Sound Realism in Recording
"The recording of the sound produced in speaking or musical performance so as to be able to conserve it and to reproduce it at will is an idea that has long occupied the human mind. More magical approaches may initially have inspired the imagination, among them Giovanni della Porta's 1598 attempt to capture sound in lead pipes, but the progressive development of scientific thought led along a relatively straight path to the solution" (Riemann Musiklexikon).
Since the beginning of the electric recording era, the recording engineer in his role as a "sound director" has made it his business to meet the needs of composer, interpreter, and hearer. We all know what goes into a recording, but the criteria shaping the listening experience are another matter. And so we would like to take this opportunity to share with you our sound ideal.
In our view the ideal recording is one in which the music creates the spontaneous impression of a live concert performance and the special atmosphere going along with it. Since our recordings almost always feature human voices and/or classical instruments, which themselves were originally intended as imitations of the human voice, our sound ideal focuses on natural sound balance, the overall harmonious tonal blend, and the authentic reproduction of the individual sound of each instrument. Other important factors include a free and natural dynamic and the resolution of even the most nuanced lines of tension. The illusion of the live concert performance also depends a great deal on the "locatability" of the sound sources in space, and here the key terms are "freestanding," "three-dimensional," and "realistic."
Music's Place in Space
In order to convey the impression of sound realism, we at MDG rely on natural acoustics. In addition, we seek out a recording space to match the compositional style and interpreter in each and every performance. Once we are on location, we then determine the best placement of the musicians and instruments in the space at hand. The ideal placement not only enables us to produce the acoustically best recording but also inspires the musicians to give it their all and thus to guarantee you an enthralling listening experience. After all, if you were a musician, would you rather perform in the canned atmosphere of a recording studio or in a concert hall?
Once questions of place and space have been resolved, the production of good sound then turns to microphones. Different types of microphones, each one with its own distinct sound qualities, are available and have to be brought into harmony with the sound of the instruments in the recording space. The placement of the microphones is also important for the natural production of sound; they have to be placed so as to bring out the proper nuances in a solo performance or to compensate with "cover-up" effects. The purist's ideal of only two microphones only rarely meets the complex demands of a recording with a number of different instruments. But no matter how many microphones are employed, the impression of natural sound is what counts, not how this live effect is produced. It is good enough if it sounds as if only two microphones were used. Without so-called corrective devices such as filters, limiters, equalizers, and artificial resonance, we collect the microwaves directly in a purist's dream of a mixer and pass on the stereo signal controlled by the electrostatic headphone linearly and unlimitedly to the analogue-digital converter in the pulse-code modulation storage unit. This guarantees the maintenance of even the finest nuances of sound. On the digital level, we edit the tape here at MDG on our own editor and without any modifying manipulations of the sound. This tape is produced into the compact disc for you hearers, and hopefully, to your great listening pleasure.
Criteria of Good Sound
1. Natural tone colors of the instruments (voices)
2. Natural room acoustics
3. Natural reproduction of the ensemble in breadth and depth
4. Natural balance between the instruments
5. Natural dynamics (differences in volume) of the instruments
6. Natural musical flow of the performance/reproduction