I remember an interesting clinic I was involved in when I was a young man working at The Federated Group in Los Angeles. The company was sort of a beta version of Best Buy, and they were highly invested in high-end audio gear.
A group of people were invited to participate in a test of quality. While the people believed this would be a test of the emerging world of video, it was, in fact, a test of audio. A series of video clips were played, and they didn’t last long. Each was approximately 10 seconds long. And then, the clips would play again, but in a different order. The objective was to rate the quality of what people were watching. There were high quality BetaSP images and there were old black and white film clips. In some, the audio was mono and very narrow band in quality. In others, the audio was Dolby stereo (high end in those days).
The outcome of the test was really interesting. People often picked lower quality video with higher quality sound as their favorite images. And, when the audio was played back without picture, most (like 90%) picked the highest end video to go along with the top quality audio, even when that audio was really matched to lower quality video images.
The second test was to pick the best high end speakers. People sat in a chair in the middle of a darkened, but not totally dark room. There were three sets of speakers set up in the front of the room. There were three sets of people. In all three groups, people picked the tallest speakers as the highest quality. In all three groups, the opinions were mixed as to which set of speakers was ideal. And the fact of the test was that in all three groups, only one set of speakers was even connected to an audio amp and preamp.
Overall, however, the issue of quality as it relates to sound cannot be understated. I would always prefer a high quality stereo track to a mid-level surround system. Sound, properly mixed and imaged in stereo can fill a room and make you feel as if you’re “there.” The addition of multiple speakers and effects doesn’t dilute the value of high-end sound.
And, when properly mixed audio is used, even not so great video can be made more acceptable to an audience. So don’t forget about audio when we produce your next project for you. We’re very hip to a quality audio track.