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Do audiophiles get enough exposure to 'live sound'?

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Summary of pop recording so far ....

Summary of pop recording so far ....

OK, before we move on to a forensic analysis of acoustic music (which we can use as a tool to reveal the latent abilities of our high fidelity systems), are we comfortable with the idea so far?

That is, if the air and atmosphere around musicians is the arbiter of great hifi that we must consider the approach to the recording itself before we chase realistic and achievable dreams of greater realism from any playback system in the studio or at home
 
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STHLS5

Guest
Too advanced?

Too advanced?

I hope I could speak for the non contributors but the two posts above require some understanding and I am still trying to understand your explanation about the nylon strings but just couldn't edit the samples that I have in mind to include in my earlier response. The last two posts are bit too advance for me but I may not be the average representative of your larger audience.

ST
 

HUG-1

Moderator
Appreciate your feedback. It is vital we convey the point Alan is making. Do others need help with this "close-miking-no-ambience" concept? If so please tell us. We have to find a way to explain this core element in hi-fi sound.
 
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STHLS5

Guest
Do music lovers know what is good sound?

Do music lovers know what is good sound?

..
We don't need to know anything at all about music. We don't need to be able to read music (I can't) or play an instrument (I can't). We don't need to know anything about eastern or western musical scales, instruments or tonality. But we must know something about the art of recording, about microphones and recording halls and how they are used to artistic effect.
Many threads followed after this statement to further explain your point about recordings and high-fidelity sound.

My point is you may be judging that many music lovers know what is good sound. We have seen many examples of demonstration based on Western Classical music which I know for a fact in this part of the world many do not have experienced it at all.

I included a short clip of snare drum being played in a loop. Which of the parts the readers think to be a correct representation of snare drums heard in real life?

You must be registered for see medias

ST

{Moderator's comment: But surely Alan is doing his very best to show you by example what he means. What more can he do? What is the problem?}
 

Pluto

New member
Whacking of a drum?

Whacking of a drum?

I included a short clip of snare drum being played in a loop. Which of the parts the readers think to be a correct representation of snare drums heard in real life?
Sorry, but I really don't get what a loop of a snare drum being whacked as hard as possible is supposed to demonstrate or prove.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Sorry, but I really don't get what a loop of a snare drum being whacked as hard as possible is supposed to demonstrate or prove.
Nor do I. This seems like a distraction. But clearly ST thinks that this is most relevant so we must respect that. But personally, I need some more input as to what this clip is supposed to illuminate. It sounds like an electronic drum machine with a fake reverb to me. We could prove that by looking at the waveform in an audio editor.

We have been round this ambience/no ambience loop several times before in what I thought was minute detail. Clearly I am not breaking through. Would you please tell me what it is about my analysis that is indecipherable so I can see if there is a building-block missing. I'm more than happy to fill the gap.

It is impossible - totally and utterly impossible - to have the self confidence and credibility to comment on cables and the like unless the absolute fundamentals of deconstructing recorded sound is firmly in place. The only skill required, as I said earlier, is to make time to listen carefully with a truly open mind again and again and again until you sensitise your ears. That's how I learned about sound and everything I write about here. Simply through careful and curious listening.
 
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STHLS5

Guest
Dry and wet sound apart

Dry and wet sound apart

Thanks for the response. You have just shown that without a reference you are having difficulties in telling a dry and wet sound apart. The point that I wanted to make is if i were to add another short note of a strange instrument such as a didgeridoo (coming soon, if it is ok with Alan?) i wouldnt be surprised if we have users who cannot tell the dry and wet note apart unless I include the the trailing reverb.

But reverbs also change the orginal sound itself.

I have no problem of hearing the reverbs in the previous wet and dry demos. But when I and many failed to recognize the AB samples earlier I think we have to seriously relook our approach. I keep on asking why? And many people who spend their time in cables, speaker stands, spikes and cones should also do the same.

ST
 

EricW

Active member
Western music

Western music

...This seems like a distraction. But clearly ST thinks that this is most relevant so we must respect that. ...

...Would you please tell me what it is about my analysis that is indecipherable so I can see if there is a building-block missing. I'm more than happy to fill the gap.
Actually, I thought your analysis was extremely clear and easy to grasp. It couldn't have been more straightforward.

I'm not sure ST is being entirely serious in his protestation. I notice that he keeps making the same point that many listeners in his part of the world may not be familiar with the sound of live Western classical music. Even if that's true (and I'm not sure the percentage is much lower than it is in Western countries, where it's also not exactly something everyone does), so what? You may use orchestral or classical pieces to illustrate, but the point of the exposition - I take it - is usually to demonstrate something about how a natural sound source (an unampified musical instrument, could be a sitar or an erhu as easily as a violin or a guitar) combines with an acoustic environment in some way. The surface attributes may be "Western" (though again, there are plenty of classical music listeners all over the word), but the scientific essence of the idea is universal.

I suspect that ST is understanding you perfectly well, but is trying to make some other kind of point.

However, I would like to pose a different kind of question. The Bohemian Rhapsody video was brilliant, and you convincingly use it to make the point that one can't judge the ultimate quality of a loudspeaker by using that kind of heavily processed, "unnatural" (though perfectly valid artistically) sound. And yet .... won't even a multi-tracked recording like Bohemian Rhapsody still sound better through a pair of Harbeths than just any old speaker? If so, why is that the case?

{Moderator's comment: and we know that western classical music is taught in China (and many other eastern places) and played to a really high standard there. So there really is no east/west divide on this issue.}
 
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STHLS5

Guest
Bicycle bells

Bicycle bells

Cont/

Let's look at a bicycle's bell. We are very familiar with the sound. How the sound changes in the garage, in the rain, on the street and when you ride in the field.

You have a general idea of a bicycles bell sound and you may have a place where the bell sounds the best. That will be your reference.

Now, let's say a conductor decides to use the bell as part of orchestra performance just like one conductor who used an animal bone, how would one describe the bell sound? That will be a sound that you or I never heard in our childhood. Can we say that should be accurate and natural just because it was played and recorded in the best hall?

Wasn't it in the 50s or 60s when Ravi Shankar the sitarist played in the US for the first time, the sound of sitar was described as screeching sound of a cat. Well, things changed after that but what matters here is the first impression. I have no problem with any kind of music but the very important point I would like to make is we shouldn't learn to recognize the correct sound.

We as Harbeth users instinctively know the natural vocal sound but our (ok, my problem since no one is going to admit) we do not readily know the natural sound of musical instruments. There maybe no such thing. It is is not how natural or correct the instruments sound but how good the music is.

ST
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Snare drum, two takes joined?

Snare drum, two takes joined?

Re: Snare drum

I'd like to look at this more closely. First, what we were presented with is an audio-in-video clip of unknown quality and origin. Retrospectively I think that this was a more sophisticated example than it appeared to be on first play through. I assumed that the alarming glitch at about 5.8 seconds in the sound where both the tempo and pitch change was some video editing malfunction and as a result, I mentally discarded the jump and switched off at the edit point. Now I've actually extracted the audio from the supplied clip - below - it's obvious that this clip is assembled from two 'takes' either intentionally or very poorly joined at about 5.8 seconds. Examination of the waveform shows how obvious the transition is: see attached.

Am I reading too much into this clip? Was the intention to convey something different in the acoustic of the front and back edits? But what can be meaningfully deduced from what are, judging by tempo/pitch alone, two different recordings possibly made months apart in different studios? I'm really baffled.

>
 
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A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
What is 'high-fidelity' all about if not realism?

What is 'high-fidelity' all about if not realism?

... I have no problem with any kind of music but the very important point I would like to make is we shouldn't learn to recognize the correct sound.

We as Harbeth users instinctively know the natural vocal sound but our we do not readily know the natural sound of musical instruments. There maybe no such thing. It is is not how natural or correct the instruments sound but how good the music is...
I profoundly disagree with you from the bottom of my soul. To indulge in the high-fidelity game and then (collectively) to pontificate about audio minutia it is not good enough to say that there are no natural or correct sounds and to solely indulge in the romance or emotion of the tune and experience. That's the fast track to audio hell, via ever more compression, more EQ and coloration and smaller, nastier audio equipment. You cannot mean what you have written because if you truly believe that, you have wasted your money buying quality audio equipment. You could have reached the same level of satisfaction with a mini supermarket hifi system - surely?

Just because you (or I) are not familiar with the live sound of some obscure instrument, there is no excuse whatsoever for not turning off the hifi, putting on a clean shirt and actually going out and finding someone playing a conventional instrument in public. Combine it with a drink in the lounge bar of many better hotels where you will be entertained by a pianist or violinist for free every night of the week.

So what do you really mean?
 

EricW

Active member
Even accurate voice reproduction is not easy

Even accurate voice reproduction is not easy

Also, even the accurate reproduction of voice is a big achievement, as I've discovered.

I have two pairs of speakers, one Harbeth, one not (purchased pre-enlightenment).

When I bought my P3ESRs, I naturally put them in my study which is also my listening room, for serious music listening, and moved the other speakers (well-regarded, well-reviewed, not cheap) out into the leaving room next to the TV, for AV use and more casual music listening (background music when having people over for dinner, for example).

I've since switched and put the Harbeths in the living room. Here's why. Although the other speakers are enjoyable for music listening, I found that I was struggling to hear the dialogue clearly in movies or TV shows: there was always a strange, phasey coloration right in the vocal band that seemed to affect intelligibility. Turning up the volume (my first response) didn't really help. At first, I put it down to poorly-recorded sound, compression on the DVD, whatever.

But then I thought (prior to playing a film that had dialogue I'd actually want to hear) hang on, let's try the Harbeths in the living room. Bingo! Suddenly voices are perfectly clear, sound exactly like voices, and are clear and intelligible even at low volume levels. I can relax and enjoy the film or show, without strain. Very nice.

So don't discount the important of even just making the voice sound right. It makes a profound difference.
 
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STHLS5

Guest
The trailing reverberation after the note

The trailing reverberation after the note

Rather straight-forward samples retrieved from recording made using a Crown SASS-P stereo PZM microphone. Snare drum dry here and wet of Trinity Church here. It was edited to snip away the trailing reverbs. The point I was making, that without the trailing reverbs one cannot be certain of which sound supposedly be the true representation of the recorded sound of real instruments more so if you do not know the real sound.

So how are we to know the real good natural sound of instruments? I emphasize instruments NOT vocals. Recognizing the natural voice in recordings comes naturally. I need not have any orchestra hall recording to know that unlike instruments.

Long time ago Alan made a remark about an edit in the Take Five recording where the surroundings changed. He expressed his surprise than no one actually picked it up. Shouldn't we be asking why? Were we too drowned in the music and stop being critical? Or should we as ordinary music lovers noticed that? What level of alertness is required in us while we are supposedly be enjoying the music?

I think I have caused enough distraction for today. Hopefully, others would step forward and critically *look at these issues. Thanks Mod for tolerating me this time.

ST
 
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A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
... The point I was making, that without the trailing reverbs one cannot be certain of which sound supposedly be the true representation of the recorded sound of real instruments more so if you do not know the real sound....
OK I went out for a walk with the family to the local giant scone tea room (refreshes the parts other scones cannot) and mulled over where we are at and where the sticking points may be. I think we are slightly at cross purposes, and the gap between us has actually been long standing despite various audio clips and explanations I've given over the years.

What it boils down to is this:

We all know that a supermarket audio system and a quality audio system (let's call it a high-end system - just to differentiate it) fundamentally do the same job but at perhaps a 1:100 price range. They both generate sound waves from a recording, modulate our ear drums and provide a sensation in our brains. Even the most hard bitten audiophile can sometimes have an enjoyable musical experience with a portable radio (I can), or in his car. If we are totally honest we know that our partners can get at least - perhaps more - pleasure from music over these low-fi sources than we can, despite limited bass, colored middle and distorted top.

We also know that if we stumble across second hand audio equipment from twenty, thirty even fifty years ago that we can be shocked how enjoyable a sound they make for a very small investment. We also know that if we dust-down some BBC monitor speakers from the 1960s or 70s that they can (under optimum conditions) give us 80% of the performance of today's BBC-derived monitors, such as ours. So why are we even in business? Why didn't the development clock stop in 1975? Why did we even lift one little finger to start on the development of the RADIAL cone project? Why indeed.

The answer has to do with addressing that 20% performance shortfall, and the first step has to be that someone with time, energy and resources to invest recognises some sonic limitation in the existing loudspeaker technology, a temporary performance ceiling which could - and should - be investigated. How do they arrive at this conclusion when there is a plethora of conventional loudspeakers available, all of which have found a market position and hence satisfy particular consumers. Unless they are motivated by, and have the pockets to fund blue-sky research regardless of commercial success (we don't) they must be able to actually hear the limitation of the conventional technology and be able to translate that into hard, factual, comparative technical data that can drive a science based R&D project (we did).

As I said before, I cannot read music, and I do not play an instrument. Nor do I regularly attend live concerts. So what gives me the right to judge this or that sound? Do I have some unique sonic acuity? No, I absolutely do not have special hearing. I know this because when I talk with recording engineers and others who listen to the micro tones in music, we share a common experience. I also know that when talking to senior audio people (in Japan for example) they are completely and utterly in step with what I hear; astonishingly intuitive and insightful at a deep, humbling philosophical level. When I hear live music it just reinforces and refreshes my audio memory of how instruments sound.

I said that the performance of 70s BBC speakers speakers reached a high performance plateau which is remarkably good. I know this because I have many of these speakers to hand in the R&D centre and they give you a sharp reality check with how little real engineering progress there has been in thirty + years. But what can't they do that the best contemporary BBC-style monitor can do? Is it to do with bass quality or extension? A little. Or power handling? Also a little. Or the top end? Perhaps. Distortion? Also a little. What then? The real performance that 35 years of development evidences is not immediately obvious until your audio palate is sufficiently sensitive: it's to do with a reduction in coloration between the notes ..... not on the note, between the notes. And that means revealing more detail in the 'reverberation tail' after the note leaves the instrument and hits the microphone and the reverberant echo that follows the note, bouncing off the walls. And that exceptionally small sonic detail improvement is what a generation of loudspeaker development can offer in the best examples of the BBC monitor today. In short, the macro development of BBC monitor speakers was perfected 30+ years ago; since then it's been micro development.

It is, in my opinion, crucial for you to have the skills to identify and justify to yourself whether you should be investing your hard-earned cash in Harbeth speakers (as opposed to buying any other perhaps cheaper conventional speakers) and that is why it's so important to be able to identify the sonic signature of the cone. And the first step is to be able to identify in your mind, solely by listening, what a dry and wet acoustic space sound like around performer because it is in that gossamer-like region that all the differences exist.

Note: you do not have to know how the instrument sounds in real life as you suggest, although it helps fix the tonal colour of the instrument in your mind. What you have to be able to do is listen to, at, in and through the ambient halo that follow the notes. That is where 30+ years of technological progress is to be found. Once identified you will recognise its shape and nature forever.

Make sense? I just do not know what more I can bring to the table on this one.

Continued on post #44
 

Macjager

New member
Thanks

Thanks

Thanks Alan
Brings a lot of clarity to the discussion, and also has sent me off looking for more information on recording and how best to record my guitar based songs.

Cheers

George
 

Pluto

New member
Demonstration of what point?

Demonstration of what point?

Rather straight-forward samples retrieved from recording made using a Crown SASS-P stereo PZM microphone. Snare drum dry here and wet of Trinity Church here. It was edited to snip away the trailing reverbs.
If your intention was to demonstrate the reverberant characteristics of two different venues, I'm not at all sure that this close a recording of the direct sound has any chance of making that point. How far from the drum was the mic positioned?

Likewise, a snare drum seems an odd choice because the rattle of the snare could easily "drown" residual reverberation. A sharp sounding percussion instrument such as wood block or temple block might have been a better choice, accompanied by the question, "which of these sequences was recorded in a church, and which in a dry room?"
 
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STHLS5

Guest
First half dry and the second half wet.

First half dry and the second half wet.

..Likewise, a snare drum seems an odd choice because the rattle of the snare could easily "drown" residual reverberation. A sharp sounding percussion instrument such as wood block or temple block might have been a better choice, accompanied by the question, "which of these sequences was recorded in a church, and which in a dry room?"
The first half was dry and the second wet. Each impulse was 0.423s and played perfectly well till it went to youtube (or maybe, the window movie maker?). The increase of tempo was unintentional and was due to bug.

Thanks for the attention.

ST
 
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STHLS5

Guest
"Not on the note, between the notes" and Lady Gaga

"Not on the note, between the notes" and Lady Gaga

.... it's to do with a reduction in coloration between the notes ..... not on the note, between the notes[/COLOR]. And that means revealing more detail in the 'reverberation tail' after the note leaves the instrument and hits the microphone and the reverberant echo that follows the note, bouncing off the walls....
"Not on the note, between the notes.". This is what I have been waiting to hear. Finally, a definitive point where to listen for colouration. If you were to ask the same question like what is natural sound or open sound, I am sure of the response from the majority of audiophiles will be different because colouration carries a different meaning to "us."

I know the word "dynamics" means a different thing to many. Many wrongly think it alludes to the speed of a system or speakers.

Make sense? I just do not know what more I can bring to the table on this one.
You are doing it perfectly. The thread in Sound of musical instruments was an enlightened. I have searched the net over an over to find just one example of explanation of sound as deep and illustriousness like yours but found none so far.

I was just pointing out what seems to be plain and obvious to you may not have been fully understood by "us" which could be due to not getting the good grasp of the terminologies used or simply having a preconceived idea of what's smooth and natural sound is.

The video example of Queen - The Making of Bohemian Rhapsody shows an excellent acoustics in the room but in the Lady Gaga's producer reveals his secrets video we can hear echos in the room. Listen at 1.17 to 1.23. If RedOne is going to use the acoustics of the room to master Lady Gaga's tracks then I cannot expect the Cd to sound the same in my echoless and slightly dead room. I was saying in this context when I said "There maybe no such thing. It is is not how natural or correct the instruments sound but how good the music is". But musically, it may be a big seller.

ST
 
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STHLS5

Guest
.........., accompanied by the question, "which of these sequences was recorded in a church, and which in a dry room?"
That wasn't my intention. I wanted to know which of the parts represented the real sound to you. Better still which one is liked better.

ST
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
What is 'factor x'?

What is 'factor x'?

"Not on the note, between the notes.". This is what I have been waiting to hear. Finally, a definitive point where to listen for colouration. If you were to ask the same question like what is natural sound or open sound, I am sure of the response from the majority of audiophiles will be different because colouration carries a different meaning to "us." ...
You have introduce the word 'coloration' to describe some changed quality between the notes. I wouldn't have jumped to that conclusion quite yet. That's a really big step. I hesitate to say coloration because, as a general approximation, coloration is often used to describe the addition of some (unwanted) tonality to the underlying sound. If you cup your hands around your mouth and talk to a wall, you will hear an additive peakiness to your voice which many would describe as coloration. But it's much more difficult to imagine mechanically removing a sound from your voice (other than electronically by processing your voice in a computer), yet technically, that would still be a coloration of your voice, but a negative one. Let's wind back a bit.

It occurred to me in the middle of a sleepless night going over and over how to move this forward, I have these point to make. First, perhaps more accurately I should say not literally 'between the notes' but between the pauses - be they phrases, trills or whatever. But the concept is still valid: it's something to do with that brief moment between the pianist lifting his finger off the key, the energy input into the instrument ceasing, and then hitting the (same) note again. OK?

  1. Let's forget about the sonic quality of the note ...
  2. because even a cheap supermarket hifi speaker can reproduce the note (adequately well that the tune is recognisable)
  3. ... and let's assume that there isn't gross coloration issues ...
  4. such as obvious ringing or peakiness (can you imagine those in your head? - like the cupping of your mouth, above) ...
  5. that would give undue emphasis to certain notes in the music ....
  6. .... let's even forget entirely about quality speakers and concentrate our attention on completely standard, low-fi speakers that would be included in an all-in-one mini hifi system ....
  7. We've just said that they can reproduce all the essential notes in music so that we can perfectly follow the tune ....
  8. and ignoring the fact that their little cones and cheap boxes cannot produce deep bass or play loud ...
  9. or the very highest harmonics on the cheap tweeters ....
  10. assuming all of these prerequisites of adequate performance ....
  11. in what area of performance are they going to be outclassed by a great speaker such as one with a RADIAL cone?
Now, you mentioned 'coloration', but in my list above I've said that we should assume that even a cheap low-fi system these days (with wooden box speakers) is not grossly colored. So why pay more? What performance edge is spending 10-100 times more bringing?

As we said, the issue is not the reproduction of the note. The low-end speakers can replay the note as well as the fancy speakers. 440Hz is 440Hz. C sharp is still C sharp. No ambiguity about what note is being played.

That leaves two possibilities as I see it: The fancy speaker must be revealing something in the sound either before and/or after the note has been generated and ceased. And what is that 'factor x'? Is it an additive effect or a negative one. Is the fancy speaker giving us more or less than the adequately good cheap one in this inter-note gap?

That is a nutshell is the entire situation.
 
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