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Article: Calibrating My Ears at the San Francisco Symphony

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A fine article sir!  Also, it has given me some inspiration, London is a one hour train ride for me, I really should make the effort to visit and listen to something similar myself.

 

As an aside, how impressive is that organ??  I am sure it could be a sub bass monster with the right music.


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39 minutes ago, Confused said:

A fine article sir!  Also, it has given me some inspiration, London is a one hour train ride for me, I really should make the effort to visit and listen to something similar myself.

 

As an aside, how impressive is that organ??  I am sure it could be a sub bass monster with the right music.

 

Glad to hear it. You should!

 

I happen to be en route to London. I will be at CanJam this weekend, and have already booked tickets to the Proms on Saturday AND Sunday!

 

As for the organ, yes indeed. I want to return to SFS next time they do Mahler 8th or similar.

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You ... “I use these experiences to cast a critical eye at my system, and identify which aspects are weakest, so I can prioritize what to optimize, when I am able."

 

Me ...  I use these experiences to escape the real world, forget about the trivial world of woefully inadequate home systems, and become completely engulfed  in an experience it is now impossible and always will be impossible to reproduce at home. On the few occasions I do get to experience such an orchestra, the furthest thing from my mind is comparing it to my stereo, which by the way, is a very nice one. It is far better in IMHO opinion to enjoy the live experience for what it is and when at home try to remember what the live music was, than to clutter my mind at the symphony with trying to compare it to something I know it never will

 

I understand where you are coming from, but VERY sad in a way that you go to hear a world class orchestra and focus on how it compares to your stereo. I have never even considered that my system can reproduce the sound of a symphony hall so why waste my brainpower on doing so. Can't you just enjoy the music?

Edited by bbosler
further thoughts

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Great article @austinpop! A friend of mine wrote a similar post about his first serious experience in a concert hall in our local forum. 

 

You provided a great insight to show the limitation of a typical stereo system when compared to a real live concert hall performance. At your 12th row seat, the sound that you heard was 90 percent of the hall sound. With such overwhelming surround ambiance it is not a mystery why the pinpoint accuracy will be missing when you move away from the front stage.

 

Good job! I will be using this post often. Thank you.

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30 minutes ago, esldude said:

I would note one reason you can't get real dynamics in your home, is darn near all the recordings are compressed. 

 

Dynamic range in concert hall is mostly influenced by the lateral reflection. 

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This clearly demonstrates the difference between those who love music and those who love stereos.The mindset demonstrated in this thread is how does this live music I'm listening to compare to my stereo? Thinking about the "sound" rather than listening to the "music" is a terrible waste. If that brings you pleasure then I wish you great happiness. The real magic of live music is how it transports you into a world you can't otherwise experience. At a live performance your mind should not be in an analytical mode analyzing the sound. It should be in a mode where you are deriving maximum pleasure from the music. 

 

I also completely disagree with the experience of watching the Berlin streaming, unless they have changed how they present it which I gave up on a while back. At the symphony you have a fixed perspective.. one seat. The ones I watched there were multiple cameras moving about focusing on whatever was being highlighted at the time.. like a rock concert video.  Lets look look up close at the woodwinds, then lets jump to the cellos,  then zoom into the horns... an utterly distracting experience that completely ruins the experience you see at a live concert.

 

Sorry to rain on your parade but it is about the music

 

Thanks for entertaining my ramblings, feel free to disagree, won't hurt my feelings

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18 minutes ago, bbosler said:

This clearly demonstrates the difference between those who love music and those who love stereos.

No. Can you not walk & chew gum simultaneously?

I enjoy music & audio sound quality together for advantages of both. I am not more evolved or powerful, just say Yes & embrace opportunity.

Sad so many on CA not understand difference & similarity of music & sound  ?

 

your mind should not be in an analytical mode analyzing the sound

Not analytical, perceptual!  Hear tonal balance like rhythm, hear dynamics like melody, &c. Disconnect mind to hear many things from ears ? Intent & training will provide capability. Music & good SQ provide pleasure.

 

 

 

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Thank you. wonderful point about multitasking. It is well proven that a human mind can only concentrate on one topic at a time that involves any degree of focus or analysis. Feel free to do some research but it is indisputable. The only way that a human can do more than one thing at a time is if all but one involve no concentration. That is why so many think they can text and drive at the same time focusing on each. Forgive my bluntness,  but they are fools. Look at the accident statistics on it.

 

Bubblegum and walking, perfect example. Why can I  do it? Because I've done both many times and it is ingrained, AND more importantly, I  can do both without thinking about them because they are routine. However,  if I want to focus on the taste of the gum it is impossible to focus at the same time on the comfort of the shoes, or to be aware of the shoes if I am aware of the taste of the gum. Try it.

 

Can you carry on a conversation on two topics at the same time with two people, or do you have to stop and switch  from one to the other? Can you answer questions from someone who is in the room while you are conversing  on the phone with another without stopping to switch gears? Can you follow a movie when the person next to you is asking you questions about what just happened when you have moved onto the next scene, or talk on the phone and follow a movie at the same time?


You can switch back and forth. Like at the symphony, at this moment I'll compare how the clarinet sounds to the clarinet on my stereo, but it is impossible to be completely absorbed into overall the sound of the orchestra,  and be comparing an instrument in the orchestra to the same instrument on your stereo

 

That may seem rather esoteric but it is true. If you go to the symphony you can't think about how this music affects me or to be absorbed by it at this precise moment and also think about how it compares to my stereo.

 

It is your choice. Do you want to be completely focused on the music that the orchestra is producing, focus on on how the sound compares to your system, or switch back and forth.  I am not condemning one or the other, it is a choice. . For me, being drawn into the music is my choice.

 

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Nice write up.  I recently heard the LSO and know exactly what you are referring to in live orchestral performance.

 

And while I agree that our systems can't reproduce that sound, they sometimes can come close enough - after all, I don't really want a symphony orchestra in my home - or even a string quartet, for that matter. 

 

One of the reasons I upgraded to the system I now own is that it comes much closer to giving me the dynamics and spatial illusion of listening to a symphony orchestra than my previous one could, especially in my small listening room. On well made dynamic recordings it can make me jump out of my seat sometimes.  I'd imagine that if I had the space and the funds,  I could come even closer to a good illusion. Not the real thing, but  a very nice illusion. 

 

I wouldn't be surprised if in the not distant future we will be able to use DSP and psychoacoustics to make a "virtual reality"  playback that is good enough to fool us into thinking we are hearing the real thing. Enough cues, and our brains will fill in the rest. 


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38 minutes ago, firedog said:

I wouldn't be surprised if in the not distant future we will be able to use DSP and psychoacoustics to make a "virtual reality"  playback that is good enough to fool us into thinking we are hearing the real thing. Enough cues, and our brains will fill in the rest. 

 

The technology is here but the implementation is tedious. The sound in concert hall consists of two parts. Direct and reflected sound. Most classical recordings are a mixture of close miking and from the critical radius where the reverberation and direct sound ratio are equal (more or less). 

 

In real life, the sweet spot is much further away than the critical distance where the microphones were placed to do the recording. We are essentially listening to 90 percent of the hall's sound and only about 10% of the direct sound from the performers.

 

The rest of the 40 percent of the actual concert hall sound is not in the recordings. It is a myth to believe you can reproduce the concert hall sound with only 40% of the actual sound in the recording. It cannot be done. Furthermore, the reflected sound comes in surround mode from thousands, if not millions of different angle all around the listeners head giving the sense of envelopment. This reflected sound if reproduced in the recording it will sound fuzzy because the speakers will be sending this reflected sound from only two angle as opposed to the millions in a concert hall.

 

A good room with diffusers, can help to reproduce the balance of 40% of the reflected sound but due to the limited volume of our normal listening room it can only give a marginal sense of envelopment. Also notice that in recordings, you only have TWO location of the source. Unlike a live concert performance, the reflected direction of the reverberation in listening room is rather monotonous as the direction cannot vary beyond the two speakers radiation point.

 

 

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Very nice Rajiv.  Be interesting to hear your perception on a band live via a PA system and how that images or lack of in comparison.


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7 hours ago, esldude said:

I don't think the author of the article is saying this is how to listen to music. It was a one off experiment of sorts the way I read it

 

Then I misinterpreted his statement  " I use these experiences to cast a critical eye at my system, and identify which aspects are weakest, so I can prioritize what to optimize, when I am able"

 

I took "these experiences" literally since it is plural, not a one off event. Perhaps the problem with the written word versus a real time discussion to clarify our intent.

 

Sorry to put a damper on the abundant praise for his analysis,   but it just bothered me to think that someone had the opportunity to enjoy such a fine orchestra and obviously spent a great deal of the time making notes, at least mentally, about how it compared to his stereo. Perhaps he, unlike me,  is fortunate enough to go to so many live events that he can use some of them in the manner described.

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