Unfortunately most of music produced in India (till recently) was poorly recorded, as well as poorly pressed, Most of the great work in Indian Music (read Film music) from Lata, Mukesh , Manna Day etc is in mono format , which can't be used for testing music, do you know that the first Stereo LP (read : Recording) done in India was in 1968! Before that all recording was in Mono format. Even today, recording and pressing quality is still so and so.
That's why the bias is towards well recorded western music (Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical) .
I have been hearing this for some time and even in this forum. And I must say I
I think, stereo recording came to India within 5 or 6 years of it's coming to the US and Europe. After all the main recording company in India of those days - HMV - was a subsidiary of a British company. All original Beatles numbers and many Orchestral numbers were all recorded in mono. They were later converted to stereo. These same things have happened in India. Accepted, original recording were in mono. But, I have heard over a 1000 Hindi film songs that have pristine quality and are re-mastered in stereo. I have referred elsewhere to a release by HMV called 'The Classic Revival' which is a case in point.
When the first AV-Max exhibition was run, I had taken a special Yatra to Mumbai with over a 100 CDs. That was the first time that I auditioned the B&W's legendary 303s. I remember all the companies had just entered the fray and were small operations. When I entered the room with the 303s, they were as usual playing some very western rock. One of the most popular number those days was Hotel California. I quietly waited for the crowd to thin out, and requested the demo guy whether I can play my own CDs. He instantly agreed, but regretted it later. I gave him a CD of a Carnatic Classical singer called OS Arun. The reason I chose Arun was that he is a school mate of mine, and I know how his voice sounds exactly. When Arun was singing Meera Bjhajans through the system, one of the Cooper brothers came in, and literally screamed. "What are you guys playing?' Fortunately for me and the poor guy demonstrating, there was a huge crowd in the room who had all come in from other demo rooms. I spent the next hour or so playing a series of Indian CDs featuring Ravi Shankar, Hariprasad Chaurasia, MS Subbalakshmi, Shakthi with John McLaughlin, solo tabla by Zakhir Hussain, and a couple of CDs with film songs of the 1970s and 1980s. Actually Mehul Mepani (of AV Max) sauntered by and we started talking to each other, He tagged along with me for some time listening to the music I was using for auditioning. At least two of the demo guys wanted to grab my CDs.
The OS Arun CD was recorded by a small Chennai based company called Charsur (wwww,charsur.com). I have seen their recording methodology. They use multiple highly sensitive Shure mikes linked to a Nagra tape deck. The Analogue recordings are taken back to their small studio and carefully mixed for Stereo and converted to Digital. I have gone up and down between the live recordings and the studio produced CD, and the clarity and capacity to duplicate the environment is really good.
Frankly even on the most expensive systems with matching speakers, I found nothing wrong with the Indian CDs. Companies such as HMV, Times Music, Magnasound etc have released some very good Indian numbers. I do like Western music, but I also like to listen to Indian music regularly. Even on my trips abroad when I visit shops to audition system, I carry a large percentage of Indian music. Strangely, many shop keeps have expressed that they 'like' the music, and found it pleasant.
Some of the modern recordings are really exceptional. Some examples are Breathless by Shankar Mahadevan, Strings by Dhaani, Shaan featuring Bhool Na and other hits, Lucky Ali's Sifar, Golden Kirthis Colours featuring Zakhir Hussain, and Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, ReDhoom by Euphoria. There are excellent CDs in Hindustani and Carnatic which I have not mentioned. CDs of films such as Main Hoon Na, Kal Ho Naa Ho, etc are very good. In terms of old film songs, in addition to The Classic Revival, HMV has a series called 'The Golden Collection' I find these also quite good.
I would really like to sit with one of you, listen to an Indian CD, and understand what is that you find missing. Maybe mu understanding is not enough.
Your one more statement is also quite surprising: "None of these equipment have been made for Indian music........"
Although certain design topology suits better for certain music genre, no manufacture designs his product tailored to a specific genre and further to music from any specific region / period / culture. If an amp can do Jazz well, it can do Indian Classical also, if an amp can do well Rock it can play R.D's tune with equal zeal. There is no need or demand of any audio gear designed especially for Indian Music. And if at all one wants to design any such gear then what kind of Indian Music to be used as a reference point? Hindi Film, South Indian Film, Hindustani Classical , Carnatic Classical, Robindra Shongeet, Gazal, Bhajan, Folk ?
Maybe I used the wrong words. But here is my thinking and my worries.
You take a electronics designer from the US or Europe. What music is he familiar with? Western music, of course. So when he designs a circuit, he will tune it in such a way that the output sounds familiar and pleasant to him. Not all designs are identical and sterile. That is why reviewers find some warm and some harsh. The same reason why British reviewers find US design harsh, while American reviewers find British designs as stale.
Take Hindustani or Carnatic. The base is either a tabla or a mridungam. Now the base in Western music, particularly rock, are heavy drums. So if you tune a system to emphasise the drums, how will it sound with a tabla or a mridungam? Will it color the high frequencies of the accompanying sitar, violin, or the female voice?
If you leave out the film music which has a large shade of western influence, most Indian singing are based upon Hindustani or Carnatic ragas. And there is a lot of commonality between these two, The primary notes are actually the same, and each style of singing has evolved based on local custom. There is a lot of commonality in the instruments also - for the sitar you have the veena, for the tabla you have the mridungam, for the Sarod you have the violin, etc. Actually you can take a Sitar and play Carnatic numbers as well as you can play Hindustani on a Veena. Zakhir Hussain can accompany a Hindustani or Carnatic singer/artist with equal aplomb.
I do know mid HiFi and high end audio system will never be 'tuned' for Indian music. But what troubles me is the sheer lack of musical knowledge of our Indian designers and dealers. At least in the lot I have interacted with.
When I auditioned Audire in Chennai some time ago, the Chief Designer said he was a Physicist and does not understand music at all !!! Other companies are, of course low end, and their emphasis is always on volume and enhanced base. All the demos I have seen use standard numbers such as Hotel California. Is that all there is to music?
You take modern fusion that has voices and a lot of electronic sounds, we know it will sound good on a reasonable system. But can we listen to a classical Hindustani, Carnatic or a old film song with equal confidence?
These are my worries.