They’re not instruments

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Reader Timothy Price posed an interesting thought:

“How many musical instruments project sound in a narrow dispersion?  Even a trumpet or better yet a clarinet seem to have fully tonal perception off axis.  They may sound louder when heard directly in front but there is no lack of identification and little loss in dynamics when heard a bit off to the side. Yet, loudspeakers don’t mirror the dispersion properties of the instruments they are reproducing.”

While that’s an excellent observation that begs the question of why we don’t craft loudspeakers to more closely mirror instruments, the answer might surprise you.

Loudspeakers shouldn’t be designed to reproduce the characteristics of musical instruments. Instead, they need to be faithful analogs of microphones.

It’s not the sound of instruments we’re after, it’s microphones we chase.

When you think of the problem in that light it makes it a lot easier to wrap your head around the problem. We cannot know what will be recorded so fashioning the response of a loudspeaker to better mimic one dispersion pattern or another is nothing short of tail chasing: get the trumpet right and you fail at the violin.

Capturing the essence and soul of music is the job of the recording engineer and her bevy of microphones.

Reproducing the sound of microphones is what we do.