Musicians and sound quality - Why the disconnect?

Why don’t musicians care about sound quality? I am really dumbfounded.

I purchased a new keyboard, a Roland RD-2000, that has a powerful piano sound engine. One of the units multiple sound engines is a modeling system… the other uses classic samples to generate piano sounds. Both are very good. (Some dislike Roland renderings… but that is another topic.). Anywho… I have found the audio system the keyboard plugs into is almost MORE IMPORTANT that the sound source. Most folks are playing their keyboards through either public address amplifier/speakers, or really crappy powered Bose-like crap. I really can’t believe it. They argue on the keyboard forums who has the “best” piano sounds but are playing them back through crap.

I am playing my RD-2000 back through an Adcom 545 II amp (I just soldered up a new power supply kit… lots stuff out there to keep this Nelson Pass-designed amp going), and horribly colored ADS speakers. To get the coloration out, I hooked up an old Nikko equalizer and attempted to level the speaker’s bizarre response curve. Anywho… I know from experience, that even with the colorization of these speakers, the sound quality overall is far superior to any of the crap most play through. The Roland’s grand piano sounds are big and full and some have huge weight to them… you just can’t appreciate them without a top-notch system.

So… for the musicians out there… why doesn’t anyone care about the amplification/speaker systems they play through? Is it cost? I do know most musicians are cheap - and why overall, these keyboards are pretty cheap relative to what you get… IMO.

Bruce in Philly

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I think a lot of it comes down to personal taste.
One of the keyboardists who I play with uses an amp that gives just horrible sound. Once I convinced him to try my AER amp and everybody in the room lit up over the sound; all trying to convince him to keep using it. He hated it. He said it sounded “too hi-fi”.
I was at The Blue Note where Pat Martino was playing and he was using a Marshall 100 watt head and a 4X10 Mesa Boogie cabinet. Surely this gear was never designed or voiced for his set list and it sounded painful to me, but this was his gear, not rented.
A big part of it is taste.

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My experience is that they care about in the same proportions as the rest of the populous. I have some director and performer friends that are definitely audiophiles and some that aren’t. When I’ve asked those that don’t appear to care in the past they often say something like they hear the music as it should be in their heads (in tonality. I suspect timing and pitch matter a lot more to them.)

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I also find acoustic classical musicians typically care more about accurate sound reproduction than pop and jazz musicians who are typically playing electronic instruments and/or playing though amps and sound reinforcement. I believe it is a difference in reference.

I agree with Ted that musicians care more for prat and dynamics (if they have a chance t compare two different variants) than transients, resolution, (artificial) soundstaging, or accurate instrument timbre.

I think this is because for various reasons even the reproduction of a simple clarinet by a high end system is so much different from playing it in a room (in case it’s not recorded close mic’ed without care to take for other instruments), that it must be “heard as it should be” anyway.

The main aspect of tonality that imo is of relevance also to musicians when aiming for halfwise real sound is bass impact and mid richness, the latter being Mickey Mouse in oh so many revealing/transparent setups. A sufficient mid richness would help especially such smaller instruments like a clarinet towards a more realistic timbre. But dialing in such a tonality would be overkill for the next Donald Fagen or Roger Waters low end :wink:

I think the limitation for all this is microphones and the inability to record single instruments within a larger ensemble with real timbre (which works when recorded solo or in very small ensembles).

Would be interested in the tonality of an orchestra mixed from close mic‘ed pickups for each single instrument aside of the negative aspects of such intensive multimic’ing :wink:

A good number of Deutsche Grammophon recordings get very close to a mic on each instrument.

Ok…then this seems not to help…not my favorite ones at all especially in soundstageing…and I never noticed that the instruments had more weight when soloing…but I’ll listen to my Rodriguez/Söllscher again… this was quite nice as far as I remember…

Many dislike their house sound because of the tremendous amount of multi-mic’ing. One exception is their recordings of Paul McCreesh’s conducting. I asked him about this last year. He explained he refuses to allow heavy multi-mic’ing and has enough control to disallow it. He deeply cares about the quality of the sound.

But, of course, most recordings use spotlight mics at a minimum so it is not as if we are getting away from multiple microphones.

Given how superb 1950’s recordings sound I do not believe we are being held back by microphone sophistication. The reporduction side has always been the much greater limitation.

That’s interesting, thanks, I’ll try some McCreesh!

Unfortunately I have no experience with 1950 era‘s original vinyl (which seems to sound much better than everything available afterwards for some of the classic labels) . What I heard and have so far from digital releases or even high class vinyl remasterings is partly impressive in soundstaging and dynamics but more often unsatisfying in tonality and especially string and mid/treble region’s timbre to me.

But I know there are very different tastes and opinions on that. I just know, many who deeply like those recordings have setups (especially turntable setups) which use very special rather vintage cartridge/arm/tt combinations producing a sound made for those recordings (but not for many others).

I doubt you will be ultimately satisfied with Paul McCreesh’s works as recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, but you will find they sound different than their typical offerings. I prefer these less multi-mic’d recordings.

Part of the problem in accurately reproducing music is that we have been taught to expect certain sounds. For example, after the first recording engineer decided to individually mic the tympani of an orchestra to reproduce the satisfying whack and slam of tympani up close we want to hear this in our recordings. Tympani does not sound like this in live performance unless you are the percussionist.

As another example, when we see a flute player play we hear the flute as our brains focus on the sounds it receives. In a recording, the flute disappears in the mix (one hears the flute differently in live performance with one’s eye’s closed). To make up for this, the flute may be separately mic’d and brought up on the mix.

In the pop world, a rock band recorded without compression on the bass, drums and vocals sounds awful; raw in an amateurish, unpleasant way. We also expect the slam and heavy bass of sound reinforcement.

I have never heard reproduction of an acoustic instrument or instruments sound real, regardless of the quality of the recording or playback system. We have not even come close. Micro-dynamics, macro-dynamics, timbre, the first milliseconds of an instrument’s attack, ambient space, etc. - all are wrong.

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The dirty little secret that purveyors of audio gear continually try to sweep under the rug.

So do we. Think of all the hyperbolic reports on this board after someone tries new firmware, cables, a preamp, etc.

You are correct of course, but there have been a few times when a singer’s voice will start and cause my head to jump as I am reading or doing something else. It does happen, we are getting closer, sometimes it can sound real.

Bruce in Philly

Hey Bruce, it’s funny that you mention the occasional moment when a sense of realism grabs your attention.
That’s been my experience as well; the system sounds great but once in a while something, a voice, a horn, anything will jump right out with exceptional sound quality.

I am unconvinced this is a reflection of accurate reproduction, but rather a function of neuroprocessing as our brains try to make sense of a sensory input.

I suspect most of us have had the same experience of “reading or doing something else” and suddenly thinking the AM radio in the other room is a person. This does not occur because the AM radio sounds real. We all similarly briefly see things that are not there until our brains can figure out the unlit lamp in a dark room is not a person.

mmm yes. thing sound good:grinning:

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Fully agree to all. I’d even say it doesn’t sound like that for the Tympani player, as he doesn’t hear a small listening room‘s resonances.

If you are interested in lurking… some entertainment… I posted a question on a popular keyboard forum…

Check it out… A few good responses, but for the most part, most musicians have no clue what hi fi is or why anyone would want it. I am not surprised, but I am disappointed (for their sake).

Bruce in Philly

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No reason to feel disappointed. They are not missing out.

I think it’s not bad actually.

Wouter79 is saying what I assume is reason for most musicians to not further bother about HiFi too much:

The high end systems (depending on today’s recording technology) they heard (and he even speaks of 100k speakers) are still too far from the real experience.

Furthermore he makes clear that musicians care more for prat and phase issues than typical high end folks and many manufacturers do.

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