How close... [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


View Full Version : How close...

12-17-2003, 05:14 PM
can a home system approximate a live performance? That seems to be the most common goal of most here and at other forums (we'll leave HT outta this for now).

If music is recorded in a studio, it is recorded in a sound-proof room with re-verb added after the fact along with performers who may not have been in the same room and sampling from previous recordings and a bunch of other things I'm not even aware of. There are the limitations of the recording equipment, the mixing equipment, the medium, and the reproduction equipment. While the problems recording live music are different, the same limitations apply.

If all of those variables exist, and I spend whatever amount it takes to reproduce the recording perfectly as well as build the perfect listening room which allows the sound to reach my ears exactly as it is reproduced, I will still not hear the sound as it was originally produced.

The futility of it all.

12-17-2003, 06:53 PM
[QUOTE=_Luke1_]can a home system approximate a live performance? That seems to be the most common goal of most here and at other forums (we'll leave HT outta this for now).

I for one am not try to approximate a live performance with my system. My system is not necessarily built for accuracy, but built with my personal tastes taken into account. I listen to a lot of rock-n-roll, which have many bad to questionable quality recordings. They can sound down right harsh, bright, and grainy. Lets face it, some sound pretty darn bad! So my system is on the euphonic side. It's made to be somewhat forgiving. Sure it's not as acurate as it could be, lacks some detail and resolution, but I don't care. I like the way it sounds, and that is all that matters.

To be honest I find it hard to belive that any system can closely approximate a live recording. I guess it does however depend on what kind of music you listen to. To H.P. the Absolute Sound is acoustical music preformed in are real space. This, I believe, is not a recording studio but rather a concert hall.

For many people, only acoustical music is true music. Amplified music in and of itself is not true. To many variables go along with amplified music. It lacks true timbre and truth of sound, well at least it does to some. So, I guess some would say it may be easier to reproduce acoustical music than amplified music. But hell, who knows. Is this really important. To you it may be, but to me it is not.

Lastly, even though I do not like HT and surround sound for listening to music, I think it may yield the closest possible experience to a live perofrmance. It seem that it would be best in reproducing hall ambiance. This, it would seem, is what a live recording is all about, isn't it?

12-17-2003, 08:46 PM
The futility of it all.

Good points, Luke. Many recordings are made during live performances (not most, but many), but even when the recording is made during a real event, the recording is usually made much as it would be made in a recording studio. Individual instruments, or groups of instruments, get individual microphones, and a multi-track recording is usually made, with the mixing taking place later in a recording studio.

Some of the most interesting recordings have been made using only two microphones (during a live event). Done well, such recordings can capture a great deal of the sonic environment experienced during the performance. A friend of mine has over 50 hours of master tapes he made this way for Denver PBS, at performance halls around the country, and they can sound very realistic, especially on his own personal audio system.

The better audio systems we've owned often make it sound as if the instruments are in the room with us, but that's quite different than what is heard at most live performances. Obviously an orchestra in the room would never sound realistic anyway. It won't fit.

We do have fairly expensive gear, and I can't say that I've ever heard any "reasonably priced" systems that captured the feeling of a live performance or that seemed to locate real instruments in the room. However, with the right recordings and good equipment the sound can be "realistic," in at least two different ways. Either the sound can recall the live event, or it can sound as if there were real instruments playing right in the room. Sometimes the "it's in the room" feeling can be found even on recordings that have overall low quality. The Beatles "White Album" (at least every mix I've heard to date) is a bit harsh throughout, but the last song on side four, "Goodnight," puts Ringo right in the room, in front of the speakers. With your eyes closed it seems almost as if you could reach out and touch him. Not to say that the recording itself sounds like any live performance, but just that it projects Ringo's voice right into the room in a very realistic way.

I wonder how many of the people who post here actually listen to live, unamplified music.

12-18-2003, 06:10 AM
All depends upon the budget and the gear but given an unlimited budget you can have it be as real as you want.

12-20-2003, 08:54 AM
All depends upon the budget and the gear but given an unlimited budget you can have it be as real as you want.

In the real world there is never an unlimited budget, and most people are further limited to the gear that is sold commercially, to a difficult room, and so on. Even so, good gear can certainly produce a good and convincing illusion under the right circumstances. We have to make compromises, and at some point the evaluation of the compromises becomes a purely subjective matter. Also, I think most people with a love for the audio hobby are inclined to settle on a particular approach, and then spend years refining it. Nowhere is it written (though I have seen it claimed) that to enjoy the hobby one must have specific goals. Some seem to feel that it's only about the music and that anyone who is interested in anything beyond the music is misguided, as if their interests and disinterest's should be dictated to the entire world. The simple fact of the matter is that we all have slightly or vastly different goals, in most everything that we do. Lots of people tailor their systems to a specific type of music/recording, and the way they want that type of music to sound in their home. Some try to recall the live experience, while others strive for accuracy and low distortion. I can't see how any one approach is any more valid than any other. In the end what really matters is how much we enjoy the hobby.

12-24-2003, 05:22 AM
I appreciate the replies, gents.

Bturk, it's something I've considered for awhile, primarily because I was reading some speaker reviews and the superlatives used seemed to be buyer self-assurance rather than true commentary about the speakers. I've not been into this for years like some others here have, but I find the consumer dynamic very interesting. I don't have the goal to produce perfect sound, just enjoy the sound I re-produce.

Bryan, I agree. The price of the gear should have some relativity to its ability to produce life-like sound. But does it always?

Chuck, thanks for the comments. I have to admit, I'm in that group that rarely listens to live, unamplified music. Fortunately, my expectations are realistic. I had hoped to start a conversation exploring other's expectations. Again, thanks for the thoughts.

12-24-2003, 07:31 AM
hp is only trying to guide us to the way to achieve accurate playback. that is, IF your system can be brought closer to that 'absolute sound' , it will bring you closer to more accurately reproducing any music.

the sound of acoustical instruments is known and can be duplicated to a point in reality. reduce the variations from the 'absolute' and youve gone a long way to making your system sound more natural.

i truly dont believe that hp intends for you to listen to that kind of music exclusively, he doesnt do that himself.

being surrounded is one step to getting more realism but two channel can be remarkably close to that. i have been surrounding since the 70s and even dynaquad can immerse you in the ambience of a venue quite handily.

12-24-2003, 08:33 PM
I have to admit, I'm in that group that rarely listens to live, unamplified music. Fortunately, my expectations are realistic. I had hoped to start a conversation exploring other's expectations. Again, thanks for the thoughts.

I guess I addressed the wrong topic, but I thought you were asking about experience rather than expectation. Certainly I don't expect most recordings to be anything like a live performance. Most recordings are not intended to capture the sound of a live event, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The experience of listening to recordings is an entirely different experience than attending a live performance, and each is enjoyable in its own right. We listen to music every day, but I wouldn't really want to go to a live performance every day. It's so much easier to put on a recording than it is to get dressed and go out somewhere. We've got hundreds of recordings that we like (a lot), and can schedule the type of music we're in the mood for, whenever the mood strikes. The recordings simply are what they are, and a live performance is an entirely different thing.

What does a live performance "sound like" anyway? The Allman Brothers use to perform regularly near here, in a park where they performed on an outdoor stage. I've heard them play there so many times that they don't sound "right" when I hear them perform indoors, and their recordings are like a third interpretation of the same music. In fact, that's what every performance and every recording is; Each is an interpretation of a piece of music. If the interpretation appeals to us, I don't think the details of the interpretation are that important (as long as we enjoy it). It's all art. The music is art, the performance is art, and the recording is art; Each is a different art-form. Most recordings are interpretations rather than reproductions. Live performances are also (usually) interpretations of existing music. Some interpretations are more enjoyable than others, but it is unlikely that any two of us could agree on which interpretation was best in all cases. I think the same thing applies to a large extent to the audio gear we select.

I guess the short answer is that I expect the audio system to do what it does. Same with the TV. I don't expect the National Geographic channel to transport me to the Rainforest when I watch the program, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying it for what it is.

Where have you been seeing the reviews that you find so objectionable?

12-27-2003, 08:47 AM
It's nothing I've found objectionable. It's more that I find it interesting, other people's reasons for changing pieces or interpretations of different equipment.

When I first started reading these forums and before I had spent any appreciable cash on a system, I got the impression that the holy grail of audio was to re-produce as closely as possible the sound of a live event - to get back as closely as possible the original sound as played by the musician.

As I've explored this more deeply, though, I've discovered more hindrances to re-producing those sounds than I expected, as well as an appreciation for what I can achieve rather than what I can't. Had I never visited an audio forum, I might have never set my expectations so high. On the other hand, had I never visited, I wouldn't have a system that wows me either. It's just taken me some time to reach those conclusions.

That's not critical of those who are seeking the best sound possible through whatever means. I'll continue to do the same. I'm just starting to recognize the limitations (aside from unlimited finance) I face in achieving perfection.

12-27-2003, 05:42 PM
of course, an actual live experience cant be duplicated. live recordings can sometimes be quite well reproduced and give the feel of the live experience. an example of the outdoor live experience is the Wattstax concert recording. even with dynaquad passive surround, the feeling of being outside at a live event is convincing.

i heard a demo with the tate sq decoder conducted by tate himself, using this recording and it was eerie. i have the LP and its fun to put it on now and again for this effect.

another live recording that give the real feel is 'on the night' by dire straits. once the mic cracks open, you know its an electrifying recording.

and yes, the performance, recording, and the music is art. and thank buddha for science (or the superior being of choice). the arts and sciences that bring us our beloved recordings are to be appreciated in spades.

12-28-2003, 10:12 AM
Even if you were there when it was recorded, your aural memory is unreliable, and most of the time you weren't there, anyway. So how can you recapture what you never experienced in the first place? When I say that home audio gear should use live music as its basis, I mean the music you're hearing should sound as though a live band or orchestra is performing it, not necessarily that it sound EXACTLY as it did live. It's a subtle distinction but a critical one.

The performers should sound as though they are in the room with you or, better still, as if you are in their room with them. It's an illusion, of course. As to how close? In unamplified music, I get about 20% of the way there - this figure is subjective, obviously. If anyone thinks they're getting less, particularly a LOT less, they should check their software and their gear. In electric rock, I have to use my imagination even more. I'm not sure I want an "accurate" live rock concert in my living room as the sound systems they use are designed for maximum volume and not so much for accuracy. OTOH, I don't want to hear Mark Farner playing a Fender Telecaster, if you know what I mean.

I think bturk has the right idea - music should sound as good as possible to the person who owns the system. I prefer accuracy - tubes, vinyl, and single point source speakers get the accuracy thing down very well - but it's sonic accuracy rather than measured accuracy. When it sounds like real music being played by real people and there's no screechiness or grain (among other things), it's accurate. Perhaps bturk's system is more accurate than he realizes! When choosing playback software and gear, let specs be your initial guide. Then listen. As Charlie Parker said "first learn your instrument. Then forget that s**t and play"!