a real piano sounds nothing like any recordings i have why ??


my 7 year old is taking piano lessons, on a real piano not a electronic one.

I take him there 3 times a week. so I now know what it sounds like in my mind fresh . no matter what speaker or headphone I use, weather redbook or hi rez . it does not sound real. is this me and my systems or just the way it is??



It is just the way it is.

Our ability to record and play back the sound of any acoustic instrument is extremely limited. We can capture a hint of the real sound, but only a mere shadow of the real thing.

I doubt we will ever capture and play back even a single instrument’s sound in a convincing manner.


Wow and no one speaks of this limitation. It’s a joke then people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars

And if you ask them there answer is yes , but I seriously doubt it given what I am hearing. The sound is there, the tone is there . But the acoustics that go wth it are not. In the recordings there is acoustic sound but it is not real either. I am now beginning to understand what you and others have said regarding timbre . As close as we get to good reproduction , it’s really an illusion of what it should sound like.

Thanks elk



I find that the timbre (tone) is particularly not captured, nor is the dynamic envelope.

Even a single piano note is complex, with the interplay of three strings per note plus how the sound goes into the soundboard, vibrates through the pinblock, and reflects off the inner sides and top. Play more than one note at a time, push down the sustain or sostenuto pedal and the sound gets really complicated.

Piano notes are also percussive. The initial hammer strike, and decay is exceedingly difficult to capture.

Only then do we get into the acoustics of the instrument in a room. This is also tough to reproduce.


+1 on everything Elk said. My wife and I go to the symphony several times per year, and also to as many local acoustic jazz performances as we can during a given year. After being exposed to this year after year, it becomes clear that even the best systems cannot sound like a duplicate of the real thing. Some have come close, but it just goes to show how hard it really is. Some listeners may experience this and give up. Others (like I think most of us here) try to build systems that give us the highest level of musical enjoyment we can get for our dollar (euro, etc) spent.

alrainbow said: Wow and no one speaks of this limitation. It's a joke then people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars

It's not a big topic because no one, even the most dedicated audiophile, claims that his/her system sounds exactly like the real thing. At least I've never heard anyone make such a claim.

What you do get for your money and and for your time is a listening experience that is much closer to the real thing. I think most people would agree that listening is generally more enjoyable when instruments sound more like themselves, when you can hear more details of what the artist is doing, etc. Example: ~25 years ago I bought a complete set of Mozart piano concertos. It was a fair amount of money for me at the time but I was excited because the soloist, conductor and orchestra were all well known. I got it home and was less than impressed; it just didn't sound very interesting or realistic. At that time I was not an audiophile.

The box sat on my shelf for years. Not long ago I took it down because I wanted to listen to a particular concerto. I said "Well, I know the recording isn't much, but I have it and I can start to learn the music." All my equipment is much, much better than I had when I bought this box set--in particular my PWD is orders of magnitude better than my ancient CD player. Guess what? I found that I actually did get what I paid for when I bought the set of concertos; the performances are much more involving, the instruments sound much more realistic than what I heard before. Not 100% like a live performance, no, but a huge improvement over what I used to have. Worth every penny I've spent.


This is so unreal to me . As I listen to my music on hi end stuff it sounds so good. And it’s just all fake , this is not cool at all. I cannot wait for next week when I go into some hi end stores in NYC and listen to there stuff. And if it does not sound true I will pose the question and listen to the bull answer they give. I have learned so much from this forum. I watched a video on a dac that presented the fact that a piano is overall a very hard instrument to reproduce . This shows me we are really far from reproducing music correctly. Thanks all



I understand your point , as this has happened to me to with red book cd,s that sound better now then with older systems. Good points thanks



When a system is set up carefully, taking account of the room as well, it can be more convincing. At my old place, where I had a dedicated listening room with treatments designed by ASC, a professional pianist asked to listen to some Mozart sonatas. When I asked if she liked the sound, she said, “It’s like the piano is right there” and “when I grow up, that’s what I want.” Perhaps her mind filled in the missing details – musicians as a group are said not to care a lot about reproduced sound, though I have known enough who do to have doubts about that. To come close, I think one needs not only a good DAC, but a powerful amp and speakers that can reproduce the dynamics, plus either DSP or some other means of nullifying room effects. The best illusion I heard was a Goodwins High End outside Boston. They had a large room, specially designed, for their best system. When I asked, they told me they had over $25,000 invested in the physical room alone (not including stereo components), and that was > 20 years ago.


My 2¢

We listen to ‘playback’ systems.

There are many many ‘steps’ or ‘layers’ between what we hear in our systems and the origination of the sounds that the instruments make. Every step changes the original sounds in some way.

And as I have stated elsewhere, we don’t hear from our playback systems what the musicians or an audience hear. We can’t, because we rarely if ever have our ears where the microphones (or pickups etc.) are placed.

This applies to ‘engineered’ (in the studio) or live in concert venues.

But this does accord us the ability to hear each instrument in greater detail simply because of the placement of the mics/pickups. Even when the mics fly 30 feet over head near the proscenium which is usually designed to capture the sound from the stage and reflect it into the house.

And then there is the factor of the signal path in the recording process all the way to being digitized or pressed onto vinyl (or both). In some cases this can be a severely limiting factor. By way of example much of the ‘early’ rolling stones albums were often so poorly recorded that it was painful to listen to.

I don’t expect that my playback system will ever sound ‘real’, mostly because I have no way of establishing what ‘real’ is. Yes I can go to a concert and enjoy the acoustics of the live performance but to expect to be able to re-create this experience at home is fraught with differences, some of which are mentioned above.

But our playback systems do have one unique advantage over live music.

We can play back the experience repeatedly and (usually) get the same performance, over and over again. This also allows us to ‘improve’ the playback over time because the system itself acts as a reference from which to determine if any changes we make are improvements, or not.

Just some thoughts



Thanks. The more I read the more important it becomes for me to go to live events. And I guess I have about 4TB of dsd and another 3 TB of what sounds like music but really is not LOL. This hobby is a rabbit hole going no where. But through my education in this hobby I now know it’s all a matrix, as there is only reality at Live venue.

http://www.avshowrooms.com/MBL_DAC_Transport.html a link to the worlds best cd transport and dac.


alrainbow said: This hobby is a rabbit hole going no where.

It is a hobby. It's very purpose is to waste time and money.

johnjen said: We listen to 'playback' systems.

This is exactly correct and an excellent summary.

Even if the mics are where your ears would be, there is no processing, etc., playback still does not sound anywhere approaching real. There is bad, good and better of course - but the best still falls well short.


Sorry for my comment. It’s not that it goes no where , it’s just not ending. But the gift of new knowledge

In itself is a good point in this hobby . Even someone like me in the lacking of much knowledge see,s the importance of new info.


alrainbow said: But the gift of new knowledge
In itself is a good point in this hobby



Wow…I don’t know what systems you all have that you listen to music on, but all I can say is…upgrade! Speakers, amps, pre-amps, cables, upgrade them. Why do you think they call it “Hi-End” Because if you want to recreate perfect sound you have to pay for it. My system sounds awesome, but then again I have about $20,000 dollars in it, and thats cheap compared to what I really want. Technology they have today can create great sound, but the research, and components them self’s are not cheap to make. So if your playing your music through Radio Shack systems, and 20 gauge speaker wire…duh!? Plus, a lot of the problem comes from the recording studio, and who engineered it. I know because I was a recording engineer at one time. What kind of mic’s did they use, how did they place them, what kind of tweaking did they do to the instrument on the board? Of course live music sounds good in a theatre, they are constructed to be acoustically sound, unlike our homes which are not. Sorry…I digress.


Your statement is exactly how I thought , that is until I read here and then actually heard it myself. And it’s not just how much money you spend either. My office rig is triple that. It sounds awesome but it is not real.

It’s just not and if you are or were an audio engineer , then you only heard it through your monitors not in the room where it was live. My son is learning to play the piano in someone’s living room. It does not sound the same period. Not in my office , with a 35 k DAC with 6 k amp and a 6 k stax 009 headphones or the speaker set up there either . It’s freakin fantastic gives you bumps , but it’s not the same sounds. Go play a piano and compare you are just fooling yourself .



I wasn’t directing my comment to you exactly alrainbow, and I’m sorry if it sounded that way. But the other comments here make it sound like we should throw away all our CDs and never listen to music again!!! LOL!


Yes I get that , and my comment back was overboard. I am presently on a quest for reality and the more I learn the more I know there is none . At some point I will jump off the insanity ride I am on and just enjoy what I have. And now some pink Floyd dark side of the moon , and away we go. Lol.



First off to try and recreate a “reality” is a pointless quest… It’s like trying to recreate going to a football game by watching it on TV… one can have the very very best display, sit on a hard seat, eat cold hotdogs and drink flat beer… but it’s not being there… and that’s really the crux of it, listening to music on a hifi is not “being there” it simply can’t be because it’s a different reality.

That said I can not go, for any price, for any amount of Trillions of dollars and hear the Beatles play live… can’t be done… so a great sounding hifi is my only option…How I want it to sound is my choice there is no right or wrong with building a great home audio system, but if you’re trying to recreate a real experience, well with our current technology it ain’t going to happen.

I will say this the first step in the quest for a SOTA system has got to be the room… Without a really, really great room (built from scratch, 6 figures good) the best gear in the world will not perform at anywhere the level it could…


SOTO system ?