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Live recordings....


tfarney

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A day off. Too much time on my hands. Right now, I have iTunes cycling randomly through my jazz collection and it's playing "Alice in Wonderland (take 2) off of Bill Evans' "Sunday at the Village Vanguard."

 

I love this recording, except for the hard panning of the bass and piano, which is a bit severe on headphones. I still listen to it on headphones a lot, though, to listen in deep, because it is one of those live recordings in which you can "hear" the room they're playing in. In fact, in the case of "Village Vanguard," you can hear customers talking in the background, glasses clinking. I swear sometimes you can hear the music cutting through the smoke hanging in the room. And you can surely hear the ambiance, the sound of the room itself. I love this, and it's something that seems to be lost on modern live recordings in which everything is close miked and recorded off of the board. Those albums, of which there are many, sound more like studio recordings of live performances, with a bit of applause dubbed in.

 

I miss the mess of real live, in a room with an audience (and not just one that is picked up by the "audience mic"). Does anyone have any other live recordings that fit the profile? Van Morrison's seminal "It's Too Late To Stop Now" certainly does. More? I need more!

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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I couldn't agree more Tim and I think musicians play better for interaction with their audience. Having done the Village Vanguard a few times, I know only too well what you're describing. I saw Pacito de Rivera there with a Salsa Band and it was a magic experience.

 

I'm not so sure about Jazz at the Pawnshop though because, for me, the music is sterile and bland like so many audiophile recordings.

 

I've noticed when I do dems here that people who come with some modern music are often no happy and if pressed they will say that we haven't delivered the knockout punch they'd hoped we would. Almost always if I play them something that is three dimensional, that sounds like a band in a space in front of them, they are immediately happy and say that was what they wanted. And these are often people with limited listening experience.

 

I've heard it rather too often now, but Ry Cooder's Buena Vista Social Club is very good in this respect and also any of the Rodrigo y Gabriela CDs are quite exciting and feel quite live, if not with the sense of being surrounded by an audience. Another interesting group that sound like their live performances is the Hot Club of Cowtown and no one should forget the Squirrel Nut Zippers and their song Hell.

 

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"I've noticed when I do dems here that people who come with some modern music are often no happy and if pressed they will say that we haven't delivered the knockout punch they'd hoped we would. Almost always if I play them something that is three dimensional, that sounds like a band in a space in front of them, they are immediately happy and say that was what they wanted. And these are often people with limited listening experience."

 

Ash, if you're not demoing "Listen to the Lion" off of Van Morrison's "it's Too Late To Stop Now," get ye to iTunes immediately. 256kbps will do fine. It is a big room, but you can feel it, and the track is deliciously dynamic. In the end, Van brings the band, himself and the audience down to a whisper. It ends, but he has wound it down so slowly that the audience isn't yet sure...pregnant pause...then a girl in the audience exclaims "Alright!"

 

I've been listening to this track for more than 30 years, and when she says that, I still occasionally look around the room for her.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Tim, greetings.

 

Myself, and a few others, believe that it is not possible to play a very well made stereo (in the Blumlein sense) recording through headphones.

 

A completely different recording technique is required with a different microphone setup. All this is well explained in the technical white papers issued by the best microphone makers. Neumann, AKG, etc.

 

Basically headphones are Binaural devices, and a binaural mic setup is required. (each ear hears only the output of one mic on one channel)

 

A correct stereo recording (Blumlein tradition) occurs when both mics (typically a crossed pair) hear all sounds. Consequently a stereo pair of loudspeakers is mandatory for correct reproduction (to create the soundfield) and BOTH ears must listen to BOTH LOUDSPEAKERS. This is not possible with headphones.

 

Further more the stereo pair of speakers must be in the horizontal plane in the same plane of reference as the original performance (usually in front of the listener). Again this is not possible with headphones, as they place the performance around or inside the listeners head, which must be inaccurate.

 

So to summarize, playing a stereo recording through headphones is technically a hopeless non-starter, even though some listeners do enjoy the results.

 

Binaural recordings do exist, and are often made by expert amateurs from the auditorium at live concerts, and the results are very good when replayed on phones.

 

BUT, if you want to reproduce an accurately made stereo recording, then two LS must be used and listened to with both ears. It should then be breath-takingly realistic, and a joy to behold.

 

Regards JC.

 

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"So to summarize, playing a stereo recording through headphones is technically a hopeless non-starter, even though some listeners do enjoy the results."

 

Clearly it is not a non-starter if some listeners enjoy the results. I do. I completely understand that the sound stage presented by speakers is not presented by my headphones. I am also aware that none of the room distortions or loss of detail that are an inevitable result of playing music back in a large, untreated space are presented in my headphones.

 

Life is compromise.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Ok Tim I take your points, but personally I cannot agree.

 

My view is that it's impossible to accurately replay a stereo recording which was created for LS, on 'phones. The fact that some like the result is a happy accident.

 

However a recording created using binaurally arranged mics, and in the case of Neumann equipment, a false head, is stunningly good on 'phones. Although it doesn't sound right when played through speakers.

 

Different strokes ............

 

Cheers JC.

 

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I completely agree that it is "impossible to accurately replay a stereo recording on phones", though I might argue that it is impossible to accurately replay stereo recording in an untreated environment as well :). But I do like some of the results. I like the detail. I like the intimacy and lack of distractions. I like the isolation and the lack of room problems. I have had to adjust to the imaging problems. It has, perhaps, been easier for me after many years of performing in small combos. What you get from phones is not that different from what you hear on stage. If I could only get the vocals at my feet....

 

I do long for a really top-notch nearfield system on my desktop though. I have a setup, but tonally, my headphones are so much better than my speakers that I don't find myself wanting to listen to them often.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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I think the problem of a desk-top system lies in sound pressure levels. At one metre distance or less, at an acceptable "volume level" most LS are not using enough power to enter the correct operating envelope for their drivers, and so, the sound is not good.

 

I think the nearest one can get (taking into account your comments about environment) is a really good "in car sound system".

 

Small inefficient drivers, close to the listener, and driven fairly hard, seem to give better results, together with tailoring of the frequency response by clever electronics, so that the resulting sound is what the listener wants to hear, is about as good as it gets.

 

I have a pair of Neutron 4's with amp paks for near-field use, and drive them with a computer eq system. I think they are better and preferable to 'phones for analysis and re-equalising of dodgy recordings. Try some Neutron 5's in a small room.

 

JC.

 

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Thousands of recording studio control rooms with monitors much more like 9.1s, sitting just a few feet from the engineer's head, might not agree. Neither do I. But at least we found common ground on headphone listening. :)

 

Tim

 

 

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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weelllll, it depends on the control room and what they want to achieve. A lot of 'em mix for portable radio (or used to) and consequently need LS setups that reflect that. ........9.1's are much better than that !

 

I use a sub as well, because my kids music demands it. (drum n bass).

 

I've decided (I think,) that the best thing to do is put the desk 8 feet in front of 9.1's at head height, 6 feet, apart and use the sub with subtlety on the floor.

 

(but I know what you means about 'phones).

 

JC.

 

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Yes, I heard it, apart from the hard panning.

To me this is one of the most lousiest recordings I ever heard. Of course this is your thread, so you win in advance Tim, no problem ! :-))

 

However ...

 

Since you use headphones, maybe you can tell me why there is exactly nothing in any middle (about hard panning) apart from the even on-going fake sounding cymbals which are exactly in that middle ? (yes, I suggest some mono here).

You may hear it better than me, but the drum kit is at the exact same place as the bass is (not more left/right, not farther not closer), but these cymbals ... man, are these connected to a string of the bass or something ? Maybe you can hear whether this is some jam session and one of those 16 head audiotioners brought his own self made cymbals ?

 

I am not joking, nor do I try to make fun of you. Something is very wrong here. It just can't be. That dummer is not able to continuesly hit those cymbals with the rythm of his bruhes on the snare. Btw, he seems to have brought a snare only.

 

The audience, well, nice take. But I don't believe it. Oh, it's there allright, but explicitly taken. If not dubbed in from anywhere else.

 

The bass sounds right to me (more than that), the piano is allright. But please explain to me the cymbals thing. They sound fake, can hardly be played by the same person holding the brushes and they can't come from the position they are perceived. Not on my system ...

The audience is nothing more than disturbing. Might you want the complete story from that woman, I think I can do it. You might find a repeating thing somewhere ...

 

If anything was created from behind a table, it is this one. The Beatles did a better job IMO.

 

But then I don't listen through headphones. :-)

 

 

PS: The Pawnshop indeed is a kind of sterile to my ears, but at least I don't think it is fake. This album does. Throuhgout. If not fake, than very badly recorded. Very.

 

PPS: A small disclaimer : I just looked it up, but I have some "JVC" version. To me this generally doesn't promise much good for digitizing ... (it is not XRCD, but still).

 

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There is a brushed ride cymbal that is pretty constant and, now that you've pointed it out to me (thanks), a bit annoying on that track. I was too engrossed in the performances to pay much attention to it til now. I suspect the "problem" is mic placement, not fake cymbals or "mono" (I hear it a bit left of center...are you listening on vinyl?) - whatever you're suggesting there.

 

It is imperfect, no doubt. Most recordings are. But the ambiance is palpable and the performances are classic. If all you hear is a snare, and the audience sounds dubbed in to you, I think you may need to get your system looked at.

 

Tim

 

ON EDIT: I just switched over to my Senn HD580s, which is what I was listening to this morning, from my Audio Technicas. That cymbal calmed down noticeably. I still suspect that a drum kit mic was hanging a bit close to that particular cymbal, but at least a part of the problem, here anyway, was sibilance.

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Hi Tim,

 

My remark about the snare was a not so much honest one. Besides listening to this track I ran a few more, and I just noticed always this same snare. Not much "intelligently" played.

 

Indeed that cymbal is slightly to the left of the middle.

 

Sibilance ... maybe. I just couldn't make anything out of it. Just sounds strange.

 

 

Chris, of course it was not a nice thing to say, but I really think this sounds not the best and should not be an example of ambiance. I didn't use that word before, but it is just this what is *not* working on that track/record. There is lots of room noises of course, but that is not my perception of ambience. I think that goes along with atmosphere. This record doesn't have it. It is all too much of a mix of separate tracks, like every instrument (that would be three) was recorded separately and then mixed in. And some audience of course.

 

For those who don't have this album, imagine :

There is this audience, at stages talking almost as loud as the music. This is really 16 people or so, and they spread quite nicely from left to right. IIRC there's even some depth in the audience.

Next on the left side, right from the speaker comes this bass. It can't be more in the speaker than that, and only the Beatles may over do that. It makes no sense, and I relly never heard that. The drum, exactly the same. In-in-in the left speaker. On the right again the same, now for the piano. The guy (indeed Tim) seems to play through a haze of cigarette smoke. He may be on dope himself.

And then there is this always sounding stupid cymbal which by itself doesn't sound realistic at all, which is *not* the quality of the recording (I derive that from the bass which is very good to me).

 

So there we are. We are behind the audience which we hear in front of us, and then without any spread there is a bass on the left and a piano on the right. Impossible ! A major point is, both bass and piano don't even sound nearby, otherwise they may have been in between me and the audience. They actually sound wrong, because they're from right in the speaker. I guess I need some crosstalk here ! :-)

 

Well, I said much of the same as before of course, but this just struck me, and most certainly not because Tim said it.

But as we know, Tim is a headphone freak, and I don't even own one. So in the end I just wondered whether this would all be perceived very differently through headphones. I mean, for example, it could be that an instrument so directly coming from the speaker, just cannot behave similar through headphones since you are always in the speaker so to say. Thus :

 

Tim, what is your opinion on this ?

You might try the track briefly through normal speakers, so I can at least justify what I heard, through your ears. :-)

 

Best,

Peter

 

 

 

 

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"Tim, what is your opinion on this ?

You might try the track briefly through normal speakers, so I can at least justify what I heard, through your ears. :-)"

 

Well, I guess I've always just listened to it and enjoyed it, and imagined myself there rather than analyzing it. I've listened to it through speakers many times. If anything, the hard panning of the mix is even more noticeable through headphones, of course. As for the rest of it, you seem to be implying that it is faked, at least partially. I think that is highly unlikely. It is a classic jazz album from 1961 that is routinely ranked among the best live albums of all time, and is the last recorded performance of the great bassist, Scott LeFaro, before he died in an automobile accident 10 days later. There is another entire album, "Waltz for Debby," from these same performances. It is also considered a jazz classic and a great live recording by decades of listeners, critics and pros.

 

I think if there was any real suspicion that any of it had been recorded separately, then mixed together with crowd noise, as you seem to imagine, someone smarter than both of us would have come up with that one long ago.

 

As to how, technically, it could sound the way it does, that's not hard to imagine at all: A mic on the bass. A mic or two on the piano. A couple of mics hanging over the drum kit, one a bit too close to the ride cymbal, and no close micing of individual drums. This kind of drum micing was not uncommon then. What do you get the most of? What is closest to the mics -- cymbals and snare. There is no mystery there. Another thing that is pretty common to the period is that hard panning in the mix. Listen to the Sonny Rollins classic, "Way Out West" as another example. I think it is just people getting a bit carried away with early stereo.

 

Crowd noise? Picked up by the overhead drum mics, perhaps the piano as well.

 

But to justify "what you hear," yes, the mix is flawed. I'd love to have a version of this album with the bass and piano mixed more naturally, and with that ride cymbal brought down a bit (though it's not an issue on most tracks). But that ride cymbal is probably dominating a mic that is recording half of the drum kit, so "bringing it down" would be fraught with other compromises. I would suggest that "what you hear" is the result of extreme over-analysis, nearly to the point of paranoia. First, you need to understand what it is you are listening to, which is not panning and mic placement, but history:

 

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=18631

 

Then relax and enjoy the music. And do something about that sibilance in your system. :)

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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"Hi Tim - I'm loving my headphone setup tonight! Since I just received a Wavelength Proton from Gordon I connected my Ultimate Ears ue11 Pros to the headphone output. I'm listening to some John Hiatt at 24/96 ripped from DVD-Audio. This is wonderful."

 

I love Hiatt. What do you have on DVD-A?

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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For a great live Jazz LP, check out Charlie Haden's "The private collection" released by Naim; it is three LPs on 180 gm vinyl.

 

For a great live Jazz CD, check out Mapleshade's release of CLIFORD JORDAN QUARTET:

Live At Ethell's

 

Both records have great ambiance, as if you were there.

 

tom

 

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For the opposite extreme of Village Vanguard's messy low-tech glory, give a listen to "New York Rock and Soul Review Live At The Beacon Theater." It is so controlled and perfectly balanced and re-mixed (it IS, after all, Fagen) that it may as well be a studio recording with an audience dubbed in, but it completely redeems itself in performance.

 

Phoebe Snow singing "Shakey Ground."

Boz Skaggs singing "Drowning In The Sea Of Love."

Michel McDonald singing "Lonely Teardrops."

 

And, of course, Fagen himself on "Green Flower Street," "Chain Lightning" and more. I've been waiting now for 17 years for them to release more tracks from this performance. Still waiting....

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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For the opposite extreme of Village Vanguard's messy low-tech glory

 

Tim, I learned about your sarcasm (as you told yourself), but may you be serious about this one, of course this is not true. I think at least one respectable Blue Note record was taken there, and it does sound good to me.

No audience ambiance to be heard though. :-))

(although the audience was there; 26 this time hehe)

 

Peter

 

PS: And I own some more albums taken there. They sure are ok.

 

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

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Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

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