Daft Punk won no less than five Grammy Awards last night, including Record Of The Year for “Get Lucky”) and Album Of The Year for “Random Access Memories”.
One of these five awards was for Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) – and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I think this factor was a crucial part of the mix. [Boom, tish!]
It’s easy to think that the sound of a record is almost irrelevant to it’s success – after all, it’s the song, performance and artist that sells records. Most people listen to music on laptop speakers, mobile phones and iPod earbuds, these days – no-one can hear sound quality on those, right ?
Looking at it another way, one of the most obvious ways to judge “quality” in the 21st Century is “loudness”, and since research shows that loudness has no effect on sales, one way the other, it stands to reason that other more subtle factors in the sound make even less difference, right ?
Well, maybe – but maybe not.
Does Great Sound matter ?
Of course I’m not claiming that “Get Lucky” owes it’s success (or it’s Grammys !) solely to the quality of the recording or the mix.
But I really DO think they played a crucial role. I’ve written before about why Random Access Memories sounds so great – and I think that really did contribute to it’s success last year.
And the same thing applies to mastering. I spend my days obsessing about the finest details of people’s music – a level tweak here, an EQ adjustment there – surely no-one can really hear the difference ?
Well, that’s not my experience. What I’ve found, and students on the Home Mastering Masterclass course tell me, is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The devil’s in the details
All these tiny subtleties – along with everything else we slave over during the writing and recording of music – add up in the end. After 4 to 6 hours of work on an album, making changes almost too small to hear on their own, when you listen back to the whole sequence the result can be literally transformed.
To this day it still seems a little like magic, to me.
And that’s why I’m so pleased about the success and recognition that Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and mastering engineer Bob Ludwig have achieved for “Random Access Memories”.
2014 – Happy New Year ?
“Great sound” means different things to different people, and I’m not saying everything has to sound “good” in the traditional sense.
This month’s Sound On Sound front cover asks if the Loudness War has been won – time will only tell, as I’ve said before. But I’m loving the fact that there were so many more dynamic releases and re-issues in 2013 – and all the debates and conversations about audio quality show that people really do care about this stuff.
I’m feeling optimistic and looking forward to hearing what 2014 has to offer my ears.
How about you ?