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Live Versus Recorded

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  • Live Versus Recorded

    Let me start out by stating that my post is PURLEY SUBJECTIVE.

    I realize that other persons hearing, preferences, and opinions may be very different.

    I’m quite OK with that, and that’s one reason we have such a variety of recordings and sound reproduction equipment out there.

    Having been exposed to live music performances for several decades, I will describe my personal preferences first.

    Music Types -- Old style rock, blues, a little country, and a little jazz.

    Venue Size -- Small to medium (no dimension over 50 feet or so)

    Listening Position -- About 15 feet front center of stage

    Drum Kit --Not amplified

    Horns -- Not amplified

    Bass Guitar -- Big standup multiple driver amplifier.

    Other Guitars -- Individual on stage amplifiers

    Keyboards --Through some good stage subs, if really low notes are used.

    Vocals & Everything Else -- Through a good smooth sounding PA

    Even though some of the performances were lacking compared to commercial recordings, the sound was superior to my own home stereo, and stuff at high end audio stores as well (Assuming the sound was even half decent at the venue).

    Now I’ll get to the differences I usually heard.
    I would often sit with eyes closed and really concentrate on exactly what I was really hearing.

    Ambience …Gobs more around about 60-200Hz
    Drum hits bounce around everywhere.
    Much more sense of space, and envelopment.

    Overall Volume -- Usually higher.

    Dynamic Peaks -- Higher on hard drum hits in particular.

    Imaging -- Surprisingly “not as precise” as most recordings, unless you stood right up front at stage edge.

    Bass Drum -- Lots of smack & concussion, but much less thump or boom tone.

    Other Drums -- Louder than in most recordings with much more sound of the shells.

    Cymbals -- More ring, clank, and shimmer

    Saxophone -- More growl, and bite

    Trumpets -- Sharper and more metallic with a bit of buzzy distortion (even unamplified).

    Bass -- Usually fuller, louder, and warmer, with better definition of individual string and low pedal note vibrations.

    Vocals -- Similar, but not as prominent compared to most recordings.


    This got me & an audio enthusiast friend to wondering .
    How much of the difference is our playback hardware, and how much is due to the way our recordings were made.

    So, we decided to roll a few live recordings of our own to help us figure out where the differences were.

    We went armed with only a very minimal recording setup.

    Tape Deck
    Pair of mikes
    Monitoring headphones
    DBX compressor limiter set only to take a catch a few over the top snare hits that were saturating the tape.


    Recording position was optimized by adjusting the height & vertical angle of the mikes while monitoring through headphones, until the sound seemed focused right.

    We then mover in closer to the stage by ½ the distance to compensate the playback having only ½ the reverberant field from two front speakers.


    Playback was done through my big ole set of Acoustic Research AR-9 floor standers fed with 300wpc (little over 400wpc peak headroom).
    EQ was tweaked by ear with my 1/3 octave Equalizer to compensate small inaccuracies in the recording/playback chain until it sounded as much like the performance the night before.

    Cranked up the volume to a live level and OHHHH MYYYYY GOD. :whew:

    I had never heard anything so live sounding before.
    Even my so called audiophile discs seemed somewhat lifeless in comparison.
    The only differences between live and recorded were a very slight loss of clarity, and bass drum impact.
    Also, a drier kind of back to the wall type reverberant field with a less energized air sensation.


    SUMMARY

    The difference between live and recorded is roughly about 90% in the recording process and 10% in the playback equipment. Boy am I going to ruffle some feathers with that opinion !! :stirthepot:

    Of course, this assumes the playback system is pretty accurate, SPL capable, and properly adjusted.

    The vast majority of recordings are heavily processed in many ways to please the target audience, and maybe sound “lively”, but not live.
    :group: Long live draft beer and good old rock 'n roll :grinning:

  • #2
    Hmmm ... I probably ought to provide a disclaimer.
    :no clue:

    Your results may vary with different types of live music or playback equipment. :rlmfao:
    :group: Long live draft beer and good old rock 'n roll :grinning:

    Comment


    • #3
      Interesting post. I often wonder what I am trying to reproduce with my sound system. When you listen to Pink Floyd live in a big venue you are listening to equipment as much as Pink Floyd. Most concerts I go to are amplified so when I reproduce them at home I am looking for the sound they had at the venue more than the sound you might have if all those musicians were in my living room...

      I have never heard a recording of an opera singer that comes near being five feet away from a good soprano belting something out. On the other hand the first time I went to hear a symphony orchestra I was let down because the volume was so low. I typically listen very loud...

      On a side note, do they ever throw you out when you show up with your recording equipment?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by django1
        Interesting post. I often wonder what I am trying to reproduce with my sound system. When you listen to Pink Floyd live in a big venue you are listening to equipment as much as Pink Floyd. Most concerts I go to are amplified so when I reproduce them at home I am looking for the sound they had at the venue more than the sound you might have if all those musicians were in my living room...

        I have never heard a recording of an opera singer that comes near being five feet away from a good soprano belting something out. On the other hand the first time I went to hear a symphony orchestra I was let down because the volume was so low. I typically listen very loud...

        On a side note, do they ever throw you out when you show up with your recording equipment?
        Nope ... I've only recorded little local bar bands ... got permission from the manager and band members in writing.

        Most are AOK with this if you state in writing that the recording will only be used for personal & NOT commercial use.

        As far as vocal recording sound.

        When you use a typical voice mike, like a Shure M58, it has a frequency response bump in the upper mid and an edgy coloration to "cut through the mix".

        Promixity to the mike gives a bass boost to make vocies sound fuller, stronger, and more resonant.

        I have recorded voices with a flat smooth instrument mike, say two feet from the mouth, and the result can be startlingly realistic.

        I'm sure most studios use both vocal mikes & other added processing to get the sound they want.

        I suspect some speakers and/or amps that people describe as more natural sounding on voices, actually have a small dip in the upper midrange and/or upper bass response.
        :group: Long live draft beer and good old rock 'n roll :grinning:

        Comment


        • #5
          I used to dislike live tracks for many reasons, including lack of clarity, too much going ambiently including crowds chanting, etc.

          That changed when I purchased X-statik. While it favoured certain genres over the others, it excelled the most with the live performances. It gave me a picturisque description of the performers, and even the crowds no longer annoyed me as they actually added to the surreal feeling, not detracting. I don't know why this is the case as none of the other speakers I've owned and auditioned (including the Maggies and the LS6) showed this kind of bias towards live.

          The important thing is both processed recordings and lives do sound different from one another and to each their own.

          Comment

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