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Roxanne

by Arizona Zerva

Although I’d rather listen to the Police’s 'Roxanne' any day, the bass line in this version presents an interesting case study of how a sub-heavy timbre can nonetheless retain melodic audibility on small speakers. When I say ‘sub’, I’m talking about the real deal — the bass line has powerful fundamentals stretching from 47Hz right down to a blancmange-wobbling 28Hz! The reason this line translates so well to your phone speaker is that it’s being surreptitiously doubled by another line (either another synth or a very restrained clean guitar; it’s tough to tell) which provides that all-important mid-range.

What’s cool about this production, though, is that the main bass is presented both with and without the additional mid-range layer, so you get to compare the small-system translation in each case. For example, the mid-range layer drops out at 0:37, and then returns at 0:48. You’ll hear some difference between these sections when listening on a full-range system, but when heard on an Auratone it’s like night and day — the bass line is almost inaudible before the mid-range layer arrives.

And one other thing caught my attention. While the knee-jerk vocal pitch-gridding left me as bored as it usually does, one redeeming feature alleviated the tedium: the subtle artificial backing-vocal harmonies that kick in for the final hook section from 2:06.