Where’s the music supposed to be?

Paul McGowan:

Visiting audio clubs, dealers, trade shows and people’s homes is illuminating to me.  I am always learning.

Recently I sat in front of a dealer’s high-end demo system and was amazed at how wrong the image was.

The entire presentation of the music was between my seating position and the loudspeakers: a logical place for it to be, but wrong none the less.

While it seems like the sound should be in front of the loudspeakers (when you think about how they work), the actual presentation on a well recorded piece of music should always be behind the loudspeaker pair.   During setup of any system, I work very hard at achieving this counter intuitive concept.  Here’s the reasoning.

Think of  a pair of microphones placed on a stage, recording a band.  The microphones recording this band are pointed at them and the band members are behind the microphones.  From your seated position in the audience, the rear facing microphones are between you and the band being recorded.  If you close your eyes and listen, the band is away from you on the stage and behind the microphones recording it.

Now imagine the microphones being replaced by loudspeakers – reproducing exactly what the microphones recorded – only this time, the loudspeakers are facing you – attempting to reproduce the sound of the band.

Where should the band be in space?  In front or behind the loudspeakers?

If the recordist and the loudspeaker setup person did their job, then you the listener should be able to close your eyes and not be able to tell the difference between the live band and the recorded band, in space or timing.

Hint: in setup, we want to imagine how it should sound and ignore our visual cues telling us it shouldn’t work that way.

Leave a Reply