• An Enjoyable And Free MP3 (Trust me On This One) UPDATED!

    I must start by saying that I'm a diehard card-carrying audiophile. I've loved great sounding music for as long as I can remember. I've had some form of "high end" audio system for almost as long. Sure, the equipment can be a marvel of engineering and very aesthetically pleasing, but nether trait equates to anything without enjoyable music. Thus, the reason I'm talking about the much hated MP3. I've loved great music, with or without great sound, forever. MP3 is a lossy codec that's "responsible" for removing much of the music from the music. However, when it comes to enjoying music, I'd rather listen to Pearl Jam on an AM radio than listen to some audiophile classics pristinely recorded and mastered at the highest sample rate and word length. This brings me to a well known, yet somehow unknown, MP3 "album" that's available for free. Yes, free as in beer.

    On September 7, 2006 Chris Cornell performed at the O-Baren club in Stockholm, Sweden. The set was entirely acoustic and full of original and cover songs. The set was recorded and mixed by Andreas Bauman of Bauman Audio Media, yet never officially released as an album. Fortunately, a version of this recording titled Chris Cornell: Unplugged In Sweden is available for download from the Internet Archive at no cost. The issue for some audiophiles is the fact that the album is only available as a 192 kbps MP3 or ~90 kbps OGG download. I know this may seem depressing, but after listening to the music one can quickly forget it's only a lossy MP3.

    About the music, first and foremost this album is known for the stellar cover of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. This version is leaps and bounds better than the officially released version on Chris Cornell's Carry On album. This track alone is a great example of great music and great performances are far better than great / better quality by itself. Other great covers on this album include Redemption Song (Bob Marley), Peace Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello), and Thank You (Led Zeppelin). Chris also plays a couple Temple of the Dog tracks and Soundgarden tracks in addition to his own solo material. Overall this is a great album that I wish would be officially released in better quality. Nonetheless, it's still incredibly enjoyable in all it's MP3 glory.

    I reached out to Andreas Bauman for details about the recording. I'll update this article if I hear back from him.

    Here is a link to download the album - Chris Cornell: Unplugged In Sweden


    I heard back from Andreas Bauman about the performance and recording. Here is his communication to me.

    "Hi Chris!
    Thanks for your mail re the Cornell gig. Funny how this gig has acquired an almost mythical aura over the years. And sure, it was a very special night at O-Baren. Even now, almost 10 years after, people still come up to me asking how it was or tell me they were there and how magical they think it was. And
    all of the bands and artists that has performed at O-Baren since (and we have something like 80 gigs a year) know of it and want the details.

    I should tell you that O-Baren is a very small venue which makes gigs with artists like Chris Cornell very exclusive. The audience is limited to around 200 people and the place is just a small, dark bar with a unusually high stage. It's originally a backyard between 3 buildings that someone got the bright idea of putting a roof over and build a bar (sometimes in the 90's). O-Baren is located in the back of Sturehof, a high profile French restaurant, located at Stureplan downtown Stockholm. Very posh!

    From technical standpoint it was a fairly simple gig. The recording was made on request from Sony Sweden to be aired on Scandinavian radio stations the day after. At the time I was still using my old trusted Yamaha 01/96v console with the version 2 software (now replaced by a Soundcraft Performer 2). Since I record a lot of the live performances at O-Baren, I have a permanent recording solution in the FoH rack. Back then it was an Alesis HD24 connected to an ADAT expansion card in the Yamaha by means of optical ADAT cables providing 24 channels of direct out pre eq. Very convenient and reliable.

    The recording was made on 7 channels as I recall. First the guitar recorded with a DI (Klark or BSS) and an AKG 451b pretty close up. For vocals there was a request from the tour manager/artist for a Neumann studio condenser (U87 or 47, can't recall), but I persuaded them to go for a more "stage friendly" alternative, namely the Neumann KMS105. CC also wanted a Shure In-Ear system, so there was not much in the stage monitors which made things a lot easier.
    For audience recording I used the Audio Technica stereo mic (can't recall the modell) I have permanently placed in the ceiling mid-stage towards the audience, with 2 additional AKG shot guns to the extreme left and right of the stage pointed to the audience.

    Since the recording was to be aired the next day, I went to the studio directly after the show and spent most of the following night mixing it as well as doing a very gentle mastering. At that time I was using Logic and it was mixed in the box using UAD plug-ins. The recording was done at 48khz/24 bits mixed down to 44,1khz/16 bits.

    At one time Sony talked about a possible release, but it never came to be. Probably because CC was starting out solo (which we didn't now at the time. After all he came to Stockholm to promote the latest Audioslave album), and had other releases planned. It wasn't until long after I found that the
    O-Baren version of "Billy Jean" was on CC's My space page and was voted no 1 song by the fans. So at least that got out to the public. Special since it was the very first time he ever did that song live. Whoever put the lossy version of the entire gig on the web I don't know.

    Later in 2006 the decision was made by O-Baren to release a "Best of 2006" CD, containing 17 songs from the best 17 bands/artists (in our opinion) from the past year to promote the live scene there. Sony agreed to let us use one CC song and they picked "Wide awake" from the O-Baren gig. As far as
    I know the only hi res release from that night, even though not a commercial one. I still have a few copies and could send you one if you're interested.

    Since then I've made a lot of recordings at O-Baren, most notable is perhaps Band of Horses from 2012 which was released on Spotify under the name "the Spotify sessions". Check it out.

    Not much else I can tell you about the Cornell gig except that the audience was a veritable "Who's who?" in Swedish music/showbiz including people like Max Martin. Also, Mr Cornell was obviously nervous and excited before the show telling me he hadn't played solo in front of an audience like this since the 80's. Now in retrospect, I think he really got the taste for it that night and that set him in a completely new direction. Like I said, a very special night.

    Andreas Bauman"
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. joelha's Avatar
      joelha -

      Wait. First, you review Audiophile Optimizer and now you're recommending an album in .mp3?

      I need to sit down for a minute. I'm getting dizzy.

      Can't wait to hear the album. Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. kurb1980's Avatar
      kurb1980 -
      Big Soundgarden fan but unfortunately Cornell's vocals are not the force they used to be. He damaged them some years back and I find the way he sings now to be muted thus he needs reverb on his live performances to extend his wail he used to have in the late 80's-mid 90's. IMHO of course.
    1. REShaman's Avatar
      REShaman -
      Thank you, Chris, for the opportunity to acquaint myself with Chris Cornell.

      After downloading the MP3 edition of Unplugged In Sweden, I employed Max and converted to AIFF 44.1/16, which automatically added the album to my music library and appeared in iTunes Recent...Launched Amarra Symphony with iRC and sat through the album. I had not listened to the tracks after unzipping the download in MP3 format.

      The SQ is decent, in my opinion, veiled a bit but enjoyable. Whether or not this makes sense, I would compare the quality of rendition after my conversion to a more than a VHS, perhaps a DVD vs Blu-ray.

      As you yourself indicated, the performance quality is enjoyable enough. Thank you for the introduction.

      Enjoy the music,
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
    1. dapla's Avatar
      dapla -
      What a great post, Mr. Connaker. I was with you 100% in every detail of your opening comments, will get the download, and look forward to what will be my first exposure to this artist. Thanks!
    1. YashN's Avatar
      YashN -
    1. Hierge's Avatar
      Hierge -
      My heart is warmed by the recognition of this musical genius on CA. Way to go Chris. My friend actually met Chris Cornell in Las Vegas at a meet and greet event. Nobody even knew who Chris was but he humbly showed up anyway. They spoke for a half hour and my buddy told Chris that he could probably beat it to his next engagement. They had an instant rapport and I loved hearing the story. My favorite video is a live performance of Burden in my Hand from New Jersey where he describes how he got the guitar from the song at Rick Rubin the famous producer's home. Truly a beautiful song and description. The audio is pretty good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak4sqvXcQu8
    1. esldude's Avatar
      esldude -
      Come on Chris.....192 kbps mp3 VBR. The VBR makes a difference.

      Thanks for the info. I have heard some of these on youtube, and agree about this version of Billie Jean.

      Listening to it now. Nice performance if you like Chris Cornell which I do.

      A good example to of turning your nose up at the wrong things. Yes, MP3, lossy and all. I do also admit I like it, and enjoy it just like it is. However, what is it that could be better? Lossless or higher rez wouldn't do much for you. Even this simple recording looks pretty compressed (and maybe limited). Be sure and ask Andreas Bauman how much compression he used. Much of the real dynamics have been mashed out of this. It isn't quite totally crushed like some items, but runs pretty much of the time at - 1db across the board. If they would release a less compressed or non-compressed version even in this 192 kbps MP3 VBR you would realize a nice increase in sound quality. I would pick that uncompressed recording in 192 MP3 over this version at 192/24 hi-rez.
    1. esldude's Avatar
      esldude -
      Just heard the Led Zep cover at the end. That one I have not heard before, and I thought it was quite good. I once heard part of Led Zep (Page and Plant) do that acoustically in a radio interview. I do believe Cornell has done it better in this case. Very nice.
    1. YashN's Avatar
      YashN -
      Could you ask Bauman for a lossless or uncompressed version?
    1. bkinbk's Avatar
      bkinbk -
      Great friggin show
    1. skipspence's Avatar
      skipspence -
      ... too loud for acoustic recording, you hear it even on applause - sad it's so compressed

      So mb little ot here, but yesterday I listened to Grateful Dead recent FTW Chicago 320 mp3 sbd recordings where SQ is simply so good it blows you away, ... well there's not only the format you know...

      Thanks Chris for sharing this great yet educational piece of music anyway!
    1. Nikhil's Avatar
      Nikhil -
      Amused at the (inevitable) comments on mp3. What do we audiophiles do in environments that are devoid of DSD256 goodness? You know ... the usual places. Kitchen radios, car audio, etc. Do our ears bleed due to the "compression" in the music? Does lossyness assault our fine tuned senses?

      Is it blasphemous for Chris to talk about a musical gem that happens to be available only in mp3?
    1. MikeJazz's Avatar
      MikeJazz -
      Chris what I have is 320 kbps mp3... And very enjoyable...
    1. mayhem13's Avatar
      mayhem13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by kurb1980 View Post
      Big Soundgarden fan but unfortunately Cornell's vocals are not the force they used to be. He damaged them some years back and I find the way he sings now to be muted thus he needs reverb on his live performances to extend his wail he used to have in the late 80's-mid 90's. IMHO of course.
      Saw them two years ago.....2 1/2 hour set......hit after hit and his voice was spot on. One of the top 10 shows I've ever witnessed.
    1. YashN's Avatar
      YashN -
      My girlfriend spotted me this at the record store:

    1. Archimago's Avatar
      Archimago -
      Quote Originally Posted by skipspence View Post
      ... too loud for acoustic recording, you hear it even on applause - sad it's so compressed

      So mb little ot here, but yesterday I listened to Grateful Dead recent FTW Chicago 320 mp3 sbd recordings where SQ is simply so good it blows you away, ... well there's not only the format you know...

      Thanks Chris for sharing this great yet educational piece of music anyway!
      Agree... Thanks Chris for the wonderful recommendation!

      skipspence is right. If we are to be picky, it's too loud for an acoustic recording which could have sounded more natural. MP3 192kbps is right on the edge of decent sound, but it's the dynamic range compression that I find more objectionable and would not be fixed with higher bitrate or lossy.
    1. Bill Lord's Avatar
      Bill Lord -
      Thanks- I enjoy Sound garden, Pear Jam and 90's era grunge and alternative.
    1. Melvin's Avatar
      Melvin -
      Thanks for posting this Chris .. superb.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Guys - I heard back from Andreas Bauman. Please see the update at the bottom of the article. Good stuff.