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Why Live-vs-Recorded Listening Tests Don't Work
solive
post Jul 10 2010, 11:08
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Thomas Edison was probably the greatest stereo salesman that ever lived. He believed that "listeners will hear what you tell them to hear", and he was pretty successful convincing thousands of listeners that his 1910 Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph reproduced recordings that sounded identical to a live performance. His secret weapon was an elaborate live-versus-recorded demonstration that managed to convince people that his phonograph sounded a lot better than it really was.

Several times over the past 10 years, I have been asked by live-versus-recorded apologists why I don't do these types of the tests since they claim they are the only true valid measures of loudspeaker fidelity or accuracy. That is what prompted me to write about why I believe live-versus-recorded listening tests don't work, in this month's blog article

Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

This post has been edited by solive: Jul 10 2010, 11:30


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analog scott
post Jul 10 2010, 18:41
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QUOTE (solive @ Jul 10 2010, 12:08) *
Thomas Edison was probably the greatest stereo salesman that ever lived. He believed that "listeners will hear what you tell them to hear", and he was pretty successful convincing thousands of listeners that his 1910 Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph reproduced recordings that sounded identical to a live performance. His secret weapon was an elaborate live-versus-recorded demonstration that managed to convince people that his phonograph sounded a lot better than it really was.

Several times over the past 10 years, I have been asked by live-versus-recorded apologists why I don't do these types of the tests since they claim they are the only true valid measures of loudspeaker fidelity or accuracy. That is what prompted me to write about why I believe live-versus-recorded listening tests don't work, in this month's blog article

Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings


Very nice article Sean. I think you make a valid point that one can't use live music as a means of judging loudspeakers per se. But it seems to me that one can use live music as a reference to judge a recording and playback system in it's totallity.
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solive
post Jul 11 2010, 07:46
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QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 10 2010, 10:41) *
QUOTE (solive @ Jul 10 2010, 12:08) *
Thomas Edison was probably the greatest stereo salesman that ever lived. He believed that "listeners will hear what you tell them to hear", and he was pretty successful convincing thousands of listeners that his 1910 Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph reproduced recordings that sounded identical to a live performance. His secret weapon was an elaborate live-versus-recorded demonstration that managed to convince people that his phonograph sounded a lot better than it really was.

Several times over the past 10 years, I have been asked by live-versus-recorded apologists why I don't do these types of the tests since they claim they are the only true valid measures of loudspeaker fidelity or accuracy. That is what prompted me to write about why I believe live-versus-recorded listening tests don't work, in this month's blog article

Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings


Very nice article Sean. I think you make a valid point that one can't use live music as a means of judging loudspeakers per se. But it seems to me that one can use live music as a reference to judge a recording and playback system in it's totallity.


Thanks. Yes, you can certainly judge the accuracy of the entire recording/playback chain to a live performance but the test makes it difficult to know which component is responsible for the artifacts: the recording, the loudspeakers, or both.

In my view, the closest you can come to recreating a live performance experience is a binaural recording/room scan with a head-tracking headphone-based auditory display. Stereo just doesn't cut it, but multichannel gets a lot closer if the recording is done well. And there are still challenges controlling all the nuisance variables.

What about recordings that are not intended to sound like a live performance? That would include about 95% of all recording made today. How do we judge the accuracy of those? Of course, you know the answer to that question: you define the performance of the loudspeakers and their interaction with the room acoustics where the art (the recording) was created, and simply replicate the playback system in the consumer space. Science in the service of art -- Not a popular concept among the live-versus-recording apologists I've met.




Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

This post has been edited by solive: Jul 11 2010, 07:50


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analog scott
post Jul 11 2010, 15:50
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QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 07:46) *
What about recordings that are not intended to sound like a live performance? That would include about 95% of all recording made today. How do we judge the accuracy of those?



I can't say that it is an issue to me. But if one is going to ask the question then one has to define the reference. What is the reference for a studio recording if one is seeking an "accurate" reproduction of it? Unlike a recording of an original live performance a studio recording in and of itself has no intrinsic original sound.


QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 07:46) *
Of course, you know the answer to that question: you define the performance of the loudspeakers and their interaction with the room acoustics where the art (the recording) was created, and simply replicate the playback system in the consumer space. Science in the service of art -- Not a popular concept among the live-versus-recording apologists I've met.




Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings



Yep and no thanks.

But this points to a bigger question in audio. Why seek accuracy? Why use live music or the sound originally heard in the control room as a reference? As an audiophile I think in this quest for accuracy the forest has been lost for the trees. For me live music is really a benchmark more than a literal rigid "reference." The most beautiful sounding music I have heard has come from live acoustic music be it a symphony orchestra at Disney Hall or that magical concert I went to in a church in Soweto with Ladysmith Black Mambazo (maybe the most beautiful thing I have ever heard) or any number of other magical moments I have experienced with live acoustic jazz or folk etc. These experiecneces for me have been the pinnicles of aesthetic beauty in sound. So with recording and playback of live music it consistantly seems to work that the closer you get to the sounds one hears with live music (with all the qualifiers) the better the playback tends to be. Heck if some day I hear something on a hifi that simply sounds better than anything I have ever heard live...that becomes the new benchmark for me. If live music didn't set the benchmark there would be no point in using it as a reference and no point in trying to accurately recreate those sounds.

Now with studio recordings....IMO the control rooms don't set such a lofty benchmark. IOW IMO one can do much better than "accurate" with those recordings. So I see no point in seeking accuracy with such recordings.

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solive
post Jul 11 2010, 20:16
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QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 11 2010, 07:50) *


QUOTE
I can't say that it is an issue to me. But if one is going to ask the question then one has to define the reference. What is the reference for a studio recording if one is seeking an "accurate" reproduction of it? Unlike a recording of an original live performance a studio recording in and of itself has no intrinsic original sound.


The reference is what the artist heard in the studio plain and simple. That is the "live performance"


QUOTE
Yep and no thanks.

But this points to a bigger question in audio. Why seek accuracy? Why use live music or the sound originally heard in the control room as a reference? As an audiophile I think in this quest for accuracy the forest has been lost for the trees. For me live music is really a benchmark more than a literal rigid "reference." The most beautiful sounding music I have heard has come from live acoustic music be it a symphony orchestra at Disney Hall or that magical concert I went to in a church in Soweto with Ladysmith Black Mambazo (maybe the most beautiful thing I have ever heard) or any number of other magical moments I have experienced with live acoustic jazz or folk etc. These experiecneces for me have been the pinnicles of aesthetic beauty in sound. So with recording and playback of live music it consistantly seems to work that the closer you get to the sounds one hears with live music (with all the qualifiers) the better the playback tends to be. Heck if some day I hear something on a hifi that simply sounds better than anything I have ever heard live...that becomes the new benchmark for me. If live music didn't set the benchmark there would be no point in using it as a reference and no point in trying to accurately recreate those sounds.

Now with studio recordings....IMO the control rooms don't set such a lofty benchmark. IOW IMO one can do much better than "accurate" with those recordings. So I see no point in seeking accuracy with such recordings.


Wow, that's quite an admission that you don't care about accuracy in sound reproduction. I would put that in your signature "Analog Scott - "I don't care about accuracy" since that would save a lot of people the hassle and time arguing with you - smile.gif

But you raise a valid point. Certainly on the recording side, most engineers/producers are not seeking to accurately capture/reproduce the "live performance" which makes the whole live-vs-recorded method rather moot.


Cheers
Sean Olive
Audio Musings

This post has been edited by solive: Jul 11 2010, 20:18


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2Bdecided
post Jul 14 2010, 18:54
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QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 20:16) *
The reference is what the artist heard in the studio plain and simple. That is the "live performance"
What do you mean - in the studio while they were performing, or in the studio as they listened to playback?

I would suggest that both have little relevance. What a person sounds like to them selves is very different from the way they sound to others. What a given recording sounds like through a specific set of studio loudspeakers is of little relevance to me - especially if those studio speakers are crap.

I know the engineer will make decisions based on the sound they hear through those speakers, but a skilled engineer mixes for all speakers, and isn't likely to tailor the sound specifically to overcome the deficiencies of one pair of speakers. They may do so to some extent, but the more skill and experience they have, the less this will be an issue.

I can justify this with a great example: recordings from the 1930s sound closer to "real" instruments when replayed today than they did when replayed in the 1930s, yet according to your argument, the sound heard in the control room in 1935 is "accurate", and the sound heard on "better" equipment today is less accurate.

Cheers,
David.
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Posts in this topic
- solive   Why Live-vs-Recorded Listening Tests Don't Work   Jul 10 2010, 11:08
- - kdo   I have a couple of questions. QUOTE Live and Reco...   Jul 10 2010, 16:53
|- - kdo   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 10 2010, 17:53) Would it...   Jul 11 2010, 16:25
||- - solive   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 11 2010, 08:25) QUOTE (k...   Jul 13 2010, 00:43
|||- - kdo   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 13 2010, 01:43) The p...   Jul 13 2010, 01:02
||||- - solive   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 12 2010, 17:02) QUOTE (s...   Jul 13 2010, 04:09
|||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 12 2010, 19:43) It is...   Jul 13 2010, 20:26
||- - solive   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 11 2010, 08:25) QUOTE (k...   Jul 13 2010, 04:53
||- - kdo   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 13 2010, 05:09) Sorry...   Jul 13 2010, 20:10
|- - solive   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 10 2010, 08:53) I have a...   Jul 12 2010, 06:46
|- - kdo   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 12 2010, 07:46) 1) I ...   Jul 12 2010, 21:25
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 12 2010, 01:46) 1) I ...   Jul 13 2010, 17:25
|- - zane9   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 13 2010, 11...   Jul 13 2010, 18:50
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (zane9 @ Jul 13 2010, 13:50) QUOTE ...   Jul 13 2010, 20:21
||- - kdo   I sense a big fat TOS-8 violation right here: QUOT...   Jul 14 2010, 02:19
||- - Ed Seedhouse   One form of "live vs. reccorded" test wi...   Jul 14 2010, 02:35
|||- - kdo   QUOTE (Ed Seedhouse @ Jul 14 2010, 03:35)...   Jul 14 2010, 02:57
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 13 2010, 21:19) I sense ...   Jul 14 2010, 03:12
||- - kdo   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 14 2010, 04...   Jul 14 2010, 03:30
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 13 2010, 22:30) QUOTE (A...   Jul 14 2010, 10:42
||- - kdo   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 14 2010, 11...   Jul 14 2010, 16:56
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (kdo @ Jul 14 2010, 11:56) QUOTE (A...   Jul 14 2010, 17:15
||- - kdo   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 14 2010, 18...   Jul 14 2010, 17:58
|- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 13 2010, 17...   Jul 14 2010, 19:04
|- - analog scott   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 14 2010, 19:04) QU...   Jul 14 2010, 20:40
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 14 2010, 14:04) It...   Jul 16 2010, 07:58
|- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Jul 16 2010, 07...   Jul 16 2010, 16:29
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (2Bdecided @ Jul 16 2010, 11:29) Cr...   Jul 16 2010, 23:59
- - analog scott   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 10 2010, 12:08) Thoma...   Jul 10 2010, 18:41
|- - solive   QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 10 2010, 10:41)...   Jul 11 2010, 07:46
|- - analog scott   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 07:46) What ...   Jul 11 2010, 15:50
|- - googlebot   QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 11 2010, 16:50)...   Jul 11 2010, 16:53
||- - analog scott   QUOTE (googlebot @ Jul 11 2010, 16:53) QU...   Jul 11 2010, 17:44
||- - aclo   QUOTE (googlebot @ Jul 11 2010, 17:53) Wh...   Jul 12 2010, 04:06
|- - solive   QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 11 2010, 07:50)...   Jul 11 2010, 20:16
||- - analog scott   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 21:16) QUOTE...   Jul 11 2010, 20:33
||- - googlebot   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 21:16) The r...   Jul 11 2010, 20:33
|||- - solive   QUOTE (googlebot @ Jul 11 2010, 12:33) QU...   Jul 12 2010, 06:19
||- - 2Bdecided   QUOTE (solive @ Jul 11 2010, 20:16) The r...   Jul 14 2010, 18:54
|- - greynol   QUOTE (analog scott @ Jul 11 2010, 07:50)...   Jul 11 2010, 20:28
|- - Notat   QUOTE (greynol @ Jul 11 2010, 13:28) It...   Jul 11 2010, 23:06
- - greynol   Quite unfortunate if someone wants to garner somet...   Jul 11 2010, 23:19
- - greynol   Unless he can assure us that his opinion about the...   Jul 12 2010, 02:26
- - greynol   analogscott's post binned per TOS #2. Further...   Jul 12 2010, 03:09


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