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Thread: The very basics

  1. #1
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    The very basics

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    After giving what I hope is some helpful advice to a few people on forums a light has just gone on in my head!

    That is that very few people today listen to music properly reproduced and by that I mean a modest audio system with two speakers correctly setup to give a good stereo picture.

    I have lived with such a system for the better part of 50 years and whilst I have not gone to nearly as many live, acoustic music recitals as I would have liked, I have been to some. Thus I have some idea of how instruments should be disposed across the stereo stage.

    I do understand that this does not apply to a pub pop/rock band but I now realize why people are at a loss to understand their poor results? They have no concept of creating a believable sound image.

    Comments please.

    Dave.

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    Hi Dave........I think you're raising two different issues. First....the issue surrounding how more and more people listen to any recorded music.........and secondly.......whether people even or ever had any idea of how music should "sound" based on how it is performed live......at the original source.

    As for how more and more people listen....headphones....ear buds......phone speakers.......cheap systems....etc...etc.....I think the days of "stereo systems" of any real accuracy are going out the window fast. We've covered that here a number of times but that topic is still evolving. Not that....even in the past.....most people listed on good systems anyway. Lots of people never got to any decent level of equipment for playback. I have noticed....however.....that some of my young friends are starting to purchase "better" add-on sound systems for their TV sets.........for use when listening to YouTube and amazon music...etc. Maybe that trend will begin to bring back some sort of renewed and improved audio results and experience.

    As for people having some sort of basic understanding of what music should sound like based on live listening.......well......that too was never a widely common set of knowledge / experience either.

    As a musician I've always understood that the vast majority of listeners to recorded music will never ever get to a place where they understand what our expectations for the "sound" would be. Just think of how many times you tried to explain or detail what you hear on a recording......as opposed to what they hear. You get that deer in the headlights look right?

    Mick
    Just A Song Writer..........

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    It seems that many of us "old folk" came through the HiFi glory days of the 60s to the 80s. Those were the days when having a REAL stereo system was a goal of most as we moved from schoolboys to having a real job, and with that, some disposable income. My first system was a Sony integrated amp with a pair of Marantz 5G speakers and a Sony turntable. By 1980, I had a system with a nice Rega 2, Bryston amp, GAS preamp and IMF TLS 50s. I still have them all, except for the GAS which suffered a failure. Most of my listening these days is either on the bedroom system with Vandersteens and an Onkyo receiver, or from my computer with little JBLs 305s while i browse the web.

    In the past few years, I've tossed out stacks of old Audio, HiFi News, and Stereo Review magazines. Everyone I knew would spend their lunch hours and evenings reading about the latest new trends in HiFi. Getting a realistic sounding system was the ultimate goal. For that you needed a decent reference, which was often often acoustic music of some sort. There are few magazines left these days, and there are not a lot of audio specific resources on the web.

    Now, everything is oriented to video, 7.1 with subs for the big bottom end. If you can't afford that, a soundbar is the best you can expect followed by a portable bluetooth speaker or ear buds. I know many people for whom the TV soundbar is the highest end system in their home.

    Of course, the same was said about us in our youth.... that rock and roll will never last! It will never replace a good big band with a REAL singer like Sinatra, Ella, Peggy Lee or Billy Holiday.

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    Yeah......my first "stereo" system was a "suitcase" type of system. Remember those? The speakers on each side swung out and the turn table in the middle swung down. Just basic "tone" controls and lousy speakers with terrible range and accuracy. I listened to countless albums on that thing. It was much later when I bought a real stereo system with any decent sound.......an analog Pioneer with 6.5 inch Technics speakers. I got a Nikko receiver after that and the sound took a nice jump up. Over time.......and many purchases....I've ended up with a Denon receiver with Tannoy speakers as my main stereo system for the house.......and I use my JBL 305's as part of my playback system for my DAW.....which I use for regular listening as well. My young nephew always gets blown away by the sound of my systems. He's uses ear buds and terrible headphones for most of his playback.
    Just A Song Writer..........

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    "Of course, the same was said about us in our youth.... that rock and roll will never last! It will never replace a good big band with a REAL singer like Sinatra, Ella, Peggy Lee or Billy Holiday.

    But last they have! I love rock but I am equally enamored of big bands and jazz (never cared for Sinatra muc, took too bloody long to finish a song!) Classical of course but I would be hard put to place Bach against Ludwig (BBC R3 are running his life story in composer of the week alternate weeks this year. Trying to record them all for son) ...Never happier though than playing bass while son went through the Quo songbook on guitar!

    Back to 'Stereo' Music always existed in a space and could be placed. The positions of the instruments of the orchestra evolved over time and expanded as the music developed in complexity. Recording engineers always knew something was lacking in mono and two channel stereo was embraced almost as soon as it was developed (same is true of digital recording for classical music anyway). We do not need 5.1 or 7.1 to appreciate Beethoven of Beatles. This is obvious from the total anarchy that reigned with "Quadraphonics" which was just about money and getting a system in place ahead of your rivals. In the end everybody lost. I do not mourn its passing.

    To me, the people who have no concept of a musical landscape are the poorer for it.

    Dave.

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    For some things, it's realism for others it's follow the formula. I was a teenager when I went with my dad to a recording session in Manchester (the old Strawberry Studios) where they were recording The Syd Lawrence Orchestra doing Glenn Miller album, and the band were spaced as much as they could (which now of course I know why) and the result was like the old Beatles stereo records - weird. The Miller 'do-whap, do-whap' sound with the woods playing against the brass was panned hard left/right, and as Dad put one of the new stereo speakers in the kitchen and the other in the lounge the result was very weird - the 'do' in one room, with a ghostly 'chap', and vice versa in the other room.

    My pet hate are instruments that are the full width between your speakers. Piano the worst. The lowest not left speaker, the highest, right speaker and the pianist has ten feet wide arms. Hate it! I don't get it, because live sound nowadays is pretty much mono. It just doesn't work trying too recreate position on stage in the PA, so most people mix it with only a very gentle left right pan adjustment - never more than a tiny bit of pan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    My pet hate are instruments that are the full width between your speakers. Piano the worst. The lowest not left speaker, the highest, right speaker and the pianist has ten feet wide arms. Hate it! I don't get it, because live sound nowadays is pretty much mono. It just doesn't work trying too recreate position on stage in the PA, so most people mix it with only a very gentle left right pan adjustment - never more than a tiny bit of pan.
    If you're coming from the perspective of the person sitting at the keys, then it's probably more realistic as you would normally have about 4ft from lowest to highest key. Likewise if you're a drummer, you hear the hihat dead left and the ride cymbal on the right. Imagine the perspective of the conductor! Anyone who has been on stage probably has a warped sense of placement compared to someone who's always in the audience.

    Its funny that you mention your dad's setup. We had an old Philco stereo. The main unit housed the turntable and tuner wth the amp and speaker. To get stereo you had to plug in a powered speaker on the back and flipped a switch. In the old house, the stereo was in the living room with speaker on both sides of the couch. When we moved to our new house in '64, the main unit ended up in the entry way, and the speaker in the living room. You only got "stereo" if you stood in the doorway between the two!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TalismanRich View Post
    If you're coming from the perspective of the person sitting at the keys, then it's probably more realistic as you would normally have about 4ft from lowest to highest key. Likewise if you're a drummer, you hear the hihat dead left and the ride cymbal on the right. Imagine the perspective of the conductor! Anyone who has been on stage probably has a warped sense of placement compared to someone who's always in the audience.

    Its funny that you mention your dad's setup. We had an old Philco stereo. The main unit housed the turntable and tuner wth the amp and speaker. To get stereo you had to plug in a powered speaker on the back and flipped a switch. In the old house, the stereo was in the living room with speaker on both sides of the couch. When we moved to our new house in '64, the main unit ended up in the entry way, and the speaker in the living room. You only got "stereo" if you stood in the doorway between the two!
    Yes, good points Rich and I have seen it argued that one should put a mic |(or array) over the shoulder of a guitar player to capture what he/she is hearing! That. as far as I am concerned it total bollocks!

    Recording a musical performance is surely all about PRESENTATION! We do it for the LISTENER not the performer. That means presenting the artists as they would be heard in a hall. Even your local pub band have a 'setup' they might be totally clueless but I think it behoves the recordists to deliver at least SOME impression of how they were disported about the stage? (of course, lead git' and/or drummer will be too loud and vocals, usually a distorted mess, will come from a PA totally unrelated from the singers position. But you gotta try!)

    There is of course totally electronic music divorced from any reality of space and can exist in and move around 360dgrs but such compositions are, I would aver, beyond the capabilities of you average HR bod and most things are small scale and can be sensibly 'panned'?

    Dave.

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    I contend there are two broad approaches to recording; 'photographing' and 'painting'. These are extremes, and there are many variations between.

    In 'photographing', the aim is to reproduce as faithfully and as accurately as possible, a performance of an artist. It's a documentary form of recording, and resonates with Dave's idea of a virtual stage between two speakers, with the listener being able to hear pretty much were each band member is.

    In 'painting', the aim is not to create an accurate 'photograph' of a performance, but instead to treat a song as a canvas on which you paint sounds. There is no requirement for the end result to bear any relation to reality (though it may). Brian May from Queen was keen on this idea, and in A Night at the Opera, you can hear a mixture of both approaches.

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  12. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by gecko zzed View Post
    I contend there are two broad approaches to recording; 'photographing' and 'painting'. These are extremes, and there are many variations between.

    In 'photographing', the aim is to reproduce as faithfully and as accurately as possible, a performance of an artist. It's a documentary form of recording, and resonates with Dave's idea of a virtual stage between two speakers, with the listener being able to hear pretty much were each band member is.

    In 'painting', the aim is not to create an accurate 'photograph' of a performance, but instead to treat a song as a canvas on which you paint sounds. There is no requirement for the end result to bear any relation to reality (though it may). Brian May from Queen was keen on this idea, and in A Night at the Opera, you can hear a mixture of both approaches.
    Yes to all that but I would suggest that the 'noobiest newb' when trying to record, voice, instrument, di-da, does not even consider the matter of the resulting point in space of the result?

    The tyro will likely do it all on headphones and thus, so long as 'something' comes back between the ears, it often is accepted. For a single instrument or voice this is probably fine, especially if it is just for the person's own use, maybe improvement? But even Voice Overs to my mind deserve to be set in some sort of acoustic? The most horrible to listen to is the 'One lug' result? Rooms are almost inevitably small and horrid acoustically so about all one can do is absorb the ***t out of them. Then pan the voice centrally and add a whiff of 'verb?

    Once you get to two or more sources it gets trickier. There is always the odd post per month about 'EQ' and, other that gross correction, that AFAIK is much about giving instruments and voices 'space' in the frequency domain? AS important to me is giving them space in the SPACE domain. Plus, make them of 'natural' size.

    Of course, as said there is music that exists in its own 'phantom' space and that is just as artistically valid.PROVIDED that is what the musician(s) intended!

    (I am presently listening to some g'awful song with piano. NO idea WTF it is and could care less but at least he is a mtr or so behind my fireplace and in the middle! )

    Dave.

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