In this conversation Steven and Alan discuss the importance of audio quality, listening to complete records, mixing, 5.1 surround sound and thoughts on compression in a mix.
Importance of audio quality in modern era (3:15)
Alan is encouraged by the revival of Vinyl. It’s bringing people back together in their living rooms to listen to a record from start to finish.
“Maybe lower the lights a little bit and just enjoy the music…”
The concept of a playlist, to listen to unrelated songs is a foreign (old-fashioned?) concept to Alan and Steven.
Future of the music listening experience (6:20)
5.1 has its roots from cinema, but not many people have realized yet that beyond cinema it’s also a great listening experience.
Alan: “I’m so disappointed that people no longer listen to a whole record from start to finish…”
To Alan mixing is more of a formality. Already has the mix mostly tuned in by the time the final overdubs and recordings are completed. Gradually works on mix throughout recording.
Has never spent more than 1 day on a mix of a song.
Analog vs Digital (12:15)
Our ears have become more perceptive. When CDs first came out everyone identified with how clean they sounded compared to a Vinyl record. Now people hear the imperfections on a CD.
Alan and Steven both record their records at 96k and 24bit.
Today we’ve gotten to the stage where digital electronics have gotten very close to the sound quality of analog.
Steven has used Analog tape emulator plugins (across entire mix versus on a single instrument). Alan hasn’t yet found the need to use them.
Hi-Fi Audio Systems (19:00)
Some people will say their experience of the magic of music is enhanced by having a hi-fi system. For others it’s not as important.
Interesting how in many cases the people making the music do not have the super high end hi-fi audio systems that consumers may have.
Compression on Master Bus (24:30)
Steven sets a tiny bit of limiting across the master bus, to remove the real rogue spikes.
Steven: “I go out of my way to make very beautifully dynamic records. Records where the quiet bits are quiet and the loud bits are loud, drives me absolutely crazy if a mastering Engineer flattens everything…”
Steven: “If I can hear that it is compressing or limiting, I don’t like it…”
Alan: “My philosophy is to never compress the mix…”
Check out the Steven Wilson interview on the Sodajerker Podcast.