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


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7 hours ago, Bill Brown said:

 

Oh Lordy :)

 

Last night I was wondering if it would be interesting to hear your system, and you hear mine (though it is far from perfect).

 

The interesting thing here, is what, specifically, makes you say it's "far from perfect" ... 🙂.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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I was primarily making sure to convey that I don't think my system is the ultimate, but certainly all are far from the realism that is the topic of the article.  Anyone who disagrees hasn't been to a great performance in a great hall.  Good, yes.  Indistinguishable from real, no.

 

That you discount the impact of acoustics in a small room is telling.  OTOH, if you enjoy your system, then more power to you, I am happy for you.  Connecting with music, after all, is the whole point.  I could listen to my favorites on an AM radio.  But.....I am fairly confident that your impression of high fidelity reproduction wouldn't be broadly shared.  I would bet my left nut that your system can't convey the realism of the performance I am thankful to have experienced in the Musikverein 2 years ago.  Just ain't happenin'.

 

I am sitting at our kitchen island cooking pizzas in the oven (wife is rounding and not coming home this evening), drinking a cold beer on a Friday evening, listening to music (Jason Isbell currently) on a B&O bluetooth speaker and enjoying the music.  Engaging, sins of omission only (put it on an oven mitt to decrease some tubbiness in the bass), can forget about the reproduction and simply enjoy.  Yay!  But it ain't real.

 

Best,

 

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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37 minutes ago, Bill Brown said:

I was primarily making sure to convey that I don't think my system is the ultimate, but certainly all are far from the realism that is the topic of the article.  Anyone who disagrees hasn't been to a great performance in a great hall.  Good, yes.  Indistinguishable from real, no.

 

The interesting thing that happened three decades for me, was going to the Sydney Opera house - no longer do this, but back then this happened irregularly - and feeling that I was hearing didn't "shape up" at times - I can still picture a piano recital, where I was thinking at the time, "This just doesn't have the impact that I would be getting at home - I feel too removed from the music".

 

Quote

That you discount the impact of acoustics in a small room is telling.  OTOH, if you enjoy your system, then more power to you, I am happy for you.  Connecting with music, after all, is the whole point.  I could listen to my favorites on an AM radio.  But.....I am fairly confident that your impression of high fidelity reproduction wouldn't be broadly shared.  I would bet my left nut that your system can't convey the realism of the performance I am thankful to have experienced in the Musikverein 2 years ago.  Just ain't happenin'.

 

I'm after the quality of immersion, and size in the presentation - much audio is 'tiny', fails to convey grandeur. So, for a system to be acceptable to me, it has to be able to handle presenting the majesty of a full size pipe organ with "all the stops out"; or the climax of a symphony, with the waves of sound effortlessly rolling over me - last time I checked, an AM radio didn't quite make the grade 😜.

 

Quote

 

I am sitting at our kitchen island cooking pizzas in the oven (wife is rounding and not coming home this evening), drinking a cold beer on a Friday evening, listening to music (Jason Isbell currently) on a B&O bluetooth speaker and enjoying the music.  Engaging, sins of omission only (put it on an oven mitt to decrease some tubbiness in the bass), can forget about the reproduction and simply enjoy.  Yay!  But it ain't real.

 

Best,

 

Bill

 

Good times are always good ... 😉.

 

But, I would have the system running for this - we don't do, "room systems" 😉 ... the volume would at a level so that it fills the house; and it sounds good standing right in front of the speakers - or listening from a room at the other end of the house ... at the same volume setting. That's what happens when a setup is working to a high order  - no matter the volume, or where you happen to be in the general area ... it still ticks all the boxes ... 🙂.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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13 hours ago, Bill Brown said:

I would bet my left nut that your system can't convey the realism of the performance I am thankful to have experienced in the Musikverein 2 years ago.  Just ain't happenin'.

 

Hearing a concert at this venue is one of the things I want to do right after the pandemic. But hey, our soundstages may not sound exactly like a real stage, but at least we always get the best seat! 😀

 

13 hours ago, fas42 said:

The interesting thing that happened three decades for me, was going to the Sydney Opera house - no longer do this, but back then this happened irregularly - and feeling that I was hearing didn't "shape up" at times - I can still picture a piano recital, where I was thinking at the time, "This just doesn't have the impact that I would be getting at home - I feel too removed from the music".

 

When audiophiles treat a live performance as an ideal that should be matched, it is often ignored, apart from the imperfect reproduction described in the article, that many halls don't have perfect acoustics. In this case, with microphones close to the performers, it can actually sound better on the record than it did for the audience during the performance.

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Happy to read that you may get to experience that hall @mForMusic, oh to have that hall (and performers) close by.

 

Your last two sentences are interesting.  I have always enjoyed the acoustics of the halls I have been in (of varying quality), as it is always, by definition, "real."  There may be some truly bad halls where close-in micing is the only option, that's ok.  But I do wonder if a skilled engineer could still capture something perhaps more "real."  I should note that EMI recorded fairly close (and with some "glare"), but still get heavy rotation because of the roster of performers they had.  Still has to be all about the music.

 

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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On 3/25/2021 at 10:48 AM, manueljenkin said:

This recording is very good. I'm not even sure if it's really binaural but it sounds very realistic. Looking for an uncompressed version of it.

Well -- it might be compressed, and I can usually do something about compressed materials, but the recording is almost 100% not likely FA.  (I couldn't directly grab a copy for some reason anyway, while attempting to double check -- but it doesn't sound like it is the ubiquitious compression scheme.)  (FA is my term for the damage done to many/most consumer recordings.)

 

The bass on my almost flat to 10Hz and below headphones appears to be true, and whatever compressor that they used doesn't seem to create much bass distortion.  There is usually distortion that comes along with compression in the bass (and usually 200Hz or below) frequency ranges.   It is pretty good for a recording that is accessible to a consumer.

 

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10 hours ago, mForMusic said:

 

When audiophiles treat a live performance as an ideal that should be matched, it is often ignored, apart from the imperfect reproduction described in the article, that many halls don't have perfect acoustics. In this case, with microphones close to the performers, it can actually sound better on the record than it did for the audience during the performance.

 

Agree. Yes, a recording can easily sound better, a lot better than the "real thing" ... which is why there is no excuse for a system not to be able to conjure up a remarkable presentation.

 

4 hours ago, bluesman said:

I think many audiophiles focus their interest and attention exclusively on the sound they hear. Live music is not the same experience as home listening - they’re different in many ways.  Just being in the same space with the performers is exciting.  Watching them interact with each other, the audience, and, if present, a conductor and/or a soloist is fascinating but missing from your living room.  And knowing that your presence in the audience is supporting the future of music in all its forms is very satisfying, at least to my wife and me.  

 

All good things. And the converse is also true ... I was at a recital for solo cello some years ago - and it was the ultimate agony session. The chap was into the intellectual understanding of the music - and it ground on ... and on ... and on ... and ...

 

 

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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1 hour ago, fas42 said:

Yes, a recording can easily sound better, a lot better than the "real thing"

 

No way.  Not for acoustic music, i.e. acoustic instruments in a real space.  That is the absolute sound in relation to which all reproduced music should be judged.  Maybe if you are referring to electric instruments over a PA?

 

I listened earlier to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer, an astoundingly good (all acoustic instruments) recording, with space, dynamics, and tone. Now Bruckner.  To have been present when these recordings were made would make what I have listened to today absolutely pale in comparison.  To be a fly on the wall listening to Muddy and Buddy making music?!?  No doubts; no ifs, ands, or buts; I question your sanity if you think otherwise.  Hell, I have had (and many other listeners also report) many experiences where after hearing live music I couldn't listen to my system for a few days except casually, realizing how far I was away.  If you think your system is good enough to avoid this you are either high or (happily) delusional (and I guess if that is true, what the hell, enjoy it).

 

Frankly, and I don't want to be an ass (though there are nurses who would say I am good at it!), but your contributions to this thread don't measure up to the level of the article written by @bluesman.  Just don't fit.  So much of what you write is vague and circular, lacking important details that would allow the reader understanding and to assess the merits.  Well, perhaps I am thinking of your recent writings on other threads also, not just this one (? the "Goals when reproducing music" one- they are related).

 

Hell, maybe you actually have achieved nirvana and possess the secret to awesomeness.  In the context of the high levels of reproduction that this article discusses and aspires to, I have to wonder about your system (and I am NOT talking $ or "mine is bigger than yours" stuff).  You write on this site voluminously, so would you please take the time to describe your system from front to back with a simple drawing of your room and a few pictures?  I (we?) need something concrete.  Show us how you have done it!  Without this , I am have to suspect that the emperor has no clothes.

 

Speaking of voluminous writing, I have been on a roll lately.  I probably need to shut up and go back to my preferred lurking and listen to music or read a book.

 

Bill

 

Wow, put it into shuffle mode to write and "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" from Rio Bravo with Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson came on. Ahhh.  That will soothe the savage beast. :)

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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1 hour ago, Bill Brown said:

 

No way.  Not for acoustic music, i.e. acoustic instruments in a real space.  That is the absolute sound in relation to which all reproduced music should be judged.  Maybe if you are referring to electric instruments over a PA?

 

We have just mentioned a piano recital ... in a concert hall, I am, how far away from it? The very same performance recorded from a microphone right next to the piano, in an optimum position for that sound capture ... which is going to give me a more intense sense of the piano in action?

 

1 hour ago, Bill Brown said:

 

I listened earlier to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer, an astoundingly good (all acoustic instruments) recording, with space, dynamics, and tone. Now Bruckner.  To have been present when these recordings were made would make what I have listened to today absolutely pale in comparison.  To be a fly on the wall listening to Muddy and Buddy making music?!?  No doubts; no ifs, ands, or buts; I question your sanity if you think otherwise.  Hell, I have had (and many other listeners also report) many experiences where after hearing live music I couldn't listen to my system for a few days except casually, realizing how far I was away.  If you think your system is good enough to avoid this you are either high or (happily) delusional (and I guess if that is true, what the hell, enjoy it).

 

It can be that good - which is not the same thing as saying that it is that good, every time I switch it on ... okay?

 

1 hour ago, Bill Brown said:

 

Frankly, and I don't want to be an ass (though there are nurses who would say I am good at it!), but your contributions to this thread don't measure up to the level of the article written by @bluesman.  Just don't fit.  So much of what you write is vague and circular, lacking important details that would allow the reader understanding and to assess the merits.  Well, perhaps I am thinking of your recent writings on other threads also, not just this one (? the "Goals when reproducing music" one- they are related).

 

The primary goal is realism ... everything else, and I do mean everything else, is subservient to that. Which is why I don't natter about the usual things that audiophiles talk about - what most can't grok is the concept that you listen to a sound system as something that has audible faults; which you work on, to resolve - this is a headspace most don't enter; which is why I don't make sense to them.

 

1 hour ago, Bill Brown said:

 

Hell, maybe you actually have achieved nirvana and possess the secret to awesomeness.  In the context of the high levels of reproduction that this article discusses and aspires to, I have to wonder about your system (and I am NOT talking $ or "mine is bigger than yours" stuff).  You write on this site voluminously, so would you please take the time to describe your system from front to back with a simple drawing of your room and a few pictures?  I (we?) need something concrete.  Show us how you have done it!  Without this , I am have to suspect that the emperor has no clothes.

 

I have described many times, posted a pic, have a thread devoted to where it's going ...

 

You can always check this out, if you want ... 🙂.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Excellent article.  I very much look forward to future installments!

 

Many years ago, my daughter was performing in her elementary school band in the usual array of winter and spring concerts in her school.  I thought it would be a good thing to record them, not only for posterity but as an experiment for me.  So, I did some research and purchased a Sony WM-D6C "Walkman Pro" cassette recorder and a pair of Sonic Studios binaural microphones.  You can tell from the vintage of the gear just when this was.  

 

Anyway, I sat toward the back of the room with my stealthy recording gear, doing my best to get the recording right.  

 

A few days later, I connected the Walkman Pro to the stereo system in the living room.  I'd avoided doing that, just out of fear of embarrassment.  (I hate to embarrass myself in front of me...)

 

It turned out that the recording was one of the most realistic recordings I had ever played through that sound system.  (Ironically, the very best sound I ever heard at a show was a similarly simple recording Richard Sequerra had made of the Greater Bridgeport Opera Company.  That was the only time I ever sat through an opera recording for more than nine seconds.  Except for a couple by The Who and The Kinks.) 

 

Obviously, that wasn't due to great talent or engineering skill on my part.  I had almost no experience and basically just made sure that I kept my head relatively still and the gain was set right.

 

That gear was hardly state of the art, at least compared to what actual professionals used, despite the name on the Walkman.  It was about as simple as you can get.

 

So, what was the deal?  In the end, I concluded two things.

 

One was that commercial recordings are not at all intended to represent a facsimile of live recordings.  Maybe at one time they were, but, if so, that went out the door long ago.  Expecting commercial recordings to sound like real life is a futile gesture, no matter how good your home audio system is.

 

The second was that recording for yourself could probably be a pretty fun activity and very rewarding.  So, naturally I just put the Walkman Pro and the microphones into a box and did nothing with them.  Except, my wife was going through some stuff the other day and found them.  I just bought a box of ATR blank cassettes (!).  I also bought a new MacBook Air with the idea of doing some digital recordings, too.  Maybe I'll get a second chance.  

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2 hours ago, CG said:

 

Many years ago, my daughter was performing in her elementary school band in the usual array of winter and spring concerts in her school.  I thought it would be a good thing to record them, not only for posterity but as an experiment for me.  So, I did some research and purchased a Sony WM-D6C "Walkman Pro" cassette recorder and a pair of Sonic Studios binaural microphones.  You can tell from the vintage of the gear just when this was.  

 

 

Which reminds me of a similar evening some years ago ... the usual range of performances, from rolling one's eyes standard, to quite special.

 

But what struck me was the Yamahaa(/Kawai? - not sure now ...) grand there for the piano efforts - this poor instrument must have gone through the wars; it was a mess - to listen to! Trying to hear through the crazy combination of very unpiano like sounds it was making while it was being played was hard work - now, that's what I call distortion !!! 🤣

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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1 hour ago, CG said:

the basic thing people want in recorded music is lyrics they understand and a backing beat of some kind.  That way they can sing or groove along to the music.

Hmmm - that kinda leaves out Gregorian chants.

 

  smiley_boogie.gif.4f85b47d557cfa4e5eb84a13b81796e5.gif

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53 minutes ago, bluesman said:

Hmmm - that kinda leaves out Gregorian chants.

 

  smiley_boogie.gif.4f85b47d557cfa4e5eb84a13b81796e5.gif

 

My wife very recently got a new car, with a very programmable entertainment system.

 

So, I was setting that part up for her and had it scan all the available FM radio stations in our area.

 

Not a one featured chanting.  Very disappointing.

 

Perhaps I should've scanned the AM band, too.

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7 hours ago, bluesman said:

Accuracy means only that playback is identical to the master - no system can (or should even try to) deconstruct what the recording team wanted you to hear.  It’s fine to process it to kingdom come if that’s what makes you happy.  But an accurate system starts with the ability to reproduce what’s in the source file.  

 

 

In fact, an accurate replay does deconstruct what was laid down - if a heavily produced, multi-track effort then that's what you hear ... there are regulars docos where someone plays a master tape of some famous album; and slides the faders so that you hear what is happening on just one track - and that what becomes easy to focus on, with competent playback: you can just 'watch' what's happening in one layer of the production - it has its own identity, its own space.

 

7 hours ago, bluesman said:


 

There are many very enjoyable recordings of all kinds that are as processed and artificial as cheap hot dogs.  I love music and I love hot dogs - I just like to know what’s in both and how they were made.  Like hot dogs at a picnic, both sometimes get dropped into some dirt and need a wipe or two.  Landing in the wrong place is cause for discarding it.  But our kitchen floor is clean, and hot dogs are too precious to waste.  For me, an excursion through harmless dirt doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of consuming either music or hot dogs when I’m in the mood for them.

 

Turns out that highly processed recordings are often the most intriguing - the complexity, the intricacy of the mix is a fascinating thing in its own right; it's like studying a complex painting, where there's a lot going on; and every time you look at it, you appreciate some further quality in it. It's one reason I rarely listen to some "audiophile" albums - everything is so obvious, straightaway; and nothing more is gained on relistening.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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55 minutes ago, bluesman said:

What did the Gregorian monk say when told he was being kicked out of the monastery for playing the blues?

 

"I promise to do better if you just give me the chants!"

 

🤦‍♂️

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10 hours ago, bluesman said:

... the sonic image we “see” in playback is most often not that of the actual performance - it’s not accurate in the literal sense.  Recognizing this helps the audiophile separate accuracy from realism and gain a better understanding of the entire chain of events, equipment, and circumstance that extends from the composer to your brain.  And this, I hope, will help you choose programs, systems, and settings that will help you enjoy your music even more.


So, I can see a couple of possible lessons an audiophile might take here. Which of these (or neither) would you say correctly states the case?

 

Because the image you "see" in the recording (at least usually) isn't an accurate representation of the original event,

 

1. You should give up on or at least deprioritize criteria like "soundstage accuracy" and more particularly "pinpoint, ultra-stable imaging" when evaluating playback; or

 

2. You should *double down* on soundstage and imaging as criteria, because that's the only way you will be sure to "see" the image the recordist/mixer/producer *want* you to "see" (hear) on playback.

 

In other words, how much intentionality is involved in the process of selecting the number and placement of mics (and other technical stuff in the recording process) in order to create a specific soundscape for the end-listener to "see," and how much is simply the result of practical and mundane considerations of cost and time available to the recording team? Like, "I have exactly six (or ten or a hundred)  microphones to use on this gig, here's where I *have* to place and aim them to get a decent result." 

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Thanks, that makes sense. Sounds like maybe you are suggesting my first possibility is the case. But can I just draw you out on my second possibility, then I will let it rest, I promise.

 

Can you say whether - in your experience - many, some, only a select few - recording techs are intentionally trying to sculpt a sonic image by how they place mics, etc. regardless of whether that image is intended to reflect the reality of the recording event (the space, the placement of musicians, etc.)? Maybe they not only want an "artificial" soundscape, but they definitely want *this* artificial soundscape and not *that* one, and they take intentional and specific technical steps to ensure that they obtain the result they seek.

 

Or are some - or many, or most - sometimes just more motivated by getting something above a minimum threshold of acceptability on tape, on budget, and on time?

 

Because assuming enough of them, enough of the time, are intentionally trying to manipulate (or craft, or word of your choice) the soundscape, then it would seem like an audiophile still ought to prioritize soundstage and imaging as evaluative criteria, in order to do justice to (or even hear) what the producers intended them to hear.

 

As a corollary thought, if I know - from those limited recordings with liner notes that do spell out what the producers were going for, maybe show photos from the recording session, etc, - that my system as a matter of fact *is* accurately portraying the soundstage, placing the instrument images precisely, etc. - then I might have greater confidence that I am doing justice to the intents of other recording teams, regardless of how much or how little explication they might provide of their methods and intentions.This might solve the epistemological dilemma you describe above.  Does that make sense?

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