Review: Vocalo Violin (TAMusic)

Hello! a.nihilist here reviewing an album Nano-chan passed me because he found I liked Vocaloid music.

It’s from TAM of the TAMusic circle, and like a significant number of TAM’s usual productions, it’s all about violin covers of existing tracks. Most of the tracks here in this album comes from relatively mainstream stuff (think Project Diva series), but I suppose that’s what this entire album was meant to be: a violin cover album.

I’ve gotta say that I only have *that* much doujin or anime knowledge, being the freshest recruit on the team, so whatever stuff I reference this against would most likely be the existing stuff I’ve already heard coming from my relatively average Vocaloid background.

But enough about me… Let’s go on to what I think of the album…

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The Technical Stuff:

 

I love music, and I love listening to quality music. I want my gear to properly reproduce the music I hear, and I want to enjoy my music. They’ve both gotta be good, because one cannot get me a good listening experience without the other. It’s easy to find the hardware nowadays, especially with Singapore’s relatively large audio community (relative to land space), but quality software isn’t so easy to find.

As much as I hate to start a review on a bad note, I wouldn’t feel that Vocalo Violin’s the best I’ve come across, but hey, it’s not nice to say that alone, and I do have to say that it isn’t entirely as bad as it sounds, so why not read for yourself and figure out if my statement’s justified?

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As mentioned, Vocalo Violin’s mainly a cover album of TAM taking music and reproducing it in whichever way he prefers. In the case of most of the album, it’s a rather faithful 1-to-1 reproduction of chords from the original pieces of music, and that’s perfectly cool.

In fact, I would think for most of the album, if one were to look at it from a strict musical standpoint, there are very little flaws whatsoever. Whatever chords the vocaloids sing get reproduced via the violin, and if there’s accompanying background music, it’s handled by the piano in the background. Absolutely musically sound structure, and timing and tempo are good.

However, that’s not the primary reason why I’m not the most satisfied with it…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Most of the tracks in the album aren’t very clear or resolving, often with a veil over the image, resulting in a muffled sound, as if heavy sheets of cotton were placed in front of the recording microphone whilst TAM was recording his raw files. This is particularly prominent on the piano that accompanies most of his tracks in the entire album, where, in some tracks like *炉心融解*, the piano has a section that plays solo and it sounds improperly resolved compared to the violin.

While I cannot say for certain, I would suspect that this muffling was intentionally done to make the violin sound more prominent, and hence draw your attention to the instrument he himself is playing. Nothing wrong there, since such an isolation of instruments often is used in the live performance industry, where sound engineers intentionally “ruin” the performance of other instruments so that the performer can concentrate purely on what he plays as a reference to himself.

However, the result of this is that it makes the experience as a whole difficult to listen to, because you only hear one facet of the music. Seeing that this is an album meant for the consumer, I can’t give my best regards to TAM for producing his tracks in such a manner. There are better alternative ways of drawing attention to the prominence of his violin without utilizing such a method of mastering on the sole other instrument that gives the track its tune.

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All that said, I have to admit that the violin was recorded and mastered pretty well. I would say that this is near what an audiophile would consider a reference track for raw violin reproduction, being one myself, if I may declare unceremoniously. Great imaging and resolution, though there is a very, very subtle diffusion to what would otherwise be a perfectly solid image of the violin.

Of course, I was using some of the very best of my personal listening equipment, which are rather picky on what they reproduce, so let’s shift down to something less specialized…

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The Music Stuff:

On my simple rig (both will be listed right at the bottom of this review), things sound a lot more comfortable.

The muffling of the piano, which skewed the listening experience on my prosumer hardware (pro-consumer), actually helps make the entire album slightly dreamy, and because I don’t hear as much detail as I do on my reference rig, the piano actually becomes a comfortably laidback source of tempo and tune.

Conceptually, as mentioned earlier, the album is rather straightforward. Take an existing track, cover it with a violin, and have an accompanying instrument going along because it’ll sound somewhat bland otherwise. Perfectly musically-sound way of doing things.

In terms of virtuosity, as far as the casual listener that I am goes, I’d say that TAM does what he set out to do pretty well, though the lack of a personalized touch actually makes his various covers of the tracks feel a little monotonous and lacking variety, which one would normally expect when someone chooses to cover a song, or a piece of music.

Yes, Vocalo Violin isn’t a remix album, but I do personally feel that TAM could’ve mixed things up a little, rather than following so closely to the original as he has. Of course, it’s all about personal preferences when it comes to music, and what each individual enjoys or dislikes.

For me, the album is a tad bland, musically, and it plays a little too far on the safe side. The ex-choir boy in me understands the need to keep true to the original score and chords, but the novelty hunter wishes there could’ve been more.

That said, I do have to say that the inclusion of five tracks towards the end of the album with the Vocaloids Hatsune Miku and IA actually singing along with the music gives the album that much-needed spice and variation, though, if one were to listen to the album in the way its arranged, it would be rather awkward to have considerably more attention-stimulating vocals towards the end of the album as you listen to it.

The introduction of just about an entire band into the last four tracks actually turned the somewhat bleak album around. The addition of more sources of sound, and the given impression of wider and deeper soundstage as a result, actually makes the latter half of the album far more enjoyable to listen to. Again, it might just be me being someone who loves to listen to larger-sounding stuff, or more-complex music, which resulted in such an opinion, but hey, that’s just me as an individual…

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Personal Opinions…?

 

I can’t bring myself to rate it 10/10, but it isn’t a 0/10. In fact, it’s difficult to give it a rating…

The musically-inclined guy in me finds it perfectly okay. The sound engineer too doesn’t have an objection. It’s the music lover and the audiophile that are raising pitchforks and starting a riot over the technical aspect of the listening experience (which honestly isn’t the best I’ve heard).

In fact, the discord is so great that, at the end of the day, the only thing I could say is…:

It’s a 50-50. You either like it, or you dislike it.

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Is there any honest merit in getting this though…?

Try imagining such a scenario…

You get back home from a long day at work or school, and you just want some quiet, alone time. You want an album to play in the background when you’re reclining on your bed/sofa/recliner, reading a novel and generally enjoying the peace and quiet of your humble abode.

You dim your lights, turn off your phone, and decide to run this on the stereo or your listening equipment at a reasonably low volume and the slower tracks would set a very nice environment for pure relaxation…

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Overall, I won’t say I dislike the album, because it does grow on you, however it does that, but it’s not something I listen to everyday on the commute to school, definitely, and unfortunately.

That said, I wouldn’t entirely stay away from TAM just because I don’t entirely approve of this album. I still would gravitate towards Marasy if I had the choice (ignoring the fact that he’s much less doujin and is more “mainstream” now), but there’s nothing inherently wrong in what I hear.

In fact, I would think that the experimental elements he put into some of the tracks, like heavily stereoscopic panning of the violin he plays to give a “beside-your-head” feeling, actually can be further messed-with to produce a more-immersive and engaging feel to his music, moving forward, and if he were to fix his mastering on the piano, I would most definitely enjoy his stuff a lot more.

Of course, Vocalo is a pretty old album, so all things considered…

It’s not too bad…

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Reference equipment:

 

Reference Rig: Questyle QP1R music player > Ocharaku Akazakura earphones

Main Reviewing Rig: FiiO X1II music player > Knowledge Zenith ZS3 earphones

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