Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations

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Acoustic-Research-Inc

Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« on: 26 Jun 2010, 03:05 am »


It was good to read (belatedly) about Brian Cheney's VMPS live-vs.-recorded demonstration at the 2009 CES Show.  Not a great deal has been reported about this particular event since then, to my knowledge, but it should be evident to anyone involved that this type of "ultimate" demonstration of high-fidelity music that the effort that goes into to recording, "fine tuning" and ultimately the accurate playback of live music is all-consuming, and the task is daunting!  So congratulations to the VMPS organization for this effort.

Many well-known LvR demonstrations have been conducted in the past, most notably those including Thomas Edison's early demonstrations, the Harry Olson/RCA 1940s demonstrations and the Gilbert Briggs Wharfedale concerts of 1955 and 1956.  These latter demonstrations were convincing enough that people left with a feeling of accurate-sound reproduction.  The true nature of these recordings belied the accuracy of the reproducing instruments: the recordings generally contained some element of "double reverberation," the natural reflected energy from the original sound recorded, and then unwittingly played back in conjunction with reproduced sound of that source.  The result could be a somewhat bloated sound-stage presentation.  Avoidance of this double reverberation is the secret to successful playback.  That is, an outstanding reproducer -- with all of the top-notch associated equipment available -- will fall down if the recorded input is not echo-free.  Another requirement of successful live-vs.-recorded demonstrations is the instantaneous switch-over from live to recorded, and back to live music at periodic intervals, and the musician's ability to continue to "mimic" playing their instruments during this playback time.

During the early 1960s, Acoustic Research, Inc conducted more than 75 live-vs.-recorded concerts around the country (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and other cities) featuring The Fine Arts Quartet and unequalized, commercial AR-3 loudspeakers.  Additional concerts were subsequently performed with guitarist Gustavo Lopéz, and also live-vs.-recorded demonstrations were done with a 1910 Seaburg Nickelodeon during one of the New York High Fidelity Music Shows.  Over time, the AR-3/Fine Arts Quartet concerts were attended by over 15,000 music lovers, music critics, audio- magazine editors, newspaper editors and the like, and the overall impression was that the "switchovers" between live and recorded music were nearly always indistinguishable, a testament to the rigorous method of recording in anechoic space to avoid double reverberation, the scourge of live-vs.-recorded concerts.  Recordings were done outdoors to avoid unwanted reflections. 

Good job, Brian Cheney!



Brian Cheney

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #1 on: 26 Jun 2010, 06:54 pm »
Thanks for posting.  We repeated the LvR demonstration in 2010 in the Lake Mead Ballroom of the Flamingo hotel with an even bigger band and more performers.  This time we used a purpose-built speaker (the RM 50) which incorporated lessons learned from the 2009 show.  Press and listener response was excellent.

I remember the AR LvR demos from my early days in audio.  The musicians back then were recorded anechoically ahead of time to avoid the Problem of the Two Acoustics.  We eliminated most of the effect by room treatments (absorption) and speaker placement.  We went a little farther than AR did in using vocalists and a seven piece ensemble, including piano, double bass, full percussion and (in 2010) bass drum. There was little difference between the live and recorded sound, with vocals sounding a little richer in playback due to double reverberation.

We shall repeat our LvR demo in 2011 at the Flamingo, this time in the 27x51' Virginia City I ballroom.  I hope you can attend, Jan 6-9.


Wayner

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #2 on: 26 Jun 2010, 09:44 pm »
This was the claim to fame of new AR-3a, demonstrating it's neutrality in musical reproduction. I still have all of the old catalogs from Acoustic Research and am always amazed at how advanced the product lines were. I was fortunate enough to own (new) the AR-2ax and the AR-5 speakers as well as several AR-XA turntables, which I now modify to my own ilk.

I always wanted a pair of AR-3a's but at 17, a little over my head on the price. I always that they were a very neutral speaker, more so then the competing KLH or Advents of the time, however, the Dynaco A25s seemed to give it a run for the money (maybe the later version of the A25XL), but the AR had a lower bottom end.

BTW, welcome to the Audiocircles.

Wayner

Housteau

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #3 on: 27 Jun 2010, 01:46 am »
We shall repeat our LvR demo in 2011 at the Flamingo, this time in the 27x51' Virginia City I ballroom. 

So, it has changed from being the Lake Mead I & II?  Do you know who has Virginia City II rented and what kind of separation there is between both rooms?

Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #4 on: 27 Jun 2010, 04:38 pm »
Thanks for posting.  We repeated the LvR demonstration in 2010 in the Lake Mead Ballroom of the Flamingo hotel with an even bigger band and more performers.  This time we used a purpose-built speaker (the RM 50) which incorporated lessons learned from the 2009 show.  Press and listener response was excellent.

I remember the AR LvR demos from my early days in audio.  The musicians back then were recorded anechoically ahead of time to avoid the Problem of the Two Acoustics.  We eliminated most of the effect by room treatments (absorption) and speaker placement.  We went a little farther than AR did in using vocalists and a seven piece ensemble, including piano, double bass, full percussion and (in 2010) bass drum. There was little difference between the live and recorded sound, with vocals sounding a little richer in playback due to double reverberation.

We shall repeat our LvR demo in 2011 at the Flamingo, this time in the 27x51' Virginia City I ballroom.  I hope you can attend, Jan 6-9.

Thank you for your comments.  It's a good thing that you have persevered and continued to improve on the LvR demonstrations.  The method of avoiding double reverberation that you used seems good, and probably much easier than transporting the musicians outdoors into "God's Anechoic Chamber."

Most audiophiles don't grasp the significance of these "ultimate" subjective comparisons of live and recorded music, and the difficulty of doing them is usually overlooked by most attendees.  How did you handle the switchovers from live to recorded music?



Gustavo Lopez

During one of the earliest AR live-vs.-recorded concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall, Leonard Sorkin, first-violin, took a show of hands midway through the concert, asking the audience if they could detect the switchovers between live and recorded music through the AR-3 speakers.  A show of hands indicated that several listeners in the audience thought they could detect the differences.  "I'm sorry to tell you this, but except for the first two bars of music, the entire piece was played back through the AR-3 loudspeakers."  This put an end to conjecture and guessing.

Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #5 on: 27 Jun 2010, 04:42 pm »
This was the claim to fame of new AR-3a, demonstrating it's neutrality in musical reproduction. I still have all of the old catalogs from Acoustic Research and am always amazed at how advanced the product lines were. I was fortunate enough to own (new) the AR-2ax and the AR-5 speakers as well as several AR-XA turntables, which I now modify to my own ilk.

I always wanted a pair of AR-3a's but at 17, a little over my head on the price. I always that they were a very neutral speaker, more so then the competing KLH or Advents of the time, however, the Dynaco A25s seemed to give it a run for the money (maybe the later version of the A25XL), but the AR had a lower bottom end.

BTW, welcome to the Audiocircles.

Wayner

Thanks, Wayner!
 
By the Way, both the AR-3 and the AR Turntable -- both icons from the 1960s -- were designed by Edgar Villchur.

PLMONROE

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #6 on: 27 Jun 2010, 06:14 pm »
I remember attending one of Acoustic Resrarch's Live vs Recorded demos at a Hi Fi show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in the very early 60's. The demo was very impresive for that time. I too found myself lusting for AR3s until the reality set in that a pair exceeded my months total income as an Air Force Lieutennant includung base pay, housing allowance, and flight pay! Then later there was the day I found a Marantz dealer going out of business who was willing to sell me a new Marantz 10B tuner for $500 (which I still have and which is worth four times that). This was a sum that was far more than a months pay and which darn near caused my wife (which I still also have) to divorce me! How times have changed -- or have they?  :D

Paul

Wayner

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #7 on: 27 Jun 2010, 09:15 pm »
I feel very connected to Acoustic Research. My first real system was a Dynaco Pat-4, Dynaco Stereo 120, a pair of AR-2ax's and an AR-XA turntable. I also had a fairly decent Aiwa reel to reel, so I did lots of recording. I also had a Kenwood receiver that I used as a tuner and recorded lots of off-the-air music. That was the first love and the true beginnings of my path down thru the audiophile world. I later upgraded the AR-2ax's to AR-5's and traded the Dynacos for a Marantz 3300 preamp and 240 power amp. This was a killer system for it's time and I wish like hell that I still had all of the pieces.

BTW, I did lots of live recordings when I was a kid (later trading that Aiwa reel to reel for a Revox) and remember how well the ARs sounded with concerts that I had recorded. Sorry to get off topic, but I had to go down memory lane for a bit.

Wayner  :D


John Casler

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #8 on: 27 Jun 2010, 09:52 pm »
Looks like a lot of us were AR customers back then.

I had a pair of AR 4x's and then later AR 3a's. (and of course the AR turntable)

Those were the halcyon days of audio.

Some day I should make a list of all my old systems.  They are fun to remember.

In any event Our Live versus Recorded Event seems to draw a lot of attention, and good comments.

I would be easier if we were selling headphones (since we wouldn't have to deal with double reverb) but we aren't.

An outside venue might be an interesting and easier recording space, but with the weather in Vegas that time of year being so unpredictable it is not likely a possibility.  Maybe a big tent? :wink:

Brian Cheney

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #9 on: 27 Jun 2010, 09:55 pm »
In 2009 when we first set up the system (one pair of V60 speakers with two pair of VSS subwoofers in dipole configuration) I immediately noticed HF loss and several problems in the bass range.  The lack of highs was due to the natural absorption of trebles in a large enclosed space, more obvious when the treble source is a single small tweeter, in this case a 5" ribbon.  The bass problems had two sources: room modes and air conditioner noise.  Fortunately the speakers operate off a digital controller which provided seven bands of parametric EQ, and we were able to notch out the 30Hz noise source and tame a prominent lateral mode.  About 4dB of treble boost beginning at 5 kHz filled in the HF rolloff to some degree, but not completely.

In 2010 our ballroom featured a 9ft drop ceiling with lighting sconces, so I cut 63Hz about 4dB as sharply as possible.  An entire wall of 3" Sonex deadened the space quite well and mid-room speaker placement also cut reverb time.  Since the RM50 speaker was designed with a 27" long tweeter array, no HF boost was necessary. To compensate for the lack of boundary reinforcement (closest wall was 10ft away) I boosted 32Hz by 1dB narrowband.  Musicians were about 12ft off mic and vocals closer in, about 2ft away from MS and XY pairs of 1/2" and 1" condensers.  We recorded in 24/88.2 hi-rez and 5.6 MHz DSD and played back from the hard drives within seconds of the end of each piece of music.  I manned the percussion table and audited playback from the audience to get a balanced perspective on the sound.

I was more interested in where the reproduction fell short of the live sound, than in what we got right.  On the plus side, bass drum, double bass, piano, sax and flute were virtually identical live or recorded.  Vocals sounded warmer and richer played back than live, benefitting from the double acoustic.
Our two six string guitars lost some of their seemingly endless HF overtones on playback that were readily apparent live, and I will blame the mics for that, since our speakers check out to 40kHz.

We cut 16/44 CD's from the harddrives which sound fabulous, and much more realistic than any commercial recordings I own.  We used no record EQ, processing, or mixing, and the two mics in MS placed instruments and vocals very convincingly in space, their sounds emanating on playback precisely from the spots where performers had been standing live.

 

Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #10 on: 29 Jun 2010, 01:39 am »
I remember attending one of Acoustic Resrarch's Live vs Recorded demos at a Hi Fi show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in the very early 60's. The demo was very impresive for that time. I too found myself lusting for AR3s until the reality set in that a pair exceeded my months total income as an Air Force Lieutennant includung base pay, housing allowance, and flight pay! Then later there was the day I found a Marantz dealer going out of business who was willing to sell me a new Marantz 10B tuner for $500 (which I still have and which is worth four times that). This was a sum that was far more than a months pay and which darn near caused my wife (which I still also have) to divorce me! How times have changed -- or have they?  :D

Paul

Paul, you were fortunate to have witnessed that piece of AR history.  Most people who experienced those concerts were impressed by the realism of reproduced sound -- much in the way Brian's demos have impressed listeners today -- and it has a lasting impression on audiophiles to realize that well-designed high-fidelity equipment is capable of replicating live music.  Someone once said, "faithful music reproduction is one of man's more benevolent gifts to himself."

Thanks for your comments!

Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #11 on: 29 Jun 2010, 01:53 am »
I feel very connected to Acoustic Research. My first real system was a Dynaco Pat-4, Dynaco Stereo 120, a pair of AR-2ax's and an AR-XA turntable. I also had a fairly decent Aiwa reel to reel, so I did lots of recording. I also had a Kenwood receiver that I used as a tuner and recorded lots of off-the-air music. That was the first love and the true beginnings of my path down thru the audiophile world. I later upgraded the AR-2ax's to AR-5's and traded the Dynacos for a Marantz 3300 preamp and 240 power amp. This was a killer system for it's time and I wish like hell that I still had all of the pieces.

BTW, I did lots of live recordings when I was a kid (later trading that Aiwa reel to reel for a Revox) and remember how well the ARs sounded with concerts that I had recorded. Sorry to get off topic, but I had to go down memory lane for a bit.

Wayner  :D

Wayner, you definitely had some great old equipment -- definitely state-of-the-art for that period!  It's interesting that you upgraded from the AR-2ax to AR-5 speakers; both were excellent, but the AR-5 had superior dispersion in the midrange.  The 5 never reached commercial "success" in the sense of the AR-2-series or even the AR-3a, which outsold the AR-5 more than 2:1.


Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #12 on: 29 Jun 2010, 02:34 am »
Looks like a lot of us were AR customers back then.

I had a pair of AR 4x's and then later AR 3a's. (and of course the AR turntable)

Those were the halcyon days of audio.

Some day I should make a list of all my old systems.  They are fun to remember.

In any event Our Live versus Recorded Event seems to draw a lot of attention, and good comments.

I would be easier if we were selling headphones (since we wouldn't have to deal with double reverb) but we aren't.

An outside venue might be an interesting and easier recording space, but with the weather in Vegas that time of year being so unpredictable it is not likely a possibility.  Maybe a big tent? :wink:

John, it is amazing the number of people who owned AR components during those, as you so aptly put it, "halcyon" days of audio -- there's no better way to describe it.  Quite frankly, audio was in some ways more exciting then because we were younger, and the technology was perhaps less complex.  Back then we had a huge variety of high-fidelity magazines with equipment reviews, articles and product comparisons, and it was a true hobby.  It is still a hobby to some degree today, but it is sadly different, with younger listeners disinterested in accurate sound reproduction.  Well… that's a whole other topic!

The live-vs.-recorded demonstrations done at AR were important events in many respects, but there were risks.  If the LvR concerts had failed, the legacy of the AR's reputation for producing no-nonsense, accurate loudspeakers would have been lost, and the fortune of the company might have been at risk.  Because of the AR-3's smooth and extended acoustic-power response, these LvR concerts were very successful; certainly not perfect, but with over 15,000 attendees over a three or four-year run of the Fine Art Quartet event, most conceded that they simply could not detect the switchovers from live to recorded music.  This resulted in wide-spread public and critical acclaim during the period.  By 1966, AR had grown to 32.2% of the U.S. domestic loudspeaker market, and the publicity from those LvR concerts was most likely a factor.  AR was probably wise to use a small string ensemble rather than a large acoustical presentation.  Gilbert Briggs and Harry Olson tried the latter; and while the results were "favorable," there was wide-spread belief that the speakers simply could not fully replicate the sound of a symphony orchestra or large musical group.

Perhaps your LvR events -- demonstrating the capability of the RM50 to accurately reproduce the more complex sound of live musical instruments, percussion and voice -- will convince music lovers that "accuracy" is still the most important aspect of sound reproduction.




John Casler

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #13 on: 29 Jun 2010, 03:44 am »
What's even more interesting is I had speaker stands virtually identical to the ones in the picture above  :lol:  Except they said 4x and 3a :thumb:

But in any event, the reason Brian does the LvsR, is because the ultimate driving goal in High End Audio is the faithful reproduction of the recorded event in "your" environment.

While I know most High End Companies beleive in that goal, few would take up the challenge so directly as you once did, and Brian now does.

It certainly is a challenge, and each year it gets better and better in both recording and reproducing.


Hipper

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #14 on: 29 Jun 2010, 07:53 am »
There was an English folk band in the early 1970's called Heron who made a point of recording outside, in a field.

They set up a microphone away from the band to pick up the sounds of the countryside - birds singing etc.. However they found that they had to tamper with the result in order to get exactly what they wanted! (This information comes from their anthology CD called 'Upon Reflection: The Dawn Anthology')

John Casler

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #15 on: 29 Jun 2010, 08:14 am »
There was an English folk band in the early 1970's called Heron who made a point of recording outside, in a field.

They set up a microphone away from the band to pick up the sounds of the countryside - birds singing etc.. However they found that they had to tamper with the result in order to get exactly what they wanted! (This information comes from their anthology CD called 'Upon Reflection: The Dawn Anthology')

Interesting title since performing outside reduces "sonic reflections".

Obviously they were going for revisiting mental images from the past, and not sonic properties to their recording technique in their title, but interesting none the less.
« Last Edit: 29 Jun 2010, 06:38 pm by John Casler »

Acoustic-Research-Inc

Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #16 on: 30 Jun 2010, 02:02 am »
What's even more interesting is I had speaker stands virtually identical to the ones in the picture above  :lol:  Except they said 4x and 3a :thumb:

But in any event, the reason Brian does the LvsR, is because the ultimate driving goal in High End Audio is the faithful reproduction of the recorded event in "your" environment.

While I know most High End Companies beleive in that goal, few would take up the challenge so directly as you once did, and Brian now does.

It certainly is a challenge, and each year it gets better and better in both recording and reproducing.


Well, here is another interesting tidbit: the speaker wire was usually 16-ga lamp cord!  For longer runs 14- or 12-ga was used.  No octave-to-octave signal equalization was used -- only the treble control on the preamp was adjusted to meet the needs of different halls.  Sometimes the treble had to be slightly attenuated, if you can image that on an AR-3 speaker!  Frequently, though, live music (especially in larger spaces) is less bright than reproduced music as heard in the home.  For the concerts, tripods were used for the speaker stands.
 
The work you and Brian have done with your live-vs.-recorded demonstrations is bold (and risky), but the benefits of this effort should be the reputation of VMPS speakers as being accurate, neutral loudspeakers, capable of reproducing live music accurately.  What more can one say about a loudspeaker?  The fact that Brian has elected to continue doing them -- improving all the while -- should pay dividends in the long run.  The speakers may benefit from improvements along the way, too.  It is interesting that no one else in the industry has ventured out on a limb to try to make "serious" live-vs.-recorded demonstrations.  The risks are far too great and the rewards too few for most companies; moreover, the fear of the "unknown" is always present, with risk-aversion being paramount in the minds of most audio-companies in this day and age.

Therefore, VMPS is to be complimented for taking these risks.  It's probably safe to say that the company will not rise to the 32% market-share level, but these difficult LvR efforts should pay off in the long run, enhancing the company's reputation.  After all, if the definition of "high-fidelity sound reproduction" is the accurate recreation of the original sound, then these LvR demonstrations should help show the audio public (and press) that your company is serious about accurate sound reproduction and is up to the task.






1910 Seaburg Nickelodeon

Brian Cheney

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #17 on: 30 Jun 2010, 02:48 am »
Thanks for the kind words.  I discovered more about speaker/room interaction by doing these demos than I had learned in my entire previous 33 years in professional audio.  In was a real ear-opener for me, plus I got to play in the band!

There are huge risks and some decent rewards from performing LvR demonstration. Here are two recent examples:

In 2004 Albert von Schweikert hired a large ballroom in the San Remo Hotel in LV for a LvR (albeit with fewer performers and types of instruments than we used) featuring his flagship $125,000pr speakers.  By all reports the demo was successful.
and Albert was able to polish his already sterling reputation as a designer and manufacturer by taking such a  chance.

Unfortunately, the down side of the LvR adventure is exemplified by the Boesendorfer Co, makers of world-famous grand pianos, who debuted their new line of expensive speakers ($20k+) in a downtown NYC showroom in 2006  with an LvR that drew nothing but brickbats from the audio press.  John Atkinson went so far as to print the words "I did not like the Boesendorfer speakers" in Stereophile, based on this demo.  Their speaker line was an abject failure, and the money it lost Boesendorfer eventually caused a venerable, century-old enterprise to collapse, then be forced to sell its assets to Yamaha. 

Mr. Atkinson heard both our 2009 and 2010 LvR demos and said nice things about them in his magazine, as did the balance of the audio press. 

I should mention I owned the AR2aX and AR turntable while living in Munich during the 1960's (both purchased through the Post Exchange system while I was a civilian engineer employed by the PX), and ordered a pair of AR5 in unfinished pine from Illinois Audio ($113ea plus shipping) when I returned to the US in 1972.  They were my reference until I started my speaker company in 1977.

Construct

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #18 on: 30 Jun 2010, 03:59 am »
aww darn...you mean Amar Bose had it all wrong???   :lol:
Seriously though, I still dig the AR bookshelves I had in the 80's.  I loved the acoustic suspension bass definition.
I seem to remember Duntech claiming music professors could not distinguish the Sovereign vs live many years ago.

DFaulds

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Re: Live-vs.-Recorded Demonstrations
« Reply #19 on: 30 Jun 2010, 04:05 pm »
What a great thread.  I want to thank all contributors for an excellent read.

Now please continue.