Before we get to the live programming part of things, let’s pause quickly to address the sound quality. These speakers sound pretty damn good. They’re bright and airy with a lot of presence. The clarity across all frequencies is solid, but especially in the mids and highs. My one complaint is that these flat panels simply can’t produce enough bass. I volume matched Oda to my unbranded vintage stereo speakers and then switched back and forth to compare.
Oda were obviously better-quality speakers overall, with a lot more clarity and more natural frequency response. They just had no thump. At volumes where my stereo would rattle the windows, Oda couldn’t even manage a mild tremor; the bass was always heard, never felt. That’s not necessarily a huge deal for a live Andy Bey performance where the only instruments are a piano and his voice. But, when it comes time for the skittering electronics of Arca and the boombap-inspired beats of Madlib, that lack of lowend might be a bigger concern.
Not too mention, Oda isn’t going to be streaming live music 24/7. In between those performances you’ll no doubt be using them to listen to your personal music collection. And if your tastes tend toward the bass heavy, these probably aren’t going to satiate your thirst for thump. The company is working on a subwoofer add-on, which should help alleviate that pain. But there’s not word on when that will land, what it will look like or how much it will cost.
That lack of lowend notwithstanding, the livestreams did sound fantastic. This is largely thanks to the top-notch production quality. Oda isn’t just having artists fire up Skype and sing into their laptops. They’re putting a lot of effort into the live mixing and sound quality.
The Andy Bey performance in particular was engrossing. You could hear him turning the pages in his song book and talking to himself between songs. But it didn’t feel sloppy; it felt intimate, like I had been invited into his home for a private performance. And knowing that this would be my only opportunity to hear it made me sit in rapt attention. There are no archives or reruns on Oda. Once a performance is done, that’s it.
The avant garde jazz of Angel Bat Dawid was similarly demanding of my attention, though it ended rather quickly and abruptly, just as she seemed to be finding her groove. Of course the difference in styles between Bey and Dawid also helped elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of Oda a bit. Both were quiet, small-scale affairs. This plays well to the warmth and spare jazz piano arrangements of Bey. But Bat Dawid is often at her finest when she’s in wild freakout mode with a full band. Here the stripped-back experimental (and seemingly improvisational) performance sometimes felt like a warm-up exercise, rather than the main event.
Considering the lineup for the first two seasons of Oda and its origins, that its strength lies in quieter, vocal-focused styles of music is unsurprising. According to founder Nick Dangerfield, the project was first conceived back in 2017 when his friend, singer-songwriter Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie / Microphones), couldn’t tour behind the release of his latest album.
Once things get moving, though, Oda’s streams won’t be limited to live performances. While that will certainly be a cornerstone of the service, artists who have signed on for weekend takeovers are being given freedom to do almost whatever they want: curated playlists, interviews, readings, etcetera. So there’s value here — the ability to get to know an artist beyond them simply singing a song for you.
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