Joined: Feb. 2015
||Posted: Aug. 05 2015, 16:48
The real reason Tubular Bells 2003 sounds "fake"
The answer: compression.
Everyone talks about how Tubular Bells 2003 sounds "fake" or "computerized," but the fact is, most of it is likely played by hand. There are some synthesizers and synthetic instruments, but the album is full of guitar, glockenspiel, etc. just like on the original album. So what's the problem?
The issue is that Mike, in order to make the record sound more precise and professional, compressed the dynamic range of many of the instruments, causing them to sound flat and dynamically monotone at times, just like computerized instruments often sound.
So basically, to explain, when we hear instruments played in person, we hear the constantly varying loudness of notes. This helps it sound realistic. The original Tubular Bells recording matched natural dynamics more closely. This was even true of the 2009 remaster. However, the 2003 re-recording smashed down the dynamics to a point in which the notes sometimes sound unnatural and uniform with the rest of the track, as well as with each other. Combine that with the fact that there are computer synthesizers laying the foundations often, and the result is a blend that sounds very precise and clean, but not natural to our ears.
I think the reason that many people have a problem with this is that this is not the Tubular Bells sound they were expecting. They fell in love with the grittiness of the original Tubular Bells. They first heard a record that sounded very human and not perfect, and that was a huge part of the appeal. So, you can imagine people's surprise at the new, dynamically linear sound of the re-recording. You may be in that same camp that was taken aback the first time, as was I.
However, this is not to say that I don't like the record. In fact, I do very much like it. I try to think of it as a different recording of the same melodies, as opposed to a strict do-over recording, which is what I think we were all expecting.
I think TB 2003 should be appreciated in its own right. It's a newer effort which will never truly replace the original, but is still a good and well-made listen.
What are your thoughts?