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Stereophile's Jim Austin Says Streaming Atmos Sucks

SIY

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I do not understand how anyone can consider splatters of various colors of paint on a canvas as Art.
I absolutely agree. You don't understand. :D

I've heard the same tropes ("My three year old can do that!") about Picasso, Miro, Johns, de Kooning, and just about every other artist who doesn't paint bowls of fruit or seascapes. I've never heard an artist say that, though.

(but on the other side, read the history of Disumbrationism and "Pavel Jerdanovich")
 

Newman

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Ok. It makes no sense to me personally. It is their right to have whatever opinions they want. The question is, will consumers of what they produce actually like it?
Mark Waldrep used to mix and release two versions of an album in surround, that he named Audience Mix and Stage Mix.

What you are saying is that the Audience Mix is right for you, and the Stage Mix makes no sense to you personally. To which I have zero objections, naturally. But if I may, I have a couple of broader comments, below.
Being different just to be different doesn't make something good.
Totally agree.

The argument for the Stage Mix goes like this: if you were in the audience at a live performance, and the band or the conductor pointed at you and invited you up onto the stage in the midst of the band or orchestra, you would probably have the musical experience of your life! (Let’s discount the deafening rock music issue, and assume sound levels were not excessive. Maybe an acoustic performance, haha.) You would probably remember the sheer immersion of it as the most awesome sonic experience ever.

Well, sound engineers are saying “you can have that”. Is that a bad or senseless goal? Not IMHO.

Dr Waldrep’s feedback from comparisons of his Stage and Audience mixes, from customers, from fellow sound engineers and his sound engineering students, is that the Stage Mix is generally preferred. Of course, one can have bad examples, so it’s not a black and white issue. Plus, some people do prefer the Audience Mix. That’s perfectly valid. But the Stage Mix seems well justified, with an overall higher preference and pleasure rating.

OTOH I certainly do agree with you that, when there is video in front of you showing the band/orchestra spread from left to right across a 45 degree arc, and some vocals or instruments are mixed to the sides or back, that is disconcerting and something of an issue. The mix needs to be adjusted to suit that situation (although how wide a screen to assume, haha).

But even with video, let’s look to the (near) future. 3D headsets are already starting to appear. Imagine a concert being videoed with a 360 degree camera on stage, and heard through a Stage Mix while being consumed on a 3D headset… a really good one, better than what we have today. The video and sound are consistent again, and potentially, a next-level experience. The Stage Mix has a future, even in concert (pun) with video.

There is also our psychoacoustic conditioning to consider. Toole has written on this point. Most of us have been conditioned by our 2-channel lives to adapt to its limitations, and to, at first, have a negative reaction to having those limitations exceeded by multichannel when used for anything other than ambience. But, if we persevere a bit with multichannel eg stage mix, then after a while our conditioning relaxes and we can experience multichannel unencumbered. He relates how he was there when this exact issue arose when stereo recordings first appeared: the audience were all conditioned to mono recordings, and stereo seemed just plain wrong, and probably even senseless. It took a considerable period, and some people never allowed their mono conditioning to relax. It’s okay if some of us never allow ourselves out of our stereo conditioning, of course, but my most well-intentioned advice would be to persevere and give ourselves a good chance to get past it, because of the potential rewards.

cheers
 

pablolie

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Mark Waldrep used to mix and release two versions of an album in surround, that he named Audience Mix and Stage Mix.
...

There is also our psychoacoustic conditioning to consider. Toole has written on this point. Most of us have been conditioned by our 2-channel lives to adapt to its limitations, and to, at first, have a negative reaction to having those limitations exceeded by multichannel when used for anything other than ambience. ...
I think my posting history shows that I am extremely open minded and never ever judge others' preferences.

That said, I have never once experienced a multichannel setup that blew me away. I suspect 2 reasons may lay behind it:

1. Multichannel is the perfect excuse for the audio industry to sell us 2.5x as much sh*t, ca-ching! And you're on your own setting it up, which typically results in a predictable setup of 2 speakers and a center right by the TV, and 2 speaker behind the couch, standard fare, and if you sit close to any of those speakers it will be a ridiculously poor listening experience (especially the ones close to you when you sit on the side of the couch).

2. If setting up 2 speakers and a sub is as hard as we know... I have little confidence in setting up a balanced multichannel system. If any of you lives in the Bay Area and think your setup may persuade me otherwise, I can guarantee I am fun company and I can bring a good bottle of Barolo. Genuinely curious.
 

Justdafactsmaam

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I have some binaural recordings, and most of them to me make little difference. Which to me raises the question whether "binaural" is also afflicted by the same chicanery of many 24/192 recordings that are simply upscaled Red Book.
To be fully effective you have to have the right playback. Otherwise they sound like any other stereo recording. And not all binaural recordings are created equal
 

SIY

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The argument for the Stage Mix goes like this: if you were in the audience at a live performance, and the band or the conductor pointed at you and invited you up onto the stage in the midst of the band or orchestra, you would probably have the musical experience of your life! (Let’s discount the deafening rock music issue, and assume sound levels were not excessive. Maybe an acoustic performance, haha.) You would probably remember the sheer immersion of it as the most awesome sonic experience ever.
Having just experienced this, I concur. But it's not universally the right effect (e.g., if I want the experience of being in the audience for a stage show and the envelopment is hall sound- or if we're talking about a solo artist).
 

Putter

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Mark Waldrep used to mix and release two versions of an album in surround, that he named Audience Mix and Stage Mix.

What you are saying is that the Audience Mix is right for you, and the Stage Mix makes no sense to you personally. To which I have zero objections, naturally. But if I may, I have a couple of broader comments, below.

Totally agree.

The argument for the Stage Mix goes like this: if you were in the audience at a live performance, and the band or the conductor pointed at you and invited you up onto the stage in the midst of the band or orchestra, you would probably have the musical experience of your life! (Let’s discount the deafening rock music issue, and assume sound levels were not excessive. Maybe an acoustic performance, haha.) You would probably remember the sheer immersion of it as the most awesome sonic experience ever.

Well, sound engineers are saying “you can have that”. Is that a bad or senseless goal? Not IMHO.

Dr Waldrep’s feedback from comparisons of his Stage and Audience mixes, from customers, from fellow sound engineers and his sound engineering students, is that the Stage Mix is generally preferred. Of course, one can have bad examples, so it’s not a black and white issue. Plus, some people do prefer the Audience Mix. That’s perfectly valid. But the Stage Mix seems well justified, with an overall higher preference and pleasure rating.

OTOH I certainly do agree with you that, when there is video in front of you showing the band/orchestra spread from left to right across a 45 degree arc, and some vocals or instruments are mixed to the sides or back, that is disconcerting and something of an issue. The mix needs to be adjusted to suit that situation (although how wide a screen to assume, haha).

But even with video, let’s look to the (near) future. 3D headsets are already starting to appear. Imagine a concert being videoed with a 360 degree camera on stage, and heard through a Stage Mix while being consumed on a 3D headset… a really good one, better than what we have today. The video and sound are consistent again, and potentially, a next-level experience. The Stage Mix has a future, even in concert (pun) with video.

There is also our psychoacoustic conditioning to consider. Toole has written on this point. Most of us have been conditioned by our 2-channel lives to adapt to its limitations, and to, at first, have a negative reaction to having those limitations exceeded by multichannel when used for anything other than ambience. But, if we persevere a bit with multichannel eg stage mix, then after a while our conditioning relaxes and we can experience multichannel unencumbered. He relates how he was there when this exact issue arose when stereo recordings first appeared: the audience were all conditioned to mono recordings, and stereo seemed just plain wrong, and probably even senseless. It took a considerable period, and some people never allowed their mono conditioning to relax. It’s okay if some of us never allow ourselves out of our stereo conditioning, of course, but my most well-intentioned advice would be to persevere and give ourselves a good chance to get past it, because of the potential rewards.

cheers
This is kind of what I was trying to get at which is that it's a new enough technology that it still has to find more acceptance. Every now and then I look at the Quadrophonic Quad site and see several new releases, typically older recordings remixed for multichannel. It seems like there is demand even if it's a minority. I also find that these recordings do not suffer from Loudness wars compression because people are listening to them rather than using them as background.
 

Brian Hall

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1. Multichannel is the perfect excuse for the audio industry to sell us 2.5x as much sh*t, ca-ching! And you're on your own setting it up, which typically results in a predictable setup of 2 speakers and a center right by the TV, and 2 speaker behind the couch, standard fare, and if you sit close to any of those speakers it will be a ridiculously poor listening experience (especially the ones close to you when you sit on the side of the couch).

It isn't that bad. Most AVRs come with a microphone that you place in your normal listening spot. It then sends audio out each speaker, one at a time including the subwoofer. The AVR then knows how far away each speaker is from your listening spot and then adjusts itself automatically.

You have the option of making manual adjustments, but it works pretty well. Very simple.
 

Left

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Movie trope: sultry cabaret songstress leaves the stage and slinks over to flustered patron. Kneels before him, loosens his tie and sings in his ear.

That could be nice.
 

Kal Rubinson

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Movie trope: sultry cabaret songstress leaves the stage and slinks over to flustered patron. Kneels before him, loosens his tie and sings in his ear.

That could be nice.
Proximity is the next frontier.
 

MattHooper

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I don't have anything strictly against imaginative mixes for surround, even for orchestral. I've never been a purist with regard to micing perspectives, and in fact often enjoy a hyper-close dramatic presentation of orchestral instruments and sections (probably because I also enjoy soundtracks so much, and this was typical for Bernard Herrmann recordings among others). So an up close perspective could be fun. As to being surrounded by the orchestral instruments, I admit the idea feels intuitively odd, like the strings in front of me, horns behind me? Even if you are the conductor you don't have instruments to the rear. I'd be open to anything, but I'd have to hear it and decide.

As it happens I haven't heard such bold surround recordings of an orchestra. And thus far my goal, very often, is to have the sensation of listening to a symphony somewhat like it would be in the hall, which means in front of me spread out. (Even closely mic'd recordings usually adopt something like this spread). And thus far my 2 channel system has given me the most realistic sensation of hearing through a hall to a real orchestra, vs my surround system (which can be really, really good too).
 

Down South

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In the 60s' and 70s' I listened to lots of great music played in 'bedsits'. For every musician that get's 'well known' there are a hundred just as good that don't. That's as real as hearing music gets. I went to the first Knebworth, got to see Bob Marley at the Ahoy Halle in Rotterdam 1980. Went to Rolling Stones second gig. Heard how good the sound is at the Concertebouw in A'dam. Got to hear Reggae in it's heyday, week after week at the Top Rank in Brighton. I listen frequently to concerts at the world's best concert halls and Jazz from the 60s' onwards at Jazz festivals via Intermezzo and Stingray. Brilliant buskers in different countries. Got to listen to some superb Jazz in the 'Vacuum Cleaner cafe' in Rotterdam over 9 Sundays in the winter 79/80 sitting just a couple of metres from the 4 Dutch guys playing, one was a friend, that really was as real and personal as it gets. Heard Flamenca played by Andalucians waiting for the night train at the Spanish/French border going to work in northern Europe and I've heard the best professional Flamenca - I know which was more real.

Then there's 'immersive music' - never heard anything using this method. Have to accept that today virtually all music comes with video., mostly though, turn off the visual and the music is crap. I have an idea that this immersive music would be great to listen to through h/phones but not a real experience. I use h/phones a lot, it's convenient, I don't have to go anywhere but it's not real.

Isn't this a reflection of modern life today - OK 2 channel is manufactured, just less manufactured than 'multichannel'. Nowadays punters cough up $200 + to be part of a vast crowd. Glastonbury began with hippies/freaks and ordinary people who didn't need to pay plenty, they just went for the music. Now it's the well heeled who go so they can say 'I've done Glastonbury'. Once you could listen to musicians who played because they loved playing music or you paid £2 to go to a gig. Just like everything else music has become monetised. Taylor Swift is a billionaire - question would she still play if she only got to live life like an ordinary person because she loved making music?

For me there is nothing to compare to being close to live music, arena music just doesn't do it for me I'd rather stay at home and listen to my 2 channel music, or chance upon a really good busker playing for free or small change. I think that your either pre or post 1984 - Orwell got it right. So did Huxley, I get to choose for myself, so many are programmed for Brave New World. We live in the electronic age but we can still listen to un-amplified music straight as it comes. Is one better than another, certainly different - take your pick.
 

Justdafactsmaam

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The argument for the Stage Mix goes like this: if you were in the audience at a live performance, and the band or the conductor pointed at you and invited you up onto the stage in the midst of the band or orchestra, you would probably have the musical experience of your life! (Let’s discount the deafening rock music issue, and assume sound levels were not excessive. Maybe an acoustic performance, haha.)

Of course you would. Not because of the sound but because you’d be hangin with the conductor having a once in a lifetime VIP experience.

Have you ever sat first row at an orchestral classical concert? Ya know about 10 feet behind the conductor? Not a great seat to hear an orchestral performance.
You would probably remember the sheer immersion of it as the most awesome sonic experience ever.
Each individual will have their own personal reactions. Unique experiences good or bad tend to be memorable. But there are very good reasons why in good to great concert halls sitting center hall is considered prime seating while front row isn’t.

Well, sound engineers are saying “you can have that”. Is that a bad or senseless goal? Not IMHO.
For me it would be. But I am not opposed to options.

There is also our psychoacoustic conditioning to consider. Toole has written on this point. Most of us have been conditioned by our 2-channel lives to adapt to its limitations, and to, at first, have a negative reaction to having those limitations exceeded by multichannel when used for anything other than ambience.

And what about frequent concert goers who have the same exact response?

But, if we persevere a bit with multichannel eg stage mix, then after a while our conditioning relaxes and we can experience multichannel unencumbered. He relates how he was there when this exact issue arose when stereo recordings first appeared: the audience were all conditioned to mono recordings, and stereo seemed just plain wrong, and probably even senseless.
For a few. Stereo took over overnight for most live acoustic music playback and is preferred by the vast majority who have experienced it done right. Unlike multichannel the experience of a properly set up two channel stereo is actually quite rare even today with the general public.

It took a considerable period, and some people never allowed their mono conditioning to relax.
Stereo was introduced in what? 1954 to the public? From 1956 forward it was THE way classical music was recorded and released with mono being mixed after the fact and sold in the minority to those who had not invested in stereo yet. This is clearly true for all the major classical labels. classical music mono was dead by 1960.

It’s okay if some of us never allow ourselves out of our stereo conditioning, of course, but my most well-intentioned advice would be to persevere and give ourselves a good chance to get past it, because of the potential rewards.

cheers
Given the option I would never sit in the orchestra for a concert. But, like I said, I am not against options.
 

Kal Rubinson

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It’s already here in 2 channel stereo. And weren’t you the one criticizing that asking why would anyone want such close proximity imaging? What’s the use of it?
Perhaps I should have added a smiley but, upon reflection, probably not. Near-field listening is not the illusion of proximity within a larger soundfield.
 

krabapple

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I think my posting history shows that I am extremely open minded and never ever judge others' preferences.

That said, I have never once experienced a multichannel setup that blew me away. I suspect 2 reasons may lay behind it:

1. Multichannel is the perfect excuse for the audio industry to sell us 2.5x as much sh*t, ca-ching! And you're on your own setting it up, which typically results in a predictable setup of 2 speakers and a center right by the TV, and 2 speaker behind the couch, standard fare, and if you sit close to any of those speakers it will be a ridiculously poor listening experience (especially the ones close to you when you sit on the side of the couch).

So, you heard it under suboptimal conditions.

Not all of use are constrained to sit too close to any given speaker. And speaker distance controls exist too.


2. If setting up 2 speakers and a sub is as hard as we know... I have little confidence in setting up a balanced multichannel system. If any of you lives in the Bay Area and think your setup may persuade me otherwise, I can guarantee I am fun company and I can bring a good bottle of Barolo. Genuinely curious.

Balancing the 5 speakers is child's play with a modern AVR. Integrating subs is always the bigger challenge.

I live on the other coast, though, sorry!
 

Justdafactsmaam

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Perhaps I should have added a smiley but, upon reflection, probably not. Near-field listening is not the illusion of proximity within a larger soundfield.
Sound field is unlimited. Yeah, you can hear whispering right in your ear. You can also hear crickets in the fields hundreds of feet away, dogs barking a couple houses down and the marching band down the street in the distance as they March right by you.
 

krabapple

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The argument that a surround mix is less 'real' than a stereo one is silly for so much of recorded popular music, which is 'built up' in a studio into a simulacrum of a band/artist performing in real time in front of you.

An example:

The band Yes broke through with The Yes Album in 1971, engineered by Eddy Offord. The last track on the album, 'Perpetual Change' has a famous middle section where two bands play opposing riffs against each other: the first is a frantic odd-time figure that starts in the center and moves to the left channel, the other is a stately 7/4 march that comes in gradually on the right and merges into the first.

Though it's stereo, there's nothing much real about it: instruments are really played , but the music is entirely a multi-session, overdubbed, pan-potted mixing board creation. And it sounds amazing.

There are now two Steven Wilson surround remixes of the album. In his first from 2015, he kept Band 1 locked in the front center and brought Band 2 in from the rear. To my ears, raised on the original l mix, this didn't really work, it certainly wasn't an improvement. In the new one, an Atmos mix, he wisely reverts to Eddy Offord's choice. But with a difference: band 1 starts in the center as before, but and takes a counterclockwise stroll around the sound field before settling in to the left channel. Then Band 2 comes in on the right. It's delightful. But again there's nothing 'real' about it. What there is, is a sense of homage to the original mix, and I like that.

In the end the only thing that matters to my ears is whether it sounds 'right' or 'good'. And 'realism' is not always a prime criterion for rightness or goodness, any more than it is for a stereo mix. Things can sound better than real. ;)
 

Axo1989

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A perfect example from the Art world: The crap Jackson Pollock produced. I do not consider it art or even creative. It is something a toddler could easily create. But "Art Experts" tell people it is great art and some people are afraid to disagree. Oh no! Someone may look down on them so they are afraid to say the Emperor forgot to put his clothes on. Most "Art" is a scam.

You inspired me to do a quick bit of reading and refresh my memory. Just as well, in my faulty recollection JP did his work in the 60s but in fact he died in 1956 (a year before my father was born). I suppose he really was ahead of his time. His "big break" was a 1943 commission from Peggy Guggenheim (that surname should ring a bell) for a mural in her (obviously spacious) townhouse:

At the suggestion of her friend and advisor Marcel Duchamp, Pollock painted the work on canvas, rather than the wall, so that it would be portable. After seeing the big mural, the art critic Clement Greenberg wrote: "I took one look at it and I thought, 'Now that's great art,' and I knew Jackson was the greatest painter this country had produced. The catalog introducing his first exhibition described Pollock's talent as "volcanic. It has fire. It is unpredictable. It is undisciplined. It spills out of itself in a mineral prodigality, not yet crystallized."

She later donated the painting to the University of Iowa, where it currently resides. Duchamp gave good advice. Of course, the Pollock example has come up here before, it's an evergreen anti-modern-art trope. You may well see a conspiracy of scam artists, but if your children really can do that stuff then send them on over. I'll buy a big roll of canvas and supply of paint (I'm not as big on discipline as you are). If they can manage sufficient output I'll even do a surround installation and keep old mate happy.
 
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mhardy6647

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The Yes Album's my favorite by that band (FWIW)*.
Yes, some fun "stereo" effects on that album -- like the little guitar "solo" bouncing from channel to channel, and also on Perpetual Change.

Heck, might need to give it a spin. Yes, a literal spin. :)

______________
* Rick Wakeman was not an improvement for those boys :cool: at least as far as I am concerned.
 

Justdafactsmaam

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The argument that a surround mix is less 'real' than a stereo one is silly for so much of recorded popular music, which is 'built up' in a studio into a simulacrum of a band/artist performing in real time in front of you.
Personally I’m in the whatever you like so be it camp. But there is another camp here at ASR that argue against euphonic colorations because it’s not high fi, accuracy is the true goal of high fi and if we accept euphonic colorations it goes from high fi to “anything goes”

How are multichannel remixes not the epitome of “anything goes?” Your example of The Yes Album” is pretty straight forward example of preference without reference or concern for accuracy.

How is this not a classic case of moving goal posts?
 
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