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

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    Default Why don’t recordings sound as like live music?

    I mean, I know that part of it is the experience of being in the hall, the excitement. But that’s not all of it. I can have a little string quartet play for me at home and it will sound more real than a recording, a good recording, on good equipment.

    So what is the issue? Will going to more than two channels help?

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    The goal of recording is to create an optimal performance, not a realistic one. In order to reproduce realism, it would take a multichannel speaker system and room matched to the way the sound was recorded. But that isn't practical in living rooms. I suppose that headphones and binaural recordings come close, but I haven't been impressed with any binaural recordings. That can depend on the shape of your ear canals. There's always a wild card that makes it not sound natural for many people. So instead, they record and mix to suit the typical home audio installation and multi-mike to make sure every element reads correctly.
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    Can you say what you mean by optimal?

    I want to have the illusion of real music being made, by the way. Is there anything I can do to make that happen using standard recordings and stereo?

    MDG has an objective of producing realistic, here’s their policy statement


    https://www.mdg.de/frame1e.htm

    I’m listening right now to their recording of BWV 1019 and it is indeed more realistic, but not totally convincing. It must be easier where you have just two instruments, the music coming from two points in space.

    I wonder if any other labels aim to make realistic recordings.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-28-2019 at 18:59.

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    For one thing, you are hearing a recording as if the microphones were your ears, and you're sitting where the microphones are. This is not always natural. If there are more than two microphones, and then reduced to two channels, phasing gets mixed in the process.

    Micing that is too direct will lack the extra harmonics in the acoustical environment. And there are different attitudes about studio environments, wet vs. dry. A very dry studio environment may not sound realistic but some audiophiles like that. I think this goes back to when home music systems were not so dry or accurate.

    Now, with very accurate reproduction, we can actually hear the acoustical differences between a concert hall and a dry recording studio. Some of he live Mahler recordings by Abbado capture the concert hall ambience quite well.
    Last edited by philoctetes; Jan-28-2019 at 19:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I mean, I know that part of it is the experience of being in the hall, the excitement. But that’s not all of it. I can have a little string quartet play for me at home and it will sound more real than a recording, a good recording, on good equipment.

    So what is the issue? Will going to more than two channels help?
    no microphone is as sensitive or discerning as the human ear....

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    I don’t think they have to sound ‘live’ in order to be enjoyed. They can still sound great, marvelous, inspired, authentic, genuine, thrilling, close enough to the original, and anything else if one isn’t expecting the moon. Attending a live concert does have its advantages over recordings if that’s what one is seeking to be satisfied. Just about any recording that is without distortion played on an excellent sound system or audiophile headphones can be highly satisfying if one has imagination, and I enjoyed a number of fine recordings of Mahler’s 10th over the weekend that fit that category. Recordings can only be the next best thing to live no matter how many speakers one plays them through. Even the best recordings can only be approximations at home and one is still exceedingly lucky to hear them.
    Last edited by Larkenfield; Jan-28-2019 at 21:37.
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    You all seem to be pointing to problems in the source rather than problems in the reproduction equipment or the listening room.

    My own guess is that part of the problem is to do with the number of sources of sound. In a live performance of a string quartet, you have four sound sources, and each time I move my head my perspective of each one changes. In a stereo reproduction you just have two.

    I wonder if people think (as I do) that point source speakers are more realistic sounding than speakers with woofers and tweeters all staggered in a box -- I'm thinking of things like classic old Tannoys and Quad ESL 63s.

    And I'd be very interested to know what the engineers here think of the MDG policy I posted.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-28-2019 at 22:12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Can you say what you mean by optimal?
    Perfect balances... level, degree of detail, perspective, equalization, etc. Classical music and Jazz are often recorded to have a natural spread in soundstage more than rock and pop, but even with classical there are often multiple microphones to mix and the ambience is manipulated in the mix to be just the right balance. There aren't many warts and all raw recordings out there. Those are mostly on small specialty labels. If you wanted to do a totally natural sounding recording, you'd set up binaural miking and record straight ahead with no mixing. That would sound natural, but it wouldn't sound as balanced.

    The way to get the best and most natural sound in your stereo system is to get speakers capable of a full frequency range, set up the furniture and speaker placement properly, deal with room acoustics through treatment as much as possible, and equalize to a flat response. When you go to multichannel, you jump to another level of sound quality. If you really want the ultimate sound, that is the direction to point yourself in.

    To be perfectly honest, I know it goes against what people normally say, but I hear better sound in my listening/screening room than I've ever heard in a concert hall. The balances can be perfect, the volume to my own preference, the bass full and treble sparkling... you rarely get anything near that in a concert hall. There's a directionality to a live performance, but that is mostly because of the visual element. It helps you focus on individual parts of the sound and locate them in space. Obviously a recording can't do that. A video can't either, because it is also creating an optimal visual by cutting to details while the music is playing. There is also a sense of electricity and "in the moment" in a live recording. Again a recording can't be expected to reproduce that. But for sound quality, recordings are wonderful.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jan-29-2019 at 18:53.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    no microphone is as sensitive or discerning as the human ear....
    That isn't true. There are lots of studio mikes capable of a full range of sound, some even go beyond the range of human hearing. When they're connected to a really good mike pre and recorded with a high bit rate to increase the dynamic range, it's possible to far exceed the range of human hearing. The limitations are always the noise floor of the recording venue, the acoustics, and the placement of the mikes in relation to the sound sources.
    Last edited by bigshot; Jan-29-2019 at 18:44.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    Perfect balances... level, degree of detail, perspective, equalization, etc. Classical music and Jazz are often recorded to have a natural spread in soundstage more than rock and pop, but even with classical there are often multiple microphones to mix and the ambience is manipulated in the mix to be just the right balance. There aren't many warts and all raw recordings out there. Those are mostly on small specialty labels. If you wanted to do a totally natural sounding recording, you'd set up binaural miking and record straight ahead with no mixing. That would sound natural, but it wouldn't sound as balanced.

    The way to get the best and most natural sound in your stereo system is to get speakers capable of a full frequency range, set up the furniture and speaker placement properly, deal with room acoustics through treatment as much as possible, and equalize to a flat response. When you go to multichannel, you jump to another level of sound quality. If you really want the ultimate sound, that is the direction to point yourself in.

    I have two systems. There’s a Quad system with quad electrostatics supplemented by appropriate subwoofers and supertweeters, driven by powerful quad amps. The room has been measured and fittted out with all sorts of panels. And there’s a little pair of Rogers JR149s, also driven by Quad equipment,just an old 303, though I plan on changing that soon because I want to try them with a Class A transistor amp (hard to find in the UK apart from Sugden. ) The 149s are rammed right up on the wall on brackets and they’re in my study, lots of books.

    The quad is very “full range” clearly. But you know, the JR 149s are just so musical! They don’t have the imposing holographic intensity of the quads but they’re such a great pleasure to listen to! You forget that you’re listening to a recording.

    What I’m starting to see is that turning a recording into something that’s music is not easy, Jim Rogers knew how to do it.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-29-2019 at 18:56.

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    Quality of sound isn't as dependent on the equipment as it is how the equipment is integrated into the room. Just about every amp sounds wonderful... better than anything available in the past. Every CD player made trounces any consumer playback equipment from the pre-digital era. There are lots and lots of great speakers. The wild card is how the speakers work in the room. That requires choosing the proper dispersion of the speakers, placing them in a great space, adjusting the acoustics of the room and equalizing to balance the response. Any decent equipment with sufficient power can sound great if it's placed properly in the right space and tweaked to optimize it. You don't have to spend a fortune on equipment.

    I think being an audiophile requires knowledge of sound reproduction technology and acoustics more than a fat wallet. There's a lot of different ways to skin the cat, and every room requires some attention to get it to sound its best. Many rooms won't sound good no matter what fancy equipment you plunk down in them. It's the practical application of principles of acoustics and electronics, not magic. It only appears to be magic if you don't have the knowledge yourself. That can also make you a ripe target for snake oil. And you'll end up spending a lot of money on stuff no human being can hear.

    You certainly have the equipment to do the job. What is your listening room like? How is it laid out? How much room treatment have you done? Do you equalize?
    Last edited by bigshot; Jan-29-2019 at 19:10.
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    Here’s my 2.5 cents … at the risk of revisiting some hotly contested topics that have already been beaten to death in other threads …

    IMO, recordings and hi-fi gear are like every other creation of mankind – i.e., imperfect. IME recorded music reproduced in the home cannot perfectly recreate the live experience. However, the sound that arrives at my ears from my hi-fi systems is good enough that I sometimes have the illusion that I’m in the concert hall, and I have a very enjoyable home listening experience.

    Different people have different sensitivities to different facets of sound quality. Some people are sensitive to spatial presentation. Some focus on reproducing the natural timbre of a violin, or other natural instrument. (I’ve heard people whose main criterion is how a brush sounds on a cymbal.) I’ve heard people talk about the “rhythm” of a hi-fi system. Etc. Each consumer must listen with their own ears and form their own opinion about the sound quality of their hi-fi system. (I recently heard someone else’s high-end system. He likes “sparkle” on the high end, and had his system tuned accordingly. I don’t like reproduced music to err on the side of being bright, so I didn’t like the sound quality. OTOH, if he were to hear my systems – which I think sound natural - he’d likely conclude that they sound dull.)

    Each consumer must define their goals for their hi-fi system, and which inevitable trade-offs suit them best. Some people want their hi-fi system to reproduce the full dynamics of a large-scale orchestra, while others aren’t as concerned about dynamic range because they listen to chamber music at low volume levels. Some want to reproduce the deepest pedal notes of a pipe organ – others don’t care about this. (Some non-classical music fans want extremely loud rock music, with little regard for audio quality. Some people who prioritize Hollywood movies want to rattle the windows and shake the floor when movies contain explosions or a buffalo stampede.)

    Both the recording and playback equipment are important in achieving excellent audio quality from a home hi-fi system. (Room acoustics is another factor, but most people don’t have the luxury of a “perfect” room layout. Whether or not you want to experiment with acoustic room treatments (e.g., foam panels) is a personal choice involving aesthetics as well as acoustics.)

    The sound quality of music reproduced in the home is limited by the quality of the recording. Garbage-in / garbage-out.

    I believe that the potential benefits of hi-res audio (i.e., higher quality than Redbook CD 16bit/44.1kHz) are particularly important for classical music. For classical music, the concept of “high fidelity” is relevant because classical music involves natural instruments (no electronics) performing live (all musicians in the same venue performing at the same time). We know what classical music sounds like - particularly if we’re familiar with the performance venue. (In contrast, some pop music sometimes includes electronic sounds cobbled together by producers and engineers using software - i.e., there never was a “live” performance.) Therefore, the concept of a recording being “faithful” to the original performance is – IMO – particularly important for classical music.

    Classical music lovers sometimes must decide which is more important: performance quality, or audio quality of a recording. I’m not a music scholar, and I’m not hyper-critical of a performance. However, I have no tolerance for poor audio quality. I therefore choose modern performances of classical music that were recorded in hi-res. (In contrast, some classical music fans are willing to tolerate less-than-state-of-the-art audio quality in order to enjoy what they regard as the best performance of a classical composition – which may have been recorded decades ago.)

    My preferences for consumer deliverables:

    1. My favorite is Blu-ray audio/video (featuring DTS-HD MA 5.0 (or 5.1) surround-sound). A few Ultra HD Blu-ray opera recordings are starting to become available. High-definition audio/video is particularly relevant for ballet and opera. Additionally, I think that high-definition audio/video is very enjoyable for classical concerts.
    2. My second choice in formats are SACD and Pure Audio Blu-ray that feature surround-sound. (No video.)
    3. My third choice are 24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz FLAC stereo downloads (e.g., HDTracks).


    In all cases provenance of the recording is critical – i.e., modern recordings that were captured and mastered as hi-res - NOT Redbook CD (16bit/44.1kHz) converted to a FLAC file. (In a few cases high quality analog master tapes have been digitized at hi-res with fairly good results - e.g., some RCA Living Stereo. However, these pale in comparison to modern state-of-the-art recordings.)

    Here’s a discussion of Blu-ray classical recordings: Blu-ray Videos of Classical Concerts

    There are many classical recordings available in other hi-res formats such as SACD (featuring surround-sound) and 24bit/192kHz downloads.

    Bottom line: Your hi-fi system will never sound good if you use low quality recordings (e.g., highly compressed digital downloads, and/or poorly made recordings). CDs can sound good. Whether hi-res is worthwhile for you is something only you can decide. As I said earlier, you have to listen for yourself, and define your own goals.

    My goal for the sound quality of recorded classical music played via my home hi-fi systems is to have the illusion that I’m in the symphony hall or opera house where classical music is performed live, with no electronics involved (i.e., no sound reinforcement system). I’ll clarify what I mean:

    Classical Symphonic Music vs. Pop Musicians Performing with Orchestra vs. Outdoor Performances

    My local symphony orchestra performs a Classical Series, plus a number of “pop concerts”, and a few outdoor concerts.

    For the Classical Series – which involves classical music performed live in the symphony hall, there is no use of a sound reinforcement system. I’ve confirmed with the symphony’s Executive Director that the microphones that can be seen hanging above the stage are used solely for recording, NOT for amplifying the sound in the symphony hall. My local symphony hall has world-class acoustics, and the natural sound is amazing.

    OTOH, when pop music is performed in the same hall, electronics are often used. An example is when a pop singer uses a microphone to sing. And for some pop concerts, electric guitars, electronic organs, etc. are sometimes used.

    And, of course, on the rare occasion when the symphony performs an outdoor concert (e.g., outdoor Memorial Day concert), then of course a sound reinforcement system must be used.

    Opera vs. Musicals

    IMO one of the hallmarks of opera is that the singers do NOT use microphones. And the orchestra does NOT use a sound reinforcement system. No electronics are involved when an opera is performed in my local opera house.

    OTOH, musicals (vs. opera) typically involve signers using microphones.

    And, of course, on the rare occasion when an opera singer performs the National Anthem at the baseball park, then they must sing into a microphone.

    Chamber Music

    IME chamber music performances generally do not involve a sound reinforcement system. (I’ve been to one concert by a string quartet that used sound reinforcement because the venue had poor acoustics. I won’t attend another concert at that venue.)

    For classical music performed in its intended venue (no sound reinforcement system), the artists are the composer, the conductor, and the musicians - and IMO the “work of art” was the live performance. I’m using the term “work of art” in terms of what represents a benchmark for the sound quality of the recording when played via a home hi-fi system, not in terms of Intellectual Property law. The same might be true of other genres that involve natural music performed live, such as some big-band, some jazz, some folk, etc. I’m not knowledgeable about these genres, so I can’t say. (OTOH, reportedly some pop music is completely different – particularly if there never was a live performance and electronic sounds were cobbled together by recording engineers – in which case the artists arguably are the producer and engineers and the “work of art” is the recording.)

    For classical music, the role of the recording engineer IMO is to produce a recording that is as faithful as possible to the live performance.

    For those of us who regularly attend live classical performances (I attend more than 20 classical concerts each year), we have a pretty good memory of what a violin should sound like – independent of whether we were at a particular recording session. We know how a trumpet sounds. We know how an oboe sounds. We know how a double bass sounds. Some of these natural instruments have complex sounds – and when many such instruments play together in an orchestra – the sound is extremely complex – and we know how that sounds when they’re performing live with no sound reinforcement system. (Recognizing some variance due to the acoustics of the venue, and the listener’s seat location. For my season tickets at the symphony and opera, I sit in the first elevated tier, front row, near center of the hall.)

    No recording is perfect, and no hi-fi system is perfect. And my memory isn’t perfect. Nonetheless, for classical music, my benchmark for the sound quality of music reproduced via one of my home hi-fi systems is based on my memory of the sound of classical music performed live in its intended venue.

    I want the inevitable imperfections in the sound from my home-hi-fi to sound pleasant vs. unpleasant. One of my priorities is for the timbre of the orchestra instruments to sound natural. (This is why I generally prefer tube amps.) And I like to achieve dynamic range that approaches the live concert experience for a large-scale orchestra. (This is why I like large Klipsch speakers.) I use Oppo UDP-205 universal players to play all types of hi-res recordings. The Oppo players directly drive vintage tube amps (i.e., using the Oppo’s built-in DAC, pre-amp, and bass management) for surround-sound, and stereo.

    If room layout dictates that the main speakers must be relatively far apart, then a surround-sound system’s center channel can be helpful. (In classical recordings the rear channels mostly contain hall sound.) Subwoofers can help deliver the impact of large-scale orchestral music (e.g., double bass, bass drum, pipe organ).

    I usually watch/listen to surround-sound Blu-ray concert videos on my basement system: Front, center, and left speakers are Klipsch RF-7 II. A single rear speaker is a Klipsch RF-7. Subwoofers: SVS SB16-Ultra, Klipsch R-115SW. (These four large tower speakers plus two subwoofers collectively provide plenty of “acoustical power” in this average size listening room. (I sit approximately 10 feet from the speakers.) They can deliver the full dynamic impact of large-scale orchestral music and opera. Collectively, they total four 1 ¾” titanium compression drivers mated to Tractrix horns, eight 10” woofers, one 15” powered subwoofer, and one 16” powered subwoofer.) Source: Oppo UDP-205. I use a variety of vintage tube amps. (Hi-fi tip: Klipsch speakers and tube amps go together like peanut butter and jelly.)

    For me, the $64k question is this: Does the reproduced sound create a pleasant illusion that I’m in the symphony hall or opera house (or perhaps a church where chamber music was performed)? I regard my hi-fi systems as being “dialed in” when I completely forget about the equipment, and lose track of time, and become completely engrossed in the music, and I can listen for hours without “listener fatigue”.

    The good news is that when using modern hi-res classical recordings, tube amps, and Klipsch speakers, I often find that the illusion of being at a live classical concert is good enough that I’m “engaged by the music”.

    Considering all of the above, my selection of hi-fi equipment and tuning of my systems is based on what I hear, vs. what “calibrated” mics and DSP software prescribe, or what charts and graphs show. In other words, because I listen to natural classical music, I think I have a pretty good idea how the music that is reproduced in my home “should” sound, and I therefore rely on my ears and brain vs. some theory or what some “experts” say. (For example, IME “synergy” between an amp and speakers is important, even if technologists struggle to explain why.) IME my approach results in good results, and many hi-fi hobbyists (but certainly not all) agree.

    $64k question for each consumer: Do you think (and listen) for yourself, or do you tend to believe “experts” who claim to have all the answers? If you decide that you can hear a difference in a component or recording, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an “audiophool”, or that you’ve been duped by a “snake oil salesman”, or that you’re guilty of expectation bias.

    Each consumer will arrive at a different hi-fi configuration that suits them based on their goals for their hi-fi system, and their approach to evaluating the sound quality of their hi-fi system, based on their ears/brain, their constraints (e.g., budget, room layout), and their priorities regarding which inevitable trade-offs they prefer. Some people are eternally frustrated by their hi-fi system. Others are satisfied enough that they can relax and enjoy the music. People are different.

    What is your benchmark for the quality of sound you are hearing from your home hi-fi system? For the recorded music you listen to via your home hi-fi system, are you concerned with achieving sound quality that is “musical”, or are you concerned with a theoretical definition of “accurate”? Does someone else’s definition of “accurate” make sense to you?

    IMO, either you’re moved by the music being reproduced by your hi-fi system, or not.

    OP: Let’s get down to brass tacks. What types of recordings do you use (e.g., CD, SACD, Blu-ray, 24bit/192kHz FLAC)? What are the dimensions of your listening room? Please describe your current hi-fi system. How far apart are the main speakers? If you’re considering making changes to your hi-fi, what are your goals and priorities? What is your budget? Do you wish to have hi-fi as a hobby?

    P.S. Maybe that was 3 cents instead if 2.5 cents …

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    I did something today which I rarely do, I listened to a symphony orchestra. In fact I listened to Haitink playing Mahler 9 in Amsterdam, the Philips recording. I used my big electrostatic system. I have dynamic range and bass, musical bass, that’s no problem. 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?

    (It’s a horrid job to do. They’re ESL 63s sitting on top of huge dipole gradient subs!)
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-30-2019 at 19:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
    Quality of sound isn't as dependent on the equipment as it is how the equipment is integrated into the room. Just about every amp sounds wonderful... better than anything available in the past. Every CD player made trounces any consumer playback equipment from the pre-digital era. There are lots and lots of great speakers. The wild card is how the speakers work in the room. That requires choosing the proper dispersion of the speakers, placing them in a great space, adjusting the acoustics of the room and equalizing to balance the response. Any decent equipment with sufficient power can sound great if it's placed properly in the right space and tweaked to optimize it. You don't have to spend a fortune on equipment.

    I think being an audiophile requires knowledge of sound reproduction technology and acoustics more than a fat wallet. There's a lot of different ways to skin the cat, and every room requires some attention to get it to sound its best. Many rooms won't sound good no matter what fancy equipment you plunk down in them. It's the practical application of principles of acoustics and electronics, not magic. It only appears to be magic if you don't have the knowledge yourself. That can also make you a ripe target for snake oil. And you'll end up spending a lot of money on stuff no human being can hear.

    You certainly have the equipment to do the job. What is your listening room like? How is it laid out? How much room treatment have you done? Do you equalize?
    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.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-30-2019 at 19:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I did something today which I rarely do, I listened to a symphony orchestra. In fact I listened to Haitink playing Mahler 9 in Amsterdam, the Philips recording. I used my big electrostatic system. I have dynamic range and bass, musical bass, that’s no problem. 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?

    (It’s a horrid job to do. They’re ESL 63s sitting on top of huge dipole gradient subs!)
    You have an interesting and valuable perspective in light of the fact that you occasionally have live musicians perform in your home. I’d be interested in hearing more about this, if you’re willing to share.

    As I said earlier, I believe that different people have sensitivities to different facets of sound quality. I’ve never been sensitive to spatial presentation, so that’s not a priority for me. It seems to me that one of two situations exist – either may brain simply doesn’t work this way, or the live classical music that I listen to doesn’t have strong spatial cues.

    I have never considered “imaging” as an important characteristic of the sound in a symphony hall or opera house. And I’ve never heard anyone state this as a design goal for a symphony hall or opera house. Until recently, the thought never occurred to me when attending a live concert to close my eyes and attempt to localize the individual musicians. (I sit in the first elevated section so that I can see the musicians, and hear beautiful sound.)

    This issue came up in another discussion, so when I attended the last few concerts (including large scale orchestra in a symphony hall, and chamber music in a theater with good acoustics), I closed my eyes, and was unable to localize the musicians. (What prompted this was a forum commentator complained that at the symphony hall he thought the “imaging” was poor because he couldn’t close his eyes and localize each instrument, whereas on some stereo recordings he could. It seems to me that he’s looking at this backwards – i.e., the sound mid-hall in a symphony hall is the “real sound”, whereas if he’s hearing precise imaging on a recording perhaps that’s a gimmick associated with a particular recording.)

    I’m not a design expert. With that said, my understanding is that the acoustical goal for a symphony hall is for the audience to hear “blended” sound. OTOH, my understanding is that the acoustical goal for an opera house is to be able to hear and understand the singers (without microphones), and for the singers’ voices to blend appropriately with the orchestra sound. My understanding is that there are many other design goals, including minimizing “dead spots” in the hall, minimizing extraneous noise, optimizing what the musicians on stage are able to hear, etc. Again, I’m not an expert in acoustic design, but I’ve never heard anyone state as a goal that an audience member should be able to close their eyes and localize an instrument on stage. Rather, it seems to me that the sound of the musicians (and chorus for something like Beethoven 9 or Brahms German Requiem) should blend together.

    When you have a string quartet in your home do you sit relatively close to them? If so, perhaps localization of the musicians is much easier that if you were sitting mid-hall in a symphony hall or theater that seats more than 1,000 people?

    I’m not a recording engineer. I’m wondering if for classical music the recording engineer usually attempts to give the person listening via their hi-fi a “mid-hall” perspective? If so, then the sound would be blended, and it seems to me that localization would not be sharply defined.

    When listening to my hi-fi systems (I have 1 surround-sound, 3 stereo systems, and 1 mono system) there is some localization, but not pinpoint accuracy in localizing each instrument.

    Which leads me to another question. I wonder if the pinpoint imaging that some audiophiles tout as an outstanding feature of their hi-fi system is mostly when listening to pop recordings that have artificial assignment of instruments to left, center, or right? I suppose that the same thing could be done with classical music if musicians are individually mic’ed – but again I’m not a recording expert. (I don’t know how many classical recordings use extensive spot mic-ing vs. using something like a Decca Microphone Tree.)

    I think that the bottom line question is whether it is reasonable (or desirable) to expect precise localization of instruments in a classical recording? FWIW, I don’t think this is important, because I don’t experience precise localization of instruments from where I sit in the symphony hall.

    Perhaps another way to ask the question is this: Is the goal of most classical recordings to put you in the symphony hall at a mid-hall position, or is the goal to put the orchestra (or string quartet) in your living room?

    Your thoughts?

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