Harman Presents 'Distortion Of Sound' Mini-Doc f/ Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Lianne La Havas + More
Harman, maker of both pro sound equipment and quality home systems, is a name well known to audiophiles. So it’s no surprise, perhaps, that they have decided to speak out on the generally less-than-sterling standard of sound quality we have come to find ourselves living with in the internet age. That they would make their statement so passionately, in the form of a star-studded documentary, is a surprise, though. Distortion Of Sound (watch the entire 20+ minute doc below) eloquently tells the story of the rise and fall of quality audio from the vinyl era (the golden era, naturally) right up through the implementation of the mp3, streaming audio and the introduction of ubiquitous sound compression (the dark ages). Though the story is told by the expected audio experts, people like JBL engineer Greg Timbers and Harman chief engineer Chris Ludwig we gratifyingly also get the perspective of makers of music and players of instrument, including a a few who are very close to an Okayplayer’s heart, namely: Quincy Jones, Snoop Dogg, Dan The Automator and Lianne La Havas. The rest of the heavyweight interview line-up is rounded out by Slash, Steve Aoki, Bollywood maestro A.R.Rahman, and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, just to name a few. What all these very diverse musical talents share is a sense that the sonic art they kill themselves to get just right is not being done justice by the crappy delivery systems of compressed audio.
Like any good documentary Distortion To Sound does a great job of condensing complex data to the ideas that really impact us, illustrating the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio, for instance, in side by side comparisons that have an unexpected ‘whoah’ factor. But in a sense, Harman is just telling us what we already know, since we’re the ones out here living in the unsatisfactory sonic landscape of the inter-stream. Sometimes, however, such things need to be spelled out, and spelled out by voices that not only knows whereof they speak, but–in the case of the artists interviewed–with some stakes in the game as well. The message the doc leaves us with is that our musical doesn’t have to suck this bad, which begs the question whether Harman is trying to start a movement, possibly pave the way for innovative new products–or simply raise awareness about what is we’ve lost.