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HUG-1
10-01-2011, 03:16 PM
This thread concerns itself with how previous researchers have set about evaluating loudspeakers. It covers the recognised defects of loudspeakers known as 'coloration', their measured objective characteristics and the design of and results from listening panels. It commences with the historical perspetive of public hifi denonstrations from over fifty years so.

A.S.
11-01-2011, 02:06 PM
Rather than dive into the complexities of the ear, which are not necessarily relevant at this stage because they apply to all listeners regardless of race creed or colour (we assume) I'd like to make an opening statement. It is this ....


Most humans can tolerate an extremely low quality of sound. We know this because during the 78 and medium wave (AM) radio era, despite the serious technical limitations of 78s and AM radio, certain listeners believed that what they heard closely mimicked the live sound.And that was pre-pop music, so those that experienced live sound were very familiar with the concert hall experience (of classical music) and yet, these listeners allowed themselves to believe in the accuracy of reproduced sound when we, by today's perspective, find AM radio of laughably low quality. So the definition of "high fidelity" is not fixed. It varies generation to generation depending upon many factors, and those factors are not immediately obvious. The fidelity baseline cannot be re-set by the public's exposure to the day's best quality reproduction equipment because so few would be able to afford it and therefore actually hear it. It cannot be due to opinion leadership (in the media) because audio magazines are a very small niche in publishing. No, the appreciation of "fidelity" sound seems to be innate, variable with time and exposure and highly personal.

Not a good basis for an industry to move forward satisfying such a vaguely specified consumer preference.

A.S.
11-01-2011, 08:41 PM
Thanks to the general archives of the late Raymond Cooke OBE that his widow passed to me and are incorporated into mine, I am able to illustrate my point about the shifting sands that define "high fidelity" from generation to generation. It's interesting to step back to the mid 1950s to a leaflet "The pursuit of High Fidelity" issued by EMI who were a major force in recording, audio equipment manufacture and record production.

To quote the leaflet ....'No longer is it [high fidelity] a mysterious cult practised only by the technically initiated ...'. EMI set about defining high fidelity from a perspective of engineers and consumers fifty years ago. Do we recognise their definition, and presumably the definition the public then accepted, today? It's interesting to see the term monitoring loudspeaker in the leaflet, this implying a loudspeaker of particular ability, special, a professional tool rather than one which might satisfy the home listener.

With the the pursuit of really high fidelity sound being a very small minority interest by today's public, next I'd like to show you just how strong the appetite was amongst the ordinary (middle class) public was half a century ago, a few years before the first stereo recording was released. Today, with attendance at western hifi shows in marked decline, can you believe that public demonstrations of high fidelity mono sound held by equipment manufacturers in live-v-reproduced performances could easily fill the largest theatres to capacity and beyond - upwards of three thousand curious listeners, seated, all eyes and ears on the stage. Believe it!

P.S. EMI brochure page corrected and new improved JPEG2000 image quality.

A.S.
12-01-2011, 10:24 AM
Attached I have scanned two reports of the public hifi on-stage demonstration given by Gilbert Briggs (of Wharfedale fame), ably assisted on-stage by R.E. Cooke (KEF) and Peter Walker (QUAD). Interesting how these three competitors were able to cooperate in public.

The sheer audacity of taking-on such a logistical challenge of filling a public hall with reproduced sound and introducing real live instruments to permit the public to make an A-B comparison must have been a logistical nightmare. Would such a demonstration be undertaken even today in the digital era, when the recording chain is virtually perfect (even if the loudspeakers aren't)? And if not, why not? Has fidelity progressed or not? Or is the issue something to do with public expectations?

I have a few more write-ups covering these public demonstrations from Raymond's archive, but as I often find with these older more accessible papers, a few re-readings uncovers a wealth of interesting comments and observations, each one of which could be an entire discussion here. There are certainly several golden lines in these papers. Note Peter Walker's comment on page 1 about 'chromium-plated larger than life hi-fi'. Having read the report, can you analyse just how the stage management conspired - as the presenters probably well knew - to give an outcome which both entertained, thrilled and simultaneously deceived the public?

The demonstration in question was performed exactly two weeks before my birthday.

A.S.
13-01-2011, 06:40 PM
An even deeper trawl of my archives (again, the section bequeathed by Raymond E. Cooke of KEF) takes us to the public demonstrations of loudspeakers in 1954.

"... Mr. Briggs quickly cut through the undergrowth of "hi fi" to get at the roots of good sound reproduction ....". Do we agree with that full quote?

Also interesting to see the use of 'neon lamps arranged to strike in ascending order as the power increased from 3 to 60W...'. 60W to fill a theatre - doesn't that put into perspective the simply lunatic amount of power claimed to be necessary in an ordinary domestic room.

Incidentally, now that we have standardised on Acrobat 9 for PDF creation, I have been able to strike a better balance between file size and image resolution. Even so, this PDF is about 1MB - the original scanned documents were over 6MB.

A.S.
13-01-2011, 06:42 PM
At about the same time as Briggs was filling halls in the UK with his loudspeaker demonstrations, our American cousins were enjoying the same show, but on an even larger scale. Attached is Brigg's Wharfedale loudspeaker travelling show at the Carnegie Hall in 1955. Interesting reading.

Anyway, the point I have wanted to make across these posts is that the public demonstration of hifi is not a new idea, and you'll have read for yourself that even with the crude equipment and loudspeakers of half a century ago, either the public willingly allowed themselves to be duped, or they truly couldn't hear the difference between live and reproduced sound. Or maybe both. Or that's how it seems on the face of it. But we can apply what we now know about how the ear works to untangle the euphoria and arrive at a much more objective assessment of those demonstrations. A couple of clues .... programme selection, distance and acoustics.

I've done my bit ... over to you. Thread opened. I'm going to take a back seat and watch the discussion but please keep on-topic. We are discussing loudspeaker evaluation, nothing else. And there are many nuggets to be teased out of the papers I've provided that really should be fully explored before contributing other data. In fact, there is enough in just those papers from the 1950s to write a thesis on the subject of speaker evaluation! Beware! This thread is Moderated!

P.S. CLUE!! One tell-tale comment in the Briggs-at-Liverpool PDF (a few posts ago) I fervently disagree with - you may be able to find a post I made a year or two ago about a listening panel that I sat in on, and which inspired me to purchased a speaker I'd listened to, on the way home, only to be disappointed.

STHLS5
14-01-2011, 03:54 PM
The papers presented in this topic is surely causing some discomfort to our long held believe by so called audiophiles ( mostly from non technical background) about sound reproduction. A few examples:-

1) 30 and 60Watts amplifiers were more than adequate to fill a 3000 capacity hall! Just how efficient were these speakers?

2) Audience couldn't tell the difference between recorded sound and live performance!

3) Two speakers arranged side by side..and they say you shouldn't do that because of comb effect. Well... 3000 people didn't notice that!

4) Curiously, the writer prefers colouration because it gave him warmth..

What is really bugging me right now is if the original recording were recorded in a hall with 1.5 second reverberation time, then how come the audience couldn't tell the difference when the recording was played in another 1.5 second RT hall?

I have read the articles several times but still unable to say if the said articles talked about recorded sound or the monitoring loudspeaker characteristics?
ST

Pluto
14-01-2011, 10:37 PM
I noticed a fantastic statement by Walter Beaver in the 'Briggs at Liverpool' piece:


I have a rooted objection to stereophony and a conviction that it is not, and never can be, a successful medium for domestic sound reproductionThat just about wraps it up for stereo then!

EricW
14-01-2011, 11:55 PM
One thing that's noteworthy about these demonstrations is that they take place in extremely large spaces, far far larger than any domestic listening environment would possibly be. They also involved equipment which, however crude by modern standards, which I assume would be vastly more powerful and sophisticated than any home equipment available at the time.

Two things follow from this (actually probably more than two, but two is what occurs to me at the moment):

1. The acoustic space is nothing at all like the domestic acoustic space.

2. The reproduction equipment is nothing at all like domestic reproduction equipment.

The consequence would be (I would think) that the average listener would have had no frame of reference for what he/she was hearing, no way to compare the reproduced sound in the hall to the more familiar reproduced sound of domestic hi fi of the day. Lacking that frame of reference, I can understand that making the "reproduced v. live" distinction would have seemed very difficult, almost impossible. Though I imagine that more sophisticated listeners (e.g. the demonstrators) would easily have been able to do so.

Pluto
15-01-2011, 01:34 PM
What is really bugging me right now is if the original recording were recorded in a hall with 1.5 second reverberation time, then how come the audience couldn't tell the difference when the recording was played in another 1.5 second RT hall?
It does say


The oboe and violin solos were specially recorded in the studios of Hollick and Taylor, Birmingham, and the acoustics of the hall enabled very close matching between live and recorded to be achievedHollick and Taylor were (are) quite a small company with fairly modest studios compared to the London behemoths. Although the RT of their studio may well have been 1.5 seconds, it would nonetheless have been a far smaller room than the hall used for playback, with very different reverberation characteristics.

The standard for reverberation time measurement is called RT60, which is the time taken from interruption of the sound source until the residual reverberation has dropped to 60dB below the level of the original sound.

With any recording, the subjective amount of reverberation on that recording is broadly dependent on the proximity of the microphone to the sound source. If the microphone is close enough to the source, the recording will be as near "dead" as makes no difference. Placement of microphones for optimum results is probably the single most important aspect of the art of recording.

HUG-1
16-01-2011, 01:56 AM
Interesting isn't it how the careful scrutiny of just one reported fact from a 50+ year old paper can yield a whole sub-plot.

EricW
16-01-2011, 10:23 AM
I've thought about this some more.

It seems to me that hall reverb alone can't explain the inability to distinguish between live and recorded sound, since in the test it's common to both. But I wonder if it's having the effect of masking the noise that would otherwise be apparent in the recorded sound.

What I mean is this. Both live and recorded sound are going through the same loudspeakers and amplifiers, so the sonic contribution of both is neutral: whatever distortion and noise these add is added equally to the live and the tape feeds. Same with the room reverb. What should be distinctive, however, is the tape noise from the reproduced feed - unless that noise is being masked and hidden by a greater "noise", however subjectively sonically benign. Doesn't that have to be the sound of the hall itself, that is hiding the tape hiss and other artefacts of reproduction?

STHLS5
16-01-2011, 10:52 AM
......Although the RT of their studio may well have been 1.5 seconds, it would nonetheless have been a far smaller room than the hall used for playback, with very different reverberation characteristic....]

Almost all recording studios RT is between 1.2 to 1.5 second. Let's leave aside the fact 3000 or more so accepted the recording sound to be as good as live recording for now and focus one what character of loudspeakers that professionals look for.

The articles talked about recording and adjusting the microphones to have a flat frequency response as possible. If my reading is correct, the speakers had limited high frequencies, and also the lows. Except where at one stage they used a special speaker to emphasize the highs.

On another note, at one point where the writer indicated about playback in small room where, I quote " one can get away with murder..." seemed to be incorrect. Isn't a bad recording is more revealing in a dead room than one like the hall here with 1 second RT?

ST

{Moderator's comment: I think that the 'murder in small rooms' may have been the very comment that Alan strongly disagreed with .... strongly suggest that you hunt for the clues he has already given you in his old posts here .........}

Pluto
16-01-2011, 07:34 PM
I think that the 'murder in small rooms' may have been the very comment that Alan strongly disagreed with .... strongly suggest that you hunt for the clues he has already given you in his old posts here .........}
I have to say that I did not understand the bit in the article that went...


If you want to sort out the wheat from the chaff in a search for good recordings, the best way is to listen to them in a good concert hall. The reason is a very simple one: you can get away with murder in a small room, but any sort of dirty work is exposed in the concert hallObviously there is no way we can query this claim with the author but, if anything, the converse is true! I wonder if something was accidentally misquoted, mistyped, misheard or simply missed. The relationship between a loudspeaker and the listener is not entirely unlike that of the sound source and microphone, in that the closer you are to the loudspeaker, the more you hear of the loudspeaker (direct sound) while hearing proportionately less of the room (indirect sound).

So unless the author is implying that the typical room of that time was acoustically truly awful (unlikely because there were probably rather more soft furnishings, and other clutter to create sonic diffusion, in many rooms back then than there are today) or that the typical domestic loudspeaker of that era was poor (more likely but non sequitur as I assume the author is talking about Gilbert Briggs' then state-of-the-art speakers, whatever room they are used in).

I short, I really cannot comprehend the "get away with murder in a small room" statement.

audisp
17-01-2011, 10:17 AM
Another view regarding Live-vs-Recorded from Dr. Sean Olive (of Harman International):

http://seanolive.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-live-versus-recorded-listening.html

A.S.
17-01-2011, 01:36 PM
Pluto has picked up on the very point I thought must surely have been misreported. It is my experience that played in a large enough room and/or sufficiently far from the listener just about any speaker claiming to be of high fidelity will sound adequate or even good. That's rather interesting don't you think? It implies that the most advantageous place (for the seller) to demonstrate his speakers is in hall, on a stage, with the audience a considerable distance awaybut the least relevant or useful for the prospective buyer. I'm a little surprised that this point was not siezed on by other contributors as it is both my (and Pluto's) experience but maybe others have not been able to make a comparison of a speaker that sounds good at a hifi show with the same speaker at home, when, as I've mentioned before, the immediate and opposite oppinion have prevailed for me.

Despite contributions which widen the subject and not visible yet, we've hardly scratched the surface of what those 50s show reports contain. If we want to build a solid foundation leading up to modern evaluation issues we absolutely have to squeeze every gramme out of these archive documents. We've found one statement (about small rooms) which we don't agree with. We can advance suggestions as to why from cross-alinking to some observations we've made in the non-DSP room correction thread. But the way I'd personally tackle this now is to note that of the 50s papers, one is clearly an advert (Carnegie Hall), one a write-up by a dealer (an interested party) and one by Briggs himself. All three have a spin. What I would do is run a pen through every statement that wasn't factually provable and see what facts we actually have available. The audience size and the on-stage equipment and personnel are presumably facts: but how much of what else fill the page is factual? Then I'd get a highlighter pen and highlight those facts which were pertinent to the loudspeakers.

If I had Acrobat 9Pro here I could do it for you. Of course, I did this in my head long before I even started this thread - I should have pre-prepared the redacted copies.

kittykat
18-01-2011, 12:40 AM
Some observations of the tests.

1. Choice of Music seemed relatively narrow and selective, at least by current norms

2. Choice of music correlates with the environment ie. a concert hall. Would the result be different if music like pop vocals, drums, small jazz ensemble or electronic music be used instead?

There seems to be 2 parts of these tests which seemed not entirely clear and was confusing to me initially ie.

1. are we testing the perception of the audience?
2.or are we testing how good the sound system is?

If the objective was to test how good a sound system is, wouldn’t there be a better and more scientific way eg. measurement rather then rely on humans? If it was to test hearing perception wouldn’t it be better to do it under (more) controlled circumstances?

A.S.
18-01-2011, 02:41 PM
I agree. As you are discovering, the more you think about those shows, the less satisfactory the reported outcome.

Had you thought about this .....

- likely size of drive units
- when the first tweeters appeared, and whether all/any of these speakers had separate tweeters or midrange drivers (exactly what drivers are in those strange boxes on top of the main cabinets)?
- beaming

to mention just a few.

Alan /Tokyo

Sebastien
18-01-2011, 05:36 PM
...are we testing the perception of the audience?...are we testing how good the sound system is?

...wouldn’t there be a better and more scientific way eg. measurement rather then rely on humans? If it was to test hearing perception wouldn’t it be better to do it under (more) controlled circumstances?

Kittykat's subtitle "...who or what are we really evaluating?" is to consider. I'm surprised that since the begining of the thread, no one suggested a methodology to evaluate speakers, something pragmatic and reliable under many different circumstances, read environments.

On my side, I clearly believe about human's evaluation. Just look Alan. He stated here many times: "I sit in front of the speakers I design and I'm the only judge." Even if there is always a parcel of subjectivity in human, they can have a truly scientific mind. I won't recall you here all the fabulous scientifics that we have in this world. I trust them.

So my point is that to select "what we are really evaluating", do we look for qualitative facts or quantitative facts? Which method do we use? An analysis grid looks like a good starting point. We want something we can rely on everytime we need to.

Maybe Alan can tell us what's his starting point when he evaluates a speakers, Harbeth or not. He's the specialist. I also want to hear you, HUGers. Where do you start your evaluation and how when you sit in front of a pair of speakers and want to appreciated them?

Sebastien

A.S.
18-01-2011, 11:46 PM
Kittykat's subtitle "...who or what are we really evaluating?" is to consider. I'm surprised that since the beginning of the thread, no one suggested a methodology to evaluate speakers, something pragmatic and reliable under many different circumstances, read environments. ...Thanks for the feedback. However, although I sense a great desire to rush ahead and get to an analysis of how we should evaluate speakers/hifi eqpt. today, trust me: we cannot and must not do that until we have unpicked what we are slowly revealing as serious questions about those demonstrations from the 50s.

If we were just studying why a few friends or journalists a lifetime ago had fun in the privacy of their own listening rooms evaluation this or that speaker, we here couldn't care less. Nothing for us to learn. But the fact is that whatever we finally conclude was 'going on' in the mind of the audience or in the skill or the presentation, upwards of 3000 people in jam-packed halls in the UK and USA (and probably elsewhere) were (reportedly) completely overwhelmed by the musicality of (mono) hifi equipment fifty years ago: they couldn't tell the difference between live or reproduced sound. Now that really is astonishing. To me that raises many serious questions which I (we) am (are) keen to attack, for my own satisfaction. Is it really possible that had I also been in the audience I would also have been carried along with the euphoria?

I'm curious about those demonstrations which either fooled the public or misled them. Otherwise, the entire pursuit of stereo, digital audio and technical perfection in the reproduction chain since the 1950s is exposed as a completely unnecessary socio-economic activity. And we as ordinary hifi enthusiasts surely prove in our ordinary listening rooms every time we listen that the last half-century's technical progress certainly hasn't been. Or we are going to make the very same mistakes all over again when judging loudspeakers.

Alan / Tokyo

A.S.
19-01-2011, 02:09 AM
Because we have photographs of the halls used for the demonstrations, we are provided with many clues that may help us understand these remarkable shows. All may not be as it seems.

What struck me initially when I found these reprints was how although the audience were reported as having been (universally) overwhelmed at what they heard - and that may have been true - what is certain is that they were not all hearing the same thing. Setting aside the particulars of their own individual hearing acuity (look at the age of the audience), we do know that loudspeakers are predictably directional. That's to say that we know that there is an optimum 'sweet spot' in the listening room, and that usually corresponds with the listeners ears on or about the 'reference axis' - where the designer would have clamped his measuring microphone and set about optimising the overall integration between bass, mid and high frequencies i.e. woofer and tweeter.

We also know from our own experience that if we listen even a few degrees off-axis, that is, to the side of, up or below that axis, the sound will be different. If we sit far off axis, or taken to an extreme, actually behind the speakers, the top diminishes greatly. So, our judgment of a speaker's sonic performance is critically linked to where we sit relative to it. Plus, of course, the actual design of the speaker, how far apart the various drive units are, how wide and tall the baffle is etc. etc.. We've looked at this off-axis issue before here, and my TechTalk (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/uk/index.php?section=products&page=designersnotebookdetail&id=18) covers exactly this point.

- We should also consider the size of the drive units common in hifi speakers of the 50s. These would have been typically 15" diameter or more, and would have been far more directional or beamy than modern 8" units, and with far less high frequency output especially off axis where the response would have dropped like a stone at even quite low frequencies.

- Had the tweeter been invented and fitted to any of these speakers? If it had, how big a cone (long before domes) would it have had? And we know that the bigger the cone, the more directional so even if a tweeter had been fitted, if it was of a 3 or 4" diameter paper cone, it would have had very weak off-axis output.

We've identified that perhaps only 20% of the audience were in or near the reference axis sweet spot. 80% will have been a little or a lot off axis. And yet, a reportedly euphoric success. How could the audience have been so enthusiastic when, from what we deduce, the majority would have been listening off axis?

We can look at the other pictures later.

Alan / Tokyo

Sebastien
19-01-2011, 03:43 AM
... It is my experience that played in a large enough room and/or sufficiently far from the listener just about any speaker claiming to be of high fidelity will sound adequate or even good. That's rather interesting don't you think? It implies that the most advantageous place (for the seller) to demonstrate his speakers is in hall, on a stage, with the audience a considerable distance awaybut the least relevant or useful for the prospective buyer. I'm a little surprised that this point was not siezed on by other contributors as it is both my (and Pluto's) experience but maybe others have not been able to make a comparison of a speaker that sounds good at a hifi show with the same speaker at home...

There are different places where I can compare speakers or any other components:

1) High-Fidelity show, SSI in Montreal, where most of the speaker's demo are in poor small rooms without any treatments. Some companies, maybe with more money, can afford a larger room but were are not talking about a hall here. Usually, nothing impressive in there because of the inadequate listening conditions;

2) Hi-Fidelity store's demo rooms: some of them are very very impressive. The kind of place where I listen to speakers who impress me the most. The first time I heard a pair of Harbeth was in that kind of room. No WAF in there, no budget limit, all with a great evaluation and treatment of the room;

3) At home or friend's home in a normal listening room. Usually, the result sits in between example 1 and 2 depending of the treatment of the room.

To pursue with the quote above, I realize that I might have experimented for years many situations of "off-axis" listening at live show. Are we accustomed to this and refer to that audio memory while evaluating a speaker?

Again I make my pledge for musicians, they are closer to their instrument and the real "natural" sound they create. That's why there is always for me a huge difference between the drum I play at home and in jam sessions versus the one I hear in my system. I keep in mind that there is also the recording and the mixing processes important here. So many instruments sound live via my system, voices too.

I find those 1950s demonstrations exceptional. Why don't any modern hi-fi show don't do this anymore? Plus, to Alan's opinion it facilitates speaker's sells.

Anyway, on a curious basis, I would really like such a demonstration. In those conditions, you can't say: "My memory recall that this instrument sounds like this or like that..." No, you have it and hear it in front of you, live. You can switch from the recording to the live music in half a second. In my opinion, that is a good objective starting point to assess if a speaker sounds like a real instrument or not with a present memory of live sound.

Sebastien

weaver
19-01-2011, 02:41 PM
May I just ask a quick question, the answer to which may be obvious to everyone else but is puzzling me?

In these demonstrations was the live sound also being played back through the speaker system?

I have read the articles a number of times and in places they refer to switching between live and recorded in a manner which suggests to me that both were going through the amplifiers and speakers, ie what was being compared was the speakers reproduction of a recording and the same speakers reproduction of an instrument being played live.

kittykat
20-01-2011, 12:42 AM
Looking at the photo and how big the room is, I would imagine those speakers would be capable of going insanely loud in a smaller domestic sized room. I’d be interested in knowing how they would perform in a modern sized living room, at socially acceptable sound levels.

A.S.
20-01-2011, 01:35 AM
As there are no mention of microphones in the equipment list, I think we can conclude that where the live performers were introduced, the recorded music would cease, except in the recorded + live organ piece. I guess that there was a system of cue lights. I'm not clear about whether there was an attempt to (virtually) seamlessly stop the replay over the speakers on a particular bar and allow the live performers to start or whether whole pieces were played through, then switched to live.

Did you notice the comment about how the pre-recordings were optimised to the hall and how those same recordings may or may not be suitable for getting the best out of the domestic hifi setup? Back to the thread on damping the listening room for consideration of that.

Ok, so what's next. Well I think we need to at least note that there is a fundamental difference between the loudspeaker on-stage in the hall and in the listening room. What's missing in the hall is the close proximity and sonic contribution of the side walls and the ceiling - the floor is the same in both although if you are seated near the stage, the floor bounce may well be above your head and not audible. But at home, there is no escaping the floor bounce unless, as I showed in the TechTalk, the listener is actually lying on the floor.

We know from the audio examples in the non-DSP room damping thread that early reflections (sidewall, floor, ceiling) have a critical influence on the perceived sound at the sweet spot. On stage, the side walls are far from the speakers and reflections off them whilst measurable may well present a completely different impression to the listener in the hall, if any at all. Certainly, the combination of very large drive units with directional high frequencies will spray far less HF laterally and that combination of narrow HF beaming plus side walls far from the speakers is a completely different situation to the real world domestic listening set-up.

Alan / Tokyo: Stereo Sound Award 2010 ceremony day

Macjager
10-02-2011, 05:57 AM
In reviewing the articles in this thread, especially the "Live Shows" I began to wonder at how live recordings, ie no overdubbing, multi-track recording, sounded as compared to "in the studio work" (orchestra lays down music, singer comes in later with headphones and sings)?

I recently came across a 1961 Frank Sinatra recording with Nelson Riddle arranging and conducting. The description on the cover relates the equipment, personnel and location of the recording: to whit, Westrex 35 MM recorder, 24 RCA 44BX microphones, 8 track, 21 position mixer console, 73 musicians, and 4 sound stages of the MGM studios in Hollywood. The picture on the album cover front and back is of Sinatra, the orchestra, Nelson Riddle and all these microphones on really long arms hanging over the orchestra, yet no "live audience".

In listening to the album there is not a sense of recording in an airport hangar, rather a depth of sound as described by Alan. This concept of full sound and recording studio (or hall) is intriguing and i would like to explore other "live/living" recordings for comparison. Are there others who hear this and on what albums if so?

Cheers

George

{Moderator's comment: one thing to be wary of: do not assume that the publicity photo of the orchestra + mics + hall is the actual set-up used to make the recording. Any album photo is for 'marketing purposes' and not necessarily a legal fact!}

Sebastien
10-02-2011, 02:47 PM
...I find those 1950s demonstrations exceptional. Why don't any modern hi-fi show don't do this anymore?...

A friend of mine told me this week that Stereophile actually do this with some audiophile clubs.

Sebastien

Macjager
12-02-2011, 01:50 AM
Excellent point, from the Mod! I have further explored this idea in regards to this album and have been able to ascertain that the recording was done over three days, and that evidence points to the photo as probably accurate. Notwithstanding photo proof or not, I did hear two song today back to back, one was a live recording of Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, immediately followed by a studio recording of the Black Keys "Brothers". the Booker T song had depth* while the studio album sounded very much lacking. The studio album was very lifeless in comparison, like Alan's examples of recording in a non-reflective space (anoechic chamber) or what the musicians hear in the orchestra pit.

It is truly amazing what one can hear when focusing on music as the primary source of aural stimulus.

Cheers
George

*Depth - my definition of depth means that the sound continues slightly after you first hear it, not an echo, but a pleasant layer that remains for a short period of time as the next note arrives. It does not muddy the sound but seems to enhance it. A song that does not have depth is one where the sound stops almost as soon as it is heard, how you hear things in a space that deadens the sound instantly, ie no echo.

Sorry about the verbage, but when I read a lot of descriptions of music or a particular reproduction medium, (speaker, cable, pre-amp etc), I don't really understand what the author is trying to convey, for example, what exactly does "the speakers had a dark chocolate sound" mean...? Alan's sound clips that describe soundstage are excellent, but it takes a few listenings to understand the differences. This is what I am trying to convey in many words.

hifi_dave
12-02-2011, 10:50 PM
I believe 'depth' refers to the depth of the sound stage, where you have layers of sound. With a small group, you would expect the vocals or soloist to be to the fore and the drum kit way behind. With classical orchestra there should be layers to the orchestra spread out between the speakers.

delgesu
13-02-2011, 10:57 AM
yes, but especially with classical recordings you have a big issue concerning phase incoherency when (extreme) multi-miking was applied. if the mastering does not manage this then the "depth" is lost or artificial. it is not accidentally that some of the very old recordings (for example decca with their "decca tree" technique) give us a very fine flavour of what "depth" on a recording can be.

despite that it is interesting that in live performances of classical music i never had the feeling of things like "depth" as well as "focussed strings" or something like that. especially when attending the "bayreuth wagner festival" the only thing you recognize concerning ""depth etc." is a wall of sound. no focus, no depth, no nothing of the often quoted hifi-terms.

best,
delgesu

kittykat
14-02-2011, 01:15 AM
You’re absolutely right delgesu.

Music has none of this fictional hifi concepts of “depth” etc. Isn’t depth etc. conjured up by the skill of sound engineers and technicians? Stereo is a phantom image after all isn’t it? I’ve read many letters to editors of hifi magazines by poor consumers who complain that they cannot perceive depth in their hifi systems etc. The truth is, there is very little of “this” in most recordings, except the nerdy ones tailored for the hifi equipment fetish-ed and fraternity.

Personally I think these concepts of “image”, “depth” are spun and perpetuated by some retailers (who play recordings with plenty of it during demonstrations) and manufacturers to keep people on the hifi merry go round. Sure there are speakers which can do it better than others, but it’s just the ability to reproduce a “trick”.

delgesu
14-02-2011, 10:46 AM
kittykat,

100% my opinion!

additionally let me tell you that i lately was informed in a german music/hifi magazin by former engineer mr. heinz wildhagen (nearly 60 years engineer/producer for the famous german "deutsche grammophon" label) that ZERO records sound like the real performance at the recording venue (and he mastered/recorded/produced thousands of records). any master tape is mixed, some conductors want to highlight specific instruments or modifications whatsoever.

my conclusion after a lot of years with hifi and even more with music is that it is an illusion trying to recreate the "real location" in my head while listening to hifi. BUT: it is possible to identifiy the "smell" of the real thing concerning colours, timbre and real voices/instrumental sound. that´s it. and in the best case you enjoy this with a nice pair of Harbeths.

best,
delgesu

EricW
14-02-2011, 06:43 PM
I agree with both delgesu and kittykat based on my own experiences at symphonic and other live concerts.

A distinction is often made between the live sound of "real" instruments and recordings which feature electric and electronic instruments. Maybe if we accept that all recordings are "artificial", the apparent dichotomy between the two becomes less important.

A question, however: why is it that a Harbeth sounds "better" even when reproducing a non-acoustic instrument? Because I think it does, but it seems more difficult to explain why.

Gan CK
15-02-2011, 03:21 AM
kittykat,

BUT: it is possible to identifiy the "smell" of the real thing concerning colours, timbre and real voices/instrumental sound. that´s it[/U]. and in the best case you enjoy this with a nice pair of Harbeths.

best,
delgesu

Yes couldn't agree more on that with you Delgesu. Harbeths reproduce the natural colour, tone & timbre of real acoustic instruments & voices extremely well & is the reason why i am still so enamoured with Harbeth after so many years.

Like my buddy always say; you can almost smell the wood of the violin or cello on Harbeth. No other spks can do the above mentioned quite like a Harbeth. Not even electrostatics or Ribbons. But not many people know how to discern the natural colour, tone & timbre of real instruments & these people often say Harbeths are coloured when in actual fact they are simply too used to coloured spks that distort the tonal truth of real instruments.

keithwwk
15-02-2011, 06:59 AM
Soundstaging and depth are both very subjective perceptions. In my observation and experience mixed with many type of audiophiles, different person detect both differently. If a hifi setup being detected with excellent big wide soundstage and depth by person A but person B may detect small narrow soundstaging and no depth from it. This all depend on how a person perceive his feeling from reflect or indirect sound. It is also happen on soundstage height. Same detect soundstage above speaker and some detected soundstage below the speaker in a same hifi setup.

Anyway, above mentioned is no longer bother me. When listen my Harbeth setup, all thing come out so natural, beautifull, always feel I am in a live musical event and totally into the music and nothing else can better than this "live" feeling...bath in music and purified into music....

mr. heinz wildhagen.....i remember his name in my DG album collections. He made plenty of good recordings..

kittykat
15-02-2011, 09:40 AM
A question, however: why is it that a Harbeth sounds "better" even when reproducing a non-acoustic instrument?

In my opinion, electric instruments and modern recordings can be harder to "reproduce" (think its more accurate to say “to listen to”) due to the inherent noise, distortion and loudness. Add further inefficient conversion of electrical energy from amplifier to some speakers equals hurt and pain to the ears. Example...i tried listening to Bryan Ferry’s Olympia (not the best recording) on a pair of mini-monitor speakers (which will remain anonymous) and I just couldn’t continue after 4 tracks. Subconsciously my ear and brain was trying to fend of the attack from the mini monitors, which took all my attention (and enjoyment) away from the music.

I've put it back through the SHL5's now and I can enjoy the coolness of Mr. Ferry.

{Moderator's comment: what your are saying in technical language is 'Harbeth speaker have lower coloration than conventional speakers'. As we all know.}