Presenting 'The Search for the Perfect Sound,' an immersive project from The Washington Post


The Washington Post has published “The Search for the Perfect Sound,” an immersive project that presents people with a way to listen in and decide for themselves: what is the perfect sound?

Over the last year, Washington Post national arts reporter Geoff Edgers has aimed to answer this question by traveling all over the country to capture the way music and quality of sound have evolved, from the heyday of vinyl and analogue to the rise of digital and people’s changing listening habits. In his quest, Edgers spoke with more than fifty people—including music legends Neil Young and rapper Chuck D, musician and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, talking heads founder David Byrne, mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, as well as global audiophiles and many more.

The project arrives as record sales boom to levels not seen in decades and advances in technology making it possible to fool even vinyl loyalists with improved sonics.

“Perfect sound. What is it exactly? You can measure it, reducing it to frequencies and amplitudes, or you can recognize it as something else. The way your room is set up. Your mood. What you expect and what you’re used to.

CDs were not a crime against sonic nature. Their success as a product did lead to major shifts, though. Suddenly, the technologists, not the music geeks, were in charge. They focused on psychoacoustics, a field that embraces the idea that our ears can mask deficiencies in a recording. What we hear isn’t merely what’s presented but how we interpret it.”

Readers can experience this quest themselves and test their ability to distinguish sound quality using two music players embedded in the story. The first audio experience includes two music samples from Neil Young and the Miles Davis Quintet, recorded from the same set of high-end speakers, once as a vinyl record and the other as a digital file. Another embedded audio player allows readers to listen to a Carole King track in both low-resolution and high-resolution digital audio. In addition, record guru Tom Port provides visual commentary detailing how he listens and rates the best-sounding records to sell.

“Music is universal, it’s for everyone. I found it fascinating to think that there is a change happening that reflects how we listen to music and how it is presented to us. From people walking down the street listening to music through smartphones to billionaires blasting million-dollar sound systems, I’ve realized the perfect sound no longer exists,” said Edgers. “Everything we learned during the iPod age, how much music you can cram on a device, how quickly could you use it, how small the speakers were made — all that mobility went against creating great music, allowing technology to peel back quality sound.”

Read “The Search for the Perfect Sound” here.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Scroll the Latest Job Opportunities From The Media Job Board