, certainly modern, electronic music for sound quality. Just listen to Rule 110 by Max Cooper for example.
       
    17. Chester

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      You seem to have 2 separate arguments Ed:

      a) Is electronic music a lesser genre than other forms of music?
      and
      b) Is the quality of electronic music recordings better than other genres?


      I think to answer a) faithfully, one needs to be a musician of many talents or otherwise involved in the creation of music. I've always wanted to learn how to play keyboards, bought a few, dabbled a bit, but never really got off the ground. I've always wanted to play drums, but never had the space, never mind an understanding with my neighbours to create audible hell on Earth! Painful indeed. But my fascination for rhythm and expression is moderately satisfied with playing the bass guitar, and I'm inspired by up-rights too and would love to have one and master it.

      I also play a fusion of different styles around a rock theme, and incorporate effects to create a 'wall of bass' or venture to outer space, or wherever the band needs to transport the audience. But it's my finger-style, attack, intonation, and other techniques, not just the notes/chords/modes that give me freedom of expression. Two finger tapping is not just the preserve of guitarists you know!

      So I guess I'm only somewhat qualified to answer. I enjoy listening to all sorts of genres as well as incorporating various styles in what I play. Growing up in the 80's and 90's certainly thrust electronic music into my life, and I'm a fan, much to the annoyance of friends who are rock and metal evangelists; everything else is musical blasphemy! There are more tools to create the sound that artists are looking for with electronic music, and software is making this even easier to access with fewer devices, but equally arriving there can also be an extreme technical challenge.

      But generating music through an electronic instrument up until recent times has limited artists' expression. One such artist who I hold in the highest regard is Jordan Rudess, the ambassador for the Roli Seaboard I see is now being advertised on AVF. He feels this is a game changer, along with apps and the freedom of expression he has found in his rig for years with the iPad.

      These new tools are taking sounds and music to a whole new level. It's like virtual reality for music, or impossible 3D objects expressed on paper, they can't be created in the real world.

      Is electronic music a lesser genre? I don't believe it ever was, but now it has the possibility to transcend to anything it wishes to be. However because this is me, electronic music fused with traditional instruments, be it a flute, a cello, a glockenspiel, is much more than the some of its parts. I like music that defies pigeon holing, and a bit of Orbital or Jarre is always on a playlist.


      b) Music is a language, and you don't necessarily have to have the perfect listening room or the greatest HiFi in the world to hear it. Like most things, once it's good enough, more is just headroom although I always advise having some avoids limiting one's voice (that of the instrument of choice as well as in a literal sense).

      A synthesiser has some analogue or (even better today) digital outputs that can be captured with purity and manipulated to infinity, never being actually realised until a signal meets speakers. Not so with an oboe or a harp. Instead real instruments flap around a diaphragm in an enclosure to create a signal which is a facsimile of the original sound. Hey, never mind the reproduction if the sound wasn't faithfully captured in the first place! This is also seldom done in an anechoic chamber; the artist preferring their instrument to breathe in its environment and the entirety to be recorded. The room simply isn't part of any electronic instrument and instead itself synthetically created.

      So what we have here is the ease of digital recreation, vs the difficulty (read nigh-on impossibility) of analogue reproduction. Does any of this actually matter? Within any given listening room, as long as the artist's voice has been heard and understood as completely as can be, that expression and emotion is felt, that we're whisked off to the land they paint for us in air pressure, and headroom exists to not starve the performance, then that's all that can be asked. And why does it matter when electronic music is more faithfully recreated taking HiFi electronics to further depths and sonic performance than reproduced traditional instruments? If the artist has limited expression because of technical complexities rather than what would come naturally on a wind or strung instrument, they probably feel as though their performance is not quite what they intended but are accepting regardless.

      So it could be true the other way around by a bass player with limited talent but a reasonable understanding of digital filters, compressors, overdrive, octave dividers, and of course flange! And the ability to play a single hanging note on a synthesiser, manufactured to blast you off into the solar system. True escapism.

      Ed, electronic music has no less rights to be played than any other genre of music, and shouldn't be held in any less regard. Nor do I feel it is superior either. It's properties in creation, production and recreation simply involve different textures and are easier to achieve the artist's original message and signature with more rooms and systems than other genres. People who believe that electronic music is either impossible to understandable, or dance, well they're probably not your target audience anyway and probably not bothered about HiFi.


      Now dig out your copy of Powerslave for a listen to the amazing Rime of the Ancient Mariner! Followed by Roisin Murphy's Primitive.
       
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    18. Morden

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      I have a very eclectic taste in music from classical to gypsy jazz. I would agree with previous post that no one time of music should be held in any higher regard

      As I grew up with it, electronic music forms a major part of my collection, but there are so many different forms it takes everything from the original donna summer I feel love remix by Giorgio Moroder 12", along with other early Human League and BEF, through torchsong (william orbit), Heaven 17, Africa Bambatta, New Order, Freddy Mercury's living on my own, to Underworld, Glasgows SLAM. and Daft Punk.



      My favourite electronic album would be Vangelis's Blade Runner sound track, which is, in my opinion, one of the best ever film sound tracks.
       
    19. DemonAV

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      Check out all the Electro back catalogue from 82 to 86, especially anything released on Tommy Boy records, Cutting Records. Pure electronic Funk that still sounds great today as it did over 30 years ago. I've always found that in terms of audio fidelity electronic music sounds better in general than rock, with the exception of bands such as Pink Floyd. Check out Trevor Horn produced music. Exceptional audio dynamics. Also I believe that the best produced, mixed and mastered music comes from the UK for some reason. It seems to me that American producers & mastering studios just are not up to scratch in comparison imo.
       
    20. ShanePJ

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      I think any music which has been exceptionally well produced with a high dynamic range together with a true artist's understanding of how it should ebb and flow should be able to stand the test of time

      For me all genre's of music have a place, what doesn't, is poor recordings (this is why so many discredit electric music). This can come from any genre too so it's a little ignorant for people in to ignore it. Where it seems many artists are failing is with the dynamic range, I'm unsure if they think people only listen to music whilst out an about or on headphones through their phone

      It seems they've failed to grasp that adding a high dynamic range allows us to hear more of what they have produced and they and not only are they short changing us, they're also doing an injustice to themselves as you cannot enjoy the space and detail between the tracks which allows you to pin point all the extra hard world applied

      Just to show how bad it is as an example and this is just a group I've picked at random so not singling them out in any way - Dance Electronic Group "The Prodigy" (slightly different genre - but it can trace its route back) has squashed the Dynamic Range of it's albums over the years. View the link and take a look at the award winning albums from the early 90's that still sound great today . Compare that to the poor quality stuff from the late 90 onward's. If these we're recorder properly, People wouldn't be discrediting "Electronic" today at hi-fi shows especially when you think that this is age group who are the ones purchasing high quality electronics today and will want to hear how good some hard rocking dance music can sound which lets face it requires a truly dynamic system to bring it to life in a way that they've never heard it before

      Album list - Dynamic Range Database
       
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    21. Idle Bull

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      That dynamic range database is useful. Slightly off topic, but I've read reviews of the latest release of The Wall by Pink Floyd (on Vinyl) saying that the DR is no where near as good as the original, but this database shows that the DR is almost identical. Maybe a 1 point loss in the max DR, probably due to the remastering, but no where near the claims on reviewers.
       

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