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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. We regret that but we are unable to accept Posts that present what we consider to be free advertising for products that Harbeth does not make.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Do audiophiles get enough exposure to 'live sound'?

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  • #16
    Some like a more 'open sound'

    Interesting information about the contact microphone, yet many guitar players who record prefer that their guitar be hooked to an amp and then have the amp mic'd so that the more open sound goes to the mixing board.

    Many artists like to have their guitar mic'd on stage, the same way so that the sound engineer can blend the sound with the rest of the music. It is only after getting involved in home recording (still not ready for prime time) and doing much research that I learned much about the various recording techniques.
    Many recordings are done one insturment at a time, (the rest of the band does not even have to be there, thus the isolation, even with a mic'd amp, you can have the onenene ratio as noted). Also probably why many artists sound different while live vs "memorex"

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    • #17
      Some speakers inherently colored

      Thank you Alan. You have explained very well how you approached the Harbeth designs and how we should judge the sound. Btw, the "here and here" is without a link.

      Some speakers are inherently coloured that it deprives listeners of appreciating the minuscule difference in the vocals. I have often heard remarks from my friends that some of the vocals in the recording that they are familiar with do not sound right to them.

      One example was when I played a CD of Ella Fitzgerald the listener couldn't identify the singer. After he confirmed that he has the same CD, I switched few other tracks and in some he could readily recognizes Fitzgerald.

      I have noticed the vocals sounded different from one track to another in my Harbeth but in the non Harbeth system it is somehow have a unique sound signature that it masks whatever difference that you may have despite one track could be a recording of her voice in her younger days. An acoustically clean room amplifies the difference more.

      ST

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      • #18
        Accountants hate 'air' and 'space'

        Originally posted by Macjager View Post
        ... yet many guitar players who record prefer that their guitar be hooked to an amp and then have the amp mic'd so that the more open sound goes to the mixing board....
        Two points here ...

        1. Whatever the artist may prefer about creating some acoustic space around their instrument, you can 100% bet that the record producer/sound engineer will do everything in his power to persuade the artist that is a very bad idea indeed, and a 'better' solution (that is, a better solution for the production team) would be to record very closely and then add some artificial reverb in the control room.

        Can you see why the last thing the engineer wants is a nice, spacey air around the instrument? Because if the performer is playing 'to the room' either with a mic some way back from the instrument and/or playing through contact mic and PA amp speaker, the sound is splashing all around the studio and will be picked up by other musicians microphones. If he plays a wrong note, coughs or sneezes, becomes confused and loses his way or gets out of sync with the others, there may be insufficient acoustic isolation to be able to do any remedial work (i.e. edit, re-record) on his peformance alone because the original mistake will have already polluted the other performers recordings via their microphones. See how that could lead to a very, very expensive re-recording session with the entire band? And that's why multitrack recording was a godsend to accountants when it was developed in the 60s. They embraced it with even more gusto than recording artists. Because it saved money by minimising re-recording costs. Everyone else could go home except for the artist who needed to re-record his part and the sound engineer; he just played along with the original recording on headphones. Cheap and effective. But the down side is no air in the recording. So if you see recording artists wearing headphones during a recording, you can be fairly sure that it is a multitrack (isolated, airless) recording and they are just being fed whatever instrument they need to keep time with. They will not hear the entire band because the 'entire band' doesn't exist until it is synthesised out of the individual, airless, performances during the mix.

        2. Relating to the above .... just because the instrument is playing over a PA speaker doesn't change the abservation about the missing air from close miking or contact miking. The mic will be jammed right up next to the speaker and intentionally not colecting the ambient acoustic for the reasona above in 1.

        Listen to what you can do when you have all the performers/sound on different, isolated tracks here. Notice how on the second (clap) example the reverb aroud it is entirely synthetic. Also notice at the end the extreme convenience of being able to re-record only the vocals without disturbing any of the other sounds.

        Here's something you don't hear these days: the band members all recording together in the same acoustic space at the same time and confident in their synergy (and musical ability) that they don't need to be isolated frome each other. Lovely open sound from the Beatles, 1965. Also here.

        Interesting comparison with the previous links showing a modern mixing desk with hundreds of channels. Here in 1964, the Beatles and a view of the control room with just a few microphone channels. Implication: the four performers recorded in the same room, playing together in the same take. So, plenty of common acoustic is collected by the open microphones. Those days are long, long gone. Only the very best musicians who are completely in-tune with each other dare to record this way. Another wonderful example here. And if you listen closely to this example of Paul and John singing in harmony you can hear the guitar track which is fed to their headphones actually being picked-up by their vocal microphone(s). Imagine how small a sound that is and the true difficulties of recording many perfomers in the one space with isolation between them. (I wonder if they actually sang simultaneously because there is L-R pan and the picture, perhaps unrelated, shows a mono microphone. Did one recorded the vocal track first, the tape was rewound and the other sing along to it in harmony?).

        >
        Attached Files
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

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        • #19
          Because...

          Originally posted by A.S. View Post
          ...I wonder if they actually sang simultaneously because there is L-R pan and the picture, perhaps unrelated, shows a mono microphone. Did one recorded the vocal track first, the tape was rewound and the other sing along to it in harmony?
          Both statements are possibly true because there are at least four parts here; it seems reasonable that they sang together onto two or three mono tracks to create the ensemble and thus create the stereophony.

          Abbey Road (the album) was created using 8 track recorders although Abbey Road (the studio) was a comparatively late adopter of this technology.

          Comment


          • #20
            I have a really perfect example of the deconstruction of a pop song: Queen's guitarist, Brian May, talks us through Bohemian Rhapsody.

            There are several very important points to note about this famous 70's recording.

            1. The use of multi-track recording. Individual sounds are recorded to individual channels and then mixed-down in the desired relative loudness by the producer after all sounds have been recorded. That's called post-production, and will take far longer than the recording itself. This one track alone could have taken weeks to mix-down due to its complexity, but none of the performers need to be present for the mix-down.

            2. It is absolutely essential that all the individual (microphone) channels are recorded dry - that is, without picking-up much of the studio acoustic or the sound of any of the other performers, just as we noted with the Beatles example. That's because at mix-down it is crucial that there is no unwanted reverberation or ambience because it cannot be sonically removed from the recording and may spoil the intended artistic effect the producer desires at mix-down. That in turn implies that the individual sound are close-miked to minimise bleed-through from other sounds. This close miking will give a high-intensity sound and little or no air about the sound.

            3. Note that at about 25 mins in, Brian introduces the idea that for some of the drums, they wanted a more airy sound, and intentionally pulled the mikes back from them. But Queen made that artistic decision at the time of recording, because it would not have been possible (even with today's technology) to remove the ambience from those tracks and dry-out the sound. Had they regretted introducing ambience to the instrument at recording time they would have had to re-record the drums as a separate exercise days or weeks after the main session. The cost and inconvenience would be dramatic - and the drummer may have been away on tour. So the general rule for pop music recording is - Always record 'dry'. Avoid capturing 'air' around the performers. Record in proper, acoustically dead studios with mikes up close.

            4) Just listen to how dry the various tracks are - devoid of any ambience. Completely the reverse of classical recording where the a sense of the hall and an ambience around performers is highly valued.

            This one video video alone encapsulates the art and reality of pop recording. Worth watching from start to finish.

            It should be obvious that the creation of a pop/rock song cannot be spontaneous and involved hundreds of hours of careful adjustment. Because the end product is synthetic the question to ask yourself is this: As I will never be able to hear that exact performance in real life, is there a frame of reference to judge sound quality against? Should pop/rock music form any basis of my critical evaluation of high fidelity recording or playback equipment? The answer to both must surely be an unequivocal no.

            You can here Bohemian Rhapsody in its final mixed-down version here (moderate quality). The CD is very nice indeed.
            Last edited by A.S.; 28-01-2012, 12:13 AM. Reason: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - a master class in recording 'dry'
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #21
              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
              Alan A. Shaw
              Designer, owner
              Harbeth Audio UK

              Comment


              • #22
                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

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                • #23
                  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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                  • #24
                    Do music lovers know what is good sound?

                    Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                    ..
                    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?

                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=l0oaMT1IayE

                    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?}

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Whacking of a drum?

                      Originally posted by STHLS5 View Post
                      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.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Pluto View Post
                        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.
                        Alan A. Shaw
                        Designer, owner
                        Harbeth Audio UK

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          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

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                          • #28
                            Western music

                            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                            ...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.}

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              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

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                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.

                                >
                                Attached Files
                                Alan A. Shaw
                                Designer, owner
                                Harbeth Audio UK

                                Comment

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