Live recordings and Blue Coast Records

Attending the Newport High End Show two weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Cookie Marenco, owner of Blue Coast Records.

I will post the actual recording session soon on these same pages.

What really surprised me was not how close to live it sounded, but the opposite. I don’t know what I expected, but sitting in the hotel room not 5 feet from the performers, the sound was as one would expect: live and in the room. The recording itself was surely flawless - high resolution DSD - but when we played it back through Sony speakers and a Pass amp, it sounded like… it was played through speakers. I suspect the microphones and speakers were part of the problem, for the rest of the electronic change is beyond reproach. But I also think it’s the unusual circumstances. From the microphone’s point of view the singer is inches away and from my perspective as a listener, feet away.

I think it points out how far we have to go to, but it was a great experience.

Interesting. I look forward to hearing the recording. It is striking that recording engineers tend not to use the best equipment for playback in the studio.

It really varies. Some use very basic equipment, others wonderful stuff. Pass amps with 800 series B&W speakers is a common setup. On the other hand, recording engineers are gear nutty when it comes to good mics, especially those who work in acoustic/classical settings.

Note however that recording and mixing engineers learn how their playback equipment sounds and how it translates to other systems. (Note Cookie’s comment about Yamaha NS10’s, a standard for decades, and her use of Auratones, which many lovingly refer to as horrortones - little cheap monitors, but everyone knows how they sound). Getting the sound to translate to sound good on any system is what really matters. Steve Hoffman commented on translation in his interview with Ted and Paul. I bet many missed it as it is a term of art.

Cookie is using some very nice mics in the video. She does a great job of explaining how mics interact and what happens in mixing at the beginning of the interview.

Again, imaging and soundstage are fake. :) (These monstrous emoji are terrifying.)

The big emoji are actually kind of scary, now that you mention it.

The thing I wonder about with those engineers who use less than great equipment is whether there might be details that the equipment is not good enough to discern that could be missing and they wouldn’t know it. For example, how do you get the low bass right if your monitors won’t play it.

It is somewhat magical. They know what is on tape through experience, knowing the mics, mic pres, everything else in the chain. They have heard hundreds of times how their mixes translate to other systems.

It is another great example how it is the skilled artist, race car driver, chef - not the equipment.

Here is a fun article from Sound on Sound, The Yamaha NS10 Story: How A Hi-fi Speaker Conquered The Studio World click