Musicians know better

August 26, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Musicians know best how their instruments and music sound.

I disagree.

Musicians have a unique perspective, one that is not shared by those of us who enjoy their music.

Imagine how a violin must sound when the instrument is under your chin and your left ear is mere inches from the strings and bow. I guarantee you that is an audio perspective only the player knows.

And the sound of a live band on stage is very different than that of an audience member the band is playing to.

No, I think most musicians are rather bad at correctly identifying how their instrument sounds to listeners of their music, just as bad (I suspect) as you or I might be at identifying how it sounds to make that music.

I've spent more than half a century as a listener from afar.

That's a lot of experience of a very different nature than the musicians who are making the music.

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89 comments on “Musicians know better”

  1. So you want to create and judge a sound from far while having mic‘ed quite near the instrument?

    Isn’t the strength or weakness of recordings exactly the fact, that it’s not only an artificial thing in terms of soundstage, but also in terms of instrument sound?

    Do you want a recording sound as „bad“ (in several regards) as a e.g. classical concert from the audience perspective?

    I’m puzzled.

    I certainly know what you mean. A trumpet or piano player who never heard (from audience perspective) another one playing his instrument, has a different sound perspective of it from his own playing and when comparing a recording’s sound with his own playing perspective, compares apples with oranges. And many might do. But what do you think how many musicians don’t regularly hear their instruments played by others?

    Anyway I’m with you, a musician’s judgement might be dominated by the self playing perspective.

    1. But when judging a quite close mic’ed recording, this musicians’ perspective might be more valuable than the one of a pure audience listener, as a recording usually creates an artificial soundstage in the mix and a tonality that combines a close sound of instruments with further mic’ed ambiance and reverb characteristics of the room.

      With all mic distances closer than the one of a one point recording, this is more or less a fact, and the instrument sound much more equals the musicians’ or better the conductors’ perspective than the one of an audience listener.

      IMO if you, from a closer mic’ed feed, try to make the instrument sound comparable to that in the audience, you artificially have to damp and veil it in a way, that can’t sound natural either. Then imo you should make one point or two mic recordings instead of sticking mic’s into a piano or trumpet and try to create realistic audience perspective sound from it.

      All this is just my theoretically based opinion, I never made a recording or have any clue of it, but I play many instruments, also played in bands or on stage, was recorded and listened to many concerts.

      1. I certainly heard my kind instruments played by others also from different distances (other than a typical audience listener has the chance to).

        I also heard differently mic’ed recordings (one point, two mic’s, Decca tree, medium distances, multimic’ed etc.) and their perspective compared to the different sounds from real instruments (fortunately in case of rather ordinary concert halls or places)

        And what I’d say is, that most any recording except a one point combines a quite close instrument sound with room characteristics, quite close to the conductors perspective in pure tonality regards. Far from the instrument sound dozens of feet away in the audience.

  2. And what about a singer? Everybody may be familiar with the effect that hearing his own voice recorded sounds most “unfamiliar”. But how now does the singer manages the creation his voice’s sound in a way that everybody says “show”, awful, etc.? Thus I am pretty sure that musicians and singer have a realistic feeling for producing the desired sound quality. I think today the primary task of a mixing engineer is to create a good sound from an inherent flawed recording using all kind of tools and plug-ins of his mixing console. A good sound of course for lofi or mediocre audio systems. The disappointment comes when listening to these recordings often mixed from the musicians recordings made in different locations/studios. In the early analog days recordings were also inherently flawed but the recording engineer having no sophisticated mixing-tools available had to put much more effort in the arrangement of the musicians playing together in the same studio! It’s an audio god’s punishment having been condemned being an audiophile! 🙂

      1. But we see pictures and videos of singers in recording booths with headphones on. What is it they hear but their own voice as it comes from the mixing board?

        1. They hear themselves over headphones or monitors, but they can’t hear their own voice live without the use of speakers or cans, except in their head while singing (which is a different sound than what an audience hears rom whatever distance).

          1. Jazznut. You’re on fire in this thread. You’ve had a good answer for just about everything talked about here. Enjoyed your thinking. Thanks for the nice reads.

            1. Thanks! I could go crazy or leave it alone about most of the non banal ones 😉
              Not because I‘d always have a contradicting opinion, I don’t always and especially not on every part of the posts, but because they rarely do justice to the subject. I’m a voter for maybe just one topic a week, but a more thought out and more completely covered one. I also know this won’t happen 😉

              1. I just enjoyed what you had to say and you helped me kind of see it from both sides, which is the most important thing of all.

                Hope you have a great weekend filled with the Jazz that you love. My son is finally headed for the pillow, so it is tube time for this night time listener/weekend warrior. Lol.

  3. Musicians may well have a flawed perspective as to how their instruments sound when performing but surely once in the control room and assisted by the engineers, they have a valid input into how they want the finished product to sound. Musicians are a talented bunch but like the rest of us, they listen to other music as well.

      1. I think maybe the real problem is, musicians may think that they…or they sometimes want to sound different than they personally actually do from some feet apart. But the judgement of a fellow musician could help in that argumentation between engineer and musician.

        If musicians want a different sound than the one equaling more or less the live performance, it’s usually the intent of the artist that determines the final product (unless the engineer or producer has a strong enough position to overrule the artist).

        I think a producer with a too strong enforced influence which often contradicts the one of the musicians, risks loosing artists.

  4. I think Paul is confusing sound and music. He obsesses about sound, musicians often obsess about music. They are not the same thing.

    I suggest Paul goes to a few classical master classes. I’ve been to a few by Andras Schiff in particular, besides being a great pianist he is extremely entertaining and tells great stories. I went to one without pre-booking a ticket and found myself sitting in the balcony at the back of the Wigmore Hall, the equivalent of about 25 rows from the stage. The sound is still good, it is a great acoustic, but it does sound more roomy that far back.

    The point of a masterclass is for the maestro to educate the student (victim) and audience on matters of instrumental technique and musical interpretation. I remember on that occasion Schiff was trying to get his victim to play some extremely airy phrases from Janajek’s piece In the Mists. I’d heard him play the piece in his recital the night before, sitting in row 3, and he played it again at the start of the masterclass when I was 10 times further away. In the relevant section, the fingers barely touch the keys of the piano. However, whereas the sonic perspective may change, the musical perspective does not. It was abundantly clear what Schiff was trying to get his victim to achieve and the limited extent to which he was doing so.

    Last year I sat immediately behind Imogen Cooper as she played the Diabelli Variations. I was so close I could easily read the score and could probably have turned the pages for her. It made no difference musically and frankly It made a nice change.

    Of course when it comes to recording, the recording engineer wants to get a sound that is most familiar to the audience member, but that should not have any impact on the music itself.

    In my experience, most classical musicians have a preference for recording in the same venue as often as possible, because they and their production team know exactly what it will sound like and the listeners will notice a change.

    And as far as Paul or any of us having more experience of listening to music, certainly amongst classical and jazz musicians they probably spend more hours listening to other musicians (making music normally being a group activity) than actually listening to themselves.

  5. I think what Paul is getting at is the perspective of music sounding from different angles or points of view. I can totally rap my head around understanding that a world class musician may not really get or understand how a livelier recording should sound better for an audience member. In the studio? Yeah, some musicians are dumb as shit when it comes to the recording process and it is also the worst when they think they know more than the engineer.

    This happens a lot and I’m sure some of us have come across this where you have the same mixing and mastering engineer for 2 different bands, but of the same genre yet still the recording is vastly different.
    Musicians are the bosses ultimately, and they get the final say for how their music sounds.

    It is not always a good thing and I think this is what Paul is getting at, especially from all angles including sound tech, mic positions and sound perspectives. 😉

  6. ["Musicians know best how their instruments and music sound". I disagree...]

    I understand what you are trying to say, Paul. However, having studied, performed and taught music for a quarter of a century, IME, your opening sentence is absolutely True! Having intimate "performance exposure" to the articulation, tonality and timbre of keyboards, winds, strings and percussive instruments (not voice) enables me to recognize the accuracy of a reproduction (recording playback) of said instrument. In the subsequent events of listening to "music", I know if the live capture accurately represents those instrument sonic characteristics!

    Still, IMO the responsibility and goal of the recording label is to precisely capture the performance as per you, I and others, the "Audience Perspective"! Be it a live acoustical performance in a large venue, or the performance in a recording studio (simulating what an audience might experience in a live concert venue), fidelity playback of the recording Then falls on each listeners audio system and environment to faithfully replicate the performance in our sweet spot! Either way, "I" can only truly judge the quality and accuracy of the instrument sounds in the recording and playback sequences, as per my knowledge from playing those instruments! Since 99% of the genre I listen to I wasn't present in the audience (or in the studio) during the live performance, everything else in the recording (hall ambience, studio mix, etc.) is just "LAGNIAPPE"!

    Of course, each person has their own unique hearing and experiences...mine being the only judgemental tools for me to evaluate and appreciate the art that music offers!

    1. FR, You beat me to the punch. This is exactly what I was going to comment ( there goes that twin thing again 😉 ). Most musicians today have closed back headphones or in ear custom buds that seal the ear on when recording ( and even just paying ). They can hear themselves, they can hear that band, or just the rhythm or whatever they want.

    2. Boy are you correct. Wow Paul, The next time you are trying to get quality musicians to record for Octave Records, I suggest you show them this post first with the added word's, "trust me, I know better. I own the studio, the recording company and control of what you sound like". What a great way to attract artists. This is the most unfortunate and saddest post you have ever done. As a professionional violinist, you just lost my respect forever. You don't know better than I do about How I sound, or my string quartet sounds. You are a technician, not an artist, and you just proved it.

    3. Musicians at times have sat in the audience ..
      and have listened in a studio mixing room.

      But not while playing at the same time....
      What the audience hears is not what the musician is hearing.

      1. Genez,
        Yes, obviously that would be physically impossible to do, but they can play something & then go & listen to it & then adjust or change the way they play a phrase or passage so that the sound is recorded in the way the musician feels it should sound in the recording.

  7. I was “towing the line” until I got to the part that said…

    “I’ve spent more than half a century as a listener from afar.” “That’s a lot of experience…”

    My 1st thought was, is this a course in arrogance 101? I might have been ok with the words, listening from a different perspective… I could on and on but I won’t…

    @Jazznut touched on it - things get so closed mic’d now a days that you can hear the reed whistle on some recordings. Yet you don’t hear that from listening a far. There’s a sense of audiophile giddiness when heard… wow listen to that detail, what a wonderfully transparent system I have and on and on…. While the musician and others think it might really be distracting…

    You touched on it yesterday microphones have sound signatures of their own. Yet it seems like the thought process is the musician doesn’t know their sound, especially a young one under the age of 23. The mic tells the truth, and only someone with 50+ years of experience knows..

    If I was a musician reading this, then I might say… 50 plus years in designing and manufacturing high end audio gear? You still don’t have it perfected which is why every x years you have to come out with a new top of the line.

    So a difference in perspective yes. Not knowing the sound of their instrument, color me skeptical.

    1. You are correct. Paul's post is the height of Producer and professional arrogance. I am a classical recording violinist for 50 years. I know what my instrument sounds like in a live setting, in the recording booth and under my chin. The arrogance Paul has posted is shocking and very sad. Many thousands of my 20,000 plus hours of study were spent on my sound as a violinist. Pauls post is like saying just because you own Photoshop you are an artist. Paul, you don't have a clue what professional musicians go through for their sound. You are way out of your lane here. Frankly, this makes me question your treatment of musicians in the studio. What do you say to them. "Guys, you don't have a clue what you sound like-trust me I know better". Wow, Paul this post of yours was very revealing about who you really are and what you really think of Musicians. Paul, you have shown you think like 100's of other arrogant producers who say, "Trust me, I know best".

      1. That’s precisely the lesson I took (or actually, confirmed) at my visit to Shangri-La. Musicians and their producers (especially the good ones) KNOW what they are doing.
        We may or may not like their final product but that’s a different matter.

      2. Hello Jay,

        I don't know about being correct.... (I'm not used to that 😀 )

        I think in the end its a matter of perspective and effective communication skills. No one likes being told they don't know sh*t and are completely wrong. That attitude can come from both perspectives.

        In the case of Octave Records I believe the musicians aren't paying for the studio time. So if that's the case then maybe the final result should be be determined by who ever is in charge of the studio. If the musician doesn't like it then maybe they should have gone else where or just walk out.

        On the other hand if the musicians are paying for the studio time then they should have a major say in how they want the final result to sound.

        In the end it sounds like emotions run high on both sides. The classic we / they syndrome.

        If someone develops a reputation of being hard or confrontational to work with then the word is going to get out. It may be us, the final listeners that loose the most.

  8. This ludicrously flawed logic. This makes it sound like musicians sit in the room by themselves, only understanding music from a playing point of view. Musicians aren’t just playing, they have been around music their whole lives. They have been hearing others play music virtually every day, from the time they first picked up an instrument to the day they die.

    If I’m looking for an opinion from authenticity point of view, I’m going to a musician who is around it every day and does music for a profession.

    1. Reed I agree with you 100%. Musicians make the big money when they develop their own unique sound. Years are spent on developing tone. Eddie Van Halen purposely flattened his B string. In the context of this post it would be like Paul telling Eddie his B string is flat, according to the "precision tuning meter" and to bring it back up to pitch. Like EVH or not, no one can argue with his mega success.
      Its the musicians that start the food chain not the other way around.
      In support of what I interpret Paul as saying musicians have to trust their sound men when playing live events.

  9. Paul,
    I thoroughly disagree. Your comments are are snobbish. "They don't know what it should taste like. They only bake it." What utter rubbish. I have an excellent appreciation (probably better than many 'audiophiles' - I count myself as one) of how an orchestra, string quartet or solo instrument should sound from an audience perspective. Having spent a whole career as a violist and knowing how it sounds from within an ensemble, under my chin!, does not warp my appreciation of how the whole sounds from the audience's perspective.
    You should be arguing that what the recording delivers is usually far removed from 'live' music. It's a recording engineer's idea of what it should sound like reproduced over a typical sound system in a domestic acoustic. And rightly so! It's a wonderful skill, nay art. But spare me. "A musician is in no position to know what it should sound like". Really Paul, I thought better of you having watched many of your YouTube videos.

    1. It is interesting to watch Dudamel walk through the Bowl or the Hall during rehearsals so he can hear the orchestra from different spots.
      In the Bowl, he stands and talks to the house sound engineer until he gets the sound he likes.

      The opposite of what Paul is saying.

      Who do I trust? Dudamel or Paul?

  10. Oh Paul….. respectfully…. as I read this installment, it was the first time I felt compelled to contribute my “two cents”….
    What hit me as unusual in your thought process was that it kind of insinuated that musicians “never” listen from “afar” and as such wouldn’t have that perspective! As a musician, of course, a violin under the chin or a trumpet at the lips is a unique perspective. However, I would submit that doing careful, critical listening from afar ( and to each other) gave me the first real clues as to what my instrument was supposed to sound like and gave me a target to sonically emulate in the first place. I remember my 1st experience in the recording studio with “in ear” monitors… definitely a eureka moment which let me know that I had arrived (hearing myself as a kind of out of body experience!) Admittedly I witnessed a few musicians starting out that did not seem to be aware of or interested in listening to recordings…. and of course never became very good at the craft. My dad was an audiophile and passed on his fascination and appreciation with 2 channel stereo to me! Listening from “afar” was a very integral part of my development as a musician and gave me an acute sonic perspective on style and how to manipulate the horn at my lips…. just saying.

      1. Absolutely NO apology needed Paul... I knew where you were coming from, but knew there was more to the perspective of vantage points.... your point was clear and just simply drew out some memories of a listening and learning process I experienced as a young developing musician. Later I went to college to major in electronics engineering which grounded me further in the hobby and all thats involved in High-end audio. Your insights are much appreciated... So keep them coming!

  11. Absolutely Paul.... If this was not true, mixing board arguments and disagreements, would not be so frequent, between the the Sound Engineers and the Musicians when the mixing process is in full bloom.

  12. I can imagine what some musicians thought about Jimi Hendrix’s sound as far as as what a guitar should sound like. It certainly changed my perspective when I first heard “Are You Experienced”.

    1. Yeah, I heard Hendrix live from the third row. He kind of changed everything. But what none have seemed to mention is that a rock guitarist will hear his instrument coming from the amp/speaker behind him on stage, but also through a mix of the band coming from the stage monitors at his/her feet. There is also a feedback loop among the musicians and the audience where they feed off each other. You can sense this in good recordings of live performances. It's an emotional component and it gets amplified when I listen to great recordings of great events, even if the sound quality is sub par...or, dare I say, even on YouTube? 😎

  13. Wow Paul, were you one of those lads that would poke an anthill with a stick? Because you have everyone scurrying today. I sometimes wonder if your comments are tongue-in-cheek just to shake the bush and see what falls out. Good job today.

    1. I think at least this time it wasn’t meant necessarily provokative, but it’s just simply one of those partly strange opinions, everyone’s free to have 😉

  14. I’ve spent more years playing music than you have been listening. I know exactly how my drums sound, what each cymbal sounds like, how each Tom Tom sound like. I can listen to music and I know what cymbal the drummer is using or what drum he is hitting, something an audiophile wouldn’t know. I would never let somebody who only listens to music tune my drums. Same goes for guitar/piano players, they like tuning their own instruments or they hire a professional to tune their piano, which will be somebody who is experienced in pianos. Only a musician knows how to tune their instrument. Also, the musicians are always involved in the studio mixes. The engineer mixes all the tracks together but the musicians have a major part in the final product.
    Audiophiles hear processed music unless they go to a live concert and even then, the output quality fully depends on the room/hall/arena it’s in.

  15. I believe that how to listen and appreciate the “sound of high end audio” is just as alien to musicians as it is to non musicians. Either you care or you don’t and it has nothing to do with what you think an instrument “really” sounds like. First off, every musician I know fell in love with their instrument because they listened to that instrument live or on record for thousands of hours as they were learning how to play. Their perspective is how they heard what they heard i e front row, back row, in the middle, in the studio, through monitors, etc. when I play my system to my musician friends, they marvel the same as non musicians. It’s all about exposure to our hobby and has nothing to do with how they get the sound of their instrument.

  16. Hmmm. bias seems pretty clear. i am 67. played trumpet since i was 8. still mess around with it. sang as an amateur. bands. classical settings. solo work. the wedding singer dont ya know! lol. also sang in multiple opera settings as part of the onstage production. only sat threw many thousands of classical concerts, bands, club performances. also am an audiophile.

    dont really know how to parse out Paul's comments? except to say i think they miss any sort of accurate assessment as to who best can evaluate the "sound" and the "music" presented in a recording via a high end stereo.

    but i believe i can. musician and avid listener here. you can be both.

  17. There is a basic truth here: that instruments from near sound different from those same instruments from afar. But from that, Paul builds a logical fallacy: that the near listeners and the far listeners are mutually exclusive. I suspect that there is far more overlap than his characterization suggests.

  18. Wow Paul. The next time you are trying to get quality musicians to record for Octave
    Records, I suggest you show them this post first with the added word's, "trust me, I know better. I own the studio, the recording company and control of what you sound like. What a great way to attract artists. This is the most unfortunate and saddest post you have ever done. As a provisional violinist, you just lost my respect forever.
    You don't know better than I do about How I sound, or my string quartet sounds. You are a technician, not an artist, and you just proved it.

    1. Your being even harder. Wow. I haven’t seen or heard Paul get like this in a while. He’s not saying musicians are incompetent or ignorant nor implying that. I’m surprised people just aren’t seeing this here.

      Then again. Maybe I’m the idiot. I’m a listener and definitely not a musician, so I guess the sensitivity factor is way down for me. 😉

      1. CtA,
        There are many of us here who can tell the difference in 'sound'
        between different interconnects, loudspeaker wires & power cords.
        Again, I'm sorry for you that you are so aurally challenged 🙁

        1. Fascinating! Truly remarkable!

          Fremer, the self named god of analog and vinyl, could not tell his favorite records have been digitized, despite having the bestest of the bestest equipment and his fabulous ears.

          But here you are, aurally superior. Wow! I'm impressed. Despite having middling equipment. Go figure!

          Can you levitate to? Bend a spoon with your mind?

          1. CtA,
            Do you actually read the crap & the irrational insults that you post? (rhetorical)
            I'm not, as you put it, "aurally superior", it's just that you are as deaf
            as a post...apparently.
            What part of, "There are many of us here that can tell the difference..."
            do you not comprehend?
            Is it the word 'many' that you keep tripping over?

            1. Oh dear!

              I am sure you believe your nonsense. Absolutely! people believe all sorts of things. Hydroxycloroquine, Clorox injections for COVID. All sorts of various religious beliefs. Gnomes at the end of rainbows. Oh, astrology too.

              Think about it. Fremer could NOT tell his favorite records were digitized! Nope. Not him, not any of his acolytes. What else do you need as proof that sight is a bias?

              1. Keep it going CtA...the more irrational rubbish that you post here, the stupider you appear.
                What the hell does Fremer not being able to hear whether
                his vinyl has been digitized to do with being able to hear
                the difference in audio cables?
                They are two separate matters.
                Bob Dylan wrote a song for you...'Idiot Wind'.
                Enjoy 🙂

    1. Na. I think your being a bit hard on him. You have to kinda look at as if some really good or world class musicians ever even get the gift of actual, professional studio time. 🙂

      It is all about the angles of sound perspective. Experience in professional sound recording situations for the listener.

  19. Ted Nugent has an interesting arrangement with his tech/sound man, who has been with him for decades and is his right arm (or foot should I say). Unlike just about 100% of all guitarist who use pedals, you will not see sound effect pedals in front of Ted. He wants to play and focus on the energy of his audience. His tech/sound man turns the effects on and off (delay, cascading delays, etc) at the console. Nugent is best known for his rock solid timing, which means his tech has solid timing.
    I was at a live event last week. The performer charges up to 1.5 million dollars to play. I can tell you when you are at this level you simply fire the sound man for saying they know better than you.

    1. I've been fortunate to have been to a few rehearsals and speak with some truly great musicians (of the rock/pop variety) and quite a few of them were extremely particular about the sound they were getting. At rehearsal, you could see them work very hard until they got what they wanted. Or when you spoke with them, they also said things similar to what you mentioned above.

      I don't think this is true of all of them, but my biased sample seems to indicate that they ARE very aware and careful.

  20. Boy oh boy! Terri and I escaped for an overnight camping trip last night. It rained cats and dogs so not much joy there but it was good to get away.

    I seemed to have stirred a hornet's nest! That was not my intention.

    Apologies to Jay and the other musicians who felt it was a slap in the face. As I reread my post I have to agree. I could certainly have been gentler sharing my perspective.

    I have been working with musicians since the 1970s when I worked with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotti in Munich. And I would say that from the hundreds of musicians I have worked with over the years their perspective of how they and their music sounds is somewhat different than mine and many diehard listeners.

    Nephilim got it right. It's more to do with perspective.

    Of course, Jay knows the sound of his instrument and then playing of it far better than I could ever hope to. That goes without saying (though with today's furor I need to say it clearly). And I would never do anything in the recording/mixing process to alter or not honor that.

    The difference is my years of experience as a listener in the high-end audio venues to music. Again, in my experience, it is different than that of a musician who is immersed in their perspective.

    And, I suppose that was what I was attempting to convey, though I did a pretty crappy job of it.

    Sorry. My bad.

    1. It was a provocative post and it can easily be argued that the only person with the genuine best vantage point is the performer of a solo acoustic instrument or in a small group (trio, quartet) or the conductor of an orchestra.

      Whatever the audience hears is always going to be inferior. Just to add pain, in my book anything acoustic heard live, even I the cheap seats, is better than the best recording on the best stereo system.

      It made me think of my first ever Physics lesson, the teacher Mr Eddy came in and without saying anything wrote on the blackboard "Frame of Reference". He went on to explain that everything in the physical world is entirely dependent on the observation point. I studied physics for 2 years and that's the only thing I remember. At least after 45 years it was finally worth remembering.

      1. “It was a provocative post“

        I don’t think so, I think it was a basic opinion expressed a bit too open and direct.

        “anything acoustic heard live, even I the cheap seats, is better than the best recording on the best stereo system.”

        Yes, just often not for sound reasons 😉

    2. If nothing else you know where many stand 😀 One word summed it up perspective.

      Next time you go camping - check the weather 1st - if it looks cats and dogs rain then quick reread the next days post before releasing ✌️

      Tent or trailer or Cabin?

    3. I think generalization is what gets most of us in trouble. It is always dangerous to speak for others about how they see, hear and feel when we ourselves are not the same as them.

      1. That is very true, but it is hard To layoff generalist type thoughts when you’ve been devoted or trying to specialize in something for numerous years. Paul has been in the audio business or at least been an audiophile longer than I’ve been alive. He’s gonna have quite a base of thoughts that can’t be broken in his head. 😉

        1. Being a specialist demands even more care in generalization. I've been a musician and had close musician friends my entire life, and we all know what musical instruments sound like close up and from a distance in an audience. The generalization was not consistent with the reality I know.

  21. Imagine then the musicians of a symphony orchestra who are not only very close to each other but also located the other way around as seen from the auditorium. If for us the piano is on the left, for the musicians it is on the right. And this is aggravated for the opera musicians who play from inside the pit.

    Regards, Fernando from Montevideo, Uruguay.

    P.S. Sorry for muy poor english, I'm using Google Translator.

    1. Google Translator is doing a fine job, Fernando. Yes, I am always amazed that people in Great Britain and Australia can drive on the left side of the road, tambien. Greetings from el Estado de Nueva York. 😎

      1. Hi Lp,
        I suspect that the reason we drive on the left-hand side of the road here
        is because the majority of drivers are right-handed & therefore it is more
        important to have your right hand on the steering wheel than your left hand.
        This necessitates driving on the left-hand side of the road because drivers
        generally rest the elbow of their steering wheel arm on the window sill.

                  1. Hey Lp,
                    I forgot to thank you for your 12:30 pm post on tomorrow's (Cable Damage) PP, regarding the spacing & expectations of my rejiggered loudspeaker cables.
                    Thanks for explaining to 'rgallos' & others.

                    1. You're welcome. As many of us have said before, it's unfortunate we can't post photos, which would make explaining things a lot easier in many cases.

  22. Paul,
    I thoroughly disagree. "They don't know what it should taste like. They only bake it." What utter rubbish. I have an excellent appreciation (probably better than many 'audiophiles' - I count myself as one) of how an orchestra, string quartet or solo instrument should sound from an audience perspective. Having spent a whole career as a violist and knowing how it sounds from within an ensemble, under my chin!, does not warp my appreciation of how the whole sounds from the audience's perspective.
    You should be arguing that what the recording delivers is usually far removed from 'live' music. It's a recording engineer's idea of what it should sound like reproduced over a typical sound system in a domestic acoustic. And rightly so! It's a wonderful skill, nay art. But spare me. "A musician is in no position to know what it should sound like". Really Paul.

  23. I have a mountain of inferential, anecdotal data to contradict this assertion.

    Before that, there is a lot of peer reviewed data on how musicians hear differently. They hear pitch more precisely, and can even determine pitch more accurately and faster than is theoretically possible according to Fourier's mathematical proofs!

    I just heard a concert where a string quartet played over an hour of perfect pitches with high integer ratio intervals. All four had microphones attached to their instruments feeding digital tuners - but that only got them close, their ears were more precise than the machine, achieving phase lock.

    This was a sound I predicted in theory and imagined, but it was a revelation to hear it for the first time! Unfortunately, the effect does not work well feeding microphones and projecting from speakers. I met an audiophile friend before the concert who listened to the recording and opined that the piece was boring. Live, in Cary Flagler Hall (a 200 seat professionally designed orchestral rehearsal room), it was riveting and had so much emotional depth I wept, and they received a standing ovation.

    Musicians also hear rhythm ten times better than the general population, and they have larger brains that are wired and programmed differently.

    So musicians hear things that you can't hear - unless you practiced a musical instrument from childhood to adulthood; or alternately, lived surrounded by Nature with no machines, metal, ceramics, nor glass in your surroundings while your brain was growing.

    It is true that a musical source sounds different next to your head than in the audience, but trained professional musicians also spend thousands of hours listening to teachers, other musicians, and live concerts during their pedagogy and practice. Because of this, they hear the UNIVERSAL flaws in audio systems. Audio designers have gotten extremely good at producing flat frequency response on axis and acceptably low harmonic distortion, but all commercial audio systems suffer from temporal, transient, dynamic, intermodulation, and/or spatial distortion*.

    Classically trained musicians recognize that speakers do not sound like musical instruments, and amplification is used as an effect - adding an "electronic sound" filter.

    From the point of view of an audio engineer, musicians hear worse in terms of audio specifications. Harman International developed "ear training" software utilizing frequency corrected headphones and DSP control to produce flat sound and parametric deviations from flat frequency response. They found that audio engineers were better than the general public because they hear and measure speaker systems for a living, and through training can reliably detect fr deviations of 1dB.

    BUT, professional musicians were the WORST at hearing frequency response "errors" in Northridge testing. This is probably because they spend thousands of hours practicing and rehearsing in the typical small, bare, rectangular rooms afforded music students. The room modes in these sub-optimal acoustics produce large fr deviations, which the musicians learn to ignore.

    OTOH, musicians are supremely sensitive to time, and its conjugate, PHASE, while audio listeners develop phase deafness to music. All commercial speakers distort phase and waveforms, audio media all introduces phase distortion (Internet worst of all), and EVERY KNOB IN A RECORDING STUDIO distorts time, phase, and space too.

    I have been working on reducing temporal, transient, dynamic, intermodulation, and spatial distortion since 1997. By 2012 I built a consort of speakers to these criteria and installed them in a music loft in Manhattan. These were used to amplify hundreds of acoustic concerts for audiences of conservatory trained musicians. The experiments were necessarily sighted - there were microphones in front of every instrument, and as many speakers as instruments flanked the musicians at ear height in the same plane (which are integral requirements of the theory). 95% of string players COULD NOT TELL WE WERE AMPLIFYING; we also fooled four time Classical Grammy winning producer-engineer Judy Sherman on one of her own projects; and veteran NY TIme reviewer Steve Smith. Further, near-coincident pair recordings of these speakers sound precisely the same as acoustic recording, except for better signal to noise ratio (this is in Manhattan). I encourage you to try this experiment with ANY OTHER speakers, whether the best of stage PA, studio monitor, or high-end home speakers. I will bet $20 you can’t send me recordings of speakers that sound the same as recordings of violins, pianos, brass, winds, or percussion in the same room. (same mics, zero processing), or fool professional classical musicians that your speakers are musicians playing.

    For that matter, I have never heard of anyone dialing 911 to report that musicians broke into their house to play in their living room because there was a recording playing. I have achieved that level of realism, because I tested my acoustical, speaker, and system design using the far better ears of trained professional musicians.

    * PS Audio has made significant progress lowering transient, dynamic, and intermodulation distortion.

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