True Stereo Recordings method with a grand piano.

Naim Records & True Stereo – An Introduction

In celebration of remastered True Stereo Recordings, Naim Records are introducing you to Ken Christianson and True Stereo Recordings. 


Ken Christianson has worked in audio and recording for forty-four years. He is also the owner of Pro Musica, a Recording Engineer and Producer of True Stereo Recordings. He has supported several music series and improvised Music at Unity Temple as well as teaching a Master’s class in Live Sound Recording at Columbia College in Chicago. Ken also recorded numerous contemporary and classical albums sold worldwide under “The Naim Label” and other independent labels using his unique style ‘True Stereo Recordings’.

Founded in 1992, The Naim Label was the vision of Julian Vereker, the founder of Naim Audio. The label concept was to produce outstanding performance of natural acoustic quality that captures the true inspiration behind the artist’s intent. The Naim Label has always presented a wide spectrum of musical possibilities, from intense Jazz to inspired Contemporary to sublime Classical. In doing so, the label celebrates diversity, giving the listener the opportunity to experience an ever expanding range of music with consistent high sound quality. Naim Records, as it is now known, is now forging a pathway towards being the platform for a roster of young, eclectic artists, investing in the formative years and providing them with all the tools to build a successful and lasting career in music.

Ken first met Naim Audio and Naim Label’s founder, Julian Vereker, at a CES trade show convention in Chicago. Ken was impressed with Julian’s knowledge of all aspects of audio, his understanding of recording and his philosophy of reproducing realistic sound recordings that didn’t try to alter or colour sound in anyway. Over the years they bonded over their various projects with Julian showing a great appreciation for Ken’s desire to capture what the musician was saying as opposed to just making a sound.


What is True Stereo Recordings?

True Stereo Recordings is a unique recording style championed by Ken’s journey to capture as much of the Artist’s message with as little intrusion as possible. The quest of True Stereo recording is to capture a true sense in the harmonic realism. It offers the listener a live, acoustically realistic perspective without processing or electronic manipulation of any kind.

Done with a single pair of microphones, set up spaces with good natural acoustics, a textural dynamic quality is presented that simply cannot be achieved with multiple microphone techniques. The inherent advantage of this method lies in the overall coherence with respect to frequency, amplitude and time relationships.

In Ken’s own words:

“The recording side mistrusts the playback side, thinking of them as a bunch of voodoo mystics, while the playback side often criticizes engineers for their lack of ability to communicate artist’s true intentions. I for one don't embrace either of these camps. I try not to be obsessed with equipment but rely on components that lead me to as much musical truth as possible. My recording projects for the Naim label, as well as the majority of my personal projects have used only a single pair of microphones (AKG 414 EB circa 1978) in a method I have dubbed ‘True Stereo’.
This is certainly not a new concept, and to me, it just means trying to be true to the music. In my humble opinion, a recording is good when it offers engagement to the listener and audio playback is good when you can access the language it conveys.”


The Sound Hierarchy: Two Sides Equal One

I believe in a basic hierarchy of sound and it is simple, the proceeding component in the chain always needs to be capable of sustaining the integrity of system; the chain is only as good as its weakest link.

The normal path is:

Recording: musician, space, microphone, recording device

Playback: source (recording), source mechanism (master recording device, LP, CD, etc.), Amplification (pre-amp, amp), speakers (headphones)

The microphone is the limitation of recording side, the subsequent result (recording) from that is the ultimate truth in any playback system.

I have recorded everything from solo piano to 108 piece orchestras using the True Stereo method which I have been personally researching and developing for as long as I have recorded.  Nothing for me is so gratifying, as to be involved in the music making process, and hearing it on a great audio system in its sheer beauty.

I have been both privileged and fortunate to work with and record so many wonderfully talented musicians.” 

Listening to True Stereo Recordings

The playback of True Stereo recordings on a quality audio system will reveal just what the limitations are for both recording and playback chain.  This is important information if we are to further our understanding of what is possible. The better the frequency, amplitude and time (F.A.T.) relationships are obtained the further into the music will be able to explore.

With increased progression in the digital streaming world, Ken explored how to transport True Stereo Recordings in such a way that the listening experience would still maintain its high quality and authentic sound.

Remastering True Stereo Recording to High Definition Digital (24/192)

Digital recording has evolved with High Definition formats (24/192) done properly High Resolution formats can offer Truly Superb quality. These True Stereo Recordings have been Transferred from the Original Master Tapes on the Nagra IVS Analog to the Nagra VI Digital at 24/192 with great care to give the listener the ability to hear the closest approach to the Original Sound.

In celebration of remastered True Stereo Recordings, Naim Records and Ken Christianson will be reviewing a selection of albums from the Naim catalogue that were recorded using the technique. Stay tuned for monthly spotlight articles about Naim recording artists Charlie Haden and Laurence Hobgood, among others.

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