Moments of Plunder: Recording equipment vs. playback equipment

Epperson, Bruce D.: More Important Than the Music. A History of Jazz Discography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2013. P. 207.

In his book More Important than the Music, Bruce Epperson points out that, interestingly, for decades the technology of recording music – what you could put on a record – was much more developed than the technology to play this music back to the listener. Put technically: The machines couldn’t extract all the sonic data on a record. Put simply: The listener couldn’t hear everything that was on the record, no matter how hard he tried.

This raises a few interesting points. On is mentioned in snippet above: What about the authenticity effect? Should we get worse record players to be able to listen what the early jazz fans fell in love with? Additionally, with newer equipment playing old records, one could hear many „new“ instruments and sound that witnesses and lovers of the old records thought they had been overdubbed. This is a point Epperson raises earlier in the book:

Epperson, Bruce D.: More Important Than the Music. A History of Jazz Discography. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 2013. P. 82.

Another point raised in the paragraph concers the reliability of „by-ear“-discographies – that is, discographies with information about instruments and musicians that were made accordig to a judgement made by an expert listening. The newer and better playback technology largely renders „close-listening“-calls before the late 1940s fun guesswork for historians at best. It’s a moment of true wonder:

The state of the art in consumer playback equipment took thirty years to catch up with recording technology.

Epperson 2013, 82.