The new Kenetek live sound console in use

Pro-Audio has entered a new era. After over 100 years of striving to make recordings sound *better*, we are now seeking ways to make them sound worse. This was brought to my attention when one of my clients wanted to know why the Kenetek compressor he bought from me didn’t distort when driven to clipping like the original design from almost 50 years ago. “That’s by design”, I told him. Until now, I’ve always worked hard to make the audio gear I design and build clean, quiet and crystal clear, but with character. But I now realize that what recording engineers and musicians want these days is not necessarily the cleanest and quietest. I find it ironic that we can now record at sampling frequencies higher than some radio frequency bands (192 kHz) with a dynamic range that extends to the threshold of pain (144 dB – 24 bits) with distortion figures less than 1 part in 10,000 (0.0001%) and people are looking to intentionally grunge up their recordings!

People want beer with no carbs in it. Food that tastes good but won’t kill you. “Good” noise without any of the “bad” noise. There are plug-ins galore that can add noise, pops, clicks and every kind of distortion known to man to a signal, and still maintain a 100 db+ signal to (bad) noise ratio. In this new age, boutique hardware is now following software plug-ins by offering knobs designed to *lower* the fidelity of the signals running through them.

People want gear they can mangle and abuse while trying to get sounds that have never been heard before out of it. That’s why the next generation of gear I’m building will have knobs to *increase* the amount of noise and distortion in the units. Give the people what they want. I’m even thinking of ways to add a “Suck” knob. Go figure. Lo-fi is the new Hi-Fi.

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