Many a long year ago, when I was in my late ‘teens, my father’s friend, Ozzie Palermo, bought a new “stereo” (probably a Magnavox or such-like, but it could have been practically anything) and, when my father went over to his house for whatever reason, naturally enough, Ozzie had to show it off and play it for him.
After hearing it, giving all of the appropriate compliments and saying all of the required “oohs” and “aahs”, my father, possibly at a loss for further words, or possibly to gain reflected “street-cred” for himself, told his friend that I was a kid Hi-Fi Crazy, and that, being much more into such things than he (my father) was, I would probably appreciate it even more than he did. No sooner had those words passed his lips than Ozzie, presented with another, even better, opportunity to show off his new toy, insisted that my father call me at home so that he (Ozzie) could demonstrate it for me OVER THE TELEPHONE!
He did this by turning the set up LOUD and holding his telephone’s handset up to one of the speakers, which meant that, for a whole tune, he couldn’t hear anything I might say, and that I, knowing full well that I couldn’t just hang up on my father’s pal, and couldn’t just walk away (What if the piece ended and he came to the phone and I wasn’t there), had to listen to the whole thing all the way through.
When it was over, Ozzie came back on the line and asked me what I thought and I – either struck momentarily wise, or simply to get off the phone without an argument with Ozzie and a further confrontation with my father when he got home – told him that I thought it was wonderful, gave a few “oohs and aahs” of my own, wished him much happiness with his new acquisition, politely declined to hear another song, and got off the phone as quickly as I could.
Not to pick on (certainly by now) the shade of Ozzie Palermo, who was simply acting in the combined throes of great enthusiasm and utter technical innocence; but that whole incident or at least the telephone part of it, should never have happened: When you listen to something on the telephone – even if that “something” is the greatest, best-sounding, most technically advanced, and most viciously expensive High End System of all time – what you will hear is the telephone, and the sound quality will be telephone sound quality.
And even if what you are listening to is playing in stereo, if your telephone is monophonic (as, to my knowledge, most of even the very best smart phones still are), monophonic sound is all that you will hear. And even if you (and the person calling you) do have some hotsy-totsie stereo telephone or a smart phone fitted-out with the necessary accessories and you (and your caller) CAN record and play-back in stereo, all you will have done is to present yourself (or your caller) with the same problem that every recording studio faces every day: How do you (assuming it CAN be done), position your mic’s so that the stereo being picked-up/transmitted is GOOD stereo?
I’m bringing this up now because I have for some while, been getting from my friends, and seeing on FaceBook and YouTube, more and more Ozzie Palermo imitations, where an attempt is made to demonstrate some product or system by recording it on a smart phone and uploading it for computer transmission and playback. Let me say, before I go any further, that the speakers I use with my computer were designed for premium quality multi-media use by one of the industry’s top speaker designers, and that they are good enough that they might be considered fair-to-middlin’ near-field monitors. Even so, when I hear any demonstration of anything through them, what I hear is THEM, just in front of me, and NOT whatever it is that’s being demonstrated playing in whatever room it’s being played in, and that’s a problem!
What if I had truly awful speakers? Might not that actually HURT the manufacturer or seller of whatever product was being demonstrated by allowing me or others with similarly bad speakers to think that his company’s product was awful, too? Or (going to the silly opposite direction), if a computer demonstration could really sound exactly like whatever was being demonstrated, might that not hurt the manufacturers and dealers, too? Why would I need to buy an expensive system or to acoustically treat my room if all I actually had to do to get exactly the same effect was to buy a recording of a state-of-the-art system playing in a great-sounding room? In fact, if that were possible, my pal Jeremy Kipnis might never have to build and sell another of his famous six million dollar “KSS” Studio Standard Home Theater systems : At least for the sound part, all he’d have to do to get even richer would be to make and sell recordings of movies and music played on the KSS system he already has at home!
Actually, you know, I sort of like that Idea. Let’s work on it. Maybe Ozzie Palermo wasn’t so wrong after all!