• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Reality Is Overrated When It Comes to Recordings (Article from music Engineer/Producer)

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
16,446
Likes
28,341
Milli vanilla and awesome,.......not two words you'll see me using together.
 

Soundmixer

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
432
Likes
282
Milli vanilla and awesome,.......not two words you'll see me using together.
I think they were more chocolate and caramel than vanilla. Maybe Milli Chocomel would have been a better name.

Just sayin, and see me exiting stage left......

 

goat76

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2021
Messages
487
Likes
421
Interesting. I like the singers; really nice voices together.

But sonically it has that "dead" limpid sound and lack of energy that I associate with so many audiophile recordings. (Even the acoustic guitars lack upper frequency presence and sparkle etc).
Yes, the way it is with current recoding technology it's pretty clear closer placed spot microphones are needed to get the full sound of every single instrument. I just wish someone came up with microphones more representative of how we hear things, a single stereo microphone that could be placed at the best sounding spot in the room in front of a full band without that "dead" limped sound. I bet the live sound has much more dynamic energy and more engaging "movement" if we were there.

But I like the natural aspects a single stereo microphone brings to the recording. Many close microphones with a similar distance to every single sound source will, unfortunately, build up a lot of frequency masking and other problems, and EQ and other tools will most likely be needed to solve them.
 

Kvalsvoll

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Manufacturer
Joined
Apr 25, 2019
Messages
769
Likes
1,419
Location
Norway
I bet the live sound has much more dynamic energy and more engaging "movement" if we were there.
This is to me the most important property that is usually lost in reproduced music. But it turns out that in most cases it is not the recording that is at fault, it is the reproduction through speakers. And that can be fixed, to a level that manages to replicate this sense of engagement and energy.

Ability to play loud enough can be a part of this, but it is actually possible to still have much of this sense of live music also at low listening volume.

For a truly realistic reproduction, it is necessary to play at realistic spl levels, and this requires capacity from the speakers to be able to do that.
 

Soundmixer

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
432
Likes
282
For a truly realistic reproduction, it is necessary to play at realistic spl levels, and this requires capacity from the speakers to be able to do that.
This is the Achilles heel of most "audiophile" speakers. The inability to playback at realistic levels with low distortion.
 

pablolie

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 8, 2021
Messages
626
Likes
969
Location
bay area, ca
This is the Achilles heel of most "audiophile" speakers. The inability to playback at realistic levels with low distortion.
What is realistic? I love going to live events, but honestly it has not ever even once been the highest fidelity I have heard. It is often totally overdriven for the smallish venue (Hello Yoshi's) or you sit somewhat off, or you realize they're using pre-recorded loops... the list is endless.

"Realistic" is... what? Just loudness? I prefer to keep my hearing intact. I have been to concerts where I popped earplugs in to not hear damaging levels of SPL. thank you sound engineers but no. you realize often "realistic levels" drive distortion in your hearing?

if we're talking about "audio science" we have to admit that despite of the magic of a live performance, it seldom sets a reference for a perfect recording. very seldom. it can be magic like "waltz for debby"... but even that magical performance is flawed audio wise.
 

watchnerd

Grand Contributor
Joined
Dec 8, 2016
Messages
12,420
Likes
10,285
Location
Seattle Area, USA
What is realistic? I love going to live events, but honestly it has not ever even once been the highest fidelity I have heard. It is often totally overdriven for the smallish venue (Hello Yoshi's) or you sit somewhat off, or you realize they're using pre-recorded loops... the list is endless.

"Realistic" is... what? Just loudness? I prefer to keep my hearing intact. I have been to concerts where I popped earplugs in to not hear damaging levels of SPL. thank you sound engineers but no. you realize often "realistic levels" drive distortion in your hearing?

if we're talking about "audio science" we have to admit that despite of the magic of a live performance, it seldom sets a reference for a perfect recording. very seldom. it can be magic like "waltz for debby"... but even that magical performance is flawed audio wise.

+1

With the way people write about the glories of live sound, I sometimes get the impression that some of the contributors to the thread don't actually go see very much live music.

The vast majority of the time for me, the enjoyment of live performances comes from the energy of the musicians and the crowd.

It's almost never the sonics.
 

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
16,446
Likes
28,341
I don't know I've been in a few Jazz clubs where you can sit pretty close and the room is full of people with lots of drapes or soft surfaces around. Those can have a nice, live, jumping, sound which is something like live hifi in a good sense of the word.

Same thing with some small venues (300 or so people with a stage so controlled acoustics) and live unamplified guitarists or piano trios or classical chamber music. It is much larger than my home of course, but not a huge venue and the more up close intimate music and audience location works extremely well.
 

Soundmixer

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
432
Likes
282
What is realistic? I love going to live events, but honestly it has not ever even once been the highest fidelity I have heard. It is often totally overdriven for the smallish venue (Hello Yoshi's) or you sit somewhat off, or you realize they're using pre-recorded loops... the list is endless.

"Realistic" is... what? Just loudness? I prefer to keep my hearing intact. I have been to concerts where I popped earplugs in to not hear damaging levels of SPL. thank you sound engineers but no. you realize often "realistic levels" drive distortion in your hearing?

if we're talking about "audio science" we have to admit that despite of the magic of a live performance, it seldom sets a reference for a perfect recording. very seldom. it can be magic like "waltz for debby"... but even that magical performance is flawed audio wise.
Remember, we are talking about loudness levels, not audiophile sound quality. They are two different things.

While I understand your comment about Yoshi's(I have been there too many times to mention), I would not consider Yoshi's sound system as a reference - which is why they allow artists to bring in their own equipment. Not everywhere is like Yoshi's. I've been to Jazz clubs in LA that had a sound system that sounded terrific.

When I go to live concerts, I choose my seat wisely - and I do bring earplugs with me just in case. What I consider realistic levels is what I get from sitting in the front few rows but not near a speaker or speakers.
 

Robin L

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Messages
4,686
Likes
6,649
Location
1 mile east of Sleater Kinney Rd
What is realistic? I love going to live events, but honestly it has not ever even once been the highest fidelity I have heard. It is often totally overdriven for the smallish venue (Hello Yoshi's) or you sit somewhat off, or you realize they're using pre-recorded loops... the list is endless.

"Realistic" is... what? Just loudness? I prefer to keep my hearing intact. I have been to concerts where I popped earplugs in to not hear damaging levels of SPL. thank you sound engineers but no. you realize often "realistic levels" drive distortion in your hearing?

if we're talking about "audio science" we have to admit that despite of the magic of a live performance, it seldom sets a reference for a perfect recording. very seldom. it can be magic like "waltz for debby"... but even that magical performance is flawed audio wise.
I do believe another poster 'round here is familiar with "What is reality?" in the context of Pico and Alverado.

In my case, my guitar, positioned "just so" [I use an indestructible baking pan in lieu or a proper foot stand, more reliable, long term] is reality. For a lot of musicians, the instrument they are playing and vantage point within which they are playing is reality. Other POVs are interesting, but reality is where they live.
 

2020

Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2020
Messages
42
Likes
18
So how does everyone feel about the audiophile obsession with dynamic range? There is a particular website that rates albums on how much dynamic range is on the recording, holding up a particular version of the 1812 Overture as the ideal because the cannons are 20db louder than the music itself. By comparison, Power Trip's "Nightmare Logic" (a thrash metal album) is rated very poorly, yet to my ears it sounds excellent.

I'm fine with loud music but everything has been too squashed for like the last 20 years. There's a difference between artistic distortion and broadband loudness. It affects the actual clarity. The late 2000s were notorious for this. You look at most music and it's a brick wall, so much for attack/sustain/decay/release. The sustain phase might as well be the attack, and you'll see stuff run straight into the limiter or get it's head chopped off in real time through an oscilloscope. And then it's distributed in lossy formats and played with shit Bluetooth codecs, as if it really needs to be run though additional meatgrinders!

The people who are into dynamic range scores don't really do it only for space (so there can be real level changes), but because excessive loudness comes with a cost in the overall perceived audio quality. If it was easy to make everything loud, it would have been solved a long time ago. There wouldn't be endless plugins and psychoacoustic tricks employed.
 
Last edited:

watchnerd

Grand Contributor
Joined
Dec 8, 2016
Messages
12,420
Likes
10,285
Location
Seattle Area, USA
Milli Vanilli has nothing on this.

Ni0yNDc2LmpwZWc.jpeg



Be sure to hang in for "Tony's Got Hot Nuts" -- it's pretty good, too.
 

Spkrdctr

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
1,758
Likes
2,316
At home, it ought to be your own business. You want an extra +15 db @ 50hz "just because"? I'm sure you're not alone, 'cause I often do. If you want to hear uncompressed acoustic music with a bare minimum of production, I'm sure you'll be able to find it.

Just don't bitch when the most popular artists make production choices you dislike---the production decisions they made are part of why they are so popular.
Many, many times that is me. I sometimes like to shake the walls. I just revert to that inner 15 year old and do stupid stuff that annoys the neighbors. Explosions in home theater that makes the neighbors think a war just started on their front lawn!
 

fatoldgit

Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2020
Messages
98
Likes
109
How many mics needed to fully/accurately capture the sound of single cello? One certainly isnt enough due to the frequency dispersion in different directions.

1653686867105.png


What we hear from our seat at a live recital is a combo of all of these frequencies.

Sticking a mic close to the cello wont allow all the combination we hear at our seat to occur. Same with any acoustic instrument.

So its all an illusion and even the starting point (the mic placement) can only ever capture a thin slice of the tonal richness.

Take a look at any photo of a 60's stereo Jazz recording session... all brass is close mic'ed... that aint what I hear in a non-amplified session in a small club.
 

Soundmixer

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
432
Likes
282
How many mics needed to fully/accurately capture the sound of single cello? One certainly isnt enough due to the frequency dispersion in different directions.
If you place a single omnidirectional microphone directly overhead of that cello, you will capture enough of the essence of that instrument to balance with the other instruments - or as a solo instrument. More than one microphone would certainly give you more control to shape the sound, but just one could do the job (and this is key) under certain acoustical conditions (a baffle behind the instrument is one - directly overhead is another).

"
What we hear from our seat at a live recital is a combo of all of these frequencies.
And a healthy dose of reflections that affects how you hear this combo of frequencies. It is not ruler flat, and likely not any better than a single mike capture from overhead.
Take a look at any photo of a 60's stereo Jazz recording session... all brass is close mic'ed... that aint what I hear in a non-amplified session in a small club.
Two different listening experiences that cannot be compared in any way. I think that was what the article is trying to point out.
 
Last edited:

fatoldgit

Member
Joined
Feb 29, 2020
Messages
98
Likes
109
If you place a single omnidirectional microphone directly overhead of that cello, you will capture enough of the essence of that instrument to balance with the other instruments - or as a solo instrument. More than one microphone would certainly give you more control to shape the sound, but just one could do the job (and this is key) under certain acoustical conditions (a baffle behind the instrument is one - directly overhead is another).

"

And a healthy dose of reflections that affects how you hear this combo of frequencies. It is not ruler flat, and likely not any better than a single mike capture from overhead.

Two different listening experiences that cannot be compared in any way. I think that was what the article is trying to point out.

Agree entirely.

Even in the case of a small venue with acoustic jazz, where I sit, the treatments (or other wise) of the venue, the ambient noise level etc all vary (even within the same venue) so that potentially the same band at the same venue on two consecutive nights will have a different acoustic presentation (including how much fluid intact I might have had before and during!!!)

All we can hope to achieve as listeners is to optimize what we can, to reproduce what was laid down on the recording in a way that is pleasing to us.

My vision of perfect reproduction will no doubt be different from anyone else although we might broadly agree on equipment types that help us to achieve this.

Peter
 

orangejello

Active Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Messages
226
Likes
333
As I implied, above, I'd rather not get into the debate over number of microphones nor post-recording manipulation. I'm not sure that either of these issues necessarily has lot to do with achieving the "simulacrum of reality" as I phrased it.

I'm brought to mind of the Mercury Living Presence recordings of Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart Fine in the '50s and '60s. These recordings, (all originally distributed on LP obviously), were made with 3 microphones generally suspended above the orchestra; recording in many cases was made on magnetized 35mm film. I never owned any of the LP but have several CD, (not the SACD), transcriptions of these recordings.

The sound quality of the LP versions of the recordings was highly touted as the be-all & end-all of realism back in the LP era -- and since by many audiophiles, both the LPs and CD transcriptions. From my own small sampling they tend to have a unique sound that is very good in terms of conveying the "presence" the actual recording venues, however IMHO, they are overrated in terms of "realism" or at least the impression of desirable reality.

Frankly most of my MLP CD transcriptions sound a bit bright and rather like they were made in echoy high school gymnasiums. Many, (by no means all), contemporary recordings sound much better in convey the sense of real ensembles performing superior auditoriums.
The Mercury Living Presence recordings were fetishized by Harry Pearson writing for The Absolute Sound. I collected them on a “catch as catch can” basis over the years. I wound up with quite a few very good copies because I lived in Boston during the ascendency of CD when everyone was ditching their records. For performances that I really liked I got the CD version as well. I used these to calibrate my system because of the simplicity of the recording and the timbrel accuracy. Not only were there only three microphones involved, the recordings were essentially live and had very little post-processing. They struck me as very realistic in terms of soundstage, room ambiance and immediacy of the recorded event. Dorati‘s recording of Respighi’s Ancient Aires and Dances is a favorite. As my system improved I heard deeper and deeper into the recordings. You can hear the musicians shifting in their chairs, the protium creaking, the hall reverb, etc. The recording engineers Robert Fine and his wife Willa Cozart had an aesthetic value of getting out of the way of the performance. Hence the minimalism. So they aspired to ”realism” in as many dimensions as possible. That is no longer much of a value these days.
 

agiletiger

Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2021
Messages
94
Likes
46
All the subtle details, such as sound from opening of lips, breathing, bow sliding on the strings and other subtle sounds cannot be heard in a live performance.
Not always sure that this makes recordings “better”. None of the sounds you mention are central to musical decisions other than maybe the breath. There are many musicians that strive to not make their breaths audible, for instance. Just because the audiophile world has told others to listen for these things doesn’t mean that a recording or a system is more “hifi”. You’ve been conditioned to think that hearing all that is “better”.
 
Top Bottom