Live vs. recorded

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Terri and I went to enjoy the Boulder Philharmonic last night at the university and we were able to get great seats: 7th row, center, slightly to the right.

Closing my eyes and listening to the cellos I mentally compared the live sound to what I am getting in Music Room One: nearly identical. The only thing lacking was a presence and immediacy in the upper regions where the bow hits the strings. But more intriguing to me was a reminder of how different the soundstage is. In a typical recording, the microphones would be on stage, much closer to the musicians than I ever would be. Live, I am 7 rows back from the orchestra where the room adds a huge impact on the sound. If the engineer were to place his microphones where I was sitting, the sound would not be the same as I was hearing live, when played back, because the microphones pickup everything, ignoring nothing.

What I hear 7 rows back includes a lot of the hall and audience impacts that my brain is ignoring as I focus on just the music coming from the stage.

When I listen to a relatively closer mic'd recording on my system, my brain has to make up for everything in my listening room, the differences in how close the microphones are to the musicians, relative to where I would normally sit in a live setting, etc.

The instruments sound nearly identical in both situations, to me, but the space can never be the same. On a well recorded piece, the view I get can sometimes be even better than what I hear live; just as watching sports event live vs. on television can be an enhanced experience because of the closer camera advantage of TV.

Hearing it live helps center me and gives a very different feeling than hearing it recorded, but both have their advantages.

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Paul McGowan

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