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Live music runs the gamut from spot on to very poor.
Lots of factors affect how a live event sounds, including venue, how the production is set up/configured and where you sit in it among others.
Even within a single excellent venue as a whole, I've heard the full range from excellent to poor with different performances and listening from different locations.
The thing with your system is you can control everything except how the source material is recorded. I agree that as a whole, a good home system can be and often is more consistent and rewarding. There are fewer variables out of your control in play.
Having said that, I do not know if the best live events can be reproduced as well on a home system. A good system, can come pretty close though with a good recording.
What kind of live music are you listening to? I like to attend regular performances of a local Orchestra, and though my listening preferences are for jazz, blues and rock, nothing sounds better to me than live, unamplified orchestra performance of classical music.
I do like listening to my own system, because I can control the volume and musical selections, which I cannot do at a live performance.
On Sunday I saw three local bands and Theory of Flight at Studio Seven in South Seattle. (Unfortunately I got paged and had to leave before Marcy Playground took the stage --grrr!)
Studio Seven is a great venue that can hold up to 750 although I suspect only half that were at Sunday's show. We sat in the balcony and while possibly attributible to the inexpensive beer, I remember thinking that the sound quality was terrific and visceral. No stereo system I have ever heard remotely approaches that sound...
Rock concerts are the most problematic in general.
Still, I have heard several in recent years by major acts that were quite excellent in regards to sound quality:
Yes (with Symphony Orchestra) at Wolftrap in Vienna, Va
Porcupine Tree at Rams Head Live
The Musical Box also at Rams Head Live
Savoy Brown at Rams Head Tavern (Annapolis)
The Church at rams Head Tavern (twice in recent years)
I love live performances for the performance, but I can't recall ever being fully satisfied with the sonics - whether it be due to my seat location, the venue acoustics, audience distractions, or the performer's poor mix setting - it's never as good as you'd like, with rare exception. In your home, with carefully engineered source material, you can control those things.
Forgot to mention that even paul McCartney concert last year at FedEx Field, DC (football stadium) surprisingly had very good sound, however, I was sitting RIGHT in the sweet spot at ground level between the two speaker columns. That was an unbelievable ticket score and most SWEET!
BTW, Recorded music I have heard during games at M&T bank Stadium (ravens) is darn good sounding. Modern NFL football stadiums seem to have some of the very best large scale SOTA sound systems installed!
Agreed. But a decent sounding live concert at which the performers are really putting out is a treat which can't be measured against the advantages of home audio. They are different experiences.
While my stereo usually sounds, in some ways, better than many live concerts, it does not necessarily provide "life" that one gets from singers or musical instruments at a live concert.
Coincidentally, this is the exact subject of the first page in the current Stereophile issue.
Jmcgrogan2 and Mapman, my musical preference leans towards classical, small jazz bands, and female vocals, mostly unamplified music. The best sounding halls I've been in is the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a small classical music hall at my university long ago. I've been in Orange County Performing Arts Center (terrible acoustics), Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (OK acoustics), Houston Symphony Orchestra (OK acoustics), etc. I love rock, but forget live rock. It has damaged my ears when I was younger I think. I remember a Japanese heavy metal band called Loudness I went to when I was a teenager. It was so loud I was getting headaches with ear plugs. Never again.
I think many recordings are recorded in good acoustic venues and sound darn good through my home system. So 80-90% of the time I prefer my home system over live music.
Never heard an amplified concert at any kind of venue that comes close to my setup in any way. Would be concerned if any PA system or any venue for dozens to thousands could. Close your eyes at those concerts and much of the magic disappears. Can't remember the last non-amplified concert I went to because that's simply not my taste in music.
I am familiar with live sax, which I used to play for years, and many acoustic instruments played in various homes and few audio systems I've known seem to capture the resonance of a violin, much less a grand piano, in those environments. Then again, haven't listened to a recording of the same and can't directly compare to a filtered recording with studio acoustics. A violin from 3 feet away in a small room sounds a lot different than it does from 50' away. Same with speakers.
I prefer live concerts for classical music. Here, the Colorado Symphony performs in a hall with sub-par acoustics, but I find even poor halls enhance classical performance. I attend many bluegrass/folk/acoustic music concerts, too because the performers are so good live (headed to Telluride for the bluegrass festival this weekend, as a matter of fact). But I wear ear filters for virtually all live non-classical concerts because they are all TOO LOUD. Live music provides unique enjoyment, and so does my home system. Also, I can turn the home system down!
Let me add a bit to what I said.
Sound quality varies tremendously at live concerts, but it varies tremendously on recordings at home, too. Sound quality is only one part of musical enjoyment, though. I appreciate live music and recorded music as related, but separate, artistic expressions. And so I need a lot of both. No matter how good my home system is.
The best live music I've ever heard at a concert was Pink Floyd at Ohio Stadium 1988.. I was actually outside the stadium (didn't have tickets). We decided to just go down there to be around the event. and the sound was absolutely incredible. Clear, powerful, thundersous, precise. Never heard anything like it before or since. No home system could ever touch the clarity and power of the music that day. But that was an exception for concerts, not the rule.
Elizabeth you are so wrong about the crowds at rock/metal concerts. They are the most friendly easy going people I know. At jazz or classical concerts everyone is so uptight and full of themselves. At a rock concert you can have a friendly chat with almost anyone and share a beer.
I love going to concerts, especially rock or metal. The vibe and atmosphere is just great. If you go to a rock or metal concert just to hear music and see a band play you go for the wrong reasons. You go there to have a nice time. To have a beer talk and get drunk with friends and to see a band play. I want to be entertained when I go to see a band. That is why seated rock or metal shows are a failure and should be avoided; also seated rock/metal shows never happen in Europe thank God.
Some bands like SUN O))) can only be really enjoyed live.
Also live music classical or whatever is a totally different medium from recorded music. Two totally separate entities. I don't want a PA sound at home neither do I want a hifi sound a concert. At the end of the month Im going to graspop for the 10th time. Its a 3 day metal festival with about 200 bands playing.
I could go on but I have to go for now.
There's another dimension, here, especially for pop music.
Some of it is essentially impossible to recreate outside of the studio. I recall reading somewhere that this was one of the (many) factors that dissuaded The Beatles from performing their later material live. There are many recordings that I love which need to be pretty thouroughly reinterpreted for live performance.
Nevertheless, there's nothing like live music in my book. Rock, jazz, folk, blues and - let's not forget - kid's concerts. (That multiple marimba band at McCabe's last year was great fun!)
"I recall reading somewhere that this was one of the (many) factors that dissuaded The Beatles from performing their later material live. There are many recordings that I love which need to be pretty thouroughly reinterpreted for live performance."
That was true at the time. With modern technology however, not so much the case.
I've heard various Beatles cover acts that are able to deliver performances of later Beatles works these days that are designed specifically to sound as much as possible like what is on the records. It is still of course not EXACTLY the same, but as close as you can in a live performance delivered in real time.
Classical symphonies can sound better live than all but the best home stereos, depending on the hall and where you sit. But often things which should be unamplified, like classical guitar, are run through a p.a., so you do not really hear the beautiful tonality of the instrument. Rock almost never sounds very good at a live event, except in a few smaller venues. Stadium rock always sounds terrible. Mordante is glossing over all the jerks at rock concerts,and standing up for hours at a time, surrounded by drunks (or worse) is no fun. For some reason, people at rock shows seem to think a quiet song is their big chance to talk loudly about trivia, spoiling the show for everyone interested in the music. At least classical fans have the decency to shut up while the music is playing. We go to shows for many reasons, but quality of sound is usually not high on the list.
I suppose that there are photographs of the Grand Canyon that could be said to look better than the real thing. You know, the kind of photo where a photographer camped out for six months waiting for "the" moment as opposed to a real life experience on a lousy day. But come-on, to even suggest that a photos are preferable to the real thing, per se, is nuts. Likewise with this thread IMO.
I always get a chuckle out of audiophiles who think that their systems actually sounds better than real live music. You must not leave your homes and listen to live music very often. Elizabeth makes valid points about smoke, drunks etc, but when it comes to the music itself you simply cannot reproduce live music. I know a person who has invested a quarter million dollars in his audio systems (and even more on a custom room), and his system (one of the top systems in the nation) still doesn't sound like real live music. I go out on a weekly basis and listen to live jazz and/or classical music and there's simply nothing like it. I have a nice stereo system however I would never try and fool myself into thinking that it can reproduce (or replace) live music.
With unamplified music of small combo's, your home system can sound as good as live (in the optimal situation).
Large unamplified (symphony) orchestra's will have a problem in your listening room, simply because you don't have the space of a concert hall.
My experience of live amplified music in relatively small clubs is quite different. It's far too loud.... is this a trend or do the guys at the mixing console a bad job ?
I love to see energy on stage and the interaction between musicians. But it often ends in a contest of decibels.
In this case, I prefer the sound of my home system !
The ops premise is "liking" your home system better.
You don't have to think your home system sounds as good as or better than live to like it better than live. People like what they like for whatever reason they like it. Nothing else really matters.
Also live music can be recorded and listened to tbut you are listening to a reproduction, not the real thing.
Studio music can only be listened to on a system. Live versions can simulate but again are artistically interpreted reproductions.
Rrog, pay attention and read my post again. I did say live music (at least good sounding live music) is my reference. if you haven't noticed, everything on this forum is matter of opinion. I said the speakers are the most important BESIDES THE ROOM. My objective is to reproduce good sounding music in my home, not crappy ones. Pay attention.
Craig_hoch, try not to be condescending to fellow audiophiles and pay attention to my original post. All any of us have is our opinion to contribute here. If you read my response above, I attend unamplified live music regularly. I'm an amateur classical guitarist since high school and played the piano and sax in the past. I didn't say my system sounds better - I said I ENJOY my home system more than live music for reasons stated above. I said live music in a good concert hall (eg BSO) outclasses any home system I've ever heard. If you have been in the high end for awhile (25 years for me), throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars on a system won't get you good music, if you don't know what you are doing.
Dracule1, I don't think either experience is better, at least not for me. I don't fret too much about those who want to argue about 'live v canned'. That is stale at best. :-)
I happen share your music preferences and I too enjoy listening to music at home, not because my system sounds 'better' than good seats (Center/Orchestra/7 or 8 rows back), but because it offers me so many opportunities that live performances do not. And, FWIW, my wife and I are are season subscribers to two different orchestras and we attend faithfully, even when it just sounds like it is going to be an experience similar to taking cod liver oil.
At home I select my entire program.
I can change the program at will.
I can interrupt a performance and put on something different. I can listen to a LOT of music that is never performed live but is essential I think and certainly central to my interests.
At home I can eat a hot dog, drink a beer, get up to pee, etc. I can talk. I can take a nap. Ah, those creature comforts!
But as importantly, I can by pressing a button or two, actually analyze what I'm listening to in detail by simply replaying movements or parts thereof. I can put on other performances to compare how others have done the same piece. I can actually learn something about things that are important to me!
Frankly I feel sorry for folks who can't, or won't, experience the benefits of listening to music in both venues without getting all bound up about the sonic differences of equipment or formats.
But, that's just me...................
I'm around a lot of live music, including right in my home or listening room. Anyone that says you can't reproduce live sound, to the point you can't tell the difference, on an audio system, is making too broad of a generalization. I've never heard a symphony orchestra reproduced convincingly, but it is absolutely practical to convincingly reproduce a piano, a flute, a violin, or even a full drum kit. In the case of a flute, I've had the musician playing along with herself on a studio-recorded CD while she was standing between my speakers. It wasn't a quite a perfect match, mostly because the recording wasn't all that great (I suspect the mic), but it was very, very close.
A drum kit takes one hell of an audio system to reproduce correctly. Especially cymbals. Most tweeters suck in power handling. I've only heard two speakers *ever* that got cymbals just right, and I bought one of them. But it is possible to do a very convincing reproduction of my wife's DW drum kit.
The problem is that I usually don't want a real, actual drum kit reproduced in my listening room. It's too loud. When my wife gets all worked up passionately playing I don't even want to stand nearby. I want to be about 20 feet away. It needs to be a very large room to sound pleasant. A flute in my listening room, yes. Maybe a sax (a sax can be very loud), certainly a piano (we have one), also a cello. A rock band? No.
Amplified live music is usually terrible. You're usually listening to a PA system no one here would have in their listening room. Even the local jazz scene has become terrible. They mic everything, and pump them up with hundreds of watts of PA. Yuck. There is exactly one place we've found where we can listen to unamplified acoustic jazz. (It's awesome).
I don't expect my home audio system to sound like a live performance, because I seldom play it that loud. Live and realistic are two different concepts, I think. I expect a drum kit to sound absolutely realistic, but I don't often want to sound live.
Rrog, I used to think like you too, but my experience has taught me you don't need to compare your system to live music to enjoy your system. When I listen to reproduced music, I don't think to myself "Wow, I wonder how it sounds live". I just enjoy. Although I attend live music on most weekends, often I find live music is not that enjoyable. So don't get so hung up on live music. It's not the end all, be all to enjoy music. Again, you gave your opinion, as I have.
Irvrobinson, I agree with you. Live amplified music almost always sounds bad. I go to Austin often to hear live rock, blues and jazz bands, and most of the time I have to leave because my ears can't take the aural assault. But some of the most enjoyable live music I've heard are from solo musicians playing sax or singing with a simple acoustic or electric guitar at subway stations and at steps of city hall in Boston. Another nice place to listen to unamplified live music is Memorial Hall at Harvard University:
Okay, I know I'm rather late to this party, but I agree with Elizabeth and some others of you about not wanting to subject myself to painful SPL's at live rock concerts. I've taken to attending rock and pop concerts toting these Day-Glo orange, foam rubber ear inserts, which will certainly protect my hearing somewhat but which also screw up the sound, at which point, why bother? But I absolutely hate waking up in the middle of the night after a concert with my ears humming and buzzing. Hey, I'm in my early 50s, and I'm just paranoid about screwing up my hearing and accelerating the inveitable loss of sensitivity to high frequencies.
The last concert I attended where the volume was literally painful was Steely Dan in Dallas during the "Two Against Nature" Tour. The music was wonderful, but in my humble opinion, there is NO BLOODY REASON that the music has to be so freaking loud... or maybe I've just become an old fart... ;-)
The most recent pop concert I attended was James Taylor at Bass Concert Hall here in Austin. The sound was okay, but again, why so loud? In fact, if what I'm basically hearing is 2-channel amplified sound, other than the spontaneity of the musicians and the interaction with the audience -- which does have considerable value, I'll admit -- how much different is the experience than listening to my stereo -- except that, in the latter instance, the sound quality is probably actually better? By the way, hearing poorly amplified singers at Broadway musicals also ticks me off...
[END CURMUDGEON MODE]
The two speakers that got cymbals right were Revel Ultima2 (Salon or Studio, it makes no difference for this test) and B&W 80xD (I've listened to the 800D & the 802D; they were equal in this regard). I bought the Revels.
A stick hitting a cymbal is a sound that can be easily recognized as right or wrong, because it's a purely mechanical sound, I think, but the sound produced is actually so complex. And it must often be loud. Done just right your reaction is: OMG, that sounds real. Some speakers I've heard that can't get a cymbal just right:
Wilson Sasha & the Maxx2.
Sound Labs. (This was the test that caused me not to buy a pair.)
Legacys (including the latest Whispers.)
Linkwitz Orion. (Though these are truly excellent in many other ways. Actually, cymbals are one of the few sounds that ruin the "live" illusion with these speakers.)
I can't think of others off the top of my head.
I'm not saying cymbals are the ultimate speaker test, but they appear to be a test for accuracy that easily produces a "right" and "wrong", in a way other difficult to reproduce sounds don't seem to.
When Miles, and Coltrane, are visible playing, along
with my stuff, then I would like my home set-up more.
Watching Anthony Jackson give the ContraBass a work-out.
Bireli Lagrene, playing the guitar...
Dennis Chambers, giving Drumming 101.
Watching the expressions of these artists, is what I enjoy.
Pat Metheny, Carlos Santana, both put on tremendous
demonstrations, of their amazing talents.
At the Greek down in L.A., I would stop at "Tommys" and
score a famous chili-cheese, hotdog, and hamburger, and
head to the Greek. Those were some great times.
Now I put on a DVD of them playing instead.
All that is missing is "Tommys".
Concerts By The Sea, The Baked Potato, Catalina, were a few
places years ago, that provided great music, without the
Phoenix and Tempe, used to have Jazz at a couple spots,
again, not to many folks, like "Red River" KYOT, the Local
Jazz station put on concerts, years back also.
People that listen to Jazz, LISTEN, they are very
friendly, especially the Musicians.
Indoors, or out, generally Jazz listeners, are pretty
I Love Music!
Mapman, I was always listening to high quality solid state electronics, and I'm not one to believe that there's a significant difference between electronics at that quality level. I know that might be heresy here, but I'm pretty sure the differences I was hearing were in the speakers. Also, I never heard cymbals sound real with my old Legacy Focus, but with the same electronics (and cables) otherwise I heard the shock and awe effect on the same recordings with the Revels.
Dracule1, I don't sit and constantly think about how recordings would sound live either. For me it is all about timbral accuracy. You will never know if your system is reproducing recorded music properly without comparing it to live acoustic music.
Its great to have a piano in the house to give you an idea of how your system is performing.
Is this how you used to think before you gained more experience?
I think there are times when we give our stereo system too much credit.
Rrog, I think you give live music too much credit. I heard live music screw up the sound of a great acoustic guitar because of bad acoustics of the hall. I play the classical guitar so I pretty much know the timbre of the instrument. The right recording is great better than live in many cases, but not better (timbre I mean, not my playing) when I'm actually plucking the strings. So ultimately, if the moon and sun align live music better, but getting them to align is bitch. We agree ultimatley, but practically live music does not sound as good as some of us have made it out to be.