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Author Topic: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone  (Read 15752 times)

Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #45 on: November 17, 2017, 03:46:12 pm »
You misunderstand. The "accurate" microphone's job is to present to the ear what it would have received as input if it had been where the microphone was placed.
Ah, that's what you meant by "place". Understand now.


Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #46 on: November 17, 2017, 04:45:54 pm »
My life got a lot easier (and my recordings got a lot better) when I ditched any illusion of (or aspiration for) "accuracy," and began to just listen and choose the subjectively best option.

The entire goal of recording is good sound. I am confident in my ability to use discretion, experience, and judgment to make that determination. I don't need any number or specification as a cosigner.

Yes but how do I know that my subjective listening judgement is at least within ballpark?   These days we can easily put our judgement to the test  by presenting what we consider good sound - or improved sound - to our peers, or even the world.  What do 10 or 10,000  people's experienced ears think of my opinion  of good sound, good recording, good musical balance etc - specifically my audio sample file?

Then it's more than just the private, untestable claim: "I know what my ears tell me." The person  prepared to  submit their audio claims to public scrutiny gains immediate credibility, and useful feedback about their own listening judgements.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2017, 04:58:06 pm by Timtape »

Offline klaus

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #47 on: November 17, 2017, 08:15:19 pm »
Quote
Yes but how do I know that my subjective listening judgement is at least within ballpark?

In the old days, those aspiring to a career in recording engineering did not get their chance to put their hands on the faders until they were thoroughly educated in the finer points of good balance, good splices and good tea-making.

The next hurdle they faced was whether enough artists, producers, or labels would hire them, so they could actually make a living off discretionary listening.

The next step was, whether enough peers of these engineers would agree that theirs was a damn well-engineered record, deserving a Grammy® for their effort. 

Though the path to becoming a recording engineer has radically changed over the last 10-15 years, success in the profession can still be checked out by listening to recordings universally hailed as tops, then listening to enough of them, until it's going to be self-evident what's a well-recorded piece of music, regardless of the reverb fashion of the moment.

If you do not yet have the confidence to trust your opinion whether a recording is well-engineered, start your listening education. Here, more is really better!
And soon enough you will recognize that "Purple Rain" is a rather poorly engineered album, and "Talking Book" an excellent one, regardless of both of them selling Platinum a few times over, and deservedly somas far as the music goes.

Next, listen to your voice through a TLM103; then, if you can swing it, through a real ELA M251 or any other of the Big Five.

With these kind of experiences under your belt, you will have climbed another rung on the ladder towards recognizing sonic excellence.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 12:02:05 am by klaus »
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #48 on: November 18, 2017, 04:38:29 am »

...With these kind of experiences under your belt, you will have climbed another rung on the ladder towards recognizing sonic excellence.
My post was not about me but anybody. That's why I wrote: "The person  prepared to  submit their audio claims to public scrutiny gains immediate credibility..."

Of course it could apply equally to the audio claims of a company.

« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 04:56:37 am by Timtape »

Offline klaus

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #49 on: November 18, 2017, 05:16:11 am »
This is what you wrote, and to which I responded:
Quote
Yes but how do I know that my subjective listening judgement is at least within ballpark?
.
But now you write:
Quote
My post was not about me but anybody

Referring to 'anybody' makes conversations rather imprecise and impersonal. So if this subject does not pertain to your own subjective listening, why not take a break, and let others chime in?
« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 05:30:39 am by klaus »
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Offline soapfoot

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #50 on: November 18, 2017, 11:56:59 am »
Yes but how do I know that my subjective listening judgement is at least within ballpark?   These days we can easily put our judgement to the test  by presenting what we consider good sound - or improved sound - to our peers, or even the world.  What do 10 or 10,000  people's experienced ears think of my opinion  of good sound, good recording, good musical balance etc - specifically my audio sample file?

Then it's more than just the private, untestable claim: "I know what my ears tell me." The person  prepared to  submit their audio claims to public scrutiny gains immediate credibility, and useful feedback about their own listening judgements.

"Good sound" is not (for me) an objective that gets completed, but rather a lifelong pursuit of a feeling. I hope that each record I make is better (read: more emotionally-resonant) than the last, for the rest of my career. I doubt I will ever feel like that mission has been wholly and indisputably accomplished. In that sense, there is no "ballpark."

And much like there's no objective metric to determine the "best guitar player," I feel there's no objective metric (or set of metrics) that can meaningfully determine the "best (read: 'most accurate') microphone."

Because things which can be measured are almost always relatively unimportant in the context of work designed foremost to move someone emotionally.

For example: There are many people who can jump higher, run faster, have higher IQs, and have more symmetrical facial features than I. My wife may even know some of those people, but she loves me. Why? Emotion is profoundly illogical. Those objective metrics have a laughably-poor correlation to why my wife might've fallen in love with me. Broadly speaking, to contrive to explain an emotional response in terms of available objective metrics is folly. For one thing, it opens us up to the cognitive biases of anchoring/focalism, the availability heuristic, ambiguity effect and the base-rate fallacy, among others. Simply put: most of what moves us emotionally cannot be measured, and that puts us at risk of over-emphasizing things which can, when making judgments.

And so it is with microphones. If I listen to a recording of a great vocalist on a great U47 and instantly feel an emotional connection to the performance--more than the same performance into a microphone that measures quieter, flatter, more extended-- then which do I choose?

Do I choose the person with the higher IQ who runs faster? Or do I choose the partner with whom I've fallen in love?

Not everything that matters can be justified through empirical means. This is especially so in matters of emotion--and my goal with creating or capturing music is always to elicit within the listener an emotional response.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2017, 12:05:43 pm by soapfoot »

Offline klaus

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #51 on: November 18, 2017, 01:25:05 pm »
Thank you for your brilliant thought. I have copied it into my opening post.
KH
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Online panman

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #52 on: November 18, 2017, 03:14:12 pm »
Yes Brad, that really was brilliant and well written.
Esa Tervala

Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #53 on: November 19, 2017, 06:48:05 am »

 ...If I listen to a recording of a great vocalist on a great U47 and instantly feel an emotional connection to the performance--more than the same performance into a microphone that measures quieter, flatter, more extended-- then which do I choose?

Sure, no argument. So why not share it with others? Post comparison files, level matched etc, same performance, and see what others think...

Again, after listening to both, some might prefer the U47 vocal, while others might prefer the one with closer fidelity, and yet others might not even notice a difference, or if they do, arent much bothered by it. Some might just be more interested in the performance, the words, the story of the song, perhaps the emotion in the singer's voice. For them that's the emotional engagement, and they are perhaps indifferent to the sonic issues.

But regardless of whether one file sounds better, worse or indifferent to various listeners, we can be pretty certain that the mic with more fidelity has... more fidelity. Or am I jumping to conclusions here?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2017, 08:32:59 am by Timtape »

Offline klaus

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #54 on: November 19, 2017, 01:50:43 pm »
Your thinking is not clear:
if you upload files (an iffy proposition in the first place, due to, among many other reasons, lack of control of the test conditions by third parties), so that people can judge which of two mics has "more fidelity", the test is meaningless because the test subjects could not hear the original sound source with their ears, to compare which of two mics has the truest (fidel) representation of the original.
No baseline comparator, no test.

What you COULD do, and this would be best done in a controlled acoustic, not sound file, environment: put up two mics, any two, and a statistically significant number of listeners will prefer one of these mics for that specific sound source.

You could then go further and enlarge the test to using the better of two mics on many different sound sources (each time eliminating the worse-sounding one) and you will find that the Big Five end up near or at the top as finalists.

Then you really know what mics most recordists are lusting for, and why. And "fidelity" defined here as most true to one's image of the original source's emotional content will be the winner.
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

Offline sonicdogg

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #55 on: November 19, 2017, 02:20:43 pm »


Not everything that matters can be justified through empirical means. This is especially so in matters of emotion--and my goal with creating or capturing music is always to elicit within the listener an emotional response.


 This is my new mantra.

Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #56 on: November 19, 2017, 04:30:45 pm »
Your thinking is not clear:

 "Emotional content" is not always easy to pin down, but the irony is, without a certain minimum level of fidelity (in the standard sense of the word) no emotional content will be conveyed. For example for words to be understood. Remove enough treble, and speech become a meaningless mumble. Remove enough of the lows and all your hear are meaningless "sss"s  "fff"s, "t"s etc. Same for musical notes. It becomes very constricted and lifeless. 

Fidelity  has to be "good enough". It doesnt always have to be great. Just good enough for the purpose at hand.  So our telephone system was designed for speech intelligibility. People could also sing into a telephone call to a friend, using, from the strict fidelity point of view, the dreadful sounding standard carbon button microphone and yet the full emotion of that singing could generally be conveyed to the person at the other end.

That's why a term like "emotional content" in the context of comparing otherwise pretty high fidelity mics is I think not very useful. If "emotional content " can be conveyed  well enough over very limited fidelity telephone lines then it brings into question the association of that term with certain  mics. Beyond a certain point, certainly more  fidelity to the live voice will increase, but the "emotional content" has already been conveyed well enough with the much lower fidelity. How can that be?

An ear is just an ear. A mic is just a mic. Both are essentially  transducers.

But "emotion" is a quality of  mind. It is of a far different order.

« Last Edit: November 19, 2017, 05:30:21 pm by Timtape »

Offline klaus

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #57 on: November 19, 2017, 06:13:50 pm »
You did not address my specific criticism of your unclear thinking, namely that, without direct and "live" comparator, no fidelity test as you envision is possible.

Then you picked words out of my concluding sentence that garbled my message.
I wrote:

Quote
"fidelity" defined here as most true to one's image of the original source's emotional content will be the winner.

One's IMAGE or memory of the original source's emotional content is the keyword here.
If you don't give the listener the original sound source when comparing a mic, the listener's image or memory of the (absent) original will be the next best source for evaluating a mic.

It's self-evident that a mic which lacks the ability to transmit bare essentials of sound transmission will not be chosen.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2017, 12:31:28 am by klaus »
Klaus Heyne
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Offline Timtape

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #58 on: November 19, 2017, 09:09:21 pm »

...It's self-evident that a mic which lacks the ability to transmit bare essentials of sound transmission will not be chosen.

What are these bare essentials of sound transmission?

Offline soapfoot

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Re: The Myth of the Accurate Microphone
« Reply #59 on: November 19, 2017, 10:15:21 pm »
Sure, no argument. So why not share it with others? Post comparison files, level matched etc, same performance, and see what others think...

Should the requisite amount of "time off in my schedule" and the requisite amount of "inclination to further a discussion in an internet forum" ever coincide sufficiently to merit setting up such a properly-controlled experiment, I promise to share the results with you.

I know this answer is unlikely to satisfy at the present moment. I regret this. I do wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect microphone!