Paul McGowan: Yesterday I promised you an interesting thought challenge that has to do with getting music to sound live in your room – something we mostly all agree our industry and our equipment falls quite short of being able to do.
First, imagine yourself sitting in the center row of an auditorium. There on the stage is a small combo playing live. The music’s good, the sound is great, you’re into it. You close your eyes and you can feel the room around you, the space you’re in, the music that plays to you. With your eyes still closed, in our imaginary scenario, the combo stops playing and before you can even open your eyes a pair of good loudspeakers replaces the combo and continues their music at the same volume level – only this time from a recording of them.
Chances are pretty good you’d still think they were playing live if you didn’t know any better. The room is still there, you can still sense the space you’re in, the size of the hall, etc. The recording of the combo was made with relatively closely placed microphones that don’t capture much of the space the musicians are in – but that’s ok because it’s being played back in the exact same space.
With me so far?
Now, take that same recording and loudspeaker pair, place them in your living room, close your eyes and listen and you find that which once sounded live now sounds recorded and canned. What happened? The room changed, of course.
You know – even sitting quietly in the room with nothing playing – the approximate size of the room and the space you’re in. The group that sounded natural and live in the auditorium now sounds wrong and out of place. Why? Well, for one thing if that combo was really in your living room everything would be different for you from an acoustic standpoint. There would be that number of actual people in your living room as well as their instruments and the reflections and ambient noise levels would all be different.
Bottom line: we can sense, especially in a small confined space, if something is real or not real because of that space and our ability to sense that space.
So how do we fix this? I’ll tell you tomorrow.