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Thread: Why don’t recordings sound as like live music?

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    Senior Member bigshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    While it doesn’t sound boxy or congested, the spacial illusion is the weak link I think.

    Can I ask a really basic idiot’s question? Will it help to move the speakers further apart?
    No. Most people have the speakers too far apart actually. Ideally, if you think of the distances as sides of an equilateral triangle, and the distance from you to the left or right speaker is the same as the distance between speakers, it is perfect. However if you sit too far back, the "phantom center" between the speakers may fall out. In most cases 8 to 10 feet is the furthest you should have them apart. This means that the spacial spread is smaller than real life in a close seat in a concert hall. A center channel from a 5.1 system can allow you to double the width increasing the soundstage size.

    The thing about soundstage is that it either reproduces properly on your system or it doesn't. The soundstage is created in the mix itself, so if sound objects aren't placed clearly in the mix, nothing you can do at home is going to fix it. It's likely that the Philips engineers used multimiking techniques, which tend to muddle up spatial cues. If your speakers are properly place and nothing untoward is going on in your room acoustics, the problem with this particular recording is probably baked into the mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    No I don’t equalise, I have bass traps in the corners. But I’ve never measured the room acoustics, it’s something I plan to do. If someone comes and plays a piano in my room it sounds like real music. If I hire a string quartet to play in my room it sounds like real music. I don’t need to do any equalisation for them, and yet they’re subject to the same reflections and absorptions of the room. This is what makes me wonder whether the equalisation approach is the right one, processing the signal even more to create a less processed sound. It sounds like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut if the input is good.
    It's definitely worth hiring an AV Tech for an afternoon to come out and measure and give you recommendations.

    I understand what you're getting at with room acoustics, but a listening room for recordings is entirely different than a performance space. In a concert hall, reflections and reverberation is desirable. It adds an envelope around the sound that allows it to bloom throughout the hall. But in a listening room for recordings, reflection and reverberation can cause havoc. The reverberation in a recording is built into the recording itself. You want to have a dry room, so the hall ambience in the recording is presented clearly and isn't being confused by the reverberation of the listening room being wallpapered over it. Performance spaces and listening rooms are two entirely different animals. It would take massive compromises to make a live performance space double as a room for a sound system. It probably would end up being mediocre at both. You probably have to choose one and optimize for that and let the other fall where it may.

    Reflections can cause inconsistency in the frequency response too, making the tone of the music sound different in different parts of the room. In extreme cases, just moving your head half a foot in either direction in the main listening position can result in radically different balances. Response is the most important aspect of sound reproduction. A speaker can be perfectly balanced in an anechoic chamber, but when you drop it in your living room, the response curve is going to sound completely different. And drop it in someone else's living room and it will sound different still. It's impossible to buy perfectly balanced speakers, because no one has a perfectly balanced room, other than recording studios that have designed their space custom. But even recording studios use equalization to calibrate their playback because it's very difficult to create a perfectly balanced and dry listening space.

    If you're single and listen by yourself, it is easy to just deal with the primary reflection points relative to your listening position and put in bass traps, but if you often listen with others, the quality of the sound in other parts of the room might require special treatment or tradeoffs. Generally, to create a balanced response overall, you do room treatment as much as you can, then you use equalization to take it to the next level. It all depends on your room. Space is the wild card in any home audio installation.

    Equalization one of the most important aspects of high end sound, and it's the most overlooked. I have a darn good listening room, and in my system, I can toggle my EQ on and off. It's no contest. Without EQ, it wouldn't sound nearly as balanced. All systems can benefit from equalization, often dramatically. The other aspect that makes a huge difference is multichannel and sculpting the timing with DSPs. I've been able to create a large, perfectly clear soundstage that images infinitely better than just two speakers in my room ever could have done. Multichannel isn't just "ping pong surround". It's control of the ambient envelope around the sound and the way it is placed in space. That gets you even closer to the experience of a live concert hall. It's possible to make your living room vividly sound like any space imaginable... from Westminster Abbey to a small jazz club. And you can use DSPs to cancel out problematic room imbalances too.

    Like I said before, it's worth hiring an AV Tech and having him come out and evaluate your room and give his recommendations. This is an area where the technology has advanced terrifically in the past decade or so. High end audio is evolving to another level and the principles are quite different from what was true back in the 70s and 80s. Things like signal purity, frequency extension, noise floors and distortion have been largely overcome. The new challenges to deal with are related to how sound inhabits three dimensional space and how the space of your room affects the sound.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jan-31-2019 at 19:27.
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