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Instrument placement when listening


mkrzych

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Hello,

I have (maybe stupid) question about the instrument placement when listening over the cans as well as over the speakers. When I usually look at the photos in the liner notes from the recording session I can see that for instance the vocal in the center of the stage, piano let say at the right hand and bass in the right.

But, when listening to that CD, I can clearly hear that piano can be at the left side or bass more in center or right hand which is different to the photo. Do you think that I shouldn't compare it to these liner notes photos or something is weird here?

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Hello,

I have (maybe stupid) question about the instrument placement when listening over the cans as well as over the speakers. When I usually look at the photos in the liner notes from the recording session I can see that for instance the vocal in the center of the stage, piano let say at the right hand and bass in the right.

But, when listening to that CD, I can clearly hear that piano can be at the left side or bass more in center or right hand which is different to the photo. Do you think that I shouldn't compare it to these liner notes photos or something is weird here?

I'm not a recording engineer, but often these days you mike and record each instrument on a separate track, especially for studio recordings, and then can mix them wherever you want.

 

Plus some of those photos may be staged just for the photo op.

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I'm not a recording engineer, but often these days you mike and record each instrument on a separate track, especially for studio recordings, and then can mix them wherever you want.

 

Plus some of those photos may be staged just for the photo op.

 

That's possible of course. For instance take a look here: http://www.espeneriksentrio.com/technical_rider_EET.pdf

 

That's for the latest Espen Eriksen Trio recordings. Do you here the instruments as placed on that picture?

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Hi Krzysztof,

 

Without getting into the issue of how stereo images are perceived via headphones, it really depends on the recording.

In most cases, I would say the photos or drawings are completely unrelated to what you get in the recording. For example, the chart you linked to is something many bands supply to venues where they will perform live. (Note the mention of type of PA they like and the bottled water too.)

 

In a small minority of cases, the instrument placement in the recording will match the photo (or the photo will match the placement in the recording) but this minority will be recorded in true stereo and not in the typical multiple-mono approach used for most recordings we hear.

 

As an example, on the Soundkeeper site, you can see photos from each of the recording sessions. As these were all recorded in true stereo, what you see in the photos and what you hear with a properly set up playback system will match.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best regards,

Barry

http://www.soundkeeperrecordings.com

http://www.soundkeeperrecordings.wordpress.com

http://www.barrydiamentaudio.com

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Hi Krzysztof,

 

Without getting into the issue of how stereo images are perceived via headphones, it really depends on the recording.

In most cases, I would say the photos or drawings are completely unrelated to what you get in the recording. For example, the chart you linked to is something many bands supply to venues where they will perform live. (Note the mention of type of PA they like and the bottled water too.)

 

In a small minority of cases, the instrument placement in the recording will match the photo (or the photo will match the placement in the recording) but this minority will be recorded in true stereo and not in the typical multiple-mono approach used for most recordings we hear.

 

As an example, on the Soundkeeper site, you can see photos from each of the recording sessions. As these were all recorded in true stereo, what you see in the photos and what you hear with a properly set up playback system will match.

 

I can agree with you, but what is the reason to put such kind of information? Marketing again? To be honest you're right, most of the recordings I have when I check the video of the performance or the liner notes photos or even that technical pdf included to the recording how the studio was arranged with the instrument placement, I cannot mostly find the correlation. Strange and I hope my setup is correct.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Hi Krzysztof,

 

Most times, even if they do supply photos from the sessions, the fact that the recording is made using multiple mono pickups, artificially combined in the "mix" and artificially "placed" somewhere between far left and far right, means any correlation is a matter of a lucky accident.

 

Photos could be shown for many reasons. Even if they don't relate to what is heard, it can be interesting (at least I find it so) to see the players. With Soundkeeper, we put photos on the album pages to show the players but also to inform the listener of the physical arrangement of the players and to provide a visual context for the space in which they are playing. (We also show the microphone array.)

 

As to playback setup, my experience with headphones (any headphones) is that images are strung between the ears. There is no real sense of depth (even though some instruments sound closer and others further away) or real stage width. The presentation is very different than what properly set up loudspeakers can provide. Of course, it is theoretically possible to make recordings optimized for headphones but to my ears, these have artifacts of their own. In my view, the best I've heard in headphones are the same recordings that sound best via loudspeakers.

 

You might want to try some of the samples on the Soundkeeper site, while viewing the photos from the matching recording session, to see if you are getting any correlation between them on your setup.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Hi Krzysztof,

 

 

You might want to try some of the samples on the Soundkeeper site, while viewing the photos from the matching recording session, to see if you are getting any correlation between them on your setup.

 

I'll do. Thanks Barry.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Barry thanks for the real world experience on this. These types of imaging discrepancies have bothered me (or I should say puzzled me) for years. I find that the matter varies wildly from recording to recording. I often find that some imaging is reversed as if you are listening behind a performance. The recording of many drummers and their kit comes across this way.

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Barry thanks for the real world experience on this. These types of imaging discrepancies have bothered me (or I should say puzzled me) for years. I find that the matter varies wildly from recording to recording. I often find that some imaging is reversed as if you are listening behind a performance. The recording of many drummers and their kit comes across this way.

 

Exactly, like listening behind the scene

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Barry thanks for the real world experience on this. These types of imaging discrepancies have bothered me (or I should say puzzled me) for years. I find that the matter varies wildly from recording to recording. I often find that some imaging is reversed as if you are listening behind a performance. The recording of many drummers and their kit comes across this way.

 

Hi Booster MPS,

 

Thanks for your kind feedback.

I share your frustration with how many engineers place the parts of a drum set in a mix -- roughly (and I do mean roughly ;-}) from the drummer's perspective instead of the audience's. Many do similar things with grand piano, placing the bass half on the left and treble half on the right. I have some recordings where I'd have to guess the piano player had 15-foot long arms... and an even longer neck because their voice sounds like it is coming from the next room. (!?!)

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Hi Booster MPS,

 

Thanks for your kind feedback.

I share your frustration with how many engineers place the parts of a drum set in a mix -- roughly (and I do mean roughly ;-}) from the drummer's perspective instead of the audience's. Many do similar things with grand piano, placing the bass half on the left and treble half on the right. I have some recordings where I'd have to guess the piano player had 15-foot long arms... and an even longer neck because their voice sounds like it is coming from the next room. (!?!)

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

 

Barry you are spot on and your real world experience is really appreciated here. I was a percussionist many moons ago and the way in which drum sets, vibes, marimba etc has often bothered me. I will speak completely out of turn now as a layman to a professional but I think the mix of an instrument should capture spatial location in the sound stage most importantly in the sound stage and also the spatial cues relative to other instruments. The HUGE piano and HUGE marimba are issues that I have never understood. Happens often.

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Hi Booster MPS,

 

Thanks for your kind feedback.

I share your frustration with how many engineers place the parts of a drum set in a mix -- roughly (and I do mean roughly ;-}) from the drummer's perspective instead of the audience's. Many do similar things with grand piano, placing the bass half on the left and treble half on the right. I have some recordings where I'd have to guess the piano player had 15-foot long arms... and an even longer neck because their voice sounds like it is coming from the next room. (!?!)

 

To top it off, do you think that some part of the drum set should sound in right speaker and some in left, especially cymbals etc. Sometimes it's a nice effect, but in the real world I am not sure if something like that happens.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Barry you are spot on and your real world experience is really appreciated here. I was a percussionist many moons ago and the way in which drum sets, vibes, marimba etc has often bothered me. I will speak completely out of turn now as a layman to a professional but I think the mix of an instrument should capture spatial location in the sound stage most importantly in the sound stage and also the spatial cues relative to other instruments. The HUGE piano and HUGE marimba are issues that I have never understood. Happens often.

 

Hi Booster MPS,

 

There are so many reasons this occurs, to my mind, none of them good ones.

Yes, it is the very rare recording indeed that provides proper spatial cues. To my ears, most don't even get the (easier) tonal cues.

It was my interest in both of these that led me to form Soundkeeper. Before then, it took a few years of experimentation to find out how to capture the spatial cues properly -- not just locations on the soundstage but three-dimensionality of the individual images on the soundstage. And of course, proper size is crucial too, if one wants the recording to be convincingly "out of the way".

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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To top it off, do you think that some part of the drum set should sound in right speaker and some in left, especially cymbals etc. Sometimes it's a nice effect, but in the real world I am not sure if something like that happens.

 

Hi Krzysztof,

 

I would only want that if I sought to give the listener the impression they were *very* close to the drum set. In such a position, of course the image of the set would be wider than it would be from the perspective of watching a whole ensemble.

 

For example, in the quartet recording "Americas", the drummer is on the right side of the stage and toward the back. In the track "O Que É Amar", he moves around the different cymbals in his kit and you can hear them, ranging from far right to right of center -- never anywhere other than where they actually were (and can be seen in the photographs on the Americas page.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Barry you are spot on and your real world experience is really appreciated here. I was a percussionist many moons ago and the way in which drum sets, vibes, marimba etc has often bothered me. I will speak completely out of turn now as a layman to a professional but I think the mix of an instrument should capture spatial location in the sound stage most importantly in the sound stage and also the spatial cues relative to other instruments. The HUGE piano and HUGE marimba are issues that I have never understood. Happens often.

 

Hi Booster. DAC filters also play a role in the soundstage portrayal of instruments that cover a wide frequency range, like piano and marimba. Filters that have less "pre-ringing" also tend to have more "group delay," meaning the time it takes for the signal to get through the filter varies based on frequency. From the Resonessence digital filter FAQ:

 

For example, if the triangle and cymbals are co-located near the bass drums, the sounds of the triangle and cymbals being largely high frequency, and the drums being low frequency, will arrive at different times through the dispersive filter. This will be interpreted by the ear as a different distance to the instruments, and not as a distortion, and it may be desirable. The piano however, having a wide range of frequency outputs will be experienced differently, a dispersive filter may cause the piano to sound nearer the listener since at distances close to a piano the frequencies are emerging from spatially distinct places (each end of the frame) which will tend to be replicated by the dispersion. But, depending on the orientation of the piano and distance to the microphone, it may introduce an abstract ‘unrealistic’ sound.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Hi Jud,

 

While there is no doubt DAC filters, other components, cables, system setup, playback format, etc. can all affect soundstage and imaging, in my experience, as I've often said, 90-95% of a recording's ultimate sonic quality (including spatial quality) has already been determined by the time the signals are leaving the microphones -- before they enter the mic cables and long before they've been recorded, much less mastered, delivered to the listener and played back.

 

To my ears, the affects here are considerably more profound than anything that follows. (This is why, for example, the greatness of a Keith Johnson recording is still obvious, even if you turn it into an MP3 and play it in the car, on the highway, with the windows open. ;-})

 

Just my perspective, of course. In the end, having perfect filters (whatever one deems those to be) will not make any recording better than it is.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Hi Jud,

 

While there is no doubt DAC filters, other components, cables, system setup, playback format, etc. can all affect soundstage and imaging, in my experience, as I've often said, 90-95% of a recording's ultimate sonic quality (including spatial quality) has already been determined by the time the signals are leaving the microphones -- before they enter the mic cables and long before they've been recorded, much less mastered, delivered to the listener and played back.

 

To my ears, the affects here are considerably more profound than anything that follows. (This is why, for example, the greatness of a Keith Johnson recording is still obvious, even if you turn it into an MP3 and play it in the car, on the highway, with the windows open. ;-})

 

Just my perspective, of course. In the end, having perfect filters (whatever one deems those to be) will not make any recording better than it is.

 

So to conclude, most of the recordings have instrument placement not relevant to the real word scenario when you're listening staying at the front of the stage right? Is it intended effect or recording/mixing engineers don't care about that placement? If so, where are the musicians, who also listen to the material already mixed I guess?

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Hi Jud,

 

While there is no doubt DAC filters, other components, cables, system setup, playback format, etc. can all affect soundstage and imaging, in my experience, as I've often said, 90-95% of a recording's ultimate sonic quality (including spatial quality) has already been determined by the time the signals are leaving the microphones -- before they enter the mic cables and long before they've been recorded, much less mastered, delivered to the listener and played back.

 

To my ears, the affects here are considerably more profound than anything that follows. (This is why, for example, the greatness of a Keith Johnson recording is still obvious, even if you turn it into an MP3 and play it in the car, on the highway, with the windows open. ;-})

 

Just my perspective, of course. In the end, having perfect filters (whatever one deems those to be) will not make any recording better than it is.

 

So to conclude, most of the recordings have instrument placement not relevant to the real word scenario when you're listening staying at the front of the stage right? Is it intended effect or recording/mixing engineers don't care about that placement? If so, where are the musicians, who also listen to the material already mixed I guess?

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Hi Jud,

 

In the end, having perfect filters (whatever one deems those to be) will not make any recording better than it is.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

 

Agree *almost* completely - just two additions:

 

- Looking at this from the opposite point of view, imperfect filters can certainly help eff up a recording. :) (I.e. "the greatness of a Keith Johnson recording is still obvious, even if you turn it into an MP3 and play it in the car, on the highway, with the windows open," but you probably wouldn't listen to it that way if you had a choice. Though I remember a spring day in college when I hitched a ride to school, and it happened to be a Mercedes convertible with Dylan on the sound system. I might choose that over listening to Blonde on Blonde in hi res in my living room....)

 

- An apodizing filter in the DAC can help minimize ringing caused by A/D filters, which is sort of making the recording "better than it is," or more precisely, making it sound more like the mic feed than it did when it left the A/D stage.

 

But certainly agreed that the huge majority of the quality is determined by the mic feed stage.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Hi Jud,

 

Agree *almost* completely - just two additions:

 

- Looking at this from the opposite point of view, imperfect filters can certainly help eff up a recording. :) (I.e. "the greatness of a Keith Johnson recording is still obvious, even if you turn it into an MP3 and play it in the car, on the highway, with the windows open," but you probably wouldn't listen to it that way if you had a choice. Though I remember a spring day in college when I hitched a ride to school, and it happened to be a Mercedes convertible with Dylan on the sound system. I might choose that over listening to Blonde on Blonde in hi res in my living room....)

 

My point was that a great recording is identifiable as such, even with all the subsequent damage done. To me, this says the recording itself makes a bigger difference than anything that might happen to it later. Of course, the less that "happens to it", the more of its greatness that survives to be enjoyed.

 

- An apodizing filter in the DAC can help minimize ringing caused by A/D filters, which is sort of making the recording "better than it is," or more precisely, making it sound more like the mic feed than it did when it left the A/D stage.

 

But certainly agreed that the huge majority of the quality is determined by the mic feed stage.

 

In theory, no doubt. In practice, I'm not prepared to draw the same conclusion. The "improvements" in the time domain are invariably accompanied by not-at-all-subtle degradations in the frequency domain. "Better than it is"? To date, I have heard no evidence I would say supports such an assertion. However, I remain open for such a day to come.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Krzysztof - I think you are spot on. No matter how good a system is, rarely do they sound like a real live performance. There are always moments where you get fooled for a moment but the replication of a performance is something that is tough to achieve. I have to remind myself that our hobby is all about creating an illusion of what we think the real thing sounds like because the recording can be manipulated in so many ways before it ever hits our hard drives as bits.

 

Barry you raise a great point and I wish there were more people like you in the business who realized the work that needs to be done before a recording starts, beginning with placement of the microphones. It is a very skilled person that can accurately capture the tone any instrument (woodwinds sounding reedy, brass with too much embouchure, piano too percussive or dry) AND then place it in the sound stage in the mix. I am a big fan of the work Gary Paczosa has done with Sarah Jarosz - he is a master!

 

Jud - that is pretty interesting and I never would have thought of filters that way. I will revisit the Resonessence filter page. I recall a lot of good info being there.

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So to conclude, most of the recordings have instrument placement not relevant to the real word scenario when you're listening staying at the front of the stage right? Is it intended effect or recording/mixing engineers don't care about that placement? If so, where are the musicians, who also listen to the material already mixed I guess?

 

Hi Krzysztof,

 

I would not say that the engineers don't care, just that certain questions have not been asked, while at the same time, certain assumptions are taken for granted. On top of this, the monitoring in 99.9% of studios I've worked in, visited, seen photos of or read about is set up to provide left-center-right, essentially dual-mono, not real stereo (which by definition, implies three dimensions). Stereo cannot be achieved with multiple monaural pickups and by "assigning" positions in the left-right continuum with panoramic potentiometers ("pan pots").

 

What we get may sometimes be pleasant but in my view, for those seeking any sort of approximation of being in the presence of the players, it just isn't going to happen.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Hi Booster MPS,

 

Over the years, I've come to believe that the great recordings are made not by what the engineer chooses to do but by what they very deliberately choose *not* to do.

 

I don't believe there is any great skill required in getting any particular instrument to sound *very* much like itself in a recording. Actually, I think it can be pretty easy. The reason we don't hear it very often is because of things the producer and/or engineer decided to do. As I see it, a given instrument already sounds like itself. The producer's and engineer's jobs are to ask the questions of themselves (and find the answers) so they know exactly how to get out of the way and let the sound of that instrument come through.

 

The questions are many (very many). Such as "What do I need to do (and *not* do) to ensure the sound from this instrument is captured as I'm hearing it now?" (This of course assumes the goal is indeed to capture the sound of the instrument as it is heard.) "Why this microphone?" "Why place it here?" etc. etc. etc.

 

What we usually get instead is folks who think engineering is turning knobs (i.e. *doing* something to the signal). What doesn't happen is asking "What did I do wrong in a previous step that I believe will be remedied by turning this knob?" and "What are some of the other consequences of turning this knob?" and perhaps most important of all "Can I really trust what the monitors are telling me?" (I would say the answer to that last one in 99.99% of the studios I know of is "What, are you kidding?")

 

I wrote about this stuff in several entries in my blog, recalling my early experiences as an engineer wondering why what we heard from the monitors didn't sound anything like what we heard on the other side of the glass with the players. And with that in mind, why are folks making judgements of (and adjustments to !) the sound based on the very false information provided by the monitors? It is like mixing for a very particular paint color while wearing sunglasses! There are some who have said they can hear "around" the monitors -- but the audible evidence says something different.

 

Best regards,

Barry

Soundkeeper Recordings

The Soundkeeper | Audio, Music, Recording, Playback

Barry Diament Audio

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Hello folks,

This thread becoming very interesting! I think we're touching the fundamental thing regarding the major step needed to bring to us so called audiophile recording - at least what we think is audiophile recording. What we get, we get the illusion (pleasant of course sometimes) that this and that is true audiophile sound and very, very close to the live experience or having (again), studio master file thinking that's the sound heard in the studio. In fact, most of that seems to be false.

 

I always believed that if the recording studio has good recording, mixing and mastering engineers we get the most what we can get from the performance. In fact that's mostly true, but when you listen closer, to can get to the point as Barry said, things sound like the drummer has loooong percussion set over the whole stage (depending in time what drum/cymbal is hit), the same with piano or double bass which changing the position. These things are really weird to me, because even in the studio instruments are picked as mono tracks and mixed together afterwords, even the studio listening in their monitors as mono tracks, at the end they're going to produce the STEREO sound, which HAS TO be monitored as stereo and judged if it sounds like standing in the front of the band, not behind the stage of from the drummer perspective - who wants to listen to the band standing on the stage between the musicians (that's the case rather to 5.1 not to 2.0 systems I guess)?!

 

Oh, and one thing more, are all of those "issues" are also relevant to vinyl recordings?

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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If you are looking to check if things are "right", a recording that you know to be true to the stage may help. There is a track on this:Amazon.com: XLO/Reference Test & Burn In: Music where a man walks about the stage tapping a wood block. It is telling...

I can agree with you, but what is the reason to put such kind of information? Marketing again? To be honest you're right, most of the recordings I have when I check the video of the performance or the liner notes photos or even that technical pdf included to the recording how the studio was arranged with the instrument placement, I cannot mostly find the correlation. Strange and I hope my setup is correct.

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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