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Behind The Glass With Hugh Padgham: Does It Sound Any Good?

A candid conversation with engineer/producer Hugh Padgham, who was behind some of the greatest recordings of the 1980s and 1990s

By Howard Massey October 31, 2014

To acquire "Behind The Glass: Volume II" from Backbeat Books, click over to www.musicdispatch.com.

The problem was, he thought that was all him! He thought he’d done a great job, when in reality what he’d done was quite embarrassing.

But if there’s a conflict with the artist, it’s like a conflict in any job or any aspect of life: you talk it through and either you come to a compromise or one person wins and gets their way.

People usually get over it, though. If I have a really strong feeling about something that the artist disagrees with, I’ll say, “Look, it’s your record, not mine; if you really want it to be like that, that’s fine… as long as it’s not embarrassing.” [laughs]

How do you feel the role of the producer has changed since you started making records?

The main role used to be quality control, but one of the worrying things about making records nowadays is that the concept of things sounding good rarely comes into it.

It used to be that you would run down to the record store to buy a particular new album because you knew it was going to be a work of art sonically; you’d race home and put it on the best stereo you could find and it was an amazing experience listening to it.

Sadly, nowadays, kids grow up listening to everything on earbuds. My daughter, who’s a teenager, once plugged her iPod into some little computer speakers I have and she said, “Dad, that sounds amazing!”

They were just tiny satellite speakers with a small subwoofer, but she was amazed . . . and the reason, I think, is that she had never heard bass before!

It’s almost a complete reverse evolution, really. If you look at video quality, things have evolved forward, from VHS to DVD to high-def.

But in the world of audio, it seems that things have gotten worse and worse: we’ve gone from vinyl to CD—and the early CDs sounded way worse than vinyl—and now we’ve gone to MP3s, which sound even worse than the earliest CDs.

Personally, I think the era of the disc is well and truly gone. Hopefully our file sizes will get bigger—meaning better quality audio—and so too will storage capacity.

I really hope that, as memory becomes cheaper and more prevalent, we’ll be able to restore the quality of audio.

Soon there will be massive flash drives with high bus speeds, and hopefully then we’ll be able to at least store good quality uncompressed audio. People won’t notice files that are ten times the size of MP3s if you actually have ten times the space to store them in.

Or perhaps there will be new forms of compression invented that will preserve full-quality audio. Or maybe we’ll all just be wired into a central server. The problem with that is, what happens when you lose service?


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