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Recording Quality: Let’s Keep Moving Forward, Please

When are the musicians so bad, and the recording equipment so poor, that you simply can’t make a good recording?

By j. hall June 10, 2016

It seems to me that over the course of many years and many technological “advances,” we have once again come to an age-old question: where is the line of acceptability?

As recording techniques, and production ethics change as quickly as we receive DAW updates and debug programs, I think we need to pause for a bit of reflection.

It is, of course, a well-accepted theory that you can’t properly embrace the future until you understand the past. So, let’s take a look at our own history, apply it to our present, and hopefully, re-adjust our future.

As we all know (or probably should know), the recording world got its start (and most of its early equipment) from telephone technology. However, recorded voice would happen very closely to the telephones invention, in the form of a popular nursery rhyme.

In 1877, Edison recorded “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on a tinfoil cylinder built by John Kruesi from a sketch that Edison had given him. Upon hearing the recording that Edison made, Kruesi exclaimed, “Gott in Himmel!” which means, “God in Heaven”, thus becoming the first person to experience the “magic” of hearing a recording.

This event is easy to mark as the beginning of recording, and the beginning of the intoxicating bliss of hearing playback.

From 1881 to 1885, Charles Tainter and Chichester Bell invented and perfected the process of incising wax cylinders with vertical-cut grooves. They called this machine “Graphophone.”

Shortly after the wax cylinder, what would turn out to be the longest lasting invention to this point in audio recording and playback came to be.

In 1888, Emile Berliner introduced what he called the “Gramophone.” Using a non-wax disc, photo-engraved with a lateral-cut groove, he quite simply started something he could have hardly dreamed.

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