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Article: Realism vs Accuracy For Audiophiles | Part 1: Soundstage


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Thanks so much for this article @bluesman. It's so rich with content. I have to read it through a few more times. 

 

This blew me away, "As the tops of the finest Cremonese violins were carved differently on each side (presumably to bring out the best tone and projection from strings of different tension and pitch."

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STOP THE PRESSES!!!

 

In the section headed Where's Waldo, I indicated that there are files demonstrating how the same mono tracks can be assembled into widely differing stereo mixes and sonic images.  But it appears that the FLACs I sent Chris were too big and didn't go through his email server and/or mine.  I'm sending him the files as mp3s right now so they can be added.  If the 320 mp3s aren't good enough, we'll FTP or Dropbox the FLACs - you will have them!  This demo is an essential part of the discussion.

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21 minutes ago, Bill Brown said:

I wonder about your selection of audio recordings that include videos of the performance.  I have realized that watching the performance can fool the eye-ear-brain system re. location (I think the sound is "pulled" by the brain to where it is seen).  Also, less-good sounding recordings aren't noticed as much when the visual system is stimulated as well (maybe sometimes that is nice).

I understand your concern, and there may be validity to it under some circumstances.  But I think it's moot when the specific and intended goal of viewing & listening to a music video is to reconcile what you hear with what you "see".  If the listener is actively looking for contradictions between what he or she hears and what he or she sees, those differences will probably stand out.  The assimilation of sight and sound that concerns you is more prevalent when you're not looking for dichotomies between the two. 

 

One reason for this is probably that our auditory memory is considerably worse than our visual and tactile memories.  So we let visual cues shape our auditory perceptions when presented with a singular experience wrapped in a multisensory package of stimuli (e.g. watching and listening to a music video).  Unless there's a reason to try to separate the sensory modalities, we blend them into the experience we want - and, as you suggest, visual memory can and does "pull" the brain toward auditory perception when the brain isn't certain what it's hearing (or, in this case, where what it's hearing is located).

 

A 2014 study at Univ of Iowa looked at auditory vs visual vs tactile cues and memory in two very interesting studies.

 

  • In the first, students listened to sounds, looked at images, and held objects. Then, after an interval ranging from one to 32 seconds, they were asked whether various stimuli were the same or different from the originals.
  • In a second experiment, the students were asked to recall sounds, images, and objects after an hour, a day, and then a week.

 

In both instances, the students' auditory recall came in last, lagging far behind the tactile and visual memories, which the students recalled at about the same level. The longer the time that elapsed, the greater the gap became, with auditory memory lagging farther and farther behind the other types of memory.  And we tend to let our first impressions and responses shape our perceptions.

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27 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Files added!

Fantastic - thanks!  Interestingly, the 320 kbps mp3 files are not too shabby, and I think they illustrate very well the point being made in the article.  I'm not about to drop FLAC and start using mp3 for my personal listening, but I have newfound respect for a format I've always dismissed as inadequate for my purposes.  This is yet another example of an opinion formed without benefit of experience.....and in this case, the violator is me! 

 

To be honest, I think the mp3s I just made for this (which are the first 320 mp3s I've made) have better SQ than any commercial mp3s I've heard, including those at 320.  The instruments (a Lee Oskar harmonica, a National Tricone guitar and an Ibanez flattop guitar with phosphor bronze strings) are captured and reproduced very well even though I only used a $100 cardioid dynamic mic on the harp and the National.

 

Those of you who read the article before these were inserted might want to revisit the "Where's Waldo" section and check them out.

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Your second, third , and fourth paragraphs make perfect sense, excellent.  Unfortunately, I don't understand the first.  My impression was that if using auditory clues to mentally visualize artist placement, visual clues would make the differences that you wanted noticed less apparent (based on micing a set of vibes with numerous microphones and spreading it out in the soundstage).  Though on one you did suggest closing your eyes.  I am probably missing something/what you are shooting for.

 

Bill

 

 

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17 minutes ago, Bill Brown said:

Your second, third , and fourth paragraphs make perfect sense, excellent.  Unfortunately, I don't understand the first.  My impression was that if using auditory clues to mentally visualize artist placement, visual clues would make the differences (based on micing a set of vibes with numerous microphones and spreading it out in the soundstage) less apparent.  Though on one you did suggest closing your eyes.  I am probably missing something/what you are shooting for.

 

Bill

I may have misinterpreted your statement that you "... think the sound is 'pulled' by the brain to where it is seen".  I assumed that by "seen" you meant visualized with the eyes, and I think that's correct when just watching & istening to music videos for the experience.  Studies like those done at Iowa seem to reinforce this.  If we pick up and retain visible cues better and longer than we do audible cues, we'll let our eyes guide our ears.

 

But if we're specifically looking for discord between visible and audible cues, as I suggest be done here, we're less likely to ignore or modulate what we hear because of what we see.  Personally, I'm generally sensitive to things that aren't "right", but I'm much more so when I'm looking for them.

 

If you originally meant that the sound is pulled by the brain to where the auditory cortex "sees" it (rather than the visual cortex), I respectfully disagree.  I think that those who are largely auditory learners and experiencers, as opposed to visual, might do that. But I think that most people are more inclined to go with what they see than what they hear.

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1 minute ago, bluesman said:

I assumed that by "seen" you meant visualized with the eyes, and I think that's correct when just watching & listening to music videos for the experience.

 

Correct.

1 minute ago, bluesman said:

But if we're specifically looking for discord between visible and audible cues, as I suggest be done here, we're less likely to ignore or modulate what we hear because of what we see.

 

Ahhh....this makes sense as to what you were trying to demonstrate.    I was thinking the goal was to demonstrate the artifacts auditorily only, not necessarily in comparison to the true layout shown visibly.   My (big) mistake.

 

4 minutes ago, bluesman said:

If you originally meant that the sound is pulled by the brain to where the auditory cortex "sees" it (rather than the visual cortex), I respectfully disagree.  I think that those who are largely auditory learners and experiencers, as opposed to visual, might do that. But I think that most people are more inclined to go with what they see than what they hear.

 

No, I think the brain pulls the auditory component to where the eyes say it is, as you state.

 

Thank you!

 

Bill

Labels assigned by CA members: "Cogley's ML sock-puppet," "weaponizer of psychology," "ethically-challenged," "professionally dubious," "machismo," "lover of old westerns," "shill," "expert on ducks and imposters," "Janitor in Chief," "expert in Karate," "ML fanboi or employee," "Alabama Trump supporter with an NRA decal on the windshield of his car," sycophant

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So we judge accuracy by how closely playback approximates our memory or sonic concept of the original performance.

 

Sorry, this doesn't make sense to me - our memory is not relevant, since essentially no-one was at the original performance - unless one happened to be at a concert which was turned into a recording. And what is, a "sonic concept"?

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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37 minutes ago, bluesman said:

"...how closely playback approximates our memory or sonic concept of the original performance" doesn't seem that obscure to me.  You can't make a reasonable judgment about the accuracy of playback without comparison to an actual memory or to a preconceived notion (which I chose to call a "sonic concept") of how it should sound.  That notion may be based on experience, reviews you've read, other people's comments about it, etc.  But unless it springs de novo from your imagination, it's based on something you remember from prior experience.

 

Okay, it's the "original performance" aspect of it that I queried - one may have heard that piece played by another orchestra, in another concert hall - but that's a different thing.

 

"preconceived notion of how it should sound" does answer what a sonic concept is - thanks!

 

37 minutes ago, bluesman said:

 

I own and listen to many commercial recordings of concerts I attended, and I'm sure I'm not the only one on AS who's been to live performances that were recorded.  So memory of the actual event is not at all unheard of.  But more importantly, I and many other AS members are quite familiar with a number of concert halls, clubs, and other venues because we've heard many performers and programs of various kinds there.  So we have a pretty good idea of what to expect because we have our memories of prior experience with live music. 

 

Agree.

 

37 minutes ago, bluesman said:

 

I've attended hundreds of concerts at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, for example.  So I have a sonic concept, based on my memory, of how an orchestra or soloist with whom I'm entirely unfamiliar would sound there.  Throw in my knowledge of the sound of specific instruments and players and I have a pretty fair chance of being correct based on my memory of similar performers on similar instruments in the same hall.  I've heard hundreds of jazz groups at many clubs in Philly, NY and DC - same idea.

 

Makes sense.

 

37 minutes ago, bluesman said:

 

Regardless of whether it's based on your memory, your imagination or some combination of the two, you have a "sonic concept" against which to compare and measure the reproduction you're hearing for accuracy.

 

 

Fair enough.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Only two words. Awesome. Thank you. Awesome. Oups. That was 4 words. 

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6 hours ago, ARQuint said:

properly executed multichannel production techniques can deliver the uniqueness of the word's greatest halls much more routinely than stereo

Yes, yes!  Interestingly, I think that may be in large part because microphone techniques for well recorded MC in a large venue give the engineer more flexibility than many approaches to stereo capture.  I also suspect (but can’t confirm) that many stereo recordings made in large venues are done with more mics than many MC recordings of the same material in the same venues.  There’s probably less potential benefit and more opportunity for sonic mayhem from using multiple direct or accent mics on individual instruments than from using a simple, well designed and placed MC array.  
 

Anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of microphone arrays for MC would probably get a lot from Michael Williams’ 2 volume book “Microphone Arrays for Stereo and Multichannel Sound Recording” - here’s a great SOS review with info on how to get it. And here’s a link to a great 28 page treatise by Williams on multichannel microphone array design - it’s a free pdf.

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1 hour ago, bluesman said:

Yes, yes!  Interestingly, I think that may be in large part because microphone techniques for well recorded MC in a large venue give the engineer more flexibility than many approaches to stereo capture.  I also suspect (but can’t confirm) that many stereo recordings made in large venues are done with more mics than many MC recordings of the same material in the same venues.

While that is probably true, it is also implicit that the making of a multichannel recording demands careful consideration of the performance space and the application of as much conscious attention to it as to the performers, at least, more than for the vast majority of stereo recordings.  

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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1 hour ago, Kal Rubinson said:

While that is probably true, it is also implicit that the making of a multichannel recording demands careful consideration of the performance space and the application of as much conscious attention to it as to the performers, at least, more than for the vast majority of stereo recordings.  

Of course, the vast majority of stereo recordings would have been much better if as much conscious attention had been applied to the performance space as to the performers.

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1 hour ago, bluesman said:

Of course, the vast majority of stereo recordings would have been much better if as much conscious attention had been applied to the performance space as to the performers.

Yes.  My point was that simply because they were recording in multichannel, they had to pay attention to the entire space and not just what's up front. 

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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31 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

Yes.  My point was that simply because they were recording in multichannel, they had to pay attention to the entire space and not just what's up front. 

Silly Kal! I knew that........

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I have not read everything yet. But the Fazioli/Steinway thingy triggered me. I have the Bach Partita's/Angela Hewitt recording (Steinway) and a sample of her latest recording of these fab music, Fazioli. I did some A-B, and there is almost no difference (disclaimer: to my ears...). The devil is in the "almost", I think. The Fazioli sounds more " Bach" to my simple ears. There is a difference, a subtle one, but it is there.

 

I liked the Memorex ad, brings me back to my youth (and I love Ella).

 

This thread will be a sticky for me, it is fascinating.

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41 minutes ago, WAM said:

I have the Bach Partita's/Angela Hewitt recording (Steinway) and a sample of her latest recording of these fab music, Fazioli. I did some A-B, and there is almost no difference (disclaimer: to my ears...). The devil is in the "almost", I think. The Fazioli sounds more " Bach" to my simple ears. There is a difference, a subtle one, but it is there.

The differences among world class instruments of any kind vary in nature, drama, and circumstances.  Some of the differences between a Faz and the equivalent Steinway are quite subtle and are apparent only with specific players and/or kinds of music.  But a few are quite evident (and some are quite obvious) regardless of the piece played or the pianist playing it.  

 

Most audiophiles (in fact, most people) will not immediately hear most of these differences because they aren't listening for them.  They aren't listening for them because they don't know that these differences exist.  It takes a lot of experience with the music to understand and appreciate the kinds of distinctions we're discussing.  For example, a Fazioli concert grand is perhaps the most responsive piano in the world.  It will reward the pianist who can play equally well at any volume from a whisper to a roar with a wider dynamic range than any other grand of equal dimension and potential with which I'm familiar.  But to hear and appreciate this, a listener has to have heard the same piece of music played by many pianists on many instruments in order to recognize 3 things:

 

  1.  pianissimo and fortissimo in a given composition are respectively a bit quieter and louder on a Faz than they are on other top pianos when played by the same pianist or by multiple equally skilled and sensitive players
  2.  the tone qualities (clarity, intonation, harmonic balance, attack / sustain / decay etc) are similar and well balanced from pp to ff
  3.  the piano's action is sufficiently precise to allow anyone who can do so to play as rapidly, expressively, and consistently at very low volumes as he or she can at high volumes

 

If you sat down and played chopsticks on the flagship grands from Yamaha, Fazioli, Bechstein, Bosendorfer, Steinway, Grotrian, Sauter, Shieru Kawai etc, you'd probably notice a bit of difference in tone.  But professional instruments are often not responsive at all to being played gingerly and inexpertly. Trying to drive a Formula 1 car won't make you a better driver - it will simply dramatize your lack of skill and experience. Here's a pretty fair demonstration of the sonic differences between a Faz and a Steinway of equivalent spec playing Chopin.  The more familiar you are with Chopin, the more obvious the differences will be to you.

 

 

These pianos (and similarly outstanding instruments of all kinds - brass, strings, percussion, woodwinds etc) differ from "lesser" instruments in 5 ways, each of which is critical to a world class musician:

 

  1. how they transform the player's interpretation of a piece of music into what you hear
  2. how they sound doing it
  3. how they respond to a given touch
  4. how versatile and flexible they are, i.e. how well they accomplish 1, 2 and 3 while accommodating and pleasing the best players
  5. how fully they bring out the best from the best pianists

 

These differences are audible.  But they're not heard the same way we hear and perceive noise, distortion, tonal differences etc -  they're heard in the music itself.  How well and accurately they're heard in reproduced music depends on every component and element in the entire signal chain from player to listener. The instruments and their players are the source of much of the variance in a musical performance, and familiarity with the music you listen to will enhance your ability to judge both its performance and its capture and reproduction.

 

Here's some food for thought:  it's been said that when Rubinstein struck the middle C key, it sounded better than when any other pianist played a middle C.  

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