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?