Forgive me Father.. aka confession of audio heretic..

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by -Sphinx-, Oct 5, 2021.

  1. -Sphinx-

    -Sphinx- !!!AUDIO HERETIC!!! Thread Starter

    The Netherlands
    Here's the thing, Father..

    For decades the live sound has been kind of Holy Grail of the audiophile world.

    Let's put it straight - it's the biggest BS in the history of audiophilia. Period.

    Let's take what is by many, including me regarded as the most difficult music material to reproduce at home - classical music, in particular orchestral one (many instruments, room acoustics, dynamics, etc all make it difficult for the audio gear). I've been more seriously interested in classical for a relatively short period of time - 6 or 7 years - in comparison with many here. Since I came to live in the Netherlands 4 years ago I have managed to attend a gloriously high number of concerts, mainly classical and jazz music and I've been a regular guest in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw which is widely regarded as a concert hall with very good acoustics. I always try to get a good sitting place in the hall and usually succeed with that (BTW that's also what I do in case of rock and jazz concerts), center, usually 10-15m from the stage.

    And so we have a good concert hall, good orchestra (not necessarily from here, my next concert will be Ivan Fischer with Budapest SO performing Mahler) and theoretically everything that should make every music lover and at the same time audiophile feel like in heaven. And during great concerts that take place here, I do feel like in heaven!

    There is only one problem, Father...

    I prefer the sound of my home system..

    First of all, my ears get a bigger portion of detail in this case. It's as if someone turned on more light in a dim room. I get a better more clear insight into what has been written on paper by the composer. I'm closer, more intimate with his intentions and with the composition. Yes, it sounds more 'together' more coherent, more as 'one' in the hall but frankly lots of nuance is lost.

    Of course as a stereo gear, my system cannot compete with the live sound in the room acoustics department. The room is mostly behind the speakers only. But it spreads quite wide and far (I sometimes localize some instruments 15-20m behind the speakers). I also believe the reflected sound coming to one's ears from all directions in a concert hall tends to muddle, obscure lots of fine detail.. That's actually the reason that in the times when I also used a multichannel amp I tended to watch music material in stereo.

    In case of jazz and rock the whole thing is even more obvious, Father.

    Have you ever witnessed an unamplified jazz concert during which, already in a middle size hall bass is hardly audible and OTOH the sound of the band is unbalanced and the trumpet screams into your ears in a way that makes you wanna leave ASAP.?

    I happened to witness some concerts like that in small jazz clubs, usually the sound is just...

  2. -Sphinx-

    -Sphinx- !!!AUDIO HERETIC!!! Thread Starter

    The Netherlands
    The Father:

    -What about amplified jazz and rock concerts.?

    Let me be mercilessly frank or ever blunt Father - the sound of the most PA systems, although some of them are quite good don't even come close to my gear, I'm sorry..

    Of course hearing music live with a group of people, being able to react to it and see the interaction between the musicians and the audience is magical in a way.

    Yet on the pure audiophile level live music mostly sucks!

    One more thing, Father..


    I don't believe in so called audio truth.

    That is beside these:



    Which BTW also don't tell the truth..

    -Explain please, son..

    Doing it right now, Father. It's very simple. Have you ever had a chance to compare the sound of different microphones, Father.? Every and each of them has its own sound signature, just check out eg the Stereophile's

    Test CD (I think the first one) and you will see.. I mean hear..

    The sound of a real instrument is treated by many like kind of paradise but the moment it's captured by the chosen recording mike is then the moment of leaving the 'paradise'. Here comes the first distortion or if you prefer - lie and the next elements of the audio chain only add to it. End of story.

    But guess what, Father.. I prefer it that way. It sounds nice, good, beautiful.

    The smooth, velvety highs the cymbals from the ECM recordings are a lie.. a beautiful lie.. I just love them..

    Have you ever stood 2 or 3m from a real drum set.? Its sound is merciless, the bass drum seems to punch your stomach with its heavy fist and cymbals' piercing sound makes you wanna vomit...

    Same goes for many other instruments - trumpets, saxes etc.

    The recording engineers choose a given microphone usually simply to make the sound pleasant to our ears.

    And if they succeed - we love the recording. The fact that it's very far from the truth is meaningless. It's better that way!

    ECM sound - a lie, same goes for the all audiophile labels - lies, lies, lies.. beautiful lies.

    Old Living Stereo recordings, tons of tube and analogue distortion of the analogue and tube gear from the 50's!

    I love them! They sound great! Beautiful, beautiful lies!

    BTW some attack snake oil products which do not influence the sound in any way but they don't mind products which cost tens of thousands $$$ and ..very distinctly.. change the original sound.. Isn't that weird, Father.?

    But the worst is yet to come, Father...


    Father.. as is the case with most sins I've committed in this lifetime, I don't regret.

    They all, including this one make my life more colorful, exciting, beautiful, interesting, not boring and pleasant.

    In short, I choose to be a SINNER FOR LIFE.

    head_unit, tryitfirst, Rich C and 4 others like this.
  3. -Sphinx-

    -Sphinx- !!!AUDIO HERETIC!!! Thread Starter

    The Netherlands
    Discuss, I'll join later.
  4. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    I definitely agree on the PA systems used in most Rock/pop concerts, they s*ck ! And I prefer my system at home as well over any live concert. However, hearing a busker or street musician play unamplified out in the streets (NOT in a concert hall) can sound wonderful and will beat any home system imo.
    BillWojo, BSU, timind and 1 other person like this.
  5. -Sphinx-

    -Sphinx- !!!AUDIO HERETIC!!! Thread Starter

    The Netherlands
    I also love to listen to buskers, they also happen to have something many pro musicians lack - genuine passion. I only regret they don't always play top notch instruments.
  6. ayrehead

    ayrehead It was like that when I found it...

    Mid South
    Wow. Time to take a break from this forum.
  7. Dennis Metz

    Dennis Metz Born In A Motor City south of Detroit

    Fonthill, Ontario
    Why not take the time to fill in your profile :cheers:
  8. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
  9. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    NY, USA
  10. Spy Car

    Spy Car Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    Sorry for focusing on a side note to your post, but I must say that the thought of seeing Ivan Fischer conducting the Concertgebouw orchestra in their hall playing Mahler makes me green with envy. Green, I tell you.

    What's on the program?

    To the bigger point, hearing a great orchestra under a fine conductor playing well-loved music in an excellent acoustic space is a wonderful experience in my estimation. I doubt we disagree.

    As to amplified popular music, that can be a mixed bag. Depends.

    -Sphinx- and timind like this.
  11. Riktator

    Riktator Surfer of the Audio Waves

    As an ordained minister of the Church of the Raving are forgiven. Or in the immortal words of Pete Townsend..."We're ALL Forgiven!"
    -Sphinx-, Glfrancis2 and timind like this.
  12. NettleBed

    NettleBed Forum Resident

    new york city
    I've made the same comments on here numerous times.

    Great systems do NOT reproduce the "live" sound. The sound that is produced is an artificiality. It may be a beautiful artificiality, but that's what it is. I've been to countless live musical events in all genres. The sonic experience - other than a good seat in a good concert-hall listening to non-amplified classical music - is not particularly good (from an audiophile perspective).

    Good hi-fi systems take what was recorded to tape and create something of an ideal; in other words, it takes what is on the tape and artificially creates an ideal experience of what it might be like to experience that recording "live," but it does so in a way that never actually happened in reality, and probably never could happen. It can sound fantastic, but it's "fake" in that way.
  13. Simoon

    Simoon Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    I might be persuaded to agree with live, amplified musical events, but not with acoustic (classical and jazz) performances.

    Yes, live sound systems tend to suck. Usually harsh, bass boosted, messes. But there still is that visceral experience of a system able to fill up a good size venue, that is pretty darn fun.

    But with orchestras and chamber music, and acoustic jazz, live will always be superior to reproduced sound, in my mind. I want as little as possible between the instruments, and my ears, as possible. No mics, no mixing, no recording devices, and no playback chain, especially flawed transducers at the end of that chain. I have listened to a lot of live acoustic music in my life. I am very familiar with the flaws of even the best audio systems. And my system is pretty darn transparent.

    And then, there is the entire subject of sound (acoustic) power (not the same as sound pressure level), and the inability of any home audio system to reproduce it like live music.

    And finally, there is the shear joy of seeing musicians that are masters of their instruments, play complex, emotional, music live!

    With all that said, despite all the shortcomings of home audio, I love it! And of course, seeing live music at this point, is not really a safe option, despite being vaccinated and boosted.
  14. Oscillation

    Oscillation Maybe it was the doses?

    To each his own, for my part give me good seats at the met over home audio any day.
    Encore, Agitater and Boltman92124 like this.
  15. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    It's been years since I attended a live concert without wearing earplugs. Live music is about connecting emotionally with the music as well as fellow audience members, not sound quality for me.
  16. Simoon

    Simoon Forum Resident

    Los Angeles
    "Sheer" not "shear".

    Let me add, that especially with jazz, every performance with the same musicians playing the same music, will be different.

    Watching and hearing great jazz players improvise on the spot, differently each time, will always be one of the great things about live jazz, that is lost when listening to recorded music.
    sturgus and asj_999 like this.
  17. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident

    Idaho, USA
    My takeaways is they must have good weed in the Netherlands...
    Jacob29, wgb113, boboquisp and 5 others like this.
  18. Oscillation

    Oscillation Maybe it was the doses?

    Probably better than Idaho, but nowhere near as good as norther cali :)
    csgreene likes this.
  19. jbmcb

    jbmcb Forum Resident

    Troy, MI, USA
    The Detroit Symphony Orchestra plays in a well designed hall. For a while, when they were playing in the absolutely terrible, and now demolished, Ford auditorium, they would even go back to concert hall to practice, even though it was literally falling apart at the time.

    I've found that listening to the symphony live, it's *really* treble-forward. You can hear the scraping of the strings of the violin, and the brass sounds a bit squealy when they play loudly. It's what I expect live music to sound like.

    A few years ago I was in a local hi-fi shop, and the owner was futzing with his turntable. He said his new cartridge sounded too harsh and analytical. He played a live recording of a symphony recorded in Boston, and it sounded exactly how it should sound, compared to the live music I've heard before. "What's wrong with it?" I asked. "Hear the violins? Too harsh and screechy." Yeah, that's how violins sound sometimes.

    He messed with the cartridge loading on the preamp until it dulled them down a bit. "There, hear how much more liquid that sounds?" Yeah, like you're listening to a live symphony with the treble turned down.

    I don't care one way or the other, but holy heck, if you are going to EQ your system, you can save $5,000 on the infinitely adjustable phono preamp (I think it was an EAR) and just buy a good quality EQ.
    ggjjr, -Sphinx-, timind and 1 other person like this.
  20. Otlset

    Otlset under western skies

    Temecula, CA
  21. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco


    Most venues sound like crap anyway.
    And it’s too goddamn loud. I always wear earplugs to them.

    and yeah it’s about the vibe. Not sound quality.

    About the loudness aspect now that you mentioned it.
    A trumpet will hit 115db no prob.
    Drums? Sheesh.
    timind likes this.
  22. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco

    Yup. All that will sometimes sound screechy and reedy.
    And totally agree. It’s a ton of treble and high mids for orchestras. Almost zero low end.
    Live music sound quality is completely overrated.

    I do prefer vocals live though. And maybe acoustic guitar.
    -Sphinx- likes this.
  23. Oscillation

    Oscillation Maybe it was the doses?

    You guys are seriously loosing it. You don't want the instruments to sound like the instruments it seems.
    popol_vuh, Agitater and Simoon like this.
  24. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    pardon but outdoor sound sucks. Period.
    No offense. But it does
    Same with outdoor venues
    Even ask the musicians. They I’ll tell you the same.
    Depends on the venue of course , but you have zero reverb and feedback.
    -Sphinx- likes this.
  25. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    um no. It’s just reality.
    I am a musician of over 40 year man.
    Most venues sound sucks. It’s just a reality.

    now if you go to a studio with really good treatment and reverb controlled rooms that’s a different story.
    -Sphinx- likes this.

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