I don't think an ideal recording has much relation to a live performance. It depends on the music,
depends on the production decisions, etc. The magic of recorded sound is that it can go beyond
what's possible in a live setting. In relation to "acoustic music" like orchestral classical,
large-ensemble jazz or indeed small-group versions of both musics (ie music played at one time with
the whole group together at the same time), the magic of recording and good production is that a
listening perspective can be created that is not possible from any one place where a human head can
be in that space. Also, through the magic of editing, you can preserve on the mass medium an
error-free performance. Good musicians sometimes do play through a complete selection in a live
setting and make no errors, but not always. When they have a good day in the studio, it's a complete
keeper take. Finally, mics "hear" differently from human ears, even dummy head mics.
When you're talking about heavily-produced music, which involves complex mixing, overdubbing,
non-concurrent recording of parts, etc, then the results often cannot be replicated live, at least
not with any surity. A good example is Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd's "The Wall." He needs a
huge ensemble of musicians and singers, and a massive light show and media production, to accomplish
what four guys, a good producer and some hired guns here and there pulled off over several months in
a studio. And it still had to be re-imagined for the stage.
Recordings of live performances are generally made with several or many mics, none of which placed
in much relation to a human in the audience. If you're talking amplified music, most live recordings
cut out the PA system, so they're picking up something totally different from the sound in the
venue. One of those famous well-liked live recordings in the audio community is "Jazz at the Pawn
Shop." That is a very nice sounding performance and recording (although it's a bit bright for my
taste), but that's not what you'd hear live in a room. You'd never hear a drum close in and crisp
like that at the same time a clarinet is so prominent, it can't happen because the drum would
overpower the clarinet if you were close enough to hear all the brush and stick detail. I could cite
many other examples, suffice to say, the live recording ain't what anyone (audience or musicians)
heard in the venue that night. OK, one more example -- Ed Green's classic recording of "Jazz Samba"
by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. Made in a large church that clearly is a reverberant space. What seat
in the audience could hear all the details of Byrd's guitar work, especially on the quiet passages.
And where in a reverberant space would you hear the crisp transitions of Getz's note changes? By its
very nature, that acoustic space would create a pleasant "halo" of reverberation that would "blur"
the details with standing and cancelling sound waves.
This is my point about hearing and personal taste. There's such a range of musical taste and so many
ideas about what sounds "good," I don't agree with Hunter that there is much common ground as far as
listening environments and playback equipment. I do think, though, that there is a limited range of
difference in available equipment today, because everyone is manufacturing to the same specs (which
may or may not mean "good" or "bad" sound, as I explained before). Keen ears may hear this range of
difference as greater than limited, but strictly going by measurements, it's not a very wide range.
I think the wide range of perceived differences has more to do with personal hearing and tastes and
aesthetics, which is why I stand by my statement that subjective "reviews" are useless to anyone but
By the way, when you buy a recording, any professional-grade recording, you are submitting to the
musician(s) and producer(s) ideas about what sounds "good", what's a good sound-balance and what are
good dynamics. Not to mention what constitutes "good" music. The only way you can totally indulge
and explore your own taste is learn how to play music, correctly and well, and learn the art and
craft of recording. For the rest of us, we're viewers and, hopefully, appreciators of the painting
rather than the person with the brush and oils.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "DAVID BURNHAM" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 3:25 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audibility of 44/16 ?
This assumes that the ideal is always that the recording sounds like the live event. In my
experience such is not always the case. I have recorded a local orchestra several times in a hall
with poor reverberation, very unpleasant sound quality and faulty balance. Listening to the
orchestra live in this hall is not enjoyable at all. Our recordings, however, manage to correct
these problems to a large extent so that, for my taste, and according to the reactions of the
orchestra members who have heard broadcasts of our recordings there, our recordings are far superior
to the live sound. It is also my experience that almost all live jazz recordings sound far better
than the live experience in a room with a low ceiling and very dry muffled sound.
> From: L. Hunter Kevil <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 8:44:39 PM
>Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audibility of 44/16 ?
>A comment from the peanut gallery about Tom's statement that our ordinary
>listening experiences are 'totally subjective.' An analogy to the total
>subjectivity argument would be that what Tom sees as blue I see as green.
>(Leaving aside the question of how we would know that.) This is not a good
>argument. There must some common elements.
>Let us take it as given that no recording can sound exactly the same as the
>sound as heard on site. This implies there is a means for comparison. If we
>have a sense of what makes a recording sound realistic or more or less
>real, it follows that we have a standard by which recordings fall short. I
>don't believe this must be subjective, though it is aural. However, this is
>the crux of my argument, the realistic qualities foremost for Tom may not
>be the same as those for me. For me attack and pitch stability in a piano
>are very important signals that what I am hearing is real or live. Tom
>knows what these things are, but because of his experience in the studio
>may see ambiance and bass extension as the primary clues to the
>presentation of live music. All these qualities are real in the sense that
>they are present in live music. If Tom & I were to sit down together and
>listen I suspect our reactions would be very similar.
>In any event, Tom, I value your evaluations of the sound quality of various
>recordings and look forward to more of them.
>L. H. Kevil
>On Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 3:44 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
>> This gets right at the heart of why "reviews" of audio gear in the
>> "high-end" mags are so useless. All they amount to are one person's
>> subjective impressions of what he's hearing, in his listening room, with
>> his choice of other components. So, it's pretty much useless to you as far
>> as know if it will sound good to you. I do think it's more helpful to have
>> measurements of the gear, with uniform methods used for similar pieces, as
>> is done in Stereophile mag. But that's not really helpful in answering
>> "will I like the sound of that component or will I prefer it to what I have
>> already?" I'm also pretty sure many of the currently accepted standard
>> measurements don't tell you very much about overall sound quality or
>> "personality." Indeed, something that measures grossly out of the norm may
>> not sound "bad," just "different."
>> I assume all of us are careful listeners, but I bet all of us have a
>> different idea of what sounds "good." It's totally subjective, based on our
>> own tastes, experiences and physical/psychological hearing capabilities.
>> I've long been convinced that "good" or "bad" sound has nothing to do with
>> the popularity of a recording, it's always the musical effect. Music taste
>> seems to be subjective but perhaps with some universal parameters, and some
>> artists know how to check off enough boxes with enough people to create
>> popular music.
>> Peter also hits on a very profound point -- no recording sounds like a
>> live performance, not even recordings of live performances.
>> -- Tom Fine
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mew, Peter" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 4:03 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audibility of 44/16 ?
>> Hi Don
>> So what you really mean is
>> "the sound that I prefer" (Subjective)
>> Rather than
>> "The sound most like the original" (Objective)
>> And what has hearing live music got to do with it, recorded music, even
>> of live performances, rarely captures the sound as heard when played.
>> I was a recording engineer for more than 20 years before moving to
>> mastering some 25 years ago, so I have some experience of these matters
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]**GOV <[log in to unmask]>] On
>> Behalf Of Don Cox
>> Sent: Wed 13 Feb 2013 14:34
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Audibility of 44/16 ?
>> On 13/02/2013, Mew, Peter wrote:
>>> I think you should define "better" in this context. Surely the "best"
>>> copy should be the one that most accurately represents the source,
>>> however that sounds.
>>> Realistically, unless you were yourself the recording engineer, "better"
>> means "nearer to how I imagine the source sounded, based on my
>> experience of hearing live music".
>> On Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 3:57 PM, Don Cox <[log in to unmask]>
>>>>> I had an early player on which, if you ripped a CD to a CD-ROM, the
>>>>> copy sounded better than the original.
>>>> As a rule, almost any CD-R sounds better than the original -- although
>>> certainly this has to be a function of the player. Which means that
>>>> all (most) players have a design shortfall.
>>>> I think they do.
>>> The effect is in my experience absent if you use a separate D->A
>>>>> I think this was because the copy disc was lighter. The designer
>>>>> underestimated how much power was needed to spin the discs. The
>>>>> result was a drop in voltage supply to the audio output circuit. (In
>>>> That may well be as well.
>>>>> Don Cox
>>>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> Don Cox
>>> [log in to unmask]
>>> Music from EMI
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>> Don Cox
>> [log in to unmask]
>> Music from EMI
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