it’s getting to that time of the year where everybody isn’t quite sure if they should be wearing coats or not like you’ll see some people walking around in t-shirts and others wearing coats and scarves like nobody is really sure if it’s actually getting cold out or not
A well-educated time traveller from 1914 enters a room divided in half by a curtain. A scientist tells him that his task is to ascertain the intelligence of whoever is on the other side of the curtain by asking whatever questions he pleases.
The traveller’s queries are answered by a voice with an accent that he does not recognize (twenty-first-century American English). The woman on the other side of the curtain has an extraordinary memory. She can, without much delay, recite any passage from the Bible or Shakespeare. Her arithmetic skills are astonishing—difficult problems are solved in seconds. She is also able to speak many foreign languages, though her pronunciation is odd. Most impressive, perhaps, is her ability to describe almost any part of the Earth in great detail, as though she is viewing it from the sky. She is also proficient at connecting seemingly random concepts, and when the traveller asks her a question like “How can God be both good and omnipotent?” she can provide complex theoretical answers.
Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveller would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a “singularity”—a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.
The woman behind the curtain, is, of course, just one of us. That is to say, she is a regular human who has augmented her brain using two tools: her mobile phone and a connection to the Internet and, thus, to Web sites like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Quora. To us, she is unremarkable, but to the man she is astonishing. With our machines, we are augmented humans and prosthetic gods, though we’re remarkably blasé about that fact, like anything we’re used to. Take away our tools, the argument goes, and we’re likely stupider than our friend from the early twentieth century, who has a longer attention span, may read and write Latin, and does arithmetic faster.
The time-traveller scenario demonstrates that how you answer the question of whether we are getting smarter depends on how you classify “we.” This is why Thompson and Carr reach different results: Thompson is judging the cyborg, while Carr is judging the man underneath."
mandaland asked: Alan, my headphones are average. I want awesome headphones that let me hear LITERALLY EVERYTHING. What do I buy? And if it's less about the headphones and more about the hardware playing the music, I expect a reasonably lengthy explanation of why. ;)
Your playback gear for digital is the least crucial piece in my opinion. Most modern DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) are all about the same and all definitely adequate, so your iPod, computer sound card, (if you’re old) stereo receiver, will all put out an adequate signal, and you’ll have to spend thousands to move up incrementally here.
The speakers (or headphones) are second in importance, so you do want to spend some time and some money here, if you can.The 650s will be everything you will ever need IMO.
The most important aspect in good sound is the mastering of the material. And I know this is something I mention often here. But I realize I might not have ever properly explained music mastering, so let’s do that today!
To try to compare it to something that is easy to visualize, let’s look at music mastering as if it were photography.
First you start with your source material. In music this is either a 1/2” stereo mixdown of the music on analog tape, or a wav file of the digital multitracks mixed down to a stereo track. In photography, this is the RAW photo file:
This is the RAW photo from my recent headphone photoset. There are a number of issues here, the color is under CFL bulbs and way too orange/warm, the tripod wasn’t exactly level, and the contrast/saturation isn’t great.
After making a few adjustments in Lightroom I ended up with this:
I rotated the picture slightly and trimmed the edges (this would be similar in mastering to making sure the album has a cohesive sound and volume and isn’t jarring from one song to the next).
I color corrected (this would be similar in mastering to EQ, you can ‘color’ the sound of your audio by adding or cutting bass frequencies, you can cut or boost very narrow bands of EQ to make your kick drum sound more box-y or more punch-y, you can de-ess vocal sibilance, etc)
And finally I adjusted the saturation and contrast (this would be similar in mastering to compression and limiting. This is the stage at which most modern recordings are suffering from an overuse. The “loudness wars” are born out of brickwall limiting (pumping up the contrast beyond any reasonable levels) and overcompression (pumping up or taking out all saturation).)
So modern music mastering techniques, if being expressed in a photograph, would look something like this:
Which, at first glace, looks cool. The colors are pumped up, the contrast makes an impact. But imagine seeing everything this way. The details, the subtlety, the balance, have all been sacrificed. Imagine how quickly your eyes would hurt if everything you saw was this effected.
That’s what’s happening to mainstream music these days and why people think “digital sucks” or music in general these days is less “fun” to listen to than music from 20 or 30 years ago. There are so many musicians today who are just as talented as the classic rock or 90s rock musicians, but no matter how good your source material, it’s going to get tiring if it’s pumped up to a constant 11 on every setting.
Hope that makes some sense.