Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For The Audiophile In Your Life

Ah, my first post done on my sweet new Toshiba laptop, Joseph. (Yes, I am that pathetic for those of you who are probably right in your thought as to where the name comes from.)

For those of you that won't want to read me nattering on about my love of all things soundwise I will say that the main Team will get together this Sunday to listen to The Marian Conspiracy from the main Who range and from the Benny range we'll be doing The Secret of Cassandra and The Stones Lament. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but you might've noticed a little widget that says "Chat with Daphnekowalski". If I feel adventurous enough and if any of our loyal 15 feel the same I might have my chat client open as we're doing our thing. Think of it as a chance to join the Team in a virtual capacity. Listen along, comment, and if you want I might include your witty comment in the official entry.

With the pimping done now all of you who just want to read me wax poetic about sound design can start reading. If you read the post regarding Dragon's Wrath from the last full Team session you might remember that we were all so horribly traumatized by the sound design in that audio that I said I might pop in Crystal of Cantus since that didn't suck. I followed through with that promise and later on the evening I listened to that one again.

My friends will tell you I'm a bit of an audiophile/audio snob. As background, for me at least the Time Team sessions are a departure from the norm because I normally listen to the audios with headphones. I either use my Sony dynamic stereo model MDR-V600 or Sony dynamic stereo professional model MDR-7506. I own a 20+ year old functioning turntable with the $100+ needle. My jury rigged 5.1 setup in my living room uses Bose bookshelf speakers. I refuse to buy an iPod until I can find an earlier model that will allow me to drop the Rockbox firmware on it, therby allowing me to listen to the various bits in my music library that are in the flac format. When I do burn audio onto one of my two mp3 players I normally do it at 320kbps.

Crystal of Cantus succeeds on every level of sound design that Dragon's Wrath so spectacularly failed on. As was talked about in the entry for Dragon's Wrath the sound editor couldn't even master the basic concept of making sure two people sound like they're having a conversation in the same room. While the story for Cantus is simply put, brilliant, what really brings me back to it is that just about every time I listen to it I hear something new.

And this is where the paragraph where I talk about my toys comes into play. I've listened to that audio on just about every system/option I have that allows me to play a CD. These include the CD player in my old desktop, my JVC DVD player, the Creative ZenV mp3 player, and even the old school Pioneer laserdisc player. (Yeah, I've got that too. Drop me a line if you know a place where I don't have to sell my first born to get some laserdiscs.)

Cantus is so layered and complex that I find a new reason to get all giggly about it the first time I play it in a new player. Especially the moments where you're moving from one scene to another are just an acoustic treasure. At this point you're probably going, "Oh come on, Redo. Any monkey can fade up one sound and fade down another in a scene transition." As a monkey that used to do a bit of audio/sound work when I was in college and right when I first graduated (sound forge) it's not as easy as it sounds. (no pun intended) You have to resist the temptation to fill every empty space with sound. You don't want your background elements to overpower the audio and at the same time you of course want your audience to get some semblance of atmosphere to help place your characters in context with their surroundings. Take a listen to Dragon's Wrath if you think I'm full of it.

What ultimately prompted the desire to do a post like this was that I was listening to Crystal of Cantus on the Creative ZenV using plain jane RCA ear buds. Normally I don't use the ear buds because I've yet to find a pair that don't hurt my ears in a couple of hours, but I thought it would look a bit silly if I had the huge headphones attached to the itty bitty mp3 player. Without spoiling the story itself I get to the point where Benny and Jason get split up. As our heroes are encountering the horror in the hospital ward we subtly shift to the perspective of a character that's watching them via monitors. We're shifting from one character's horror at discovering what's going on and for the first time that I can remember I catch that on the audio side the transition is being by not only changing how the character's voices sound but the character watching is humming a tune that sadistically fits the situation. (Blimey! That might win run-on sentence of the year.)

Again, it's rather subtle and I probably wouldn't have caught it if hadn't already listened to this audio over twenty times. It's indicative about what I love so much about this release from Big Finish though. I thought I had heard all the little audio tidbits that there were to be heard, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. And ultimately that's why this audio always ranks in my top 5 of all time.

Now playing: Ben Taylor - Someday Soon
via FoxyTunes

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