bowers wilkins 800 diamond

What is the real sound? Concept explained

Over the next few weeks, you’ll be hearing about True Sound here at thingsSo we thought we’d start by explaining this concept and what it means. So, what is the real sound?

Well, we should start by pointing out that it’s not an exact science – not that it doesn’t take a lot of technical and engineering knowledge to make it happen. The entire design and engineering philosophy of British loudspeaker and headphone company Bowers & Wilkins revolves around the idea that its products should reveal the “true sound” of musical performance, demonstrated through its 40-year partnership with Abbey Road Studios. So True Sound means the absolute fidelity of the original recording and vocal performance that conveys the artist’s exact intentions.

Of course, speaker designers aren’t able to strap Neil Young, Brian Eno, Tom York, or Kate Bush into a chair and demand to know their specific artistic goals for their music–tempting as the idea may be. Fortunately, the source of the information is accessible: the registry itself.

John Powers, Founder, Bowers & Wilkins
John Powers with the original 801 amplifier

Assuming the song or album has been produced and mastered properly, it already contains everything that is needed for it to sound perfect. To bring out this concept of True Sound, the devices being played need to effectively “get out of the way” to let the recording speak for itself. John Bowers, founder of Bowers & Wilkins, summed up the idea eloquently: “The best speaker is not the one who gives the most. It is the one who loses the least.”

True Sound isn’t about shifting bass into vibratory levels (beats, we love you – but we’re looking in your direction) or using fancy 3D audio magic to put the listener in some kind of virtual concert hall (meaning no offense to Dolby Atmos et al – we love you too) ; It is about taking the information in the recording and expressing it in the purest possible, colorless form.

Eight years ago, loudspeaker manufacturer Eclipse hired Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Jim Anderson to explain True Sound to potential customers.

Anderson compares speakers to a computer monitor: If your monitor skews a little toward the red end of the color spectrum, you’ll get used to it over time until it becomes your “basic level,” coloring your entire visual frame of reference. When you next see a precisely calibrated monitor elsewhere, it looks a little off. The same can happen with speakers – they all have an acoustic profile, but to achieve real sound, the profile must be as transparent as possible. It is no coincidence that audio engineers and music producers use high fidelity “monitor” amplifiers when mastering, engineering and making music.

Bowers & Wilkins isn’t the only company actively pursuing this goal, of course. It’s not even the only audio company to point to “True Sound.”

Yamaha, the Japanese giant that makes not only amplifiers and headphones but musical instruments and digital audio interfaces (in addition to motorcycles, but we digress…), is particularly over-the-top when it comes to its True Sound concept, which is divided into three core elements: tonal balance (which enables the listener to hear all parts of a recording accurately); dynamics (the subtlety in the way the quiet and loud parts of the recording are contrasted and interacted); and the sonic image (the spatial expression of the recording, usually a two-channel left/right stereo image).

Yamaha MS101-4 Desktop Monitor Speakers

So there you have it: True Sound is all about fidelity, fidelity, and delivering music in its purest form. Stay tuned if you like the sound of it (no pun intended, honestly!), because in the coming weeks we’ll be suggesting key products that will let you create your own True Sound setup at home, as well as some great listening material to get the most out of.