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  1. #1

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    Default Live or Recorded Music?

    My first rule was that live music was always better than recorded music. Based on a recent experience I doubt this to be true any more.

    Here is my tale.

    On Jan 11 I went to WGBH's in Boston live in studio broadcast of a jazz trio on FM. WGBH's show "Eric In The Evening" does this about once per month. I have always wondered how these excellent acoustic live broadcasts would sound on my home system but I was always either at the performance or away from my home system.

    That night because of the live election coverage on WBGH they decided to record the live performance and broadcast it the next evening. For once I thought I'll be able to hear the performance live and again hear the recorded performance at home. Based on memory I could compare the live to the recorded performance.

    The group was lead by Ray Santisi on piano (left stage) with a bass (back center) and drummer (right) and a wonderful singer (front center). I got a seat on the 50 yard line dead center between the mics about 10 feet from the stage. A funny thing was that as soon as the singer started I could hear distortion from her back up monitor speakers for about 5 seconds. Then the speakers went dead never to return. It was an amazing experience to hear all her nuances' while singing without the speakers. However the people on the sides and in back probably didn't hear her well.

    My test is to listen next evening to the recorded performance on FM and on internet radio through my squeezebox and compare the results to my memory.

    Well I listened to the recorded broadcast of the jazz trio I heard live in the studio last night on WGBH FM and on my Squeezebox internet radio last night.
    I should also add that I find it very difficult to compare different sources of music because I get into listening and forget to compare. Bottom line, there is little enjoyment comparing music sources. It?s just hard work and concentration.
    My wife and I sat down and listened together to the broadcast with the tone controls turned off and the audio level adjusted between the FM and internet signal as equal as possible. I should add that I don?t think I ever got this perfectly correct and it was important because the louder signal was always preferred. Loudness was set to normal listening levels such that we could talk easily during the music.
    I was shocked that the recorded music sounded better than listening to the music live in the studio. This was also my wife?s response after 10 seconds of listening. It was much easier to hear all three instruments interplay among each other with the recorded music. This was in spite of the fact that I was seated at the center of the studio during the live performance. One factor that was clearly better during the live performance was that the sound stage was much wider. I felt that the recorded music was much more mono like if that makes any sense. I also noticed that the bass on the recorded performance was spread out across the speakers, yet during the live performance the bass was well centered and focused. The bass player was located dead center directly behind the singer.

    The dynamic range of the live verses the recorded was very similar also. I wish however that there was a larger audio range in the performance but there just wasn?t so this aspect was not really addressed.

    Bottom line, there was more detail in the music/sound of each player?s instrument and singer on the recorded performance. I?m not saying one is better than the other but I?m sure the people on the sides and back of the studio would miss something during the live performance. Not everyone can sit in my seat on the 50 yard line.
    I also had two other friends at the live performance on the side that could barely hear the singer. So the recorded music allowed everyone to hear the same thing and to allow each performer in the jazz trio equal ?volume? if that makes sense.
    I could not hear any difference between the FM signal and the internet radio. Both were top notch in my opinion.
    One final observation was that during the audience clapping I felt like I was transported back to the studio, it was that realistic. My complements go to the recording engineer and WGBH for a job well done. I wish everyone had such great FM stations that pay attention to the details and produce such high quality music.

    So what is best and more accurate and enjoyable? Live vs recorded?

    I just don?t know.

    Do you have any similar experiences of comparing live vs recorded?

  2. #2

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    A compressed signal over broadcast was as dynamic as real life? I find that kind of hard to swallow.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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  3. #3

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    I guess I'm confused? Did you attend the live event? Or are you comparing two broadcasts, one live, one recorded in the studio?

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    I guess I'm confused? Did you attend the live event? Or are you comparing two broadcasts, one live, one recorded in the studio?H9
    If that's the case, then there are way too many variables to say Live is better than Studio or visa-versa.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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  5. #5

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    Sadly the trio played music at a pretty constant audio level. Therefore the dynamic range of the music was moderate. I didn't hear any difference however in the dynamics between the live and recorded concert.

    I attended the live and listened to the next evenings FM broadcast of that jazz concert.

    And yes there are always to many variables to make a perfect comparison. It's just very unique and unusual to have an oppertunity to compare a live music event to the recorded music event.

    Even sitting in the best seat in the studio concert we could hear new details during the recorded broadcast on FM.

    That blew my mind and was very clear after the first 10 seconds of listening to the FM broadcast at home.

    My hats off to the recording engineer at WGBH.

  6. #6

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    I'd have to hear it to believe it. The FM signal transmitted over the air-waves is completely castrated as in heavily compressed. Same with internet streaming channels, like your basic mp3. I just can't believe sitting in the room with live musicians is the same as hearing it broadcast squashed to death over the airwaves.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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    It doesn't have to be (heavily compressed). In the 1950s and early 1960s, one of the absolute best quality sources available to home hifi fanatics was live performance on FM. There are still some stations that will broadcast qood quality audio; WGBH is one of them.
    all the best,
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    Live shows sometime require you to be in the sweet spot for best sound. You will usually find me right in front of the soundboard at concerts if possible. In general I will take the live show sound over the recording of the live show anyday.
    I got static in my head
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    The quality of the WGBH broadcasts of the BSO is outstanding. They have done it for many years. I understand very little compression is used. During the quiet passages of the BSO classical music broadcasts you can hear people move in the seats. It's like you were there. There is a wide dynamic range. I'm lucky to be so close.

    I also have a revox s 260 tuner and a 15 foot long FM only antenna on rotor directed at the GBH tower. I am a bit of an FM nut also.

    My real point is not to talk about FM but just to say that the recording engineer can allow you to hear more by using good recoding procedure. I just tought the recorded concert sounded better recorded than live and yes I am very surprised.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mhardy6647 View Post
    It doesn't have to be (heavily compressed). In the 1950s and early 1960s, one of the absolute best quality sources available to home hifi fanatics was live performance on FM. There are still some stations that will broadcast qood quality audio; WGBH is one of them.
    Last time I looked we live in 2012 not the 50's and 60's FM radio and the broadcast equipment isn't even close to being the same. I have no doubt WGBH along with few other handful of stations does a better job than the average FM station, but it's still compressed compared to being there live in the room.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by rromeo923 View Post
    Live shows sometime require you to be in the sweet spot for best sound. You will usually find me right in front of the soundboard at concerts if possible. In general I will take the live show sound over the recording of the live show anyday.
    That's exactly what I thought also. And i was in the sweet spot.

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    I wasn't there and I didn't hear the broadcast, so it's just conjecture on my part. I was simply stating I find it hard to believe.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Last time I looked we live in 2012 not the 50's and 60's FM radio and the broadcast equipment isn't even close to being the same. I have no doubt WGBH along with few other handful of stations does a better job than the average FM station, but it's still compressed compared to being there live in the room.

    H9
    There could well be a difference in sound quality if there was a great dynamic range in the concert but there just wasn't.
    I wish there was a wide dynamic range because the comparison would be better.

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    How can the recording have a greater dynamic range than the actual event? Especially if it's broadcast over a medium that, by it's nature, is heavily compressed relatively speaking. It doesn't make sense.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

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    I can somewhat understand it. Take into consideration the placement of the mic's doing the recording, picking up every little detail, and then your sitting in an auditorium with sound wave reflections and maybe other ambient noises getting in the way. Could be possible. Guess it also depends on where you sat in that crowd too.

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    It all depends, imo...

    I've heard songs live first, and hate the recorded versions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    How can the recording have a greater dynamic range than the actual event? Especially if it's broadcast over a medium that, by it's nature, is heavily compressed relatively speaking. It doesn't make sense.

    H9
    I and no one else said the recording had a greater dynamic range than the live performance.

    The broadcast was not heavily compressed.

    What I did say is that the concert performance had a limited dynamic range.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyb View Post
    I can somewhat understand it. Take into consideration the placement of the mic's doing the recording, picking up every little detail, and then your sitting in an auditorium with sound wave reflections and maybe other ambient noises getting in the way. Could be possible. Guess it also depends on where you sat in that crowd too.
    As I said I sat in front row center about 15 from the singer. The concerts are held in Frazer hall an acousticly design small hall.

    The live concert had excellent sound as did the recording which had additional details not heard in the live concert.

    I don't understand, but the gbh recording engineer is very good.

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    FM has a dynamic range of about 70 db, so it's quite possible that the live performance never exceeded that. Although that would be a somewhat boring concert from my perspective.
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    This may be more fundamentally complex than you think. Live music is this: you sit in the audience without the aid of any electronics, eg. microphones, pick-ups, amps, sound systems, speakers, recording devices, broadcast equipment, etc...period. Once you depart from this gate all bets are off and it gets complicated. We can talk for years and years on the subject and it comes down to it the winner is the compromise that sounds best to you through your system. "Ears talk, everything else walks." (just made that up and kind of like it)
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