Is it Live or is it Memorex?

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Is it Live or is it Memorex?
« on: 1 Aug 2009, 01:15 am »
Is it Live or is it Memorex?

I've spent some time in recording studios and was often blown away by how eerily realistic the playback tape of a recorded event sounds. You virtually cannot differentiate between the recording and the event. All the life, vitality, spunk is there.

Of course, in the studio when you are listening to the playback tape, you are hearing the same monitors, the same cabling and electronics, etc., in the same environment that you were when listening to the live event. And you have fresh recollection of how the event sounded originally.

If you take that same tape and play it in any other environment, or on any different equipment, it will sound different. It will be impossible to exactly reproduce the originally recorded event. It will be impossible to achieve a "perfect" rendering. Especially considering that the tape will likely be re-mixed to achieve particular soundstaging, imaging, and instrumental balance.

Amongst the most honest and realistic playback recordings are those classical recordings where a single pair of microphones were suspended from the ceiling of a concert hall to record a concert. Some great classical recordings of the 1940s that were done this way are still unsurpassed in engineering quality. With a good stereo, you or I listening to one of these in our living rooms enjoy the event similarly to as if we were there in person.

It isn't quite the same, though. Even though the recording gives a sense of the concert hall's ambience and acoustic nature, our own acoustic environment affects the concert sound, also, as does our equipment. We'll never perfectly hear an exact reproduction of the concert.

That doesn't mean we can't enjoy the concert, though. In our own living rooms, we could even have better seats than someone who was at the concert itself. That person may have had a seat way off to one side and consequently experienced some loss of sound due to the soundwaves of notes being out of phase with each other and canceling each other out. Or way far back where the stage imaging seems like just a blur. Or too close up front, where the orchestra instrumentation as a whole wasn't balanced.

At home, you can adjust your acoustics somewhat and "tweak" the electronics to achieve a sound and "seat" more to your liking than what your audio system provides right "out of the box."

Obsessively seeking the audiophile "philosopher's stone" or "Holy Grail" of perfection is futile, though. It ain't never gonna happen. There is no such thing as any absolute "perfect" when it comes to reproduction of recorded music. Although it's almost always the case that your stereo can sound even better than it does presently, you have to live with an acceptable level of realism, a point to where the music is enjoyable to listen to.

Of course, the best enjoyment occurs when you have the feeling that you're in the same time and space environment as the music that is being played. Cymbals sound like Zildjian brass, not tin. A clarinet sounds like it's made of fine African blackwood, not like a tonette. A violin solo has that ethereal texture in space that your spine can feel. Vocals are human. A funky beat literally taps your foot for you. With factors like these in play, it's rather irrelevant how exactly a recording replicates the original event; if it feels good, enjoy it.

Best regards and enjoy the music,

Herbie's Audio Lab
« Last Edit: 23 Aug 2010, 01:47 am by Herbie »


Re: Is it Live or is it Memorex?
« Reply #1 on: 1 Aug 2009, 03:04 am »
Bravo Steve :beer:


Re: Is it Live or is it Memorex?
« Reply #2 on: 1 Aug 2009, 01:07 pm »
The very act of going into a recording studio renders out the fact that the music recorded in a canned environment has been created by "recording artists". To expect a multitrack recording in a controlled environment to sound "real" is illogical. Each track has been recorded several times, rehearsed and manipulated in many different ways from being compressed, to having effects added to it like reverb or other wave modifications synthesised in the studio. I have no problem with this,  but that is what seperates recording artists from entertainers and musicians.

A live event is the ultimate challenge for both recording engineer and performers as there is no re-do. I have recorded many live events and have witnessed successes, failures and the like, thinking I had control of the events only to find out I was on a runaway train. In fact, I would say that luck has more to it than anything else. If  you look at many of today's live recordings, you will notice that there were several recording locations in many cases. They then simply selected the best of the lot for the record.

There is nothing worse then hearing a pop machine's compressor running in the background as the great musical event fads out. That was a painful lesson for me. After that, I would go all around the facility and unplug the noise makers.

Wayner :)


Re: Is it Live or is it Memorex?
« Reply #3 on: 2 Aug 2009, 03:32 am »
If I am completely honest, when I make changes to my system I am more often than not just making a change. Just something different, not necessarily better