Can Recorded Music Ever Be Indistinguishable From Live? - AVS Forum
View Poll Results: Can Recorded Music Ever Be Indistinguishable From Live?
Yes, it's at least theoretically possible 58 65.17%
No, it's not possible under any circumstances 31 34.83%
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post #1 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 01:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Remember the old commercial—"Is it live, or is it Memorex?" The question of whether or not recorded music can be indistinguishable from a live performance has been bandied about since the first days of Thomas Edison's "talking machine," when many listeners claimed the recorded sound was identical to the original.

 

Of course, our modern ears are more refined than that, but so are modern recording and playback systems, so the question remains. Stereophile editor John Atkinson documented an interesting experiment in which he recorded a live piano recital and immediately played the recording for the same audience, and Michael Lavorgna addressed the issue in Stereophile here. Steve Guttenberg provides more food for thought in an article for Stereophile and his Audiophiliac blog on CNET.

 

Do you think it's at least theoretically possible for recorded music to be indistinguishable from a live performance? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not?


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post #2 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

Remember the old commercial—"Is it live, or is it Memorex?" The question of whether or not recorded music can be indistinguishable from a live performance has been bandied about since the first days of Thomas Edison's "talking machine," when many listeners claimed the recorded sound was identical to the original.

Of course, our modern ears are more refined than that, but so are modern recording and playback systems, so the question remains. Stereophile editor John Atkinson documented an interesting experiment in which he recorded a live piano recital and immediately played the recording for the same audience, and Michael Lavorgna addressed the issue in Stereophile here. Steve Guttenberg provides more food for thought in an article for Stereophile and his Audiophiliac blog on CNET.

Do you think it's at least theoretically possible for recorded music to be indistinguishable from a live performance? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

IME listeners are more accepting of the playback of recordings in larger venues. I've seen situations where listeners were fooled into believing that they were listening to a live pipe organ in a room that had a pipe organ but the sound came from a recording of the analog output of a synthesizer-based organ. I've also at least momentarily fooled people with recordings made on stage in the same venue. One listener said: "I hear my daughter singing, but she's not on stage...".
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post #3 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 02:38 PM
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I think something is always lost in the recording, therefore it can't sound as good as the live version. Honestly it's hit or miss anymore with recordings, with more bad than good being mastered.
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post #4 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 02:54 PM
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If the recording is trying to reproduce an instrument in the existing room, then I believe it's possible but difficult. If the recording is trying to reproduce an instrument in another environment, then no... it's just too complicated and there are too many psycho-acoustic clues available that don't match the listener's current situation.

Piano is a good example. I had a 7'6" Yamaha Disklavier and top-notch Dynaudio speakers. I close-miked the Yamaha playing a Disklavier recording. It was very difficult to tell which was playing with your eyes closed. No one in my circle of musicians/producers/audio nuts could tell.

BTW... we even played a blank recording when the Yamaha was playing so we got the slight electronic background noises.
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post #5 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 08:32 PM
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I've always thought the Memorex ad compared a live performance on a sound system (from mixer to speakers) vs a taped performance (via Memorex cassette) on that same system. With that in mind any transparent medium should do including CD, Blu-ray audio or high bit rate Internet.
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post #6 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 09:37 PM
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At the time I always laughed at that advert. Was it the hiss from your cassette tapes peeling back your face? That the recordings and playback systems for most of us at the time were anywhere near reference was a marketing joke. My .02.

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post #7 of 58 Old 04-19-2013, 11:31 PM
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Funny thing about this subject is that some people are use to listening to cd, mp3 etc and when they see the artist live they don't like their sound. And vice versa. We all "hear" so differently from each other that one person could say the recording is spot on and another could say its off.

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post #8 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 05:41 AM
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Nope, simply not possible.
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post #9 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 06:02 AM
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Perfect (or even close to) replication of the sound of a live orchestra in a concert hall in the home? Which concert hall, what orchestra? Never gonna' happen. I chased that Grail for too many decades of my life. Having had season tickets for many years at the old Academy of Music didn't help the illusion when listening in the home, or elsewhere. I decided a while back to stop listening so hard and just enjoy the music.

I'm more satisfied when I listen now and get more from the experience.
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post #10 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 08:35 AM
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Didn't Milli Vanilli put this argument to rest? biggrin.gif
SimpleTheater likes this.

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post #11 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Nethawk View Post

Didn't Milli Vanilli put this argument to rest? biggrin.gif

And Ashlee Simpson? Thus ending their careers.wink.gif
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post #12 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 09:11 AM
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All I know is, name a metal/hard rock band that's released an album after 1985 and chances are, I've seen them in a live venue. Of all those bands, the only one who sounded nearly identical live, as they do on their recordings, is Megadeth! I've seen Megadeth live 3 times, and every time, they've killed it. Slayer would be a close second. Back in the 90's, Slayer used to go so far as to use older gear, only when playing older songs, just so those songs sounded more true to the actual recordings made 15 years earlier. However, as far as being fooled? Probably not.

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post #13 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 09:40 AM
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There is also the situation of Live Music not sounding as good as the Studio recorded version. A carefully produced studio recording's (think Brothers in Arms, Dark Side of the Moon) dynamic range and clarity just can't be matched in a live performance. As Joni Mitchell says on her 'Miles of Aisles' album, "Nobody asked Vincent Van Gogh to paint another 'Starry Night'"...
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post #14 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morbidcorpse View Post

All I know is, name a metal/hard rock band that's released an album after 1985 and chances are, I've seen them in a live venue. Of all those bands, the only one who sounded nearly identical live, as they do on their recordings, is Megadeth! I've seen Megadeth live 3 times, and every time, they've killed it. Slayer would be a close second. Back in the 90's, Slayer used to go so far as to use older gear, only when playing older songs, just so those songs sounded more true to the actual recordings made 15 years earlier. However, as far as being fooled? Probably not.
Rock on Morbidcorpse, I like your taste in music smile.gif

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post #15 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovinthehd View Post

At the time I always laughed at that advert. Was it the hiss from your cassette tapes peeling back your face? That the recordings and playback systems for most of us at the time were anywhere near reference was a marketing joke. My .02.

I loved my dbx NR equipped deck back in the late 1980's. I used to make a master recording off a virgin LP, whenevr I bought a new album and the fidelity was very good. By the time it broke, CDs were taking over.

 

I don't think it is possible to simulate an orchestra in a concert hall, the interaction between so many instruments and the acoustics of a concert hall are far too complex—it takes a hundred grand to put together a system that pales compared to the real thing. The same does not hold true for amplified live music; with enough effort it should be possible to simulate at least some "live music" situations.


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post #16 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 12:16 PM
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I would say certainly yes.

Let me propose a situation.

Place yourself in the audience at a live rock concert. Close your eyes and listen to the band play a song. Now, if we recorded the signal that was being sent to the amplifiers while they were playing with modern professional recording equipment recording at something like 24bit/96kHz and then simply played back that recording into the same system with you still standing there in the audience with your eyes closed I do not believe you could tell a difference.

Does anyone have any idea how perhaps the recording would be distinguishable from live performance instead?
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post #17 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 12:28 PM
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Yes- I think it can be indistinguishable. But most music is recorded in the studio, because it can be made to sound better than live in many respects, and to eliminate imperfections. The one thing you cannot dispute is that there is very little music that's totally "live", unless you're talking about something like a string ensemble in a very small venue. Otherwise, there are lots of electronics involved in that "live" performance, such as microphones, amplifiers, mixers, etc. which are needed to make the music loud/balanced enough for the performance. Even may of the instruments themselves are electronic (nobody wants to hear an electric car that's not plugged in!).
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post #18 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SirMaster View Post

I would say certainly yes.

Let me propose a situation.

Place yourself in the audience at a live rock concert. Close your eyes and listen to the band play a song. Now, if we recorded the signal that was being sent to the amplifiers while they were playing with modern professional recording equipment recording at something like 24bit/96kHz and then simply played back that recording into the same system with you still standing there in the audience with your eyes closed I do not believe you could tell a difference.

Does anyone have any idea how perhaps the recording would be distinguishable from live performance instead?

That's it right there, as far as the original question goes. The key to making it work is that the "live" music is amplified, and that the amplified music is what the audience actually hears. Then it's just a question of capturing the signal and reproducing it accurately, which is well within the capability of digital multi-track recording systems.


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post #19 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

That's it right there, as far as the original question goes. The key to making it work is that the "live" music is amplified, and that the amplified music is what the audience actually hears. Then it's just a question of capturing the signal and reproducing it accurately, which is well within the capability of digital multi-track recording systems.

Yep I think it's how you interpret this question.

If instead, you had to take a live, unamplified string ensemble and compare that to a recording of the same string ensemble it becomes so much more tricky. But I don't believe the problem is in the recording. I think the big problem in this case is you are now comparing hearing real instruments to hearing speakers. The fault is likely the speakers and not the recording IMO, or at least the bigger fault is in the speakers and with that the environment. It would be hard to reproduce the directionality and reverberence and other characteristics of real instruments in a room with speakers instead in the same room.
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post #20 of 58 Old 04-20-2013, 02:37 PM
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I think the closest to this is binaural recordings. It's what they were attempting, anyway. I don't even know the extent to which they were successful. They even went as far as putting the mics in fake ears on a fake head! Theoretically it might have a chance.
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post #21 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 05:40 AM
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The picture used for this thread...does it have a name? I need to get that into my ht.
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post #22 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 05:51 AM
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The picture used for this thread...does it have a name? I need to get that into my ht.

Yeah it's called "Blown Away Man" or "Blown Away Guy"


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post #23 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 06:09 AM
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Yep. Just came back to edit my post, but you beat me to it. Thanks.
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post #24 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 08:23 AM
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I still have 2 tee shirts and a poster with that image from the 80's. Used to buy a lot of XL-II cassettes.
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post #25 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 04:46 PM
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The biggest difference for live event is the environment. You can't simulate that!
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post #26 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjyap View Post

The biggest difference for live event is the environment. You can't simulate that!

Totally agree. As I said in my first post, I think you can only simulate an instrument in your room... not an instrument in some other environment. And you can only do this if the recording was engineered to do that and only that. Even so, it is difficult to get right.
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post #27 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 05:20 PM
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I think the key to a recording that sounds exactly like a live performance would require that the best recording equip be used to record each sound source seperately in an acoustically dead room then each sound source would individually be played through the best individual speaker into the same system the live group uses so that each microphone would broadcast not only the individual source but also the same background noises, echo's, etc... That they would pickup during the live show.

Think about it, when you record a source, no matter what that source is, in a concert hall you get, in addition to the source, the echo's that occur, and everything else that is a result of that environment. If you then play it back, even in the same location, you will hear both the added sounds of the local recorded during the original performance and the same muddying effects happening again during the replay.

No, if you want it to sound like they are performing a private show in front of you then you need a perfect recording so the sound coming out is as pure as it would be with them in front of you.

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post #28 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 05:27 PM
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Let us not forget that indistinguishable is not the same as identical. People can be fooled—I think the threshold of "indistinguishable" is achievable in many circumstances, despite the limitations inherent to sound recording and playback. A lot depends on the skill of the listener, and their familiarity with the nuances of the live performance. It might be easier to fool some people than others.


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post #29 of 58 Old 04-21-2013, 07:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjyap View Post

The biggest difference for live event is the environment. You can't simulate that!

Yep. The environment is what makes the biggest difference, not necessarily the difference in sound presentation.

The venue and the performance themselves matter tremendously. There are instances where I have loved the recordings when I listened to them at home, but then was disappointed hearing a live performance by the same artist.

Conversely, there have been a few occasions where I was dragged to see a live performance by an artist I would never buy an album from, only to fall in love with their live performance (and still not like them later, when I listen to them at home).

It's a vibe thing, I suppose, more than a sound quality thing.

As to the recorded music being ever "indistinguishable," from live, I'd have to say, almost never.
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post #30 of 58 Old 04-22-2013, 04:43 AM
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Another issue with the live performance is that people are social creatures and they play off of one another. At a live event the excitement of the other listeners, how the performers physically and emotionally present themselves, the extra noise of the crowd, the ambiance of the location, these all play together in impacting how you perceive the music. Even though the sound created may be perfect, you can never immitate the other things that make a live performance better than what you will hear at home.

In other words, can you duplicate the music? Yes. Can you duplicate the experience? No.

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