Reply To: Are older speakers more pleasant to hear than modern speakers (Beolab)?

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I totally agree with Stan.

I find the opinion that a music reproduction system should sound like the musicians are in your listening room a little weird, since almost no recordings are made with that intention. We don’t watch Star Wars and expect to think that Luke and Leia are in your living room… Movies aren’t made to be like real life – they’re made to be better than (or at least enhanced versions of ) real life. It’s the same for music recordings: a typical classical music recording has the brightness and presence of being close to the instrument(s) AS WELL AS the reverberation and envelopment of sitting far back in the concert hall. In a typical pop recording (these days) the singers are in-tune, and make no mistakes – two attributes that are only possible with computer enhancement. The goal is to make the recording sound like the recording, since the recording doesn’t reflect reality – it IS the reality that your playback system should reproduce.

Glen Gould spoke and wrote about this decades ago – explaining that the reason he recorded instead of playing live concerts was because (in his opinion) the perfection that can be achieved through mic placement, mixing, and editing can never be experienced in real life.

So, in my opinion, Jack Dee can be generalised beyond the Pogues to include all musicians. 🙂 (Thanks for the quote AdamS!)

Of course, if we then take this argument to its logical conclusion, then you might arrive at the opinion that you can’t use modern loudspeakers to reproduce old recordings… I would generalise this though. There are many cases where playing a recording through a “high quality” loudspeaker + system actually makes the end experience worse. Two obvious examples of this are:

  • I don’t need a system that has a frequency range that extends all the way into the stratosphere when I’m playing a 78 RPM shellac disc of Caruso. Better to roll off the top end with extreme prejudice to reduce the noise, since there’s no signal up there worth speaking of.
  • Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” album, played through a system with a very low low-end cutoff frequency will give you the ability to hear the sound of a foot tapping, coupled through a stage floor, mechanically shaking a vocal mic and resulting in a rhythmic rumble that probably wasn’t supposed to be there… Rolling off the bottom end cleans this up considerably.

Then again, if you want to hear the shellac crackle and the stage rumble – it’s not my place to tell you it’s bad. As the thread starts, this is preference we’re talking about…