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The Live Music Myth
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October 15, 2012 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
If the sound of live music was really the goal, we’d like our music less.
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Posted by ensaburnur  on  10/16  at  08:15 AM

Does that mean that accuracy doesn’t really exist in audio?  I’d really like to know. Is there a standard for audio reproduction?

Posted by Grant Clauser  on  10/16  at  10:03 AM

I’m not a recording engineer, but so I can’t perfectly answer that, but I do know that often recordings are tweaked to create a sound someone wants, but not necessarily the sound that came from the instrument (or voice). Also, some speakers measure more accurately than others, but that doesn’t mean they sound “better.” That’s why audio reproduction is at least as much art as it is science.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  10/16  at  10:17 AM

Nice post Grant. To answer the above question all music is mixed and mastered (live recordings, studio albums) unless it’s a bootleg recording that comes straight from the front of house (FOH) engineer’s mixing console.

Often times, particularly with a live album a group or artist will record an entire tour and cherry pick the best performances from the tour to make a whole live album (they do this to weed out venues that may not sound so good or performances that maybe the band had a bad night for example). During the mixing of a live album the artist through the recording engineer may have specific goals in mind and they shoot at the target of meeting those goals. Those goals include maybe a certain element like the way the crowd is integrated into the sound or simply the purpose of capturing a group of songs for whatever reason.

Posted by Todd A  on  10/16  at  01:37 PM

Although it is nearly impossible to say what is truly accurate, I agree that live music pales when compared to a high end or even run of the mill stereo for detail.

However, live music is about the impact and rawness to it for me. The mistakes the players make and the emotion that you get from it.

I’ll admit that I don’t listen to classical or lots of unamplified accoustic music. I mainly listen to rock so I readily admit that my music sounds cleaner and more dynamic on a stereo but attending a nice sounding, loud concert can’t be beat.

Posted by matt  on  10/16  at  04:31 PM

If the music you are listening too sounds better on a recording (mixed and played back on a hi-fi system), then perhaps the music you are listening to (live) or even the venue you are listening in is what is sub-par.

A properly mixed live show provides thousands of watts and extra dimensions, especially if you are near the stage, that a stereo speaker setup can never eclipse.

For instance, there is a mid-sized venue in my town where, no matter how well they mix the live music, it sounds *better* in the bathroom that is behind the stage.

Also, I like Radiohead, but there is no way I’m going to pay $200+/ticket to see them in a 15,000+ seat arena to listen to it on crappy 200W distributed audio speakers 300 feet from the stage. In that regards, I invest the money I would have spent on a live show to my “living room sound system kitty” so that I can host listening parties when these big name bands come through town.

And some bands never sound great live, no matter the venue. I simply choose not to like those bands.

If you want two contemporary bands that put on a heck of a live show, still play in intimate venues, and have high quality digital and vinyl recordings, check out The Appleseed Cast and Balmorhea.

Posted by Grant Clauser  on  10/16  at  04:38 PM

Matt, thanks for the tips. I will check out those bands.

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