Paul McGowan writes: My revelation of the simple truth that we can never believe we are actually in the same room as live musicians, no matter how good the recording and the reproduction chains are, really shook up my world. I had assumed all along that we could get very close to building a believable soundstage in our listening rooms – so believable that we could close our eyes and “be in the same space” – until I realized the room itself would always be the limiting factor.
The soundstage I have in both music rooms at PS are quite believable – many people hearing these rooms for the first time are surprised just how real some cuts of music sound – but it’s always a far away view – it’s always as if we are distant observers of the music – as if we’re listening to a live performance through an open window. We are never in the room.
I remember years ago Yamaha made receivers that were all the rage – there you could choose the size of the room the stereo was playing in, you could turn it into a live event, a big hall, a tiny nightclub – it all sounded too good to be true: and it was. The sound produced by these miracles of DSP processing were interesting for about a micro second. The sound field got bigger, the reverb increased, the speakers started to disappear. But you never got more involved. The promise of being at the concert was never realized because there is simply nothing you can do to the sound itself to make that happen. You must change the room itself.
So what would it be like to be in the room where it was recorded? What would have to change for you to sit in a room and close your eyes and feel like you’re in a different space? Those were the fundamental questions I was asking myself during the early development phase of this idea of mine.
I pictured an audio show like RMAF. I had a room full of Audiophiles sitting in rapt attention to hear this new “system” and they had no idea of what was about to happen. The room was one of those standard hotel rooms and inside were perhaps 20 seats, all filled. I was standing at the front of the room speaking to the crowd.
“I want you all to close your eyes and listen to the sound of my voice. Listen to the room and how I sound in the room. It’s probably pretty easy to tell that the room’s dimensions are 15 x 20 and there are a lot of folks in the room.” I would then push a button activating the electronic room. ”Now how big is the room? Talk amongst yourselves, notice that the size of the room has gone from 15 x 20 to 30 x 40 and it happened when I pushed this button”.
I could then demonstrate different sized rooms, describing each as I went along. This would be the way to go. If I could achieve this level of believability within a room at an audio show, it would change everything. Why? Because all of a sudden, the stereo system is playing in a larger room. The signer on the recording is singing in a larger space. When I play Contate Domino or Berlioz Dies Irae, I increase the size apparent size of the room to that of the church it was recorded in and suddenly – I come frighteningly close to being right there in the music.
Yes, that’s what I need to figure out. That’s the ticket, that’s where this needs to go.