A different viewpoint

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A recording of a solo instrument or voice seems easier to faithfully reproduce than that of an orchestra’s many voices.

You’ve probably noticed this as well. As the complexity of sound increases, the believability factor goes down on all but the best systems.

Does this mean we’re taking the wrong approach to music’s reproduction relying on a single pair of full range loudspeakers? Or does it suggest something else?

I’ve heard it proposed that the greatest reproduction system would be a separate speaker and recording track for every instrument in the recording. The idea is at first attractive but given some thought, I don’t think it would be as meaningful as our imaginations might suggest.

What we seem to be ignoring is the hearing process itself. When we listen to a group of musicians it is the sum of the venue and all the instruments we hear—not the individuals. A properly placed pair of microphones pickups up this same collection of summed sound and full range loudspeakers should faithfully play it back to us. Like a milkshake, which is an amalgam of its component ingredients, it is the sum of individual instruments we hear, not the individuals. Thus, whether solo or grouped, neither should be more difficult than the other to capture and reproduce.

This gives me hope for further advancement in the art of reproduction because it is far easier to imagine proper reproduction of the whole rather than extracting the individuals from a complex mash of music.