Paul McGowan writes: In my post “Through and open window” I mentioned that if I am walking down the street and hear a piano through an open window I know immediately if that’s the sound of a real piano or a recorded one. Odd that we can do this even from affar and through a window.
I can also tell if someone is playing an electric instrument like a guitar live – and can identify this sound of the electric guitar through windows and over long distances through a neighborhood.
This is all very odd because in the case of the electric guitar, it isn’t a live acoustic instrument it’s actually not much different than our stereo systems – yet we always know if it’s live or recorded.
Or do we? Let’s try a thought experiment. If you have an electric instrument (let’s think guitar again) and you compare it being played live through its loudspeaker vs. recorded and then played through its loudspeaker, I’ll bet you can’t tell the difference. But if you take that same recording and play it back through another loudspeaker – even the best loudspeaker pair in the world – you will immediately be able to tell it’s not live.
So the loudspeakers are at fault? No, not entirely. Here’s what I suspect. The ear/brain is just sensitive enough to identify something not reproduced on the original final medium and whenever that happens, we immediately pick up the cues that tell us it’s not live. So it is the fact that something is altered when not reproduced on the identical instrument or reproducer.
Which brings up an interesting dilemma for us high-end types: if the problem is that the ear/brain can immediately pickup the difference between live on the original instrument vs. reproduced when not through the original instrument/medium, what hope do we have for high-end’s ultimate goal of recreating the sound of live music in our homes?
I think then the challenge is for someone to focus on this one critical area and uncover the secret. I’ll bet it’s not hard."