PS AUDIO: Bring water to horses

Paul McGowan writes: Yesterday I modeled what would happen if you moved a perfect reproduction of a live venue to your home.  It wouldn’t sound live because of the change of venue.  We are quite capable of acoustically defining the space we’re in and it’s hard to fool us.

I remember once I visited an anechoic chamber and it was an eery experience to say the least.  When the door to the chamber closed it felt as if all the life had been sucked out of the room.  When I closed my eyes, not only could I not tell what size the room was but all I could hear was the blood pumping in my ears.  For all I knew the room could have been the size of a football field.  This is about the worst situation you could have for a live group or a stereo system because there are no reflections and we depend on those reflections as audible cues.  Yet, this chamber changes the apparent size of the room we’re in and is a key to solving our puzzle.

And so with that in mind, the answer to yesterday’s thought problem is to change the room – with technology.

Imagine if we could simulate the room the original combo was playing in.  How would that feel? I am quite convinced it would feel like you were there.  But to be convincing you’d have to be able to sit in your listening position and close your eyes and believe you are in a a different sized room and hear the space around you.  If you coughed or shuffled in your seat, all that you hear would have to be convincing enough to fool you.

Haven’t we heard of “concert hall” sound and tricks that fool you into believing the music’s playing in a larger venue than it is?  Sure we have.  Many of you are probably familiar with prior attempts at adding room characteristics into the stereo system – some Yamaha receivers did this and it was moronic.  Really, you can’t add the room into the music, you have to add the room into the room.  In other words, you have to create the room environment in the room and independently of the stereo system.

How would one do that?  With another loudspeaker system surrounding the listener and a microphone or two placed appropriately in the room.  Imagine 4 loudspeakers, one in the middle of each of the rooms 4 walls – and a microphone setup either near the loudspeakers or near the listener.  Through tricky electronics and known DSP techniques, this setup could manage the reflections from the walls and provide a convincing room to anyone in it – and of course the room dimensions could be adjusted electronically as well.

Easy to do?  Practical?  No, but it is another view of how to overcome this age old problem.

Like they say, if you can’t bring a horse to the water, bring the water to the horse.