These are cd's I assume? I have several "difficult" passages, including: K. Ferrier on Mahler, Jamiroquai, Brahms 1st piano conc. with Curzon, Cherry, Dave Grusin, certain Vivaldi concerti (Musici). Have to go home for the exact refs -- and get back to you.
Interesting thread, BTW!
cymbals. probably the hardest to get right (particularly if you're using digital; analog has greater luck)
May not be what you are looking for, but one of my recordings has footage from a swamp, and it appears to quantify the noise floor in a system. On another recording, there is a person in a row boat which really highlights the ability to sound stage.
An ocean is the hardest thing I've ever heard attempted to be reproduced. Walk down a beach one day and listen to the waves. They are so vaste and cover the entire frequency spectrum with a certain "ordered randomness" if that makes sense. I have never heard a system that could produce (and possibly could never be recorded) this properly.
The sound of a woman saying " Honey, why dont you go out and blow $10,000 on some new components, I think youre stuff is getting old..."
I have to diagree with Abstract7. An Ocean I have heard reproduced 'faithfully' at times in my system. But Clapping and thunder I agree is really hard to reproduce to its full relization. People in crowd or a a party could be done. Certain pessages (can't explain) of strings or piano at times sounds incorrect(not just my system). We will ignore the real life dynamics v/s its reproduction topic for this discussion. Good thread!
Yes, I agree that the sound of the piano is very difficult to reproduce correctly. I have heard very few systems that get all the notes (seemingly) right. The overtones and harmonics of the mid and treble notes can really grate or ring or be shrill. I have a couple of piano pieces I always use when auditioning new equipment for just this reason--they usually sound pretty bad unless the equipment is first-rate.
Are there any specific discs with good recordings of the above mentioned noises ? In other words, music based discs that also have "noises" that fall into the tough to reproduce category but are good enough recordings to judge system resolution by ? I'm not specifically talking about "sounds of nature" discs that put you to sleep or are used for relaxation purposes, but if you think that they qualify, please list them.
The disc that i mentioned with the recording of thunder was by "Days of the New" ( OPRD-30004). Since there is no name on it, i would assume that it is simply their first release and is self titled. At this point, i think that they've got 3 discs out now. For those that aren't familiar with this band, think of "angy" yet melodic acoustic based music. It is accompanied by melodic yet rough edged vocal work. I'm not saying that this disc is "reference quality", only that the thunder in the background inspired me to ask such a question. Sean
Sean, Actually the 'Days of the New"'s first is a reference quality disc. The 2nd and latest(even though it is HDCD) us not of same quality. Their music is very good. (2nd is the best)Although I don't remember which one has a thunder sound you're referring to. One CD I would like to note here is ' The avalanches's Since I left You. Musically ( essentially a dance genre)this CDs is great in that imagin you are on a cruise, live music is being performed in front of large group of people, the ship is docked, you are near one of the joints and you listen to the music. Very uplifting, noisy, strange, unlike anything you have heard but beautifully put together, such that end effect is you can't stop inbetween and wanna play again and again. Phew!
the tribal drums at the end of the Peter Gabriel song Rythym of the Heat will test many amplifiers and systems - off Peter's 4th album (Security)
as to reproducing musical nuances - yes piano is tough, good way to evaluate cassette tape decks in the old days
percussion can be taxing, and the resonant wood sound of a nice stand up bass can be difficult to do righ ton inferior systems
Stand in the street, right beside a parade that is passing by. Add the sound of twenty or more US Marines marching in perfect cadence and striking their drums in perfect synchronization.
This is so startling that I cannot describe it. The dynamics and overtones went from the extreme highs to well below the pavement and into my bones. I don't think this could even be accurately recorded, much less played back.
sean: if you can find the xrcd2 of "brothers in arms." you'll hear some well-produced thunder. and music.
The Female voice singing transitional opera (i.e. a vibratoed note going from soft to loud, etc.). Almost every system I've heard includes an edgy little distortion product that drives me goofy.
The lower octaves of a piano, more than the highs. I like to use piano music as part of my demo of audio gear. If the piano sounds right, the other sounds usually fall in place pretty well.
Sean there are too many to mention. As Albert notes the sound of a marching band as it passes. It is about impossible to get even close to the immediacy, dynamics and sense of each individual instrument. I never heard an audio system come even close. Funny Albert mentions it as I always get the same feeling everytime I hear a live marching band.
Also as Dweller notes the transition of the operatic soprano voice. It is just murder getting that the way you hear it live. As Sugarbrie notes, piano is tough also. My conclusions are a bit different though feeling the upper registers are the toughest to get right, generally seem to lack the air and presence that you hear from a live piano.
So far as thunder I have an excellent recording on Telarc with Kunzel and Cinncinati Pops Overture to "Phantom of the Opera". The opening involves a frantic woman walking in the rain with cracks of thunder in the background. It appears she is being followed. There is a dramatic increased pulsing of her heart as she walks faster. Cats screeching and heavy doors closing with the climatic scream and fall into the abyss as the organ opens the overture. It is VERY well recorded with some interesting sound effects. The decay of the thunder goes on to infinity, just like it really does. Other than the absolute volume of real thunder, the dynamics and sense of space are quite believable.
To add to Tubegroovers's comment , the upper registers of the piano is tough to reproduce since mostly it lacks BODY and WEIGHT of the real thing. Real sound does not just float! Lower ones are the ones could be produced convincingly in a full range-warm system.
I have my Steinway B positioned between and a few feet behind my Parsifal Encores. I hear GREAT piano upper octaves from my EMC-1 MkII/AlephP/Aleph2s?Encore system.
It's the LOWER octaves that aren't the same!
A grand piano's upper octaves DON"T have "body and weight".
Quite the contrary. They're thin, short, and basically excite only a small portion of the soundboard.
The bass strings excite the entire soundboard, and thus launch a HUGE pressurewave into the room which no reasonable number of speaker transducers can replicate.
Although I enjoy full-scale piano recordings on my system
(Nojima's Liszt on RefRec comes to mind as a great one), it's not the same as sitting down and exciting a giant diaphragm when I stretch out on those big Brahms chords.
Additionally, the top octaves' propagation toward the player or listener is VERY variable as a function of listening position, head angle, lid geometry, etc.
The ONLY way my B sounds right in the upper octaves to me WHWEN PLAYING it in my room is when the lid is fully shut, but the front door is wide open, yielding a constant depth
full-width "window" or port, if you will.
Sorry to belabor this, but getting a great system to do piano top octaves is not that hard. Voicing the damned piano is MUCH harder! Cheers.
Why didn't anyone mention violins in a symphonic orchestra. When many of these are playing together I find this the most difficult to reproduce. I always listen to violins when auditioning new equipment and it quickly gives me a sense of how good the product is.
Subaruguru, I guess I need to listen live piano more often to confirm what you are saying about the upper registers. May be I have to re-listen some very well recorded piano works (ref recordings/mapleshade). Thanks for your elaborate reply.
Subaruguru is right, but there's more to it. The reason the lower octaves are so difficult to reproduce is that when the piano is tuned properly by harmonics (more pianos are being tuned wrong now than ever--due to computerized tuning that doesn't take into account varying string lengths of different sized pianos) the lower notes excite strings of their harmonics. However, it is nearly impossible for a higher string to excite a lower note string because the mass of the lower string compared to the higher string is so great. There may be some excitement in this direct, but it's minimal. Those BIG Brahms chords were designed to have just this effect--and they sound great on a Steinway B. I have one as well--it's a dream to play and to listen to--and Subaruguru you can get those high notes voiced properly. Contact me if you like, I know some people that can work wonders on the older Steinways. Now, having said that--I can still reproduce a piano better than an Ocean. If you stop and think about the power of the sound of the ocean and the dynamics. You can speak to someone comfortably at a 2 to 5 foot distance. Get more than 20 feet away and you have to yell to overcome the sound of the ocean. It's an incredibly powerful sound--yet soothing at the same time. It has a side with greater sonic power, but it seems nearly omni-directional. It's easy to pick apart the areas of a piano that are not well reproduced, because we are familiar with it as sound and as music that we regularly reproduce--but that's not true of natural sounds--like the thunder mentioned. The next time you're at the ocean take a little time to indulge in the sound--you may think you've heard it reproduced before, but once you realize the vastness and power of the sound--you will see it really can't be reproduced. So, without any disrespect, I would very much like to know the system and recording that Nilthepill has been able to get an Ocean faithfully reproduced on. I will buy the recording tomorrow, and hopefully find a system to do it justice--I'm actually excited about trying this, because I've been trying to get something to reproduce the ocean for some time with no luck at all.
Excellent points about the piano that make sense Abstract. I find that many systems can reproduce the "weight" of a piano but lack the air and harmonic overtones that give this instrument its' signature sound and timbre. Then again, you are saying that many piano's themselves don't do this as well as they should ( due to improper tuning or excitation of harmonics ), so maybe the recording itself is good and the piano stinks : )
As to reproducing ANY "large" or "loud" sound in nature, i think that the "box" of a speaker gets in the way BIG TIME. Such sounds are typically NOT easily able to be "localized" yet box speakers will almost always contribute that effect to what you are hearing. Now i know that there are boxes that "literally disappear" when properly set up and fed with high quality signal, but it still isn't the same as a system that uses a very diffuse radiator. I think that the diffuse radiation pattern and room reflections can better simulate the "bigger than life" sounds that ARE hard to duplicate simply because they are closer to what we hear in nature. That would be "surround sound" combined with the direct radiated source.
Albert's post is also very interesting. If someone were to be able to "mic" such an event as they stood still and the band marched around them, you would literally hear the soundstage / image / tonal balance and doppler effect on each instrument changing instantaneously at the same time. Besides every section of the marching band having a few seconds of what would sound like a "solo" as they passed by, i think that this would be a HELLUVA challenge and a HELLUVA demo disc if someone could pull it off.
Now if we can only get a volunteer to record a direct lighting strike or nearfield bomb drop using the finest in recording equipment : ) Sean
Abstract7, after some time I was able to dig up the Ocean sound disc that does justice.(close) The disc is 'the astral voyage' by Kitaro. Track 1 has the sound for first full minute and subsequently. Rightfully the track is called 'by the seaside'. Check it out. I tried again last night and found to be very close (very detailed) in my system (DUNLAVY V's with Classe electronics, turned on the REL also) Although at realistic sound level, the background noise level is rather high on this recording.
Nil--I'll give it a try. I can try it on my system, a bi-amped Martin Logan Monoliths that have been modified with Focal Audiom bass drivers. Should have good dispersion--which is always a problem with oceans. Then I will also try it on a pair of Genesis 200s--no problem in creating the power there. I'm still skeptical--but I'll definitely try it.
the marching band moving by was recorded well in the early eighties (I recall a B&O sales rep giving a demo, too bad his speakers were so bad).
I live in new orleans (northern transplant) and marching band noises and passings are not uncommon here around mardi gras
must agree on the piano harmonics and strings - digital strings just are not the same as analog
(sorry) The exact resonant frequency of the speaker cabinet (or cartridge, or laser head) (again, sorry)
Thanks Abstract. The rebuilder who voiced my B has played near too many drummers in trios over the past couple of decades. I've managed to sell two Subies to TWO other good tuner/rebuilder/musicians (bass players) in the past year, and all three of them agree that the low-treble of the B is commonly known as the "money octave" because one can constantly chase its voicing anomolies over time. And MY tuner (head of the guild) drives a Volvo...although that'll be temporary!
RE: computer tuning
Do you mean that tuning aid the techs use with the xirxling LEDs? Those little boxes cost a lot ($1200-$2k?) exactly BECAUSE they have memories stuffed with exact tuning pitches for LOTS of different piano makes and sizes. Joe just dials up Steinway B and starts there...all the partials line up right away, so fine-tuning becomes a breeze.
Voicing via hammer-felt hardness, thickness, and geometry is the tricky stuff...and we ALL hear it differently!
RE: mased violins
Heard Zander and the BPO doing Mahker's 9th last Saturday,
and was initially surprised by the brightness of the strings. Remembered that by being in the balcony we were on axis to their boards' radiation. My old friend and recording engineer/acoustician Tom Horrall added that he could only imagine how hotter still they sounded to the mics
arrayed much closer, but in-line with our axis.
No wonder massed strings can be so relentless in many recordings!
I kinda like Sprey's PZM recordings, yet another friend who teaches recording tech at Berklee listened to a couple of them and quickly taught me how to hear their phase errors.
But I soon forgot what he said!
He wants me to try Earthworks mics for my piano, but I'm hesitant to make the investment.
Sorry to get off-track.
I like the analysis of oceanside sounds....
Subaruguru, xirxling is not exactly what I was talking about, but it's close--it is in fact the right way to tune a piano. This device has been duplicated for PC applications and works remarkably well--even with a bad microphone and sound card--I'm still wondering how they manage that. The real problem is the simplistic computer systems that don't recognize the harmonics like the xirxling and tune all pianos the same--by note only. It just doesn't work that way--and it sounds horrible--but I'll bet more than 50% of the pianos out there are tuned by this method. There are two ways to tune it--the old fashioned way--get C right and tune everything else by ear (harmonics). I used to have a good tuner that did that--or now use the computer that has databased all the piano's out there--but keep in mind that database is just an average of all the Stienway B's (or other piano--for each piano in the database). There is no absolute--and most likely some error, as they don't take into account subtle changes--such as my 1878 Stienway that only has 85 keys--does that make a difference--I don't know, I doubt it.
I agree with cymbals and piano. A well-recorded stand-up bass is not easy to reproduce either, especially given the issue of standing waves.