Provenance Matters

Provenance Matters

The recent revelation that Mobile Fidelity has been including a digital step in their "fully analog" vinyl reissue process has triggered a lot of gloating by the non-audiophile community. Or perhaps I should call them "anti-audiophiles".

"Ha! I told you no one could tell the difference!" they say, smugly. "The rubes!", they snicker.

MoFi was undoubtedly deceitful in their marketing, but whether or not a purely-analog process sounds better than one in which there was a digital step isn't what I find important. What matters to many people is provenance. Where and how something originates is important, whether it changes the sound in a noticeable way or not.

It's true that most people probably can't tell, in a blind test, that there was a digital step, but who cares, as long as they feel like they can? Knowing a recording is 100% analog makes them feel better. That's the part of the lie that stings the most. No one likes being lied to.

Provenance also matters in photography. It is important to me where and how a photograph originated. I prefer photographs shot on film. I care about the camera and lens and film stock used to make an image. You could show me a digital photograph that has been manipulated to look indistinguishable from a film photograph, and I might not be able to tell that it's digital. That's not the point. If I know it's digital, it has less meaning to me. This is why I prefer to shoot film.

Provenance matters.