Getting Back to the Source…Back in the room with MQA

The stereo mixes I’ve done for everything always use “the room” in the mix which is usually largely based on 2 or more rear wall mics capturing those reflections at “the source” (ie the wall) as well as high up (ie, the ceiling).

So I mix the stereo as well as multichannel using those tracks (2 stereo or sometimes 3 with 1 mono). In that way I avoid having to use artificial reverb and delay which is so commonly used (both analog and digital versions of these) in studios that most engineers/producers don’t think twice about it.

By using ambient sound in the mix to bring back the natural reverb and delay (slapback sounds from the wall vs the stage) I can recreate a very authentic reproduction that has nothing artificial added.  Just EQ and panning (right and left) during the mix to restore the original sounds and locations in the room.

I started doing this on my own on my very first CD in 1995 (Lost in the Green). I went on to record several other CDs in that fashion through 2001 with Half An Hour Away which I recorded myself in an acoustically beautiful small performance theater in Half Moon Bay on the SF Coast on Hwy 1. Me and my trio at the time (Gary on flute/tenor sax, Lisa on mandolin) played live in the otherwise empty hall for about 4 hours one afternoon with (local fan) director Michael’s permission.  I had mics in the audience front rows as well as back at the high seats in the rear wall row. I mixed the 8 total tracks to stereo analog and printed it.

Within a year or two I was planning and then recording “The Window” to DSD in a fancy studio in Boulder using the same approach. They (local engineers) said I couldn’t do it and shouldn’t try — putting all musicians in the same room without isolation (no real traps between musicians!) and creating the live session with as few mics as possible in the room. But I said we should try it just to see what happened so they shrugged and said ok……..  rest is good history for me :)

I think (my ears tell me) that MQA is exactly what was needed to round out the edges imposed by PCM which is how I recorded and mastered those original CDs. It is the coup de gras for returning the original ambient sound characteristics of the room and performance.

– DE

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2 thoughts on “Getting Back to the Source…Back in the room with MQA

  1. dezfretz

    David, you nicely summarize the results of decoded MQA music files — sound quality that returns listeners to the performance in the room. Music lovers should soon rejoice that such files are conveniently transportable and playable anywhere, decoded or not.

    Reply
    1. david elias Post author

      Mahalo Dez – MQA does have multiple benefits for PCM reproduction as you point out. Improved sound quality, as well as reduced file size download for hi-res listeners (above CD quality masters) are two big ones.

      I’ve had music downloads online since 1995. Even though I know a few people with 200Mbps screaming unlimited data speeds today, many worldwide are still concerned with file size and download speeds for real reasons including ISP data limits (I have these in Hawaii on satellite) and speed/time to download.

      Especially at the lowest resolution of PCM such as CD, to my ears MQA makes a big difference in how the playback sounds, removing much of the edgy ear fatiguing harshness common to most PCM recordings. Some big improvements all around!

      Reply

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