I'm Ears all Ears!
So I was reading on a forum the other day about various viewpoints of people who make and listen to pretty good quality speakers. And I started to think. (yes dangerous we all know that) What gives with people thinking that there are multiple ways to setup and voice loudspeakers? Are we talking about different ears in every person ?
There has been a lot of really good work done on exactly this topic.
If you recognize the hairdos, you were alive and kicking back then (1974). I present this paper first because is it 43 years old. Think about this, There were measured and correlated best practices for the frequency response of loudspeakers 4 decades ago. Like I said what gives?
On a couple of decades we have the foundation for this paper written in 2015. Floyd Toole did a huge amount of work on what makes speakers sound best in the 80's. Along with him was Sean Olive and Paul Barton.
There are very well researched and agreed upon methods of designing and setting up loudspeakers for the most accurate response.
This is a summation that is pretty easy to read:
Now this article covers both Headphones and loudspeakers. There is a correction curve for how a headphone interacts with our head/ear system versus a loudspeaker in a room. The article covers both with a reference to how a loudspeaker system is defined, and characterized. Then setup as a reference for the sound you could expect from a really good pair of headphones. The results are interesting.
So Pretending that you have not read all the references I'll tell you that in fact there are very well agreed to ways of "voicing" a loudspeaker to provide the most accurate reproduction of sound. I'll use the term voicing to cover the frequency contouring that is required in order to reproduce an accurate in room at listening position frequency response.
So much of listening to good loudspeakers is linked to listening to good music live. Preferably un-amplified. To few people are taking the time to experience real acoustically (I use acoustically for lack of a better description) reproduced music. The best money spent to tune an audio system is to take time and pick out concerts. Listen intently. Get to know a few decent musicians. If possible try out their recordings on your system and hear how close, or far you are from what you remember. Our brains are adept at remembering pitch tone and timber of sounds we have grown used to. What ! Really! Again to many people have bought into the fallacy that you do not posses an auditory memory. Work with me for a minute here. Just think about the voices of people you know. How you can identify them without even seeing them. We all have the ability to create and strengthen our auditory memory. Like many skills practice makes perfect. Or at least practice makes for better than what you had!
And if you are at that point of a great auditory memory already, a cultivated knowledgeable listener can then start looking at different recordings and if possible pictures of their recording sessions. How many microphones are they using? One per person? That is called mono miking. Or is there a stand out front with two mikes? That is a stereo pickup. The differences can be astonishing.
This is a mono microphone setup. One microphone for each individual.
Combination of stereo pair as the main microphone pickup they are the ones high up over top in the front. The secondary microphones are for picking up soloists in the section. Note the spaced stereo pair beside the marimba.
Let's play with this sad fact for a few moments.
If you have ever listened to music reproduced acoustically in a reverberant space you know that there is the direct sound coming off of the instruments and the reflected sound coming from the room. That is pretty much how life works. Only outside in a wide open area or in a specially constructed room do you experience an anechoic acoustic field. That is one with no reflections.
So I'm describing natural events that we all should be able to relate to. How you can close your eyes and listen to a person walk past you and you are given depth of space perception by means of the difference in timing between closer and farther sources of sound that are reflected to your ears and perceived by you ear brain system. We all do this and can experience this. And we do it without even thinking. Above is a reverberant recording studio.
Sad fact coming.
Pop music is almost universally recorded in a more or less acoustically absorbent studio (I'll qualify that the absorbent qualities are usually in the range that we use to locate and perceive spatiality). Recorded by one microphone per performer. Now wait a minute there! Doesn't stereo require two speakers? Isn't mono one speaker? So shouldn't a stereo recording require two microphones?
That would be a resounding YES! But there are interesting timing tricks that allow a pseudo type of stereo effect to be generated. Reverb added in back instead of a live pleasing acoustic environment in the first place. One mic per person is also easier to setup in terms of making multiple takes in case of error on the part of the musician. I know more than one recording professional who has little to no hair after working with some groups. Single point miking is for the ease of creating an artificial ensemble. It is not an accurate means of making a stereo recording. It is a contrivance.
So what do you do?
Believe it or not I am not the originator of this line of reasoning (yes sad I am). There are great groups and recording engineers in almost every genre of music that have busted their humps to make real stereo recordings.
Some labels are famous for their work in classical and jazz recording primarily with a stereo pair in the optimal position. So the answer is to look. Look for recordings and labels that are trying to do it right. You have a little bit of background now. And I'll follow up this post with a bit of information on recording microphones how they work and how they can be set up to create the illusion of people playing music infront of you.
After all that's the entire reason why I got into this business in the first place! To listen to music.
Mark's Ramblings, show and tell. And other sundries.