No member of the Beatles is more polarizing for his perceived talent than Ringo Starr. On one side, there’s the camp who insists he wasn’t much better than your average undisciplined pub drummer of the time. On the other side is the group who strongly feels he was greatly underrated, and has gone on to influence most of the top session players.
John Lennon famously called Ringo “the second-best drummer in the band,” as perfectionist Paul McCartney was known to sneak back into the studio and overdub his own backbeats.
Still, no matter what you think of Starr, he was one of the first rock drummers to work with a production team that was focused on getting a good sound from their timekeeper. Producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick would take considerable time recording him, often slackening Starr’s toms and using compressors and limiters to bring out his touch and tame cymbal splash.
I’m not a Beatles über-fan, with all the bootlegs and everything, but I do appreciate the band. I hadn’t thought about Starr in a good long while, though, until I entered the Accent Speaker Technology room at RMAF 2014.
Lennon and McCartney’s voices were harmonizing in their inimitable way. The Liverpool lads were no Everly brothers, but they sounded like they were having the time of their lives trying. What really jumped out — literally — on the track was Ringo. His drums sounded like the kit was set up 10 feet away. The system was turned up rather loud, which my have contributed to the lifelike reproduction.
The speakers pulling off this trick were Accent’s new Nola Studio Grand Reference ($19,800), a handsome pair of floorstanders with an unusual open design on top.
Nola executive Carl Marchisotto explained that a design goal for the speakers was to present a wide, deep soundstage. Indeed, there was no “head in a vise” problem with the Studio Grands.
A key part of the design, he said, was a true ribbon tweeter that goes up to 100khz. Combined with the open baffle, the speaker presents an almost holographic image. Driving the Nolas was an Audio Research front end, consisting of a Ref 75 amp, Ref 10 preamp and CD 8 disc spinner. Cable was Nordost Odin.
One question that came to mind, hearing Starr’s drums, was whether the speaker might be overemphasizing this part of the audio spectrum. But without Geoff Emerick around to confirm that, I’d just have to say that extended auditioning on a variety of material should be the next step. My bet is that they just sound that good. Ringo undoubtedly would think so.