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Real vs. Reproduced Sound. How Close? ..What Percentage?

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I know it is hard to quantify sound  but in the spirit of casual fun, with no lab coat in sight; just how close (percentage wise) does your system come to the sound quality of real music on better recordings? Live unamplified music is the highest standard of sound quality. Lets forget about image size as far as classical music is concerned, as reproducing something as big sounding as a symphony in a living room is a little unrealistic, but how about other aspects of the about? If you play bluegrass, how close is your sound to sitting around hearing a bunch of guys jamming on acoustic guitars. Or listening to some jazz guys jam?  Do you think doubling your sound quality would get you there or would you need more still? Along with your percentage figure, if you feel like divulging the combination of equipment you use, that's cool. If not, that's ok too. You might feel like mentioning some recordings and the format (CD, LP etc.) that bring you the closest to live music.

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With my system I would hesitate to estimate much over 50%. If I play a great quality recording of a singer, the tendency is to think, " hey that's perfect. They sound like they are really in the room on an elevated stage." But if they really were in the room I think the former sound when switching back and forth, would be exposed for what it is; a reproduction. Can you fool someone into thinking there is a singer singing in the next room? Oh yes, definitely. Can you fool someone blindfolded and not knowing where they are at,  into thinking there is a symphony orchestra playing? If they've heard a symphony orchestra a few times; no, probably not. Could you fool someone into thinking that there are a couple dudes playing acoustic guitar around the corner? Most definitely. Could you fool someone blindfolded into thinking they are standing in front of a live jazz drummer playing drums with Buddy Rich speed, frenzy and energy? I don't think so. 

 

 Some Jazz Direct to Disc lp's bring me the closest to the feeling that you are listening to live music. Before tape recording was invented in the first half of the last century, every single record was Direct to Disc. Of course I wasn't referring to those. Are there pre 1940's records (78's etc.) with what you would consider great sound by today's standards? Some say you would be amazed at what they were capable of doing soundwise as far back as the 1930's.

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Current system, which is just digital active speakers, can't so far ... but previous setups have produced what I call competent sound - after a great deal of effort goes into optimising them ... I wouldn't put a percentage on it; but the intention is that the playback rig gives zero clues that it's the source of the music being heard - the automatic corollary is that a truly "live" feel is generated.

 

The LIAR (Listening In Another Room) test is quite easily passed - hardest is to then move from there to directly in front of the speakers and have the illusion fully maintained; there is nowhere then for any disturbing, distortion anomalies to hide, and one's brain easily picks that it's "fake".

 

I came across a rig at an audio show that did the Buddy Rich solo thing extremely well - full SPLs intensity, transient bite, punch were all there ... this had a very powerful amplifier, and top notch speakers ... so it certainly can be done ...

 

It's not that particular recordings produce an illusion - it's the ability of the playback chain to completely get out of the way, and merely reproduce what's on the track with minimal contamination that makes it happen. In this sense, swing orchestra recordings from the 30's can deliver a powerful sense of live music happening in front of you - but such captures require very pristine SQ of the playback chain; something which is not trivial to do ...


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Great response! What I would add to ability of getting out of the way of the music is "dynamic jump". If I was trying to guess whether the sound of drum playing is real or simply a recording, if it was a recording, I think I could always tell because with a real drummer the dynamic range of the strikes are immediate and I mean iimmediate! My ears can always hear the fraction of a second that it takes for the dynamics of a loud thwack to "build" when its coming from a speaker. With real drumming the dynamics don't seem to build, they just sound "immediate" loud. For me its always the sure giveaway and I do not have to think about it for long. The drums, they have a sudden immediacy that I have never heard a reproduction have. Like a car going from 0 to 60 in instead of a measurable time; just instantly. The other thing I think is that for how simple an instrument a cymbal is, it seems to be the darndest instrument for gear to reproduce properly. It should sound 100% metallic, never diluted with shushy white noise. I think I could always tell on those. Of course the system you heard could. have been the one that would have been the first. I couldn't picture being fooled on drums though, but it would come closer than fooling me on a symphony orchestra, that's for sure.

 

  You are right on equipment itself not having openness etc. The openness is just there on the recording, and only the best equipment lets it come through entirely without any hindrance. Probable the forte of my system is image height. If you listen to instruments playing where there is like a 100 foot ceiling , like one of the buildings I know locally and have listen to live music in. The sound just goes higher and higher up. The microphone must be able to catch and pick up this amazing height of sound. Depth doesn't seem to go 100 feet back in my opinion. Or the microphones don't seem to pick it up. Mic's sound like they do height better than depth to my ears

 

 My system can pass the live vs. test even in the same room with many recordings, but it also depends on who's the listener. It would be harder to fool someone like you or myself.

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1 hour ago, Digi&Analog Fan said:

Great response! What I would add to ability of getting out of the way of the music is "dynamic jump". If I was trying to guess whether the sound of drum playing is real or simply a recording, if it was a recording, I think I could always tell because with a real drummer the dynamic range of the strikes are immediate and I mean iimmediate! My ears can always hear the fraction of a second that it takes for the dynamics of a loud thwack to "build" when its coming from a speaker. With real drumming the dynamics don't seem to build, they just sound "immediate" loud. For me its always the sure giveaway and I do not have to think about it for long. The drums, they have a sudden immediacy that I have never heard a reproduction have. Like a car going from 0 to 60 in instead of a measurable time; just instantly. The other thing I think is that for how simple an instrument a cymbal is, it seems to be the darndest instrument for gear to reproduce properly. It should sound 100% metallic, never diluted with shushy white noise. I think I could always tell on those. Of course the system you heard could. have been the one that would have been the first. I couldn't picture being fooled on drums though, but it would come closer than fooling me on a symphony orchestra, that's for sure.

 

It's all about the treble ... 😉. The "immediately" loud is because the treble is being done right - that's what the ear/brain reacts to. Same thing with cymbals - the "white noise", or a saucepan being whacked quality, is a giveaway, very time - if the rig has a problem.

 

Unfortunately, this is the hardest thing to get right in playback - "obsessive" attention to detail is necessary; but get it working as it should, and the rewards are great ... 👍.

 

1 hour ago, Digi&Analog Fan said:

 

  You are right on equipment itself not having openness etc. The openness is just there on the recording, and only the best equipment lets it come through entirely without any hindrance. Probable the forte of my system is image height. If you listen to instruments playing where there is like a 100 foot ceiling , like one of the buildings I know locally and have listen to live music in. The sound just goes higher and higher up. The microphone must be able to catch and pick up this amazing height of sound. Depth doesn't seem to go 100 feet back in my opinion. Or the microphones don't seem to pick it up. Mic's sound like they do height better than depth to my ears

 

 My system can pass the live vs. test even in the same room with many recordings, but it also depends on who's the listener. It would be harder to fool someone like you or myself.

 

The depth and height cues are picked up from the reverberance in the the recording space - our lifetime of listening to live sound has taught us humans how to interpret what we hear; if sufficiently clear in the playback, our minds 'understand' the space we're listening to.

 

A system working well gives excellent depth, I've found - even 100 year old recordings have captured this information ... this creates some remarkable listening experiences, at times.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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I've always known depth as separation between the instruments along with subtle timing and phase cues. A Carver preamp I once had with a Sonic Holography button, had the best depth I ever heard by bushels of any reproduction II've heard, and basically all it did was phase shaping and create interference patterns to enhance the illusion of increased separation, which it did wonderful. Unfortunately its overall sound lacked some refinement in other ways. When our ears sense instruments are far apart our ear/ brain system "infers" spaces. You can hear there is space (depth) between instruments if they are separated enough, but the spaces themselives are framed in silence. The obvious positioning of instruments from left to right, happen on even the most reverberant-less recordings, and depth is nothing more than the same kind of seperation, only front to back instead of side to side. 

 

 I do not know if perfect treble is important in timing and phase cues, but if the treble is a little off in either direction it messes with the harmonic overtone structure of instruments timbres and can make them sound phony. Distortion can too, and distortion and brightness or the sense of brightness are definitely related. Edginess is usually a by product of both distortion and brightness. A recording or a system that has both distortion (the nasty types) and brightness makes clarity its true enemy. Distortion, like IM distortion plus brightness and peaks=awful listening fatigue and a less than pleasant listening experience. A guy who made live 30 ips tapes of musical events for a living, concurred that its depth, that is the thing that comes out curtailed by far. Even at 30 inches per second.  

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I have also heard the kind of  "depth" on others systems but it sort of needs you to pretend that its "genuine". Like people who have speakers too close to the wall behind the speakers and you can hear all kind of early reflections because of it. There might be a sense of "not really believable depth", because the depth does not "gel," because of all the early reflections from the wall behind the speakers and it confuses the ear/ brain system. These are usually people who have cables lying on the floor, criss crossing each other and with AC cables, and who are cable doubters and link their components with wires that lose sound quality like a bucket with a big hole in the bottom loses water. Through experiments I believe resonances and vibrations can also degrade sense of depth.Their sound never sounds that great and never has the  believable type of depth that really gels, without requiring mental gymnastics while listening. When they hear my system they almost have a heart attack. 

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There are different types of depth in recordings - in olden times they had to use techniques of physical distancing various instruments from the single microphone, so that the latter didn't overload. And you can hear this in action - the musicians arranged in layers, with the drums at the very, very back of the room - this comes through clearly, with the drummer being behind everyone ...seemingly somewhat isolated from the rest of the musicians.

 

And another presentation style are the studio productions with heavy multi-tracking; multiple acoustics overlay each other, with the action within each layer at a different distance back, depending upon how the engineers organised it. Even though this sounds like it could be jarring, it actually works out fine - the mind integrates all the facets; and it works as a soundscape.

 

This should come across irrespective of the distance of the speakers from walls - the room you're listening in "disappears" in terms of how it shapes the sound you hear, at a certain SQ level.

 

 


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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I think that realism depends first and foremost on how the recording was made. Multi-track close-mic'ed studio recordings can never sound realistic for many reasons such: excessive proximity of capture, no room ambience, images and their location are fabricated in the mixing desk, reverb is artificially added, EQ, bandpassing and compression of different tracks, etc.

In my experience minimaly mic'ed recordings of acoustic unamplified which aim at recreating the listener soundscape sound reasonably realistic in the best systems.

 

Interestingly my observation (as a multiple forum lurker) leads me to believe that many people prefer studio mixes because they remove/bypass the original venue acoustic cues from the recording making the musicians appear to be playing in the listener's room and special effects added are able to extend the soundstage beyond the sides of the speakers.


"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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It's not whether it sounds like a group playing on a stage, say - but whether individual instruments in the mix are convincing - do the vocals sound like a real person singing, do the drums make all the right noises; does a string section used for some occasional backing come across as exactly what the instruments should sound like?


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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On 5/29/2020 at 5:20 AM, Digi&Analog Fan said:

just how close (percentage wise) does your system come to the sound quality of real music on better recordings?

This discussion is very interesting. But I submit that SQ is neither linear nor measurable because there are no direct metrics and no defined upper and lower limits.  Do we approach 100% asymptotically but never reach it?  What’s 0 - playback that’s so bad you can’t tell what instruments were recorded? so bad that you can’t tell if it’s music or random noise?
 

Even if you think 100% is a perfect creation of a live performance, getting agreement that your system does this would be difficult.  And if you have 100% at home, would you ever change a component again?

 

There’s a nice website and podcast series called musical-u that sure educates and entertains me. You all might find it enlightening too - it discusses and examines a lot that goes into our perception of sound and SQ.  There are discussions of everything from how frequencies in music determine what we hear to ear training methodology.  Try it - you might like it.

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