Bob Dylan’s comments regarding the sound quality of modern recordings, made in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, have found favour with BADA (the British Audio-Visual Dealers Association).
In the interview, Dylan is quoted as saying that the quality of modern recordings is “atrocious,” and even the songs on his new album sounded much better in the studio than on disc. “I don’t know anybody who’s made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really,” said the rocker. “You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like…static.”
BADA spokesman, Peter Thomas, MD of PMC (manufacturers of domestic and studio monitoring loudspeakers) observed: “Bob’s comments could be taken in several ways and it seems that each strand of the media has steered the debate in a single direction. His comment could be interpreted as reviving the old vinyl-CD debate or analogue vs digital question. He could be focusing on production values (like the Phil Spector Wall of Sound effect) and the competence of the current crop of engineers or producers. It certainly brings in to question whether on simple acoustic works the recording professionals should avoid the vast range of tools open to them and go back to basics. As we know that a complicated path can only degrade the fragile signal whether it is in digital or analogue form.”
Thomas added: “Research suggests that some CD pressing plants produce inferior sounding CDs compared with others, although all the discs were tested and were found to have identical digital data.”
“The likelihood is that it is a mix of all of these elements. However you view it, Dylan’s comments have opened a debate which can only help bring the attention to sound quality of the mass population and the need for high quality equipment to reproduce it. It certainly asks the question whether Bob’s home system doesn’t quite match the level of the studio or vice versa.”
BADA points out that no matter how well recorded and mastered an album is, it is the system used to reproduce the recorded signal that has the greatest effect on the musical experience, and that all its dealers are trained in the art of putting systems together which maximise musical enjoyment.