Jump to content
  • The Computer Audiophile

    What Does It Actually Sound Like?

    We frequently hear audiophiles proclaim they know what instruments sound like and thus by extension if a component is reproducing that instrument correctly or incorrectly. I've always thought such talk was rubbish because not only do different versions of instruments sound different (ask a violinist if the Molitor Stradivari sounds different from the Lord Wilton Guarneri del Gesù), but the microphones used to record these instruments have a huge impact on the final sound. What's more, the placement of the microphone(s) has a huge impact on the final sound reproduced in one's home system.

     

    How are we as audiophiles and music lovers supposed to have any idea what something is "supposed" to sound like? Pianist, composer, producer, arranger, co-founder of Chesky Records, co-founder and CEO of HDtracks, David Chesky has created a one of a kind "album" demonstrating the impact of microphones, and microphone placement, on a recording. Blumlein, mono, stereo, omni, ribbon, wide, close, etc... it's all there for the ears to listen to and learn what a recording engineer's decisions, with respect to microphones, do to a recording. Plus, it was all recorded in typical Chesky style in 24/192, with great musicians in a great venue. 

     

    The "album" is available now from HDtracks AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, and WAV at 16/44.1, 24/96, and 24/192. 

     

    Use the following code for Audiophile Style readers to get 25% off MICSCPU


    https://audiophile.style/drchesky

     


    From Chesky Records:

     

    folder-v1.jpgDr. Chesky is fascinated by audiophiles who obsess about the sound of their cables, AC power, magic rocks, or isolation stands, but rarely consider the choices of microphones engineers use to make recordings! The microphones are, after all, the first transducers in the recording chain. Their impact can’t be understated. Then there’s the question of how the microphones are placed in relationship to the instruments and vocalists -- everything makes a difference.

     

    With that in mind, Dr. Chesky went into the vault and pulled some of his favorite microphones and LARS (the binaural head) and recorded a singer and a band playing the same tune over and over again.

     

    Now it’s your turn -- listen over your audio system or pop on headphones, and check out the sounds from our binaural, Blumlein, and spaced-omnidirectional microphones. Enjoy!

     

     

     



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    I've always been interested in how some talented individuals can get great recorded sound in different settings.  A musician friend who plays weekend gigs locally, told me that the "sound guy" is all-important to his band and that the few times he has had a real professional the difference was immediately heard.  He explained how one talented fellow, listened, then moved one mic stand a few inches.  Everything fell into place.  

     

    And I'll never forget listening to Albert King as a small venue in NYC.  I immediately thought the sound was pretty bad.  A few minutes into his first song he stopped and asked, "Does this sounds like sh** to all of you?"  There was discussion at the controls after which he said, "OK, that's much better" and continued to play.  

     

    Sometimes these folks can get great sound from lesser equipment.  In Monterey (CA), there is a little recording studio/small event location/tea spot.  The event room isn't big and has lots of hard surfaces.  I was just taking note of how bad that must be, then the owner played some video in his studio setup.  The sound was wonderful (!?).  The owner also always has music playing in the courtyard.  The speakers, wire, and setup, looks pretty basic.  But the sound is wonderful (maybe its the tea :) ).  He built the studio himself.  

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Pop recordings from previous decades, say the 70's, are a pretty good litmus test ... vocals were straightforward back then, no fancy manipulation compared to what we get these days. If the lead voice "sounds like a real person", right theeere, and not have the sense of coming over a radio, then you should be getting fairly close ...

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I think your point is not only mistaken, but the whole concept is irrelevant to what I think you are trying to get across. 

     

    Just like I can identify a specific human voice even when reproduced badly, if I have the listening experience to know what actual instruments sound like, then I can make a good judgement about the quality of the recording/reproduction. The different mics etc, don't change a grand piano into an electric piano,  or even a violin into a viola. Experienced listeners can identify specific types of instruments, and sometimes even accurately differentiate brands of "the same" instruments. The mics used don't change this.

     

    If you know a singer's voice well you can identify it, no matter what the mic and even on a really bad recording. 

     

    If you are trying to say there's no such thing as the "absolute sound", then I'd agree with you, but that's not the argument you made. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    5 hours ago, firedog said:

    I think your point is not only mistaken, but the whole concept is irrelevant to what I think you are trying to get across. 

     

    Just like I can identify a specific human voice even when reproduced badly, if I have the listening experience to know what actual instruments sound like, then I can make a good judgement about the quality of the recording/reproduction. The different mics etc, don't change a grand piano into an electric piano,  or even a violin into a viola. Experienced listeners can identify specific types of instruments, and sometimes even accurately differentiate brands of "the same" instruments. The mics used don't change this.

     

    If you know a singer's voice well you can identify it, no matter what the mic and even on a really bad recording. 

     

    If you are trying to say there's no such thing as the "absolute sound", then I'd agree with you, but that's not the argument you made. 

    Not what I said or was trying to say. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    13 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    This album is about education and learning, not sitting down to enjoy the same song over and over agin. 

     

    I understand that. However, I will have to read other listeners comparisons of different microphone techniques, as I could not mentally handle the exercise of comparing them.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Just now, Teresa said:

     

    I understand that. However, I will have to read other listeners comparisons of different microphone techniques, as I could not mentally handle the exercise of comparing them.

    No worries. I understand. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    If I remember correctly, there was a Stereophile CD that explored the effect of mics on the human voice.  In that case, I think, it was Gordon Holt's voice.  Back then, I had a pretty basic setup, but could clearly hear the differences.  It seems like a good way to understand how many ways the original sound can be altered during the process of recording it.  Luckily, as commented above, the miraculous instrument - the human ear(s) - can hear through inaccurate or poor recordings.  Sometimes when I take a break from the never-ending search for playback perfection (and hoarding toilet paper), I am amused by memories of favorite songs played on lousy car radios.  Didn't hinder the enjoyment one bit.  :) 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    21 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    This album is about education and learning, not sitting down to enjoy the same song over and over agin. 

    Learning what and to what end?  I fully understand that microphones are not identical in their sound any more than are loudspeakers.  However, do I get a choice of microphones with any particular music recording?  Do I get a choice of how the microphones are placed?

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    11 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

    Yes.  Happens often these days.

    Actually, I would put that differently:  I am likely not to be interested in learning about items that I cannot use.  There are exceptions for issues of general curiosity and that might apply here. 

     

    However, aside from this academic offering and considering the multiplicity of factors that contribute to the sound of regular recordings, how can one extricate the selection of microphone as a factor?   I cannot although I have listened to recordings like the Chesky in the past.  I have been privileged to audition session recordings using different microphones and placements, thanks to Tom Caulfield, but there are no such options for buyers.

     

    So an understanding that (and how) different microphones sound different is fine but, given  that, I prefer to learn from experience which engineers and producers consistently make recordings I like and to buy recordings from them.

    Understood. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    21 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

    I prefer to learn from experience which engineers and producers consistently make recordings I like and to buy recordings from them.

     

    Wish I had that opportunity.  What a great learning experience for an audiophile.  That would be my ideal.  In the absence of that experience, I do enjoy reading about how the recording was made, when such information is available.  

     

    Have you written an article about what you have learned?  Vicarious experience would be appreciated too.  :) 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    18 minutes ago, PYP said:

    Wish I had that opportunity.  What a great learning experience for an audiophile.  That would be my ideal.  In the absence of that experience, I do enjoy reading about how the recording was made, when such information is available.  

     

    Have you written an article about what you have learned?  Vicarious experience would be appreciated too.  :) 

    I have not written about it explicitly but I usually make an effort to identify producers in my record reviews and in comments about recordings used in equipment reviews.  Most of what is valuable comes from the simple habit of making note of who is responsible for the recordings that I most like. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The following graphic helps me mentally think about both what is possible and how much can degrade between the performance and what we hear.  Obviously I'm missing lots of items of importance like the cables (;-) ) the power supplies, the network, the computer, etc.  

    image.thumb.png.9c47060bf9ce6dc2fccee44a4fd5ef6a.png

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    36 minutes ago, sdolezalek said:

    The following graphic ...

    I like the idea of visualization very much!
    One point that is not precisely covered: a very revealing "great" system may dismantle a lot more of the flaws from very bad recordings, making it clearly bottom line of very bad instead of giving a somehow mediocre output.
    Personally, I heard a very bad CD pressing from Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" on a then - around 2000 - very expensive - appr. 70k $ - system, and it was just gruesome what this experience did to all my pleasent memories of that wonderful piece ....
    Best, Tom

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    3 hours ago, sdolezalek said:

    image.thumb.png.9c47060bf9ce6dc2fccee44a4fd5ef6a.png

    Nice but you might find a space in the first triangle for including the number and positioning of the microphones.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...