2023 Excellence in Audio Digital Storytelling, Use of Audio Storytelling winner

The search for the perfect sound

About the Project

In “The search for the perfect sound,” arts reporter Geoff Edgers explores the boom in vinyl record sales and the often contentious world of extreme audiophiles through an immersive mix of video, interactive audio and narrative reporting. This multimedia feature revealed the characters behind this growing subculture, from audio elites hunting down rare pressings to populists sharing their hobby with their community.

Edgers had rocked the audiophile world earlier in the year with his reporting on a record company scandal. Through more than two dozen interviews and over a year of reporting; original photography and video; and interactive audio, this project took both newcomers and experts into the debates and technicalities of this growing market — and captured the artistry that make fans so passionate to begin with.

To open the story, Edgers and video journalist CJ Russo joined the controversial audio entrepreneur Tom Port during one of his “shootouts,” sessions in which Port listens to many pressings of the same record to find the best-sounding version.

How could we re-create this scene for readers? Nothing could match the experience of sitting in front of one of these deluxe sound systems.

With the help of contacts in the music world, the team designed the next best thing. Edgers and audio producer Bishop Sand traveled to Brooklyn with a binaural microphone and a stereo microphone to record the same tracks, the Miles Davis Quintet’s “Oleo” and Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend,” playing once as a digital file and once on vinyl through Jonathan Weiss’s $363,000 Oswalds Mill Audio speakers. Sand matched the loudness of the recordings postproduction.

The team embedded those tracks as audio quizzes in the story, challenging readers to listen and guess which version was the digital file and which was the vinyl track. After meeting the characters who organize their lives around the search for the perfect sound, readers could get a taste of the difference for themselves.

Judges Comments

Highly inventive and textured multimedia project, with an emphasis on the audio experience. ‘The search for the perfect sound’ pulls listeners in immediately and compels them to share it with others.