AES Section Meeting Reports

Pacific Northwest - February 24, 2016

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The February meeting of the Pacific Northwest Section of the Audio Engineering Society was hosted by Dr. Michael Matesky at his Bothell, Washington facility, Opus 4 Studios. There were roughly 40 attendees of whom 14 were members of AES.

Dr. Matesky is the designer and owner of Opus 4 Studios (audio and video recording) where he also engineers. Born and raised in Los Angeles, where his father worked in the studios and taught music at USC, he has an MM in cello, and a DMA in conducting from the University of Washington. He is a composer and arranger, President of Opus 4 Music publishing company, studio musician, music contractor, founding cellist in the Opus 4 String Quartet, and occasional Gypsy jazzman with undeniable traces of evidence found at He has recorded both as cellist and conductor at what is now known as Abbey Road Studios. He has performed before the Queen of England and two U.S. Presidents. Dr. Matesky is currently serving on the PNW Section Committee.

Musicians, audiophiles, and audio engineers often refer to a "reference recording." Exactly what are they referring to, where does it come from, and how is it used? Is there such a thing as a standard reference? How does a reference recording relate to the new recording?
We began with an introduction to the design and operation of Opus 4 Studios, and demonstration of the installed Lexicon Acoustical Reinforcement and Enhancement System (LARES). As configured at Opus 4, LARES includes 72 loudspeakers fed by two microphones and a bank of processors and amplifiers, enabling Dr. Matesky to "dial in" various acoustical reverberation signatures for the room. With a simple adjustment of the controller, the room takes on the acoustical characteristic of different room sizes and shapes, providing the performers with an environment appropriate to the instruments, ensemble and music that is being recorded.

This meeting grew out of Dr. Matesky's interest in exploring the way many live and recording engineers and artists use the term "reference recording." Dr. Matesky led us in deconstructing the notion of a reference recording, beginning with a look at the meaning of the term, and extending into a question about the very notion of what an appropriate "reference" might be for the recordist. How does an engineer actually know what the conditions and variables surrounding the recording of a "reference" might have been? Clearly, we have no ability to know what the actual aural environment was like for the composer or performer or audience of a piece of music written in the 17th century, but how much do we even know about the conditions around the recording of a contemporary piece?

What, in this context, do we even mean by reference? Are we seeking an accurate re-creation of an event? Can we approach reasonable fidelity to the source? What are the effects of environmental acoustics, auditory perspective, and recording equipment on the accuracy of reproduced sound, and how does that impact our ability to use a recording as a "reference"?

Immediately following a break for refreshments and conversation, door prizes were awarded, courtesy Dr. Matesky and Opus 4 Studios.
• Rick Smargiassi won a Tee Shirt.
• Katherine Yue (who was our demonstration pianist this evening) won a Boeing soft briefcase.
• Dave Tosti-Lane won a second soft briefcase.
• Tom Stiles won a Mackie Onyx Satellite Audio Interface.

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