Now and Zen

As long as I'm talking about CDs and compression...

I remember the first CD I ever heard: Robert Plant's "Now And Zen". This was back in '88, when CD players were still pretty exotic, but, a friend's dad had one (a portable 'boombox' one, IIRC), and we all ooh-ed and ahhh-ed over it, the magical little silver discs it played, the little whirring noise it made, the little laser sitting there, daring us to touch it - and most of all, of course, the sound. Just like all those angry sound engineers said, you could really hear the difference in the dynamic range, compared to vinyl or cassette, without even knowing anything about "dynamic range" or "compression". The songs on that album have a lot of nearly-empty space where you can hear all these faint little chimes and tinkly things, in wide open spaces, making you listen very closely. And they sounded realistic - as if that little bell, or whatever, really was recorded from far away; even if you've got it cranked, and you know the loud parts are going to be reeeealy loud when they kick in, those faint sounds still sound faint. And maybe even more important at the time, you couldn't hear any cassette hiss or record pops in the background! Music got bigger, shinier, clearer. I remember thinking that they must've recorded it in partnership with CD player manufacturers in mind, since it really showed off what CD players could do.

It's been a long time since I've heard a record with that kind of clarity and crafty little sonic details. I wonder if that's because I'm not paying attention, or if people aren't making them anymore...

I also wonder if I'd like that record even a tiny little bit, these days. Probably not.

2 thoughts on “Now and Zen

  1. Rob Caldecott

    Or maybe you’re hearing is shafted from playing/attending lots of loud gigs? Doesn’t hearing degenerate over time anyway? :)

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